Friday, July 06, 2007

Lyrad's Random 10

There haven't been a lot of successful rock bands to come out of Oregon over the years and, of course, I've always been happy when a hometown band makes good. There's the obscure Riot Grrrl act Bratmobile, but the only band to come out of that state worth much in the '90s was Helmet. Technically, they were never around Oregon, but singer/guitarist Paige Hamilton and bassist Henry Bogdan were both from there, even though they played out of New York. Hamilton had gone out to New York to study jazz and, instead, found Sonic Youth and Big Black. Taking the nod from these innovative punk acts, he recruited Peter Mengede on second guitar and John Stanier on drums to complete the quartet, and they released Strap It On in 1991. The jazz tendencies came through and the bizzare tunings and time signatures, with stacatto guitars and drum corps percussion was a revelation to me. They were the closest east coast band to the Grunge sound of the day and, after Strap It On saw a little success, Interscope Records signed them to a deal to release Meantime in 1992, where they'd see Unsung (a great song) actually chart. Building on what they thought was a good thing, Betty was a more diverse, more difficult album. It's a very good album, but nobody cared. Since then, very little that's too good. The band has existed in multiple forms, but they never reached the creative or commercial heights that they had pre-'95. Hamilton has been there the whole time (in body, if not in spirit). Stanier currently plays drums for two fine bands: Battles, who just released the excellent "Mirrored," and Tomahawk, who just released an album of transcribed Native American songs with Mike Patton and Duane Denison called "Anonymous." Both albums are well worth checking out. Bogdan went on to play diverse projects on diverse instruments, and is currently playing Hawaiian steel guitar for Portland's Midnight Serenaders, who I'd never heard of before now but play blues and jazz from the 20s and 30s. Judging from what I've just heard, they're a lot of fun and I may well be buying the album. Anyway, Portland bands rule!

1. Helmet--Distracted
2. Earl Johnson--Buy a Half Pint and Stay in the Wagon Yard
3. Scratch Acid--The Scale Song
4. Elmore James--Madison Blues
5. Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf--Quartet No.3 in G for Strings; 3. Finale. Presto (Kubin Qt)
6. Hank Williams--Rockin' Chair Money
7. Ween--Big Jilm
8. Mob Rules--Hold Back the Light
9. Nico Fidenco--A Seeming Man (from the soundtrack to Emanuelle Around the World)
10. Kris Kristofferson--Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends