All Men Are Mortal: Not Fearful of Happiness

July 19, 2010

The Jonas Brothers are just another in a long line of cutesy pop bands made up of adorable siblings stretching back past The Jackson 5, The Partridge Family and probably even further than the Von Trapps. In between Hanson in the ’90s and the Jonases today, an Arkansas family by the unfortunate name of Butts also took a shot at the hit parade.

L to R: Jon-Jon, Emily, David and MacCauley.

Their surname clearly being an inappropriate name for their Disney Channel-styled bubblegum pop, the Butts opted for the slightly less inappropriate, though far more ponderous, All Men Are Mortal for a moniker. Why Warner did not insist on a name change is nothing short of baffling but one has to remember long-winded emo bands such as My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds to Mars and Cute Is What We Aim For were all the rage.

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The Great Raid: Mistake Medicine for Magic

July 2, 2010

The post-punk revival of the early 2000’s produced more also-rans than the original movement. That’s no mean feat since the only bandwagon to get more loaded-down by talentless hacks than ’80s punk/new wave was maybe grunge in the ’90s. Post-punk redux probably fared a little better than grunge, if only because of the wealth of source material to ape. 

The race to be the next skinny-tied one-hit wonders divided itself into two heats. The first being cold, moody, atmospheric bands who’d erroneously name-drop Joy Division in their bios and the other was jittery, funky bands who’d slightly less erroneously name-drop Gang of Four.

Norway’s The Great Raid tried to run in both heats to the predictable result of not placing in a single race.

While Radio 4, The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, !!!, and Moving Units were thumping punk-funk back onto the dance floor and The Stills, The Editors and Interpol were creating music for a new generation to mope to, The Great Raid tried to split the difference. Bjarni Grimstad‘s take on Ian Curtis’ maudlin baritone mixed with the anthemic bombast of mid-period U2 and a B-52s dance beat ended up sounding like a ham-fisted Coldplay  remix by DFA.

Mistake Medicine for Magic was released on Finnmark Records in May of 2002 and reached #317 on the UK indie charts. The band broke-up in June of 2002 in Belgium when drummer Kjell Boddason met his wife, chocolatier Amélie Franquin, and refused to continue with the tour. Ironically, Boddason now drives a tour bus in Brussels.

Grimstad and the rest of the band returned to Norway and later that year reformed as the black metal band Dethfjord in hopes of more successfully jumping that bandwagon. Dethfjord do not currently have a record deal.

Fat Tony: Be Surmounted By Scorn

June 21, 2010

A certain amount of controversy surrounds Fat Tony‘s sole album Be Surmounted By Scorn. It’s actually a vinyl bootleg of an early demo-tape recorded by Atlanta punk-pop band Goo 69 when they were trying to break into the suburban white hip-hop market.

The band name here is more than a Simpsons reference, it is an in-joke playing off Goo 69 singer Tony Mulroney‘s infamous tabloid-fueled battles with weight gain. This has lead to speculation the album’s release is the work of industrious fans. 

Recording industry experts  have suggested it is more likely a marketing ploy devised by their management company, Hot Dogone Artists, known for their elaborate, often ill-fated, viral marketing strategies. They were behind the R&B singer K’ellee‘s disastrous PR stunt at the American Music Awards.

Goo 69 deny the album is their work at all blasting it as “the worst kind of audio-blackface.” Despite these assertions, studio engineer Rocky “Pop” Littlejohn has come forward claiming to have recorded the sessions in late 1997 and that Tony and the boys actually wore literal blackface during the sessions. He bolstered this claim with photographic proof though Littlejohn has been accused of “Photoshopping” them into a picture of his studio which also throws doubt on the legitimacy of the “blackface” in question.

Rocky “Pop” Littlejohn in his atlanta, GA studio with “Fat Tony”

controversies aside, the album itself is a passably mediocre attempt at party-jams laced with cheeky, not-quite-naughty lyrics. One generous critic suggested it was what you might get if “Vanilla Ice had been the fourth Beastie Boy but all they had to work with was a cheap Casio keyboard and a Partridge Family sample.”

It’s estimated only 500 copies of the bootleg were ever pressed. Most have appeared on eBay and gathering few bids. In 2003 New York graffiti artist Beekr went on a public mission to buy up all every single copy intending to  “burn them to hell” in Times Square on Martin Luther King’s birthday but whether this was an artistic endeavour, a public service or merely a boast resulting from two decades of inhaling spray paint propellant was never revealed as he appears to have abandoned the project.

Goo 69 have a new album due out later this year.

Nukus Airport

June 2, 2010

Defiant against the critics who called Uzbekistan’s answer the the Bay City Rollers a “one hit wonder”, the boys made a statement with the title of their next album.

Though Weren’t a Hypothetical Question! only reached #72 on the UK indie charts and #105 on the Billboard Top 100, they scored a #1 single in Japan. Nukus Airport called it quits in 1978 after a disastrous pan-Asian tour plagued with transport issues.

Vavatenina : That and Nothing Else (1994)

May 14, 2010

Of all the rootsy, alt-Americana bands that followed in the wake of Gin Blossoms, none faded into obscurity faster than Vavatenina. Not even Gin Blossoms themselves. Their lone long-player from the summer of 1994, That and Nothing Else, proved to be prophetically titled.

Though the band couldn’t even claim status as a one-hit-wonder (their best-charting single sputtered at #78, no one here in the office can remember what it was), the band did see its proverbial 15-minutes of fame. Unfortunately, singer Jimmy Knee wasted the 15-minutes on an incident involving Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner and balloon full of horse vomit.

It’s a shame Vavatenina didn’t gain more attention for their actual music since, though sounding exactly like Gin Blossoms, the album does not make the listener want to cauterize their ears with a soldering iron—a feat of musical dexterity deserving of more recognition than its been given.

Forgotten Melodies – AFF: All The Way Through

May 5, 2010

Audio File Format (or AFF as they’re more commonly known today) didn’t start off as purveyors of the pop-punk frat party anthems they’re most famous for. Long before “Pink or Stink” became the summer of 2003’s go-to jam for the Mustang-driving, backwards-baseball-cap-wearing set, they were wallowing in dream-pop obscurity.

Being late to a party already abandoned by the hosts, All The Way Through (1998, Cloud Crop Records) is probably the best American shoegaze album you’ve never heard—think a more garage-rock Black Tambourine meeting a heavy metal version of Starflyer 59 but run through a vacuum cleaner hose once owned by Kevin Shields. Limited to 1000 pressings (most of which reportedly never left the basement of Cloud Crop president Josh Hemming‘s mom), not very many people outside of a few reviewers and friends of the band ever knew the album existed.

Singer Colin Whyte has gone on record (in a Spin interview) saying of the apocryphal album, “We like to think that album never happened. I guess it actually didn’t. Luckily, our label were a bunch of fuck-ups.”

In a separate interview, when asked if he held ill-feelings towards Hemming, Whyte said, “Josh? Naw. I still buy coffee from him when I go home. He always jokes about putting those CDs on Ebay. But, you know, that’d involve him getting them out of that basement. I guess Starbucks keeps him pretty busy.”

In the end things worked out for AFF, though it would have been interesting to hear how the band might have developed if All The Way Through had been the album to capture the public’s attention instead of 2001’s Snot-T As Yr Face.

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