Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Mar 03
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"The riverbed, the hose, the Echoplex, the crazy levels and grimy heads, the weeks spent in sweaty denim - they all added to the recording something that was sonically crucial, but also stubbornly resistant to mastering it for vinyl. Every time a mastering engineer tried to make a lacquer disc of the music, the needle, as if in protest, would literally leap out of the groove. Finally, two mastering engineers, Bob Ludwig and Dennis King, discovered that if the levels were set extremely low they could just manage to get the thing on disc. The result was Nebraska, an album nearly too lo-fi for vinyl.”
Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever

Another Columbia record, although this time it’s an original mass-produced pressing - on thin, light vinyl - I bought second-hand, rather than the heavyweight 2008 repressing of Grace. You can see the quality of the writing and the use Milner makes out of a familiar story, which segues into a  wonderful description of the material production of Springsteen’s next album Born in the USA as the first CD to be made in America, and onwards into the analog v. digital divide. 
I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, in fact I’m quite a small one: this is the only record I’ve bought, while I listen to Born To Run occasionally. But Nebraska is superb (especially if you can hear the Suicide influences). 

"The riverbed, the hose, the Echoplex, the crazy levels and grimy heads, the weeks spent in sweaty denim - they all added to the recording something that was sonically crucial, but also stubbornly resistant to mastering it for vinyl. Every time a mastering engineer tried to make a lacquer disc of the music, the needle, as if in protest, would literally leap out of the groove. Finally, two mastering engineers, Bob Ludwig and Dennis King, discovered that if the levels were set extremely low they could just manage to get the thing on disc. The result was Nebraska, an album nearly too lo-fi for vinyl.”

Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever

Another Columbia record, although this time it’s an original mass-produced pressing - on thin, light vinyl - I bought second-hand, rather than the heavyweight 2008 repressing of Grace. You can see the quality of the writing and the use Milner makes out of a familiar story, which segues into a  wonderful description of the material production of Springsteen’s next album Born in the USA as the first CD to be made in America, and onwards into the analog v. digital divide. 

I’m not a huge Springsteen fan, in fact I’m quite a small one: this is the only record I’ve bought, while I listen to Born To Run occasionally. But Nebraska is superb (especially if you can hear the Suicide influences). 

springsteen vinyl 80s Perfecting Sound Forever
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Feb 27
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Chuck Ragan - ‘The Fire, the Steel, the Tread’ from his soundtrack to It’s Better in the Wind, a short film about motorcycle riding. It’s a version of song that Hot Water Music released as an eponymous EP, and although I haven’t been particularly bowled over by Chuck Ragan’s solo/acoustic stuff, I like this - it’s a pleasingly sparse, yet spacious, take on the Springsteenian sound that seems to have swept through American pop-punkers in the past few years.

(Source: Spotify)

hot water music punk springsteen chuck ragan
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Dec 17
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HFN 2010 - 7: Titus Andronicus, ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’ from The Monitor

I saw someone complain on Twitter from here in Ireland that Titus Andronicus sounded like “Los Campesinos! and the Dropkick Murphys ‘jamming’ together”. Which is a pretty accurate description, especially if you happen to like either or both of those two bands. There’s a reason The Monitor isn’t higher on my list, which is that the album is rather meandering, self-indulgent if not quite loose; and consequently a bit of work to listen to, as something that musically isn’t all that exciting (though it has its moments). But those qualities also make for a successively rousing, enrapturing and self-affirming record, one that makes the most of its lyrics and delivers them with an undeniable energy and honesty.

