Police Teeth, IfIHadAHiFi, The Bismarck – The Funhouse
Published 08-28-2009 on my old wordpress blog.

Determination. I was bound and determined to enjoy myself this evening no matter how awkward or painful it was. Maybe I should not have gone, but I don’t care, I wanted to.

The Bismarck
I like The Bismarck. I really like that song about “Give me something to stop the bleeding.” The Bismarck were a bit sloppy this evening, but that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. It set the tone for my ruminations for the evening. I mean, who cares that they make a couple tiny errors? Isn’t the point just to move around a little bit to loud music? Does it really matter what they are singing about? (I’d look up some lyrics, so I can quote them directly and without mistakes, but they are not freely available). It sounded like they have one of those anthemic drinking songs that are so hard for us prudes to get behind. I tried to let it slide. I mean, am I just going to listen to Minor Threat for the rest of my life and turn in to one of those asshats from Fremont that goes around kicking people in the face at hardcore shows? I’d like to think there is more to life than those three things that are, like, so important to the whole world that I don’t find as much importance in. And because of that I feel… I can’t keep up I can’t keep up I can’t keep up Out of step with the world! Oh, sorry, maybe just two of those things. The Bismarck were hilarious to watch and listen to. I had lots of fun observing their shenanigans and words and things. Their adoption of the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign was pretty funny. What time is it?

My Wisconsin acquaintance, Al, informed me that IfIHadAHiFi was awesome before the show started. The Wisconsin contingent in the audience seemed to agree. I am pleased to report that Wisconsin folks are right about more than just frozen custard. These guys bring the dirty keyboard to the party. And they bring generous helpings of chaos and noise. My determination to have fun was not a requirement for this little group, they shared their joy with the whole room. They employed the classic “Let’s jump in the crowd” moves. I got bashed on the elbow with a guitar, but I didn’t mind. If I was thinking faster, I might have jumped on a guitarist and played bucking bronco. It was that kind of fun. The kind of fun where you don’t really know why you’re doing something, but you know you like it. They mentioned So Many Dynamos and I thought about saying that’s who IfIHadAHiFi sounded like, but they’re less formal dance and more spontaneous street party. Less polished and more carefree. However, when I yelled out “The Greeks!” a million times when they were trying to figure out who invented tuning, I got a cold shoulder. I’m going to boycott these bastards for the rest of my days. Okay, I’m kidding. This won’t really make any sense, but IfIHadAHiFi was a vision of my high school band years later. The guitarist was basically a white version of our guitarist, the bassist was a slight modification of our bassist and the drummer was a taller, longer haired, version of me. It was kind of weird to watch. Particularly because they had a fourth person and we only had three.

Police Teeth
Police Teeth are getting tighter all the time. Perhaps this was made more evident this evening by the first two bands (looser and more chaotic, in that order). I think I even heard some songs that I could get behind. Things like “Hanging tough” or some New Kids covers or something. But, I’m going to go ahead and say it: I hate that Northern California song. I had hoped they wouldn’t play it. Then, the drummer from HiFi yelled it out and I got all sad for a second. But I was determined to have fun, so I pointed out to my almost cordial neighbor the person that she brought with her from Fremont. I liked his white shoes. Wait, maybe I did that during their second to last song, the one about hydroplanes. That one doesn’t really fit at the end of their set. At least not at the end of a set at the Funhouse, where all three bands have been about a carefree attitude toward the world. “We’re making mistakes and we don’t care!” “We’re making a lot of noise and we don’t care!” “Sing along with us, since we don’t care except for this last song when we’re going to spend 5 or 6 minutes being all feedbacky and brooding oh, okay we’ll play the song that goes ‘Getting high, getting drunk, something something Bathory in Northern California’.” Okay, I always seem to talk crap about Police Teeth on here. They even called me out that one time. Truth be told, I own one of their records and I like to dance along with all the songs except that last one. Those guys could theoretically be one of my favorite bands. Maybe they’re working on me like Republican propaganda. I think I’ve seen them four times now, so they are staying on point and getting the message across to the American people by repeating that message as many times as possible. Now, if I just cared one little bit about getting high, getting drunk, or something something Bathory in Northern California, I’d be drooling all over my keyboard right now. If you’re into that stuff, you need to get out from behind your stack of High Times magazines or perfect pyramid of PBR cans and go to a Police Teeth show. Go to a couple and you’ll be singing along.

