Q&A With Evan Dando

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Despite being the band’s sole proprietor since 1990, why would Evan Dando go back to being a Lemonhead? He released his first solo album in 2003 (the well-received Baby I’m Bored) and hasn’t used the Lemonheads name since 1996’s Car Button Cloth. Maybe he’s resurrecting the moniker because, deep down, he’ll always be a noisy pop/punk guy who’ll gather old hardcore buddies (J Mascis, Descendents Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez) to make an album for Vagrant called The Lemonheads that’s vicious and twitchy without lacking lyrical maturity.

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Q&A With Jeremy Enigk

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Once known as the anguished voice of emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk has done a lot of growing up in public. At 21 years of age, Enigk sacrificed Sunny Day—a band on the verge of a commercial breakthrough—in favor of Christianity, announcing his religious convictions in a 1994 e-mail to friends. Enigk later rejoined his bandmates in various configurations (both in the Fire Theft and a reunited Sunny Day, which split for good in 2000), and he issued an ornate, orchestral-pop solo album, Return Of The Frog Queen, in 1996. The new World Waits (the first release on Lewis Hollow Records, which Enigk started with manager Steve Smith) contains songs written over the past decade and revisits the grandeur of Frog Queen. Enigk creates a multi-tracked choir over transcendent swells of organ (“Been Here Before”), contemplates forgiveness while delicately strumming (“River To Sea”), then segues into a slick, nocturnal Billy Idol send-up (“City Tonight”). Enigk’s singing conveys a chilling world-weariness without emitting a single crack, each note thin, smooth and amazingly resilient—a far cry from his speaking voice when MAGNET caught up with him the morning after his 32nd birthday. Raspy but still energetic, Enigk “whooped it up a little bit” the night before, having spent his birthday at the house of longtime friend and bandmate William Goldsmith, barbecuing, enjoying champagne and chatting with friends.

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Sound Check: The Best Of The Best-Ofs

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We all know self-appointed music snobs who would just as soon be strapped to a chair and force-fed the entire Poison catalog as purchase the lazy man’s way to a diversified music collection: the best-of. But everyone owns at least one greatest-hits collection. Surely you’ve got a well-loved copy of Al Green’s Greatest Hits or The Best Of Blondie bouncing around the glove compartment, right? Well, there’s a reason for that. These guilty pleasures are not only what make the music industry go ’round (some acts have been repackaged more often than they were ever officially recorded; take a bow, Jimi), they’re sometimes the best work an artist will ever release. We’ve surveyed the rock ’n’ roll wastelands to unearth six of the finest, most concise greatest-hits collections unleashed on the masses.

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The Thermals: Songs For Activists’ Lifestyles

thermals540pxRecording a politically charged album in 2006 is an effective way to get lost in the shuffle. Gone are the days of left-wing outspokenness being relegated to crappy hardcore bands; if you want to raise eyebrows, release an album that shuns politics altogether. The Thermals, who toyed with politics on 2004’s Fuckin A, are inviting misconceptions with the new The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Sub Pop). The prominence of religious-themed lyrics among the political fare has prompted some to believe the Portland, Ore., band had crossed over to the god squad.

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Monkey Gone To Heaven: Jason DiEmilio (1970-2006)

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If you knew Jason DiEmilio only via the cryptically packaged music he made with his various drone- /noise-oriented projects, you would get the impression that he probably fancied himself some sort of ultra-serious artiste making records that were purposely over the head of even the most hipster music lover. (It didn’t help that Jason took the name of his main outfit, the Azusa Plane, from Akira Kurosawa’s epic film Ran.)

The Azusa Plane was a big part of the late-‘90s Psychedelphia scene, which also included sonically similar artists such as Bardo Pond, Lenola, the Asteroid #4 and psychedelic godfather Tom Rapp. (It’s no coincidence that all of those musicians played MAGNET’s five-year anniversary in 1998.) At various times, Jason also played guitar in Mazarin, ran three record labels and recorded and released music by various projects including the Spires Of Oxford and Dance Chromatic.

I first met Jason almost a decade ago. Immediately, I found it pretty hard to reconcile that he was the same guy who made such artsy, challenging music. Jason called everybody Monkey. (He also really enjoyed the word “dude,” which he spelled “dood.”) He worked in the programming department of ComcastSportsNet and loved Philly sports. He was constantly on the lookout for what he termed “hot chicks.” He once asked—in all seriousness—what chicken tasted like. (For years, Jason only ate Ellio’s Pizza, which we, of course, took to calling DiEmilio’s Pizza.) During the cold months, the follically challenged Jason proudly wore the biggest, furriest, ugliest winter hat you have ever seen, often indoors.

It was no secret to his friends that Jason—who has a rough childhood to say the least—struggled with depression. In recent years, however, he began suffering from tinnitus and hyperacusis (a rare, debilitating ear disease that can be caused by playing loud music without wearing ear protection). Jason traveled across the U.S. seeking treatment from doctors, but none could help him alleviate his chronic pain. The last time I saw him, he told me that he didn’t know how he could handle always being sick.

Jason killed himself on Halloween, just 17 days following his 36th birthday. Since, much has been written about his various musical accomplishments. But when I think about Jason, it’s never in terms of the music he made. I think of my friend, who, despite all his troubles, had only good in his heart.

Monkey is missed.

