Thursday, August 11, 2011

pinball demo

            I’m fairly thin on what I know about the band Pinball.  I saw them play the Rainbow Cave at least once, I’m sure I saw them a few more times but I’m not remembering the wheres and whens. 

            I liked em to the limited extent that I remember em.  I think Drew Livingood had this demo because I remember hearing it and liking it all those years ago.  They weren’t mind blowing but it was good to see the scene expanding to include different subsets of expression coming to the fore.  They were on the poppy end of things and that made em stick out from the furious, or at the very least desperate hardcore bands that were filling in the ranks in 93-95.  They looked super young and seemed to be learning as they went.  So it was poppy but sloppy.  Which had a charm.

            Those years were a rejuvenation for the next generation of Vegas bands who took the steering wheel and sent us even deeper into the desert.  Rainbow Cave as it was called (it was right off Rainbow Avenue) was the most popular desert spot for shows at that time.  

            I’ll explain again for the unfamiliar readers, y’see there were no all ages venues in Las Vegas back then.  So we’d set up a generator at these spots in the desert and have shows out in the middle of nowhere.   The sound was never super great but you couldn’t beat the atmosphere.  In retrospect I’d say it took real musicianship to play out in the sticks with just a generator, a shitty PA, and a few small lamps designating the “stage area.” Today there are legions of bands who get monitor mixes, Guitar Center, drink tickets, and … well, walls surrounding them.  It seems like it’s too easy to be in a band today.  Maybe that’s part of why there’s so many shitty bands out there today. 

            Later on the Pabco and Lossee road spots would become popular again but the Caves had more drama and more shit to fuck with plus it was even more dangerous than the other spots which gave it character.  It was on the West side which sucked but whatcha gonna do?  The cave also destroyed a lot of vehicles from people trying to make their way up to the entrance of the cave by taking the shorter jagged path east of the cave as opposed to going around the long way west of the big hill.  Never a smart move but every show someone would attempt it. Music aside I think watching people fuck up their cars was the real entertainment at the Rainbow Cave.

            The main thing I’m remembering from seeing Pinball at the cave was the gangly dude wearing a dress who stood up and started dancing halfway through their set.  He was obviously a part of their “gang” and was familiar with their music.  Maybe that’s the other thing that I’m remembering about them and that time period.  The disparate nature of the scene and really the uneven nature of all “punk scenes.” 

            I remember that “scene” of young bands from 94-97 being cozy and inviting especially compared to the horrible implosion of the hardcore scene years earlier due to nazi/anti-nazi violence that would make going to shows a gamble.  (Will I get knifed at the show tonight?)  I never saw any major fights during that window of Vegas history which was cool but the scene was far from united.  Thinking anything as ill defined and cumbersome as punk rock could induce unity of any stripe is the dream world utopian flip side to the satanic fantasy that Metal perpetuates.  As goofball as that metal mythology presents itself it to be it never strayed from it’s one dimensional roots and in fact perpetuated more unity among it’s audience than punk ever would. 

            I’m still working on my evaluation of punk and metal as social constructs so forgive me if I’m sounding goofy or smart aleclike.  I’m breaking this shit down too seriously because I still love the music and I enjoy the redundancy.  I’m also wondering if we can learn from our mistakes.  I know I’m sounding really insipid with these observations.  Making comparisons that are dated and maybe irrelevant today with the lines blurring and the true natures of both subjective genres coming in to question.   I can’t help it because I enjoy thinking about it.  I still like and respect the music and maybe you’ll agree they’re both maligned as true art forms.  But maybe the fact that they’re not seen as art is what’s made the music so valuable and meaningful?  Both types of these subterranean pop cultures never got caught up in artistic flights of fancy because most participants and fans never thought it was worth pondering.  So why not look even deeper and take all the magic away?

            As pop culture entities they are of the moment and now that moment is 20-30-40 years later.  I think it’s worth investigating and I don’t give a shit what you think.  I have to wonder if it’s still evolving.  Plus it’s hilarious to know there will be serious cultural studies about these scum bag modes of expression when we’re long gone and hardcore/punk/metal/etc. will finally be seen as art.  That’s if the society doesn’t collapse and we all revert to barbarians.  Maybe it will take a collapse before it will finally be seen as art?  That only makes sense.

            My point and academic boner here is in regards to the character flaw endemic to the nebulous “punk scene.”  And I guess it’s because as a more intellectual “movement” I tend to expect more from punk and therefore I’m more disappointed when it doesn’t pan out.  Metal never makes those claims and yet the polished nature of the musicianship brings another level of irony in that it has more gloss and ultimately more nuance to make it appear more artistic. 

            The punk scene propels itself forward as a collection of cliques.  Sometimes united sometimes fighting against itself.  And admittedly, against it’s better nature, it tends to be a collection of clichés.  It’s these cliques that are the strength and weakness of the genre.  It’s unstable and the best of it should always be changing and pushing forward therefore as an experiment, and as a potential powder keg, it can never have the bucks and perhaps the balls behind it that Metal does to make it more understandable to a mass audience.  Because of it’s low budget nature the underground is always something you find out about if you’re in the know.  As a result it’s got an elitist vibe built in to it’s very nature that for good or bad infuses the character.  Some of it is self conscious grand standing because the “punk band” can never be huge in the public eye.  As a result only the cool kids know about the bands.  It’s a self esteem device that makes punk seem a thousand times cooler than it really is/was.  The audience is a part of the underground and that’s where it festers/ages the “little secret” that is so valuable to the scene.  This elitism rears it’s head when the favorite “underground” band crosses the tipping point and is suddenly accepted outside the boundary of where the band first began.  Then you can hear “sellout” on the lips of the betrayed fan who were there when it first started.  Something you’d never hear from a Metal audience. 

