Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Songs #211 & 212 - It's TWOsday!

Song #211 of 9999                                                  Song #212 of 9999

Title: Web in Front                                                   Title: Tilebreaker
Artist: Archers of Loaf                                              Artist: Polvo
Year: 1993                                                               Year: 1993
Album: Icky Mettle                                                   Album: Today's Active Lifestyles

In the pop music class I sometimes teach, we talk a lot about regionalism, which used to be a big deal in pop music but is almost non-existent today. One can easily classify early blues music from the Mississippi Delta or the Piedmont or East Texas or Chicago. In fact, there is a very good chance that if you grew up in one of these areas during the first half of the twentieth century, it was the only music you knew. But during the modern era, these regional associations waned and now have virtually disappeared thanks to the internet. So it's always interesting when local scenes like Minneapolis pop in the early 1980s or Seattle grunge in the early 1990s emerge and become well-known nationally or around the world. (Let's set aside a special area for New York and London, two cities that always seem to have something new brewing.)

Were it not for the Seattle scene, perhaps the are known as The Triangle in North Carolina would have gained more national prominence in the 1990s. A lot of interesting acts (most of them signed to burgeoning Merge Records) emanated from the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham area, including indie favorites Superchunk, Corrosion of Conformity, Squirrel Nut Zippers and, most famously, the Ben Folds Five. 

Although these groups span a fairly wide range of genres, the most prevalent Chapel Hill sound in the early 1990s, as exemplified by these releases from Archers of Loaf and Polvo, is guitar-based rock with healthy doses of noise and irony. When AOL singer Eric Bachmann sings "you're not the one who let me down/but thanks for offering" in "Web in Front," you can almost hear the smirk. I'm not as familiar with Polvo, but a few tracks from their 1993 record are squatting in my iTunes folder, courtesy of my ex-wife, who introduced me to her NC stomping grounds, including the iconic club The Cat's Cradle. Compared to AOL's relatively accessible melodic rock, "Tilebreaker" adds an extra layer of noise and pitch-bending discordance while burying the vocals deep into the sonic saturation.

Welcome to 1993!

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