She said what do you do
I said get specific
In the long run I grow old
What am I doing? Get specific. OK, basically I’m on east coast of the United States seeing bands. I am connecting with my roots and connecting with my heart. I love live music; I love live music fans; I love the whole scene. So that’s what’s going on.
This piece is about two young bands making waves this year. First is Bad Moves, who I saw open for The Hold Steady last weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl. Their record is Tell No One (2018, Don Giovanni). Second is Swearin’ who a music geek introduced to me as a top five record of the year. Their record is Fall Into the Sun. (Swearin’ is not actually a new band, just new to me. Their 2018 release is the first in five years.) For some reason listening to both bands brings to mind Dirty on Purpose. Their best record is Hallelujah Sirens (2006, North Street Records, for some reason not on Spotify). What happens to a band like Dirty on Purpose? Does anyone remember them? I do–they are way underrated. Huge props go out to Dirty on Purpose and here’s “No Radio” for you (super low-rent video btw!):
Let’s play a game that we live in a world where a great record by a band like Bad Moves or Swearin’ would produce radio hits. I want to live in that world. So the first single from Fall Into the Sun, and perhaps the standout track on either album we are looking at, is Swearin’s “Big Change”. Check this out:
The best years of our lives
Were spent in some stranger’s basement
Medley made of empty cans and ex’s
And that radical romantic conversation
And how we are like mutants
Who found each other by chance through rock n roll music
Clenched fist, eyes wild
Scream over the records, you artfully complied
While I put my bad faith into practice
Sit at home on Saturday night
Ease into my false sense of superiority
No art degree, no conservatory
Just Katie and me
And whatever we are drinking
To diminish our diplomacy
If you can’t appreciate the art
Appreciate the air conditioning
That’s high-level awesome. “No art degree, no conservatory/ Just Katie and me”–“who’s better than us” is the refrain of DiLillo’s Underworld. If they can do it, why not us? Fuck ’em, and if you don’t that it, appreciate the air conditioning. That’s what attitude looks like kids, take notes.
So “Big Change” is my single from Fall Into the Sun. Any record worth it’s salt will have at least two singles; three is a bonus. And, we’ll do a “sneaky favorite.” I’m all about sneaky favorites, on all levels.
For Swearin’s second single I’ll go with “Grow into a Ghost.” It opens with a chugging guitar riff with an almost Krautrock drum line. The song is a perfect 3:10–in and out. Do you know anything about lost love? Swearin’ does–here’s verse 2:
I write you ceaselessly and abstracted
I hang our with old friends
And they unknowingly remind me
Of who I was before we met
You were somewhere out in the desert
You frame the natural light perfectly
Will you come back soon and
Let me love you completely
and the chorus: “I watch you/ I watch you grow into a ghost.”
I’ll save the sneaky favorite for later.
Bad Moves I gotta say rocked my world. First, the star of the band (and I know they are a collective, I get it, but my world is my world baby) is Katie Park.
Before the show Katie was at the merch table selling…magic eye! Magic eye! That she made by hand. And what did it say? The magic eye said “Bad Moves.” Obviously. 20 minutes later she and the band were crushing it. It’s only a snippet, but check this out:The single here is pretty easy. It’s “Crushed Out.” The band released “Spirit FM” as the single, which is also excellent. But for me, “Crushed Out” is the single. Maybe “Spirit FM” is more immediately catchy? Possible. So maybe it is the single. But “Crushed Out” has more lasting power in my opinion. I’ll bow to the band and take “Spirit FM” as single two. “Crushed Out” is about exactly what it sounds like. It has a basically perfect power pop structure with a killer hook, a classic bridge, and a theme at once super obvious and super deep–the power of a crush.
It was a strange infatuation
I couldn’t place it at the time
But now it seems as if my mind
Was all stopped up with you
I had no sense of aspiration
I didn’t know, I guess it’s fine
But now it seems so obvious
Did it seem so obvious?
Through all my fits of desperation
Sharing looks and passing notes
What did you make of what I wrote?
What could I ask of you?
The weeks of strained communication
Could you read between the lines
Or was it just so obvious?
It was a strange infatuation
I didn’t have the words to say yet, to be fair
Crushing out that way
It would be years before I’d face it
But it was just so obvious
Baby, if you are crush-prone that power never goes away. Bad Moves knows this–it’s kind of what the record is about. Crushing out that way can be pretty obvious–do you think I’m, crushing out on Katie at all? Nah, this is just a piece of music appreciation.
There are at least two other singles here. ” Cool Generator” (my pick) and “Vessels” (hard to argue with). I’m listening to “Cool Generator” on the train to Boston right now and typing on the keyboard like it was, well, a keyboard. I want to get up and dance in the aisle. Is that allowed? The song pops–I love it.
The Bad Moves analysis goes on–my actual favorite part of the record comes from “Missing You.” The song starts like the others, sweet and high-speed power pop, and after two verses switches to a near-spoken word breakdown of the tug-of-war between a crush and the expectations of the world around. Guess which wins?
Something inside told me I shouldn’t do
Things that set my heart racing, the dreams I held yo
So I wrapped them up tight and hid them from view
And gave them a name I called “Missing You”
Every cop in the city and the family I knew
The church and the pastor all said I shouldn’t do
But their pleas for contrition just couldn’t break through
Not one of them stronger than missing you
The cops in the city, yeah, and everyone I knew
Their please for contrition, yeah, well, none of them broke through
Not one of them was stronger than missing you
I officially support these sentiments. And look what the band does with rhyming “knew,” “do,” “through,” and “you.” High level. So that’s my sneaky favorite song–doesn’t mean it’s better than “Crushed Out,” just it’s for me, you know. (Sadly I couldn’t find a video for the song.)
Digression into Spiritual Literature
In addition to the Magic Eye, the Bad Moves engage in a little publishing. A little literature. Specifically they publish a little pamphlet called “The Virtues of Wearing White.” Check this out:
Chatting with Katie, she acknowledged more than a passing familiarity with the literature of the Jehovah Witnesses. I love Witness literature, and even talked about it here:
What I love about Witness publications and about the Bad Moves literature is the “it’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day” vibe of the whole thing. If you know me this is not a secret, but I’m a hardcore closet New Ager. There, secret’s out. The other day I attended a Kabbala meetup in Manhattan. There’s some hardcore New Agers there too, seriously. Those folks are not in the closet at all. Shining eyes, whatever color they are wearing. Me, I wear black because it’s easier to launder, but the Bad Moves have me thinking…
One other publication you should take a look at is you are into this kind of thing is the Christian Science Monitor. It’s a serious piece of literature. God is great baby, god is great.
OK, digression over.
My sneaky favorite Swearin’ song is track 10, the acoustic “Anyway.”
And for better or worse you have never met anyone like me before
Between heaven and earth there’s death and rebirth
And a plane where we couldn’t breathe
So we cut our losses and take a deep breath
Accept what is left and bet it on someone else
And in the light of morning remember
It would never have worked out
I think we have thematic consistency for this post. Both records are excellent. Check ’em out.
Works Cited/ Referenced:
Bad Moves. Tell No One
Jimmy Cliff. “I Can See Clearly Now”
DeLillo, Don. Underworld.
Dirty on Purpose. Hallelujah Sirens.
Swearin’. Fall Into the Sun.