Buried Treasure: Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs – Aesthetic Medicine

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This is a guest post from Aaron Edwards, better known as Foofer. Aaron has written about music for many years, getting his break on Postrockstar (where he had the weekly column Foofer Fridays), before writing for Echoes and Dust, and now Arctic Drones. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young children, and hosted me (Joseph) when I was travelling through America in late 2017. I emailed him recently asking if he would like to tell us about any underrated bands who deserve more attention, so he graced us with his writing to promote Boise locals Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs - Aesthetic Medicine

First and foremost I would love to thank Joseph for letting me come out of my cave and show him how it’s done. This past year has been crazy in a lot of ways, and I think everyone knows how easy it can be for good releases to slip under the radar or fall through the cracks. Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs is definitely one of those. 99 times out of 100, a début album from a new band is ignored. And it only gets worse in states where the population is less than the number of cows (or potatoes).

Being from my neck of the woods (which I don’t get to say very often) means that they were on my radar from day one, basically. I went to their album release show, and they were kind enough to supply me with my own copy of their CD. For weeks it was all I could play in the car. Their bandcamp page says “We’re not sad. We’re contemplative.” and it’s crazy how true it is. I’m not usually in the mood for ‘Aesthetic Medicine’ unless I’m already inside my own head, or have a long car drive ahead of me. I cannot and will not ever claim to fully understand lyrics, but I can say that I probably do more thinking due to their words moreso than their music.

There’s something raw about the music that’s so appealing. There’s a very strong Slint vibe in a lot of their sound, but they also have a tendency for sounding very Post-Rock, with their bass-heavy melodies and twinkly guitars. However they don’t fall prey to post-rock pratfalls, how they do more strumming than tremolo picking. It’s a breath of fresh air for someone who’s listened almost exclusively to post-rock this past year. Imagine if Slint had made something a little more melodic and peppered it with screaming, and you’ll be close to imagining ‘Aesthetic Medicine.’

Considering that this is a début album for a local band that’s all DIY, the production is surprisingly solid. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered locally and it still sounds better than some of the local stuff that was mixed and mastered elsewhere. Even the acoustic guitar sounds how it should, I can even play it on my phone speaker and it won’t suck.

Overall, I would recommend this album to all the sad bois out there. Since this release they’ve added a keyboardist, so you can look forward to another layer of depth, and another mind to add to their potential which adds up to more than the sum of their parts. It’s not exactly within my wheelhouse of music, I didn’t even think to write about them until Joseph asked me if there was anything I’d want to bring to attention from this last year. However they’re from my neighborhood. They make good music. And while it didn’t make it to my year-end list on Arctic drones, I appreciate what they’ve made and I’m excited to hear more of it.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs links:

Bandcamp: https://midnightlegsmarathonlungs.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midnightlegsmarathonlungs

Buried Treasure: Mineral – The Power of Failing

Mineral - The Power of Failing
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Mineral

Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

The further away you get from a pivotal moment in your life, the more important it seems.  Sometimes you don’t recognize the moment as being truly crucial as it is happening.  It usually takes several years for the weight of it to settle in.  It’s this slow passing of time that lends the moment all its lofty nostalgia.  A nostalgia that fills us to the brim with terrible longing and beautiful memory.  Music has a way of pinning all your best and worst memories to a page.  No band did this to me more than Mineral.

The year was 1995.  I was an awkward Sophomore in high school in Illinois.  My mother was shopping for a birthday present for me and was apparently having difficulty in doing so.  Maybe 15-year-old boys are hard to shop for.  She would end up running into a guy in a record store at the mall (a fellow I would eventually become friends with) who told her to buy Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate.  My mom is a conservative Midwest type and it amazes me still that she took the advice of a stranger in buying a record.  I would devour this album whole.  Something just clicked.  It resonated with me and my extremely impressionable 15-year-old mind.  Diary would change me down to my core and would set me down a road of music that, even at 38 years of age, I’ve yet to stray from.

