Flashback Friday: The National (2004)

Every Friday, we’re bringing you a classic MAGNET story on your favorite bands from before they were famous. This week, the National (issue #65, October 2004).

“There’s a bit of self-consciousness in my writing, but people misread that as misery or self-hatred. We never think of ourselves as being a sad-sack band.” —Matt Berninger

That was then, this is now-ish. Read our 2017 cover story:

Flashback Friday: Super Tuesday (Oct. 5, 1993) … Afghan Whigs, Mazzy Star, Redd Kross, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Uncle Tupelo And Yo La Tengo

Ah, Oct. 5, 1993. We remember it well. There was magic in the air. MAGNET had just published its second issue. It was the eve of our beloved and beleaguered Phillies playing post-season baseball for the first time in a decade. A six-pack of beer still cost less than six bucks. And the indie-rock gods and goddesses saw fit to allow these albums (listed alphabetically) to be released that day, Super Tuesday:

The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen

Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See

Redd Kross’ Phaseshifter

Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head

Teenage Fanclub’s Thirteen

Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne

Yo La Tengo’s Painful

Flashback Friday: Wooden Shjips (Smoke On The Water)

Wooden Shjips are releasing new album V. today via our friends at Thrill Jockey, and trust us, it’s a must hear. As you might gather from the LP’s title, it’s the San Francisco band’s fifth album, though these psychedelic sailors insist the “V” references the two-fingered peace sign. (We’re more familiar with the one-fingered salute, but we digress … )

Lazy music journalists might say Wooden Shjips sound like what would happen if Spacemen 3 were American and listened to a lot of the Dead and Suicide, but it is the Friday before Memorial Day, and marijuana possession has been decriminalized in our hometown of Philly, so go ahead and call us lazy.

Speaking of weed, it’s Flashback Friday time, man. We first introduced you to Wooden Shjips in issue #81 back in fall 2011 around the time third album West came out. We’re bringing you that article today, published online for the very first time. Get psyched:


Wooden Shjips

Brevity becomes Wooden Shjips on their best album yet

Wooden Shjips don’t know when to stop—in the very best way imaginable. Newly out on Thrill Jockey, West provides a fresh perspective on (alien) terrain once broached by the likes of Chrome and Spacemen 3. But the San Francisco-based (still, kinda) psychedelic quartet pursues their mission with a restless inventiveness that makes seven minutes seem too short, and seven songs too few.

“When it came time to record the album, we really didn’t talk about how long we wanted songs to be,” organist Nash Whalen explains by phone as he prepares for a string of tours that’ll last into late fall. “We just played them in the studio, and then later on, we were like: ‘Wow! That was only four minutes?’”

Granted, they were working in unfamiliar surroundings. Recorded and mixed in six days by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Oneida, the Fucking Champs) and mastered by psych/experimental legend Sonic Boom, the band’s third album (not counting two singles collections) is the first they’ve recorded away from their practice space. The added clarity brings West’s constituent parts into sharper relief without sacrificing anything in the way of immediacy.

As always, Whalen, bassist Dusty Jermier and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin mostly contribute momentum and texture—though Whalen occasionally steps to the fore. Founder, singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson’s spectral croon sounds more disembodied than ever, a perfect foil for solos that unfold like some cosmic rupture the Hubble might capture a glimpse of.

With the likes of Animal Collective introducing the indie rock masses to psychedelia and events like Austin’s annual Psych Fest enhancing their visibility, it’s no wonder that demand for the band is rising.

“It’s one of those kinds of music that’s always going to have hardcore fans,” says Whalen. “But when more good bands come along, the genre expands and more people are able to get excited about it. It seems like right now a lot of bands are tapping into it, and I think it’s a good thing. Everyone’s coming at it from a different place. It’s not a one-trick pony, not a one-dimensional genre at all.”

—Rod Smith

Flashback Friday: The Range Life Of Stephen Malkmus And Pavement

Well, today’s the day you’ve been waiting for, summer babes and jagbags. Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks are releasing Sparkle Hard (Matador), their first new LP in more than four years. It’s hard to believe the band is already on album number seven and has been together almost twice as long as Pavement was. The 11-track LP was produced by Chris Funk (Decemberists) and features Kim Gordon on one song. Check out a short film on Sparkle Hard here, and listen to album tracks “Shiggy,” “Middle America” and “Refute” (the Gordon track).

MAGNET’s not-so-secret history with Malkmus started when Pavement was on the cover of issue #7 back in 1994, around the release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. We did the interview with Malkmus at the TGI Fridays near the Matador office in Lower Manhattan. (He picked the location, behaved like a diva for most of the interview, then apologized for acting so bratty.) Over the years, we’ve had plenty of interaction with not only Malkmus (he’s been on the cover of MAGNET four times: three with Pavement, one solo—issue #49, above) but also his father (we partied with Stephen Sr. at a wedding reception back in the day and called him a handful of years later to talk about his son for one of our cover stories).

