Daddy’s Dead on the Lawn

I’m suddenly unable to listen to alt-country. This is a real problem, because although I don’t miss Wilco, for example, I do miss liking Uncle Tupelo. I just can’t stand it right now. And forget new stuff. Maybe the Sadies, but they’re stumbling lately, and maybe Neko Case, but I think she’s left alt-country for something else, torch songs, or something. Not entirely cabaret, but Nick Cave/Leonard Cohen songwriting genre.

I think what I’ve started to dislike is the slickness of alt-country, the too-practiced sound of say, Ryan Adams, or worse, Wilco, who sounds like they must make a Grand Statement with every record (although adding Nels Cline is a right move in the right direction). This kind of music isn’t an alternative to anything. It’s adult contemporary. Johnny Dowd is spooky enough but I can’t dance to it, and Gillian Welch seems to have forgotten how to make a good record.

Which means I’m going to have to go back. Not to Creedence, God forbid, but to when punk discovered country. And it’s always good to seek out the genre founders when the genre goes haywire. Therfore I hope someone out there is making music that has the fear, the darkness, and the adventure of the Gun Club. Before he succumbed to the needle, the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce was seen as a nut and innovator for dunking his punk in a tub of country blues. He made mistakes, left his songs with the sound of something barely held together, his wavering yodel above raw guitars, drum kit with cymbals crashing, slide or steel guitar stunning for its very presence. Their 1981 debut, Fire of Love, contains some great songs, and is a fantastic album on its own; “My Dreams” from 1984’s Las Vegas Story ranks up there with my desert island songs, and ’87’s Mother Juno has its moments, but I prefer 1982’s Miami, their second, which contains this:

The Gun Club – Texas Serenade

Pierce makes interesting solo albums after the Gun Club disintegrates for good following Mother Juno, and then later dies of an overdose, completely unsung. Fuck the world sometimes, you know?

And that makes me think of the other early eighties alt-country masterpiece, Meat Puppets II, not just an alt-country triumph, but one of the best records of the eighties, hands down, not a loser track on it. Rumor has it they recorded the entire thing on acid, which doesn’t make them mavericks of any kind; just makes it a better alt country album than most. Neophytes will recognize that Cobain covered a few MP II songs on Nirvana’s live MTV thing album or whatever it was. Brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood are on equal weirdo-maniac status as Pierce, Cris with all sorts of drug and legal problems in the mid nineties, and then doing ’03-’05 in prison after a fight with a security guard at a post office that led to him being shot in the leg. There’s talk of a reunion this year. I won’t be there.

Meat Puppets II is all you’ll ever need, with respect to deep MP fans listening to a few other albums that aren’t all that bad; they’re just too much like the horrid horrid Grateful De–I can’t even write it – for my taste. But check this track if you’ve never had your Meat Puppet cherry busted. Absolutely batshit.

Meat Puppets – Split Myself in Two

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6 thoughts on “Daddy’s Dead on the Lawn

  1. On the quiter end, Jesse Sykes is worth a listen. And I liked The Great Unknowns record, even if it does rip Lucinda William off in kind of a large way.

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  2. Great track! Really. But don’t diss Up on the Sun. Stunning in a very different way. Alt coutry you say. Yes, Tupelo was the best. But, a few more:Ricahrd Buckner (Devotion n Doubt and Since)Whiskeytown – Strangers AlmanacRyan Adams – HeartbreakerLucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadWilco – AMREM – yup, sure, Life’s Rich Pageant for sure.and honorable mention, early Mazzy Star.

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  3. You might like Green on Red if you are diggin the Gun Club. And by the way, go back and give the first Dream Syndicate album another spin, let that bop around in your skull for a minute or two. All are on the same page.

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  4. Ah X. Look at my post from MAy 11. You can donwload their ‘Adult Books”. I think they were a little more punk-americana, or even rockabilly (Billy Zoom’s own resume is enough), than alt country progenitor, despite Doe’s later pretensions. But yeah. New World is wonderful.Never liked Dream Syndicate, might not be able to explain why. Never saw why they were so highly rated. Some nice guitar playing, but Wynn needed a singer. Never would associate them with Meat Puppets or Gun Club, though. Not in the same league. Glad someone mentioned Jesse Sykes. She’s got promise and weirdness on her side. Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams, to me, are/were all that’s wrong with alt country. When I listen to Adams, all I hear is ‘Life is a highway” on VH1. Buckner makes me mad becuase his records, aside from Devotion and Doubt, which I love, have two good songs and a handful of dead ends. Lucinda Williams bores the shit out of me. I feel like she and Mary Chapin Carpenter are the same woman, like Michael and LaToya. Love Wilco’s AM. Best album they’ve made. And you know, I apologize for forgetting Lifes Rich Paegent. Probably one of my Desert Island Five. They never topped it. It wasn’t exactly a pioneering alt-country record, since others had been doing it for a while when it came out in ’87, but there it is. You cold even call all of their records, up to that one, as alt-country, since the Byrds were a huge influence, and they just might be the grandaddies of al-country, with Neil Young as Godfather.

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  5. Hmmm, it would seem that alt country just isn’t the powerhouse we all had hoped for! Funny though, when I was just in Iowa, I saw a couple of bands play that were kind of jug band blue grass with punk rock kids playing their daddy’s guitar. Very very good stuff. But, not recorded. Oh alt country, I just can’t quit you.

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