The New Pornographers: The Last Picture Show


Having staged another classic-pop blockbuster with Twin Cinema, the New Pornographers are ready for their close-up. By Jonathan Valania

They are a curious breed, our so-called gentle neighbors to the north. On first glance, they look and talk just like us, barring the occasional “eh?” that punctuates most declarative sentences. But if you look closely, you can tell they aren’t like you and me.

First of all, they are a little too friendly and good-humored, possibly due to their high-octane beer and skunky British Columbia kind bud. They are witty and well-spoken, thanks to an educational system that boasts a 97 percent literacy rate. Due to almost half a century of socialized medicine, they are unnaturally healthy, with a life expectancy of 80.1 years. Lastly, they simply don’t do sarcasm. Not well, anyway. They have no real need for it. They are peace-lovin’, good-time-likin’ people. They might not get your back if you wanted to start a bar fight in, say, Baghdad, but they will help you pound that case of Molson afterward.

Canadians are a mild and temperate people who are as discreet as they are polite, able to keep a lot of secrets under their hats, or “toques.” (Which, in case you never heard of Bob and Doug McKenzie, is pronounced “tewks.” You know, those pom-pom-topped ski caps they pull down over their Geddy Lee hair after Labor Day.) Secrets that you, my fellow Americans, are not supposed to know. But I did your homework for you. I combed through their well-funded libraries, I drank with the locals, I slept with the mooses, I even bribed a few Mounties. I did all of this so that you could learn: The Top 10 Things Americans Are Not Supposed To Know About Canada.

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Ponys: Retro Active

ponys325The Ponys have heard it all: The Velvet Underground. Television. The New York Dolls. The Ramones. Post-punk. Revivalism. Garage rock. But even with all the press-approved reference points and clunky modifiers thrust upon them, these four Chicagoans don’t feel bogged down. After all, it could be worse.

“I actually catch myself doing it, too,” says singer/guitarist Jered Gummere. “Saying, ‘Listen to this. It’s my new favorite band. They sound like this!’ So I can’t really bash it. For the most part, we’ve gotten good comparisons. I mean, if we’re getting compared to Cake or something, then I’d be upset.”

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Nada Surf: 3 Feet High And Rising


With time, effort and some cathartic pop songs, Nada Surf demonstrates how to recover from emotional distress and brief stardom. By Andrew Parks

Life hasn’t always been awful for Nada Surf singer/guitarist Matthew Caws. There was the summer of ’96, when the band performed at the MTV Beach House in Malibu and a cameraman asked tanned, female onlookers to remove their bikini tops. Backing Joey Ramone at an Iggy Pop tribute in 1997 wasn’t so bad, either, especially when Joey returned the favor at a Nada Surf show in Coney Island a couple weeks later by leading the band through eight Ramones songs. Then there was the time an amateur football team in Las Vegas asked Nada Surf to perform its ’90s time-capsule single “Popular” with the modified bridge, “You’ll be sorry when we crush your bones.”

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Spinto Band: Coming Up

spinto_band480The Spinto Band was born out of Sin City. Literally. Of the six Spintos, ages 18 to 23, only singer/guitarist Nick Krill doesn’t have a father, stepfather or uncle who is or was part of Delaware honky-tonk institution the Sin City Band. The Spintos began in junior high with weekend sleepovers in a basement full of the Sin City Band’s discarded four-tracks and other outdated (but not yet “vintage”) gear.

“I think we’re the reverse of a lot of other young bands,” says Krill. “Every other band we knew back then would play in their garage and do the live thing. They’d do a bunch of concerts, then go, ‘Oh man, we’ve gotta record now?’ But we just had this crap in the basement and all we’d do was record, so we had 20 90-minute tapes full of junk before we played our first show. When we had to play live, we were like, ‘What the heck? What do we do?’”

