Less than 18 months after the debut album Endless Sea from The Red-Sided Garter Snakes comes the follow-up Blue Lake. What began as John Lever’s project designed as a catharsis in the wake of his split from Chameleonsvox has become something special in its own right – something reigniting the magic found on those 4 studio albums from The Chameleons. Anger is an energy as Johnny Rotten once said – but what you do with that energy is what counts to me. The Red-Sided Garter Snakes use that energy wisely. Musically, we are drawn into post-punk, shoegaze, britpop, and psychedelic worlds. Lyrically, the songs are imbued with a sense of poetic mysticism. It’d be easy for me to say that it is a group worth exploring just because John Lever was the drummer for the legendary Manchester band The Chameleons – but the truth is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (to quote the original hipster, Aristotle).
The Chameleons out of Manchester, UK have long been 1 of my favorite post punk groups (that strange music created in the aftermath of the 1st wave of punk). Kind of a loaded statement, but I’ll make myself clear – when I’m talking about The Chameleons I am including all the side projects and whatever I could get my hands on over the last 20 years. I managed to see the original band in Seattle in the summer of 2002 which was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. Sadly, the reformed band didn’t last and the members went their separate ways. No new material from a member of The Chameleons was released until late 2013 when singer Mark Burgess released an EP under the Chameleonsvox moniker. Now we have a full length album by The Red-Sided Garter Snakes featuring John Lever and Dave Fielding from The Chameleons.
Anyone who absorbs an ungodly amount of music will tell you – sometimes the bands and records become lifetime companions and sometimes….well, sometimes you struggle to remember what they sound like. Those initial impressions are important – don’t get me wrong – but those records that stay lodged in your brain forever, those are hard to come by. Manchester, England’s Soup have released a debut album that I am sure will stick with me forever. It’s one of my favorite records of 2014.
2012 has been an amazing year for music. Not only has it seen incredible albums by bands that have generated a steady buzz over the last few years (The XX, The Men, Chromatics), it has also seen masterful albums by established acts that have ties to the indie and post punk community (Dinosaur Jr., Public Image Limited, Corin Tucker Band). This doesn’t even consider albums by mainstream artists that I loved (Neil Young, Green Day) or those that are a bit under the radar (Honeychurch, Heyward Howkins). The latest record by Andy Whitaker, things that happened on earth, kind of falls into almost all the above categories (except for mainstream, I suppose). Not only is it one of my favorite records of the year, it recalls Andy’s earlier work in bands such as The Sun & the Moon and Weaveworld while also presenting a forward-looking vibe. I had a chance to catch up with Andy to discuss the new record, The Sun & the Moon, and other assorted oddities. I thought I’d start things off with a “soft” kind of question.
In my younger days whilst listening to music, I’d take the two large speakers attached to my parents old school 70’s Sony stereo system and lie them down across from each other in my bedroom. I’d leave just enough space between the speakers for me to wedge in so that I could play whatever cassette tapes (and later CD’s) I had purchased. It seems to have been an end of an era (though nobody realized it at the time). Today on the “world wide web” listeners are inundated with streaming music, Youtube videos, and MP3’s. Before all of that you just had whatever you had purchased, your stereo, and your sensory processing. I’d honestly spend hours listening to Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, and The Chameleons – soaking all the sounds in, reading and re-reading lyrics, realizing there was an alternate musical universe out there.