LPTJ: Still Refusing to Front
Sweet whistling skeletal day-glo finches of Hell, what have we here: an LPTJ update that's not about whatever metal overload I'm subjecting myself to today? Well, yeah. Yesterday I spent all day listening to a Finnish black metal band so awesome and kvlt that I wouldn't feel right telling you their name, but today I stopped by Pitchfork and saw a news item mentioning the Donkeys, a band whose name I'd seen once or twice before, always accompanied by the thought: "Finally, a band whose name does not suck." Hard to believe that a good band name like this was just sitting around up for grabs while people were naming themselves [redacted; it's gauche to hate on perfectly good bands just because they thought full-sentence band names were really amusing and catchy and helpful in Establishing The Brand, and besides, we have a longstanding no-by-name-callouts policy over here. PLUR 'til Hammersmith, y'all], but here it is.
Now, I know that on message boards across the internet, death is generally thought of as preferable to admitting that you learned about something from Pitchfork. The no-I-never-heard-about-it-on-Pitchfork animus is one of the most trollable tendencies a person can have; there's no surer way to initiate a flamewar than accusing somebody of getting their news from the most-read newsfeed in indiedom. This, I shouldn't need to point out, is bizarro-world Oedipal weirdness, but in the echo-chamber Oedipus never hears the oracle and gets to live blissfully ever after with mom. Win-win, right?
Well. We may be a lot of things over here at LPTJ, but "lying poseurs" isn't one of them, and the Donkeys are awesome, and I heard about them this morning from Pitchfork. They're signing to Dead Oceans, which is like the ultimate coup of good-band-name/good-label-name, and which puts them in great company, considering that the Bowerbirds are Dead Oceans soldiers now. I went over to eMusic and got the Donkeys album they had there, and it turns out these guys have been good since at least 2004. Fuck! How will I live with myself? Not only did I not get hip during their early shows, when they were obviously at their best - I'm four years late to the party!
Better late than never, I guess. The Donkeys kind of rule. Incredibly pleasant, dreamy, drifty, mildly melancholy tunes that breeze right through the living room. Nice underplayed Fender Rhodes sounds here and there, and reverbing guitar leads that really do feel like they're making my pulse slow nicely down. "If the Aislers Set were Meat Puppets fans" is what I'd write if I were doing their press kit. Thank God then for all concerned that I am not.
Checking around, I ran across some press materials that seemed to suggest the Donkeys would rather not be compared to the Grateful Dead. Too bad on that count, the Donkeys: you guys sound like the Dead! Also Sweetheart of the Rodeo-vintage Byrds, too, and Gram Parsons, and all the usual west-coast country-rock checkpoints. But don't shun the Dead comparison, because it's the gentle-cosmic-lemonade-hammock feel of the Dead at their best that I'm reminded of listening to these guys: that feeling of listening to a band whose first interest is in playing music with one another, in making sounds in which they themselves can get a little lost. The drummer's no Mickey Hart, but the singer's got better pitch than Jerry Garcia, and is more pleasant to hear than Bob Weir, I should say while I'm busy making enemies. On the whole, I think of what these guys are doing as part of The Antidote to a problem in indie rock that I can't quite name yet. It has to do with thinking of nervous energy as an indispensable aesthetic component, but that's as coherent an objection to it as I've formed; I think I'm not alone in feeling like I've spent enough time at that party. Other people at work on The Antidote include Beach House and Matteah Bain, and maybe someday I'll formulate a full-on formula for what The Antidote involves. Meanwhile, though, there's the Donkeys, whose 2004 album deserved much, much better than to go completely unnoticed by me, and who, at their best, bear a resemblence to the Grateful Dead. Or, just to make them happier, to the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I give them extra points just for making me think of the New Riders and can say that I'm really looking forward to their album, which isn't something I find myself saying about a lot of band.
We now return you to the 24-hour-a-day metal marathon, and remind you, in the words of Sarcofago, that if you are a false, don't entry.
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