For this edition of On the Stereo, we welcome my friend and fellow record collector Gerry Stumbaugh. Gerry’s worked at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for almost ten years now, and he’s hosted the Left of the Dial radio show on KRCB for eight years. His preferred format is 7”s, bless his heart, and while he pounded Negro Modelos and I macked down on some El Farolito, we hung out and listened to nothing but 7”s.
I have to warn you—this play-by-play goes on forever. Click after the jump at your own risk. We’re record nerds. Lots of swearing, too. Sorry, Dad.
Included are discussions of 7”s by Themes, Bikini Kill, the Gaslamp Killer, Ratatat, Built to Spill, Santogold, No Age, Spank Rock, Screeching Weasel and Navy of the Nice, along with tangential excursions into Mexican snack treats, the unusual breakfast diet of Mike Watt, and the follies of WCW Tag Team Wrestling.
Lemme just say first off that when I brought Themes‘ new 7″ home on Sunday afternoon, I listened to it three times in a row, over and over. It’s that good. Full of optimistic hooks, unifying harmonies, and hopeful lyrics, it’s nothing short of inspiring. It’s the Obama of 7″s.
In classic 7″ fashion, the songs are both slightly out of style for the band but wholly complimentary to each other. They’re almost the same song, actually; even the titles form a cohesive sentence: “I Can’t Make You Believe / It’s Not Hopeless to Survive.” The repeated line in the latter is “You’re not the only one who hates this country,” and even though on the whole I actually love this country, it’s lately given me many reasons to be so angry I can’t even sleep and just want to throw myself out into the street. Which, actually, is a line from the song on the other side.
The Petaluma Church is a fantastic place for house shows, situated as it is near virtually no other residences; I’ve been there a few times and it’s awesome (in fact, I interviewed the Grand Color Crayon there for an article in the Bohemian). It’s usually packed, naturally, and the sound is good, the cheap beer is flowin’, and Sunday night, especially, the vibe was that of overwhelming freedom clustering on a communal precipice. You know what I mean? Like summertime is just around the corner and there’s a million great bands in this town and we’re gonna run it as hard as we can while it lasts because it’s beautiful to be alive.
I chatted with Jacy from Themes for a long time before they played, and he, too, was adamant about actively pursuing a life of living free in a country currently defined by restriction. After spending his youth confined to a Native American reservation outside of Minneapolis, he’s traveled around the country virtually nonstop playing music. “It’s folklore, what we do,” he said. “It’s all we’ve got left, all we’ve got that’s ours. We’re gonna be on tour forever.”
Then Themes played in the living room, and wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t play either song from the 7″ that I had so fiercely become smitten with. However, I wish more than anything that I had a recording of the second and third songs they played—both of them stark, dismal minor-chord epics with accordion and tambourine, back-to-back ruminations on darkness and hell. In hindsight, even though it came from the opposite end of the spectrum, this only made the 7″ songs all the more powerful—as if acknowledging evil makes a thrust towards good more legitimate.
No one who has half a brain in their heads can deny that for eight years we’ve been in some very evil and dark ages, but the era of having no choice but to dwell upon our administration’s failures is soon going to be over. We’ve got a pretty thrilling future ahead, full of national and personal challenges, and fuck it, I don’t want to wait until November. I’m starting to celebrate now. This is the summer when everything starts to shift, when there’s no reason to feel confined anymore. And above all, as the song so awesomely says—this is the summer when it’s not hopeless to survive.