Photo by You Ain’t No Picasso
Ever heard of The Apples In Stereo? The Elephant 6? Robert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine? Okay, that last one was a children’s album that’s only tangentially related to this here post, but it just serves to show that Robert Schneider is a seriously busy and talented dude. From kickstarting the whole Elephant 6 collective to pumping out albums full of psychedelic pop-rock—and producing that classic Netural Milk Hotel album we all know and love along the way—to his ventures as an amateur mathematician, Robert never ceases to impress. Thee American Revolution is a gritty, punk-pop side project whose only album was recently re-released on Fire Records and it deserves some attention.
Here’s a tip for ya. Find some good speakers. None of that tinny laptop/earbud bullshit. Something with some heft behind it. Maybe some really good headphones if you’re feeling slightly masochistic towards your ears. Then blast this album out at max volume, or close to it. It’s ten songs. Thirty-one fuzzy minutes of upbeat, sugary, reverby, lysergic heaven. Perhaps you wanna piss off your neighbor and simultaneously find out if he/she’ll knock on your door with a peace pipe, if you know what I’m saying. In any event, be prepared for spacey guitar riffs that explode with feedback paired with the high-pitched-but-hardly-falsetto vocals of Mr. Schneider. It’s like The Apples In Stereo formed a punk cover band but then decided to write their own songs.
That’s not actually what happened, though. Well kinda. Around 2004, Robert Schneider got together with brother-in-law Craig Morris from The Ideal Free Distribution and immediately started blasting some garage rock tunes without a care for polish and prettiness. Literally. A feature on the Elephant 6 blog from 2006 quotes Robert about the tune “Grit Magazines” (with a slightly different track title back then):
[It was finished] in no more than thirty minutes from the time we picked up our instruments–we wrote the song, recorded it and mixed it like kids tumbling down a hill! And it rocks in such a raw pure way and is also really catchy, and sloppy and flawed and tossed-off–which of course you can hear in the recording, and is what makes it awesome! We didn’t even notice the main riff is a rip-off of ‘Smoke on the Water’ until after it was mixed!”
How about that? You might as well subtly spin off classic rock melodies while you’re mimicking the grunge and fuzz of bygone psychedelia, eh?
Thee American Revolution / “Grit Magazine” / Buddha Electrostorm [Garden Fire, 2009]
Now, that’s not to say I don’t dig these rehashed pop styles. Far from it. Yes, the songs here aren’t breaking new ground in the canon of modern music, but that’s not the fucking point. It’s about the attitude, the heaviness, the way it makes you feel, man. “Grit Magazine” has that shit in spades, telling a brief tale of a little girl who doesn’t know any better, walking door to door and selling subscriptions. That guitar feedback, squealing through the pounding cymbals, is a perfect descriptor of what must be going through her pretty little head—“She’s a little girl of 17 / Doesn’t even know what love means!” “Electric Flame” is a longer (i.e. over 4 minute-long) drug ditty—“In a waking dream and she’s so serene and it makes her feel alright”—and bears a striking resemblance to a sped-up, fuzzed-out version of Fun Trick Noisemaker‘s “Strawberryfire”. The sneery, youthful angst of “Haircut” is incredibly addictive and will have you whining along whether you like it or not, while “Blow My Mind” is the sweeter, bubblegum singalong track of the album, and almost certainly the catchiest number. Never mind the astoundingly surprising but well-placed recorder solo, “Shoeshine Blues” has some solid stutter-step percussion and beautifully soft-spoken vocals (given the circumstances, of course). “Little Girl” features the aforementioned Morris on vocals, with echoes galore, and signals a closing run of three quasi-atmospheric numbers, wrapping up with the Hendrix-esque “Saturn Daze” (“6th Stone From The Sun”, anyone?) and sugary “In Your Dreams/Japanese Clone”.
To quote the inimitable Mr. Schneider one more time: “The line between rock and noise is almost nonexistent anyway, with Th(e) American Revolution.” Amen, brother. You’ve got both rock and noise energy galore. The band has played random shows over the years, amassing some tunes and culminating in the release of Buddha Electrostorm on Garden Gate Records in 2009—still their sole LP to date. Fire Records wisely picked up the recordings and are re-sharing the glory on mp3, CD, and vinyl. As they write, they are “proud to unleash this joyful slab of rock and roll. Gather the kids round the stereo, turn up the volume, and freak out!”
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