Gun (the band, not the firearm)

Sad story: when I was little, I was terrified of guns.  I saw that episode of Family Matters where Laura got shot because she wouldn’t give that bully her new gym shoes, and then at the end of the episode everyone turned their guns in.  That episode scared the crap out of me for the following reasons:

1)  Did you realize the Winslows lived in the ghetto?  Me neither.  I thought I was going to go to school and get shot.

2) Where did all those people with guns at the end of the episode even come from?  They did not look old enough to own firearms and/or carry concealed weapons.  Also for some reason I thought they all had criminal intent.  How many people in my neighborhood owned that many guns and had criminal intent?

I can’t think of any more reasons.

Anyway, tonight I am posting about a band called Gun.  They are good angry Monday music.  They are also very cool–like James Dean cool, the kind of cool I will never be.  They’re from Indiana, and as they say in the documentary below, their bars “are full of cigarette smoke and everybody carries guns.”  It’s funny, because this is very far from my kind of “thing,” but they are just so damn cool I can’t get over it.  As far as genre, they call themselves midwest Americana, but I definitely get a grunge/rockabilly/blues kind of feel from them as well, and I love their fusion of these classic sounds.

This weekend I was listening to Iggy Pop, who I usually associate with David Bowie, my idol.  I love how Bowie was so obsessed with creating a persona…before Bowie played on some TV show (I posted the video in my classic songs of all time list and I’m not looking for it again), the announcer called him a “self-constructed freak”–and I’m convinced he didn’t even mean it to be negative.  I guess I picture Iggy Pop in a similar vein, and I find it really interesting that Gun claims Iggy Pop as an influence because I don’t think I would have drawn that comparison had he not just flat out said it in this video.  Anyway, what Gun is doing is cool, if I have the right idea of it anyway…it’s like they’re taking their roots–the lovely midwest, or specifically Indiana–and exaggerating it, making it their own little self-constructed stage identity.  But okay, I’m tired of talking about this, and I’m tired in general, so it probably sounds like I’m digging.

Mostly their accents are cool and the voice distortions are cool and their guitar riffs are cool and the noise they make is cool and you should just listen to it now.  And watch this video.  Yeah.  Also my favorite song is “Evel Is As Evel Do” because…that’s just freaking hilarious.

Ah, Sweet Bitter Things

Why we at The Indie Handbook are –oh god and I thought I would never say it– big fans of Twitter:|

1) Eric can tweet at people (dirty!)
2) We can discover fantastic music that we may not run into otherwise

Bitter Things is one example. So, thank you, Bitter Things, even though you may have started following us only because we had the word “indie” in our name (although you really don’t seem like the type) or because we happen to be following some of the same record labels. I’d like to say that we officially love your music.

I only spent a few months in London, but to me, Bitter Things has a quintessential London sound, dark and moving and full of convincing guitar riffs.   In fact, although “Let Me Down Slow” is over 4 minutes long, it’s my favorite of the songs on their myspace page.  They clearly know what they’re doing– longer than 4 minutes and you’re just being greedy, so usually I’ll officially peace out, but Bitter Things has me hooked.  Nick Gledhill has a voice full of character (check out “You’re So 2oth Century”), reminiscent of David Bowie on Ziggy Stardust, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, or the Kinks’ Ray Davies.  Not that their sound is completely British 70’s rock, but who doesn’t love a little Bowie twist?

Speaking of influences, the “influences” section of Bitter Things’ myspace bears mentioning.  Nick begins talking about the music he’s been listening to lately, then mentions movies he’s seen and books he’s been reading, and then discusses the National Portrait Gallery and the paintings he has been enjoying and the people he has been watching, and finally he concludes (as every philosophical, self-aware, true lover of life eventually does) that “[the girls in the art museum] are also an exhibit and so are you and so is everyone who passes through the place to behold and be beheld and this is a very strange and interesting place to be.”  Except obviously he explains it all in much more length and with much more eloquent detail than I just did, so I’m suggesting/demanding that you go to their myspace page immediately, listen to their music, read their “influences” section, and cry because unless you are in the U.K., you probably won’t catch a show anytime soon.  Or maybe you will.

