Box Elders at the Funhouse, Seattle | 9 February 2009
They returned to Seattle at least. Everyone is anxiously awaiting a new Box Elders record these days, but lucky for Seattle the band were doing a short swing through the northwest and returned to the Funhouse Monday night. What a difference seven months make! They sounded much tighter and actually seemed to add a bit of finesse to the songs. There was no fire shooting from their guitars this time, but the songs jumped out at me like sparks. Dave Goldberg is still a madman behind the drums, holding one stick in his mouth while he plays the keyboard and drums at the same time, and Clayton was dressed in sparkling silver jacket and a speedo. They pleased everyone with Whole in My Head and One Foot in Front of the Other from the Grotto 7 inch, but all the new songs were just as good. As far as I’m concerned they can’t put out another record soon enough.
So where is their next record coming from? For starters, they have a 7 inch coming out as part of the HoZac Hookup Klub series, join up if you haven’t already. It’s 65$ for 10 records delivered to your doorstep. They’re also promising an album sometime in May. Word on the street is that it’s getting put out by Goner Records down in Memphis. I had heard some rumors that Box Elders might be signing to Matador, but got the full story from the band after the show. It’ Goner in May with a full album! I’ve posted this before, but it’s so good, here it is again.
Funny story, after the Box Eder’s set, bassist Clayton was going to have to leave the Funhouse because he’s only 19. So the next band Dinosaur and the Missing Link let him play tambourine for their set, which allowed him to stick around. Dinosaur and the Missing Link are normally a duo of guitar and drums, but this night they had Clayton from the Box Elders who was still dressed in his speedo and silver jacket on tambourine. By the third song he was on the ground writhing about…and playing the tambourine of course.
This year seemed to be the year in which the 7″ single returned to prominence. It’s not like it ever really went away, but this year bands and labels were putting them out left a right. Vinyl in general, is making a resurgence with the prevalence of file downloading a cd is just a lousy digital copy that takes up too much space, whereas a slab of vinyl is more like a work of art with it being big enough to actually appreciate the cover art. It also comes in many shades, with colored vinyl showing up almost as much as the standard black even though its sound quality is supposedly inferior to good old black. Records these days have a one of kind feel to them or at least one of limited run, making you feel like you really buying something besides just the music. I probably haven’t bought this many records since the indie heyday of the early 90’s. It was fun again to hang out by the record player and change the record every three minutes, and I did this quite a bit, nearly spending all my listening time at home doing just that. In celebration of it’s return, I’m compiling my favorite 7″ singles of the year, my only requirements are that it had to be put out this year on a 7″ and I had to actually buy it. So here is what got the most spins in my house, you will have to take my word for it since my turntable doesn’t keep track of play counts. Now go out and buy some records!
1. Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (Cloudberry)
This number one was a no-brainer for me. With it’s pulsing keyboards and killer guitar riff, this was on my turntable nearly every evening for a good month. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Australia’s Summer Cats are working on a full length. It will easily one of my most anticipated records of next year. Or instead they could just put out singles like this all next year and I would completely happy.
2. Catwalk – Past Afar (Yay!)
Apparently Oxnard, California has a killer scene at the moment and Yay! records has signed every single band in the scene. Catwalk’s second single for the label is a sad, energetic beauty that has elements of the Close Lobsters as well as Blueboy. How can you get any closer to heaven than that?
3. Liechtenstein – Apathy/Security by Design (Fraction)
Ennio Morricon moved to Sweden and got a sex change? No Liechtentein, three women from Goteborg, Sweden put out an amazing record. Their second single had everyone excited who heard it, and how could you not be excited? That’s the beauty of the single, you put your best foot forward. It’s like Security by Design, two killer songs and a whole lotta mystery just like all those great girl groups from yesteryear, they need not release anything more to be cemented into music history.
4. Nodzzz – I Don’t Wanna (Make a Mess)
The Nodzzz couldn’t keep this record in print and it’s easy to see why, when you hear its raw bass line and punk rock chorus. It’s only a minute and a half, so you’ll be picking up the needle and putting it back at the start to play it again quite frequently.
5. Muslims – Parasites (I Hate Rock n Roll)
San Diego’s Muslims are no more, they’ve gone and changed their name to the Soft Pack for reasons only they know. Listening to this harks back to the day when the band were irreverent, in your face, snot nosed punks. I’m not sure what they are now, but this single will have you on your knees praying that the name is the only thing they’re changing. Killer cover of Spacemen 3’s Walking With Jesus gets best cover of the year without a doubt.
