Rocktoberfest Acht

So yeah, my friends and I, in a bout of total unoriginality, started this annual party called Rocktoberfest back in 2002. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of beer and friendship and meat and rocking until you break yourself. If that sounds childish and/or unimportant to you, maybe you should attend Rocktoberfest before you go judging things you don’t understand. Or maybe you’re humorless California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who doesn’t seem to like anything at all, especially if it has ever a) been in a union or b) been poor. But I digress.

This year was the 8th annual Rocktoberfest (Rocktoberfest Acht in German. So Achtoberfest, as my pal Jom pointed out while quite drunk) and we held it at my friend Badier’s mostly former house in Menlo Park, which is dangerously close to Stanford University. Having a massive party in a house that is mostly empty is definitely the way to go. Less shit to break.

I’d like to think that everyone who attends  our Rocktoberfest recognizes that, like Hold Steady albums and good beers, the most recent one is always the best one ever. This year was no exception.

Somewhere in the haze of music, drunk, and smoke, I realized why Rocktoberfest feels like a holiday to those who attend it and, as a sort of bonus realization, why rock ‘n’ roll is not a terrible substitute for a religion (when it doesn’t suck, of course). Let’s deal with the last thing first: at its best, rock ‘n’ roll creates community. When you go to see your favorite band, you share in the pure joy of music with a roomful of strangers. The audience and the band are all plugged in to something much bigger than the sum of its parts. The potential exists in that moment to meet new people and make new friends. You don’t have to do that, of course, but you totally can. And maybe you should. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of an ever-expanding community that started with five guys in a house. Those five guys didn’t always get along by any means, but Rocktoberfest creates a unique present in which the past is mostly obliterated while people sing along to songs like “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand (modified by us so that the chorus is now, “This beer is out of control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer”) and “Holy Diver” by Dio (we poured one out for Ronnie James Dio this year). Sure, it’s silly. But what’s wrong with being silly?

What happened at Rocktoberfest this year was what I  imagine happened around Joe Strummer’s famous campfires at Glastonbury. Old friends met new friends, some of us had wives to bring, others had kids to leave at home. But for several hours of a Saturday, everyone was cool with everyone. For my part, I was deliriously happy. You can do this anytime you want, and you should. Gather your friends and some drinks and some great music, and celebrate your personal community. Rocktoberfest Acht was a reminder of why I love music and – more important – why I literally love a majority of the people I know. It’s not prayer and it won’t save you from much besides boredom, but it could provide you with one helluva a great night.

So, in the great words of Mr. Craig Finn, “Let this be my annual reminder/ that we can all be something bigger.” Go forward, kids, be awesome to each other, and rock the fuck on.

The Songs of Rocktober 10 to 1

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Oh fuck yes, boys and girls. Today is the day of the bestest ‘Fest. Let us not delay, then, in getting to the ten most kickass songs of this most kickass month of Rocktober.

10. Dead Kennedys – “California Uber Alles” – If there’s only one person the Dead Kennedys didn’t like in the 1980s, that person was probably California governor Jerry Brown (or maybe Twinkie defense asshole Dan White). If there’s two people they didn’t like, they were Jerry Brown and everybody. Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is probably one of the best American punk albums ever, and “California Uber Alles” is especially awesome for imagining a new-age fascist America headed up by Jerry Brown and patrolled by the Suede-Denim Secret Police. Better lock up your uncool niece.

9. Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows” – The Queens of the Stone Age fooled the radio into playing songs from Songs for the Deaf and the world was all the better for it. Still one of the heaviest songs (of the not-sucky variety; I’ll allow that Metallica might have a heavier sound, but I don’t find the sound of heavy turds pleasant) to creep onto the FM dial, “No One Knows” features some of Dave Grohl’s best drumming, recorded just as he lost his battle with lameness and slipped forever out of the Land of Awesome. It also features typical (meaning “badass”) QOTSA guitars and Josh Homme talk about how we get these rules to follow and pills to swallow and all that good stuff.

