Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Divining Water Pt I

In the spirit of Jack Pribek's Friday Night Cage Match/Fondue Party/Evolving Conversation/Dancing About Architecture, I'm starting my own comparison bit, Divining Water. As Jack said at the beginning of his bit: "The first in a series designed to foster discussion. Comments, opinions, answers may be based on any criteria whatsoever. No opinion is off limits."

Yesterday I refilled my MP3 player, preparing for a trip to the gym I never made. I switched off my previous long-and/or-instrumental playlist, moving to a distillation of my music in the early 1990s. Nothing's Shocking, Ritual de lo Habitual, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. So, I leave it to all seven of you who read this blog, to compare and contrast, to condone or condemn. Two bands enter, one band leaves.....

Camper Van Beethoven vs Jane's Addiction

13 comments:

MooPig_Wisdom said...

Just today catching up with you, Mr Sans... but I will have to look up and discover... and query my teenagers... will get right back...

I need a 1990's upgrade. Seems I missed the whole decade!

[funny one: loaded up the MP3 for gym, didn't make it to gym]

Dave Jacoby said...

CvB and JA are pretty much 1980s creatures that lasted somewhat into the 1990s.

CvB broke up and split into Cracker (the singer), which became pop successful, and Monks of Doom (the rest of the band) which went over like a cement glider. They're now back together, touring more or less as Cracker Van Beethoven.

JA broke up, becoming Porno for Pyros. Guitarist Dave Navarro has become the Steve Morse of the alt-rock scene, holding the Hillel Slovak chair of the Red Hot Chili Peppers after the likes of Joh Frusciante and Blackbird McKnight, as Steve holds the Ritchie Blackmore chair in Deep Purple after the likes of Tommy Bolin and Joe Satriani.

I can get into more, but that seems enough for now.

MooPig_Wisdom said...

Thanks Sans, I had no idea those connections existed.. I did a little cheerleading over at the other blog.. hope you don't mind... but this is a good opportunity for some extra learning... at least for me that is.

Dave Jacoby said...

Absolutely not a problem.

I was all prepared to post my take after reading what other people say, but was totally unprepared for the universal "Wha-huh?"

Patrick said...

My vote is on CvB, because I just went to get a sideways haircut.

Dave Jacoby said...

And not the gnarly thrash boots or the Vespa scooter?

Where is Bill, anyway?

Patrick said...

My theory is that Bill was the one who finally took the skinheads bowling.

Dave Jacoby said...

Better than giving acid to cowboys and staying in motels.

Pribek said...

OK first off-I can't think of anything more fun than "giving acid to cowboys and staying in motels", that's my idea of a swell time. Second off-in the interest of disclosure, not only was I not a fan of either band when they were happening, I made it a point to ignore them because of the general ilk of the people who were saying "you need to hear these guys" to me at the time, which is not a slam at the fans in general just, the people that I was around.
So, sadly, I must base my opinion on, of all things, pop culture that occurred after the respective heydays which I was somehow unable to ignore.
As much as Cracker made me wretch (Monks of Doom sounds good though), that dude that married Mrs. Rodman did that knock off American Idol show and there is no possible redemption.

Dave Jacoby said...

So that's neither?

Kenski said...

CVB simply because of their iconography... plus I like Vespas, so...

Dave Jacoby said...

Here's my take, but first, let's establish some references.

There was a "history of rock" series which published a book to go along with their n hour-long shows. I think this was a PBS thing, but it never got the cache of Ken Burns' Jazz or even the Scorcese-produced Blues series. Still, it had it's points. The book had a chapter that covered the growth of the electric guitar as soloist instrument and squealing noisemaker from T-Bone Walker through Hendrix and the MC5 to Sonic Youth, calling it "The Church of the Sonic Guitar".

At about the time these bands were popular, there was a local-to-Minnesota band called Boiled In Lead. My description of them went as follows: Most folk-rock bands get their folk from the Byrds and their rock from the Byrds. These guys get their folk from obscure field recordings from Scotland and Africa and their rock from the Yardbirds.

Now that I've got that out of the way.....

