Sunday, March 20, 2005
So over the weekend the forthcoming Stephen Malkmus album became fairly widely available, and I think it's safe to say that there's going to be an mp3blog scramble starting next week. So I don't really need to post anything from it. Go elsewhere and downloadeth. I doubt you'll have to look far, come Monday.
It's pretty good, though lacking the "Hey, wow, this doesn't suck" factor that made Pig Lib such a pleasant surprise for me. If you get a chance, download the eight minute jam-athon No More Shoes. It kicks off with a very Fleetwood Mac melody, before turning into standard "lets let the vocal line jump random intervals" Malkmus product, followed by some late period Sonic Youth-y guitar-over-one-note-bass jamming that's pretty fun.
More interesting to me, I discovered over the weekend that I'd been scooped on a band that I was pretty sure nobody else would think to write about in a million years. Partly because they're way, way obscure and partly because their album isn't actually great.
So imagine my surprise when I saw that vinyl mine had done a feature on Mass Tango back in February. Go ahead, google them. Once you separate out all of the unrelated links, you'll find that there's absolutely no info on them on the internet, with the exception of vinyl mine and now me, and I think one or two sites that give the tracklisting for CMJ's Certain Damage #12 CD.
Two blogs in two months. It's safe to say that this is the most publicity that Mass Tango are likely to get. I don't know much more about them than vinyl mine. The only real detail I can add is that they appear to have released a 12" single at one point, containing two album tracks. Aside from that, it's like they entered the Federal witness protection program following the release of their self-titled album in 1988.
I said it's not great, so why dwell on them? I've had it on my iPod for a while, and although I never find myself loving it, I continue to find myself very intrigued by it. I seem to have reached that point that twenty-year-olds often find incredibly annoying (I know that 20-year-old me felt this way), where I'm often more interested in a mediocre-interesting band than in a good-but-uninteresting group. Forced to come up with a brief description, I'd call Mass Tango a mix of early Game Theory (dinky production, quirky songwriting) and Christmas (again with the quirky songwriting plus some vocal resemblance). In all caps: THEY WERE NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS EITHER OF THOSE BANDS SO DON'T GET TOO EXCITED.
Had Mass Tango recorded another record or two, I sense that they might have had the chops to pull off a great lost classic. They didn't. Aside from the CMJ thing, they never made it to CD, they don't have a fan running a website, and they didn't even make a HYPED2DEATH comp. History will bury them. Today I'm posting a big chunk of their album, in an attempt to delay the burial by a day or so. Despite all the backhanded comments above, I do think that it's worth hearing. It'd be nice if Ken Cushman (presumably pictured above, center) decided to google himself someday, found this page, and informed us that he's been secretly recording brilliant songs for the last 17 years. We'll see...
Everything's Open Wide (One of two tracks written in 10/4. Have to give bonus points for that. As is often the case on this album, the verse is better than the chorus.)
Highway 10 (Probably would have worked well live. Ken has a pretty good voice, as I think about it.)
Go (Also sounds like it would have been great in concert. The album's production tends to undercut the rave-up tracks. I always like the way Sarah Bell sings the line, "You look like a crucifix fallen down.")
Our Heads Are Spinning (This is the track that appeared on the CMJ comp. Really neat chord progression, and the keyboard works against the melody that Sarah's singing in a really interesting way. BTW, my photo of the album is kind of dark, but Sarah Bell appears to have been a candidate for inclusion in the pantheon of indie rock cuties.)
She's Gone To Mexico (The mix of guitar and keyboard screams early Game Theory to me. Pretty decent guitar playing on the solo.)
Freaktown (Another one with a very Game Theory beginning, until the singing starts. Again, the chorus doesn't live up the verse.)
Dreaming of Jane (This is the track that vinyl mine posted. The second 10/4 song on the album, and I'm guessing that putting them 1st and last was on purpose.)
I'd be thrilled if anyone had anything to add to this. If you're only going to sample one or two tracks, I'd recommend Dreaming of Jane and Our Heads Are Spinning.