About JR Lefler

Fan of frosty beverages and music nobody else listens to.

FEELIN’ GOOD FRIDAY: Goldfinger – “Here In Your Bedroom”

It was 1996. Ska was crossing over and selling out. Mosh pits were full of thrift store bowling shirts, chunky John Fluevog wingtips, and chain wallets. Into this cultural cauldron Goldfinger dropped their insanely catchy, self-titled debut of pop punk dusted with a soupçon of third wave ska. I recall the very 90s video for “Here In Your Bedroom” being on pretty heavy rotation on MTV at the time. Or maybe it was just in heavy rotation in my head as I contemplated the heaviness of college romance filtered through early twenties angst. My Goldfinger cassette was frequently rewound to listen to this song again and again as I cruised around campus in my battered Cavalier. Twenty years later “Here In Your Bedroom” never fails to put a smile on my face and a wistful feeling in my heart.

 

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FEELIN’ GOOD FRIDAY: Pearl Jam – “State Of Love And Trust”

Found on the Singles soundtrack “State of Love and Trust” is one of my favorite early era Pearl Jam songs. There’s an urgency and ferocity to it that was rarely showcased so succinctly on their debut album Ten. By Pearl Jam standards this is a face-melter. It’s out the door sprinting, heart on fire and soul stricken full of ill defined existential angst. So, you know, a Pearl Jam song. At the time Singles came out I had only heard “State of Love and Trust” on a mixtape being passed around my friends that had a bunch of Pearl Jam b-sides and import only songs. I never could figure out why this wasn’t the lead single from the soundtrack. No offense to Alice In Chains – “Would” is a fantastic song – but “State of Love and Trust” is the obvious winner here. Two decades later it never fails to get my heart rate up and give me a take-on-the-world attitude both of which are cornerstones for a Feelin’ Good Friday tune.

Read Yellow – Gang Violins

Image result for read yellow gang violins

Read Yellow fits nicely in the post-punk cannon proudly wearing the influences of Mission of Burma and Fugazi on their sleeve. Released in late 2007 nine months after the group officially disbanded their second full length, Gang Violins, is fully realized and showcases musical chops honed touring the US and Europe supporting bands like TV On The Radio, Mooney Suzuki, Death From Above 1979, Dillinger Escape Plane, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Read Yellow plays well polished yet on the verge of unhinged third wave post punk which in the mid-2000s remained thankfully free of the sheen of retro-ism that slowly crept into so much indie music post 2010. “Cut Through Maps” kicks off the album like a cinder block on the gas pedal while “Youth Is A Ghost” and “Soul Sister” follow behind and lock in just at the edge of control. The band understands the power of the loud-soft-loud dichotomy and use it well through out the album. “Rosa” and “Guitar Shaped Fish” are the ‘softest’ tunes and allow the listeners to catch their breath with echoing guitar notes strung along as percussion is reduced to shimmering cymbals letting the songs drift more than be driven. Sitting at the middle of the album “Pia Zadora” and “New Jets” best capture Read Yellow’s potential as they manage to focus their propensity for noise into a steady, yet non-pummeling melodic force. Gang Violins is the frantic coalescence of rhythm and chaos with introspective shoegaze moments tucked away in the shadowy corners cast by white hot blasts of guitars and raw throated screams. It stands up well for a sophomore album that’s over a decade old. It’s so good it makes me sad at the thought of what could have been for this band. Luckily you can still get this album on iTunes and I highly recommend that you do as it’s the only album of theirs currently available digitally.

FEELIN’ GOOD FRIDAY: Rancid – “Lock, Step, & Gone”

This right here is a 100% all-purpose, fire you up kind of song.

About to do something dangerous involving wheels of any kind?
Psyching yourself up for the big game?
Sprint song for your running mix?

Do you generally need to get hyped the fuck up?

Well, this little blast of ever-so-slightly polished punk from Rancid circa 1995 has you covered.

Most of the …And Out Come The Wolves album would fit the bill, but “Lock, Step, & Gone” has always stuck with me as the lead song to get me amped for just about any situation requiring elevated adrenaline levels.

