Conan Neutron’s best of 2013 | Hey, look: I like the rock music!

After what was largely a year of crippling self doubt and lack of enthusiasm in regards to writing anything, I managed to complete a list of some of my favorite records for the year 2013.

It was easy, it was a great year for music. I encourage everybody to check out this list I did for 2013′s best records on Collapse Board:

Hey, look: I like the rock music. I get it, a lot of you don’t. You like this sort of “indie rock” that sounds like background music to designing your new recombobulating widget. I get it. I do. But let’s suspend disbelief and say that you want to get beyond the nonsense.

Let’s say that you even don’t feel it’s necessary to have an opinion on Miley Cyrus or Beyonce. Let’s say the idea of talking about Kanye West or Vampire Weekend makes you sick. LET’S SUSPEND DISBELIEF HERE AND SAY THAT… MAYBE.. JUST MAYBE… THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN THE ARCADE FUCKING FIRE.

WELL THEN! Come on over and sit a spell and let me break down what I liked about this year in no particular order:

The Rutabega – Brother The Lights Don’t Work

Look, I called this one and I called it early. You are welcome. Exhibit A To quote myself: “This is some music folks. Turn off that tepid fourth generation Crosby, Stills And Nash crap and turn on THIS.

Look: here’s the problem, earnestness has been hijacked by utter idiots and fools, wastoids and shameless marketeers. That isn’t the fault of sincerity; it’s just a systemic problem. The Rutabega singlehandedly states the case for sincerity itself in such a clear and cogent way the only reaction is to softly smile, bob your head a little bit and give into the tidal wave of sad, simple, beauty that issues forth.”

Way to go past me! I agree with you. Now, check out this band, they are worth your time and will pay you dividends.

Federation X – We Do What We Must

Federation X has been around 16 years. SIXTEEN YEARS! Granted they were semi broken up/on hiatus for some of those years, but it’s worth mentioning that albums like American Folk Horror and X-Patriot are two of the finest records of the 00s. Just remarkable music. tribal, driven and relentless. Informed from classic rock, but owing almost nothing to it. I’d be lying to you if I said We Do What We Must is anything less than one of the finest rock albums of the entire year, the Deaf Nephews production (Toshi Kasai and Dale Crover of the Melvins) is so incredible, and so brilliantly encapsulates what they do it’s like hearing them for the first time. That said: I adore their back catalog. Much like Patrick Bateman, I celebrate it… but if you were only to listen to We Do What We Must you would be pretty stoked. It had a quiet release, but if it’s a competition? It kicks the hell out of most other records out there. Get into it, because this is some special stuff. Cool? Cool.

Oh yeah, ‘Anna Mist’ and ‘So Tired’ rank among the best songs in this band’s kickass timespan. Most bands can’t even say that about their second record. This is their fourth… do yourself a favor and check it out ok?

The Night Marchers – Allez! Allez!

It is almost possible to speak of The Night Marchers without the cult/culture of John Reis being involved. Which is a shame, since they are a hell ass rock band of their own. Yes, yes. 3/4 of this band was Hot Snakes which were one of the most fantastic rock/punk bands of the last 14 years or so. But don’t let the resume be all that you think of with this very, very sharp rock’n’roll band. There is homage to Greg Sage and The Wipers, there is common cause with the members other bands… but Allez! Allez! is a pretty great little rock record. ‘All Hits’ is exactly the kind of braggadocio I wish more rock music had (with the skills to back it up, ‘Pain’ and ’2 Guitars Sing’ show some interesting experimentation and vulnerability that I really love. It’s good man. And I would tell people that this record kicked ass even if the one guy had never been in the one thing. It’s just damn good rock’n’roll. Is that the kind of thing you are into? Well, are you?

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

What? What? A record that might have some overlap to some other lists out there? Well, for good reason. QOTSA have consistently been making interesting mainstream rock music heavily informed by the genres of the underground for some time. A lot of people hated on Era Vulgaris, their last outing. Those people are wrong, but either way… this is a much different affair, vulnerable and open. Almost David Bowie like in some ways (but far better than Bowie’s “totally ok” The Next Day) this is a QOTSA that isn’t quite going for the throat but is using everything in it’s arsenal to make a hell of a record. I think it’s a damn shame that most people have already made their decision on this band as to whether they like or not, because they are probably the most creative and interesting band operating in the mainstream right now. A record about tribulation, actually near loss of life and feeling alone in a crowded room. You have my attention Josh Homme and company. And this is a far better record than most people in the underground will give credit to it. Sorry about that.

