Tag Archives: indie

Under The Radar: Crumb

CRUMB: Seconds, Minutes, Hours…

This one dates back about thirteen years, back when TransAction Magazine was landing my brain nuggets in all sorts of cool clubs in London, Paris and Tokyo as well as Manhattan. It gave me a nice forum to write a gattling-gun column of odds and ends, things that wouldn’t fit into the tight print requirements of the glossy magazines that were so prevalent then.

So all the CDs that were too commercial, too obscure or assigned to others were directed there. The Editor was happy to get the volume, the bands and labels were happy for the coverage, and I was happy to have my byline in the Eastern hemisphere. Ah, simpler times

Crumb’s album came out on Red Ant Records, the label that I thought would re-launch Cheap Trick’s career until they imploded and killed whatever momentum either band had. Here’s my 1998 review from TransAction

TransAction Magazine

About half a great record – the first three tracks sound like someone found The Vapors in a time capsule and defrosted them, and they landed mid-riff! Wow! “Tonight“, Overboard” and “Exhibit A” all have great vocals, power-buzz guitars and that Big Drum Sound I love so much.

Then there’s “Do You Remember?”, the acoustic ballad with strings, proving that the Goo Goo Dolls didn’t patent the genre. (Matter of fact, if this was on the radio, it would sell a million just like the Goos do.)

But after literally launching me into orbit, the second half leaves me lost in space, free-floating away from my capsule, air sucked out of my lungs.

Okay, okay, maybe that’s a little overboard, but energy aside it all starts to sound the same (with the exception of “Cressida“, which smokes!). Lets just say that lovers of muscle pop should gobble this up regardless, while others will see Crumb as a band with EP ideas and a CD budget. So if you can accept skipping over the mundane to savor the charms, go for it.

Listen at Amazon (and get it for a penny).

Hey! My label's dead!

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National Record Store Day is April 16

Saturday April 16 is National Record Store Day.

Used to be that everyone had a great record store story, and I am no exception. But now a whole generation of people have grown up thinking that the record store is located between Appliances and Men’s Shoes at the local MegaSprawl Store. Sad, but true.

That’s why this holiday – yeah, I said it – is important. There are hundreds of live shows, promotions and other celebrations planned and the list grows by the minute. Put down your taxes and head out to your local shop and if you can’t be there, send them an email of support or buy something from them online.

Click here for more information.

Sure, they exist to make money, but record stores provide a cultural service in return. You won’t get that from a soulless chain who impose their religious and political beliefs on art.

So don’t let independent record stores go the way of the dodo.

Strength in Numbers

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Sloan Celebrates Twenty Years

Oh Canada!

Indie powerpop favorites Sloan are set to release their brand new album The Double Cross in May. The title is a nod and a wink to their twentieth anniversary (XX = double cross), a feat that makes me tip my cap in respect…yet makes me feel old.

Our beloved northern neighbors have always sent us great music; Neil Young and The Guess Who were staples of my youth and consistently entertaining artists (Neil, of course, has a streak Cal Ripken would be proud of). But more recent faves like The Pursuit of Happiness and The Odds have not quite caught fire here despite making some of the most infectious and intelligent pop and rock music of their era – more on that tomorrow. Maybe Arcade Fire walking away with the Grammy is a good luck charm and a signal that musical awareness is hip again?

And Sloan is no different, falling firmly into that “how can they not be huge” category in the States. After album after album of great music – featuring the unusual balance of four solid singer/songwriters happily sharing the spotlight – Canadian fans have rightfully tossed out comparisons to the legends, right up to the holy grail of the Fab Four. Maybe hearing “Canada’s Beatles” has caused enough skepticism to scare people away, but this is one time when you should sidestep the hype and listen.

Get yer Sloan on.

I’m still buzzing over the thirty-track Never Hear The End Of It (these boys do have a sense of humor!), and albums like Twice Removed and One Chord To Another should be staples of anyone’s collection. So count me among the geeked. According to the press release, “the band will be celebrating all year long with special shows, an exclusive one-of-a-kind album artwork series and much more“, so stay tuned for some hopefully special events.

Go to their website and start with a free download of “Follow The Leader“.

