Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: The Inactivists

The War on Jazz Hands
CD + bonus download

“We’re envious of everyone who isn’t us,” proclaims The Inactivists on its new CD, The War on Jazz Hands, after name-dropping more commercially successful Denver bands like the Fray and Flobots. Of course, its comparative impact doesn’t really seem to bother the band all that much (aside from a bit of envy), especially since the five-piece is back with all its notorious calamity and sarcasm. While the songs on the disc navigate a variety of genres, they all have certain similarities: That is, they all seem to hatch a lyrical concept and then lock into some kind of groove, whether it's traditional pirate folk (in “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash,” a name borrowed from the Pogues or Winston Churchill), American tavern funk* (“Press the Spacebar”), or space lounge (“I Fail at Life”). The CD’s titular song functions as a musical declaration of both its style (apparently The Inactivists are both a be-bop and hip-hop band, among other things), and its courageous battle against jazz hands. “You Give Me a Hard-On,” is a sinister ballad cover of a Little Fyodor track; it's about boners and everything boner-related. And then there’s “Vegan Zombies,” a fancy little number mocking vegan stereotypes (i.e. all non-meat eaters are hacky sac-playing dirty hippies with dreadlocks). The best thing about this release is that it has to be the only CD that comes with a free download of a whole other CD. And on the back cover there’s a “Nice Price” sticker, so you know it’s a bargain. With The War on Jazz Hands, The Inactivists are doing what it does best: Making provocative upbeat songs that separate those who have a sense of humor and like to have a good time from those who don’t.

*I just branded this genre. (Think pub rock but American and funk.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe: Tap Water Soup

Back when I was a lad eking out an existence in a shanty on the muddy banks of the Cherry Creek, my evil Auntie Eris — who took custody of me and my blind little brother after a gory bubble wrap accident claimed the lives of my parents — used to serve up this dish whenever the mighty rumbling of our stomachs became so loud that she couldn’t concentrate on feeding and grooming her 16 evil cats.

Tap Water

Fill up bowl with warm tap water. If you’re especially evil, allow water to cool until it’s somewhere between lukewarm and tepid. Garnish with air.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Scratching the Surface:

Why I’m still playing in punk bands after all these years
By Brian Polk

· I don’t like it when more than four paying customers show up to watch my band play.
· I’m still impressed by the punk credo: “Learn another chord, start another band.”
· When old friends ask me what I’m doing with my life, I don’t have to come up with anything new to say.
· By playing in two different bands—and subsequently saturating the market by ignoring the concept of supply and demand—I’m staying true to my anti-capitalist roots. (Never making more than $20 a gig also contributes to this end.)
· Since I never bothered learning to play guitar solos, I’m totally against them.
· I accepted a long time ago that “making it” on any kind of level isn’t going to happen, so I might as well play good music.
· Since no one else plays punk anymore, I like to think of myself as unique.
· If I don’t demonstrate that the 20-minute set is not only attainable, but desirable, opening bands might get the idea that it’s okay to go on for an hour.
· I’ve been to shows where the audience just stood around and “appreciated” the band. I couldn’t believe how lame this was.
· I don’t ever want to have too much in common with my parents.
· I never sold out (mainly because no one ever offered me anything to sell out to, but it’s still an accomplishment nonetheless).
· Even though punk is unpopular and everything, it’s still more relevant than anything the hipsters have come up with.
· Since most punks I know are either married, twice divorced, or otherwise undateable, we don’t have to care that punk isn’t attractive to members of the opposite sex.
· Since I’ve amassed an embarrassing amount of knowledge about a single genre of music, I might as well stick with what I know.
· I need something to show for my unyielding commitment to bitterness.
· Yelling out of key doesn’t go well with alt-country, electro, or valium rock, and I’m okay with that.
· Punk is the only music that sounds good through the deafening roar of my tinnitus.

It Happens All the Time