Sunday, July 15, 2018

GANG OF FOUR: "MAJOR CONGRATS" POST SOCIAL

"MAJOR CONGRATS"
POST SOCIAL

POST SOCIAL:
Shannon Connor: Vocals,  Guitars, Bass Guitar, Keyboards
Mitch Deitz: Vocals, Guitars
Sam Galligan: Bass Guitar
Brendan Manley: Drums, Percussion, Guitar, Bass Guitar

with
Ritt Deitz: Acoustic Guitar on "Sand Wand"
Wilder Deitz: Keyboards on "Sticky Hands"
Isaac De Broux-Slone: Drums on "From Distance"

All music by Post Social
All lyrics by Shannon Connor/Mitch Deitz

Mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room

Produced by Ricky Reimer at Science Of Sound, located in Madison, WI
Released June 29, 2018

If I possessed a magic wand, I would wave it around with the ability to enter the music of Post Social into everyone's consciousness.

For the better part of these past four years, I have been supremely enchanted with the music of the Madison, WI based band Post Social whose textured, nuanced yet euphorically composed, produced and performed indie rock not only invigorated my musical spirit upon the very first listen of the first album, the band has also pushed open the doors of my perception regarding the artists that populate the continuously exciting, inviting and wholly impressive Madison music community.

From their mesmerizing self titled debut (released  December 6, 2014), to the DIY post punk rock aesthetics of their second album "Young Randolphs" (released October 3, 2015) and the stunning, widescreen dreamworld of their third album "Casablanca" (released July 30, 2016), what Post Social has achieved for me extends far beyond just making good songs or albums. It is indeed the sheer unadulterated joy in which these four your men create as well as the seriousness they place within their art. There is no ego involved. No evidence of jadedness. Only devotion to the song itself. And those qualities are not only what enlivens my love of this band (plus their contemporaries in this community), it has often equaled or even eclipsed the work of long established artists that I listen to and cherish.

For a band that is typically prolific and without any shortage of new material, it has indeed been two long years since the release of "Casablanca" due to their increasing life responsibilities with college, day jobs and musical commitments to additional Madison bands plus also adjusting to the grim realities of an increasingly politically fascistic era in the band's home state of Wisconsin plus the nation at large.

"Major Congrats," Post Social's long gestating fourth album, is more than worth the extended wait as they have conceived and formulated an album experience that not only builds upon all of their past releases, especially "Casablanca"...it quite possibly exceeds them. Armed with a palpable aggression, a tightly focused force and an unprecedented lyrical directness, the band sounds hungrier than ever as they have created a release that almost feels like a briskly thrown speedball straight down the middle hitting every single target in its formidable path.

With "Casablanca," I remarked that it sounded as if Post Social had created their own version of "Led Zeppelin III" (released October 5, 1970) as they widened their musical canvas, flowing to musical avenues not yet traveled. With Major Congrats," I first felt as if they had possibly created their version of Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album (released November 8, 1971). but upon more listens and even reading the lyrics on closer inspection, I think that a better comparison would be The Who's monumental "Who's Next" (released August 25, 1971). With "Major Congrats," Post Social has returned with a roar.

Functioning as an album overture, "Major Congrats" kicks the doors open with the raging, hard driving "Outside Man," on which the guitars of Mitch Deitz and Shannon Connor charge and snarl ferociously while the superior rhythm section of bassist Sam Galligan and drummer Brendan Manley keep the song propelled at light speed. After an instrumental preamble that endures for nearly three minutes, Deitz's lead vocals enter the fray with a stern warning.

"Don't shake hand with an outside man
Who'll run you down and run you out  
Don't look down on our small towns
They'll vote you out and vote you down..."

As with past albums, Mitch Deitz's lyrics are indeed open to interpretation, for I am unsure if they are meant to directly confront a specific political figure occupying our state Capitol building  or even the other pseudo-political figure occupying the Oval Office or else something or someone more metaphorical but his delivery is nearly feral in its urgency. And when Deitz hits his speaker shaking howl of "Don't....Look....DOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNN!!!" he has created his Roger Daltrey /"Won't Get Fooled Again" moment perfectly. Trust me. The hairs on the back of your neck will rise.

From that aforementioned howl of defiance, we dive into a howl of despair without taking a breath, as the band launches into the relentless inner turmoil of "Creeping Up," a paranoid, self-lacerating ode of feared failure with Shannon Connor taking his first set of lead vocals and lyrics on the album.