Here’s a 14-minute long finale, which is less of an epic song than an epic poem. There are so many good lines, even if they have a tendency to be (ironically?) self-deprecating: “half the time I open my mouth to speak/it’s to repeat something that I’ve heard on TV/I’ve destroyed everything that wouldn’t make me more like Bruce Springsteen”. Which in a way includes subsuming the music into the text, reducing it to a vehicular existence, just like Bruce Springsteen - not that he doesn’t surround himself with and make good use of talented musicians, but in the end it’s about listening to the poetry of dissatisfaction and emotionally downtrodden lives. I used to think, back when I started off mostly listening to Green Day, Rancid, even the Bouncing Souls, that punk was the contrast between cheering, positive music and depressing, angry subject matter. Of course things are a little more complex than that, but even for real literature I get the most pleasure out the combination of beautiful words and pathetic thoughts. Titus Andronicus is the continual embodiment of that conflict in such a deeply-held way that they are essentially the romantic wolf in the sheep’s clothing of what people think punk rock should “really” sound like.

'Battle of Hampton Roads' isn't so much about the human condition as the youthful one, but at the same time they take it upon themselves to carry the weight of the ages - at least back to the 1860s - in a way that is generally seen either as bravado punk style or an excusably over-ambitious 'conceptual' artiness. Previously, in The Airing of Grievances, with its name-checking of Camus and Brueghel in song titles - and this song proclaims that “you’ll always be a tourist”? - led some to criticise them as jejune, school-age intellectuals. But truthfully, fuck all that if it leads to music that hits as hard as this.

319 plays
HFN 2010 Titus Andronicus punk authenticism springsteen
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Nov 28
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handsomeyoungstranger:

hardcorefornerds:

Titus Andronicus - Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ @ Whelan’s, 27/11/2010 from TrigFilms

The Gibsons + the “sensitivity” make this the first, and best, emo show I’ve been to.

- GREATEST SATURDAY NIGHT EVER! -

Here’s to hoping Pat Stickles and his suitcase full of pedals comes back to play Dublin sometime soon (they’re playing Cypress Avenue in Cork tonight). 

Completely forgot to bring earplugs, what with hat, scarf, gloves etc., though I probably wouldn’t have worn them for such a quality band. Still, it sounded as if somebody had literally turned it up to 11 at the very finish; went to bed with tinnitus in just one ear, but it was gone when I woke up and the snow had redoubled.

[…]

Indeed. (Still have the tinnitus going in one ear, though.) I think any band that can open with ‘A More Perfect Union’ has won from the start, but that was insanely good, and I was a giant fan of the total sincerity even if it made me laugh a few times. They have to qualify as New Sincerity: “oh wow, that was so much fun!”

One of the funnier bits was Patrick Stickles singling out the dude in the t-shirt from around their first EP, as there was actually a groany crowd pause in a “you wore WHAT to WHAT?” way before we dutifully and then enthusiastically clapped for him.

I think that’s the third time I’ve seen Squarehead, who were supporting, and their energy really matched well for me - I don’t mean anything terribly abstract, just literally how they were moving and throwing everything they had into the songs.

My embarrassing terror of walking on ice (hey, now I have a witness!) meant I didn’t upgrade my digital Titus Andronicus to vinyl, just came away with a Squarehead t-shirt that seemed like a plus in breaking a fall. Merch tables vs extreme weather.

Heh, New Sincerity meets Irish cynicism and tear-them-down attitude! It’s the ultimate in transatlanticism! Although I never saw what the problem was with the old sincerity, or judiciously applied irony. And although I didn’t pick up on that response, I assume it’s relatively universal amongst self-reflecting, socially conscious music scenes the world over. His name was Alan, I think.

I was thinking about how I didn’t go to see the Gaslight Anthem in the Olympia last weekend, and what you said about Titus Andronicus sounding at points “like a really messy Springsteen cover band” (I think they also sound like a messy Thin Lizzy covers band at times, and I was slightly disappointed, though not much surprised given the usual accuracy of my musical comparators, not to hear that come through last night). What with the hype about The Promise, I gave Darkness at the Edge of Town a few listens recently, but it didn’t bowl me over in a way that would make me change my long-held opinion that the only two necessary Springsteen albums are Born to Run and Nebraska. But I do like me some Springsteenian punk, like Titus Andronicus, earlier New Jersey Epitaph group Bouncing Souls, or the Gaslight Anthem. I guess for the latter it’s a more on-record affection, whereas Titus Andronicus bring a deserved reputation for live intensity in addition to their ambitious (if occasionally slightly unwieldy and enervating) records. Plus, I’m kinda snobbish in only really going to gigs in smallish venues, because the energy is packed in tighter and the tickets are cheaper. Fun fact: the first time I saw Xiu Xiu play live was also in Whelan’s, on the same night Bruce Springsteen did one of his marathon Dublin gigs in the RDS.   