8. Elvis Costello – “Radio, Radio” – To prove he was not fucking around when he sang “I wanna bite the hand that feeds me” on “Radio, Radio,” Elvis Costello stopped the Attractions mid-performance on Saturday Night Live (I think they were doing “Less Than Zero”) and counted them into this song, thus guaranteeing that Lorne Michaels would pitch a fit and ban Elvis from the show. This did not stop Michaels from later saying that Costello’s performance was this iconic event for SNL. That’s because Lorne Michaels is a giant douche. “Radio, Radio,” however, is a prescient song, written in the late 70s about how shitty radio was in general, with some allusions to crazy right-wing talk radio thrown in for good measure. There was a time, apparently, when Elvis Costello knew fucking everything.

7. The Clash – “White Riot” – You gotta love Joe Strummer watching black people riot in the U.K. in 1977 and thinking, “Why don’t white people do that? What’s wrong with us?” “White Riot” is Strummer’s attempt to get the Caucasians in the mood to bust shit up. It ultimately failed, of course, but his efforts did result in two of the finest minutes in punk history.  And who doesn’t want a riot of their own?

6. The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer” – While I’m spreading the Strummer love here, I might as well point out that “Constructive Summer,” by the Hold Steady, is as passionate and fitting a tribute to the man as you could want. Over positively (see what I did there?) pounding drums, Franz Nicolay’s persistent rock piano, and Tad Kubler’s cranked guitar, Craig Finn orders us to “Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer.” Why should we do that, Craig? “I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.” You know, Craig Finn, you might be on to something there.

5. The Stooges – “Search and Destroy” – Raw Power is one of the all-time greatest rock albums ever recorded and “Search and Destroy” is the track that gets that particular party started with a bang (or whatever sound napalm makes). Back in 1973, there were no Sex Pistols and no Clash, but the punk spirit was living large in the person of Iggy Pop (a.k.a. Iggy Stooge at that time) and his band of miscreants. Iggy was (and still is) actually a pretty good singer and he employs full-on vocal pyrotechnics, singing “Somebody save my soul/ baby, penetrate my mind.” That’s a dude asking you to mindfuck him and when Iggy asks, you answer.

4. The Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop” – I will argue with you or anybody that “Blitzkrieg Bop” is the best Side 1, Song 1 of all time. This was the song that launched The Ramones and, well, the Ramones. They were a band that didn’t have time to write multiple verses, but they did have time to get everyone pulsating to the backbeat. This would be a good lead-off track for your Rocktoberfest play list, what with the tight drum beat and Joey Ramone shouting “Hey/ Ho/ Let’s go” (or, ” ‘ey/ ‘o,” as he sings it). So let’s go, dammit.

3. Jim Carroll Band – “People Who Died” – Jim Carroll just died a few weeks ago, so if you’re ‘Festing to this song, pour one out for the man. Catholic Boy was a magnificent album and its best moment came with “People Who Died” which is exactly what it sounds like: a list of Jim Carroll’s friends who have shuffled loose this mortal coil. That could be morbid business, but the song is upbeat and insistent. Carroll’s buds employed myriad methods for exiting the land of the living, so you’ll never get bored: one guy overdoses on Drano (how much Drano constitutes an overdose? I’m guessing very little), one guy gets leukemia at age 14 (and looks like 65 when he dies), and someone jumps in front of  a train. Apparently, this song became a big hit after John Lennon was shot because it helped people deal with that numbing fact. That might sound kinda fucked up, but there’s catharsis in the irreverent humor of the song. I listened to it about a hundred times on the day Jim Carroll died. He was apparently just sitting at his desk writing. If I’m ever in a band again, I’m gonna rework this tune to include Jim Carroll, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone, and all the other awesome dead musicians. Who’s with me?

2. The Pixies – “Debaser” – Inspired by Luis Bunuel’s fucked up 1929 film Un Chien Andalou, (the bit in “Debaser” about slicing up eyeballs? They slice up a cow’s eye in this movie. I want you to know) “Debaser” is the best Pixies song. Period. (You don’t really think “Where is My Mind?” is their best song, do you? Why? Because it was in Fight Club?). Frank Black tears into the verse, exclaiming, “Got me a movie, I want you to know.” And certainly no Frenchman could declare “I am un” anything as assertively as Black declares “I am un/ chien!/ andalusia!” (Of course, the French dude would know to say “Je suis un” whatever, but I’ll let Black Francis slide on this one.) This is another breaking shit, bouncing around the room kind of song and I will never, ever (ever!) get tired of it. In fact, I’m gonna listen to it again right now.