Fun fact #1: When we were getting Malkmus’ clothing sizes to procure outfits to style him with for the 2001 cover shoot (yes, even California boys with style for miles and miles sometimes want to play dress-up for photo shoots), we discovered that he and MAGNET’s editor-in-chief had identical measurements. (At the time, they kind of looked alike, too, though obviously Malkmus is far more handsome than Miller.) Malkmus looked great in the clothes we got for him, but then again, a leisure suit is nothing to be proud of in this late century.

Fun fact #2: When our friend moved to Brooklyn, he started getting mail addressed to Malkmus at his new place. Turned out, he had moved into Malkmus’ old digs. In exchange for giving said mail to Matador to return to Malkmus, the label hooked our friend up with a bunch of free music. Guess Malkmus didn’t do well at keeping his address to himself.

But we digress … Put Sparkle Hard on your headphones and journey with us on our bike-lane ride down the shady lane that is the slanted-and-enchanted world of Stephen Joseph Malkmus. Transport is arranged.

First stop: our classic cover story from 2001 by Jonathan Valania with the opening line, “I’m driving Stephen Malkmus’ car.” With apologies to Gay Talese, we think of it as our “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold.” And, kids, don’t just see Stephen Malkmus—be Stephen Malkmus:

Photo for MAGNET by Christian Lantry

Stephen Malkmus: Being Stephen Malkmus

A decade later, Valania returned to Portlandia after the release of Mirror Traffic (our number-four LP of 2011), only to find that Malkmus was pulling a Bowie and moving to Berlin. But first we wanted to find out if the man that Courtney Love crowed the Grace Kelly of indie rock was abdicating his throne.

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks: Rule Portlandia

Though our MAGNET Classics feature is a staple of each print issue, we never made it the cover story, until 2015, when we detailed the making of Slanted And Enchanted—probably ’90s indie rock’s defining album—on the front of the mag. It also marked MAGNET’s first and only illustrated cover.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Making Of Pavement’s “Slanted And Enchanted”

Of course, when you’re an alt-rock hero, you have lots of famous fans. So it’s not surprising two of our web guest editors have written about Malkmus and Pavement. Fran Healy from Travis did it first, pounding the Pavement in 2010 …

Photo for MAGNET by Christian Lantry

Travis’ Fran Healy Is Happy To Hang Around: Pavement

… with Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Baseball Project) getting all wowee zowee about Malkmus three and a half years later:

From The Desk Of Steve Wynn: Stephen Malkmus

Speaking of baseball—well, basketball—projects: Back in 2007, we had a mini-intervention with Malkmus about his fantasy-sports addiction. Here’s how he faced the truth:

Please Explain: Stephen Malkmus

While some bands kill their idols, others cover them. R.E.M., the Fall, the Clean, Smashing Pumpkins and the Descendents have all had their songs given the Pavement treatment, but perhaps our favorite is Malkmus and Co.’s version of Echo & The Bunnymen’s classic “The Killing Moon”:

Take Cover! Pavement Vs. Echo & The Bunnymen

Oh, and one last thing: Malkmus turns 52 on May 30, ironically, the same age Grace Kelly was when she passed away. If you want to wish him a happy birthday, dial M for Malkmus.

Flashback Friday: MAGNET’s Decade At The Beach House

It must be the start of summer, kids, because the new Beach House is open. While you try-before-you-buy four of the 11 tracks—“Black Car,” “Dark Spring,” “Dive” and “Lemon Glow”—off 7 (out today on Sub Pop and featuring collaborative assistance from MAGNET hero Sonic Boom), kick back, pour yourself a fruity adult beverage and think back to endless summers past spent with Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand.

We first formally met this dynamic duo a decade ago with our devotion to Devotion:

BEACH HOUSE: Devotion [Carpark]

Then we covered the album’s cover of a Daniel Johnston song:

Take Cover! Beach House Vs. Daniel Johnston

It turns out we weren’t the only ones devoted to life at the Beach House. Meet superfan Fran Healy of Travis, who wrote about the band in MAGNET not once …

Travis’ Fran Healy Is Happy To Hang Around: Beach House’s “Teen Dream”

… but twice:

Travis’ Fran Healy Is Happy To Hang Around: Meeting Your Heroes

East River Pipe dove right into the deep end as well:

East River Pipe’s Nontrivial Things: Beach House

And Fitz And The Tantrums could barely contain themselves:

From The Desk Of Fitz And The Tantrums: Beach House

We couldn’t contain ourselves, either, naming Beach House’s third LP, Teen Dream, the best album of 2010:

MAGNET’s Top 20 Albums Of 2010

We enjoyed Alex and Victoria’s hospitality so much, two years later we named follow-up Bloom the third-best album of 2012:

MAGNET’s Top 25 Albums Of 2012

Fifth LP Depression Cherry didn’t make our list of top albums of 2015, but we did call it Essential New Music:

Essential New Music: Beach House’s “Depression Cherry”

Which leads us to lucky 7. So who’s that Sonic Boom guy who helped out on the new album? We’ll let Dean & Britta set the guest table:

From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: Spectrum