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Daniel Lanois: The Mercy Seat

daniel_lanois350In his producer’s chair, Daniel Lanois serves as rainmaker for Bob Dylan and U2. But he’s just as visionary when wandering the ambient-desert landscape of his latest album. By Scott Wilson

Playing six degrees of Daniel Lanois will get you from Youssou N’Dour to Martha And The Muffins in one move. The 54-year-old Canadian-born producer, guitarist, songwriter and singer has been sideman and sherpa to hall-of-famers and also-rans, tuning up for Raffi as a fledgling studio owner in the mid-’70s and picking up Grammys less than a decade later. The onetime Brian Eno acolyte has, like his mentor, seen his name become an adjective. The Lanois sound. The thrum of overdue multiplatinum sales for Peter Gabriel; the rustle of Bob Dylan unfurling his scroll again; the rattle, hum and pop of the great arena-era U2 albums that aren’t Rattle And Hum or Pop. The Lanois sound. Storyville funeral procession, hissing swamp gas, churning overdubs, mirror-smooth high-hats and broken-bone percussion. The Lanois sound.

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Mommy And Daddy: The Parent Trap

mommydaddy360When Edmond Hallas spots Vivian Sarratt waiting for him in a small café in New York’s East Village, his greeting is as archetypal as their band name: “How was your day?”

There’s no term of endearment attached, but if there were, it wouldn’t be weird. The pair, which plays music together as Mommy And Daddy, is also husband and wife. (They met at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in ’97 and married three years later.) Hallas and Sarratt are the sole members of the band (named after some kitty talk; “Mommy and Daddy are practicing,” Sarratt told their beloved, interruptive cat one day during practice), but the Manhattan-based duo achieves a big sound via punch-drunk vocal chants, bass grooves as deep as continental shelves and some help from its Roland JX-305 synthesizer.

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Rogue Wave: Shadow Play

roguewave535Bad luck seems to follow Zach Schwartz. “At the club last night, I stepped on a rusty nail,” he says. “It went right through my shoe, right through my foot. I was in the hospital until 6:30 this morning watching head-trauma and stab victims being wheeled in.” Last November, Schwartz had to cancel a Rogue Wave tour to have back surgery because of recurring problems with a slipped disc.

Still, the 31-year-old Schwartz (who goes by the name Zach Rogue for stage purposes) relays all this information with a chuckle and a grin. Slouching on a sofa at a Philadelphia bar, he props his shoes up on a coffee table covered in band stickers. A tan, billed beanie rests snugly on his head. Paired with his small hoop earrings and goatee, Schwartz slightly resembles Jackass parent-terrorizer Bam Margera. He has a curious and warm look on his face, as if nothing bad has ever happened to him. Maybe last night’s medication hasn’t worn off. Or maybe there’s just too much for the guy to be happy about.

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Minneapolis: The Rise And Fall Of The ’80s Scene


All the brilliance, beers, breakups and bastards of young: MAGNET presents an oral history of the ’80s Minneapolis scene and the stories of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, told by the band members and those who were there.

A Tale Of Twin Cities: Hüsker Dü, The Replacements And The Rise And Fall Of The ’80s Minneapolis Scene
Bob Mould Returns With Body Of Song
Flip Your Gig: Leading The Post-Rock Lifestyle
Key To The City: A Minneapolis Glossary

A Tale Of Twin Cities: Hüsker Dü, The Replacements And The Rise And Fall Of The ’80s Minneapolis Scene


Twenty years ago, the sound and fury of the Minneapolis scene defined the shape of alternative rock to come. At the forefront were Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, two bands driven by booze, boredom and a burning desire to conquer the world.