Marnie Stern – The Chronicles Of Marnia

Oh Marnie! Marnie, Marnie, Marnie… how you make me smile. I love how you take the frantic punk prog thing and marry it to your interesting songs. What would be a lot of “saw you up there… rockin’!” technique in lesser hands is solid gold for you. I came in way too late to fly the flag for your last record, the S/T one. Sorry! But damn if this isn’t a hot album too. Nothing is easy? Ain’t it the truth. I like that you can really hear your vocals on this one. They are really great. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise either! Look man: This has a specialized audience, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope there was a whole generation of little girl shredders coming up writing some cool ass songs like this. Frantic, sexy, cool. Probably the best album title of the year too. Go for the gold Marnie. Win “Marnie” Win.

This Neutron is solidly on board.

Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident

The fourth record by this incredible adventurous and interesting post-punk, pseudo-noise rock act can be a challenging listen to some. Full disclosure, I am not into the first song very much at all and some of it leaves me flat. That said: Can we just celebrate a band that fucking GOES FOR IT for a minute? Why the fuck does every band need to be the Ramones? Constantly remaking that first record or recreating past glories. No stone unturned with these ones, BURN THE PAST FOR FUEL. and what you end up with is some of the best music you will hear this year. ‘Singing Of The Bonesaws’ and ‘How To Spot A Record Company’, smart as hell and mean in a very fresh and unique way. Visconti-isms and all. Future Of The Left is not a perfect band, but they’re brilliant as hell… they do things full force and they deserve a damn sight more respect than they get. As a catalog band they may be one of the best live acts going right now too. In a slightly more fair world they would be given the credence and respect of those half trick ponies Daft Punk or something and we’d all be sitting pretty with our solar panels and social justice. But… crap, we’re totally in this world aren’t we? Well, so are Future Of The Left, so let’s observe and laugh together.

The Thermals – Desperate Ground

The Thermals, in a total business time aspect. Down and dirty, sharp and concise. In some ways it feels like they don’t get as much credit as they should. They write very catchy and immediate songs that doesn’t cling embarrassingly to trends. Long may they run. This record is good. Do you need more? Hell of a band, great record. Get into it. Cool? Cool!

Obits – Bed & Bugs

Ahhh… Obits! The sensible adult punk rockers at the party. On this Bed & Bugs affair you finally get out of the Nuggets camp and the “punk rock Yardbirds” territory and move into some weird, cool territory that just sounds like you. I can’t lie, Rick Froberg’s alluring alley cat whine is a huge appeal to this band, but one cannot short-sell drummer Alexis Fleisig (Girls Against Boys) energy and ideas that take this very interesting band in another direction. I can’t like, watching guitarist Sohrab Habibion rip it up live is one of my favorite things, he’s like the CPA that can can shred hard but still do your taxes on time. And Greg Simpson just delivers the rock bass like he was born to do it. It’s a crack A-Team of critical thinking rock ‘n roll badasses in this piece. This stuff sounds way younger than it has any right too, and to be clear: I mean that as a compliment. I like rock music and I like Obits. Relevancy doesn’t cease at 30, and Obits are a clear case study for some smart and wildly creative. I hope to be smiling and shaking my head at their audacity as they blow my mind years from now. Because I think they can.

Roomrunner – Ideal Cities

Well! Well… well… well! Baltimore huh. Interesting. Ok, so these cats take everything I loved about In Utero era Nirvana and mix it with golden era KARP. This is heavy, hooky rock. They get the Nirvana thing a lot, so much so that I almost didn’t mention it…. I guess it’s “a thing”. but it’s a good starting point and nothing to bum about. They’re just a little more unhinged and wild.What is there to say? This record gets me pumped. That’s a good thing. It’s on my list isn’t it? Oh yeah, there are parts that remind me of the more immediate and meaner bits of Brainiac. In a good way. I loved Brainiac. I dig Roomrunner too. This band isn’t “Nirvana, I get it”. but they worth checking out. Get into it boppers.

Bottomless Pit – Shade Perennial

Look man: this opening song, ‘Fleece’? This might be one of the best Bottomless Pit songs and that’s saying a lot. Did you know Silkworm? You should have.. maybe you saw the excellent documentary. Or remembered them the first time? Well This is the band that grew out of the tragedy that was that band. It is beautiful, they do amazing things and it can almost be considered a master class in guitar as well. Look man: I ain’t a part of this cult, but I know good music when I hear it… it’s also great to hear a band that takes New Order as an influence and doesn’t sound like a seventh generation synthoid rip off. This record sneaks up on you, like… you think it’s going to pick your pocket or give you a punch, but it just put it’s hand on your shoulder and hands you a beer instead. Fascinating band. Thoughtful and wonderful.

