Wednesday, July 9, 2008

For Against "December" (Chameleon, 1988)

Artist: For Against
Album: "December"
Release Date: 1988
Label: Chameleon
Genre: Indie-Pop, Dream-Pop, Shoegaze, Post-Punk
Mood: Intimate, Gloomy, Bitter, Wintry
Reminds Of: The Sound, REM, The Chameleons UK, Echo & The Bunnymen
What People Think: SplendidMagazine, PopMatters
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, RedSunRecords

1. Sabres
2. Stranded In Greenland
3. Svengali
4. They Said
5. The Effect
6. December
7. The Last Laugh
8. Paperwhites
9. Clandestine High Holy

Nebraska's lone entry into the dream pop world, For Against initially consisted of bassist and vocalist Jeffrey Runnings, guitarist Harry Dingman, and drummer Greg Hill. Dingman and Hill left after 1988's December to form the Millions, and they were replaced by Steven "Mave" Hinrichs and Paul Engelhard after a replacement lineup failed to work out. (Dingman later returned for 2008's Shade Side Sunny Side.) Since its inception, Runnings' band has consistently produced a drifting yet distinctly rhythmic sound, soldiering through the myriad alternative scenes of the '80s and '90s. With one foot in the British post-punk of Joy Division and the other in the gliding atmospherics of Kitchens of Distinction, For Against are treasured by shamefully few; geography and infrequent touring have not helped.

For Against's stark and chilling second album is their best, one of the most powerful dream pop releases of the late '80s. Harry Dingman's icicle shots of chiming guitars, Greg Hill and Jeffrey Runnings' agile rhythmic thrust, and Runnings' boyish (but every bit as forceful) vocals rarely combine for a less-than-riveting listen. With its fluid bass-and-drum punch and enveloping twists of guitars, December's most fitting reference point is the Chameleons' Script of the Bridge. Balancing the aggressive with the reserved just as well as its prime inspiration, December's nine songs float, skip, and roam with a level of immaculately-paced grace that can't be heard on most albums of the era. Runnings' anguished expressions of despair, resentment, and embittered bile hit with the same scythe-like precision of Bob Mould's best output -- in fact, given the atmospherics and complementary production at play (including the ideal amount of reverb), the songs are even more haunting than Mould's relatively pure-pop leanings. "The Last Laugh" is one of the first places to go for an example of the album at its best. After Runnings accuses a partner of giving him a nervous breakdown and pleads to get his life back, the song shifts into a dextrous tempo change that recalls the controlled jerkiness of post-punk's upper tier and spins catharsis back into fraught tension. At 36 minutes, December plays briefly but leaves the effect of an epic. Understated but full of ambition, it's a sticky trap. Though it was released on a respected label -- albeit one with limited distribution and exposure -- it's frustrating to think of how revered it would've been if it had instead featured a 4AD catalog number.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“Deceptively boyish delivery…”

Sunday, July 6, 2008

June Of 44 "Four Great Points" (Quarterstick Records, 1998)

Artist: June Of 44
Album: "Four Great Points"
Release Date: 28 January 1998
Label: Quarterstick Records
Genre: Math-Rock, Post-Rock, Indie-Rock, Post-Hardcore, Noise-Rock
Mood: Cathartic, Brooding, Nocturnal, Detached
Reminds Of: Slint, Tortoise, Rodan, Gastr Del Sol, Trans Am
What People Think: MusicCity
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Of Information & Belief
2. The Dexterity Of Luck
3. Cut Your Face
4. Doomsday
5. Does Your Heart Beat Slower
6. Lifted Bells
7. Shadow Pugilist
8. Air #17

OK. I'll admit it. I cried during "Titanic." So laugh, tough guy! I won't be in the theatre while you're watching "Firestorm."

But like yourself, I also thought it really kicked ass when all those people died. Come to think of it, Four Great Points' opening track is pretty analogous to the emotional ebb and flow (and sink) of America's celluloid zeitgiest extravaganza, "Titanic." Twin guitars sparkle off each other like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The bass (arctic water) splashes and upholds the gargantuan drums (steel hull). Beautiful, breathy vocals waft over the bow... Lookout! The Chorus! (Iceberg!) Guitars scree distress signals and resonate cacophonous pangs! Lead vocalist Sean Meadows (cruel fate) screams, "Your time! Has come!" Then the baby blissfully sinks into Aqualand. June of 44's rock proves there is grace in disaster.

Songs like "The Dexterity of Luck" and "Cut Your Face" are standard math rock, but these equations are fueled by chaos theory and funky fractals; they're not the sleepy pre-Algebra of JV bands. June even dabbles in dub (ala Tortoise) without trying too hard. I could go on and on about the bands June of 44 brings to mind -- Rachel's, Fugazi, Tortoise, Polvo, Slint -- but they rise above simple fusion. If indie rock is Greek mythology, June of 44 is Neptune.

OK. I'll admit it. I wept to the opening melody and lyric, "This is the greatest place on earth." So laugh, tough guy. I won't be in the room while you're listening to the Deftones. But hey, I also air guitared and ruptured my third vertebra headbanging to the thick riffs.

(Source: PitchforkMedia)

June of 44's fourth full-length, Four Great Points, is their most experimental effort to date -- fractured melodies and dub-like rhythms collide in a noisy atmosphere rich in detail, adorned with violins, trumpet, severe phasing effects, and even a typewriter.

(Source: AllMusicGuide)

“June Of 44s’ name refers to June Miller, wife of author Henry Miller, and the year author Ana├»s Nin began writing about June in her diaries…”