—Eric T. Miller

Peter Adams: Dream Brother

peter_adams355Most of us weren’t old enough to buy records back when Sgt. Pepper was first unleashed on an unsuspecting public, nor were we conscious of Hendrix when his backward-masked, brain-bending Are You Experienced? first visited itself upon the rock-starved masses. But—retrospectively, of course—we can dream up plenty of scenarios in which some kid hears this magic-mushroom music for the first time and, starry-eyed, decides right then and there to start a band and dedicate a life to music, no questions asked.

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Comets On Fire: Psych Band Harmonizes Its Spheres

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When MAGNET phones Ethan Miller on a Sunday afternoon, we expect to find the ringleader of Bay Area cosmic-rock radicals Comets On Fire strung out on his floor, wasting away in a broken lava-lamp puddle resulting from the previous night’s ’shroom bender. What we don’t expect is to find Miller out shopping at Target.

“Everybody needs paper towels and dog food,” he sheepishly explains.

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Jennifer O’Connor: Bring Me Up

jennifer_oconnorAll Jennifer O’Connor wanted was a booking agent. What she wound up with was a multi-album contract with Matador Records. It all came together at last year’s South By Southwest festival, where the Brooklyn singer/songwriter had scrambled to nail down a gig to showcase for said agent. But the trip took on a whole new meaning after a SXSW staffer passed along The Color And The Light, O’Connor’s sophomore album, to Matador co-owner Gerard Cosloy, who loved what he heard.

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Sparklehorse: Mark Linkous Finds The Natural Cure

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Some guys just seem to thrive on bad luck.

Ten years ago, Mark Linkous—a.k.a. virtual one-man folk/pop band Sparklehorse—didn’t merely have a near-death experience. He literally died for two minutes, after carelessly mixing Valium and antidepressants and passing out in a crumpled heap for 14 hours. The loss of circulation in his legs laid him up for months and crippled him for life. Only recently was he finally able to remove one of the leg braces he’s been saddled with since his accident. But Linkous made art from bedridden tragedy: 1999’s Good Morning Spider and 2001’s It’s A Wonderful Life revel in the beauty of everyday existence and the natural world he’d been forced to examine up close. Linkous didn’t wallow in his misery; as soon as he was able, he hit the touring trail, sharing his deeply personal observations from a wheelchair.

Had the clouds finally parted to beam some radiant rays into the Sparklehorse camp, a 200-year-old Virginia farmhouse where Linkous lived and recorded? Not exactly. It’s taken five long years for his feathery follow-up, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (Astralwerks).

“For a while there I got in a really bad state of depression and just could not work at all,” says Linkous in his loping Southern drawl. “I’d always had bouts with it, but after the last record came out and 9/11 happened, it just triggered a lot of bad shit. A lot of people started dying around me, and I really thought it was the end of the world—Revelation—and no one else knew it but me.”

There had been a few upbeat moments: playing bass on last year’s Danger Doom album and producing a 2001 solo project by the Cardigans’ Nina Persson. “But basically, I was rock bottom for three years straight, just a paralyzing vortex of depression,” says Linkous, who was raised Baptist and is all too familiar with the book of Revelation.

What did his depression-era days consist of?

“Nothing,” he says. “Just looking forward to being unconscious again and sleeping, with the possibility of having happy dreams. And you can stay in bed all day, stay in bed until you can’t pay your rent and don’t even eat food: You eat crackers, just enough to subsist on.”

Thankfully, friends recognized Linkous’ physical and mental deterioration. He now shacks up with his faithful hound dog Charlie on a North Carolina mountaintop, surrounded by raccoons, rabbits, squirrels and an occasional black bear or two. Linkous is back in touch with nature, having mounted bird feeders for the finches and jays, and nectar dispensers for the local hummingbird population.

“There are timber rattlers up here, too,” he says. “The first time Charlie got bitten by one, the fang marks were so big and so far apart that it could’ve been nothing else. With the help of anti-venom and a big vet bill, he survived. I’ve been hunting that snake for ages now. I’m gonna make a belt out of him.”

The Smoky Mountains, Linkous believes, were the best panacea ever prescribed. He started writing music again, and the subject matter on Dreamt For Light Years turned out decidedly Thoreau-ish in theme: See song titles “Mountains,” “See The Light,” “Shade And Honey,” “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.” Most songs are delivered in Linkous’ patented sky-blue warble and framed by gorgeous, elaborate acoustics. Some tunes, such as “Ghost In The Sky,” gallop along on rock-anthem electric-guitar work. Tom Waits makes a brief appearance, as does Danger Mouse. It seems as if Linkous now wakes up each morning smelling the life-affirming coffee.

“Well, first a Camel, then the Maxwell House,” he admits. “But I swear, I kinda thought that people had forgotten about Sparklehorse and didn’t give a shit anymore and had moved on. But in the last couple of months, it just seems like that’s not really the way it is. So that’s inspiring: The fact that people haven’t given up on me is amazing. I’m really looking forward to touring and playing these new songs for people.”

But right now, the man is happy to have regained his ability to see angels dancing on the head of a pin, happy to walk outside his cabin and stare up into the sky.

“It’s absurd and sad that I have to remind myself to look at the mountains and appreciate them and the clouds every day,” says Linkous. “But if you’re not careful, you can fall into the habit of taking things for granted that simply shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

—Tom Lanham