Free and legal MP3: The Beets (21st century garage rock)

Simple and garage-y, but with a nerdy, sing-songy sort of poignancy to it as well. Kind of like the Ramones crossed with They Might Be Giants.

The Beets

“Doing As I Do” – The Beets

Simple and garage-y, but with a nerdy, sing-songy sort of poignancy to it as well. Kind of like the Ramones crossed with They Might Be Giants. And surely this begins with one of rock’n’roll’s more memorable opening lyrical salvos: “Don’t be afraid, you will not die/And if you die/Whatever.” Who says rock music is over and done? Despite its musical homage to Nuggets bands of the ’60s, this is not a song that could have been written before the 2010s, I don’t think.

I like how “Doing As I Do” puts out this bashy, proto-punk vibe with hardly any audible electric guitar. An acoustic rhythm guitar, not necessarily entirely tuned, drives the song’s fuzzy, lo-fi ambiance. Listen to how thin and squashed the drum sound is, totally lacking both three-dimensionality and tone, and as such all but perfect in this setting. Frontman Juan Wauters likewise is recorded in such a way as to emphasize his voice’s thinness, one might even say its whininess, except that that implies that it’s a bad thing, which it’s not. Like the acoustic guitar, he’s not precisely on tune at all times either, and this is also how it must be. Supporting everything is the song’s uncomplicated descending melody, which in my mind creates the image of those cube-shaped children’s blocks with letters on them. Foundational, playful, nostalgic.

The Beets are a quartet even though there tend to be three people in the group pictures. “Doing As I Do” is a song from the album Letting the Poison Out, the band’s third, and the first for Hardly Art Records. Some may find it interesting to know that Hardly Art is the smaller, nimbler sister label to indie powerhouse Sub Pop, founded in 2007 by Sub Pop founder Jonathan Poneman. Others may enjoy knowing that the album was recorded by Gary Olsen of The Ladybug Transistor, themselves featured here back in March. The fact that the band loves Howard Stern and MAD Magazine and Keds sneakers, well, everybody likes knowing that, right?

MP3 via Hardly Art.

Free and legal MP3: The Vaccines (catchy lo-fi goodness)

The Vaccines

“If You Wanna” – The Vaccines

Joy Division meets—somehow—the Ramones. Don’t ask, just listen, it works. This is not a “composition”‘; this is not complex; it’s muddy and lo-fi (the band says it’s a demo, actually) but the spirit is shiny and polished and yikes is it catchy in the best possible way. And can I take a moment to rant about how badly the word “catchy” is misused in the age of internet music writing? Something isn’t “catchy” just because the singer repeats himself over and over, or just because the tune is like a nursery rhyme. Just because something gets stuck in your head doesn’t mean it’s catchy; it could be irritating and do that too. Something is catchy if the melody is smart, reasonably short, and somewhat familiar-sounding. Of course it’s a fine line between familiar-sounding and same-old, same-old. Catchy songs usually walk that razor’s edge with flair.

Oh and let’s underline the “smart” part. Others may disagree, but here in Fingertipsland, being dumb or badly-written disqualifies a song from being catchy. (And I mean dumb dumb, not smart dumb, like the Ramones were.) To me, catchy is a glowing word, the sign of a pure pop song; I don’t debase the word by using it on dumb shit. So, okay, “If You Wanna”: brilliantly gloriously catchy. With noisy guitars. The chorus sounds like an old friend but there’s a twist in the air here. Maybe it has to do with how the rhythm shifts from the Raveonettes-like drive of the verse, with its equally distributed beat, to the backbeat-heavy chorus, with such a strong emphasis of the two and four beats that you feel blown halfway back to a far more innocent time than ours (“It’s got a backbeat/You can’t lose it…”). Note how this shift coincides with the audible innocence of the song’s narrator, who seems certain that all be well should his lost lover, who obviously left of her own accord, suddenly decides she made a mistake. He sings hopefully; you the listener know there’s no hope.

The Vaccines are a brand new band from the U.K.; I can find no specific information about them anywhere—they just joined Facebook last week, for crying out loud. Thanks muchly to the fine fellows at Said the Gramophone for the head’s up on this one. MP3 via the band, at Soundcloud.