Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brian, Colin and Vince - Just Trying to Help

"Like Crosby, Stills and Nash but a lot funnier."

Brian, Colin and Vince were three young men that played quirky and fun acoustic music. Songs ranged from sweet and sappy to completely goofy and ridiculous. Either way, the trio was always entertaining. You'd be hard pressed to see these guys perform and not have a good time. The live track included with this collection, "She Never Had a Chance," does a pretty good job of capturing the jovial feeling that was the BCV on-stage phenomenon.

Colin once offered this description of the band:
3-part harmonies, a million songs, Brian was the leader and star – such a great songwriter and guitar player, Vince sang great harmonies and played bongos... Trees hugs and rock and roll was a motto one day. We were not hippies, but I think hippies thought we were fun... Some ex-ND kids think this is the best band I’ve ever been in.
Looking back, I remember long stretches of time where the song "Hypothetical Situation" would make a weekly appearance on my college radio show. It seemed to be the perfect tune to encapsulate how broken my heart felt at the time (awwww...). Ahem, continuing on... "Spectacles" would eventually end up being covered by Chisel, and released on a split 7" where BCV and Chisel swapped songs (more on that in a future post). But the original version offered here is an outstanding take in it's own right.

These 30 songs were put to tape in a Morrissey Hall dorm room in April of 1992, and self-released on cassette. There's a little bit of banter in between tracks, which adds to the overall charm of the recordings. The cassette was actually re-issued a year or so later on Colin's Sudden Shame label as SS007.

see also:
Brian, Colin, and Vince on MySpace

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Cuba Five - am i your world?

The Cuba Five began as another emiLy side project, though the band really came into its own following the breakup of emiLy. I had a bunch of songs written which I never got to do with Spoonfed, so I started a new band. Chris C. (who also played in The Whiteout, Regular Size Monsters, and Ely Parker & the CIAs) played drums, and Brian G. (from decaf) was the original bassist. The band started in spring of 1996, and played a handful of shows in this format. Brian graduated that May, and Mike L. (from emiLy, The Mad Dogs, and a lot of other bands) took over on bass. The Cuba Five was around until March of 1997, when Chris moved across the country in mid March. He announced this on a weekend, we practiced on that Monday, recorded Tuesday and Wednesday, and played a final show on Thursday.

The album was recorded at Clifford the Big Red House by Ron G., at the beginning of a spring which featured at least four bands recording in the same basement (Obstruction, The Mad Dogs, and Cod in Salsa being three of the others).

The band name (occasionally misheard as "the cube of five") comes from the following historical bit: In 1872, seven Irish political prisoners were freed from jail on the condition that they leave Ireland and never return. Five of them sailed to New York on the steamship Cuba, where they were warmly welcomed by the Irish immigrant community and nicknamed 'The Cuba Five'. One of them, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, earned the nickname "Dynamite Ro

ssa" (hence the song name) for his advocation of using bombing as a tactic to promote the cause of Irish independence. His granddaughter, Rosemary, is pictured on the cover of the tape at age 2. Rosemary is my grandmother.

As far as the music goes, I remember it being reviewed by a friend of ours in the ND campus newspaper. He said how you could hear Billy Bragg, Jawbreaker, and (most of all, in my opinion) Unwound. I can't argue with this. I think the strengths of the album are the instrumental tracks. "Beta Decay" once had lyrics, but they were tossed and we kept only the title. The song has a sample from the movie Swimming With Sharks, while "Dynamite Rossa" samples Walking & Talking, and "At Long Last Arriving" has a couple samples from rumblefish which get largely drowned out by guitar. Our sampling technique was quite primitive: hold a hand-held tape recorder in front of the television while the desired bit is playing. The title of "Saroyan" refers to the author William Saroyan, whose short story "Am I Your World?" provides both lyrics for part of the song and the title for the album. It's not an easy story to find, but it's worth reading if you get the chance. "Homesick" is worth skipping. Seriously. "Nation of Uselessness" was sited as the single bright point of the album in the HeartattaCk review, which was pretty vicious otherwise. People said "Does This Answer Your Question?" shamelessly riffed on Billy Bragg, but I always thought it was much more of a Chisel ripoff.

