Showing posts with label Doughboys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doughboys. Show all posts

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tradtion IV

So the Doughboys career picked up just as it was winding down. Signed to A & M, the band got a big push for 1993's Crush. It's still the college-rockish sound of Happy Accidents and like that album it also starts with another Kastner classic, "Shine" (co-written with Wiz of Mega City Four).

(A charming fan video mash-up with the George Lucas movie, Willow.)

However after that, things get dodgy. The filler here is particularly egregious with "Fall" sounding like a passing attempt at grunge and "Shitty Song" far surpassing its titular promise. On the plus side, the mid-period Soul Asylum-ish "Fix Me" was another good single and "Tearin' Away" still rocks. The version of Crush below features bonus material, including songs like "Good Cop, Bad Cop", that really should've made the album.

"Turn Me On" is the end of the road. There are still good rockers here, like "My Favorite Martian" and the power-pop songs like "Everything and After" still work. None of that changes the irrefutable fact that by 1996 the Doughboys were done, they'd surrendered their underground followers long ago and the fans they'd gained for "Shine" were ephemeral. Next up Kastner formed All Systems Go with members of Big Drill Car and Cummins formed Bionic.

These two albums remind me of Winnipeg musical fixture Mike Koop (subject of an upcoming Dylan-related post), who has for years harboured an unfinished song titled, "Whatever Happened to Brock Pytel?" It's a pointed question that neither Kastner on these later Doughboys albums or Pytel himself on his one solo album, ever answered.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Traditon III

I bought the Doughboys 1990 album, Happy Accidents, on purple vinyl from SK8, a skate shop which racked a bit of music alongside the decks and wheels.

Days later, I sold it.

With Brock Pytel gone meditating, no follow up to Home Again was even possible. Instead, after starting out with Kastner's finest song yet, "Countdown", this album (and the 1991 follow-up e.p., When Up Turns to Down) headed straight down the college rock boulevard, like R.E.M. with the guitars metaled-up a bit. Gimmicky song titles like, "The Apprenticeship of Lenny Kravitz"and "Intravenus de Milo" cheapen the affair though not as much as the e.p.'s witless and grating cover of the 52's, "Private Idaho".

All slander aside, "What's Going On'" is a bouncy sing-along, "Sorry Wrong Number" is a catchy tune, and, in the cold light of the present, "Sunflower Honey" is not wretched, it's just a happy, jangly pop song - like an old sixties Rascals' single. So, surviving internal division and passing fashions, the Doughboys moved on and the results, while a mixed bag, are better than they first sounded.

Doughboys - Countdown

Download Happy Accidents

Download When Up Turns to Down

Friday, February 6, 2009

Traditon II

I lost my Doughboys T-shirt (bottom left corner of the catalogue), the one I'd bought from the band on their Home Again Tour. It later showed up draped, like a spoil of victory, over the wiry frame of my ex's new fiance.

1989's Home Again is one of those "the road will never end" albums, a musical tour diary that confesses, "I can't wait to get back home again, then leave". For an album likely cobbled together on buses and in basements; it's completely cohesive. It's cohesion is all the more impressive for it also being a true group album, with Kastner and Pytel each contributing four songs while Bondhead and new guitarist Jon Cummins each pitch in a tune. While the sonic blueprint of the Doughboys, the melding of stun-volume guitars to folk-rock melodies, is Kastner's, it is Pytel's developing prowess as a songwriter that dominates the record.

Listen to those mesmerizing vocal arrangements on Pytel's (admittedly lyrically muddled) "White Sister" or the big whoa-oh chorus on "I Won't Write You a Letter (Home Again)", likely the best, most dynamic song the band ever recorded.

A career peak, alas, though John Kastner continued wearing the Doughboys name long after Brock Pytel quit and went to India.

Still want my damn shirt back.