Fast forward to 1997.  My best friend Steve and I were all over the Midwest emo scene.  This was before GAP got hold of the word and cheapened it.  The post-hardcore scene of D.C. that was the birthplace of the sound we adored wasn’t that far in the rear view mirror.  This was in the early days of the internet.  Steve and I decided we’d start an online “zine”.  Looking back at it now, an online “zine” in 1997 was probably a little ahead of its time.  We called our little project Quagmire 9 and did music reviews, show reviews and collated all information for upcoming shows in a 100 mile radius of where we lived.  Eventually we’d end up getting into the show promotion game.

Imagine 17 and 16 year old kids being able to pull in bands like Cursive and Boilermaker to a sleepy, blue collar town on the Illinois River.

All of this eventually led to a small relationship with CRANK! Records.  We’d get little press packages that had all kinds of release information for bands they were distributing.  This is where we would become familiar with Mineral, a relatively unknown group at the time from Austin, TX.  We hopped in my 1985 Delta 88 and made the 30-minute drive across the river to CO-OP Records in East Peoria and picked up a copy of The Power of Failing, Mineral’s first album.  If Diary shook me to my core, The Power of Failing would resonate with me on a biochemical scale.  Every vital process of my entire being was owed to this album.  I came out the other end of my first listen as something different.

Listening this album in its entirety can still elicit a plethora of feelings inside of me.  A lot of my reviews right here on this wonderful site take on a theme of hopeless joy and redemption.  These are concepts that I often latch onto.  Looking back I would have to believe that it was lead singer Chris Simpson’s vocals that shaped my love for these ideas.  The album is just full of moments where it feels as if the world may collapse in on itself, only to come up for air and become awash in the sun’s healing rays.

“Tears stream down my cheeks only to meet their redeemer and be wiped away.  And there is joy.”

I’m unsure if it was the equipment used or just a lack of money for quality studio time, but The Power of Failing has one of the most incredibly raw and visceral sounds on a record that I can remember.  This rough-hewn sound gives The Power of Failing an almost violent edge.  It makes the melodic portions uneasy but uplifting while the more riotous and distorted parts come across as angry but supernal.  It would be difficult to imagine this record with anything other than the sound it has.  It’s since been remastered and it managed to retain the punch-you-in-the-gut sound that made it so absolutely brilliant.

I remember trying to get all the Smashing Pumpkin and Veruca Salt kids in high school to give Mineral a chance.  They just didn’t get it.  The younger me couldn’t get over how they weren’t moved by what they were hearing.

Mineral’s importance to the mid-90s emo scene is undeniable.  There were a lot of bands doing the Rites of Spring thing back in those days, but none of them did it with as much raw emotion as Mineral.  The lyrics weren’t weighted down in hyperbole or symbolism.  Chris Simpson spoke his mind and put everything in such a beautifully poetic prose.  It tore at your heart and left you smiling with a sort of recognition.  Pardon the cliché, but he was able to paint a picture.  A picture we’ve all found ourselves in but were always bereft of the words to accurately describe it.

“And I don’t know if I should say “I’m sorry” or “Thank you”.  I’ve tried to speak but the tears choke the words.  And I think I finally know what they mean when they talk about joy.”

This is just part of what made Mineral so damn special.  If the lyrics and vocal melodies weren’t tearing at your insides, it was the guitar, bass and drums.  They just had a way of making their instruments cry in torment.  I understand I’m starting to sound a little corny here, but before Mineral and bands like SDRE, guitars and rhythm played second fiddle to vocals.  Listen, I was an idiot kid but Mineral opened my eyes musically to concepts, ideas and feelings that I barely knew existed.

It sounds weird but this all started with my mom.  I honestly have her to thank for all of this.  If she hadn’t gone against her better, more conservative judgement and bought a Sunny Day Real Estate album at the behest of some skateboarding punk kid behind a desk at a record store, none of this would have happened.  Hell, I wouldn’t even be writing this. Thanks, momma.

 


MINERAL LINKS:

Facebook

Mineral Official Page

Twitter

Buried Treasure: La Dispute – Eight

La Dispute Here Hear
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Melodic hardcore band La Dispute just dropped their new track “Thirteen“, so this is a good time to shine a spotlight on some of their non-album material.