The second best complement I got about this album was having a friend of mine tell me that he and another friend were playing video games one day and the other guy started humming something. When he asked what he was humming, the guy started singing "Young American Skateboard Disaster".

The best complement I got about this tape was unexpectedly hearing it playing on the stereo in a friend's car. Because while it's cool to hear people say "Hey, I like your band", nothing beats knowing they're actively listening to it.


see also:
The Cuba Five on MySpace

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Mad Dogs - Sometimes I Go Nuts

What could be more appropriate for "the blog that no one demanded" than the band that no one ever wished would play. The liner notes for this release (penned by Chris O.) do an exceptional job at laying it all out there:

Ah, the Mad Dogs. While the "Mad Dogs Proper" period lasted roughly from October 1996 through June 1997, the band itself was somewhat of an amalgamation of sorts of Chikkenhead (comprised of Mike Larmoyeux, Ted Hennessy, and Doug McEachern) and the Catatonics (comprised of Chris Owen, one Jeanine Gaubert, Dave "Night" Stoker, Mike, and Andy Yang of Obstruction fame). When it became obvious that the Catatonics could no longer function (read: get together for practice or even remotely interesting conversation) and that Chikkenhead would never eclipse the limp yet existent Recess Records band of the same name (or sing and play their instruments at the same time), it was decided to unite the two awfully hard sucking bands into one monstrous vehicle of audience antagonism. Chris became the singer for the Chikkenhead, which began a period of zero songwriting, zero practicing, intermittent performances, and haughty quibbling over what the band should finally be called. During this period, which actually encompasses the entire life of the band, they were called, at various points, "Thunderhead," "the Grasshoppers," and finally, to no one's complete satisfaction, "the Mad Dogs." Audiences, oddly enough, always called them "shit."

Drawing from completely incongruous interests and a muted sense of responsibility to entertain, the Mad Dogs experience was often, at the very least, difficult to perceive as worthwhile for both the band and the audiences they somehow managed to gather. While Mike (seminally the man in 10 bands at the same time) was willing to play essentially anything, a willingness on no one's part to actually write new songs left the band in an odd state. Doug's quixotic interest in britpop and the like led to a personal emphasis on The Cuba Five, a brilliant and entertaining combo that frankly whomped ass. Ted's love of Propagandhi and political pop punk presented a puzzling predicament as he was the transcriber of Chris' nonsensical attitude towards writing music (Chris: "it goes like this--BLAM BLAM BOOM BA BOOM BLAM BLAM DU DU DU DUH DU DA DA BOOM!" Ted: (plays an E chord) "OK, say that again"). An unhealthy love on Chris' part for Iggy Pop, GG Allin, Stiv Bators, the Dwarves, and, er, Morrissey, was the final blow in proving incompatibility. That and, of course, conflicting work schedules. At this point, alcohol begins to become important. It became obvious at some time that drinking at least one "Orange Jubilee" Mad Dog before and during a performance led to an increased level of interesting behavior for the Mad Dogs.

OK, sure, they never played to anyone outside Doug and Mike's basement (well, Dalloway's, but that was the first show, and the Bowling Green hardcore fest with Chris singing with Obstruction for a couple songs), but fuck man, the Mad Dogs kicked ass. This cassette doesn't precisely document the silliness that those shows were characterized by, but it gives a pretty good idea. Just imagine 20 or so friends, an unimpressed out of town band or two, a pony keg, shoes, beer, and friendly insults flying, and the Mad Dogs bleeding, cursing, fucking up, ripping clothes off each other, acting out deviant sexual nonsense, and never ever getting all the way through the set without breaking something. And the music. That wonderful music loved by no one but me.

Col. Ricardo Cabeza
July, 1997

This cassette (a split effort with hardcore heroes Obstruction, who'll get their own post here soon enough) was recorded quickly in two short sessions in the spring of 1997 (by Hardcore Ron), just before everyone promptly went their separate ways for the summer. It was every song the band knew, minus a couple they never really learned how to play. The highlight of these recordings for me will always be the last chorus in "Dream Lover," when you can actually hear a somewhat intoxicated Chris throwing up into his mouth while still trying to sing through to the end of the song. If that doesn't say it all...


see also:
The Mad Dogs on MySpace