Photos by Daniel Corrigan

Who’s Who In MAGNET’s Minneapolis Story:
Ed Ackerson (singer/guitarist, the Dig, Polara)
Lori Barbero (drummer, Babes In Toyland)
Bill Batson (singer, the Hypstrz; soundman, 7th Street Entry)
Karin Berg (A&R person, Warner Bros)
Peter Buck (guitarist, R.E.M.)
Joe Carducci (co-owner, SST)
Angie Carlson (writer, Minnesota Daily)
Kevin Cole (DJ, First Avenue)
Daniel Corrigan (freelance photographer)
Peter Davis (editor/publisher, Your Flesh)
John Doe (singer/guitarist, X)
Slim Dunlap (guitarist, the Replacements)
Craig Finn (singer/guitarist, the Hold Steady)
Steve Fjelstad (engineer, Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Soul Asylum)
Lou Giordano (soundman, Hüsker Dü)
Grant Hart (singer/drummer, Hüsker Dü)
Tom Hazelmyer (owner, Amphetamine Reptile; singer/guitarist, Halo Of Flies)
Michael Hill (A&R person, Sire)
Peter Jesperson (manager, the Replacements; co-owner, Twin/Tone )
Terry Katzman (soundman, Hüsker Dü; co-owner, Reflex)
Martin Keller (writer,
Sweet Potato/City Pages)
Maggie MacPherson (production manager, First Avenue)
Scott McCaughey (singer/guitarist, the Young Fresh Fellows)
Steve McClellan (manager, First Avenue)
Colin Meloy (singer/guitarist, the Decemberists; author, Let It Be)
Bob Mould (singer/guitarist, Hüsker Dü)
John Munson (bassist, Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic)
Dan Murphy (guitarist, Soul Asylum)
Greg Norton (bassist, Hüsker Dü)
Chris Osgood (singer/guitarist, the Suicide Commandos)
Dave Pirner (singer/guitarist, Soul Asylum)
Jack Rabid (editor/publisher,
The Big Takeover)
Paul Stark (co-owner, Twin/Tone)
Tommy Stinson (bassist, the Replacements)
Jim Walsh (writer, City Pages, St. Paul Pioneer Press; musician);
Paul Westerberg (singer/guitarist, the Replacements)

For a few years in the mid-’80s, not long after Athens and sometime before Seattle, the epicenter of American underground rock was Minneapolis. Before Prince came along, the northern city was mostly known for being really cold. (“Funkytown,” a number-one hit for Lipps, Inc. in 1980, is an expression of boredom with Minneapolis and the urge to get the hell out of there.) But genius can put any town on the map, which Prince accomplished for his home city with 1984 album and film Purple Rain, whose prominent concert footage was shot at a local club called First Avenue.

Though they played the same venues as Prince, the spotlight wasn’t necessarily looking for Hüsker Dü and the Replacements. Given the groups’ determination and originality, the Hüskers and the Mats—who both evolved from Minneapolis’ do-it-yourself punk scene—would’ve existed anywhere, anytime.

Formed in 1979, Hüsker Dü believed in speed. But the band’s breakneck tempos—a velocity that’s been attributed to the trio’s amphetamine use—could barely conceal the pop melodies put forth by singer/guitarist Bob Mould and singer/drummer Grant Hart. Musically, the two-headed songwriting team was a great success; personally, it was a disaster. Whether due to opposing personalities or too much time spent in close quarters (the band recorded and toured constantly), Mould and Hart eventually became bitter enemies. (Mould and Hart are gay; despite persistent rumors, they claim they never dated.) Hüsker Dü, which also included bassist Greg Norton, imploded on the road in December 1987, when Hart’s heroin use prompted the band to cancel its last two dates of the tour. Furious, Hart quit the group; Mould threw in the towel the next month. Since, Mould has released a handful of albums, including three successful outings with Sugar in the early ’90s. Hart has also released post-Hüsker records (solo and with Nova Mob) as well working as a visual artist. Norton played briefly with an outfit called Grey Area before concentrating on a career as a chef.