Squarehead were very good, but their energy and volume was a bit much for me as I came in straight off the (cold) street, when I was wondering what to do with my extra layers of clothing and was there anybody I knew in the room. A neat glass of Bushmill’s was the only way to warm me up to the warm-up act. On which note, it’s a pity Titus Andronicus didn’t play ‘Theme From ’Cheers”, possibly my favourite song on the album, although maybe a) it doesn’t work that well live and b) would be too appropriate for the drink-sodden Irish.

(via )

titus andronicus live punk springsteen
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Nov 12
Permalink springsteen art history
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Aug 02
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Jersey is a bunch of real people trying to live normal lives but encroached upon by an unspeakably dense concentration of American culture that it has to sort through and make coherent. Jersey is our first line of defense against our worst impulses, and if we regard it as a trash heap, that’s only because we let it absorb so much of the crap that we’re able to avoid.
american exceptionalism springsteen
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Jan 08
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Hot Water Music - ‘Clampdown’ - ‘No Surrender’ - ‘Springtime’, Till The Wheels Fall Off (No Idea, 2008), side D.

101 plays
hot water music post-hardcore clash springsteen leatherface punk
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Jul 04
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sundayafternoonrain:

hardcorefornerds:

sundayafternoonrain:

hardcorefornerds:

well, comparisons are odious, and all that. but…

I’m wouldn’t say Clerks is Springsteen-esque because it’s working-class and set in New Jersey. in the musical context it’s about a certain kind of anthemic, very emotionally invested guitar rock that is emblematic of Bruce Springsteen/‘59 Sound-Gaslight Anthem/The Hold Steady (for sake of argument)/certain Bouncing Souls songs. moreover, I’m sure the Souls are quite happy to be compared/connected to Springsteen to some degree, or else they’re sending out some rather strange signals with their last couple of albums. and I can’t agree that a comparison is automatically reductionist unless that’s the only way you’re going to interpret an album or song.

as for the context of living in Jersey with Springsteen, I can only sort of understand your plight (I really like him, in moderation). I live in Ireland where U2 comes from and have some of their most die-hard fans - I saw on the evening news here an Irish fan, after the opening Barcelona show of their spectacular/mediocre world tour, describe it as “rock’n’roll at its purest” (!??) - so a large portion of the population have to join a secret begrudgers society to express how poor quality our most well known cultural export is (aside from Guinness, which is only really good here).

yeah yeah for sure. i’m not even trying to say that comparisons are bad, and i especially think it’s valid in terms of the gold record, but i’ve heard too often about how so-and-so is “the next springsteen!!!” (especially with gaslight anthem) without even mentioning anything else about them. it’s kind of a matter of pride.. even though the cartoonish stereotypes about new jersey are all legitimately based in facts (clerks? yes. 100% accurate) it’s a lot more subtle and complicated, and i really hope people understand that. for me, even though recently they’ve been turning towards taking themselves seriously instead of writing “quick chek girl,” the one thing about the bouncing souls is this consistent sense of honesty. and i think springsteen has that too, but it’s an attitude that doesn’t belong as exclusively to him as a lot of people i know (and a lot of people here in particular) would like to think. that’s just how you have to be if you live with this strange bleak weirdness called jersey. so i don’t mean to say that you were using a comparison for reduction, but i also want to say that people shouldn’t do it, if only because it’s so easy. it’s just a sore subject—since springsteen is so huge here any comparison is a red-flag, if it was any other artist i probably wouldn’t even have noticed to be honest.

