Bryce Rudow is a freelance political/pop-culture journalist and he likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @brycetrudow/please follow him @brycetrudow.
Last week we got to do an All DC Bands column which was fun for everyone, but now it’s time to unload all the non-local stuff I bumped to make that happen. I’ve written about all these groups before though, so to help us track the passage of time, I’m going to include what I wrote about them in the past and we can see how we’ve all grown in the time since.
Also, pretty please follow…
– The Tunes You Should Know In 2014 playlist on Spotify
– Yours truly on Twitter so that you can get new music in real-time
- Reptar – “No One Will Ever Love You” + “Cable” (via Audiotree)
Reptar, a relatively young band, has nevertheless been awesome for a relatively long time. It was on February 23, 2011, when All Things Go posted “Stuck In My Id,” that they first became Stuck In My Head, but since then it has been an absolute pleasure watching this band grow, succeed, stumble, and mature.
And when I did finally write about them in the column back in 2012, I made sure to get some proper gushing out:
“Ever since All Things Go posted about them almost two years ago, they have been one of the most-played artists on my iTunes. Their album, Oblangle Fizz Y’all, is one of the best albums front to back I have ever had the pleasure of obsessing over, and I truly believe that ‘Phonetics’ off of it is one of the most heart-wrenching and moving songs ever written”
In terms of their live show, I fan-boyed out hard:
“I have seen Reptar play at least four or five times live, and it is a chaotic party that has an energy and positivity that can’t be matched. Lead singer Graham Ulicny contorts his extremities as much as his vocals, playing ringleader of the whole sonic circus when they perform. He seems to be having the time of his life, feeding off the energy of audiences that are usually quick to respond to the bizarre, seemingly devil-may-care frontman.”
But, remember those stumbles I mentioned earlier? They weren’t insignificant.
Later in that first write-up, I mentioned a sticking point I had with the young band when it came to their sophomore release and some of the choices they were making:
“It’s about them choosing ironic weirdness over artistic courageousness…”
This band that gave it their all during live shows and who were known for being more than a bit quirky were having a hard time finding the line between artisticly bold and just flat out weird. It was things like during performances of their ballad “Phonetics,” they would bury the emotional vulnerability in the song by amplifying Graham’s trademark wild inflections, and some of the best songs on their LP were injected with unnecessary breakdowns and fills that felt like they were put there just to intentionally test the listener’s patience (I’m looking at you “Orifice Origami”). It seemed like Reptar didn’t know how to be both the raucous band from Athens and the uber-talented songwriters/performers they’ve grown to be at the same time.
Or at least it did feel like that.
A few weeks ago, All Things Go had Reptar gloriously return to U Street Music Hall and they showed off some new material that demonstrated Graham Ulicny and the boys may have finally found the right balance.
They’re still out-there, don’t get me wrong, but their new songs feel more at ease with themselves, and with a stronger emphasis on the horn sections, the rest of the band is forced to cater to the tightness of the brass players. In fact, I’m compelled to just copy-and-paste what I wrote about their performance at Bonnaroo, as it feels like it’s just as applicable:
Supported by a strong, tight horn section, it sounded like Phil Collins had been resurrected from obscurity to play conductor to a band who grew up on David Byrne. I was in heaven; the songs I already loved were fantastic and even the songs I didn’t like as much from their new record were presented with such force and talent that I was able to see how great they really were (and how badly whoever produced Body Faucet fucked up while trying to capture that live sound in the studio).
And fortunately for you all, Audiotree was able to record some of these new songs live when Reptar swung by their studio so you can hear their glorious re-return for yourselves.
- Diarrhea Planet – “Heat Wave”
I love Diarrhea Planet. I can’t help it. It may have taken me the cliche second to get over their dumb name at first, but I’m sold a million times over.
The love affair all started in June of 2013 when I wrote:
“The six-piece band out of Nashville boasts four guitarists who all seem to have a penchant for cranking it up to 11, but throughout the noise, there is one thing that cuts through every song on their album: an unmistakable element of fun.”
And back in the Bands To Watch Out For In 2014 feature last December, I wrote:
“Hear me now, 2014 will be the year pop-punk comes back in all its glory. Diarrhea Planet, with its four guitarists, has been one of the punk pioneers to recently start breaking through into the relative indie mainstream (whatever that means), and with that lead and an ever-growing fan base, they’re going to be the band everyone starts calling this generation’s Rancid.”
Then, I interviewed lead-singer Jordan Smith earlier this year. While discussing said rise in punk, he offered this up:
“I feel like music is trying to pick back up where the 90’s left off. I feel like rock and roll and punk went into this super weird territory in the 2000’s and everything fell apart and it became really shitty. Everyone was trying to do the same thing and none of it was stuff that was massively appealing to anyone.”