If listeners hadn’t heard anything quite like Hüsker Dü, they sure hadn’t seen anything quite like the Replacements. The band also began in 1979, with the lineup of singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg (a wry, wickedly funny songwriter), guitarist Bob Stinson (a lovable, if troubled, cut-up), bassist Tommy Stinson (Bob’s 12-year-old brother) and drummer Chris Mars (the quiet one). The Replacements drank more than any other band, ever, and their live shows were accordingly either epiphanies or trainwrecks. The indulgence took its toll: Bob was kicked out of the band in 1986 and replaced by Slim Dunlap, who stayed on until the Mats called it quits in 1991. A lifetime of drinking and drugs caught up with Bob in 1995, when he passed away at age 35. Mars eventually quit music and became a painter, Tommy released a few records (solo and with Bash & Pop and Perfect) and now plays in Guns N’ Roses, and Westerberg has a solo career. (For a more complete history of the Replacements, see issue #55.)

Hüsker Dü and the Replacements seemed to run on parallel tracks. They shared a New York City debut on April 17, 1983, at a club called Great Gildersleeves. Both were among the first indie-punk bands of their era to sign to a major label. Both wield enormous influence. There may not have been a Pixies if not for the Hüskers; remember that Kim Deal responded to Black Francis’ want ad for a bassist into Peter, Paul & Mary and Hüsker Dü. (And what would Nirvana have sounded like had Kurt Cobain not worshiped the Pixies?) Without the Replacements, it’s hard to imagine the careers of Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown—and, by extension, Wilco and Ryan Adams.

The greatest irony of the Minneapolis music scene is that neither the Hüskers nor the Mats ever made it big in a commercial sense. Soul Asylum—the perennial opening band and often seen as understudies—did. MAGNET’s oral history of the Minneapolis scene isn’t a comprehensive one: There are probably holes in the story big enough for Prince and all his bodyguards to walk through. And the truth—about Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, the ’80s—is all between the lines, anyway.

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What About Bob?: Mould Returns With “Body Of Song”

bobmould500Back in 1998, feeling ignored and more than a little bored with loud guitar rock, Bob Mould took a semi-permanent vacation from the grind after touring out the aptly titled The Last Dog And Pony Show. Mould moved from New York to Washington, D.C., began dabbling in electronic music (culminating in 2002’s syncretic Modulate) and started DJing a gay-friendly dance night at the 9:30 Club. Now comes the return of Bob rock, with Body Of Song (Yep Roc) splitting the difference between Sugar’s blast-furnace emo and Modulate’s laptop pop. Just don’t call it Moby Dü. He hates that.

Let’s go back to The Last Dog And Pony Show. What’s going through Bob’s mind? Bob is tired of …
Bob is tired of a couple of things: Bob is tired of playing the same old guitar music he’s been playing for 20 years. I was starting to hear other music that was interesting, whether it was hip hop or dance music. I wasn’t particularly happy with Rykodisc at the time; it was a label that was in definite decline and in “sell” mode. Overall, I just wanted a break; you know, being in my late 30s, living in New York and wanting to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Just spend a few years taking care of myself and having a good time with life and figuring out a new way to present myself.

You look a lot healthier than you did in, say, 1985.
I’m fucking buff. [Laughs] I’ll put you through a fucking wall.

What’s your secret?
I’m a gym rat. I work out six days a week, usually nine times a week. A lot of lifting. I hate cardio. I am a clean-living machine right now.

You don’t drink anymore?
No. The last time I had a drink was at Greg Norton’s first wedding in 1986.

What prompted you to make guitar-based rock ’n’ roll again?
From 1999 to the beginning of 2004, I just spent a lot of time on the computer. A lot of time with loops, a lot of time with samples and listening to house music. And trying to merge that with the rock stuff. It wasn’t like I was trying to double back with the guitar; I just started writing those kind of songs again.

Reading through your blog and talking about your DJ nights, you sound really happy and well-adjusted. But when you strap on the guitar, the old Bob Mould—sour, glaring, accusatory—seems to come out again.
I think as Bob Mould records go, this is a pretty sunny record. But if all I ever wrote was, “Yeah, had a great workout today and finally nailed that perfectly rare steak on the grill,” it would not make for the best lyrics. So I draw on relationships: personal, temporal, political.

—Jonathan Valania