La Dispute have three EPs in the Here, Hear series that are wildly different from their regular output. Rather than the intense hardcore we are used to, these EPs include untitled experimental spoken word songs based on literature, poetry, philosophy and prose. When I saw La Dispute play with Balance & Composure in Wellington a few years ago I was delighted that they even included the song ‘Nine’ into their set by playing it as the first encore.

La Dispute here hear liner notes

Setting up for recording in a garage. Picture taken from the Here, Hear II EP liner notes

The series is delightfully low-fi and creative. Most of the tracks use unconventional objects as instruments, like clapping wooden blocks together in a basement. Other examples that stood out as interesting were using a pocketknife as a guitar slide, flipping book pages, or using a pencil sharpener for percussion. You can even hear a dog howling in the song “Seven”.

They draw on a variety of literary sources for inspiration, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic Annabel Lee, and Kenneth Grahame’s charming The Wind in The Willows. My favourite though, is the song ‘Eight’, adapted from the afterword of J. Michael Straczynski’s graphic novel Midnight Nation.

Written in the form of a diary reflection, Straczynski explores the dichmidnight-nation-cover2otomies of his city, with the characters that feature during the day and during the night seemingly from two different worlds. This theme provides the basis for the graphic novel, a story of the lost and forgotten trying to find their way out from beneath the cracks of society.

I love listen to this track through headphones as I go for walks. I picture the narrators story as I explore my city, and try to see the places I’ve walked through hundreds of times with fresh eyes, trying to notice the hidden and forgotten.

Go and listen to Here, Hear series to fall in love with the blend of brilliant music and literature.

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: Copeland – Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)

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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

There are a few thematic changes that mark the start of the winter season here in Montana for me.  First and foremost, snow.  This morning I awoke to the first snow of the year here in the northern hemisphere.  And for reasons I cannot explain, the first smattering of snowfall triggers my brain to start playing my collection of Copeland albums.  Snow and Copeland.  Makes sense right?  Nothing screams snow more than a band from Lakeland, Florida.  All confusing correlations aside, the colder and snowier it gets here in Montana, the more and more Copeland finds it’s way into my music listening rotation.

Curiously enough, along with the morning snow, I was asked by Joseph James to write an entry for the Buried Treasure segment.  I have made it a point to be more in tune to the signs and synchronicities in life and knew that I absolutely needed to write an entry and it absolutely needed to be on Copeland.  Thankfully, Copeland’s long musical career is full of forgotten B-sides, covers, and hidden tracks which made selecting a subject for this entry easy.

For those who may not know, Copeland is an American rock band with a uniquely beautiful quality.  This beauty can most likely be attributed to the voice of their frontman Aaron Marsh.  As a person who tends to lean toward sadder, more angsty styles of music, Copeland tends to be out of place in my record collection as the majority of their work is fairly uplifting and for lack of a better word, nice.

Perhaps it is this “niceness” that caused me to stop and look twice when I first heard the all too familiar lyrics of “Black Hole Sun” being sung by none other than Aaron Marsh.  Granted, I was listening to Copeland’s 2007 release “Dressed Up & In Line” at the time and should’ve known that it was of course Aaron Marsh singing the lyrics of Chris Cornell and Soundgarden’s 1994 hit “Black Hole Sun”.  But nonetheless, the stark contrast between Aaron Marsh’s voice and the gloomy vibe of “Black Hole Sun” was a quick head turner.

It’s always impressive when an uplifting artist like Copeland can take on a sad, dark medium like “Black Hole Sun”, which some say is slang for a particular way of preparing heroin, and turn it into something that listeners, like myself, actually prefer over the original version.  Taking on a cover with as much notoriety as “Black Hole Sun” takes a tremendous amount of courage, especially when it comes from an entirely separate genre of music.

