Album Review: Lakes – Start Again

Lakes Start Again Album Cover
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I’ve always made it very clear that I think Lakes rule. I instantly fell in love with their debut, The Constance [best album of 2019, @ me if you need], and have championed each of their successive releases.

Start Again is the second album from the Watford sextet. They’ve experienced a few changes in recent years – a few new members, a global pandemic, and they signed to the indie label Big Scary Monsters. I think this is great news because this means their amazing music will find a wider audience, and they’ll possibly get chances to tour with other bands signed to BSM and other bands in that sphere, which should hopefully unlock even more opportunities for Lakes. [I’m holding my breath for a tour supporting NZ indie darlings The Beths]

They ease you in on Start Again with “Blind”, which seems more like a nice intro than a fully fledged song, but then we launch into the track “No Excuses” and you know they mean business. It’s lush and busy and charming and the drum parts remind me of Josh Sparks who drummed on the Into It. Over It. album Standards frantic, driving and interesting. Gotta love those noodly guitar lines too. We hear the wonderful vocal harmonies and subtle mathy arrangements that made me fall in love with Lakes in the first place, and then they go and throw in some glockenspiel and cheesy handclaps just to add more magical fun to the mix.

Many of the songs in Start Again explore events that have been rocking our world in recent years. The populace being poisoned by divisive politicking, a global pandemic changing how we function and shifting our perception of normality, and how we cope in the face of all of this. I get it. I had big plans laid out and was hoping to go travelling last year, hoping on even making it to Watford to hang out with the musicians in Lakes. Instead I had a fairly traumatic year and got pretty depressed. But I chose to face my problems and move on, and I’m now better for it.

Like Frank Turner’s album Positive Songs for Negative People, Start Again is about fighting the demons and doing your best to progress and grow in the face of hard times. Heck, both albums even have a song called “Get Better”.

The video for the titular track is a perfect example. The setting is something we’ve all become accustomed to in the past year: Zoom meetings. But it provides glimmers of hope and humour, showing that despite all the disruption we’ve been going through, we can still find ways to connect with each other.

Hmmmm, I hadn’t planned on getting so deep during this review. Maybe this emo stuff is beginning to rub off on me?

For my money, the track “Talk!” is the best song on the album. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but some of the riffs and production reminds me of late 90’s/early 00’s pop-punk. It’s a really fun song. The cherry on top is the final bridge. It’s so cheesy, but you can’t help but love it. You’ve got handclaps, awesome guitar noodling, and gorgeous layered vocal harmonies doing rounds in the outro. Stunning. And the piano at the end is a great touch.


As a New Zealander, it is my duty to focus on the track “Taupo”. It’s just the way we’re wired. Honestly, any time some international talkshow host like Colbert or John Oliver even utters the name New Zealand or mocks our accent the entire national media goes berserk.

Anyway… Taupō is the huge lake at the centre of our North Island. Millions of years ago it was a supervolcano – very similar to Yellowstone in America. It erupted so violently that there are historic records in ancient cultures from around the globe that mentions how the smoke disrupted weather systems. And once the volcano had done its dash it left a crater that filled with water and became a lake the size of Singapore.

If you’re familiar with The Constance LP and the few EPs that Lakes released in those early days, you’ll know that they used to name all their songs after…. wait for it… lakes!

Matt Shaw told me that the two interlude tracks on this record – “Windermere” and “Taupo” are a throwback to how they used to name all their songs after lakes, and are also inspired by the Minus the Bear album Highly Refined Pirates, which used interlude tracks to great effect. [Minus the Bear are also signed to Big Scary Monsters label. Pretty cool huh?]. The interlude tracks work very well to break up the album and lead into new segments, just as intended.

Matt has actually travelled to NZ a few times and shared that “I have very special memories of travelling around New Zealand. We had a campervan and stayed in a campsite right on the river between Huka Falls and the lake.”. Howabout that tour with The Beths then?

Lakes are incredibly talented in an understated way. The way that they can just incorporate weird mathy time signatures, have multiple singers with voices that are simply to die for, use a whole array of interesting instruments (glockenspiel is key to their sound, for goodness sake!) and pull it all off and make it sound so effortless is outstanding. And despite writing songs that have come from some dark places, they emerge triumphant with an infectious fervor to bring joy to the world.

I had very high hopes for this record and as expected, Start Again is wonderful. It’s different to The Constance and shows that Lakes have grown as songwriters, but still contains the elements that drew me in when I first heard them.

Highly recommended. Start with “Talk!” and if you don’t enjoy it, check to see if you have a pulse.