We next receive a bit of a breather with "Sand Wand," whose languid feel, via Connor's slide guitar as well as the nearly sitar styled swirl of Connor and Deitz's electric guitars, perfectly delivers a sound that feels to match its own title. But don't be fooled. "It's not a pretty picture/It keeps me up all day," sings Deitz. "I wear it on me/ It wears down on me...But it's sustainable/Making me stable."  What we have is a song that may suggest tranquility, yet it is tension filled. There are demons abound but at least for now, they are being precariously held at bay. 

Floodgates open with the arrival of "Before It Starts," a propulsive storm of a song starring Connor's empathetic yet anxious vocals threatening to being overtaken by the band's furious pace, which drummer Brendan Manley continuously threatens to push even faster.

"Put my trust in the Liberal Arts
It's over before it starts
I know I can't make plans if I don't understand
Where I'd be with a real degree, if you'd wanna be with me
The deal is I'm feeling rough
Think I've had it with this stuff

I want to be so sincere
But I just sink when your near
And it gets worse for every mile 
I might be cursed
It's so worthwhile"

Here is where Shannon Connor really begins to showcase a greater lyrical depth than ever before as "Before It Stars" speaks directly to an existential worry of life speeding past you before you have had a chance to properly engage with it and in the process, potentially losing those closest to your heart as well as yourself. While the foursome are clearly working like the Devil musically and having a blast with it, Connor shows a nearly John Lennon or Paul Westerberg-esque approach by inserting content that sounds so nakedly personal yet it is subjectively hidden in the song's whirlwind attack, giving the album a hefty emotional pull at the conclusion of its first four tracks, only to find some respite, however brief, in its fifth selection.

After the album's opening warning to not look down, we are asked to do just that in the album's next track, entitled "Look Down." With a lyrical and vocal presentation that, to my ears, suggesting nothing less than Brian Wilson, Connor treats himself to a beautifully melodic inner pep talk. "Don't give up on yourself/Don't worry if you feel like you're somebody else/There's more time than you think, get something to drink and out of the house," he sings and in encouragement, his bandmates bash along confidently.

With its primitive drum machine beat, minimal keyboards and shimmering guitars, the oddly titled "Popeye," feels like an extension of tracks like "Green Screen" and "Haunt Me" from "Young Randolphs."  This track allows the band to settle into a relative sonic calmness but again trying to keep those demons of loneliness, insignificance and failure at bay.

"Take a picture of your life now as you turn the lights down 
You keep on flinching
You keep your distance
Sit and watch that paint dry, lonely way to get by
Keep your patience, you're still waiting"

With the melodic power-pop waterfall of "Savor," Post Social ascends to a newfound level of grace. "Missed the meaning, ask again," sings Mitch Deitz and as his aesthetic, I am still unsure as to what this song might actually mean. But in some cases, it doesn't matter what it means when you know how the song makes you feel. And for me, this song in which the band hits some gloriously tight choirboy harmony vocals, makes me feel as if I am soaring and flying.

The aggression returns with the punk rock temper tantrum that is the brutal "Better Off Dead" during which Shannon Connor, armed with his crying slide guitar, laments "I'm fucking up somehow." The foot stomping dust continues to be superbly kicked around with the crashing yet groove fueled "Imaginary Prize." And with the stunning, exquisite "Hold This Side Close," Post Social makes a rare return to the sound that made me fall in love with them upon their first album, that inexplicable blending of textures and rhythms that recalls The Police, Tortoise, Real Estate, Television and 1980's era King Crimson. Yet this time, the lyrics match the brutality of our current landscape as Connor sings, "Each generation is more sadistic." 

The album reaches its harshest levels with the slashing "From Distance" starring Mitch Deitz's stinging guitars and augmented by Brendan Manley supplying a growling bear of a bass guitar performance and special guest star Isaac De Broux-Sloane of the Madison, WI based band Disq performing the drums, and sounding as if he has left Manley's drum kit cymbals in shards.

The album's penultimate selection entitled, "Never Coming Back" is shattering. Just plain shattering, so much so that I actually seriously considering reaching out to Shannon Connor due to the effectiveness of his devastating lyrics, singing and acoustic delivery which showcased not simply a heart worn upon its sleeve but of nerve endings completely exposed to the world.

"I'm so tired of who I am
Force myself to accept the plan
Cut me off a little slack
Say I'm never coming back..."

Again, comparisons to both Paul Westerberg and John Lennon are considerably earned as Connor has opened a new venue for his lyrical approach, one that feels to be simultaneously frightening and resoundingly brave. In doing so, Post Social as a whole only allows itself to extend themselves creatively, revealing a new emotional playground to write songs within.

