Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys

Good Grief – Here Come the Waterworks (EP Review, Stream, Live Video Presentation)

Before getting too far into this specific review/essay, a slew of disclaimers are in order. First, I play drums in a band that includes a member of Good Grief. Second, all four of these members became close friends and supporters of my work in and outside of Heartbreaking Bravery and are tethered to the same self-created family that we all desperately needed to survive in a small, isolated city in the middle of Wisconsin. Third (and possibly the most important of these three): I didn’t know any of these people until I saw Good Grief play for the first time nearly a decade ago, an instance that immediately registered as one of those world-caving experiences of startling discovery; I knew these were my people before they allowed me into their family.

If entertainment truly lives and dies at the intersection of talent, connections, and insistence, I will go to bat for this band long after they hang up their cables.

That last statement is one I can say with an abundance of conviction, as I was still screaming recommendations at people in passing (and in person) in a four and a half year absence. For a long while it seemed like the band would be permanently dissolved, leaving behind a memorable legacy for the people who were there the first time around, packing in basements and losing their voices screaming along to songs like “Basic Math” and “Flirting With Death“. All that was left was a distant, desperate hope for a reunion or for the songs that never got recorded at the end of the run to find their way to a posthumous release (while holding on to the several hours of live footage I’d amassed with a white-knuckle grip).

In late 2016, the band returned and filled out a local bar that was packed with enough pent-up longing and energy from both the band and the audience that the place nearly disintegrated in the moment. Shortly after, there was a promise of more shows and new material. Here Come the Waterworks is the fulfillment of both that promise and the platform for a handful of songs that were nearly lost apart from that previously mentioned footage (along with the scattered clips of a select few other people).

A handful of post-reunion shows and the band’s picking up right where they left off, a little more poised, a little more learned, and more willing to challenge themselves. All of those points are made abundantly clear on “State of Disbelief”, “Blood and Kin”, and “Gumming Up the Works”, the half of the EP that’s entirely new material. The other half belongs to the songs that were rescued (“High Society”, “Holy Smokes”, and “In Through the Outhouse”), which have been brushed up and injected with a startling sense of galvanization.

Here Come the Waterworks also represents the most evenly split release of the band’s discography, which now spans 2 EP’s and 2 full-length efforts. Half of these songs are led by Colin Bares, who continues to astonish here as he has in previous projects The Coral Riffs, The Weasel, Marten Fisher, The Cost of Living (a project that was born out of Good Grief’s initial dissolution which also retained drummer Jess Nowaczyk), and Mr. Martin and the Sensitive Guys (another project that Good Grief bassist Jarad Olson lent his considerable talent [in addition to spearheading a solo project]). The other half are headed up by Dirk Gunderson, who carved out a name for himself through not only Good Grief but Heavy Looks (which also features Olson) but also by way f some impressive solo work by way of The Deadly Vices.

Across six songs, everyone lays it on the line, committing to their material with a newfound understanding of what they can create. Guitars are left out of tune in spots to create dissonance, vocal overlays enhance the atmosphere in multiple spots, and when the harmonies hit, they hit hard. Gunderson and Bares both provide some of the best work of their respective careers. Their off-kilter pop and unrepentant punk influences still thrive at an intersection that owes a meaningful debt to acts like The Unicorns and The Libertines while offering enough distinct personality to create its own category.

Smart composition, clever hooks, and no shortage of attitude are littered across this EP, which is comprised of nothing but high points. The band’s thoughtfulness is evident throughout Here Come the Waterworks but never sacrifices the immediacy that’s drawn so many people into their circle over the years. There’s no room for error or filler and each member has an intrinsic understanding of how the others work, which translates into a tight-knit formula that elevates the material to a significant degree; Bares’ pained vocals are served by Gunderson’s ambient leads while Gunderson’s unbridled tenacity is enhanced by a characteristically busy and propulsive rhythm section (and so on).

All of it works just as it’s always worked, only this time around the band’s fully aware of their most minuscule machinations and have fine-tuned every facet of their operation. It’s a level of dedication that’s created a snarling behemoth; the years where they stepped away are met here with a vengeance. “Gumming Up the Works”, especially, feels like a declaration of intent; this is a band that’s here to strengthen their own sizable mark. Here Come the Waterworks is a new chapter for the band, and their future, suddenly, has risen from absence and bloomed into an open boundlessness.

When all’s said and done, the last note played, Good Grief resuscitated from the urn’s ashes, this EP stands as a spotless example of what this site was built to celebrate, something that doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that Good Grief were a fundamental part of this entire site’s creation and will continue to be an integral part of Heartbreaking Bravery going forward. It’s a band that’s entwined with the DNA of everything this place — and like-minded places — hope to accomplish: to serve as a platform where elevating hidden or overlooked voices becomes not only possible but the desired goal.