Joseph James

Lakes

Lakes links:

Website: ourbandlakes.com 
Facebook: facebook.com/ourbandlakes 
Instagram: instagram.com/ourbandlakes 
Twitter: twitter.com/ourbandlakes 
Bandcamp: ourbandlakes.bandcamp.com 

Inside Voices: An Interview with Just Neighbors

Just Neighbors
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Just Neighbors are an awesome math-rock band from Gainsville, Florida. They play wonderful happy tappy music with care-free vibes. They are about to release a new album, Inside Voices, which showcases a slightly different sound for the band.

Just Neighbors

Will Not Fade: Here in New Zealand, we put a “U” in “Neighbour”. I read somewhere that Americans stopped putting “U’s” in some words because when putting listings in classified ads they had to pay by the letter, so began dropping letters that weren’t vital in order to save money. No idea how true that is, but it’s interesting. Also, partly off topic, but the band Living Colour has a “U” because their guitarist Vernon Reid is English. [Real talk, I discussed this in an interview with Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, and someone cited me on the Living Colour wikipedia page. Am I an academic now?]

Just Neighbors: Interesting fact, we always assumed it was another way to rebel against the Monarchy.

I’ve listened to Inside Voices a handful of times now. It’s quite a departure from your usual style. What motivated you to write such different music? It’s still got the chill vibes, but it’s a lot more straightforward.

Inside Voices is beginning to feel like a detour as opposed to a departure. Some of these songs were written years ago and some came about during the process. I think we were partly motivated by wanting to try our hand at home recording and wanting to change up what we were doing. Another reason this album came together was that two members were moving at the time and we wanted to get some ideas recorded before they left. 

 

What is your stance on 4/4?

Overrated (we can swing it ;()

꧁༒•based•༒꧂

ᗷᗩSᘿᕲ

What artists have you been listening to lately?

Aerial M, Charlie Martin, Homeboy Sandman, Russian Circles, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cassandra Jenkins

Who influenced your songwriting with this album?

Land of Talk, Silver Jews, George Strait, Fog Lake 

America confuses me. Places considered Midwest are on the eastern side of the country. Anyway… Do you get Southeast vs Midwest emo beef? Like West Coast/East Coast hip-hop where rappers do drivebys and gun down each other and also say hurtful things with their words?

While the west coast/ east rapper beefs died in the 90s, the southeast Vs Midwest emo beef is very much alive. Most southeast emo bands get labeled Midwest because they wrote a riff that sounds like American football. This is unfair because the last place we want our music to be associated with is the Midwest. 

Did you grow up on MTV Unplugged albums?

I am a bit young to really say that I grew up on the unplugged albums, but I did grow up getting ready for school and watching MTV. Like I remember when Dashboard Confessional dropped ‘vindicated’ for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack – that was big for me. 

Just Neighbors Inside Voices cover

Just Neighbors is mostly an instrumental band. Do you find it scary or daunting writing music that features singing? [I’m a drummer. I did some backing vocals when my new band played recently and although I’d practiced a lot, it was terrifying.]

Justice Diamond: In a way it’s scary and daunting. It’s also exciting and challenging which has been the appeal to pursue it lately. It’s really nice to be able to add vocal melodies and lyrics to our songs.

Dan Lohr: It’s scary in that it’s so damn vulnerable. Rather than sitting, meditating, and writing a song based on a feeling and having the melodies do the talking – I am actually directly speaking about it; that’s a lot.

How did the writing and recording process differ with this album? Have you been stuck at home much over the past year?

Our past albums were huge undertakings for us with a lot of time spent preparing parts and tracking them in a studio. With this project we didn’t set out to make a Just Neighbors record in the traditional sense, we were really just interested in recording some song ideas we’ve been sitting on for a while. Inside Voices was recorded at home and was much more of an intimate recording process. We’ve all been stuck at home over the past year so it was nice to be able to continue writing and recording despite the circumstances.

I’ve noticed you have a visual theme of lights from what I’ve seen of this album. Do you have an overall theme or message with the music?

We don’t have an overall theme with this music but sometimes they emerge unexpectedly after the fact.

I remember that for your last album, If It Ever Comes Back, you made the album available for purchase and download on Bandcamp a week or so before you put it on streaming services. Talk me through how you settled on that decision.

We’ve always appreciated Bandcamp as a service that connects music supporters with the artist. Spotify and streaming services lack that connection, so we wanted to try and direct fans to our Bandcamp where they could purchase the music and more directly support us. It also helped us fund our tour to Mexico.

You also made extended versions of songs available for the people who supported you by purchasing your music. Is this like how Japanese CD’s often have bonus tracks?

