15 In Philly: The Bigger Lovers’ “How I Learned To Stop Worrying”

bigger_lovershorSpend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

Full disclosure: Two members of this now-defunct quartet currently write for MAGNET. Perhaps there’s some favoritism in citing the Bigger Lovers’ debut album as one of our city’s finest records of the last 15 years. Maybe we’re paying arrears for the unjust treatment of power-pop bands from every town, in every era. How I Learned To Stop Worrying appeared in 2001 like a red balloon, floated over the city by a tiny indie label (Black Dog) and lifting hopes that here, too, was a classic sighting: a basement-fi, reverb-heavy album that could pass for a thrift-store, ’60s-vinyl treasure. On Worrying, singer/guitarist Bret Tobias and Co. proved themselves scholars of Big Star and the Soft Boys, updating the usual influences with splashes of Superchunk-styled rockers and a pinch of the magic-dust melody found on Wilco’s Summerteeth. Balancing heady pop smarts with scrappy inspiration, on these 11 songs the students became the masters.

—Matthew Fritch

“Summer (Of Our First Hello)” from How I Learned To Stop Worrying:

15 In Philly: Spank Rock

spankrock360Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

“Rick Rubin,” the lead single from Spank Rock’s 2006 debut album YoYoYoYoYo, was only the first clue that the Philly-via-Baltimore outfit was interested in crossing boundaries. Like famed producer Rubin, Spank Rock combines raunchy, old-school rap with alternative rock. The perverse genius lies in the combination of the pulsing beats and tight rhythms courtesy of producer Armani XXXChange (a.k.a. Alex Epton) and pornographic lyrics by MC Naeem Juwan (“Hoochies want to get on the guest list/Eat a small dinner so you fit in your dresses … Big breast get treated like guest/I’m serving dick for breakfast”).

“Rick Rubin” from YoYoYoYoYo:

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15 In Philly: Dr. Dog

dr-dog510Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

It’s tough to envision Dr. Dog recording an album in the middle of a Philadelphia winter. The sand-between-your-toes vocal harmonies, psychedelic sunshine, sudsy ’60s pop and string-popping live sets—even at the band’s darkest, it doesn’t make much sense. But when the West Philly-based five-piece took a break from touring to dive back into the studio in early 2008, the jams came anyway.

“The Breeze” from Fate:

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15 In Philly: Pissed Jeans / Pearls & Brass

PissedJeans

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

Every band has a story. These stories, of course, intertwine with other bands’ stories to create a sort of mythology for anyone who cares to pay attention. Case in point: Pissed Jeans, from Allentown, Pa., and Pearls & Brass, from nearby Nazareth, used to run into each other at a DIY space in Allentown called Jeff The Pigeon, where no-name acts would play loud, eccentric shows for a sweaty mix of friends, fans and strangers.

“Fantasy World” from Pissed Jeans’ Hope For Men:

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15 In Philly: Psychedelphia

asteroid278Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

The Psychedelphia era lasted roughly from 1995—when the Azusa Plane and the Asteroid #4 (pictured) began issuing seven-inch singles and Bardo Pond released its first album—to 2001, the year the Strokes played a Philly residency that effectively marked the ascendancy of the New York-centered post-punk era.

1999’s Sounds From Psychedelphia, issued on Asteroid #4’s Lounge label, is the definitive document of the scene. The compilation includes tracks from the Photon Band, A#4, Lenola and other bands influenced, in varying proportions, by Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, 13th Floor Elevators and other Nuggets, as well as shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. In 1998, MAGNET’s fifth-anniversary concert reflected the local movement, featuring a lineup of A#4, the Azusa Plane, Bardo Pond, Lenola and psych-folk godfather Tom Rapp.

The Asteroid #4’s “Tricks Of The Trade” from Sounds From Psychedelphia:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TricksOfTheTrade.mp3

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15 In Philly: Fishtown Folk

espers3501Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

Greg Weeks meanders around his kitchen like anyone else working at home; he checks his email while slowly sipping his coffee. But as Weeks descends the basement stairs, all traces of 21st-century life are left behind. His retrofitted recording space in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, Hexham Head studio, boasts an arsenal of decades-old analog equipment. It’s one of several hideouts for Weeks and his band of freak-folk gypsies, Espers (pictured).

“Mansfield And Cyclops” from Espers’ II:

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