Lost Classics: Jack Drag “Dope Box”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: JACK DRAG
Dope Box // A&M, 1998

jack-drag360Jack Drag was the solo vehicle for Boston singer/songwriter John Dragonetti, who released five full-lengths under that moniker between 1996 and 2002. It was initially conceived by Dragonetti as a one-man studio project, although by the time of third album Dope Box, he’d hired a bassist and drummer. Issued on A&M, which had recently gone on an alt-rock shopping spree (remember Orbit or Pulsars?), Dope Box was a glam-slam marvel—think Love And Rockets meets Beck’s block-rocking beats—alight with shuddering synth lines, laser guitar riffs and a dub-worthy bottom end fatter than a ghetto hooker’s booty. Critics drooled; sales were marginal; A&M flinched; and Dragonetti was soon back in indieland. A song title from 2000’s Soft Songs LP: Aviating perhaps said it best: “We Could’ve Been Big.”

Catching Up: After issuing a beat-heavy electronica EP as Junior Communist Club, Dragonetti resurfaced with wife Blake Hazard as the Submarines, whose 2006 Declare A New State! documented the lovers’ breakup and eventual reconciliation. Dragonetti has penned music for Volkswagen and Hummer commercials, and the Submarines’ “You, Me, And The Bourgeoise” was recently featured in ubiquitous ads for the iPhone G3.

“Surfin’ The Charles”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SurfinTheCharles.mp3

From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Lärabar

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future.

As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

larabar540bLee: My keyboard player and musical collaborator, Lara Meyerratken (El May), is a snack freak. Whole Foods is like a perverse sexual playland for her. She discovered Lärabars on tour one day and has never turned back. They are great. Dried fruit and nuts and just totally delicious. Now get this: Through some research, she found out the creator of Lärabar is named Lara Merriken. Cosmic snack kismet, no? So they started writing to each other, and we then received a lifetime supply of Lärabars to tour with. Lara recently told me these days she actually keeps her Lärabars in the freezer. She’s an innovator. The mind can only wonder what snack she will discover next.

TiVo Party Tonight: Blind Pilot, She & Him

tivoshebEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): Blind Pilot
Portland, Ore.’s bike-touring pop duo makes its network TV debut.

Spectacle (SUN): She & Him (pictured), Jenny Lewis, Jakob Dylan
Description of the Elvis Costello-hosted program here; Sundance is still the bleeding-edge news source for the breakups of both Rilo Kiley and the Wallflowers.

She & Him’s “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” from 2008’s Volume One (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WhyDoYouLetMeStayHere.mp3

Put Up Your Dukes: Bon Iver

boniverb540c1Two of MAGNET’s Matts—editor Matthew Fritch and writer Matt Ryan—go to the mat to see whose opinion is more correct. Today’s topic: Bon Iver. Put up your dukes!

From: Matthew Fritch
To: Matt Ryan

Hey, remember when you were a teenager and you’d be in the car with one of your parents and you’d have to find something on the radio that was tolerable for the both of you? You’d end up listening to the bland middle ground of John Mellencamp or the Steve Miller Band or, at best, Out Of Time-era R.E.M. Depending on our reader’s (yes, I do mean singular—I think one person reads this column) age, that safe-sounding music might have been the Wallflowers or Iron & Wine or Bon Iver. I’ve gotten more excited watching Sunrise Earth than I have listening to For Emma, Forever Ago.

“Skinny Love” from For Emma, Forever Ago (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SkinnyLove.mp3

Continue reading “Put Up Your Dukes: Bon Iver”

From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Jonathan Richman

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future. As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

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Lee:I first heard Jonathan Richman when I was 14. I used to go around to my friend Stephen’s house and borrow music from his vinyl collection every week. I discovered Back In Your Life by Jonathan And The Modern Lovers the same week I discovered Raw Power by the Stooges. As much as it will surprise some people, these records aren’t disconnected. Richman was (and still is) as punk as it gets. He was in seminal garage band the Modern Lovers, then went solo, playing acoustic kids’ music about dinosaurs and ice cream. There is something so pure about the way he sees the world. Without him, there would be no Moldy Peaches, no Calvin Johnson, no Ben Lee. He gave songwriters everywhere the permission we needed to never grow up.