6. The Tartans – Cats of Camerford (Yay!)
Horns, horns, horns! It’s easy to forget how much a great horn line in a song can just put it over the top. This ranks up there with Brideshead’s Real Art as a killer pop song with a more killer horn hook.
7. Je Suis Animal – Painted In my Face (Cloudberry)
French name, Norwegian band, singing in English, swirling Broadcast/Stereolab sound, and an a-side to die for. The Scandinavians never cease to amaze me with their uncanny ability to arrive fully formed with style and songs that seems like they should take years to develop.
8. Boat – Topps (Magic Marker)
Boat are one of my favorite bands in Seattle and they really outdid themselves with this record. It was named after the baseball card company and came with a deck of hand drawn trading cards that included the band’s favorite baseball players as well themselves sporting baseball caps, cool badges with the band in their baesball getup and of course a stick of gum. Topps is just that, with it’s shakey keyboards, economical guitar riff and hyper Boat-esque chorus, it’s got it all, a wife, a job, a record store that knows it’s name and friend in every town.
9. Wake the President – You Can’t Change that Boy/Kingfishers – Make Me Sad (Electric Honey/Aufgeladen Und Bereit)
First of all the Kingfishers doing a cover of Vic Godard’s Make Me Sad would for some, be worth the price of admission, but Glassgow’s Wake the President are more than happy to steal the show with their original slice of Godard/Orange Juice pop. It’s one of those songs that make you want to bounce around on the furniture. I’ve been reprimanded a couple times for doing just that while listening to this.
10. Black Mountain – Lucy Brown (Sub Pop)
For its 20th anniversary this past summer Sub Pop started its third incarnation of its singles club. I joined figuring it would be kinda cool getting a surprise in the mailbox every month. November’s edition was the best surprise yet. I have kinda ignored Black Mountain up until this single, but Lucy Brown has bitten me with it’s scuzzy bass and bluesy vibe. This rocks so hard it was more than worth the price of joining this club.
11. Sexy Kids – Sisters are Forever (Slumberland)
Jeeze, with Slumberland putting out a slew of killer albums and singles this year, I was both surprised and amazed when a few weeks ago that the label announced it was putting out a couple more singles. Sisters are Forever, one of those singles, is a perfect pop rush. Tie a double knot and don’t forget to buy this.
13. Bears – Making Something(Impose)
A record player, a sunny summer afternoon and a Bears record go along way to a blissful existence. I don’t think I need to really say anything else about this sublime record, I really can’t think of a better way to spend two minutes.
14. Twig – Ciao Ciao Bomb (Cloudberry)
Earlier in the year I wrote about how there seemed to be this Orange Juice resurgence happening. Twig singer Henrik Linden could be Edwynn Collins’ long lost cousin and Ciao Ciao Bomb could be an unearthed OJ song. Twig are no cover band though, their originals are classics in their own rite and this single as well as their album Life After Ridge on Plastilina is proof positive.
15. Vivian Girls – Wild Eyes/My Baby Wants Me Dead(Plays With Dolls)
It wasn’t the a-side that did if for me it was the rocking jam of a b-side that got me. Crashing guitars and then silence followed by the eerie singing of ‘My baby wants me dead, he wants to put a knife in my head’. It’s downright spooky.
17. Moscow Olympics – Still (Fraction)
This was the first official release from the mysterious Phillipeans’ Moscow Olympics and what an introduction. Dreampop at its most dreamy.
18. Box Elders – Hole in my Head(Grotto)
Omaha, Nebraska’s Box Elders are like a diamond in the rough, there surely cannot be a kiwi scene in the nation’s midsection can there? This record just does not get old with me, it even sounds like it was recorded 20 years ago with a decidedly lo-fi feel that you just can’t fake.
19. Surefire Broadcast – When I Need Someone/Some Seek While Some Find (self-released)
This is kind of a cheat, since I don’t actually own this 7″, only a cd-r of it. But it exists and it was recorded by Dustin Reske of Rocketship. Surefire Broadcast are easily one of my favorite bands of the moment and this record is the perfect evidence, with it’s almost grungy guitar juxtaposed with boy-girl vocals that swirl around each other into undeniable pop sunshine.