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Saturday is National Record Store Day

Endangered Species

Endangered Species

Saturday April 18th is National Record Store Day, which unlike so many of the National-YourCauseHere-Day proclaimations, actually has a strong movement behind it. It shouldn’t be hard to find the participating stores in your town, since there aren’t many left – most of them have been forced out of business thanks to label greed, megastores, piracy and the bad economy. (I’d add “asshole clerks” to that list, but having lived through the golden era of vinyl shops I can assure you that even the most surly clerk could not dissuade a buyer from getting an item on his or her target list.)  But here’s a map to check and see who is near you.

These stores fill a need for anyone whose tastes run beyond what the radio tells you to buy this week. Can you imagine what it would be like if the Best Buys and WalMarts of the world were the social arbiter of what can be for sale and where? (Um…what? They already are trying??) You’re not finding The Montgomery Cliffs or The Terror Dactils or Wil Featherman in those racks, and the best help you’re likelyto get from “Tom” – who just transferred from Major Appliances – is that Prince is probably somewhere in the “P” section. And yes, I know you can buy online, some of the smarter indie stores have online shopping as well, having survived there after their only-brick-and-mortar shops had run into financial trouble. We need these stores and we need these people. It’s culture, plain and simple.

So Saturday, there are a ton of indie artists performing at stores around the country to pay respects to an industry whose customers are largely the backbone of their movement. Yet it’s not a selfish move – many of these bands could easily survive on Internet sales and touring, or maybe they’re lucky enough to get their product shoved in the big box retailers. But even those who have transcended the level understand the committment and sacrifice these indie stores endure, and the efforts they make to bring new and exciting talent to the attention of the marketplace so they can compete for your ear and your dollar. Whether it’s a wall of posters and front-racking an artist’s album, or hosting an in-store to help promote an under-known band’s club show, these are the people who step up and help out. So now it’s their turn to get feted.

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Visit the website for the Coalition of Independent Music Stores

I’m sure I’m not the only one who killed many an afternoon browsing rack after rack of music, reading album jackets, discovering rarities, getting turned on (or off) by the tunes piping through the store. It was a meeting place for the local music freaks years before Internet lists and social networking sites, when you had to “come down to the store to see this awesome thing I just found” because cell phones, let alone cell phone cameras, were years away. I used to hang in bookstores, too – still do – but I guess back then there were more rockers than readers.

I even worked at a couple, one in a prime location in the heart of a large university, the other a mall store which was part of a small chain. Both owners were guys who were in it for the bucks only – no soul. They had no clue about what music would sell, but that didn’t stop them from imposing strange and atonal playlists at peak selling times (that the crews would ignore the minute the owner left). But conversely, both shops were staffed with some of the nicest, funniest, most interesting people I have ever met, and a few remain close friends today. Somehow we weathered the idiots, the competition, the stench of disco, the vapidity of the mega-hit of any given year being hyped beyond belief, and yes, the pursuit and torture of shoplifters. (Not on our watch, buddy. Because I might want that album.)

Working at a record store is like going to school – you can learn a ton if you apply yourself, as everything is right there in front of you. But even at a surface level, you learn by osmosis. A really good store will have people skilled in different genres, and just by hanging around and listening to their conversations, you can’t help but educate yourself. Sure, it would be nice to have a staff where each person knew everything, but that’s not practical. You probably find that you have more people who think they know everything. I knew a lot going in but learned a ton during my tenure. I was insatiable; more often than not I owed money at the end of the week because I picked up so many things each day. I wasn’t the only one.

Every store seemed to have one or both of these guys

Every store seemed to have one or both of these guys

Today I’m blessed to have multiple options in my town, whether it’s vinyl, used CDs, rare product, weird t-shirts or even (shudder) the newest commercial success. There are still cool people working there, because.. let’s face it – you’re not getting rich working in a record store, you need to love it. And I hang fairly often, although maybe not with the obsession of my youth. It’s not my time anymore…but I’m glad to know so many who have picked up the baton with the same fervor that I had. When I travel I always ask where the good stores are, it’s a must-stop for me.

Go on Saturday. Go for the bands, or the sales, or the food, or whatever is happening at your local haunt. But just go and hang out, and soak it in, and say hello to the people fighting to keep that place alive and special. And hey, if you bought something – anything – that probably wouldn’t hurt either.

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