Sunday, September 24, 2006
The song is a great post-Beatles pop song with slightly surreal lyrics and a reverby guitar tone.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I first heard about Monsterbuck when they were mentioned in an article in Esquire that discussed the great music to be found on MySpace. I checked them out because of the fact that they were from Upper Jay, NY., since I grew up in the Adirondacks and I was frankly surprised that anyone would think that a band from up there could be any good. Plus, the article spoke of their songs' "gorgeous melodies," and I'm a sucker for gorgeous melodies.
Not only are the songs great, but there are a couple of fascinating back stories going on with this band.
One is that these guys are not your typical Williamsburg indie-pop types. They've been around. Chris Kowanko, the singer and songwriter, first came to New York City in the mid 80's, and actually put out a Lenny Kaye-produced solo album in 1991. From then until he settled in Upper Jay a couple of years ago, he moved arounf the country a lot. Probably had a lot of jobs. But he never stopped writing songs. He put out another fine solo album a couple of years ago, produced by Seattle's Steve Fisk. He moved to Upper Jay with his wife and daughter because the bass player from his New York days, Scott Renderer, and his brother Byron (who happened to be a drummer) had moved there and opened an furniture upholstery business. When Chris arrived, they started Monsterbuck.
I've always admired songwriter/musicians who didn't know when to quit. It's part of that romantic idea that the music is so important that you would starve, you would neglect your family, you would give up everything as long as you could keep playing music. Kowanko seems like one of those guys. And the fact that the music he and the Renederer brothers is creating now is so cool just makes it that much more amazing. And in a town like Upper Jay, with a population of a couple of hundred people.
The other interesting backstory concerning Monsterbuck also concerns Upper Jay's most famous resident, Arto Monaco, who, in the '50's and '60's, was kind of the Walt Disney of the Adirondacks. He designed and built amusement parks, including Storytown, Gaslight Village, and his pride and joy, the Land of Make Believe, which he built in his backyard in Upper Jay. All these places were familiar to any kid growing up in the Adirondacks. Land of Make Believe was perhaps the most truly amazing. It combined fairy tales, and cowboys and pirates and other kid-centric fantasies and made them all come to life, often interracting with each other in ways that, in the real world, would have made no sense. (A cowboy saloon next door to a medieval castle, next to a paddle wheeler docked on the "Mississippi River.")
The members of Monsterbuck have adopted Arto Monaco as a spiritual forebear. The name of their ep and first album-to-be is "Land of Make Believers." And one of their best songs is called is "Arto Monaco."
The Land of Make Believe was destroyed by a flood in 1979, but you can still see the shells of some of the buildings in Upper Jay, along the banks of the Ausable River. Arto Monaco died in 2003, but his spirit lives on in Monsterbuck's quirky, beautiful songs.
Monsterbuck's first ep, "Land of Make Believers," is available at http://www.monsterbuck66.com/.
The song "Arto Monaco" isn't on the ep but you can download it:
Monsterbuck - Arto Monaco.mp3
Saturday, September 16, 2006
It was a perfect combination of artists - Earle was his usual gruff but sensitive self, and Cash was folkie-sincere and obviously really intelligent.
Cash gave Earle some shit about showing up stoned at a concert 20 years ago, and Earle, now famously sober, seemed a little chagrined. He, in turn told a funny story about hanging out with Johnny Cash right after he got out of jail.
They sang a bunch of songs together and to be honest I wasn't crazy about either Earle's or Cash's later stuff, but "Seven Year Ache," "Guitar Town," and especially "Goodbye," were sensational, and reminded me of why I used to listen to both of them a lot, and go to see them any time they were in New York.
I'm sure CMT will rerun the episode - it's definitely worth checking out.
I posted this on MySpace a month ago. I'm reposting it here because I need to fill up space and also because it's really the first of my rock and roll experiences.
Monday, August 07, 2006
RIP Arthur Lee
Friday, September 15, 2006
I think the thing that I like best about the blogs I read, and the editors and writers of those blogs, is that they exhibit the same kind of passion for the music that the writers at Creem and Fusion and Crawdaddy and NY Rocker and Trouser Press, and other magazines from the 70's. And the passion that my friends and I had. We were in bands, we worked in record stores, we haunted other record stores, we'd sit around each other's stereos and play music at each other. Reading all these blogs was like being with my friends, talking about and listening to music.
I have a couple of goals for Be Hear Be Now. One is to pass along stuff I hear that I really like. Another is to offer a forum for friends of mine who care as much about music as I do, but may have different tastes or interests or simply a different point of view. And finally I hope to write a series of sketches that I'm calling my rock and roll autobiography. Over the years my love of music has caused me to run into one experience or another, in a Forrest Gump sort of way, that I think might be interesting to share. The first one is actually something I posted on MySpace last month after Arthur Lee died.