Little Mr. Got It Wrong

Music Monday

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is an amazing place. i’ve lived here all my life: Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. There’s a distinct iconoclastic culture here that i’ve found nowhere else in my travels throughout the United States and various Latin American and European countries. The outdoor activities are numerous: In a little more than an hour i can ski some of the greatest snow-covered peaks this land has to offer; or head the other direction and ponder life while viewing amazing beach heads and coastlines; Great hiking; huge rivers; fantastic white-water; world-class sports teams; some of the best music from jazz to alt rock. Where else can one say they have an active volcano in their back yard?

When i recently stumbled across a rendering of a “typical” Seattle native, i took slight offense. The line drawing included in Christian Lander’s latest book, “Whiter Shades of Pale,” depicts what he believes is a stereotypical urban Seattle male. Christian is the man behind Stuff White People Like, a satirical and often funny observations of conventional and banal habits, desires, and social constructs of the melanin deficient. But this time he hit a slight nerve.

i know this is a caricature. i can forgive the hikers, café au lait cliché (i’m not a fan), and facial scruff. A sweater?! Obviously Mr. Lander doesn’t travel here much. i rarely see sweaters, especially with reindeer stitch. This is the PNW, it doesn’t get that cold. Wet? YES! Cold? Not so much. Besides, half the people are still wearing cargo shorts in November (Yep, we’re a different breed up here). Nonetheless, if you could argue rationally about this, i might let it go.

However… Spin Doctors?! Unforgivable! Does Lander realize, perhaps aside from Austin TX,  that the PNW is the coolest place on the planet for music? Is he aware  the Portland and Seattle areas once were or are home to such international artists as Bing Crosby, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Robert Cray, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Dave Friesen, Quarterflash, Nu Shooz, Dan Reed Network, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, M. Ward,  The Dandy Warhols, Everclear, The Shins, Elliot Smith, The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Steven Malkmus (Pavement), Johnny Marr (The Smiths; Modest Mouse; The Cribs), Gary Jarman (The Cribs), Willie Nelson (yep, long before he was famous), Courtney Love, Heatmiser, Hockey, Portugal.The Man, The Dimes, Blitzen Trapper, Pink Martini, Kutless, Storm Large, Helio Sequence, Frank Black (The Pixies), Larry Norman, Meredith Brooks, and Hoyt Axton?

Let’s get Seattle specific: The Posies, Peter Buck (REM), Soundgarden, The Postal Service, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Queensryche, Alice In Chains, The Ventures, Modest Mouse, Death Cab For Cutie, Dave Grohl (Nirvana; Foo Fighters), The Presidents of the United States of America, Jimi Hendrix, The Fleetwoods, Steve Miller, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Heart, Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows; The Minus 5), Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, The Melvins, Green River, The Wailers, Jerry Miller (Moby Grape), Bloodgood, Temple of the Dog, Owl City, Metal Church, Sanctuary, MxPx, Screaming Trees, Lucid, Candlebox, Foo Fighters, Bikini Kill, Sunny Day Real Estate, Beat Happening…

And Lander would muse that any self-respecting Seattle-ite would toque homage a New York based two-hit-wonder (“Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”) like The Spin Doctors?!

Anyone with me on this?

~End vindication~

Not Just For The Lactose Tolerant

Over the years i have done everything from be a musician, concert promoter, freelance music journalist, review editor, industry marketing consultant, etc. Most of all i’m an audiophile, a self described music geek. Monday’s at lifeVertical will be devoted to music.


Neutral Milk Hotel, circa 1998. Jeff Mangum is holding the angel.

The other day my son and i watching the final season episodes of my favorite sitcoms and one of the characters mentions Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s been ages since i’ve listened to them. So i dug out my NMH discs, ripped them to MP3 so i can strap them to myPod (when will someone come out with a descent portable flac player?).

Listening to long forgotten songs like Holland, 1945; Song Against Sex; Ghost; and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea bring to mind the instrument variation of Sufjan Stevens, the enthusiasm of Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists’ general song craft. What?! You’ve never heard of NMH? If you’re even a casual fan of the a fore mentioned artists you should at least give a seek to NMH on Youtube to see where they glean influence.

Neutral Milk Hotel is truly a lost treasure: ahead of their time, and whose time should now surely come. The brainchild of Jeff Mangum, their first full –length On Avery Island was released in 1996 and consists of simply Jeff on vocals and instrumentation with the aid of his pal Robert Schneider (who went on to form and front the Beatles-esque pop band The Apples In Stereo… one of my favorites) on production and various instruments.

On Avery Island was followed up in 1998 by the Anne Frank inspired concept album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. After which, Mangum crawled under a rock and has barely been heard from since.

Any other NMH admirers out there or am i a stranger in a strange land? Otherwise, go check them out and leave feedback on your thoughts.

~End neutrality~