yes, joy

no joy

(WARNING: bad syntax, too many commas, drug references, and really horrible YouTube videos ahead)

I have a thing for girl shoegaze bands, as evidenced by earlier posts on Young Prisms and Tamaryn. I also have a thing for lists, thanks to Spotify. And a deep love of rock and roll. My shoegaze fetish started years ago with the second My Bloody Valentine record, Loveless. I remember the first time I heard the song “Soon” from MBV. I was sitting in my basement apartment on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC, the same apartment that a few months later a city bus would jump the curb and crash through the window of while I was driving to my girlfriend’s house in Silver Spring, and I thought my brain had exploded. Vocals no one could understand, a throbbing, fuzzed-out wash of guitar and bass, an almost-not-quite-hip-hop drumbeat, an ethereal female vocal buried in the mix, with that last few minutes of the song the singer just repeating the phrase “Uh, Uh Uhhhhhhh.”

Then came Lush, who I saw live one night at 9:30 Club, Catherine Wheel, and Slowdive. Pale Saints, from Leeds, UK with their great white wall of noise:

All the great artists take everything that has come before, somehow filter it through their own consciousness and creative impulses and reappear on the other side with something fresh that we’ve never heard before even if we think we’ve heard it all. Shabazz Palaces did that a few years ago when they turned hip-hop inside out on Black Up. Massive Attack a few years before that, both travelling light years past trip-hop and killing it dead with Mezzanine. What is rock and roll in 2013, anyway? What can it be, after the sixty-plus years since Elvis? Now, halfway through 2013, we have the Canadian band No Joy and their new album Wait To Pleasure, showing us exactly what rock and roll can be in the age of Demi Lovato and motherfucking Mackelmore. On my nascent Best of 2103 list on Spotify, they are number one with a candy-coated bullet. And that’s a list that already includes Foal, Justin Timberlake, Kurt Vile, Jessie Ware, and Flaming Lips. Thankfully, I don’t believe in Kevin Kline’s character from The Big Chill’s maxim that we stop staying current with music when we graduate from college. People used to ask me when I was younger, “How do you find out about all these cool bands?” How else? I read, I told them. Rolling Stone, Creem (when it was still in print), Spin, Musician, Guitar Player (even though I don’t play guitar), Q, NME. Hell, even Teen Beat. Now it’s Pitchfork as well. I hear stuff I like and I add it to my Spotify playlists, or I go to my local record shop and buy the album (I hate calling music “CDs.” Album sounds much more respectful). I also don’t like buying singles. iTunes, for all of its virtues, completely fucked the concept of the album when it started selling single songs (although I guess the same could be said for the old 45, but usually that was just an enticement to go out and buy the whole record. Unless it was “Pac-Man Fever” or some silly one-off like that. No comment). What I’m trying to say is that if I give up on today’s music, then I give up on the possibility of more joy in my life. Despite what I said a few days ago, some kids are still going down the dirt roads (or into the basements) of their minds with their instruments in the back of a metaphorical truck and making some really complex, enigmatic, beautiful, heartbreaking sounds. Sounds that incorporate everything that came before, even if these same kids weren’t even born when Psychocandy came out. In Wait To Pleasure, I hear My Bloody Valentine, sure. But I also hear The Zombies, The Velvet Underground, New Order, Black Sabbath, Love, Echo and the Bunnymen, Misfits, Bad Brains, and Joy Division. Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd have taken all these sounds, and more, smashed them to bits with a Day-Glo potato masher, soaked and boiled them in old bongwater, poured them into crystal ice-cube trays and baked them for a hundred years under a big-ass black light in your momma’s attic. I’ve said it before. As the father of two, I can’t condone drug use or shotgunning Busch beer. But just watch and listen. Or better yet, just listen. Please don’t say no to joy.

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