Lately I’ve been overwhelmed by music. There is simply too much and it has paralyzed me. I’ve not had the patience to listen to songs all the way through, because there’s so many more to get to. It’s hard to explain, but it has had me restless and unnerved for no particular reason. Oftentimes people who are aware of my inclination towards music fanaticism will ask me how I learn about new music. I learn of things the same way most people do, via word of mouth, from live shows, exposure from the internet, radio, TV, movies, etc, but mainly just by paying attention. I make the extra effort to remember when and where I first heard a really cool song and take the time to track down who performs it. Having said this, it becomes clear to me that oddly enough most of the music I’ve run across over all of these years has come from reading. When I was a teenager, music discovery came from the big magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin. I voraciously absorbed all of the music history and references and read every article and review no matter what. If I knew I liked a band, I would take note of who they were linked to, or compared to, and so on. Little by little by tastes both expanded and refined simultaneously and with it my need for resources expanded. While I was a weekly audience member of MTV’s 120 Minutes back in the 80s, and especially a fan of SNUB, which aired sporadically on USA late at night on weekends, and a consumer of the meek radio options locally (via cable from the bigger cities of Portland and Eugene from the Willamette Valley) such as Q105’s “New Music Hour” (Portland), and more importantly Sheldon High School’s (Eugene) public radio madness at KRVM, I was still discovering more from the written word and buying new music sound unheard. The UK weeklies such as NME, Melody Maker, and my big favorite, Lime Lizard, all became sources for new music news and exposure leading one of my high school English teachers (“The Barn”) to refer to me as an “Anglophile.” Though he was right, it was about that time that I discovered the American noises from the underground via Maximum Rock-n-Roll and local papers such as the much missed Snipehunt and Paperback Jukebox. Once I reached college, I moved onto the all-encompassing CMJ Weekly, a college radio trade magazine that included maybe a hundred record reviews to brand new releases every single week and came with a CD compilation of 16-20 new songs every month. But it was when I ran into the epic twice yearly MEGAzine the Big Takeover (go to bigtakeover.com and watch the “create or else” video and then subscribe!) that my music horizons exploded! In 1991, I had purchased a nice little CD by a New York band named Springhouse based on a positive review in the CMJ Weekly, as usual sound unheard, and I sent a self-addressed stamped envelope to the band’s mailing address on the sleeve for a copy of the lyrics. A few weeks later that envelope was returned filled with typed lyrics for the album that by then had become a favorite, along with a handwritten letter from the band’s drummer Jack Rabid, who also creates this magazine. The advert he included had a photocopy of the cover of his latest issue, which included the Pale Saints and the names of several other favorites splashed in print across it. I sent away for a four issue subscription. That was 21 years ago and I am still renewing every couple of years. For at least 15 of those years, it has been the biggest source for me for discovering new music and what I track down. Even though the ease of discovering new music on my own has become so much simpler in recent times, every issue still offers up at least 4-5 new artists that become a part of my world. Their CDs find a home on my player, I attend their shows when they visit town, and I look forward to what will come next. However, it was early this summer, while scouring through the last section of the newest issue when I started to feel pressure build up in my temples and a touch a panic set in. I was pouring through the hundreds upon hundreds of unique reviews by Mr. Rabid and several of his contributors of new music and I realized that at most I will be able to hear about 2% of this music. Since I have read this magazine for so long, I have gotten to know the tastes of many of these writers and I trust most of them, so it hit me that I simply cannot handle all of this! I looked over at my shelving that holds my CDs, and the boxes stacked all over my floor containing my records and lost my breath knowing that if I started listening to every single one of them once each starting now that I may not live long enough to get through them all. What the hell was I doing?!
