Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TVD First Date with | Action Painters

The ‘grumpy old man’ that I’ve become, I WAS going to write this morning about being charmed by a tune right off the bat (and where’d that go?)—but went off on an ‘I loathe indie’ tangent that’s been brewing for what seems like eons now.

But that’s not to say you can’t get knocked out once or twice and right away these days. Love at first note, if you will.

We get emails from bands here with frequency but it’s rare that something just feels right and right away—as was the case with Action Painter’s ‘456’ video all cut and pasted below for you to take in. They’re younger than me, but channel the real thrill of 80’s new wave without sounding Stereogummy. Or Pitchforky. Or like Gang of Four. (Think Snowden meets Foreign Born...)

They say this is live in the studio, but the recording alone kills--the organic way they keys come in, the echoes on the chorus, and the twisty guitar parts...just refreshing, frankly.

Oddly, my favorite part of the clip is right at the front when Allsion blows the hair from out of her face. (Ah, the little things...)

Frontman Tom Haslow sat down with us on this last First Date before Record Store Day to talk vinyl and well, record stores:

"Vinyl is beautiful and tragic. It is big and fragile, hopelessly dated but iconic of times past. It's a lot like the people on the covers of my records. We Action Painters are too young to have grown up with vinyl, but I've gotten into buying cheap records at flea markets. Other people's junk has become my treasure. I like listening to new wave and punk and jazz on my record player. I like the way Stop Making Sense sounds on a record through a stereo: the crackle of the vinyl fading into the ambient room noise before the beat box kicks in on Psycho Killer. You pay attention. It transports you.

I remember tapes. The meditation that came from listening to an album linearly, being limited to the track list that the band decided you would listen to, not scanning the first 20 seconds of a song and deciding if it was good or not. It gave a band a chance to build a song up and showed faith in a listener's patience. There was something fetishistic about making a mix tape. Whether it was about the girl you were making it for or trying to express yourself through someone else's music, you could spend far too much time on it.

I miss the record store, that PHYSICAL space where you would go and look at shelves and posters and displays that people had spent time thinking about, curating. There was one independent music store where I grew up in upstate NY called Peacock Music. My high school days were about saving up to buy CD's there. It closed a couple of years ago.

A lot has been gained by making music instantly and infinitely accessible. It's easier for people to make and distribute and find an audience. Also, styles and genres have really cross bread over the last decade in a way that's been beautiful and progressive. But the sheer ubiquity of music has turned it into a commodity, like tap water instead of wine. One does not focus on the album, it's now a sea of songs that endlessly flows free and easily across your screen. I miss taking an album home, the feeling of anticipation of being a kid with this new album burning a hole in your coat, begging to be listened to. I remember buying bargain bin tapes in my horrible suburban mall of blues singers like Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker and Lightning Hopkins. I remember marveling at how cheap they were because they were so good. But it was my secret... underneath the rubble of forgotten losers and one hit wonders, there was this breathtaking bedrock that was the foundation of rock and roll.

The world's conversation about music has changed: music sites proclaim to know far too much with so much certainty about something that is intensely personal and fluid depending on the time of day, the mood, the year you're listening to it. Things are pronounced IMPORTANT one day and forgotten the next. Most of the time, the important thing in a review is the journalistic act itself; having a contrary opinion is the only way for the mediocre to distinguish themselves. The anonymity of online criticism has fractionalized it, broken up music taste into fantastically snobbish camps. People can afford to dig in to their narrow trenches.

Something is lost when you don't talk about music in person, when you don't hold the thing in your hands, look at the artwork, the track list, and pay money for it. Record companies have always exploited artists and ripped them off, but there was certainly a different appreciation for music when you had to pay for it, and there was a vague notion that it was a fair exchange going on: your money for someone else's songs. When people miss vinyl and complain about the passing of a physical medium, what they really miss is community and the glory of the physical object itself."

Action Painters - Super Market (Mp3)
Action Painters - Sooner Or Later (Mp3)
Action Painters - 456 (Mp3)


Allison Zatarain said...

For the record (no pun intended), I owned a NTOTB and Whitney Houston record. My dad was like, "what's all this tape business. Listen to the record and I'll make you a tape. Wear it out and I'll make you another one. But stick with the record." I think my dance moves wore out faster than the tape. I want to dance with somebody!

tom said...

allison you are a nerd.