Chicago’s Meat Wave holds everything I’ve been looking for in a band lately. Their unabashed sense of marrying post-punk elements with tom heavy straight up rock n’ roll leaves them at a unique position in Chicago’s flourishing scene. I caught up with Chris (vocals/guitar) via email before their lofty gig opening for Jeff The Brotherhood at Subterranean and chatted about all things Meat Wave.
Davves: For three seemingly nice, chill dudes, you make some pretty aggressive music. Where does it all come from?
Chris: I’m more drawn to aggressive music. Music that is really charged in either its tone or lyrics or feel seems to resonate with me more. That being said, we’re chill and all, but we’re all angry and cynical in our own ways. In some ways the world is what you make it, but a lot of the subject matter in the songs is hard for me to ignore. Wealth inequality is infuriating. God-fearing goons can be infuriating. This band is kind of a venue to make that anger somewhat useful, at least for me. I think a great way to depict the ugliness of the world is through music. Plus, it’s fun.
D: As a listener, Meat Wave has a rebellious tone, sparking thoughts of bitterness or angst, or a certain discomfort in a certain place. Is there a message you’re trying to convey with your? music?
C: – There’s not an overall arching message, but I guess a series of messages. I’m definitely not trying to stand on a soapbox. Everyone has their own issues with the world they inhabit and the people they associate with. These are my series of issues I guess, some external, others internal. Beyond the lyrics, I think the music relays some sense of imbalance. It’s urgent and ugly sometimes, other times it locks in nicely. Like life, gnomesayin?
D: What is the song “Too Much” about? I love the lyric in the chorus “But I guess this is not what I need… What I need is a bigger TV so I can finally be able to see”.
C: Too Much is about people just owning a lot of stuff, myself included. Obviously we have the will and freedom to buy anything we’d like, but the climate to do so is fucked. Advertisements everywhere, all the time. It is never ending. It takes up so much physical space. So I think the song is commenting on this system of how things are marketed and sold, but also turns to the individual. We’re at fault too. And I guess that’s where that line comes from, “What I need is a bigger TV, so I can finally be able to see.” I myself am so critical of how things are, but at the end of the day I still want a damn blu-ray player.
D: In a Chicago scene where garage rock is popping up on every corner, and punk is battling to keep its place, where do you think Meat Wave fits in being heavier than the garage rockers yet more put together than the punkers?
C: We’re not sure where we fit in, and I think that’s what we’d prefer. We usually play with loud, fast punk bands which is cool, but we do want to play to all kinds of audiences. I like all kinds of music (except country and rap :P jk), so I personally wouldn’t mind Meat Wave being billed with hip hop or bluegrass or seriously whatever, but people can be discriminatory when it comes to other music. They like punk. They like garage rock. I could see why bands who sound alike stick together, but it could also narrow your view of who you’re reaching or what you’re doing. We haven’t been a band for very long so we’re seeing for ourselves how we’re perceived by different groups. I’m interested to see how people who don’t like punk respond to our music.
D: Currently all Meat Wave has released is a cassette tape, which sold out and has now been rereleased for a second round. Why did you choose what you call on your Facebook an “antiquated technology”, and why do you think the Chicago scene has such an infatuation with it?
C: The tape wasn’t “sold out” per say, but we just don’t know how to work Bandcamp and wanted to let people know that they were coming. We have them now. I think if we had the choice we’d probably put our music out on any medium. Pete from Let’s Pretend was nice enough to put the album out on tape, but we would have just as quickly released vinyl, or CD, or whatever. We’re into it. Ok, maybe not CD.
D: Chicago has a great reputation for its DIY venues, seemingly closing down and popping back up weekly. Have you guys gotten into the DIY scene here? And how do you think it compares to playing more legitimate established venues?
C: We’ve played a few cool DIY shows. Not many though. We either have trouble finding them or like you said, they close. We really like them though. House shows are way more laxed, comfortable. There are tons of great actual venues all over the city too. It’s a good situation to be in.
D: I’m curious, what are your day jobs??
C: I’m a writing tutor at my school and an unpaid intern. I’m finishing up my last semester of school now. Ryan works at Santullos in Wicker Park. Joe works at a printing plant.
D: And of course, as of now any future plans?
C: We’re writing an album right now, that’s really fun. Hoping for a west coast tour in the summer. Some really cool tentative releases in the works, expect new music soonish.
Catch Meat Wave at Quenchers on May 18th with Geronimo!, Hospital Garden, and Destroy This Place. Snag your presale here.
The Memphis-based prophets Cloudland Canyon have gradually, over the course of myriad singles and collaborations the past few years, moved away from their hybrid form of guitar-meets-synths apache anthems found on 2008′s masterful Lie in Light and 2010′s indescribably gorgeous and emotionally complex Fin Eaves to angular space electro thrash and gritty proto-techno – to awesome results. The Sonic Boom-produced “Prophetic Frequencies” is the latest to get a video treatment with the help of Chris Hontos and Tim Krause, who’ve juxtaposed nasty and beautiful basement punk show documentation with funky fractal galactic travel, Autobahn trace, and Kelly Ulhorn’s celestial, thoughtform-laden mantras. Considering how aggressive Cloudland Canyon’s brand of pounding hypnosis has become, come to think of it, perhaps slamdancing isn’t that inappropriate of a response.
Prophetic Frequencies 12″ is available now via Monofonus!
