Everett True

Song of the day – 477: The Maxines

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The Maxines

I feel like taking a leaf out of Scott Creney’s righteous manual of How to Fuck With Your Audience here.

I mean, why struggle with words trying to describe such a beautiful basic raw-assed garage sound, when others have already done it so well for me.

For example:

The Maxines are cave dwellers from outer space, the guitar drum shout that just won’t evolve right. A can of paint won’t fix them, broken bottles won’t stop them, Frank Sinatra is sitting up in his grave.

The Maxines record release party last Saturday night a rave-up mess! By the time they hit the stage I was ready to go home but then they started in with their primitive grind and all subtlety was lost (not like it ever had a chance in that steam bath). They didn’t play long, just long enough for everyone to re-evaluate rock’n’roll from the inside out and decide it was still heavy breathing.

Both of the above quotes come courtesy of Mr Calvin Johnson, as quoted in Ms Tobi Vail‘s excellent review of a Maxines record release party in Olympia WA a few months back. As Tobi herself put it:

These days whenever anyone is in a garage duo people think of The White Stripes, but despite their beefy guitar sound, The Maxines make me think more of early love rock bands like Some Velvet Sidewalk or Kicking Giant. Like Beat Happening, both groups challenged the idea that a band had to have a bass player, which at the time really pissed people off. People were mad Mecca Normal didn’t have a drummer too. I don’t think it started out as a political move, but the idea that friends could play a show without following the rules was incredibly radical at the time. The funny thing is, I think that in all these cases the bands were just people who happened to make music together as a way to hang out and have a musical conversation. Why add a bass player when it sounded good already? Although it’s been years since this changed, watching The Maxines I was reminded of the love rock aesthetic – the band seems to be based in genuine friendship – to add another person would dilute the intimacy that comes across in their songs. They were also quieter than most garage rock bands, giving them more of an indie vibe. I am a sucker for male/female vocal interplay and they excel at that.

Yep, that about nails it. Love rock. No one really understands what that phrase means outside of a couple of friends from the Pacific Northwest circa the time of the first International Pop Underground Convention (1991, Olympia) (it’s the one that directly presaged the first wave of Riot Grrrl) – and yes, I’m particularly looking Rich Jensen and Al Larsen‘s way right now – but this nails it. Bands rooted in genuine friendship, with a great minimal garage sound. Inventive, disruptive, tied only by the understanding that the more basic you keep it the more freedom you have. In every respect.

Here, have a listen.

Wisely, the most excellent music writer Erika Meyer, didn’t attempt to replicate Tobi’s words, and took an entirely different tack in her live review of The Maxines and The Shivas last week (the blog entry that inspired this Song of the Day), displaying lyrical finesse:

I was drinking my whiskey, The Maxines started playing
They laid down a sound that I found engaging
With songs that recall expressionist painting
not in the mood, but economy of color
with every tone bold and stark composition
making each simple song so fierce and exciting
drums that mean business and guitar groove inviting

It’s a hard thing to get hipsters dancing.

So. You know. As Scott has already pointed out, sometimes words by themselves stand alone. And that’s fine by me. If all you want to do is enjoy Tobi and Erika and Calvin’s fine descriptive powers that’s great. But if you want to take them in conjunction with the music … Peel alive, you’re in for a treat!

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