…And Finally! (Best Records of 2008 Countdown)

January 30, 2009 at 8:05 am (Best of 2008)

The List So Far…

20. The Weather Machines, “Bones & Brains” EP
19. Black Bunny S/T
18. Glasvegas S/T
17. Magnolia Summer “Lines From The Frame”
16. Hysterics S/T
15. Why? “Alopecia”
14. Skipping Girl Vinegar “Sift The Noise”
13. Novillero “A Little Tradition”
12. Cobra Verde “Haven’t Slept All Year”
11. The December Sound S/T (“The Silver Album”)
10. Kaiser Chiefs “Off With Their Heads”
9. Adrian Whitehead “One Small Stepping Man”
8. Beck “Modern Guilt”
7. Phantom Planet “Raise The Dead”
6. Prisonshake “Dirty Moons”
5. Vampire Weekend S/T
4. The Bellrays “Hot Sweet & Sticky”

And a three-way tie for 1:
1. Cheap Time, S/T
1. Blitzen Trapper, “Furr”

(Tied at 1.)Boss Martians, Pressure In The Sodo

It had been a long month.

September just seemed to drag and drag for me musically. I listened to a ton of music, and damn near all of it was dreck. I’d started to notice a few years ago that rock and roll’s old nemesis and arch-enemy, pretentiousness, was waging quite the comeback–only this time targeting the indie kids. Whereas “indie” had once implied a DIY ethos and been a close twin to punk, I’d started to hear an awful lot of over-mannered-ness and non-rock start to seep in around the edges, and by September of this past year I’ll confess that I was feeling rather like Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous”, convinced that perhaps we were hearing the death rattle of rock as I thought I knew it. Over and over again I’d be listening to records, and over and over again I’d be bored to tears, wondering when the rock part came in, always left hanging because there was a distinct lack of anything kick-ass in anything I was listening to.

It was a Tuesday, usually a day off for me. I’d just done one big download of my entire Emusic monthly allowance, and was getting to the end of the pile, bored and distracted by one uninspired pretentious indie prick after another. I think I was almost nodding off, the music just appallingly quiet despite the fact that I had the speakers cranked. And then it happened. What happened? “Power Of Doubt”, the first track on the new Boss Martians album, happened. “Power Of Doubt” is almost, but not quite, as subtle as a cherry bomb in a toilet bowl. Opening with snarling guitars, Boss Martian frontman Evan Foster roared a first line that felt like the best wakeup call a guy in my position could get: “When it first started happenin’/I was stuck in a rut…” My world rocked, I cued up the whole record, and was frankly gobsmacked as one amazing, over-the-top rock song followed another here. What the hell was this all about?

The Boss Martians have been kicking around for a long time. They originally were a surf band…who gradually embraced a garage-rock influence…that morphed into a sort of power pop thing…and then after 2003 or so, they went silent. Pressure In The Sodo (“Sodo” refers to the Seattle neighborhood that was south of where the Kingdome once stood) is their first record in nearly 5 years. Their last, very poppy-sounding disc was flavored by Evan Foster’s ability to sound almost uncannily like a young Elvis Costello, something that got noted in almost every review (there are times on the new record where he sounds unsettlingly like a younger Jon Bon Jovi attempting to do a Robin Zander impression.) The band clearly wasn’t idle in those five years. In fact, for a band constantly evolving its sound, the last five years seem to have been spent absorbing kick-assness from the world around them and moving their music that direction

As testament to that, the second song on Sodo is a ripper called “Mars Is For Martians”, co-written and guest-vocaled by none other than Mr. Iggy Pop his own self. The Ig probably has a lot of stuff he could be doing other than helping out an unknown band who’ll never really sell many records, so if he’s giving his seal of approval…well, yeah, now hopefully you’re gettin’ the picture. From what I can tell, The Boss Martians are always evolving their sound, and they’ve somehow evolved into the loudest, hardest-rocking metal band from your high school years that you never heard. This album is just loaded full to bursting with one FM-radio anthem after another, built on a foundation that’s so brilliantly obvious that you wonder why the hell no one else has managed a rock record like this in recent years: it’s as if Foster and his cohorts said to themselves, “I wonder what The Stooges would’ve sounded like if they’d survived into the Metal Era” and then set about combining all that garage-punk influence from their early years into the hook-laden songwriting of their recent vintage and came up with sound that combines the best of all those worlds. Kudos for this masterpiece also go out to former SubPop house producer Jack Endino, who did a masterful job at the knobs on this disc.

Still, I think I’m missing the essence of this album and what makes it so damn special. Here’s the deal: if you ever, ever listened to The Stooges…or Iggy’s ’90’s solo stuff…or Def Leppard…or Cheap Trick…or The Misfits…or Thin Lizzy…or UFO…or Redd Kross…or, yeah, even Nirvana and thought “These folks KICK ASS” (in all caps), then you need to grab a copy of this record. Then you need to either make a deal with your neighbors or get a good set of headphones and make sure your computer or stereo will allow you to just crank the volume up to ghastly, deafening levels, and then let this sucker rip. You’ll be rewarded by taking delivery of the very essence of pure rock and roll on the single most kick-ass record of this year (or frankly, of many years).

“Power Of Doubt”
“And She’s Gone” (the inevitable “power ballad”, sort of sounds like a really young, freaked-out Jon Bon Jovi on a triple espresso fronting Cheap Trick
“Hey Hey Yeah Yeah” (why yes, that *is* the E-Trade song from the commercials with that creepy talking baby.)
“Elsie” (oh how this song kicks ass….)

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