1. The Clash – “Death or Glory” – If aliens landed here on Earth and pointed their lasers at my face, demanding to know, in four minutes or less, what rock ‘n’ roll was (we’re talking quintessence here – Platonic ideal shit), I’d play them “Death or Glory” by the Clash. This song has it all: an awesome guitar part, melodic bass lines, Topper Headon’s brilliantly textured drums, and some of Joe Strummer’s finest lyrics. The second verse is particularly instructive: “Every gimmick-hungry yob/ digging gold from rock ‘n’ roll/ grabs the mic to tell us/ he’ll die before he’s sold/ but I believe in this/ and it’s been tested by research/ he who fucks nuns/ will later join the church.” Nothing rocks like this song rocks. Nothing.

That’s it. Get out there and rock, revelers. Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer! And another toast to St. Jim Carroll and one to St. Joey Ramone. While you’re at it, raise a toast to Jello Biafra and Karen O. and every other awesome musician who is gracing your Rocktoberfest play list. And remember the wisdom of Mr. James Murphy: “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life.”

To sum up: These songs kick ass. These songs kick slightly more ass. These songs kick still more ass. These songs songs kick more ass than that. These songs kick ass and Henry Rollins is awesome. These songs kick ass but are just a minor threat. These songs kick ass and have pianos filled with flames. These songs, much like the Flaming Lips, kick ass. And Tom Waits is awesome.

To Win or To Lose?

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Musically, the Pine Hill Haints are a mishmash of stuff that should be pretty complimentary – bluegrass, folk, country, all filtered through a brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit kinda ethos that Pitchfork attributes to punk (because short songs are pretty much all punk was about, right? Right?) And, as the music goes on the Haints’ second album, To Win or To Lose, the myriad styles aren’t really the problem.

So why don’t I give a shit about this record?

To be nice first (after all, if you can’t say anything nice, start a blog), there are some good songs on this album. “Bordello Blackwidow” is a calypso-infused toe-tapper, and I think I could take about an EP’s worth of stuff like that from a band like this. But To Win or To Lose is sixteen tracks long (not all of them feel as short as Pitchfork would have you believe) and after a while, the genre exercises start to wear thin. Really thin. I mean, the Pine Hill Haints are certainly better at these genres than Elvis Costello was on his last effort, but if you wanna play the genre-blending game, I’ll take Gogol Bordello and the Clash (or even Strummer’s stuff with the Mescaleros) over the Pine Hill Haints any day.

“Bordello Blackwidow” (even the name makes me wanna listen to Gogol Bordello) is followed by a flop, “Scar,” which feels like a cross between hillbilly stomp and frat-kid reggae. So, I guess if that’s the kinda music you like, you’re gonna love To Win or To Lose and hate me for not liking it. But I’m writing this and you’re not. The Pine Hill Haints (I’m still trying to be nice here) are good at creating a laid back, front porch vibe, but it’s not enough to get me through the album. They’re better in spirit than they are in music, and, just like “potential”, you don’t really wanna make listening choices based on liking the “spirit” of a band. At least I don’t. I like the cut of Bad Brains’ jib (sailing reference in honor of Ted Kennedy, may he rest in peace. And before people start hatin’, look up the man’s legislative record – I raise my glass to him on the Americans with Disabilities Act alone), but I’m not gonna listen to one of their albums (it’s a wonky example, I know; I mean, hardcore isn’t really about putting a disc on in your room and listening to it – it’s about going out to shows and getting into some ultra-violence).

Well, we made it to the mean part of the review a little faster than I thought we would. But, since we’re here, I think I should point out that, in the time it’s taken me to say every nice thing I could think of about To Win or To Lose, I’ve thought of another band that did a similar style of music to the Haints but did it much much better. I’m thinking, of course, of Uncle Tupelo, who blended country, folk, and a bit of punk/rock into a fistful of seriously awesome albums (“Nothing,” off of their second album, Still Feel Gone, is one of the best songs ever) back in the 1990s.

To be clear, I’m not accusing the Haints of genre dilettantism (a charge one could arguably level at Mr. Costello, at least sometimes. Can you say My Flame Burns Blue?) or saying they lack whatever credibility a group of dudes from Alabama needs in order to play this kind of music, I’m just saying… what am I saying? Put it this way: it strikes me that more than a few critics got really excited by this album and thought it was this mind-blowing, really out there, unique musical experience and I. Just. Don’t. Get it. I started out not disliking this album because I didn’t care enough to dislike this album. But the more I think about it, the more I do kinda dislike this album, precisely because, for all its stylistic dexterity, it completely fails to engage me as a listener. My subjective experience of To Win or To Lose amounts to me checking the clock to see how much time I’ve spent listening to the fucking thing. And, in music, if you’re boring, you’re bad. I’ve never met anyone who says, “You know what I could go for right now? Some really boring music. I mean, a real sonic snoozefest.”