also: i’m sorry about u2. they sometimes make me embarrassed to be even irish-american, it must be tough over there. but yeah living with springsteen in jersey is kind of like if all your friend’s parents listened to u2 all the time, and if their every move made the front page of the newspaper, and everyone who visits goes “oh yeah! this is just like that u2 song!”, and if you said anything negative about them at all people told you to get out of the country. okay i’m exaggerating a little bit. but only very slightly.

 yep, I can agree with all that (particularly the part I emphasised, although I don’t know the phenomenon directly/and it still seems that Springsteen is its best exponent). have a happy non-Springsteenian 4th of July!

springsteen
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Jul 03
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sundayafternoonrain:

hardcorefornerds:

The Bouncing Souls - ‘Kids and Heroes’ from Anchors Aweigh

“Hey where have you gone?

you used to be the one that we looked up to

it seemed like nothing could break you down

how high was your price? and was it worth it?

nothing in life is a sure bet anyway…”

to answer a question in one of the answers, the Bouncing Souls aren’t necessarily very musically Springsteenesque, although they have become very anthemic in their own way. it’s more Springsteen-in-spirit (and in geography), and if How I Spent My Summer Vacation was them on the cusp between fun punk-pop songs and heartbreaking anthems (or sometimes both at once), then Anchors Aweigh is the stretching out of that dimension to a heart-on-sleeve but reflective, Springsteen-esque album. The Gold Record of course has ‘So Jersey’ and ‘Sounds of the City’ and other Springsteen references, but I think Anchors Aweigh was the clearer statement, as a whole, of their Springsteenisms (in that respect I could possibly use one of the later songs on the album, like ‘Highway Kings’, ‘I’m From There’ or the title track, but this one is pretty much where it starts)

and I intentially omitted the Hold Steady and Boys and Girls In America. I’m not a big fan - for one thing, their Kerouac love is a bit precious: “maybe Sal Paradise was right” - c’mon… and Julia got to that trope first, not to mention Jawbreaker.

maybe i’m just saying this because i don’t honestly like springsteen, but it’s not like he invented being working-class and from new jersey, he just got famous for it. i’m not saying he isn’t influential—especially if you live here, you can’t escape it—but i think bands should be allowed to reference being working-class and being from new jersey (assuming of course that they are) without an instant comparison. this song is amazing for what it is, and for completely different reasons than the average springsteen anthem, and that should be respected too.

as context for this statement: living in new jersey is like being bombarded with springsteen all the time. “he took a breath, it was genius!” so i can’t stand it. the only time i’ve heard him and not gotten angry was on one of jack terricloth’s radio shows, where he played a recording of springsteen doing a gypsy version of “blinded by the light.” that was pretty sick.

well, comparisons are odious, and all that. but…

I’m wouldn’t say Clerks is Springsteen-esque because it’s working-class and set in New Jersey. in the musical context it’s about a certain kind of anthemic, very emotionally invested guitar rock that is emblematic of Bruce Springsteen/'59 Sound-Gaslight Anthem/The Hold Steady (for sake of argument)/certain Bouncing Souls songs. moreover, I’m sure the Souls are quite happy to be compared/connected to Springsteen to some degree, or else they’re sending out some rather strange signals with their last couple of albums. and I can’t agree that a comparison is automatically reductionist unless that’s the only way you’re going to interpret an album or song.

as for the context of living in Jersey with Springsteen, I can only sort of understand your plight (I really like him, in moderation). I live in Ireland where U2 comes from and have some of their most die-hard fans - I saw on the evening news here an Irish fan, after the opening Barcelona show of their spectacular/mediocre world tour, describe it as “rock’n’roll at its purest” (!??) - so a large portion of the population have to join a secret begrudgers society to express how poor quality our most well known cultural export is (aside from Guinness, which is only really good here).

springsteen
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Jul 01
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Bruce Springsteen - ‘Dream Baby Dream’ (Suicide cover)

originally released on Suicide - Suicide (1980, their second album)

hauntingly beautiful.

44 plays
springsteen suicide
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