A few years ago, I got it into my head that wearing a John Mellencamp shirt to punk rock shows would be the most punk rock thing ever. Of course, it is kind of silly coming from me – an unabashed John Mellencamp fan and settling (mostly) comfortably into my 40’s. But I was really proud of the thought and put it into motion. I tested this theory of being uncool by wearing my Mellencamp shirt to a Mudhoney show in Seattle. Of course, I ran into Mark Arm (Mudhoney singer / co-founder) randomly, had a brief conversation with him, and realized that I wasn’t cool enough to own my uncool. Or something like that anyway. This story came to mind as I was listening to my review copy of the third Death Threat Cassette album. Use Your Delusion features a song called John Mellencamp & the Infinite Sadness – not only one of the best song titles in history, but it is also the best song on the new album.
Not too long ago, there was a Saturday Night Live skit that had Matt Damon playing the world’s biggest Weezer fan, much to the chagrin of Leslie Jones – who was adamant that Weezer made two great albums – 1994’s Blue Album and 1996’s Pinkerton – before losing their muse and becoming corny. I’ve seen variations of that argument play out on chat boards over the years and read snobby reviews of their modern albums. It has never failed to bring a smile to my face. Anyway, in case you were wondering, I related more to the Matt Damon character. He states he is “Weezer Ride or Die” – and I actually own a t-shirt with that slogan. Not every Weezer album is great, but there are gems on each album. I continue to be amazed by the indie elitism espoused by fans of only their first two albums. Their loss, I suppose. 2021 promises two Weezer albums. Van Weezer will be out in May and promises to be Weezer’s heavy metal inspired album. But first, we have OK Human – an album recorded with a full orchestra at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. It just may be my favorite Weezer album since the early days.
Kicking off reviews for 2021 in February, bypassing January completely, in the midst of a snowstorm the likes of which has not been seen in these parts in ages. Fitting, really. What better company than that of an old friend? I am speaking of the new record by England’s Sunstack Jones. A group that is equal parts Americana and British psychedelia. All these things and more. The band enjoys a loose association with The Verve’s Simon Jones (no relation), who has lent his recording techniques to the latest records by Sunstack Jones (no relation). All joking aside, this is a fruitful collaboration that has drawn out the band’s strengths. Paul Den Heyer once again is involved in the final mixes, giving the new album a familiar vibe from previous albums. That being said, Golden Repair is the finest album yet from Sunstack Jones. Not many bands can say that at this stage in their career.
The Conduit of Humanity project released a promising debut album The Zen Cage late last year. An album featuring many musicians and collaborations, it made an impact on me. To this day, it warrants repeated listens. Fred Jeske & his collaborators were inspired by the timeline songs of Todd Rundgren as filtered through a Sloan inspired alternative rock sound. I found it to be one of the best debut albums of 2019. Rather than resting on their laurels, the band is back with their 2nd album. Fortunately, this is no sophomore slump. Rather, this is an album that deepens the sounds of the 1st album while exploring new horizons. It’s a different animal, really – there are even shades The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway era Genesis here. Equality might even be better than the debut.
Symmetry presents itself in many different ways. In 2020 – at least in my life – this has emanated in unusual ways. A move back to the Philadelphia region entailed a 3,000-mile drive in a Honda Civic. The last time I moved cross country 18 years ago to Seattle it also involved a long drive in a Honda Civic. Peculiar. Anyway, the challenges this year have contained multitudes, and yet as the year closes out I find myself in pretty much the same state I was in as the year started. Anyway, this is all a preamble to the fact that I’ve been sitting on the debut album by Distance to Zero for longer than planned. Not quite post punk, it is a DIY project that speaks to me in a way that the absolute best artists have throughout my life. It also helps that I’ve had a connection to band founder over the last few years.
SJ Collier first connected with me to discuss an act on his Stereokill Recordings label. The Cornelius Crane were an amazing American influenced band and I heavily promoted them at the time (I still love them). From there I worked Mr. Collier and discovered the various bands on his label’s roster. I took particular notice of SupaJamma featuring Martin ‘Sugar’ Merchant from Audioweb on vocals. I loved the instrumental work that SJ Collier did on the various releases. Anyway, he’s been promising a new project for a while now and I’ve been listening to the songs on repeat for weeks. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can go awry, and I found myself dealing with real life issues. 2020, as they say, will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Or at least, that’s what I say. And yet, the soundtrack played on as we exchanges messages about the state of the world and the randomness of life. And thankfully, the music more than lives up to the kindness shown by Mr. Collier.