Douglas Martin has finally returned from an exclusive summit, where he drank limited-edition microbrews with Waldo, Carmen Sandiego, Machiavelli, and the members of Eat Skull. He is happy to be back.
In spite of my absence from the music writing world for the past couple of months in favor of occupying myself with mental restoration and the return of both Community and Mad Men, I’ve been keeping tabs on what’s been going on. And I’m slightly disappointed.
Of course, there have been some really good things put out within the past couple of months, but I’ve also been disappointed by the critical establishment’s big-upping of slightly blander sophomore efforts from decent bands, rather than scouring the underground to dig up new, exciting stuff. Or maybe I just feel this way because the void left by the lack of Douglas Martin Music being covered is something I’m entirely responsible for. There are great things on the horizon for loud and/or weird guitar music (with no fewer than three year-end-list-caliber efforts on deck from the man born Tim Presley), but before we get to them, there is a band I’ve been waiting over three months to tell you about.
A while back, I intercepted an email from Jeff about a band. If I were the type of person who actually slept, you could say I woke up to it. A two-piece from Jeff’s native Los Angeles, called Spaceships, he wrote in all-caps: “PLATONIC IDEAL DOUGLAS MARTIN MUSIC.” That’s the kind of thing that will get my attention at 2:30 in the afternoon. I took one listen to “inTheSun” and was naturally addicted: It’s loud, hooky, poorly recorded (obviously in a semi-purposeful way) and vaguely amateurish. It was perfect for those of us who wanted to like Colleen Green but ultimately found her to be a store-brand, lo-cal Best Coast alternative. On “inTheSun,“ Spaceships frontwoman Jessie Waite sings her lines like Times New Viking’s Beth Murphy from the band’s Siltbreeze-era, perfectly nailing the attitude of the best lo-fi, expressly because the best lo-fi couldn’t be less concerned with perfectly nailing the notes.
In the six songs on their extensively replayable self-titled EP, Waite and co-conspirator Kevin LaRose go a long way to capture the greatness of 90’s lo-fi without brazenly imitating the decade’s marquee indie acts. (Because honestly, where would Yuck be if Yo La Tengo had never murdered the classics?) They play with Clinton-era indie, garage, and even grunge with a true punk’s sense of irreverence, exceedingly competent at getting the sound and feeling right, but also defiantly infusing their own personality.
EP centerpiece “Ride Out There” begins as a dirge-like ode to mid-90’s Olympia but crests with a blistering punk coda, highlighting their attention to songwriting detail. EP closer (and highlight) “God Song” is as close as bedroom garage generally comes to a sprawling epic, with blaring guitar lines making way for the blast of chords in the chorus and an emotional climax that’s as cathartic as it is addictive. Waite is also a deceptively intriguing lyricist, with the few lines she has not buried underneath a patina of fuzz detailing the cognitive dissonance (“Crazy”) and the lack of co-dependency (“Painz”) in relationships. The general complaint against this style of music is “AHH CAN’T HEAR THE VOCALS,” but when bands usually clean them up, a lot of them don’t have much interesting to say. If Spaceships ever get to a point where pushing their vocals higher (and cleaner) in the mix would interest them, it’s safe to say Waite’s lyrics point to why this would be a good idea.
If you’ll allow me to be meta for a few seconds, I was thinking about the concept of Douglas Martin Music (a term, to be entirely fair and to make me not look like an egomaniac, was not something I made up) while listening to Spaceships the other day. I thought about how there’s a certain type of group that I’m always certain to write about and ultimately champion. This is evidenced by the lack of, well, anything written about Spaceships. But to be fair, they’re not some wholesale lo-fi band that I’m writing about just to provide content. As you can tell by the relative inactivity of Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes in 2012, I don’t do filler posts. I write about loud bands that deserve to be heard, which is what Spaceships are, and which I suppose is the entire basis of Douglas Martin Music in the first place.