"Major Congrats" comes to a close with the slow burn of "Sticky Hands," which features eerie keyboard work from Wilder Deitz of Madison's Wilder Deitz Singers R&B/jazz organization (plus also being Mitch's brother), was written, recorded and finalized in merely one day! Again, Mitch  Deitz's lyrics are open to interpretation as the song could either function as a weary sense of resignation or as prophetic commentary as the song allows the album to double end upon itself as the figure of the "Outside Man" returns.

"Outside man
You're the friend I never knew I had
You're the friend I wish you really weren't
But I'm holding on to find your worth

Someday you'll learn..."

With the rising tension as found in Wlder Deitz's organ, Mitch Deitz's tight harmonies and the building groove within the rhythm section, Brendan Manley's drums bring the song to full explosive psychedelic fury before allowing the ashes to fall and the smoke to completely clear, leaving just what in its wake?

Post Social's "Major Congrats" is a tougher, darker experience than any of the band's past three efforts. In comparison to the often ethereal "Casablanca," this new album is bracingly grounded, defiantly more streetwise and often existentially angst ridden, thus eliciting a sense that these young men have some distinct wounds that need licking and healing or even further, they are each trying to make sense of a world that is indeed much darker and exceedingly more angst and anxiety ridden than when they released their first album as high school teenagers. With "Major Congrats," all four members of Post Social feel to be entering this new life chapter and phase in our cultural history as a veritable gang of four, a band of brothers meeting each experience together, supporting each other along the way.

As the members are at the start of their 20's, it should be noted that despite the youth of their ages, Post Social is not a young band. Mitch Deitz, Shannon Connor, Sam Galligan and Brendan Manley are now veterans, seasoned songwriters, signers, producers and musicians who thankfully and beautifully approach their material with the joyousness of that very first time. As dark as "Major Congrats" actually is, it is also wondrous to hear the sheer euphoria at work just hearing these people playing and creating together.

Beyond the unadulterated fun, there is a seriousness to their art that has been incredible to observe from the sidelines, as well as through listening. I am still amazed with just how good they were on that very first album. Yet, what has impressed me even more over the years is to see how they refuse to rest upon any laurels and simply repeat themselves ad nauseum. Post Social is always looking towards what they next song could potentially be, always ensuring that the song itself remains the star and not just any one member.

After creating two albums entirely upon their own, it felt correct to these new songs that they return to working with Producer Ricky Reimer within an official studio setting rather than at home. For musicians who typically craft their albums all by themselves, it served these songs best to have guest musicians join in the collaboration. To that end, just look at Sam Galligan himself, a fearsome and frighteningly fluid bassist who knows that if by not appearing upon a song will serve the song the very best, he will do so and without any sense of ego whatsoever.

And even with these conceptual changes, it shows how good this band actually happens to be as they keep allowing themselves to grow from album to album and with "Major Congrats," they have proven themselves to have grown as singers as well as songwriters. Shannon Connor in particular has made a revelatory leap for himself as he continues to strengthen his guitar skills certainly, but this time, his songwriting has opened itself up tremendously as the confessional nature widens the emotional palate of the songs. This quality makes him serve as a perfect counterpoint to Mitch Deitz's gregarious yet enigmatic rock star and they are both superbly anchored and pushed by Galligan and Brendan Manley's formidable, sweat soaked performances.

The very best thing that I can say about Post Social is that while their musical influences are refreshingly wide and varied, they are never obvious, making them that rare band who sound like no one else other than themselves as they gradually create their own musical language and universe. In doing so, they stand apart from their contemporaries while also defying expectations along the way.

From the very beginning with me, they defied my expectations of what a band in high school could actually sound like. Now years later, and growing so accustomed to their sound, "Major Congrats" threw me quite a number of considerable curve balls, fully defying my expectations as certain sonic qualities I love about the band are either in extremely short supply, or have been transformed into something entirely new or have been abandoned altogether. What was once crystalline is now like a punch in the face. What was once youthful abandon is now tracked with honest pain, worry, concern, and confusion over what just may arrive next in life.

In a year during which all manner of musical artists have seemingly picked up a gauntlet and challenged themselves to push their gifts and their art further, Post Social's "Major Congrats" fully represents that conceit as they have crafted one of the best albums I have heard in 2018. Major congrats are indeed in order for these young men who fully deserve any and all great attention they receive.