Geographical privilege, lack of funds, lack of notoriety… none of those things matter. All that matters is the music and the people responsible for the music’s creation. This is a band of people doing their best to be kind, writing songs that could go toe-to-toe with an entire arsenal of forgettable acts who are gifted late night TV slots, but there’s a modesty to what they do that none only makes it difficult to gain traction but be seen or heard at all. Hopefully, this post doesn’t wind up being the only piece to attempt a richly-deserved course correction.

Still, Here Come the Waterworks stands proudly as an astonishing release that deserves a far wider audience than it’ll likely get as it’s forced to stare down disappointingly arbitrary mitigating factors. Even with that being the case, the EP’s a testament to the bands who know that making a noticeable impact in the macro doesn’t matter if you can meaningful shape the lives of the people who are present enough to be reached. It’s a record that’s been around five years in the making and it’s a record that makes me proud of the people I chose to align myself with: a piece of art that re-enforces those decisions with abandon.

Good Grief were one of a very select handful of bands who changed the direction of my life and these six songs casually reflect those moments. They made my hometown feel more like an actual home. We lived in basements, we drank together, we suffered with each other, we celebrated with each other, and we did our best to make something meaningful, not just on our own but together. It’s beyond heartening to have that indomitable spirit not only survive an extended break but be rekindled into the roaring fire that is Here Come the Waterworks.

Listen to (and watch) Here Come the Waterworks below, pick it up here, and keep an eye on this site for more updates on one of the best bands more people deserve to know.

A Two Week Toll: Full Streams

Bringing an end to the opening trio of posts to amend some of the time lost during the hiatus that followed this site’s 1,000th post, the following links will be dedicated to some of the finest full-length streams that appeared over the past two weeks. From site favorites to new names, there’s a wealth of material here that’s worthy of investment. A handful of these may even be legitimate Album of the Year contenders. Carve some time out to listen or just hit play and turn the volume up while working, either way, make sure not to miss some extraordinary records. 

Terry Malts, The ExquisitesLola Kirke, Fake Limbs, HalfsourLilac DazeKuroma, Violence Creeps, Computer Magic, Emily Yacina, Male BondingJenny O, Wild Pink, MONO, Spellbinder, Clorox Girls, Infinity Crush, Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, Fraternal Twin, Kestrels, Elephants, Hello Shark, Trash Gendar, (ghost), Shana Falana, Suburban Living, Trails and Ways, Lara Yuko, BatzGoat, Peaer, Henry Jamison, Bad Noids, Bellows, The Fabulous Johnsons, Sleeping Lessons, Big Bill, Shelf LifeThe Meltaways, Dog, Paper, Submarine, Balcanes, Warehouse, Kadhja BonetAxis: SovaFuneral Blues, This Frontier Needs HeroesLetters to CleoMr. Martin & The Sensitive GuysPanoptique Electrical, Exotica, HowardianBonzoJustin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, and the Punkinhead 2016 compilation.

Lithuania – Kill The Thing You Love (Stream)

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[Editor’s Note: In light of the tragic circumstances in Orlando, there was some debate over featuring a song with a title that could be construed negatively in the face of that event. However, now more than ever, it seems deeply necessary to endorse and promote acts of kindness, understanding, and empathy. It’s because of this song’s message and the good that can come from its purchase that it’s in today’s headlining spot.]

Since the last post on this site went up just a few short days ago, new tracks emerged from Pari∀h, Deerhoof, Pink Mexico, Guts Club, Blesst Chest, Ali Beletic, Kool A.D., and two new tunes from JOYA‘s Robert Sotelo. Artists with commendable music videos was a list that included The Gotobeds, Wimps, Oddissee, The Figgs, Palehound, Gang of Youths, Terrible Feelings, WALL, and Museyroom. The past several days also saw the release(s) of several legitimate album of the year candidates, including efforts from Told Slant, DEN, The Gotobeds, Margaret GlaspyThe Craters, and a demo of the upcoming full-length debut from Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys.

All of the above items amounted to an extraordinary run — especially for the full streams — for such an abbreviated time frame. One of the most heartening things to emerge during that stretch came courtesy of site favorites Lithuania, a band fronted by Dr. Dog drummer and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Eric Slick. “Kill The Thing You Love” was originally intended for the band’s latest record, 2015’s astounding Hardcore Friends, but was ultimately nixed for being too out of sync on a thematic level. Fortunately, the song wasn’t just relegated to an unheard archives litter and was recently released as a standalone single to benefit Women Against Abuse, a Philadelphia organization that aids women who are escaping or have survived domestic abuse.