In the 1980s, there was a thing called "college rock". It rubbed shoulders with punk, but it wasn't punk. REM is the cornerstone of this in the US. I don't think Peter Buck got a growl out of his Rickenbacker until after they got off IRS records, instead being strummy and jangly. There was little to none of the Church of the Sonic Guitar here, and the vocals ranged from unintelligible like Stipe's to Campers, which are more obscure at times, but certainly range toward the novelty song. For one album, they specifically wrote a novelty song, tracing a line through the then-current hipster trends, called "Where The Hell Is Bill?" Was Bill getting a sideways haircut and being New Wave? Was Bill driving his Vespa to go mod-ska dancing? Was he slam dancing at a Circle Jerks show? Who knew? But it was another, less direct and more surreal novelty song, "Take The Skinheads Bowling", that broke out. I can say that everybody I talked to about music between the years 1988 and 1992 knew "Take The Skinhead Bowling".

Camper Van Beethoven is a band that takes it's folk, if you accept it as such, from the Klezmorim and the Specials, and it's rock from ... I haven't really dialed that one in. Somewhere between REM and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Which is to say they're rock, but they don't really rock, you know? This is the kind of thing that 120 Minutes, the Sunday night video show on MTV, was made to show.

I have to say that they had the ability to rock. Their first major label album, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, has some great rockers like "Eye of Fatima Pt 1" and "Turquoise Jewelry", songs I have never stopped loving. But they were always more converted-theater rock rather than stadium rock.

First time I heard of Jane's Addiction, it was on MTV News. They had a story about the rise of Led Zep-influenced bands, showing Kingdom Come and JA. Don't recall Kingdom Come? Well, just think of Yngwie Malmsteen in his leather pants and a puffy shirt, standing in a castle-like set with candles all around, then make it five band members instead of one. That's Kingdom Come. It's trying to redo "Battle of Evermore" and "Stairway" in 1988. It's lame. Jane wasn't like that. If I was to drastically stereotype Jane's Addiction, I'd say they were arty goth white rastas. But that doesn't say the most fundamental thing you need to know about Jane's.

Dave Navarro played an Ibanez RG plugged into a Marshall. Half-stack the times I saw 'em, but Marshalls. They worshipped in the Church of the Sonic Guitar. They rocked. At the time, I was beginning my long-time Led Zep fast, so I intentionally blocked out the comparison MTV made, thinking it was stupid, but now I can see it more. They got their not-folk from James Brown's horns, from Bootsy Collins' bass and Nile Rodger's guitar, from Lee "Scratch" Perry's dub and Bob Marley's groove, from Queen's rawness in "We Will Rock You", from REM at times and the Velvets at others, but fundamentally, they were rock in the big stadium Led-Zep way. I've noted that a lot of what grunge became was heavy metal guitarists like Jerry Cantrell leaving behind hair metal and starting bands with more Michael Stipe-like singers. They could do absolutely lovely heartwrenching things like "Jane Says" and "I Would For You", then hit the big Bonham-meets-tribal "Chip Away" or the massive riff-rock of "Ocean Size".

I kinda blame/credit Guns and Roses for breaking things up. They were hitting an Aerosmith-meets-the-Germs-at-Nellcôte thing, more approachable than the the shredders and more groove-oriented than the thrashers. They seemed to say that you could mix things up a lot more and it'd work, which is what Jane's did, what Living Colour did (they were black and didn't sing about girls as objects, which is really what distinguished them from hair metal to me) and so many followed. College rock followed Jane's Addiction and became Alternative Rock, hitting the stadium with Perry Farrel's Lollapalooza tour, which was the first time Henry Rollins ever played in daylight.

The question of Camper vs Jane's is the question whether it's nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous cliques or to go to the big stadium and celebrate your alienation with the same people who beat you up in high school. This dilemma is what killed Kurt Cobain.

Me, I'd love to go to see a CvB show, but I don't think I'd see JA again.

Pribek said...

“So that's neither?”
Oh no, no, no...CVB Baby!
I can’t condone a world where it makes sense to from ROCK STAR to game show host.

In your next life... you can be either Keith Richards or....Wink Martindale.
What’s worse is the big grand prize for said game show was the gig replacing the guy in INXS; the only known ROCK STAR to die of asphyxiation due to complications that arose while petting his Iguana. No thanks, I’ll take the parting gifts Wink Navarro.