20. Times New Viking – Stay Awake (Matador)
If you’ve made it this far, you may need to be jarred out of your complicity and Times New Viking are the perfect thing for that. Discordant noise has never sounded better, at least to these ears.
Get ready for another lesson in indie pop. Who begat whom and what is the real origin of Tullycraft? It all starts with Crayon, who were the loudest, most raucous, and lowest-of-fi on …One Last Kiss. They came from Bellingham, Washington which is about a three hour drive north from Seattle. They may have been heavily influenced by the Pastels, but they sounded like the angry little brother of the Pastels. The vocals were kind of winey and shouted at the same time. It was kind of rudimentary and juvenile sounding, but catchy in a primal, punk rock way. Jeff Fell and Sean Tollefson would go on to form Tullycraft with Wimp Factor 14 guitarist Gary Miklusek (another …One Last Kiss band, but we’ll get to that in a future post). Crayon’s MySpace is threatening a release that compiles all of their output onto two handy discs. In the meantime, here’s their song that was on …One Last Kiss. It was culled from their Harriet Records ep Moominland
I’ve written about the Box Elders before when they came through town. Their ramshackle sound seems to come from the same place that Crayon were coming from back in 1992. The Box Elders are a trio (another similarity with Crayon) and are fronted by brothers Clayton and Jeremiah McIntyre and more than ably backed up Dave Goldberg on drums, who by the way is a madman with sticks behind his kit. They have only one single out, with the promise of another one sometime this year. These guys have sound that nobody else even comes close to right now, it’s a little Jonathan Richman and a little of the Clean. Excellent stuff from this Omaha, Nebraska band. Let’s hope that they don’t get lost into obscurity like so many of the bands that appeared on …One Last Kiss!
The Box Elders‘ have one single to their name. It’s a four song 7″ that contains three originals and a cover of the Redd Kross song S&M Party. They’ve posted the best two from the single over at their MySpace page, and it was on the strength of those two songs that got me to head over to the Funhouse on a Monday night. In fact, Hole In My Head is such a beguiling slice of lo-fi pop goodness that it alone would have gotten me to their show. It has a distinct Kiwi feel to it, so much so that you could mistake this Omaha, Nebraska band for the Clean. The Box Elders are a trio fronted by brothers Clayton McIntyre, Jeremiah McIntyre they share writing and the vocals. Drummer-keyboardist Dave Goldberg is a force of his own, harness this guy and he could solve our energy problems. They guy is a master of multi-tasking shooting fire, making funny faces, drumming and playing keyboards all at the same time. Their charming lo-fi pop, was nearly overshadowed in their live show by pyrotechnics, chest bumps, and lots of jokes.
When the guitar amp blew out of the band on before them Jeremiah jumped up on stage and told a few jokes while they switched out amps. He also had some funny intros to their own songs like prefacing one saying this is the saddest song ever written, it’s about loving someone that can’t love you back. It’s called Necrophilia. Another one was introduced as being a song about being engaged to an undersea princess from Atlantis. The jokes were interspersed with the band shooting fire from their guitars and drums. Luckily the place wasn’t crowded, so I had a straight shot to exit if the place went up in flames. The two songs I knew sounded really good, but the others kind of ran together, mostly because the bass was turned up way too loud and overpowered the guitar and the melodies. They kept it fun with their goofiness, but it could have been better if they had turned down the bass, a little. After the show Jeremiah said that his brother always wants to turn his bass up too high. The band is young, with one single to their name, but the songs are the real deal so I’m looking forward to what they’ve got in store. In the meantime, here’s the song that hooked me on the Box Elders: mp3: Box Elders – Hole In My Head
You can buy the Box Elders single from the band at their MySpace page, or directly from them on their tour. Here are the dates:
Jun 12 Bricka Braka Sacramento, CA
Jun 13 Hemlock Tavern San Francisco, CA
Jun 14 Mr. T Bowl Los Angeles, CA
Jun 15 Pink Elephant San Deigo, CA
Jun 19 Beerland Austin, TX
Jun 20 Saturn Bar New Orleans, LA
Jun 21 Murphy’s Memphis, TN
Jun 22 Fred P. Otts Kansas City, MS
Jun 26 Waiting Room Omaha, NE
Jul 18 Beat Kitchen Chicago, IL
Jul 19 Frank’s Power Plant Milwaukee, WI