Thursday, 21 April 2011

Wisconsin - I hear the rain!

I always really look forward to discovering some new music for this blog and Wisconsin has been a real treat.  Not only did I (re)discover two of the state's biggest musical exports, Violent Femmes and Garbage, but I also discovered some new bands I'd never heard of before, such as The Gufs and Bon Iver

Blister in the Sun

I'd heard of the Milwaukee band, Violent Femmes, before I started blogging about Wisconsin, but I would have been hard pushed to have named one of their songs.  When I started researching their music, I immediately recognised Blister in the Sun, probably their most famous song, which comes from their debut album, also called Violent Femmes.  I was really surprised to learn that they released their debut album in 1983, but I guess this makes sense, in the context of the punk era and the other bands which were around at that time.  I'm a big fan of The Pixies and I can definitely hear a pre-Pixie sound in Violent Femmes

I'm re-posting a video from YouTube, which is a live recording from Auckland, New Zealand (I think).  Gordon Gano, the lead singer, is an interesting character and was just 20 years old, when this song was originally released.  A piece of trivia is that Blister in the Sun was the first song in English to be played on the Irish-language Radio na Gaeltachta!

Add it up

Even more exciting was discovering another hit from their debut album, Add it Up.  It's been a while since a song has got me so excited and I felt like I was 16 again, discovering Nirvana for this first time.  Gano's father was a Baptist minister and he continued to worship and write songs influenced by his religion, which caused some uneasiness for his band mates, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo.  The religious influence on his songwriting comes through much stronger on later tracks, such as Hallowed Ground, but in Add it Up I can hear, Native American chanting, punk rock and Baptist church singing, all wrapped up in one.  I hope you enjoy this song as much as I have!

I Hear the Rain

A lot of the music on their later albums is incredibly dark and I Hear the Rain, from their second album, has to be one of the weirdest songs I've ever heard, although I find it enthralling, if not a little bit satanic!  I don't like everything that the Violent Femmes recorded, but some of the other songs I really liked and have been listening to as I've been blogging about Wisconsin are:

Kiss Off (also from their debut album, Violent Femmes)
Hallowed Ground (from their second album, also called Hallowed Ground)
Color me Once (from the soundtrack for the movie The Crow)

I'm re-posting a YouTube video of I Hear the Rain so you can hear for yourself!

I'm only Happy When it Rains

Maybe it's just this time of the year, but I've noticed how erratic the weather in Wisconsin can be!  Plus 18 (Celsius) and sunshine one day, plus 4 and rain the next.  Maybe that explains the 'rain theme' of Garbage's hit single, I'm only Happy When it RainsGarbage is a Scottish-American band, from Madison and  are much more mainstream than Violent Femmes.  I knew a few of their biggest hits, even before I started researching for this blog (of course, it helps that they were big in the 90's as well, as Violent Femmes were a little bit before my time!). 

I think their most famous track was Stupid Girl which was a top ten hit in the US and the UK.  It reminds me of a particularly fun summer when I was in my early twenties, dancing in The Union Bar in Maidstone!  Garbage had produced four studio albums by 2005, three of which have gone platinum.  As far as I know, they have a fifth album coming out sometime this year. 

Anyway, I'm re posting a video from YouTube for I'm only Happy When it Rains - the videos for this song and Stupid Girl were directed by Samuel Bayer, who also did that really great video for Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit


Also from Milwaukee, The Gufs is one of those bands that has been around for years, but only made it big fairly recently.  One of the greatest things about the Internet revolution is that it has opened up new channels for unknown artists to promote the work that they do.  In 2006 The Gufs suddenly found that their single Beautiful Disaster had become the #2 unsigned artist download and an Internet hit that brought them the success that they deserved.  I'm posting a video from YouTube for a song I really like called Smile which comes from their 1995 album Collide.

Skinny Love

Last but not least, I've been listening to a completely new band called Bon Iver from Eau Claire.  The song I'm posting is called Skinny Love and comes from their debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago released in 2007.  By all accounts, the band spent three months living in a remote cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin and this album was the result!  They seem to have become incredibly popular since then and their music has been used as theme music for TV programmes, amongst other things.  They also have a new album due out sometime this year.  Enjoy!

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