“Kill The Thing You Love” itself is one of the band’s more gnarled, rough-hewn offerings. Relentlessly aggressive in its dynamic approach, the song actually gains a wealth of power from its decidedly direct aesthetics, elevating an oddly moving narrative. Slick delivers the most impassioned vocal delivery of his career and the song uses its lo-fi nature to amplify its own propulsion. In a little over three and a half minutes, the band embraces a chaotic sludge that underlines the confusion that frequently manifests and overpowers the decision-making in relationships that make room for — and frequently try to excuse instances of — domestic abuse. It’s a bold song that calls attention to a dark reality that goes ignored far too often.

Here’s the statement that Slick issued to Post-Trash for the great premiere piece that accompanied the song:

The song “Kill The Thing You Love” was written in 2014. Its intended purpose was for the Hardcore Friends album, but we decided to leave it off because it didn’t fit the narrative. It’s also a complicated listen. However, the song is of great importance to me. It was written from the perspective of a young woman who runs away from her abysmal home life and starts fresh in a safe environment. It’s based on a story that a close friend told me about her incredibly difficult and abusive childhood. “Kill The Thing You Love” is indeed a jarring title, but its intent is more of a mantra of empowerment. Sometimes we have to let go of things (kill in the figurative sense) we love, especially when they’re hurting us. Abuse is still everywhere. A direct example is the inexcusable behavior of Seagreen Records. Seagreen was initially supposed to release this song until they came under fire for very serious sexual abuse charges. I was horrified. Luckily, Lame-O Records agreed to release this song. I’m relieved that we can benefit a great cause in the process.

Listen to “Kill The Thing You Love” below and get the track (and donate to a good cause) here.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. V

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After installments I, II, III, and IV, this site is officially caught up to the current release cycle in every coverage category: single streams, full streams, music videos, live videos, live photography, and the (usually weekly) Watch This series. Going forward, the goal will continue to be at least one post a day (a rough average that’s been maintained for two and a half years, despite some lengthy hiatuses). Expect live reviews to return to the fold as early as next week and for everything else to resume or continue its regular functionality. Thanks to anyone who stuck with this site through the early lulls in this year’s first half and thanks to the artists and venues who graciously allowed — and even encouraged — photography. Heartbreaking Bravery wouldn’t exist without you and I will continue to look for ways to pay you back in kind. Find the last packet of photos from the year so far below and explore all of the others via the hyperlinks up top or by simply scrolling down. Enjoy!

 

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. II

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Throughout the first six months, I was fortunate enough to catch (and photograph) the following acts: American Wrestlers, Palehound, Eternal Summers, Torres, Julien Baker, Charly Bliss, Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits Black Lips, Jungles, Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, Bag-Dad, Haunter, Miserable Friend, Heavycritters, Yoko and the Oh No’s, PWR BTTM, Micah Schnabel (of Two Cow Garage), Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, Beach Slang, Yowler, Eskimeaux, Frankie Cosmos, Oops, and Dilly Dally. All of that photography will be presented — as previously mentioned — through a five-part gallery. The second installment touches on more of the best selections from those sets. As always, the gallery can be accessed below. Enjoy.

Splitting at the Break: The Live Photography of 2016’s First Half, Pt. I

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Over the past six months, the site’s experienced a few hiatuses. While some of those hiatuses were due to personal reasons, the majority were because of long stretches of time spent on the road. During the course of those six months, I was fortunate enough to catch a small handful of shows (and play a few more). No live photography from 2016 has been posted (discounting the header photo that’s ran for the Told Slant feature spots and the Meat Wave photo that ran in conjuncture with the Live Videos segment) and below is a gallery — the first of five — designed to amend the oversight. Enjoy.

 

Splitting at the Break: The Live Videos of 2016’s First Half

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2016 is just about at its midway mark and there hasn’t been any live coverage on this site since before the year turned over. There have been a number of extenuating circumstances preventing the live documentation that has been captured this year from being posted (travel, time, other commitments, etc.) but that changes today. Below are ten video packets from ten shows that I was fortunate enough to catch — and shoot — this year.

Normally, as a general rule of thumb, I avoid posting anything from shows I play but am making an exception for the Jungles package because the band’s woefully under-represented in America for their undeniable strength as a live act.  A few other packets may be missing an artist or two but what’s below is the vast majority of what I’ve seen over the past six months.

Whether it’s Meat Wave ripping through a crushing new song on a (freakishly sunny) winter day in Chicago, Beach Slang covering The Replacements two times over, or Torres making everyone’s hairs stand on end with an unforgettable one-song encore, these are worth a look and were a privilege to experience. A photo gallery will be coming within the next few days but for now, enjoy the footage.

American Wrestlers, Eternal Summers, Palehound, and Torres. 

Julien Baker and Charly Bliss. 

Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and Black Lips. 

Runners, Beech Creeps, and Heavy Times. 

Jungles. 

Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, BAG-DAD, Haunter, Miserable Friend, and Heavycritters. 

Yoko and the Oh No’s and PWR BTTM. 

Micah Schnabel, Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, and Beach Slang. 

Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos. 

Oops and Dilly Dally.