It’s similar, we really wanted to provide something additional to anyone who bought the album and keep the streaming experience more succinct. Appreciate that you took notice! Those tracks have become some of our favorite moments from the album.

I notice that your URL link on your instagram leads to “Capture” on Spotify. So you still want Spotify streams?

Despite our criticism, yes. The fact is most listeners are on streaming services so it only makes sense to bring the music to the masses. It’s sad, because Spotify really has the opportunity to throw it back to the artists by *actually* paying them or integrating merch shops for any artist. 

While we are on the topic of different listening formats, I love that I can support you through Bandcamp without needing to pay for expensive shipping fees by buying digital music. But you also have CDs and Vinyl for sale. How do you personally prefer to listen to music? I have a record collection, but just can’t afford to buy records most of the time. I saw on the witter page that someone recently bought Weezer’s Pinkerton.

We love listening to records on vinyl. It’s also a good time to pop in a CD while driving. 

Have Bandcamp Fridays made much of a difference for you as a band over the past year?

In all honesty, not really. It’s a nice gesture from Bandcamp but it hasn’t made a particularly big impact on sales or revenue from us. 

What is your relationship with Refresh Records?

Refresh Records are good friends and partners. They pressed a limited vinyl release of Being Where I Thought I’d Be and have done a great job at managing orders. They have some other kickass bands as well, shout out Cuzco and Catholics. 

Tell me about the Gainesville music scene. I’ve never been to Florida but I have spent some time traveling around America with bands and I loved seeing DIY music communities and how the musicians support each other over there.

The Gainesville music scene is pretty eclectic and it has always felt very supporting. You can find just about anything here. Impressive how many scenes can exist in what started as a small college town. We were lucky enough to be a part of a mathy/progressive side of it. There are too many good bands we’ve shared the stage with getting started; you know who you are 😉

Have you got connections to the hardcore/punk scene? Do you know about the legendary band Jud Jud? [if not, please educate yourself and report back]

Not really and no but holy shit Jud Jud rocks.

My friends in Tides of Man are from Clearwater. That’s not a question, it’s just Florida related.

Go gators.

How are the local venues doing? Do you see yourselves playing shows or touring at any point in the future?

It’s hard to say at this point. It seems like shows are going to come back this fall so we are hoping our favorite spots survived. Shout out to the hardback cafe. As of now, we’re no longer all in Gainesville so we have no plans for shows or touring in the immediate future.

You featured on a Ripcord Records fundraiser compilation recently. Tell me about how that came about.

They actually reached out via email and we sent them a track to feature on the compilation. When the compilation dropped we couldn’t believe how good it was. It also raised a lot of money for a charity called Refuge that helps victims of domestic abuse. Both the link for the compilation and charity are below in case anyone is interested https://www.refuge.org.uk/

https://ripcordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/refuge-part-i 

What have been some of your most effective ways of reaching wider audiences? [ I can’t even remember how I discovered your band.]

Releasing music has always seemed to be one of the most effective. The internet has its ways.

Some of the best math-rock bands come from Japan. How was your time touring there? [I went to Tokyo in 2014 I think. It was incredible. Toe are also on top of the bucket list for bands I need to see before I die]

Our time touring Japan was incredible. It’s wild how different the shows are from the US and It’s honestly surreal we were there in the first place. We wholeheartedly enjoyed meeting so many new people and bands. We got to play with so many kick ass bands like Paranoid Void, Nengu, pFpG, momoku, and the enigma RIL.

And you’ve played in Mexico a bit, right?

We’ve played in Monterrey, MX twice and absolutely loved it. We’d like to extend further down next time but it is a massive country. Our friends down there have a collective called Monterrey Emo Club and play in a band called ‘Local Champion’.

Let’s hear some tour stories! Got any crazy things that happened to you on tour? Interesting foods you ate? Strangest venues?

Well on our first tour we all got Norovirus *redacted* after one member (Justice) ate street clams so things got pretty hairy. We also have fond memories of muffulettas on the Mississippi, tacos in Mexico, and ramen in Japan. We’ve played just about any venue at this point: Rooftops, apartments, basements, ballrooms, verandas, offshoots, fouriers, truck stops, bowling alleys, Applebees, Chuck e. Cheese, Red Robin, Ace Hardware, Amazon Fulfillment Centers.

Nintendo time. What are your go-to characters in Super Smash Bros? Favourite video games? Fave video game soundtracks?

Justice Diamond: Ice climbers are my main and falco comes second.