            Metal has no sell out language in it’s vocabulary.  Because it has no pretentions about seeing the performers as anything but rock stars.  Whereas one of punk’s firmly held tenets, if such a thing really exists, is the concept of destroying the rock star by tearing down the wall of audience/performer.  Maybe punk even tries it’s hand at destroying rock and roll itself?  I can’t theorize too much on the agenda of punk rock.  It’s too broad in it’s scope.  And ultimately maybe it shouldn’t have too much of an agenda?  The big agenda eventually lead to fascism in the LVHC scene in the late 80’s.  Hardcore destroyed itself when it took itself too seriously.  I can’t speak to other scenes but I’m convinced nazism was a national obsession that eventually creamed the hopes that hardcore could mean much of anything outside being a goofy albeit violent and passionate explosion of creativity that left a  lot of casualties.  Um.  Yeah a trend.   

            And how is this relevant to us now?  Hardcore is history.  Metal somehow survives.  And I don’t want to breakdown metal into it’s divisions (hair bands/death/black/crossover)  and speak to them all.  The fact remains the metal audience has always been united.  For what?  Who gives a shit?  Beer.  Drugs.  Pussy.  Satan.  Basic stuff.  It’s not intellectual.  It’s not punk.  And that’s part of where punk can never find it’s unity.  It’s too wrapped up in details.  And too wrapped up in being cool while acting like it’s not acting cool. 

            And it’s the clique.  It’s the secret.  It’s the start of the hipsterization of all culture.  It started in punk.  And it makes the whole world cool.  And if I’m being honest with myself and my writing I have to share my own elitist feelings to deflate my ego a little and show just how punk I really am.  It pisses me the fuck off.  The self conscious tick of knowing that I was there.  And now everyone’s there.  It’s a part of the culture.  And perhaps there is no counterculture anymore?  It makes me wretch to say from my standpoint, being in my late 30’s watching the nobodies of the world get tattoos, wear their punk fuck t-shirts, piercing their fucking checks.  When I stood up and did that as a teenager I was threatened with physical violence.  The act of doing anything of that sort was a threat.  It’s too easy to be different now.  I was different before you were!  Petty?  Yep.  Spiteful to the next generation?  Check.  Convinced I know the truth and everyone else is full of shit?  Yeah Yeah.  I’m sounding conservative.  I’m sounding like I know it all.  Nothing is more pathetic than an aging hipster.  Believe it or not this analysis can get even more juvenile if I let myself go which is why I’m dropping it here.  And I wonder why these things can’t be taken seriously as art.  Not that I give two shits about art.  Or punk for that matter.  What’s worse than hating punk for not being able to change the world?  Going to a Metal show and hearing that racist, sexist, fucktard of a community try to have an actual conversation between bands.  Maybe it’s time to put all my hope back into hiphop?  Again.  

            What does all this have to do with Pinball.  Very little.  And I don’t mean to paint them with the “stuck up punker” brush.  I’m just using them as a springboard for another stagedive/nosedive into the abyss that is my ego.  What could be more punk or metal than that?  Plus it’s one of the only things I remember about them.  Hearing some elitist douche from my specific scene tell me how stuck up they were for not trying to get closer to his clique.  I can feel my PHD in Punk/Metal studies becoming a reality already.  And I ain’t paying a god damn thing for it you higher education motherfuckers! 

            I’m not trying to single out Pinball by any stretch.  I never talked to em so I don’t even know their story.  They played a few shows with the other bands and then they sauntered off retaining their own identity when I think about it.  Good for them.  But maybe bad for the rest of us because we didn’t get to see em play very often.  

            I started writing this crap weeks before I finally got the demo in the mail.  As mentioned they came across as sloppy/poppy.  Later on they got to be tighter and they later changed the name to the Grrr Meyows.  They weren’t as good as Pinball from my recollection.  But maybe I just thought that because we didn’t hang out?

            I saw Steely Dan play a few weeks ago and it got me to thinking a tiny bit about the audio fidelity of demos I’ve done so far.  The sound quality is mostly awful but I maintain it’s mostly because the source tapes are shitty cassette dubs that might’ve been listened to exclusively in a sun baked car stereo back in the day.  Sometimes those cars got wrecked.   So it sounds like shit.  But what kind of shit?  I took the mids out a tiny bit and beefed up the highs and lows in the mix.  It’s still lo-fi crap.  Which makes it sound pretty great for what it is.  The beginning of the tape has the first few songs starting out way overblown and then immediately compressed.  It’s awful.  Or awfully good.  Depends on your aesthetics fucko.

            What is it?  Sugary sweet candy of a sleazy variety.  Sleazy insomuch that they're sounding really bubblegum but talking about gettin some in almost every song which I totally respect.  That backdrop of sleez is surrounded by innocence that's pretty hard to resist.  The first song is about playing Pacman at the Chuck E Cheese and that's just adorable.  It's not the standard pop punk crap that was vomited all over the late 90's "punk" style nor is it powerpop.  I'll stick with my gut reaction and call it sleazy bubblegum pop for lack of more telling adjectives or more divisive genre classifications.

       I love the simplicity of the whole thing though.  Lot’s of naïve songs that come off simple, direct, and it might make you want to masterbate.  There’s catchy pop moments and some influences might seem apparent.  I hear the Misfits a tad but maybe that’s just me?  It's inventive and rough.  But yeah it doesn't stray far from what you've heard before.  Maybe that makes it even more valuable?  I’m pleased to see none of the songs goes much over the one minute mark.  Which makes this a keeper.  Not something I’ll listen to forever but you might go for it.  Still I think I’ll be listening to Eric B and Rakim tonight after this. 

            Special thanks to the cute girl who sent this to me in the mail.  She wishes to remain anonymous.

Download this pinball demo below