Under The Stairs
Viking On Campus Records /Stumprunner Records (2011)
I’m pretty self-aware of my musical shortcomings taste-wise. I like music about ugly guys by ugly guys, music about mistakes and alcohol and bitter friendships and jokes that would probably get you kicked out of some sorta peacenik political punk show.
OK, that’s a gross oversimplification of the range of music I listen to, but it’s an oversimilification because these days it’s impossible to fully narrow down “what I listen to” anymore, for anyone. Even when I sit and think about it simply to have a frame of reference for myself, it’s almost impossible. The best way I can describe it anymore is that I like what I like, and I don’t like what I don’t like. It’s no longer possible anymore for me to just say “I listen to a lot of punk” or “I mostly just like hardcore bands ” because it’s no longer true. In fact, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actively sat around listening to “just” punk music.
Everything from chamber music to pop to hip-hop to Americana to rock ‘n roll-inspired punk to folk music gets played in our house, and we’re OK with that. Music’s a subjective art (within limits, but that’s another story) where genre identification should have no direct influence on just how it’s recieved. Granted that sort of belief is incredibly naive because let’s be honest, just how many terrible fucking bands have you listened to and ended up supporting just because they were identified as “punk”? I will completely own up to doing this a lot when I was younger, and while it’s a a part of my past, it’s one of those things I’m a little embarrassed of, in hindsight.
How could I have been so stupid? Listening to those bands now, they’re terrible. Like, not in that “oh we’re so amateur and kind of sloppy rock” sort of way, but in a “Jesus Mary & Kamandi, you guys are bad. Like, you take untalented and humorless to new and frightening levels” sort of bad.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I was exposed to Brick Mower a year ago when the usual email from someone pinged up in my inbox, asking if I’d take a listen to this band’s EP, and I agreed. I honestly tend to automatically agree to most of these requests without thinking, which is how I’ve ended up on the mailing lists of terrible techno/dance music labels.
This band stood out to me though, for a few reasons. These reasons are what make Under The Sink so interesting. It’s far from original or musically groundbreaking, really, but at the same time it isn’t some sort of deliberate attempt at recapturing a specific musical sound that was a combination of both a social era as well as a technological period.
When I was in high school and college, I bought records a lot. One of my favorite things to do was to dig up record label compilations for a buck apiece, and get about 30 songs this way from bands I’d never heard before. It was a small risk because I was living at home, I had few expenses and more often than not I got my money’s worth from buying music semi-blindly like this, discovering cool bands and sounds.
One of the series of compilations I loved were from the old label Hopeless Records, where I discovered the early works of bands like Samiam and J-Church. Sloppy and sarcastically upbeat with a wicked sense of humor in the lyrics, they’re still some of my favorite bands. Astray by Samiam is one of the best albums ever in my opinion.
Under The Sink reminds me a lot of those early songs by those bands on those comps, an era that gets brushed aside A LOT in favor of more socially-acceptable/hip/ironic musical eras. the 90’s might as well have never existed music-wise for some people who are more than eager to get rid of the dirty shadow of Generation X and “alternative”, but to deny that anything good came out of 1989-1999 kind of just makes you full of shit in my book.
Someone told me that this band reminds them of super-early Black Flag, before Henry Rollins joined and they inspired the term “hardcore”. I can definitely hear that in the mix, a scratchy and genuine analog sound and atmosphere that brings DIY home studios and lazy wasted days off from your shit job to mind. I like to think that it’s also a weird mix of 90’s Bay Area slacker punk rock and Midwest alternative-influenced rock ‘n roll from guys who are sick of listening to KISS over and over again.
As someone thoroughly sick to death with miscellaneous levels of pretentiousness and social assumptions on obligations in music, I can get down to this.
I am getting down to this, right now actually, stretched out on the couch with this playing on my laptop and the dog floating around the house, wondering what the hell I’m bopping my head to. If Brick Mower had been around when I was first in college, I’d have been all over this shit like a baby Velociraptor all over a crippled plant-eater dinosaur that my mom Velociraptor would’ve brought to my baby raptor nest.
As it stands now, a year out of grad school and a few years out of college, I’ve been on the phone and dealing with emails all day so I don’t have the energy to go dinosaur amazing all over this CD. I’m just gonna enjoy it, because when you come down to it, it’s a really good record.