EPs:

Thoughts Detecting Machines – Forget

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the EP from the incredible Rick Valentin of Poster Children under his TDM alias. Going Home is probably one of my favorite songs of the year. Check out the interactive video, Damn!

The whole EP rules. Inspiring and vital.

SEMINARS – Human Kid EP

Downstrokes, Chowdy, Easy Cuz it Is

Nonagon – The Last Hydronaut

Meaner and a little darker than their last ones, there are few bands that do what they do as well as Nonagon. What is there to say? If you ever loved bands like fugazi, Jawbox or Mission of Burma, this band is your new favorite thing and your new best friends. I don’t know what to tell you, it’s F’ing great. They also did an incredible PJ Harvey cover this year. Wotta band!

their label

Honorable mentions: Mudhoney – Vanishing Point (damn fine!). Waxeater – Baltimore Record (concept record about the Wire!), Minutes – Roland, the Bismarck – Wild Prairie Rose, Man…or Astro-man? – Defcon 54321, The Book-Burners – People’s Songs, Like Like The The The Death – Cave Jenny, The Cell Phones – Get You Alone, Risk/Reward – II: The Deuce, The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (bold, but purposefully obtuse…), Sebadoh – Defend Yourself, Porch – Walking Boss, The Paver – Trust

NOT on the list
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away. More like: Push the zzzzzs away, amirite? Love you so much Nick and co. but this one was a bummer compared to the last two. Still on your side, though.
Dude, I love you… but Grinderman ruled, and DIG, LAZARUS!!! DIG!!! was so killer… this one put me to sleep. I know you can keep it vital, get it at would you.

Victory and Associates – Better Luck Next Life

I am part of a rock band, we just released out second record. I put my heart and soul into it, as did my fellow bandmates. There are some people who seem to think it’s worth listening to. If that kind of thing interests you, check it out here:

You Can’t Stop The Signal

Hi folks, i’m doing a podcast with my very good friends/bandmates called You Can’t Stop The Signal. You can download it on mp3 at the links before or subscribe at the iTunes store.

Click that link there or just search for “You Can’t Stop The Signal” in the itunes store.

There’s music, mirth and misery. There’s a lot of tom foolery and quips, but some in depth coverage on things as well. We interview musicians we like and generally put on the kind of podcast we would like to listen to.

If that kind of thing interests you, please check it out!

Thanks!

Neutron Voting Guide 2012

Living in non-swing state California makes for a boring disconnected election decided mostly by people far away. But there’s an upside! You also get to vote on a bunch of dumb propositions every year. So let’s slap on a fake smile and deconstruct this shall we?

President: Obama.
Don’t talk to me about the lesser of two evils. Seriously, just don’t. I don’t believe the guy is evil.
Sorry everybody didn’t get their unicorn and decided to pick up their ball and go home. That isn’t a tacit endorsement of drone bombing or Guantanamo, or the rest of his policies. He’s my president and I’d like to see him finish the job. It’d be great if we lived in an ivory tower wonderland where Jill Stein could be president (despite a foreign policy that doesn’t go much beyond “wage peace” ) We don’t. This isn’t mayor of the bay area here. It is a binary decision for the most part. Mitt “the Smiler” Romney could actually win this, and if you think things suck now… Vote for anybody you want, just remember if it’s Romney, I will find you and punch you. People interested in party building or send a message, go ahead and vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or (*vomit*) Rosanne Barr. You just had better make DAMN sure to vote on propositions and your local measures too or you are an ass.

Senate: NO VOTE
*gasp* I have never voted for Dianne Feinstein and I never will. She’s pro-corporate, all about PIPA and basically a snake. I am horribly disappointed that she has no progressive challenger. I briefly considered running myself just to remind people that there are choices. Obviously I did not, but my assumption is that SOMEBODY who is better would. I guess we know what assuming does. Screw Diane Feinstein. She is awful. I cannot and will not endorse her. I’m sure she will win handily. I truly hope this is her last election.

Oakland At Large City Council: Rebecca Kaplan
Keeping it local here. Rebecca Kaplan is one of the finest public servants Oakland has ever seen. Ignacio De La Fuente one of the sleaziest and the worst. Ignacio is challenging Rebecca for Oakland At-Large city council, a citywide position. Ostensibly this is to better prepare him to run for mayor. He SUCKS. This is, put simply: The Empire vs. The Rebel Alliance. Machine politics at their worst vs. pragmatic progressivism. De La Fuente isn’t fit to be elected dogcatcher, he is a liar, corrupt and generally awful. AW-FUL. Rebecca should have been elected mayor, but she’s still in a powerful position to help the city of Oakland. A city I love very much and that needs it. She deserves to be re-elected. That’s it. I run into an alarming amount of people that aren’t even aware she’s being challenged. She is, and it’s a for serious challenge. Please vote for Rebecca Kaplan if you are an Oakland voter. Ignacio De La Fuente is awful, plain and simple, Rebecca Kaplan is wonderful.