Download Home Again

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tradition I

With first lines of the album, “I’m on way to bigger and better days” it’s clear that the Doughboys (John Kastner on guitar/vocals, Scott McCullough on guitar, Jon Bond Head on bass and Brock Pytel on drums) were going to be a more driven outfit than the Asexuals.
With the 1987 passing of both Minneapolis’ Husker Du and the L.A.’s the Descendants (both of whom honed their maniacal work ethic under the charge of SST Records), it seemed to be Montreal's the Doughboys who were destined to carry on those bands' tradition of melding aggression, distortion and songcraft.
The band (dubbed The Whoa-boys for those relentless whoa-oh sing-alongs) did bear that torch with aplomb. In fairness, with their major label affiliations, Vision Streetwear sponsorship and those damn white-boy dreads, they also furthered the commercialization of North American punk, even hanging on long enough to get a hit single in the grunge era.
1987’s Whatever, however, proved punks of that era who grew out their hair didn’t have to play college-rock or speed metal. This album drives like a hardcore record but it’s swarming with hooky tunes and melodic guitar lines. It’s hit-after-hit and even a certain uniformity of sound can’t slow this fucker down.

Kastner’s song writing is at a peak herein (as heard in such chargers as “Tradition and “I Remember”) but he is not the group's only force to be reckoned with. One of the secrets behind a pop-punk band of depth is the drummer/songwriter a la Tommy Ramone of the Ramones, Grant Hart of Husker Du and Duncan Redmond from Snuff. To prove they’d learned this lesson well, The Doughboys kit-basher was one Brock Pytel, who wrote what may be the album’s most memorable song, the zen-punk, “Holiday” (“There’s no holiday from living there’s no shelter from it all, there’s no escape from dying – no one sees you when you’re standing tall”).

Many people consider the altogther-excellent Whatever the Doughboys most powerful album. They are wrong but easily forgiven.

Download Whatever

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kicked out of the Welli-o’s

The Asexuals got me kicked out of Wellington’s, one of Winnipeg’s sleaziest bars. I was sixteen and my brother-in-law lied for me but to no avail. So I bought their L.P., Be What you Want, and spent the next six months just listening.

Like me; the Asexuals’ John Kastner came to the (North) American hardcore party a tad late. By 1984 the movement was splintering. As a result the rather conservative Asexuals adopted an ultra-clean sound dominated by a metallic but tinny guitars, sing-along choruses, forced tempos and ill-considered socio-political lyrics. Perhaps, it was kind of a punk-lite sound like the one that NOFX and one-hundred thousand other Fat Wreck-Chords tainted bands would bleed dry well into the next millennium. However, the Asexuals made something of it all.

Their first single (get it here), from1984, was on Og Records (discussed ad nauseum here at MRML). Be What you Want (get it here), came out later that year and got good notices from places like Maximumrocknroll.

By the time I got past the hairless and tattooed behemoth that guarded the door at Smellington’s and actually got to see the Asexuals tear up the stage, they’d moved towards a more mid-tempo Husker Dü sound. In fact, I taped Husker Dü’s Candy Apple Grey and Contemporary World onto a cassette back-to-back and they mixed well. The album still trades in speedy, catchy vaguely-political punk songs like “Where Were You” and “Stop the City” but Kastner was hitting upon the sound that he’d soon hone.

To Be Continued!

Download Contemporary World

Speaking of vague politics, let us pause to remember Bob Dylan’s anthem of generational revolt, “The Time s They Are-A-Changin’”, a song that in the master’s own hands has changed its meaning many times. In the scabrous early 80’s HxCx milieu that the Asexuals inhabited the song, despite its quasi-biblical language, became another “one-two-fuck-you” sorta song. I have my doubts the teenage Asexuals even listened to Dylan’s original before they recorded the version for Contemporary World (Modern Times anyone?). Their blueprint was clearly the version by The Wanderers, a band comprised of ¾ of Britain’s Sham 69 and ¼ of Cleveland, USA’s the Dead Boys (that 25% being front man, Stiv Bators). Despite their pedigree, the band's sole album sunk without a trace, rendering it a less than wildly influential work. Nonetheless, minus the jarring use of a string section, the Wanderers' basic arrangement (especially those backing vocals!) was clearly stolen wholesale by the Asexuals. Brazen musical theft? There’s a crime Bob himself would understand well.

The Wanderers - “The Time s They Are-A-Changin’”

The Asexuals - “The Time s They Are-A-Changin’”