What with Yuck and Fanzine acting as my own personal UK consituency currently reigniting my faith in good wholesome guitar music, Herzog complete this imaginary holy trinity by bringing their own brand of college-slacker-post-scuzz-goofball-rock (I’m just throwing words together here) to the masses. Their album Search (available now via Transparent) is a work of understated craftsmanship. It may hang looser than an oversized pair of lumberjack pants but the melodies are so tight, and at times so euphoric (see ‘West Blvd’ and ‘Living Alone’) that by the end of the short 35 minute running time you’re left feeling like you’ve been hit by a canonball straight in the chest. It’s staggering – one of the best records of 2010, no doubt. You can stream the album in full via the bands bandcamp page, right here.
We got in touch with the guys in order for them to throw together a 10-track playlist of some of their favourite jams, new and old. Much like their music, their selection of tracks may vary in genre but there’s a loose thread that hangs everything together. From Ron Sexsmith to Fugazi. It. Just. Works. Download the entire compilation at the bottom of the post, or stream each track individually right here – it’s your call.
Ron Sexsmith: ‘Strawberry Blonde’
The pacing in this song is amazing. Six verses of four lines each, each capped with a refrain. Pacing is a mid-level soft rock shuffle. He introduces and names the character. Without referring to himself in the first person, he establishes the character. The bridge takes it much darker (and sealing Sexsmiths’ hope at radio success) with a girl who’s mom killed her self going down a slide and staring at the ground. Then in true pop song sense, he goes back the main melody, speaking in the first person a few years later, with no explanation or attempt to fill in the gaps. No judgment, no foreshadowing. Just a dark story with a perfect melody. It’s one thing to quote life goes on statements; it’s a whole other skill to arrange your song with such symmetry that the sentiment is perfectly broadcast
Nick just watched Instrument, the documentary about them, and I think it was the first time he got what is truly great about them. The thing I love about Fugazi is that play every song like its the only song they’ve ever written, and they’re never going to waste your time. Even the weird shit on Red Medicine and End Hits is very direct. And I think “Break” is Fugazi at their leanest. Starts off with the trademark staccato guitars with bass lead. Then the lyrics ask the eternal question “Can’t ask for more/ so why unfulfilled?” One ear piercing scream later you’ve learned everything about Fugazi that hardcore kids from 80′s who have been listening for twenty years know. And now you have to do something
Raymond Scott: ‘Lightworks’
Raymond Scott was a notorious prude, so he probably won’t like what I’m about to say. I think “Lightworks” is incredibly sexy. Also, I’m pretty certain the vocalist was his wife… Sorry Ray… anyway the pulse is so glittery and futuristic and seductive. It’s like being winked at by a hologram. But when you go to touch her, she’s just light and air, and the suggested sex never materializes. Which is probably way hotter.
The National: ‘Afraid of Everyone’
The National have gone from cleverly describing things to soberly realizing them. This song hits that terrible revelation that some problems are so complicated, there aren’t drugs in existence you can take that will solve them. It’s a terrible moment that I guess makes us all adults. The other great thing about The National is every time you think they’re settling into moderate rock, they come at you with one part in one song that is so much more intense then the rest of the song.
Hum: ‘Afternoon with the Axototls’
Ever seen those really high-res pictures of nebulae? Hum found a way to make their guitars sound like that. They’re infinitely complex but wispy and they float away with a moments daydream. Hum are on a rocket ship, but it’s not powered by liquid oxygen and benzene, it moves as fast as their hearts beat.
Phil Ochs: ‘The Scorpion Departs but Never Returns’
I’ve probably spent more time analyzing and writing about this song that any other piece of music in my collection. The USS Scorpion was a fast attack submarine that went down due to mechanical failure with all hands in 1968. Apparently one of the torpedo tubes flooded, and the ship slowly sank to the bottom until the hull was crushed. Ochs uses this as metaphor for both the fruitless-ness of subservience and the hopelessness of life. The trust the crew place in the captain is abandoned when the captain won’t even say how long must remain and the ship slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean. I could write about this song forever and still not encompass all of the emotional and musical depth.
Titus Andronicus: ‘Four Score and Seven’
I really oppose new age, feel-goodery. I have finally found a band that speaks to that. Arcade Fire are too scared and my beloved The National too physical. Titus Andronicus never shy away from moral complexity and they embrace it to the point where you have to ask the question. And these aren’t questions you ask while staring into space, these are questions you ask when someone is in your face. Patrick Sickles is so fed up with your hipster bullshit, he’s willing to embrace genocide as a reasonable solution. And what are you going to do about it?
The Mice: ‘Not Proud of the USA’
Similar theme as Titus, I guess. Quick note for foreigners: The Mice were a Cleveland punk band in the mid 1980′s who were a pretty direct influence on Guided By Voices and their quick, dirty & catchy pop styles. This song repositions rejection of nationalism into family struggles about a narrator not wanting to accept his father’s version of history. It’s a pretty classic tale. This song is waiting to be rediscovered by audiences outside of Cleveland, and we’re going to talk about it until it is.
Perfume Genius: ‘Mr. Peterson’
Eventually, Perfume Genius will descend into gay new age feel-goodery, but right now, it’s still simple, raw and perfect. A lot of critics compare him to Daniel Johnston, and there are some stylistic similarities, but I find it has more in common with Deerhunter’s doctor’s office confessions. I also hear a little of the Elliott Smith/Ron Sexsmith school of balanced controlled pop melancholy. But he, like Deerhunter, has this sense that everything will be alright. Not everything has to be doom & gloom, right?
Refused: ‘The Apollo Programme was a Hoax’
Pitchfork recently put Refused into the canon, and I couldn’t be happier. Refused definitely grabbed me as an impressionable youth, and schooled me in the ways of musical resistance. Music should not be empty of political content, nor politics should not be devoid of passion, and Refused stood for those. This song is the least punk sounding thing they ever did with rocking chair creaking and upright bass. But it’s also perfectly punk: The first line in the song is the last line in the sand. What side are you on? – “Petrol bombs and barricades/ anything to have our say”
DOWNLOAD ALL TRACKS
[.zip] Art Of Noise // Herzog
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