(There are other local races, but those are the important ones to me and I do tend to ramble!)
Now the important stuff, the abject failure of the direct democracy system yet again rears its ugly head as a bevy of mostly worthless/dangerous propositions are presented to a jaded, disengaged and very angry electorate. Why do we have a bicameral legislature? SEARCH ME!

Propositions:
Proposition 30: YES.
Raises income taxes on top 2% for schools and vital services, quarter cent sales tax.
We love not paying for things in California! Schools are boned right now, I mean really boned. Sales tax is regressive, which I don’t care for. And I think the top 2% spend a lot of money NOT paying their taxes for the most part. But what the hell dude? State is broke. Sure could use those billions Enron defrauded California for ten years ago now, eh? Raise it. ¼ cent over 4 years is worth it.

Proposition 31: NO
Ham-fisted attempt at reform that kind of bones Environmental laws and puts all kind of weird spending caps on things. Nah brah.

Proposition 32: HELL NO!
Do you think corporations should have more power on elections? Do you think Super PACs are the best idea ever? Than this is the prop. for you! If, however… you are a sane human being vote H-E-L-L no on this. If you are Karl Rove, vote yes. This might be the worst thing on the ballot and that is saying a lot.

Proposition 33: NO!
This same stupid Mercury insurance initiative that was on the ballot in 2008. This thing is harder to kill than Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th! Insurance companies can raise rates on you. Period. That’s what this does. Even if the gap in coverage you have is because you do not own a car. Lame. Vote this business down. I’m sure we’ll be doing so again in four years.

Proposition 34:YES, YES, YES
Eliminate the death penalty. The death penalty is backwards and barbaric. Period. This is the first thing worth voting *FOR* on the ballot for me. It’s important. Only if you think our judicial system has never made a mistake should you vote no on this. If you are against abortion you absolutely have no reason not to, unless you are a hypocrite. Vote yes on this, please. It also requires killers to work while in prison and directs their earnings to their victims, but really… let’s just stop executing people.

Proposition 35: NO
This is the human trafficking prop. That doesn’t mean I’m for human trafficking, but I think this proposition kind of sucks. It’s borderline unconstitutional, poorly written and could catch a lot of people up in the system that don’t deserve to be. That is a drag. It seems reasonable at first glance, I’d say vote no on it. And since this is one of those issues like protecting child molester’s rights that everybody makes snap decisions on I think it could actually pass… and would be another tool to get people caught in the system that maybe aren’t involved in trafficking at all.

Proposition 36: YES
Reforming the three strikes law to impose life only when the felony is serious or violent. Considering how often “three strikes” has put away drug offenders, this should be on the mind of every voter. This law was passed to keep murderers and rapists locked up. Not non-violent offenders. We need to stop locking people up as the solution for everything.

Proposition 37: YES, YES, YES!
This is mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. This would be the first law of it’s kind in the nation requiring CLEAR labels of when foods are genetically modified. This needs to happen. Lots of misinformation flying around about this. It doesn’t raise food costs or taxes, there’s a lot of scaremongering by Monsanto, DuPont, Kraft and a bunch of other big corporate types are against it. Screw them; we have a right to know. This is an awesome, awesome thing to vote FOR. Don’t get caught up in any scaremongering… this will be huge if it passes.

Proposition 38: NO
Income tax increase to support public education. I think this needs to happen, but I think this prop isn’t the way to do it. This money goes to a way unaccountable state bureaucracy and more importantly it can’t be changed for TWELVE years. Including instances of fraud and waste. This is a big ol’ 2% jump in taxes for anybody making over $8000 a year too that kind of sucks. Schools need to be funded, but I don’t think this is the answer… I think prop 30 is better.

Proposition 39: YES
Green jobs tax on multi state businesses. Closes a corporate tax loophole that has corporations getting off the hook for years. Dedicates $550 million annually for five years for energy efficiency and energy related jobs. Gotta say yes on this one. We’ve got to do this kind of stuff, and even corporations must pay their fair share.

Proposition 40: YES
Referendum on the State Senate redistricting plan. Remember that state senate redistricting plan that I was against a couple years ago? It passed and the map was created, it just needs to be implemented. The Republicans aren’t for it anymore because it wasn’t in time for the 2012 elections. Which I guess leads some credence to the “it’s a partisan” thing. Whatever… we paid for the maps, let’s use ‘em. Let the congress critters gnash their teeth.