Dan Lohr : I run villager

Reid Casey: Lucas that guy

Justice Diamond : Spelunky and spelunky soundtrack

Dan Lohr : FORTNITE!!! Was a good game :c

My friends in Man Mountain managed to get onto the Borderlands 3 game. What game would you most love to get your music onto?

We’d love to get featured on the Borderlands 4 actually, dm us. 

Which band member is the most neighborly and why?

Jrok (Jarrett) because he was always the one to get the mail and he introduced himself to our current drummer (Reid).

If you were to get a face tattoo, what would it be?

(っ◔◡◔)っ ♥ based ♥

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for taking the time to interview us, this was really well done!

Just Neighbors


Just Neighbors links:

Buy Inside Voices on Bandcamp: https://justneighbors.bandcamp.com/album/inside-voices

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jneighborsband

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justneighbors/

 

Album Review: Lakes – The Constance LP

Lake The Constance LP cover art
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I knew I was onto something good from the moment I first heard Lakes. Someone had recommended their new album The Constance LP on an internet thread dicussing Into It. Over It.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big IIOI fan. He was the first musical act that I travelled overseas to see play live. So if I hear someone comparing an act to IIOI, I’m going to check them out.

And good thing I did, because this album is fantastic. Insomuch that The Constance has become my easy pick for favourite album of 2019.

Lakes decribe themselves as “glock-rock”. Don’t let that put you off – it’s not an NSA advertisment – it’s because they have a glockenspiel. Is that significant enough to warrant naming their genre after it?

Well the glock certainly adds to their sound, placing bright accents in just the right spots. The interplay between the glockenspiel and the other percussion in “Ontario” nothing short of sublime.

To describe their sound further: it’s happy music. Sometimes relaxed, usually upbeat. They play mathrock, but the time signatures switch so subtly that you’d only pick it up if you’re listening for it. There are elements of emo, indie and pop-punk threaded through as well.

The vocal harmonies are devine. This much is obvious from the very opening notes of the album. Then we hear the chiming glockenspiel and trumpet come over the syncopated rhythms and it’s instantly clear that this is not your standard pop or rock music.

The singing is outstanding. The Bandcamp liner notes state that the vocal duties are shared between four people throughout the album, but it sounds like more voices are in there. On tracks like “Reindeer”, the singing is ernest and urgent, but for most of the record things feel pretty calm. The tender “Erie” sounds like painful memories, with sparse acoustic guitar and gently layered singing. I just love it all, from the chanted shouts of ‘Hey!’ in “Geneva” to the staccato delivery of the chorus in “Lucerne”.

I hope I’m not being too misleading here, But Lakes remind me a lot of Toe: fantastic musicianship, quirky time signatures, busy drumming that isn’t overpowering, and songs that are perfect for putting you into a great mood.

Lakes didn’t do themselves many favours when they chose their moniker. It’s not an easy name to search for. On top of this, when I’ve had friends give me a lift in their car and offer me a chance to choose the music, I haven’t been able to find Lakes on streaming services. I’ve included a songwhip link at the end of the article that you can use to find them, so they are available, but I’ve never managed to find them on a friends phone when searching for them on Spotify or Google Play when driving in the car.

This is not a criticism of the music. All of their songs are named after Lakes, so it’s an apt name. But it makes it harder for me to share and recommend their music if I don’t have a URL link handy.

It’s a hard choice, but I’d consider “Ontario” the highlight of the album, thanks to the aformentioned glock accents, the vocal hamonies, and the soaring trumpet and great drumming in the outro. Everything comes together into a georgeous package.

Lakes are worth your time. I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of them, but there’s no more pleading ignorance now. Treat yourself to some georgously catchy and carefree music. Like I said before, Lakes were my surefire choice for best music of 2019. Check them out and see if if you agree.

Listen to The Constance LP: https://songwhip.com/album/lakes/constance


Lakes links:

Buy physical copies: https://thelpcafe.com/product/the-constance-lp-lakes/?fbclid=IwAR1_QSMl9ft39zXz8ZTc0_A5abs1GlS7b974Lnr57VFKZBoC5T5ULsXyqEI

Website: https://www.ourbandlakes.com/

Bandcamp: https://ourbandlakes.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ourbandlakes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ourbandlakes/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5TizUcJWoPu6QwTZnlsqVA

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ourbandlakes

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3FsRoxn81LEbOBSHb60T8G

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Winter Dust – Sense By Erosion

Winter Dust Sense By Erosion cover
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I’m going to make a bold claim.

The 2015 EP Thresholds by Italian sextet Winter Dust is one of the best releases you’ll find in the world of post-rock.