That is the kind of band we’re talking about.
And they’ve capitalized on every opportunity given to them, effectively becoming one of THE new faces of punk and definitely one of best live bands out there. In fact, a music-writer that I won’t put on blast recounted their show at Rock and Roll Hotel last Friday by saying:
When you can win over a cynical musical writer like that — while still releasing more and more accessible rock like this new song “Heat Wave” — then the sky is the limit. And even though trends die faster than ever these days, this new punk/pop-punk movement seems like it’s not only here to stay but gaining traction.
In that same interview with Jordan, I asked him if he would ever consider putting together a better version of the Vans Warped Tour, and his eyes lit up:
“How hard would it be to throw something together, like an old school Lollapalooza that’s actually a tour? I would be all for that! Get a ton of really cool bands, and hit the road, and do 16 dates in the US for the first year. It couldn’t be that hard.”
A man (and his fan) can dream.
- Museum of Love – “The Who’s Who of Who Cares”
I first wrote about Museum of Love last December, but, more importantly, James Murphy of LCD Soundsytem fame had written about them a few weeks before that:
And that’s because Museum of Love is 1/2 LCD Soundsytem (Pat Mahoney) and 1/2 Juan Maclean (Dennis McNany).
Back then, I said:
“Between James Murphy’s blessing and the two songs already out, which sound like their borrowing from David Byrne, David Bowie, and everything in between, I can almost guarantee that this is going to be a record that we’re just heaping and piling praise on come a few months from now. It’s probably in your best interest to get acquainted with them now and spread them to all your friends before they blow up and you lose out on valuable cool points.”
And there’s not much more I can add.
This record is great and will be received as such; I’m calling it. It will be like a less-pretentious LCD Soundsystem that doesn’t have to ‘mean something’ every time you listen to it (possibly the only dig you can make about LCD these days).
Plus that jazz horn solo at the end, yo.
- Run The Jewels featuring Zach De La Rocha (of Rage Against The Machine) – “Close Your Eyes and (Count To Fuck)”
A bold claim I made this summer:
“Last year’s Run The Jewels album is going to get buried under the Yeezuses and Nothing Was The Sames when we reflect back on ‘hip-hop in 2013’ in a few years, but it was one of the best hip-hop records of the past few years. Maybe it’s because their sound is almost timeless that it’s hard to specify with a certain year, it’s just an aggressive but simple beat and Killer Mike and El-P trading throwback but unrelenting verses, but this album is going to age very well even if it doesn’t resonate with a specific year or time period.”
Now I don’t know if the ‘better than Yeezus‘ declaration is warranted, but Run The Jewels are pretty damn amazing.
And even if you don’t like their music, you have to respect their passion for social justice — Killer Mike made headlines recently thanks to his involvement with the Ferguson, Missouri situation, penning an open letter on his Instagram, writing an op-ed about the situation for Billboard, and sitting down with Spin for a great Q&A — and the group’s noteworthy marketing prowess, as demonstrated through some creative Kickstarter promotions:
“For $25,000, you can get the ‘Show and Tell’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will fly to your town and accompany your child to show and tell at his or her school on an agreed upon date (and in the United States) where we will answer any questions the children have about marijuana, rap music and global politics.”
For $35,000, you can get the ‘Housesitters Deluxe’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will spend an agreed upon weekend at your house where we will smoke all of your weed, listen to your stupid fucking music, and let your mother cook for us.”
And for $40,000, there’s the ‘Meow The Jewels’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds for music. You are free to profit from this album in any way you see fit up to 100k in net global profit or 3 years (whichever comes first).”
But now, just when I didn’t think I could be any less cool about my fandom for El-P and Killer Mike, they team up with one of my childhood musical heroes: Rage Against The Machine’s Zach De La Rocha.
It feels like a match made in politically-conscious rap heaven. The beat is the kind of simple but bombastic type you’d expect from Run The Jewels but it more than delivers, and De La Rocha’s voice is a well-sampled blast from the past that closes out this bombtrack like a bullet in the head or bulls on parade or some other applicable RATM imagery.
BONUS: A quote from El-P on Zach De La Rocha that hints on unreleased collaborations between the two from back in the day:
“We worked on music together in the late 90s after Rage broke up but it never came out. We remained friends, though, and when I was in L.A. working on the record I bumped in to him literally on the way to the studio. He came by and listened to what we had and a day later was recording with us. ”
Image from thereallyrealelp’s Instagram feed.