So there you go, that’s how I voted. I don’t expect everybody to do the same, but I do try to do as much research as possible before I make a decision. Over the years people have said that they like seeing how I vote on things as a way to help them make a decision themselves. Hence the guide. Please: don’t forget to vote. It’s a privilege and a duty and if you don’t… well, the jerks usually do, let’s not let the jerks win this time.

Music is too important to be relegated to the background – Conan Neutron’s Best of 2011 in Music

Music is far too important to be relegated to the background. And while many “Best of” or “Top 10” lists are full of background music for background people, I reject that wholesale. We live in a world overburdened and surrounded by tawdry flacks and cheap howling sideshow men yelping for your attention at every level. All demanding that they and ONLY they have found the NEXT.BIG.THING. Finding a filter for this isn’t just a nice thing, it’s nearly a requirement.

In any case, it’s a world gone topsy turvy when certain other sites of “music writing”, never to be confused with actual music criticism, FAMOUS for being a closed system are suddenly soliciting a reader’s poll. What do you think, is this progress?

In any case, just because something is popular means that it is good, it just means that it is popular. However, certain powerful forces that have dominated the majority of the music world have been awash in pushing forward a certain branded identity. Whether they admit it or not, there is culpability and an aesthetic that favors the Starbucks variety of sensitivity and vaguely inoffensive background melody and music. So therefore, let us all give thanks that there is a place on the Internet that you can read and INTERACT with actual music criticism. A place where people who truly LOVE music will both tell you when they see miserable failure, but can present to you what they love. Sometimes in an easy list form.

2011 was an incredible year for music and here are some of the things that made it even more incredible for me, as a fan of rock music in no particular order

Look at the list here.

Lou Reed and Metallica – “A cavalcade of indulgence and half-formed ideas. Why wasn’t anybody around to tell them ‘NO’”

Regular readers of my work (hahahahah!) know that I always prefer to represent something I love, rather than bag on something I hate. That said, sometimes something so odious, so indulgent, so absolutely TERRIBLE comes around that you just have to come down off the mountain and give it what for. That is what I did for Lulu the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration. And lo! What a stinky turd on the coffee table it is folks.

I direct and all interested parties to check out the piece I wrote
Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu (Son Of Kurtz)

on the incredibly prestigious Collapse Board. Pretty much one of the only sites that has true music criticism on the internet, run by the cantankerous but lovable Everett True. How the likes of yours truly got involved with such a renowned establishment is a seriously interesting story in and of itself, but i’d be remiss if I didn’t say that this review speaks for itself. Please check it out and consider sharing it on the appropriate shareable social networking sites.

Shorthand review: This is the indulgent sound of the angst of millionaires.

V&A tour – “The secret to success is just as simple as this, you just hang tough and have fun with it.”

I’m about to go on tour. You probably don’t know me, you probably don’t know my band. We’re not famous, hell we’re not even quasi famous. But that’s ok, it’s still once more into the breech and it’s still totally worth it.

I’ve done this a lot. If you count all three of my bands, it’s been 11 years now. Hundreds of shows playing to hundreds of people and to nearly nobody, almost certainly more of the latter than the former. And here I come for more with my 3 brothers from another mother, 3 monsters of rock so rad I still get a little surprised I was able to talk them into associating with me. We’re storming the northwest and getting in the van like thousands of bands before us. Still, it’s not so bad. For 20 or so days out of the year I get to be this guy:

Do not ask this man to fix your computer, he is too busy assailing you with the full force of "the power of rock".

instead of this guy:

Much like the DMV, I was not aware we were taking pictures that day, not my finest hour!

Not bad at all.

Yet, after a certain point careening against the brick wall stops being a laudable expression of perseverance, and more of a sign of mental illness. As my peers and friends settle into domestic living, bearing and raising children. Advancing in their careers. I’m somewhere in between, I live, breathe and exude rock, but I have a day job and “career” that pays me a living wage. I’m luckier than most, compared to many other folks who play music I have it soft. Honestly, if not for some a few costly bad calls in my personal history and some bad happenstance (including a lengthy and costly stint of unemployment) I’d actually probably be comfortable. I don’t think you have to give up music to do “real life”, but it can be difficult sometimes.

The only time I was even reasonably striking distance for getting out to the musical “next level of success” or whatever. I fucked up, pushed way too hard, too fast and I ended up hurting some people that didn’t deserve it and breaking the whole thing apart. That sucks, and it’s something that I have to live with every day. I’ve tried to take ownership of that without letting it rule me completely, all of the also ran, near miss and “almost got him” stories in the world doesn’t amount to much but the appearance of pettiness if you aren’t careful. It’s humbling to start over. Yes, humbling.