It was then that I started looking closer at all of the album titles that have been shelved and often for too long in favor of whatever has come after. This is the dilemma of I struggle to straddle inside every so often. I am always in search of that new song and/or album to stamp its place on this time and become tied forever in the future as the soundtrack of the now. I have never wanted to become stagnant with my love of music. For years I have argued against people my age and older who claim that there’s “no good music anymore.” Well, damn it; there is great music every year! One simply has to make the effort to find it. I’ve never liked the idea of still listening to the pop hits from the 80s – the era I came of age in - on the flashback stations and what not. Don’t get me wrong, I have a fondness for much of that stuff because of their individual impacts on me positive and sometimes even negative. It disturbs me that those formats rarely venture out of the one to two hits per band realm. For example, I always loved Big Country, but can they ever play any song of theirs other than “In a Big Country”? Yes, it was their big signature hit in 1983, but it wasn’t their only hit and it is nowhere near their best song from a career of eight solid to great albums. And from there, why not play some selections and expose the masses to Stuart Adamson’s pre-Big Country post-punk outfit The Skids, because I am sure at least a few unknowing fans would be excited to learn about that? New music doesn’t always have to be actual newly recorded music, but discoveries from the past that can be revelatory and exciting – such as when I discovered the Skids way after the fact. Then I realized that most people could care less. So, I contemplate my own situation as someone who has a need to consume these details and histories with an endless hunger and my situation becomes distressing. It is impossible to hear all of the new music that I know I’d love and there are so many amazing songs and albums that I have ‘shelved’ for too long that I need to re-expose myself to. Thus the minor music panic attack. How could it be that I’ve gone over a year without listening to any albums by the Big Takeover favorite The Chameleons, or that crackling first LP by The Rifles No Love Lost, how long has it been since I’ve played that? Come to think of it, how many of these greats have been off the rotation for too long? After reading the latest issue of the Big Takeover I realize that so many of these came from Jack’s recommendation: The Long Blondes, Adorable, Compulsion, Leatherface, The Joy Formidable, Maximo Park, exlovers, Whipping Boy, oh and the amazing and completely overlooked Australian 1990s band Glide (this list could go on forever, but I’ve already written beyond my intended introduction by about a page).
Big Takeover #42
Glide was a multi-textured guitar band that survived for 9 years in obscurity, especially here in the US. They had one poorly distributed US release, 1996’s Disappear Here, which seemed to reach our shores sometime in 1998. It was that summer’s Big Takeover issue 42 - #3 pick in Jack’s Top 40 and here are some of his words at the time that inspired me to seek this out:
“Mixing in a nice breadth of styles that nod toward the Buffalo Tom/Man Sized Action/early Soul Asylum/late Husker Du thick, streamlined hum without the distortion (this is a cleaner, intentionally focused wall of guitar), the sounds of Disappear Here snare you from first play with their dynamite sonics (can’t stress this too much), and then holds the listeners hostage thereafter with the sheer talent, scope, variety, and well thought-out dynamics on display.”
Jack is speaking specifically of band-leader William Arthur’s brilliant guitar work, but his words ring true for the entire sound of the album. With an endorsement like this, I could not resist. I tracked down a copy via mail order from the label itself and was stunned upon first listen. Firstly, the production from Wayne Connolly is immaculate. He had done masterful work with my other Australian favorites Underground Lovers during the early 90s and this clearly continued his magic touch by wringing out the best balance of sound, where the dynamics of the complex arrangements reveal themselves naturally and each instrument is given a chance to shine.
The opening song, “You Were More Than a Trick to Me, Ray,” is a tour de force as it builds up with an acoustic intro before exploding into a messy waltz that drops us right into the middle of some serious turmoil. It’s a scrambled scene that winds up incredible tension right off the bat, before switching to a more straight forward 4/4 pounder that pays off with the ending repeated refrain of “I like that side of you” – giving us a breath of fresh air and the sense that there may be a positive ending to the drama within.