Clearly, To Win or To Lose is not going to bore everybody. Kenny G doesn’t bore everybody either, but I won’t be caught dead listening to that shit. And perhaps what galls me the most is that I sincerely believe that the Pine Hill Haints are capable of making not-boring music. It’s a similar problem to the one I had with the Wye Oak album; there are good ingredients in the album but they’re somehow being half-baked into a boring bullshit casserole instead of being carefully measured, balanced, and crafted into a lovely souffle of sonic delights. What’s going wrong? Glad you asked; I think its that the Haints don’t have, for the most part, the lyrical facility to match their obvious musical talents. While To Win or To Lose has been praised for containing “character sketch” type songs, I find the characters to be pretty non-distinct and so similar from song to song that it adds to the feeling that I somehow stuck just one song on repeat for an hour. As with Wye Oak, I think the Haints are a band that could win me back if they can narrow their focus (or at least focus on not sucking or being boring) enough, but To Win or To Lose is, in my book, mostly to lose.

Goddammit, Elvis Costello

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Musical ambition is, on the whole, a good thing. I much prefer artists who want to challenge themselves and expand their sound over artists who want to cash in on the same thing over and over again (is that understood, Coldplay?). However, proving the breadth and depth of your record collection doesn’t mean you’re going to make great music.

Elvis Costello is (was? is?) one of the greatest rock songwriters ever but the last twenty years have seen him attempt to prove that he’s So Much More. And I tend to agree with him in theory, but in practice he’s chosen to do so with a series of “genre” albums, the latest of which is Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane, Costello’s second country album (he released King of America in 1986 and it is a phenomenal album, perhaps the best genre exercise ever – but more on that in a minute).

Genre albums puzzle me; if you dig some style of music, why not synthesize it into your own sound and expand things that way rather than just choosing to write an album in particular genre (I don’t write individual songs in a particular genre, they just sort of end up how they end up)? You’ll still probably piss of the Pitchforkers and you can show everyone how you are more than the sum of your parts or whatever it is Elvis Costello is trying to prove. Or maybe he isn’t trying to prove anything; maybe he’s just doing what he likes. And that’s great too – for him. Just as I said about Condo Fucks, I don’t care that you record whatever you feel like, but I do care that I’m expected to shell out between twelve and twenty bucks for it. I know you think I can get the album cheaper if you make an exclusive deal with Target or Walmart or Best Buy, but fuck you if you do that: I’d rather pay more for an album at a real record store. You know, where they have selection? Also, I think I’m going to start openly encouraging people to pirate albums by artists that ink “exclusive” deals with non-record stores.

In case you can’t tell by my many digressions from the topic at hand, I’m not very impressed with Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane. It’s not just the unwieldy as hell title, nor is it that I generally have no regard for the genre album; I loved King of America, but there’s something organic about that album that is completely missing on Secret, Profane, and Billy Zane. Costello’s new country album smacks of what his ill-advised My Flame Burns Blue (Elvis singing with an orchestra and trying to be all pretty) smacked of a couple years ago – forced beauty. We’re supposed stand by and applaud Costello’s grasp of old-school country, especially since he hired some of that genre’s best living musicians to back him on the album. But Costello ruins the otherwise tolerable opener “Down Among the Wines and Spirits” by ending it with a Mariah Carey-esque attempt at a vocal flourish that is irritating, embarrassing, and hilarious all at once. The whole album feels like Costello really wants you to know that he gets old country music, and I don’t doubt that he gets it. But that don’t mean he should do it – I get hip-hop completely, but you won’t catch me attempting a collaboration with Mad Lib any time soon.

