Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Death of Samantha - If Memory Serves Us Well

I love bands from Ohio.  I mean, I live here and I like to be a part of my local community, and I kind of consider the whole state my community.  I think a lot of us here are like that.  We're definitely Homers.  I mean, our sports talk stations ignore national stuff, even big stuff like the World Series or NBA Finals for the most part, so that we can analyze whatever the most crushing needs of The Browns are in the upcoming draft, or why The Indians should just break down and buy that one big bat.  If the World Series is The Yankees and Dodgers, we'll mention it, but always quickly change it to whatever is going on locally.

I love that about Cleveland.

I like sports, but music is definitely my passion.  I love Rock N' Roll.  I love guitars.  I'd have been bored out of my skull if I had been born into a world where there were no distorted guitars.  But I got lucky, and I'm here now, and I live in a city where there's always been some flat out great bands.  Yeah, you've never heard of them, but the bands in Ohio are as good as any bands from anywhere, if you ask me.

So I've had the recent Death of Samantha retrospective album for a little while now, and I've only got one of their ep's so this has been a welcome addition.  These guys were all over in the second half of the 80's around here.  They were really popular on the live circuit, but WMMS was in a tailspin around then and too busy with their heads up Michael Jackson's ass to bother blowing away N.E. Ohio with Death of Samantha.  WCSB played them, and that was good enough for me.  Hell, back then I was really mostly into The Stones, so I didn't care if 'MMS played anything other than The Stones, because I could listen to the new music I liked on college radio.  Those were pretty great days, even though I was really broke with a young family.

So Death of Samantha probably left a bigger footprint than most of you are aware of.  Doug Gillard is pretty well known for playing in Cobra Verde and Guided By Voices, along with John Petkovic (who writes for The Plain Dealer these days).  One of the things I never liked hearing about a lot of Cleveland bands is how they're some kind of avant garde Art Rock.  This happens a lot.  Their live shows were spectacles, but there's a lot of bands in Cleveland and you need to set yourself apart somehow.  Having a great show to go with your great songs doesn't make you Art Rock.  I just don't like that label.  It makes me think all the people in the audience are beatniks or some other beret wearing hipster doofus type of crowd.  Cleveland crowds respond to passion and we drink beer and liquor.  Turn it up and bring some fun and we're on board.  We don't have to call it anything but Rock N' Roll, okay?

I don't know if anyone reading this (I have a worldwide range, but it's only like six people, I think) will know any of the songs I'm going to mention, but it gives you something to check out on Youtube then, doesn't it?  So what's this record all about?  It's Death of Samantha getting together in 2011 to rehearse for some reunion shows.  This record is a recording of the rehearsal sessions, so these are new performances of old songs.  But they're live, so it gives a nice immediacy to everything.  There's plenty of crunchy guitars, David James on bass and Steve-O on drums are a really solid backbone and Gillard's guitars are fantastic.  Petkovic's lead vocal range is as limited as ever, but he knows what he can get away with, and he stays far, far away from where he doesn't belong.  What more could one ask from a Rock N' Roll band?

The songs here are all top notch.  I shoulda went to this show, cuz they were on the money, man!  We kick off with Coca-Cola and Licorice, complete with some clarinet strangling, and plenty of weird guitar playing.  It's a great song, and only one of many on this two record set.  I don't want to just start listing great songs, because you can just look up the track listing on AllMusic or something.  Savior City, Geisha Girl, Amphetamine - in a just and decent world these would be songs everyone knows.  They're certainly good enough.  It's a real bummer that we live in a world where Rosenberg Summer and Yellow Fever aren't talked about at least as much as what The Pixies have done.  don't think I'm all down on The Pixies or something, because I like them a lot.  If Memory Serves Us Well is just certainly as good as any albums they ever made.

The biggest omission the world is making is not think that Blood Creek is anything short of one of the coolest, best Rock songs ever recorded.  It's one of those songs I can listen to all day.  It's probably a good thing that I haven't got this in a digital form because I'd probably only listen to Blood Creek for a week.  It's just such a great riff, and it closes out four sides of great Rock N' Roll.  If you haven't heard these guys, it's not your fault, but you should really check them out.  If Memory Serves Us Well is a great place to start.

Since I bought mine new, it's obviously in good shape.  The pressing is nice and flat, there's a spot of distortion here and there, but I'm listening with headphones while I write this, and it's mostly dead quiet.  I can't recommend it enough.

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