I'll look for that magic wand to ensure that it happens for them.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

SCENES FROM THE 6TH ANNUAL WLHA RESURRECTION/REUNION WEEKEND on WSUM-FM

The way I see it, it should just be a full fledged tradition.

Today, July 7th, 2018, marked my return "home," so to speak, as this weekend marked the 6th annual WLHA Resurrection/Reunion event as hosted and broadcast upon WSUM-FM, the grand student/community radio station housed on the University Of Wisconsin-Madison campus. For an event such as this to occur once or twice,  it could be conceived as an anomaly, something of which there are no  guarantees that anything of the sort would happen again. Now certainly, there still are no guarantees but now that six years of this reunion event have transpired, with generations of former UW-Madison DJs returning to the camps for this event year after year,  the regularity makes me feel that perhaps all official parties should make this official and permanent. 

Regardless of the future, for me, this event, which provides not only a chance to reunite with my friends, all of us initially linked only through our shared love of music and radio, also allowed me to further understand the tiny role I hold in the longevity of this station, which has undergone a few name changes but has remained as part of this campus for seven decades!!!!

Yes...seven decades of student radio has existed upon this campus and I am still p;inching myself to realize that I was a small piece during a small section of its time. This is something to be celebrated, no matter how may times WSUM allows this event to happen. To be in the company of my friends, Lisa "The Grue" Grueneberg, Kelly Klaschus and Sue Whittaker,  is nothing less than a blessing. To continue to meet past DJs is absolutely priceless and illuminating, as they walked the exact same paths as I, Kelly, Sue and Lisa.

And now, here are some images from the day, an extremely early start to this year's radio adventures for us as I hit the airwaves at 6:30 a.m. Usually, I tend to write down every single song that the four of us play throughout our respective shows. The level of activity, socializing, laughing and trying to work with state of the art technology that has now aged enough to the point where it doesn't work as smoothly as it did when these events began today actually prevented me from doing so this time.

But, that being said, The Grue's 90 minute serving of glorious, beautifully bouncy, perky power pop from artists like The New Pornographers, The Records,  The Apples In Stereo, Pixies, solo Frank Black and her #1 favorite, XTC, enlivened my spirit tremendously...almost as much as being witness to The Grue's brilliant smile.

Kelly & Sue once again contributed the formidable wit and the warmth of their infectious hilarity  as well as their impeccable musical taste as they play local Madison musicians of the past including Fire Town, Willy Porter and Marques Bovre and the Evil Twins as well as classic alternative rock selections from The Violent Femmes, Husker Du and of course, their trademark closing jam by The Swanky Modes from the cult comedy film classic "Tapeheads" (1988).

 

As for me, here's what I played (even with the unpredictable, temperamental nature of CD player #2).

1. "Turn Me On" performed by The Tubes 
2. "It Is Not Meant To Be" performed by Tame Impala
3. "Divide" performed by The Amazing
4. "The Trap" performed by Johnny Marr
5. "At Home" performed by Slow Pulp
6. "I Live" performed by Jason Falkner
7. "The Wake Up Bomb" performed by R.E.M.
8. "Breaking Up The Girl" performed by Garbage
9. "Reach Out" performed by Cheap Trick
10."You Can See Me" performed by Supergrass
11."Every Little Thing" performed by Flesh For Lulu
12."Love And Sex" performed by Prince
13."Colors" performed by Beck
14."Seen And Not Seen" performed by Talking Heads
15."Older Than I Am" performed by Kainalu
16."Evan Finds The Third Room" performed by Khruangbin
17."New Language" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
18."Let's Do This" performed by Todd Rundgren with Moe Berg
19."Outside Man" performed by Post Social

 The Grue & Savage Scott, July 7, 2018
WSUM studios

As always, tremendous thanks must be given to Kevin "Casey" Peckham and Kevin "Nivek" Ruppert for miraculously organizing this event for the 6th year in a row and for being so passionate, tireless and devoted to honoring the history and legacy of student radio n the UW-Madison campus...and for doing so with equal parts humor and love. For this event is indeed a labor of love. 

 Kelly (left) & Sue (right) with Savage Scott
WSUM studios, 
July 7, 2018

Until year 7...friends and music, music and friends...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

WSPC SESSION NOTES FOR JULY 2018: MUSIC HEALS

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

"...I've thought of having children
But I've gone and changed my mind
It's hard enough to watch the news
Let alone explain it to a child
To cast your eye 'cross nature
Over fields of rape and corn
And tell him without flinching
Not to fear where he's been born


Then someone sat me down last night

And I heard Caruso sing
He's almost as good as Presley
And if I only do one thing
I'll sing songs to my father
I'll sing songs to my child
It's time to hold your loved ones
While the chains are loosed and the world
Runs wild..."