This was the best image I got from a random google search for "humble", that is a humble looking egg there.

To most people I do not appear like a very humble kind of guy, but believe me, I’ve taken some punches and taken some kicks. I have been knocked down off my high horse and trampled by it too. I just refuse to wallow in it and tend to answer pain and failure with more action. Because of that I can sometimes come off like some domineering runaway id, or like an Asperger’s stricken raving lunatic. I promise you that is not the case. If you prick me, I bleed. Sometimes clarity of purpose is easily mistaken for pomposity and irritation at overexposure can give way to outright annoyance. I’m not a an easy guy to be around sometimes, even those closest to me will say so. Nonetheless, I do try to bring the Awexome.

Hence, Victory and Associates. And our record These Things are Facts… which tend to be almost relentlessly positive and earnest (even when it’s being smart assed) because: That’s what I need to hear right now myself and what we think the world needs to hear. It’s a about finding what you love in life and doing it and loving it as hard as you can. Which is what we try to do. We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’ve improved as a band, as players. And I think what we’re doing is worthwhile, some other people agree. Obviously, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of leaving your comfortable home to try and bring that out into the world. And even so, there’s always the thought, “I’m wasting my time, I’m wasting my life” But then you realize that it’s a fine line between idiocy and awexomeness, and you get ok with it. And it makes a difference, whether you’re making music for 3 people or 3,000. A changed or bettered life is a changed or bettered life. Plain and simple. Even if there are 53452912878972342 crappy bands with no purpose, direction, function or competing for the space and attention as yours, I still believe music makes a difference. Hell, I know it does.

I’m always astounded by famous people that talk about the hassles and hardships of the road, people that earn a living from it and still complain. “Oh, you’re just jealous”. You’re god damn right I am. They don’t have to save money to tour, they don’t need to worry if anybody will show up. They maybe have to deal with the strain it puts on their relationships, but also: Fuck them. Anybody in the upper class of music should strongly considering shutting the hell up, a minimum wage janitor that busts his ass 10 hours a night on the swing shift doesn’t think you should be complaining and neither do I. Being able to present your art to a willing audience and be paid from it is such an incredible thing. Breaking even is usually the best that a band at our level can hope for. To be honest though, these huge bands are a whole lot of not my thing anyway. It’s not my oeuvre. I’m comfortable where I am at: You probably don’t know me, you probably don’t know my band. But if you listen to our album or see a show we play, you just might love it. Maybe not too, and that’s fine. It’s not for everybody. But it does matter. Just because it isn’t known by everybody doesn’t mean it holds less merit, just that it’s known by less people. We’ve been fooled to equate fame with value, and it’s good to be able to to divorce those from each other.

For me, the way the world has changed touring has become more like strike team missions than entrenched campaigns. This tour consists of three shows in 2 states, hardly a tour at all to some of the road warriors I am peers and friends with, but they are shows with great bands. Some of my favorite bands actually, Police Teeth, Virgin Islands, X’s For I’s, great bands that aren’t famous…. but are really good, and it’s going to push us to play as hard as we can and be the best that we can be. And we’ll sell a few records or cds, a few t-shirts, spend an obscene amount of money on gas, have some laughs and do something that matters(tm). Even if it’s just too a few people. I’m going to heave up my soul, take every frustration born of politics, the world, injustice, aggravation at my own personal shortcomings and foibles, mix it with all of the joy, love, idealism and downright elation the world can bring and do my thing as hard as I can. With three other guys that completely bring it, it will look something like this:

Victory and Associates

Victory and Associates - bringin' it. Pic by Shannon Corr

It’s such a rarified treat. So few people ever get to make music at all, and those that do, don’t always form bands. Those bands may never record, or release a record, or have people like it. And the ability to tour at all is an even greater level. It’s not something to be taken for granted. I truly try not to. Or as I said in the song lyrics on the ratty piece of paper I just cleaned out of the tour van:

“So here’s a kiss for the last ones picked, who soldier on no matter who gets it.
Why would you do something if you can’t profit?
Why waste your time on something so foolish?
The secret to success is just as simple as this, you just hang tough and have fun with it.
So waste our time on something so foolish?
Well if you have to ask, you’ll never… know.”

So here we go.
My name is: Conan Neutron
My band is: Victory and Associates
There are others stories, but this one’s ours.

http://www.thesethingsarefacts.com

Victory and Associates - These Things are Facts Tour poster by Adam T. Davis

Hurry Up, Dicks – A treatise on one of the best bands you’ve probably never heard: Hurry Up Shotgun on the day of their cd release.