I still remember when I first heard Winter Dust. It was during a walk to work on a frosty winter morning. I used to love that time of morning, and used those walks as an opportunity to get into a good frame of mind for the day ahead. It was especially cold. The grass on the park was coated in white crystals, and I blew jets of steam with every breath. I had headphones on and was listening through the new Open Language compilation that A Thousand Arms had recently released.

It was a good collection of songs. I already knew a handful of tracks, from the likes of Tides of Man, I/O, Ranges, We Lost The Sea and Dumbsaint. But many bands were new to me.

The one that stopped me in my tracks was “There”, by Winter Dust.

That night I logged onto Bandcamp and downloaded Thresholds as soon as I got home. Months later a vinyl copy arrived in the post [I believe the first order got lost in the post so they sent me another]. I love that EP so much.

And now we have a follow-up: Sense By Erosion.

It’s exactly what I wanted: Thresholds, but more. Intense emotion, anguished hardcore vocals, sublime instrumental passages and visceral dynamics.

The many Marco’s have exceeded themselves this time. (four of the band members have the same name, along with Fabio and Carlo). Some of them live in separate countries, so I can’t begin to fathom how they managed to write this masterpiece. Yes, the internet is amazing, but nothing can substitute human contact when you’re communicating and creating with each other.

Sense By Erosion starts of as many post-rock releases do: softly building up. The track “Quiet January” quietly loops on itself, building with intensity as dialogue plays in the background. Then, just as it built up, it then slowly decays in waves.

“Duration Of Gloom” continues the build up with a good groove, slowly growing. The playful melody that floats above the main riff is a nice use of treble. Then BAM, distortion and cathartic roaring. I always find it fascinating when foreign bands choose to sing in English. Then again, I can hardly tell what they’re saying unless I pay close attention anyway. These post-hardcore vocals are one of the marked improvements that Thresholds and Sense By Erosion have over Winter Dust’s earlier output, giving the music a huge injection of urgency and feeling.

This song has me sighing with delight. This is what I want: emotional, energetic music that kicks me right in the feels and leaves me winded. Just like with Thresholds, I feel so consumed and swept away by the music. It’s so engrossing: Hard hitting drums, tremolo guitar, and a raw undercurrent. Then, once you think it’s all over, a calm bridge to let you catch your breath and ease you into a false sense of security. Before BAM, back into the intensity. If you listen carefully during the soft outro, you’ll hear church bells faintly ringing in the distance.

If you can’t tell yet, I’m a big fan. Loud or quiet; heavy or soft; sung or instrumental, Winter Dust just nail the mood.

At first, “All My Friends Are Leaving Town” seems like a softer song, although it picks up later on. One passage features a weird reversed effect. Maybe they’ve subtly backmasked messages that brainwash me into loving the music?

“Composition Of Gloom” is the second song with the word ‘gloom’ in the title. Funnily enough, the absence of vocals makes it feel like an interlude, despite the fact that one of the defining aspects of the post-rock genre is lack of singing. That, and the fact that it’s the shortest song.

Again, “Disharmony” is by no means weaker, but the lack of vocals is noticeable. Ironically enough, I found lead single “Cruel Jane” is one of the songs that makes the least impact for me, with the first half feeling soft and meandering. This is not to say these songs are bad, but they don’t offer as much oomph as the tracks from the first half of the record.

Their blurb on Bandcamp states “Our new album is ideally divided in two, the nervous part and the heartening part. It’s a record about leaving people, leaving places, parting ways, losing things.” This makes total sense. And I’m not sure what that says about me, that I prefer the nervous part, but as you can tell, I’m very much drawn to those songs.

It’s a shame that we don’t hear much piano in the mix throughout this album, but they make up for it with album closer “Stay”. After a tumultuous emotional ride, this is the touch of hope at the end of the album to send us on our way in good spirits, with a parting gift of ambient tranquility.

I simply love this album. I feel so strongly about it, but at the same time find it hard to articulate exactly why. I think the intense evocative nature of the music certainly resonates with me in a way that few others can. By taking the beauty of post-rock, the intensity of hardcore and the emotional aspects of emo, Winter Dust have fused their own sound that ticks all the right boxes for me.

Thresholds EP, was an underrated masterpiece. Sense of Erosion is the logical progression: taking all components of its predecessor, and building upon them to create something longer and more fully realised. I had high expectations of this album, and I’m delighted to say they’ve been met.

Winter Dust

Winter Dust links:

Bandcamp: https://winter-dust.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/winterdustmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/winterdustmusic/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wcxnlsMklfqJ_QurUuGVQ

Joseph James

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.

 


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