Check out Copeland’s “Black Hole Sun” cover:

And now, with all seriousness set aside, whether or not you like Copeland’s cover of “Black Hole Sun” one must at least take the time to listen to their alternate, hidden-track version of their cover.  This “Bonus Track” was tucked roughly fifteen minutes into the sixteenth track of “Dressed Up & In Line”.  I have absolutely no clue who is singing this version (possibly their drummer Jon Bucklew?), but it’s definitely not Aaron Marsh.  However, this individuals ability to power through the entire song without losing their composure is absolutely commendable.  I challenge you to listen to the entire song without laughing.
Here’s Copeland’s alternate cover of “Black Hole Sun”:
C.J. Blessum

Buried Treasure: How To Destroy Angels – Is Your Love strong Enough?

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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

I met Trent Reznor last year.

It was the day after the Nine Inch Nails/Queens of the Stoneage double bill. I was sitting in the departure lounge at Christchurch Airport waiting for my flight back to Wellington. A child in the same room was making a weird noise that sounded like a whistle crossed with a scream. Of course I looked up to see what the strange sound was.

And then I saw who the kid’s dad was. It was Trent Reznor. There was no way I could mistake it – his face was on all the Nine Inch Nails posters I’d had on my bedroom room as a teenager.

I nervously approached him.

“Uh. Excuse me”.

Trent looked up at me with a steely stare. “Yeah?”

“Are.. are you Trent Reznor?”

“Yeah”.

“Cool…”

He didn’t roll his eyes, but he really should have.

I tried to save myself from looking like too much of a dick. “I was at the show last night. It was awesome.”

Trent looked a bit pissed off. “Thanks. Hey, I’m going to spend some time with my family, OK?” He shook my hand and walked off.

Maybe I shouldn’t have interrupted his family time, but I think I would have regretted it if I had thrown away the chance to meet one of my musical heroes.


Trent Reznor is the gothic poster boy for industrial music. He didn’t start it, but he was responsible for bringing it into the mainstream. Name any angsty alternative-metal from the 90’s onwards and Reznor is likely to be an influence.

In 2009 Reznor announced that NIN were finishing up. He started working on other projects. How To Destroy Angels was one project, fronted by his wife, Mariqueen Maandig. And following up from his acclaimed soundtrack to the video game Quake, Reznor co-wrote the scores to some David Fincher films along with Atticus Ross: The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

The Buried Treasure track I’m writing about today is ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough?’ by How To Destroy Angels, from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack.

I’ve never even watched TGWTDT – I didn’t expect the English speaking remake to be any better than the original. But I did buy the soundtrack, because I liked the work Reznor did on The Social Network. The music is eerie and unsettling – suiting the mood of a David Finch film. It’s not something I listen to often – it’s three albums worth of creepy background music – except for two songs. One is a cover of Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, featuring Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the other is a Bryan Ferry cover by HTDA.

The cover is ethereal like the original, but with less of a 80’s power ballad feel. This automatically makes the cover an improvement. Maandig’s vocals are the highlight of the song – strong and haunting. Reznor also adds some backing vocals to the mix. Both have powerful voices and they contrast nicely. The song is brooding and builds up slowly. The glitchy electronic sounds are inevitable when you consider the artists’ industrial backgrounds, and the blips and beeps add colour to otherwise stark reverberating keyboards.

I read that Maandig came and sang some HTDA songs during the NIN set in Auckland on the same tour I went to. I wish that she’d done the same in Christchurch.

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: Biffy Clyro – ’57’ (live at Wembley)

Biffy Clyro 57
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Biffy Clyro – ’57’ Live at Wembley

Biffy Clyro are my favourite band. Most of my friends are probably sick of how much I rave about them.

If I had to pick my favourite release of theirs it would have to be the Revolutions // Live at Wembley CD/DVD set. They have a lot of strong albums to pick from, but Revolutions collects most of their best material, and some of the live versions are better than the studio versions. I’ve used that DVD to convert many of my mates into Biffy believers.

BiffyClyroRevolutionsLiveAtWembleyBox '57'

The limited edition tin box set that I own is excessive. It came half full with confetti from the concert, along with a piece of wood from a smashed guitar, stickers, a poster, a copy of a diary from the tour manager, and the all important CD/DVD. It cost me an arm and a leg – paying the currency conversion fees and international postage – but I don’t regret it in the slightest.