Throughout Secret, Profane, and Zombie John McCain, Costello seems to be lyrically imprisoned by his chosen style. Songs like “Hidden Shame” and “Complicated Shadows” (which is also actually kinda tolerable if you pretend Johnny Cash never lived and/or never recorded Live at Folsom Prison and why the fuck would you do that?), among many others, are country cliches about guns, gals, love, death, heartache, et cetera. Not the sort of thing I’m looking for from a guy who once wrote, “It’s the force of habit/ if it moves, then you fuck it/ if it doesn’t move, you stab it”, which comes from “Suit of Lights,” one of the many highlights of King of America. In case you haven’t gathered, I would recommend you check out King of America over Secret, Profane, and Searing Pain – it’s the first time Costello went down this road and it’s about forty times more satisfying.

The whole album isn’t awful, but I certainly don’t give a fuck about it either. There’s nothing wrong, as I said, with trying to broaden your musical horizons, but there’s better ways to go about it than by slapping together an overlong (the slow songs on Sneakers, Propane, and John Coltrane feel like they’re 90 minutes long, especially the plodding “She Handed Me a Mirror” which makes me wish she’d broken one over Costello’s obstinate head), pretty bad country record. Imagine if My Morning Jacket had just made a one-off R & B record instead of allowing their love of Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye to inflect their awesome, guitar-rock sound. The result would’ve been far less satisfying than the exemplary Evil Urges, an album that pretty much frees MMJ from any genre tags you could apply to them. Also, Evil Urges just kicks ass. That’s the real point here. Got it? Good.

Or, to use a more classic example, The Clash were always a punk band in spirit, even as they blended rockabilly, reggae, and jazz into London Calling, an album that, admittedly, almost no one even listens to anymore, much less reveres as some sort of sacred blueprint of How to Do It Exactly Right. And, when Joe Strummer started working with the Mescaleros, he blended all of his favorite styles (all of them) into their sound, creating songs that were spiritually consistent with his status as The One True Punk but sonically, they were wonderfully varied. Perhaps, then, Elvis Costello needs to take a page from the Joe Strummer Guide to Aging Gracefully; it’s not that Costello shouldn’t find other genres to like and incorporate into his music, it’s that he needs to remember from whence he came.

And here’s the thing that galls me more than anything about Elvis Costello’s genre exercises (Pitchfork alluded to this in their review of Sucrets, Throat Pain, and The Hill of Dunsinane and I’m big enough to admit they were right) is that he’s awesome at rocking. If you like Elvis Costello, I guarantee you that your favorite of his albums is either Armed Forces, This Year’s Model, My Aim is True, or maybe When I Was Cruel (which is my favorite). And they’re all rock albums. Some of the best ones ever recorded, where Costello isn’t afraid to sneer a little and let his wonderfully snarky voice be a bit obnoxious. There’ s room to expand on that palette without abandoning it, but over the last few years, it’s as if Costello has morphed into one of the snobs who turned their noses up at his early shit – as if he’s ashamed to have bothered us with that so-called “pub-rock,” which includes classics like “Pump It Up”, “Radio, Radio,” and “Oliver’s Army,” among many others. I’m not usually given to telling musicians what to do, but: goddammit, Elvis Costello, go find an electric guitar, an amp, a drummer, and get back to doing something you kick ass at.

Touchdown

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Looking back on this week, I’ve not liked much in the albums I’ve reviewed (it’ll get better, Bollocks! reader[s] – I like the new Thermals record but seem to be too lazy to write about it. Maybe next week). So it’s time to get happy and have some fucking fun. And I can think of no better album to exemplify that spirit than Touchdown by Brakes (or Brakesbrakesbrakes outside the U.S. for reasons known only to… well, somebody. I bet Andy Richter knows why). It’s a really poppy album and I’m struck by how many of my favorite albums this year have been so damn poppy they could make your teeth hurt.

That Brakes is dominated by a former member of British Sea Power is pretty impressive to me, largely because, despite the high praise British Sea Power (“BSP”, to their fans. I can’t call ’em that because it’d be too easy for me to convince myself that BSP stands for Bullshit Purveyors or Butt Sex Prostitutes – I said I was gonna talk about an album I like, I never promised I’d be mature about it) has received, they bore me to tears. I wonder if Eamon Hamilton had left the band by the time they recorded whatever shitty album of theirs I heard. Probably.