Hurry Up Shotgun release their second album tonight, 10/7/2011. It’s self-titled. The show is at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco. If you had any sense, you’d be there. Actually you should be there even if you don’t have any sense. Because it is a great album and they are a great band.

There are so few bands I know out there that truly grow. Sure they’ll try new things, maybe change, but actual growth as a band is somewhat rare. One of them is Oakland’s Hurry Up Shotgun. One of the very, very few bands that I’ve personally witness getting consistently more vital, better, and growing in stature, skill and presence over the years. It’s worth paying attention to, and I don’t say that lightly as I have played on bills with them for years. Mostly in my bands and for 4 or 5 shows, *IN* their band. A fleeting moment that still confuses the bite size friendship of the Internet age even now.

I’m rarely a sideman in other people’s bands, mostly because most people never ask, probably because they’re afraid I’ll take over the operation and instigate some level of order to their soft-bellied Tom Foolery. Something that could be a concern, considering my reputation for Control Enthusiasm.

“I

I think you should play it again, but try to suck less this time. Also, when are we loading in? Is there anybody at the helm of this ship? Hello?!

I said yes.
After all this was Hurry Up Shotgun. One of the few bands from the SF Bay area I can truly say that I love that is doing something vital and fantastic. At some point I was asked to fill in for departing guitarist Will Funner. It’d be more of a question of shoring up the awesome bits, giving it my heart and soul and just being along for the ride with a band I truly love full of people that I truly love. No problem. So I did that. Part of that was being the Chuck Dukowski and putting it together, partly just driving them, partly bringing the aforementioned thrang, and part of that ended up being the bullshit detector that I have a somewhat deserved reputation for.

“Austin, I love you, and I love what you do, but please turn that god damned amp down. Yes, right now. No, I am not kidding. Yes, it is too loud.”

AUSTIN! TURN YOUR DING DANG AMP DOWN, EVERYBODY IS LEAVING!

AUSTIN! TURN YOUR DING DANG AMP DOWN, EVERYBODY IS LEAVING!

So I did that tour, and I had a blast doing it, playing Austin’s songs and rocking with all of those guys. There was faltering on their part before hand, and I think they’d be the first ones to admit it. It was a band without a solid foundation anymore that could go either way. I daresay that I brought a bit of fun and sweat and clank to the proceedings that served the songs well. Doing dual backup vocals with Craig and such. It felt good. And more over, it worked because the songs and the band were really good. And you know what? It made me really miss playing guitar, and that’s another story. But this one is theirs, so let’s stay on task, shall we?

After I left and went back to my passion and my band. They decided to stay a three piece, a choice that surprised me at first. But something had changed; they had become a stronger more purposeful unit. I match makered them with Toshi Kasai from Big Business. Producer of the Melvins, Helmet and a ton of other stuff, and a fellow traveller of limiting pointless shenanigans and general silly flippant non-productive behavior. It was a George Martin/Beatles style collaboration/pairing and they made a fantastic record.
Do yourself a favor; push the “play” button now as you read this:

just do it, turn off the Pandora… mute turntable.fm, Pause your Rdio or Mog. Come back to that episode of Marc Maron’s podcast or This American Life later.
Go on, I’ll wait.

Do you think I am fucking around?
I am not fucking around.
Hit play on that button please.

Ok, cool.
So this record is great, one of the best of 2011, which is saying a lot because it’s been a great year for records. It’s the crazy thing where it’s an awesome record, but it’s kind of hard to sum up to. It used to be easy: Hot Snakes + Husker Du. Check please. Not so much this record. There’s crazy vocal harmony stuff that I really didn’t think Austin was capable of. No dis to him, it’s just a quantum leap forward. It’s melodically more mature, a terrible word, but sure, mature. I guess I should have known when rock impresario, drummer and photographer extraordinaire Shannon Corr was actually rendered relatively speechless at trying to describe it before I heard. The only person less likely to be at a loss of words is myself.

As it said in the V and A world: Shit is legit.

So yeah, blown away.

Austin, Craig and Adam, you did something wonderful.

DISCLOSURE TIME:
Ok, not only have I been a peer, friend, fan, and hired gun of and for these dudes for a long time. I guess you could say that I’m their “label guy” We have a sort of loose non-monetary affiliation. I help them along with things that they are not so hot at, most of which involves me being a persistent force of advocacy for awesome things. As much as I loathe it, a lot of the thankless grunt work comes a little easier for me than some. I’ll tell you this: you can call it a label if I get some resources. Until then it’s a collective of piss, vinegar, adrenaline, force of will and a dogged determination to bring the awesome as hard as we can. With a cool logo.