The DVD includes 25 of Biffy Clyro’s best songs that they’d released at that point. Hard hitting rock anthems, emotional acoustic songs, sing-along ballads, and weird indescribable early eclectic stuff. Material from their most recent studio album, Only Revolutions, hadn’t changed much while transitioning from studio to live setting, but it was clear that some songs from their early days had evolved over time.

The best of these was the ’57’, from Biffy Clyro’s début album Blackened Sky.

’57’ is a companion piece to ’27’, another single from the album. It’s written in a typically Biffy unusual style, showcasing their penchant for mathy riffs with odd time signatures. For a three-piece band to work well, every member needs to be pretty capable on their instruments. This more than applies to Biffy Clyro, whose three members are all phenomenally gifted. They even split vocal duties in this song. ’57’ features aggressive grungy loud/soft dynamics, such as the quiet “do, do ,do” prechorus that leads into the explosive chorus.

BiffyClyroBlackenedSkyPurpleLP '57'

The debut album Blackened Sky, in lilac purple. This pressing also features nine B-sides on a second LP.

’57’ is a highlight of Blackened Sky, but the live version was so much more exciting and energetic, somehow rejuvenated. Maybe it’s because it was one of the first songs that the band recorded, giving them about 10 years to hone and improve it before they filmed it at Wembley. The infectious “HEY”s in the chorus work so much better with everyone in the crowd shouting it.

Needless to say, I was over the moon when they played it at their first ever New Zealand show. It was certainly a highlight from an already outstanding set.

Usually studio recordings are better quality than live versions, because songs can be edited and touched up during production. Revolutions is a rare exception to that rule, with ’57’ being the most standout example. You can find live versions of songs that Biffy have written since Revolutions on Opposites: Live at Glasgow, but sadly the audio quality for the latter isn’t nearly as good.

 

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: Probot – I am the Warlock (hidden track)

Probot Album Cover Warlock
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Probot – I Am The Warlock

The big single from the Probot album was the track ‘Shake Your Blood’, featuring Lemmy from Motorhead. The first time I’d ever heard the track was when Lemmy came onstage to guest on the song on the Foo Fighters Hyde Park DVD. I hadn’t heard of Probot at the time so I was confused about why I couldn’t recognise the song. I had every Foo Fighters album, so why didn’t I know this song?

After some further research I learnt about the Probot album, one of Dave Grohl’s  many, many side projects. The basic premise behind the album is that Grohl had written a bunch of material that was too heavy for Foo Fighters, so he decided to make a dedicated heavy album featuring frontmen from some of his favourite metal and hardcore bands.  Because if you’re rich and famous and bored, why not make a metal album of with the most influential singers of your childhood?

In many ways, this paved the path for later Foo Fighters releases like Sound City and Sonic Highways, both of which featured guest musicians heavily.

The Buried Treasure from this album is the hidden track ‘I am the Warlock’, featuring Jack Black. It’s the last song on the album, playing after four minutes of silence after the final listed track ‘Sweet Dreams’. It’s funny because even though I know that the song is coming, it always gives me a fright when it starts.

Black and Grohl are long time collaborators. Grohl drummed on Tenacious D’s studio albums, and Grohl and Black have featured extensively in each other’s music videos. Tenacious D also opened for Foo Fighters when they set off earthquakes in 2012 at Western Springs.

‘I Am The Warlock’ is predictably juvenile, like almost anything that Black touches, but hey, it’s metal, so not worth taking too seriously anyway. If you can get past the crass content, the sludgy metal is pretty cool.

During the bridge you can hear weird whispers that remind me of something you’d hear in a horror movie (maybe something like Deathgasm?).Grohl has done this another time. The bridge in ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters features three unidentifiable recordings played over each other.

It’s no secret that Black has musical skills. School of Rock was brilliant, and having seen him front Tenacious D in both rock and acoustic settings, I can confirm that he’s very talented. It seems a shame that he chooses to make such a joke out of the music he creates, but at least it’s fun.

Joseph James