“Back In Your Life” from 1979’s Back In Your Life:

Lost Classics: The Anniversary “Your Majesty”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: THE ANNIVERSARY
Your Majesty // Vagrant, 2002

This Lawrence, Kan., band attracted both new-wave knocks (due to keyboard-crazy 2000 debut Designing A Nervous Breakdown) and the libelous emo label (via its affiliation with the Get-Up Kids), but it was more a case of guilt-by-association than anything else. Sophomore LP Your Majesty showed the New Pornographers to be a more appropriate touchstone. Anniversary co-leaders Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs swapped power-pop pith like a split-personality Carl Newman, with Adrianne Verhoeven’s sweet counterpoint playing the Neko Case part on bleeding-heart bookends “Sweet Marie” and “Follow The Sun.”

Catching Up: After the band’s 2004 demise, Berwanger went on to form the Only Children, whose 2004 debut Change Of Living found him sounding like a Ryan Adams-esque Southern rocker. Roelofs’ solo White Flight issued a self-titled LP in 2007. Verhoeven joined Azure Ray’s Orenda Fink in the group Art In Manila for a 2007 album and released an electro/dance solo album under the name Dri the same year. Last June, Vagrant issued Devil On Our Side, a two-disc set of the Anniversary’s b-sides and rarities.

“Sweet Marie”:

From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Hanuman

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future.

As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

hunauman540bLee: I love Hindu mythology and have spent quite a bit of time in India. They have thousands of gods, each with a different story and lesson to teach about human nature. Hanuman is the monkey god whose superhuman strength comes from his devotion to his lord, Rama. He represents the playfulness and power we each tap into when we are dedicated to our truth. He was a very cheeky being who would play tricks like lifting up mountains and moving them while sages were meditating at the top. To me, Hanuman inspires me to stay on my path despite the challenges and consequences. You can get into a magical headspace that feels a little superhuman when you believe in what you are doing.

TiVo Party Tonight: Heartless Bastards, Levon Helm, Little Ones

tivoheartEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Heartless Bastards
We want to see Ohio’s Heartless Bastards (pictured) play the title track from recent album The Mountain (Fat Possum) because: a) most likely it will offer a glimpse at pedal-steel player Bill Elm (Friends Of Dean Martinez); and b) “The Mountain” sounds like Nico and the Grifters.

Late Night With Conan O’Brien (NBC): Levon Helm
Worth watching just to see who shows up to play with Levon; his Midnight Ramble sessions get a lot of traffic. Let’s roll the dice and say that he’ll be joined by Steve Earle, Donald “Duck” Dunn and the bassist from Missing Persons.

Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC): The Little Ones
That’s an awfully detailed Wikipedia entry for a band that’s accomplished so, um, little.

Heartless Bastards’ “The Mountain”:

The Over/Under: Robert Pollard

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Our friend Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) convinced us that he’s the foremost authority on Guided By Voices and Bob Pollard. (He claims to possess 257 GBV bootlegs, which is probably 256 more than Pollard himself owns.) Somehow, that qualifies him to make the following list of the five most overrated and five most underrated non-GBV Pollard songs.

:: The Five Most Overrated Non-GBV Robert Pollard Songs
1. “Do Something Real” (1999)

One of the things that’s made Bob Pollard the greatest songwriter who ever lived is that he never quite comes out and says anything. His remarkable lyrics hint at a notion, suggest an idea, foretell a feeling. But they never just say it. With the musically jerky “Do Something Real,” from the otherwise awesome Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department (a collaboration with Doug Gillard), Pollard actually gets preachy, and it’s unbecoming of him. “Do something real with your life,” he used to say while introducing this at Guided By Voices shows. I’ll go to a Midnight Oil show and listen to Peter Garrett’s rambling morality lessons if I want to hear this kind of crap.

Continue reading “The Over/Under: Robert Pollard”