Because music should hit you like a Seismic Wave

Because music should hit you like a Seismic Wave

So if you are the kind of person that will immediately dismiss a passionate testimonial because of a loose professional affiliation. Click on. I’m sure there’s plenty of other middling hackery out there trying to pass itself off as journalism out there that is waiting for that click through. Otherwise… just deal with it, because none of that is as important as the fact that they made a remarkable record. I mean REMARKABLE. As in, I listen to it all the time and play it for other people constantly.

Sure, there are great tunes like Paths and Watermelon Sugar. Stuff I’ve heard them play for forever, and could play along with if I thought about for a second. But there’s also stuff like Little Pieces that sounds a bit like The Police (sans bullshit and tantric sex), Gravity, which is just fucking epic, and Girl From CA… Which is… well… remarkable.

“after all the fires burn out
this will keep you warm and sound
after all the fires burn out the clouds will clear up and we’ll see STARS….”

God. Damn.
If you took the time to listen to the song, than you know what I’m talking about. Otherwise, don’t bother to look me in the eye.
That’s the kind of song that makes non-music people stop what they are doing and go “hey cool!”, and also the kind of song that makes us rock and roll lifer types go. “Hmmm… Let’s pay attention to this, even if it’s just to dissect why this is awesome and learn from it.”

It’s a good record dudes and dudettes. And I’m not the kind of “professional liker” that loves everything. Far from it. I don’t advocate as passionately as I used to because I got sick of being ignored. It’s a character weakness on my part, but I’m not as well suited to the facetwittumblrplus world as some. For one thing, brevity is not my strong suit.

I’m going to say this, you should listen and consider purchasing to their record, and I mean… REALLY listen. Digital files, cds if that is your jam, or… wait for the deluxe limited edition vinyl. It is worth your damn time and you will be better for it, and you are supporting one of the best bands you’ve never heard.

So congratulations Hurry Up Shotgun, you and your cumbersome nonsensical name have made an excellent record that will resonate for some time to come with any luck. I still think “Slow Down, Samurai” is a better title, but hey… serious record and serious art present. It’s a mission statement. And moreover, you 3 meatballs did alright with this one, and if people have a lick of sense they might actually pay attention.

THE TORCHES ARE LIT! THE TORCHES ARE LIT!

* Neutron

V&A THESE THINGS ARE FACTS PAC NW TOUR 2011!!!


“She said it’d happen when pigs fly, I shouldn’t have been surprised that she shot me down even after they did.”

Oh man! Are you kidding me?
THis is one for the record books.
X’s For I‘s? JR Worship? POLICE TEETH? VIRGIN ISLANDS?!!!?!
Damn right you are jealous.
Damn right you want to see these shows.
Epic rock is going to ensue pals, this I promise.
THESE THINGS ARE FACTS!

Victory and Associates – Rock band, not a law firm

Great piece in the SF Weekly about our record release show.

Google the phrase “Victory and Associates,” and you’ll find at least three exact matches: a professional recruitment firm in Dallas, a marketing and public relations outfit in Tampa, and a fiery rock ‘n’ roll band from the Bay Area.
The band comes up first — but even if it didn’t, the fact that this bunch of irreverent punk-inclined rockers managed to coin a moniker so perfectly satiric that it is actually the name of square businesses elsewhere is pretty impressive.

That kind of sly irreverence is exactly what we’d expect from Victory and Associates, an outfit that matches anthemic rock with punk energy and sharp-tongued critiques of materialism, narrow-mindedness, and other unfortunate but common traits of American life in 2011. This formula is employed with great proficiency on These Things Are Facts, a new album whose release the band will celebrate tonight at S.F.’s Brick and Mortar Music Hall.

Guitars and drums drive Victory’s music relentlessly forward with the ferocity of post-hardcore, but its songs are tempered with a pop-punk band’s ear for melodies. Lead vocalist Conan Neutron has a muscular shout that lands somewhere between boisterous and empathetic, introspective and ready to pounce, depending on the song. And unlike a lot of punk-leaning rock records, most of the songs on These Things Are Facts actually sound different from each other. Opener “Get Tough, Get Through It” is motivational fist-pumper; “You Can’t Eat Prestige” is a snarling, sarcastic taunt; and later on in the album, “Not Returning” meditates on leaving behind a constrictive hometown before exploding in the choruses. The only song that really falls flat on the album is downtrodden closer “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope,” whose lyrics carry a bit too many cliches.

Still, through most of these 11 songs, sheer speed and sharp dynamic changes — along with potent singalong hooks — keep the momentum contentious and fun. These Things Are Facts is a smart, energetic listen — punk rock at the heart, but not too serious to throw down a soaring chorus or flashy guitar solo once in a while. It’s good enough to make us wonder if maybe that band name isn’t satiric after all.