P.S. Eric would like to add that the Bohemian girls are his favourite part of the V&A, too, and the Tate Modern, for that matter.

Don’t get dramatic, this ain’t the movies

The mark of a great album is that your favorite song will change every week or two.  Real life example: David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.  Can you really pick a favorite?  First it will be “Changes” because even though it’s way overrated and you want to be cool, it will be the first Bowie song you ever hear and will suck you in immediately; then it will be “Life On Mars,” then “Queen Bitch,” then eventually you’ll wrap back around to “Oh! You Pretty Things” until you finish off with “Bewlay Brothers” before you realize that “Bombers” is really freaking awesome…

But I’m not here to talk about Bowie, as much as I love him and his fancy outfits.  I’m here to talk about Dear and the Headlights’ sophomore album, Drunk Like Bible Times, which was released back in September on the indie record label Equal Vision.  Dear and the Headlights are living proof that you don’t have to be “indie” to be indie.  They have no silly instruments, no incredible bios, and no skinny androgynous-looking boys or girls.  They may or may not have written their Wikipedia page themselves, and whether or not anything on the page is true doesn’t really matter because you won’t find any other information about them on their website or their myspace.  Not to mention that their “story” as told by whoever actually did write about them on Wikipedia is maybe the most boring thing I have ever read next to the back of a shampoo bottle.

However, once you’ve listened to this album for about a month, you’ll realize your favorite song has changed at least four or five times because not only is there not a bad song on this album, every track is a gem.  Musically, these guys are fantastic.  The chord progressions are interesting (although unlike Eric, I’ll probably never be able to tell you what they are) and the form changes enough to keep my ADD self from skipping any tracks.  They have good movement over the entire album as well, hooking you with the catchy first track, “I’m Not Crying, You’re Not Crying, Are You?,” leaving you trying to catch up with “Talk About,” and then bringing you back down to peace with “Parallel Lines.”  “I Know” may be the most unexpected track (and the best drinking song), with the drums sounding like a tap dancer and a great little clapping/yelling session at the end.  What really pulls together the band’s raw style, though, is Ian Metzger’s voice.  First he’s singing, then it gets a little too intense and he’s gotta yell for a second, then he’s cool and he’s just gonna sing again.  He’s not Bright Eyes or Bob Dylan, talking through everything, and he’s not freaking Rufus Wainwright, lovely and classically trained.  He’s passionate, vulnerable, and raw, and the rest of the band is right there ready to join him.

While musically, Dear and the Headlights knows what they’re doing and they do it well, they are incredibly lyrically focused.  They are angst without emo and wit without whining, which isn’t surprising; after all, you don’t have to look much further than the name of the band or the name of the album to appreciate their cleverness.  “Talk About” is one huge string of metaphors (“I’m a passed out priest in an AA meeting/and they’re checking my pulse trying to make a decision/I’ve got those rolled back eyes but nothing’s clouding my vision”)-you’ll be speechless by the end of it, after which you will proceed to listen to it as many times as it takes to learn all the words.  The lyrics on “If Not For My Glasses” might err on the side of emo if not for their sheer brilliance (“I love your face, the way it moves, your murky mouth, your eyelid brooms/and I’m feeling that cobweb apprehension…You say I’m your white cast kid, I was born for your cares/ why you gotta label me now?”) but the lack of jadedness on “Parallel Lines” and “Flowers for My Brain” (“We’re swaying in subconscious subways so insane/but your thoughts still bring flowers for my brain/ and I still pull my hands past your ribcage/ hoping my movements might find their place at your side”) proves that they have hope despite their more-than-occasional cynicism.

I could really go on and on about the lyrics on this album, but I’d rather you check them out yourselves.  Any decent cynical idealist will appreciate the wit and the intensity.  And bonus!  You’ll have a new favorite song every week!  As for a sneak preview, you can check out some of their concert videos on myspace, but good luck trying to find any music videos from this album.  My recommendation: grab some beer and some friends and get Drunk Like Bible Times!  (But please drink responsibly.  This is a message from The Indie Handbook.)