Mark Nelson redefined American post-rock in the ’90s with the underappreciated Labradford, and continues to pen exciting new additions to the drone/ambient canon via Pan•American. Cloud Room, Glass Room is Pan•American’s first album in four years, and sees the addition of percussionist Steven Hess into the fold, providing that intangible human element that helps largely electronic compositions from feeling too cold. The result is a new rhythmic muscle that could whet the whistle of fans of the presumably assimilated-by-the-Borg Boards of Canada. Lead track “Project For an Apartment Building” features a muted yet fervet percussive backbone only a couple steps removed from classic jungle breaks while pulsing, cycling aquatic synth melodies swirl about, in almost mathematical fashion, a canvernous and monlothic sonic space. Evoking images of distant lights and hypnagogic states, Pan•American offers up one of the best, most aerodynamic late night meditation anthems of the year. Cloud Room, Glass Room is out April 29 via the good doctors at Kranky.
It took a few decades, but the punk rockers figured out that classic rock radio offers a goldmine of decent ideas ready to get damaged. Dinosaur Jr. understood this to an extent, but their catalog always felt arena-ready. The acts who still, strictly aesthetically speaking, belong in the bars, basements, and DIY blowouts have begun crafting a way to take these notions of grandeur and apply them to the gritty house show ethic – an uneasy feat. The Decibel Tolls’ album of the year in 2011 was The War on Drugs’ Slave Ambient, a record that amalgamated blue collar anthems a la Springsteen with airy, atmospheric space pop via Slowdive and Spiritualized. In 2013, the next artist to master such a disparate concoction is The Men and their gorgeous follow-up to last year’s blockbuster Open Your Heart - New Moon.
New Moon showcases this five-piece as a brain trust that appreciates The Wipers and Swell Maps alongside Tom Petty and Neil Young in equal measures. Some reviewers have lambasted the record as “uneven,” as if they haven’t heard Jane In Occupied Europe before. Fuck that noise because that opinion is stupid. New Moon is both adventurous and an adventure. Cohesion was obviously left at the door when they passed through the threshold of the recording studio, and the result is a surprise turn at the closing of each song. Personally, I’m tired of thematic records. Fuck with my expectations on every song, man! Love it or loaf it, The Men are on this astral plane.
New Moon opens with possibly the biggest “hi, haters!” move in recent memory. What once was an abrasive noise punk act, “Open the Door” busts through with twangy acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, Hammond organ, and rollicking, waltzy piano. It’s AM Gold as fuck, and I love it. “Half Angel Half Lights” moves to the FM spectrum with power pop somewhere between the aforementioned Petty and an original take on Big Star. Earthy, dense, and remarkably delicate, not to mention a chorus saturated with wah-guitar that comes out of nowhere, New Moon is already a top ten contender two songs in.
“Without a Face” comes raging with a bizarre bucolic version of Sonic Youth or Mission of Burma, and moves into art-damaged electric folk and jangle pop with a Francis Bacon spin. Say, isn’t this the same group of guys who released Immaculada in 2010, a record that toggled between Belong style suffocating ambient noise and Jesus Lizard thrash? Some reviewers have likened New Moon to a transitional record, but really last year’s Open Your Heart provided the bridge. The Men’s strange, spacey cowpunk and unbridled punk muscle are most focused on New Moon, and the latter has never sounded better than with “The Brass,” single “Electric,” and “I See No One” – New Moon’s crowning trifecta. Talk about making noise rock lush. Talk about providing this level of sonic terror, replete with (calculated) junky percussion and disjointed composition, that spits out aerodynamic pop melodies aimed directly at the International Space Station.
The final trio of songs shows The Men at their most psychedelia-oriented – juke joint reverberated vocals (“Freak”), warm analog organ splatter (“Bird Song”), and multi-movement sludgy hypnosis (“Supermoon”). Considering it appears that The Men put serious thought into sequencing, not just doin’ the whole “dropped off some tracks on the way to the grocery” thing three-quarters of rock bands lazily plod through, one could infer this might be the direction The Men head toward when their next album drops (which at this rate would be next year). And that’s fine by me. It’s a real challenge to weave so succinctly a pastiche of so many different genres, while placing a distinct, cohesive stamp on each diversion – and in The Men’s case, that means sending the canonical songwriting through the shredder.
Sure, not all the juxtapositions and expectation-turning immediately makes sense, but The Men are throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. Most of the time it works, and truth be told, it’s a pleasure to be invited to hear them work through a myriad of ideas that also end up as great songs.
The Men’s New Moon is available now via Sacred Bones.
Fagen-Becker Quality Rating
Ne’er you mind this show takes place on a Monday (or “the weekend” as it’s known in the service industry), the rainbow spazz pop of Javelin, the twisted compressed circuits of Raleigh Moncrief, and The Pass’ glitchmaster Brainbheats will offer up one of the most bizarrely high energy shows you’re likely to see anytime soon.
Why not save some money in these lean times and go for free?
Alls ya gotta do is visit this post from The Decibel Tolls’ Facebook, and comment for one (1) entry into the random drawing, or share for two (2). It’s gonna be fun because your involvement will a) help promote the show, b) assist with our sOciAL mEdiA engag!ement, and c) maybe get you VIP treatment at the Zanzabar. Do it!
As for the rest of yas, here’s the info:
Javeline with Raleigh Moncrief and Brainbheats
Monday March 25
Zanzabar, 2100 S Preston, Louisville
8 p.m. / $6 / 21+