Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Basics: Roger Clyne

Hey, there, sportsfans. Now that I'll no longer by taking classes (woot!) and having real person hours (awww) I'm going to change the update schedule starting NEXT week. Mondays will be added. But to tide you over through the weekend, I figured on Sundays I'd start on a new column called The Basics. I already started this a ways back when in my article about Cowboy Mouth. But I haven't really had a chance to continue it. Suffice to say, The Basics will be about artists who don't necessarily have anything new out, but I think you should know about them anyway.

In a way, this column also traces my musical chronology. I'm going to start with the bands that have informed my musical taste (and, thus, what you read on this blog.) After Cowboy Mouth, my next stop on the alt-country path was Roger Clyne and his various projects.

In my Cowboy Mouth article, I complained that I was too young to enjoy nineties college rock. But there was at least one advantage to being a teenager in the aughts: the proliferation of Internet radio. Yahoo! used to have a service that was pretty great, and then I migrated to Pandora. Both services pointed me to Roger Clyne's first band, the Refreshments.

You have heard The Refreshments. If you listened to the radio in the nineties, then you heard "Banditos," an infectious rocker about holding up a Circle K. If you have any taste in comedy at all, then you watch King of the Hill, whose theme song is courtesy of the band's second album, The Bottle and Fresh Horses. They became popular shortly after fellow Tempe, AZ's The Gin Blossoms' success. The Refreshments had a decidedly more twangy sound to them. On "Tributary Otis" you can hear the label exec's attempt to shoehorn them into the Gin Blossoms' sound. I'm not surprised that this was the last Refreshments album.

Roger Clyne by Rachel C on Grooveshark

This band basically characterized my entire high school experience. Roger Clyne's good-natured cynicism was perfect for A) a teenager who B) came of age during the surreal ironies of post-9/11. Sure, things sucked and life is hard, but if you shrug your shoulders and look for the good times, you might see it through. But then there are those dark moments, like "Nada" or "Birds Sing", where you have to give in to your despair. The fact that songs like that could co-exist with "Wanted" or "Banditos" helped me avoid a lot of teen angst. In my senior year of high school, some friends of mine and I choreographed a line dance to "Wanted." We had props. It was awesome. And we got gym credit for it.

Roger Clyne -- in both The Refreshments and his subsequent band, The Peacemakers -- combines deft wordplay with eminently catchy riffs. The music might be palatable, but the his lyrics are just as powerful as they are humorous. "Switchblade" always sends chills up my spine, at least. In my opinion, The Peacemakers have peaked with their 2004 release, Americano! I closed with the lead song off the album to show Roger's growth as a singer-songwriter: while it treats the same subject matter as "Banditos," it shows a clear progression since his first hit.

And for funsies, here's a video of The Peacemakers and Cowboy Mouth performing together at a concert I would have given my right arm to be at.


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