Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #629:
Absinthe – A Good Day to Die
Sam Llanas may be known as the soulful baritone co-founder of Milwaukee roots rock legends the BoDeans, but this 1999 album by his other project Absinthe – with the Violent Femmes’ Guy Hoffman on drums and Jim Eanelli, formerly of the Shivvers, on guitar – is the best thing he’s ever done. Inspired by the suicide of Llanas’ older brother, this anguished, death-obsessed, semi-acoustic rock record follows the Bukowskiesque trail of a life in a long downward spiral so harrowing that when it ends with Time for Us, a surprisingly warm, comforting ballad that Llanas’ main band would pick up later, the mood still resonates. This guy just never had a chance. Bully on the Corner gets the foreshadowing going on early (although the narrator looks back and basically forgives him: his life must have been hell too). Defeat, with its mantra-like chorus, is just crushing; the title track is all the more haunting for its dignified treatment of the suicide. They follow that with the wistful, pretty Spanish Waltz, the unconvincing It Don’t Bother Me and then the two absolute masterpieces here, the down-and-out scenario Still Alone and the wrenching, Orbisonesque Messed Up Likes of Us. There’s nowhere to go from there but the bitter Dying in My Dreams, the denial of What I Don’t Feel and the paint-peeling noise-rock of A Little Bit of Hell, Eanelli’s great shining moment here. Surprisingly obscure, there don’t seem to be any streams of this anywhere, but it’s still up at the BoDeans’ site; here’s a random torrent.
Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #463:
Absinthe – Still Alone
This bitterly and brutally evocative portrayal of life among the down-and-out and soon to be down-and-permanently-out is the centerpiece of the band’s one classic album, 1999’s A Good Day to Die, arguably BoDeans frontman Sam Llanas’ finest moment as a songwriter – and he has many.
Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s song is #465:
Absinthe – Messed Up Likes of Us
Not the goth-metal band but the vastly more haunting solo project of soulful baritone crooner and BoDeans frontman Sam Llanas. The longing and anguish in this bitter, Orbisonesque breakup anthem is visceral. From the band’s lone, classic cd, 1999’s A Good Day to Die.
We could go on forever about how gentrification has made it doubly difficult for a new music scene created by young people to spring up here in New York. But it hasn’t kept a vital, exciting underground from springing up in Milwaukee. Which makes sense, if you look at the trend nationwide: good bands whose members might have gravitated to New York ten years ago get priced out of the market here and instead head for regional magnet cities like Santa Fe or Houston, doing probably just as well or even better there than they would here. Case in point: the “Milwaukee pop underground” centered around Easter Records, a vibrant, collaborative network of musicians that, by comparison, makes the Broken Social Scene seem pretty kaput. The Nice Outfit is the best new band to spring from it to date.
Their myspace says they sound “like the Kinks on a coke binge.” Picturing a wizened little Ray Davies shoveling blow up his nose at this point in time is pretty funny, but the only funny thing about the Nice Outfit is that they aren’t more popular than they’ve already become in their hometown. Using tasty layers of both jangly Rickenbacker and scorching Fender guitar, their debut ep blasts a hole in your nose, woops, umm, anywhere you need a hole blasted. They’re an escape hatch from a boring day. The first song, Kissing Jocelyn is a fast, deliriously sunny Rickenbacker-driven janglepop hit, sounding something like the Church crossed with New York’s own Dog Show. Track two, This Time Next Year evokes nothing less than Washington, DC psychedelic punk legends the Slickee Boys, with its furious twin guitar attack, Terry Hackbarth and Paul Wall playing off each other with a serious chemical burn. The all-too-brief One Minute Forty-Five – “Summer’s gone in one minute forty five,” goes the chorus – is a scorching blast of garage punk with distant echoes of Aussie legends Radio Birdman. The ep concludes with He Don’t Want You Now, which starts out as the most Kinks-ish of all the songs and builds to the best chorus of any of them. The band brings in a 60s artifact, a repeater box, the second time around. Nice touch. This album just makes you want to head to Milwaukee for Summerfest in June and never come back. It’s early in the year but this may well be the best debut of 2008. Five bratwursts.
Several of the other Easter Records bands are worth checking out: garage rockers White Hot Tizzy, janglemeisters Trolley (also featuring Hackbarth and Wall) and Heathrow, who sound like Supergrass if that band had been raised on Lienies and brats