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Listening

My Introduction to Vic Chesnutt

First heard Vic Ches­nut­t’s “Pan­ic Pure” on the b‑side of R.E.M.‘s mediocre ver­sion of “Sponge,” which sounds indis­tin­guish­able from any of the hard rock­ers on New Adven­tures in Hi-Fi. Her­sh’s ver­sion of “Pan­ic Pure” absolute­ly bewitched me. Here Hersh sings with Vic Ches­nutt.

Been think­ing about Ches­nutt quite a bit late­ly. Part of it is that these songs meant so much to me my fresh­man year of col­lege and I feel guilty for not hav­ing explored his music fur­ther. Now that he’s gone I’m look­ing him up on YouTube and find­ing all these great clips that exem­pli­fy what a great pres­ence he had.

Lis­ten to R.E.M.‘s take on “Sponge” below.

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Listening

Pitchfork Missed Another ’90s Gem

Not real­ly, but Geg­gy Tah popped into my head while I was on vaca­tion and I had to ask myself if it was real. Post-grunge was­n’t all Nick­el­back and Creed! There was tons of stuff like this.

It was­n’t all gold. I mean, there was this, too.

Yeah, I can remem­ber bit­ing my tongue quite often dur­ing col­lege. Peo­ple real­ly liked stuff like this! What I need to do is get down a few songs that I feel real­ly cap­tured the evolv­ing ’90s Zeit­geist. It was a weird decade!

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Listening

My First Indie Rock Album

Lest you think I’m a total wee­nie for admit­ting that I liked some maudlin tunes, my first indie rock album was Codeine’s The White Birch. I bought it at Repo Records after run­ning two miles from Haver­ford Col­lege in the mid­dle of a track meet. I ran four miles round trip to buy a Sub Pop album. You don’t know how easy you have it today!

That album led me to write the band. Would you believe they wrote me back and told me to check out Gas­tr del Sol? That’s how my life­long addic­tion to music began.

My first indie rock LP? That’s easy. Bought Jon Spencer Blues Explo­sion’s Orange at Young Ones in Kutz­town. I did­n’t even have a prop­er turntable at the time! Fell in love with this record so much. Still can’t get enough of it.

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Listening

The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite

Had this song stuck in my head on Tues­day morn­ing. Odd, because I learned that the man respon­si­ble for writ­ing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” George David Weiss, had died the night before.

As I thought about it, I looked up Matt Per­pet­u­a’s exhaus­tive Pop Songs ’07-’08 and found this entry for the song. So maybe that’s not the most illu­mi­nat­ing piece ever writ­ten about an R.E.M. song, but it remind­ed me that Auto­mat­ic for the Peo­ple was such a down­er of a record.

I know I’ve said it before else­where, but I can’t even try to lis­ten to this absolute pill of a record any­more. Maybe it puts me back in a weird spot, remem­ber­ing all the awk­ward moments it sound­tracked while I was a gawky teen, but it’s so one note that even tracks like “Sidewinder” and “Ignore­land” can’t shake me from my sleep. Going back to that place is one weird trip, let me tell you.

This album is to me what I think an album like Lucin­da Williams’ Car Wheels on a Grav­el Road would be just six years lat­er: a sol­id adult con­tem­po­rary record that lulled peo­ple into a false sense of sophis­ti­ca­tion. (How I avoid­ed buy­ing that Williams record I may nev­er know.) As much as I used to think Auto­mat­ic was a pro­found med­i­ta­tion on death, I real­ize today that that had every­thing to do with me know­ing noth­ing about the sub­ject mat­ter. It’s the muzak disc Stipe cursed the Bea­t­les for mak­ing. How he can even sing “Every­body Hurts” with a straight face at this point in his career is beyond me.

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Listening

Refused Make Decibel’s Hall of Fame

Can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see the new issue of Deci­bel. This piece by Nick Green is a must-read, and I’m hon­est­ly sur­prised I haven’t seen more love for it online. Maybe I’m just not read­ing the right things, or maybe the Deci­bel mas­sive isn’t all that into Refused, but I was blown away. Great choice.

Not sure I know exact­ly why I love this album so much. It’s not some­thing I ever lis­tened to all that often and I cer­tain­ly was­n’t into it when it was released in ’98. I prob­a­bly did­n’t hear it until much lat­er when the album art caught my eye while job hunt­ing on my room­mate’s com­put­er in 2003. I loved how pre­ten­tious it was and could­n’t resist its temp­ta­tion. Like Fugaz­i’s The Argu­ment, it’s a bold state­ment album and one you won’t soon for­get. Cer­tain­ly a must for folks who missed out alto­geth­er. Let’s please diver­si­fy our ’90s nos­tal­gia past rote reunions like Pave­ment and Guid­ed by Voic­es.

Haven’t heard the reis­sue yet but I’m clam­or­ing to get my hands on a copy. Take every­one’s word for it. You won’t be dis­ap­point­ed. Chill­wave does­n’t have this kind of cathar­sis. Trust me.