-"The Night I Heard Caruso Sing"
music and lyrics by Ben Watt

performed by Everything But The Girl (1988)

I have a friend who happens to be a prominent DJ in a major city. While we have not ever met in person, this DJ and I have formulated a very nice bond through social media and all manner of kind words and honest feelings have been delivered and reciprocated. Very recently, this DJ suffered a tremendous personal loss, one of the very hardest I would believe that any of us woud ever have to undertake...and truthfully, one that I personally fear greatly as I have not experienced it for myself as of yet but know very well that the time is nearer than further away. 

Anyhow, this DJ made a few mentions upon social media--not terribly many but enough where real world friends chimed in with their condolences and notices that they would be in contact shortly to assist with any needs. I sent a message or two of condolences myself and I plan to reach out again very soon. Yet, what was fascinating to me about this particular and extremely painful period for t his DJ was that this person continued to perform their on-air radio shifts without fail, and on a couple of occasions placed social media notices or photos during those shifts to express how much this time was personally needed and how healing it was...even if only for the time on-air spinning songs to the city, and via the internet, to the world. Once again, the music helped to heal.

I do realize that I am being cagey to the identity of this person and that is purposeful as to protect privacy. And besides, the identity of this person is not the point of this posting for you, and truthfully for me as well. The point is the again express the healing power that music has even when the thought of hearing or listening to music may be the furthest thing from our minds due to whatever pain we may be experiencing.

Yesterday was the 4th of July, America's Independence Day and while as an African-American I have had at least some conflicted feelings towards the day itself considering the history of the nation and the truth of how we know it came to pass. This year was truly a time when I was just unable to fathom any reason to celebrate as we have a racist, would-be fascist in the highest office of the land and children are being stripped from their parents to be locked in cages.

And then, I remembered this song by Everything But The Girl, whose lyrics are represented at the top of this piece, a song that is entirely about the redemptive power of music during times that feel socially and politically insurmountable, dire and even fatal.  No, music is not some miracle cure. Of course it isn't but its power to match a mood, to soothe a spirit ,to lift a soul is just inexplicable.

Lately, I have been experiencing an especially large windfall of new 2018 music from the likes of Johnny Marr, Jim James, Father John Misty, Melody's Echo Chamber, Gorillaz and especially Kamasi Washington to older titles from Wu Tang Clan and Todd Rundgren to music created here in Madison, WI ad in every single case, the music has not only proven itself to be as magical as it  has ever been, the new 2018 music in particular, has sounded urgently inspired.

It has been said that during socially turbulent times, the difficulties, tension and traumas of the period have produced greater works of art. As the world events of 2018 are more precarious, it is feeling that even if the music itself is not directly addressing the terror of the times, there is a newfound intensity to my ears, an intensity with the creation itself, a tension that feels as if time is not on our side and because of that, not one moment can be wasted upon anything less than the absolute best that can be created and shared.  It feels that the flames of inspiration itself have been re-ignited.

With that being said, my own levels of inspiration are feeling especially ignited as I wish to spend this month composing a few pieces that celebrate two different bands; one younger and local, the other, older and foreign. It just feels right to try and write pieces that are not only celebratory but ones filled with the gratitude of being someone who has been so moved and enriched by what they have so painstakingly created and performed. I can only hope that they turn out the way that I envision them and that they are received as positively as possible.

And then, this coming weekend, it is time again to return "home," so to speak with the 6th annual WLHA Resurrection/Reunion Weekend as broadcast on WSUM 91.7 FM student/community radio in Madison, WI, directly alongside my friends once again. Spinning songs, sharing memories and catching up feel imperative to the times in which we are living, for we need to be sustained in the arms of our families and friends and truthfully, whenever music can serve as that connective tissue, the bonds feel even stronger.

I believe that right now, at this point in time, we need music more than ever and because of that, we, as a society, need to value it immensely for it can no longer just serve itself as some kind of empty accessory. For all that music has given and continues to give to us, we can honor it by treating it with the reverence hat it deserves, especially now when the world feels as if it will spin from it own axis into points unknown.

If anything, perhaps just think about my DJ friend who still continued to show up for work during a profound personal tragedy because, I would imagine, the music pushed her to keep taking those day-by-day steps-by-steps. The music is here for us. To inspire, to recharge, to aid and to heal so we can all continue for as long as we are able to continue.

And as always...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!