Much of this album feels like it is tackling the notion of imbalance within relationships from both sides of the coin. The second song, “What Do I Know?” tackles this topic with its opening lines: “You give me protection I don’t need / Too many connections I don’t see” atop a gliding and catchy as hell guitar hook that practically sings William Arthur’s chorus for him. This theme arguably appears in a few songs throughout. The first slow down on track three gives us this conflict within an imbalanced relationship, where it takes too much effort to maintain the original spark, and the effort to continue the charade finally peters out. The big and painful chorus gives us “I wonder why / You’re cracked and dry / You feel you need a worn out lie / See you flicker a worn down smile.” “Tangled” jumps right back in with the feeling from the opposite perspective of the need to end a relationship, but still feeling trapped by it. Again, the chorus has an incredible pay off both lyrically and musically as the “All I really want is peace and quiet / You batter me and leave me sore and tired” presents his feelings clearly despite “flipping like a fish gasping for breath tangled up in your net.” The inner turmoil is palpable, because it’s not easy to give up on something that one already has when there’s no guarantee of a better future. These emotions continue on yet another upbeat strummed shiny piece of musical genius on “Here She Comes” (“Arms around me tight / I’m tied too tight”). Finally, on the penultimate song, “Ripped and Stripped,” we get the redemptive payoff from the frustration with the most straight ahead rocker which gives us a clean break and ends the floundering coupling (“You never knew me / Now you’re nothing to me / and I’m not your slave”).
The brilliance of Arthur’s lyrics is that they are vague enough that one can punch their own experiences right into them. Everything I said above could easily be taken in another interpretation. The beautiful ballad, “Wrapped in Fingers,” for example, was a powerful song for me personally, as I once had a major crush use chorus’s repeated question “Would you ever hurt me?” on me out of the blue (story can be found here at Lose Your Illusion). The song took on a whole new dimension for me and breaks my heart every time I hear it. Initially, however, I interpreted the song as the lyrical offspring of Sugar’s nasty and murderous “A Good Idea.” Either way, the music is powerful and the soaring chorus lifts the listener up to the stratosphere each and every time.
The saddest part about Glide’s story is that while working on the follow-up to this album in 1999 (and an early EP collection: Shrink Wrapped Real Thing), William Arthur reportedly overdosed and passed away. This tragic and senseless passing robbed the world of this fantastic songwriter – a story that happens far too often and has become cliché in the world of rock-n-roll. In this case, the artist was never given a chance to find the kind of wide audience his talent deserved. There are three songs on Disappear Here that fully display his incredible talent and showcase not only the inner battle inside of him, but his ability to convey it like no one else can. There’s the previously mentioned stunner, “You Were More Than a Trick to Me, Ray,” the centerpiece, “Surfaced Euphoric” with its dragging introduction and take a breath chorus, before it plunges head first into the deep water of a dramatic dive of wild abandon. The lyrics close with “I’ve blown away every chance I’ve known / That was it – the only song I know” and indicate incredible effort and desperation. The third standout, among an album of stunners, is the closing track “Cradlesong.” This song gives us layers upon discordant layers of Arthur’s amazing guitar work on top of a shambling mess of a beat (the rhythm section of Jason Kingshott on drums and Andy Kelly on bass are excellent throughout – worth much more than this minor mention) wonderfully capturing the mess that he has portrayed throughout the album. The dramatics of the song lead into a slow peeling away of density and sound as the song marches its way to the inevitable conclusion (“Leave me with a chill when you waste a tear / Open my eyes now, blue and clear / Unclench my hands and disappear, here”) and carry us to a conclusion that leaves us with both a finality and a lingering curiosity of what might happen next. It is simply spectacular. This album never grows old and sounds as good today as it did when I first played it 14 years ago.
Hearing this album again after far too long puts my mind at ease. It makes me realize that no matter how overwhelmed I can get sometimes by the sheer amount of music to be heard in the world, I can always take heart in the fact that what I have already run across will find a way to endlessly amaze and empower me. Besides, over all of these years, due to the scarcity of Glide’s product on the market, I have always been paired with just this one fine example of their music. Tracking down their many singles, EPs, and two other albums has depended on an international money order to Australia sent to their manager and some seriously expensive prices, which has kept me at bay. However, recently, these songs have been made available via download at very reasonable rates, which I have taken advantage of. After so long, it is amazing to hear more music from a band that I have held in such high regard for so long. Please take my advice and find out for yourself. Check out their website for more information and for sound samples at glidetheband.com.