Hamilton is known for being hyper as hell live, and I can dig that a lot. I like hyper musicians because I never see a hyper guy live and think, “Poor dude’s not having any fun.” If you want an example of what I’m talking about, pay attention to Franz Nicolay the next time you see the Hold Steady live – he’s jumping around behind the keyboards and generally having a good time. Likewise, Jim James rocks so hard live that one time, he fell off the stage,  inducing a concussion that caused the cancellation of two My Morning Jacket shows. That’s rocking pretty fucking hard. And if you’re listening to the wrong indie music, you might become convinced that fun is strictly verboten. So if you’re busy digging Interpol, whose albums – I’ve heard – are packaged with a stainless steel stick for you to ram up your butt to achieve the appropriate amount of seriousness while listening, why not check out Brakes and see if we can get that rod outta yer arse?

Touchdown is a straight pop album, but it has a punkish roughness to it (the whole thing feels like it was recorded live in one or two takes, but that may be due to the energetic nature of the tunes) and careens from the thumping drum-pop of opener “Two Shocks” to the awesome, lilting country-rock stomp of “Why Tell the Truth (When It’s Easier to Lie?)”. The whole thing is a breeze at under forty minutes, indicating that Eamon Hamilton knows something a lot of better known pop stars have forgotten: brevity is the soul of pop.

Hamilton’s lyrics can be simplistic and silly at times (on the catchy-as-fuck “Crush On You,” he sings, “Fritz Lang/ Laser Eyes/ Freedom Fries/ Oh, I’ve got a crush on you” which is awesome in its own way but also pretty damn ridiculous) but his delivery, like the band’s music, is so unassuming and infectious that I end up forgiving him his every excess. This is not easy for me to do, as those who know me well are well aware (even in songs I like, if something embarrassing happens, I dwell on it. For instance, in “Helter Skelter,” my favorite Beatles song, there’s a part toward the end where Paul McCartney sings the titular phrase in this shrill, high voice that nowadays reminds me of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Clown from Metalocalypse; you know, the guy who screams, “I DO COCAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!” It’s awful, and every time I hear “Helter Skelter,” I love it until I get to that part and then I’m just sad – sad – that John Lennon let McCartney do that. I wouldn’t let my singer do that on a song. Ever. I’d assault the poor guy first). It helps that songs like “Don’t Take Me to Space (Man)” are catchy enough to overcome lines like, “I was punching the air on this lonely drive/ singing ‘goddamn, I’m happy just to be alive'” which would be trite, O.C.-ready fare in someone else’s hands, but the song is such an honest expression of Hamilton’s happiness that I can’t complain. By the way, is The O.C. still on the air? I don’t care.

But don’t be misled – Hamilton turns out some pretty great lines over the course of Touchdown and many of them come on “Why Tell the Truth”. For instance, “I’m gonna tell you why it is that I drink my days away/ it’s ’cause the beer helps the cigarettes go down” which is going on the list of lines I wish I’d written along with a whole bunch of Joe Strummer, Tom Waits, Craig Finn, and Jeff Tweedy lyrics (and the entirety of Jarvis Cocker’s “Running the World”  – all of it).

The other thing that excites me about Brakes is that they exemplify what I would imagine a genre called punk/pop to sound like. Because Touchdown is shot through with punk spirit (which sticks its head up overtly on the deliciously obnoxious “Red Rag”) but never loses its keen pop sensibility. Too many so-called punk/pop bands have precious little in common with punk or pop. Yeah, Blink-182 don’t know more than four chords but punk isn’t just about being a shitty musician – I would offer The Clash as exhibit A for the prosecution here. Mick Jones, even on their first album, was a gifted arranger of music and when they brought Topper Headon into the band, he propelled them even further in terms of musical versatility. Add in Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon’s myriad influences and hunger to challenge boundaries, blend on high for a minute, and pour yourself a sexy musical smoothie known as London Calling. I don’t care who you are or what you think of them, either: Joe Strummer was the real fucking deal when it came to being an awesome punk and the spirit of Brakes’ music is much closer to that spirit than Blink-182 or any of the shitty bands that people are touting as the next Clash. It helps that Eamon Hamilton seems to have no interest in being the next Clash – no one is going to accuse Touchdown of carrying a subversive social message – or any social message – but Hamilton is in love and happy and having fun, and when you can do it with as little pretention as Brakes, I’ll raise a pint to you any day.

Incidentally, I bet you all (both of you) thought I’d totally lost the plot of the review when I started talking about the Clash. I did too for a second there, but here we are talking about the band we came to talk about: the Clash.

Oops.