Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grand Champeen, Where have you been all my life?

So, I go to see the This is American Music Revue in Milwaukee in Dec of 2007. I had seen Two Cow Garage and The Drams a few times each in Chicago and Milwaukee, and I was about a month into my first two Glossary Albums: For What I Don't Become and The Better Angels Of Our Nature (which can be downloaded here: but I had never heard of Grand Champeen.

Of the 4 bands that played, Grand Champeen seemed to me to be the most out of place. Certainly some nods to twang and they even had a Telecaster Deluxe on stage if I remember correctly, but few if any of your standard bendings of 2nd's to 3rd's, overt Keith Richards sounds, and certainly no steel guitar.

Given that I came to see the other bands, and I clearly have a soft spot for your standard country/alt-country/whatever-it-is-called-these-days types of sounds, I was not sure what to make of these guys. They looked like they would have fit in better at a hardcore show in the 80's at the Metro along side Black Flag or Naked Raygun.

Their show was good. I was not familiar with the songs, but I was intrigued by them. They never seemed to completely hit their groove as the bands were limited to short 30 minute sets.

So all the bands were selling their CD's for $10 a pop so I picked up their latest, "Dial T For This," on the recommendation of Kelly from Glossary. This is an excellent album. I feel like most of the bands in the greater Americana genre have roots in bands like the Stones, Guthrie, Gram Parsons, Little Feat, Neil Young... It is a little more rare that you hear the Beatles or Big Star mentioned as an influence or reference. These guys combine the musical creativity of the Beatles with the pop sensibilities of Big Star and present it as though it was being played by The Clash circa 1979. After the hooks and the creative chord/melody lines what grabs me is the raw energy. This sounds nothing like an album done in a proper studio... yeah it sounds great, but it is just too filled with energy to be grouped in with your standard studio album. A lot of the type of energy that you can feel in the best of Slobberbone and White Stripes recording is here in full effect.

So, where do you go from there? I got the album one earlier: "The One That Brought You." I get nervous going back into a catalog that is new to me after falling for a recent release but The One That Brought You really delivered. Maybe a bit less evidence of love for the Beatles, but more raw and more energy.

I have Battle Cry for Help coming from Gulp! records now and am hoping to enjoy it as much as these other two.

The one thing that struck me today (as I was snowblowing 2 feet of friggin' snow from my driveway and listening two times through these albums) was how little self indulgence there is on these records... No showy guitar solos or over the top drums or over emotive singing... A band playing as a unit. Heartfelt, Raw, and Filled with Energy.

Do yourself a favor and pick up one or both of these albums.