“The feeling isn’t fear,
It’s just telling you to move.
The end isn’t here,
But it’s coming real soon.”

MERRY MONDAY: John Denver – Rocky Mountain Christmas

In my house Christmas truly began when my mom put this LP on the stereo and the dancing chords of “Aspen Glow” crackled through the speakers as she opened up the dusty red Christmas trunk and began unpacking decades of holiday joy.

This album imprinted on me at such an early age that my Christmas memories at their core are fused with the first side of this sparse, country-tinged Christmas album. I specify first side because the songs on the B side are more solemn religious carols that were never my bag as a kid. When mom flipped the album I made myself scarce while she hummed and dusted and decorated.

The six songs on side A were the heart of my Christmas with the pinnacle of joy coming together as I would loudly sing along to “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” which is a surprisingly upbeat Christmas tune about alcoholism that as a kid I thought was hilarious. Given it’s peppy tempo I always thought of it like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” except, you know, mommy was crying. To this day it makes me smile to hear it even though the song chronicles an 8 year old pleading with his dad to not come home so drunk that he passes out under the tree like he did the previous year. So, yeah, Merry Christmas!

Don’t let that little dip into the dark side tarnish your judgement. I found the entire original album on YouTube so give it a listen at least up through “Christmas for Cowboys” for the Rocky Mountain Christmas I will always remember.

MERRY MONDAY: The Business vs. Elton John – “Step Into Christmas”

The first time I heard The Business’ cover of “Step Into Christmas” I didn’t realize it was a cover. I came across it listening through their compilation Harry May – The Singles Collection back in college and thought it was hilarious and surprisingly cheerful given the hooligan tone of most of their catalog. I knew it felt super familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on why. It wasn’t until many Christmases later that I heard the original Elton John version again and it all clicked.

To their credit Micky Fitz (RIP) and the boys stay pretty faithful to the original, but they do crank it up to respectable Oi! levels of speed and sneer. The fact that they’re covering a song from Elton John is just icing on the holiday cake of irony. I’m usually not a fan of ‘irreverent’ Christmas covers, but when the original song was a bit of a lark itself I’ll allow it.

Put on your boots ‘n’ braces and kick off the holidays!

…Or put on appropriately ridiculous sunglasses for a campy Christmas!

SONG OF THE DAY: Hüsker Dü – “Celebrated Summer”

I had originally written a post a couple of weeks ago about “Celebrated Summer” as a post-Labor Day song for Feelin’ Good Friday. Maybe a loud/soft/loud punk song that makes me tear up generally is not typical of good feelings, but it’s one of my all time favorite songs and is fitting given the time of year.

Then I heard about the death of Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart and it started to take on a different hue.

The first minute and a half of the Bob Mould penned “Celebrated Summer” is a blistering guitar shot with Mould singing about the prelude to summer, the plans of what to do with all of that sweet freedom to finally live and cut loose. There’s the always present pressure of “the best summer ever!” and the hint at the fear that the best summer, your celebrated summer, has already been lived. Suddenly everything drops out and it’s just Mould’s acoustic guitar as he speaks two disarmingly evocative lines that have always caught me off guard:

Then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds
I summer where I winter at, and no one is allowed there

Then Hart ushers up the tempo with shimmering cymbals, Mould’s Flying V plugs back in and rages at the dying light, and he’s shouting again:

Do you remember when the first snowfall fell
When summer barely had a snowball’s chance in Hell 

And the pedal is on the floor racing to the song’s end with Mould excoriating again and again “Was this your celebrated summer?” until slipping back into the acoustic and asking for a final time “Do you remember when the first snowfall fell? Was this your celebrated summer?”

After 30 years of listening to this song I’ve changed my opinion a dozen times on what those lines mean. I always felt this song captured the bittersweet, fleeting nature of summer, but also in a broader sense the transition of the seasons as part of the human allegory of aging: summer to winter, youth to death. Now, in the scope of Hüsker Dü’s life, Grant’s death is the first snowfall. There was never even a snowball’s chance in Hell of a Hüsker Dü reunion, but now the stamp is official: that was their celebrated summer.