Unrelated: You ever stare at the sun and see how long you can go before your eyes hurt? I wonder how many people have gone blind from doing that. Eventually they learn not to stare at the sun because their eyes always hurt at one point, right?

** Old Wordpress comments **

J. Burns says:
August 28, 2009 at 4:40 pm
I know it’s bad form to reply to criticism of your own band. So I’ll make it brief: next time you’re at one of our shows, introduce yourself, and I’ll buy you a Roy Rogers. I’m not going to kick your ass because you don’t like a couple of our songs or anything.
“Northern California” is a lot of folks’ favorite song of ours. We get requests for it at – no shit – almost every single show, so you’re going to continue coming to see us, you’re probably going to have to get used to it. Sorry about that. If you can teach yourself to yell louder than Matt Brown (I know he wasn’t at the show last night), you can try requesting a different song instead.
If it makes a difference, we’re not really drunks or potheads. We’re all social drinkers (I think I drank maybe two or three beers last night, mostly because they were free) and none of us are really into drugs (Ignore that one YouTube video. We’re trying to get it taken down.) but at the time of writing that song, we were really enthusiastic about putting our own spin on the idea of a catchy feel-good 70’s rock chorus.
We don’t really take into consideration what songs are appropriate to play at which venues. We usually just play what feels right when we’re writing the set list, what sounded good at practice, or what people have told us they would like to hear. It’s never “Is this song appropriate for the Funhouse or the Vera?” it’s usually “that song sucked at practice, let’s play this one instead.”
W/R/T “Watching The Hydroplanes” (Which we didn’t write, anyway. It’s a cover of a 1981 single of a Factory records single that Martin Hannett remixed to sound like Joy Division. You can check out the original here: Most of the songs we play are pretty tightly structured and compact three minute rock songs. It’s fun to play something where we can stretch or legs a little bit and indulge our desires to improvise a little bit, even if it’s only one song. It is indeed different than most of the songs we play, which is a big reason why we like playing it so much.
Overall, it sounds like you put way more thought into our band than even we do, which is curious. Hardly a crime though. I wish more people would think about the music they listen to.
Wait, that wasn’t brief at all. God damn it.

don says:
August 29, 2009 at 10:33 am
I don’t think it’s bad form at all. I think it’s dialogue. So to continue:
I’m probably going to see you guys a bunch more times before you’re done or I’m too old to go to shows anymore. I’ll probably listen to the catchy, feel-good chorus and watch people sing along many more times. I don’t think you guys should stop doing whatever you like. Some people’s goal in life is to have as much fun as possible, and I’m jealous of those people.
I just happen to be a place in my life where my struggle to make sense of my surroundings appears to be in conflict with the way a majority of people seem to believe the world works. Many bands these days appear to promote the message of “who cares, have fun” and I grew up thinking that bands had the power to change the world. I’m not giving up on that belief, but it appears that all of my compatriots are simply interested in avoiding their problems instead of fighting them. I probably take myself too seriously. I definitely care too much. When you play Northern California, a normal person that didn’t agree would hopefully look around at all the people having fun and say “good for them” instead of being such a prude. I’m just too stubborn and bitter to change at this point.
As for Watching the Hydroplanes, my old band had a similar song. We’d always play it at the end and leave the impression that we were an emo band. Eventually we stopped playing it, mostly because I found a better girlfriend, but also because we wanted to be more punk. The last song you play is the one people remember most, right? So if I were in Police Teeth and wanted to play that song, I’d put it in the middle as a lull in the set and then get back to the impression I wanted to leave on people. But I’m not in a band now and all my bands were terrible, so my advice is probably not the best.
At any rate, I’m glad you responded and took a moment to think about what your band is doing. I hope you use your powers as you see best and that you achieve your musical goals. See you at a show in the future. If I forget to introduce myself, Adam knows me.

J. Burns says:
August 29, 2009 at 11:37 am
As someone who has been playing in bands pretty much non-stop since the age of 16, (twelve years now!) I’d really like to believe that a rock band can still change they world. Maybe they can, just not in my generation. Not with the way music is now. Maybe in 20 years, when I’m too old to participate, but can still be a fan.
Actually, given that statement, it’s pretty suprising that you don’t like our meta-rock songs about being frustrated with music and the way things are now. The end result of those songs is us stating we want more bands that are inspirational in the way that Fugazi, Minutemen, Minor Threat, etc. etc. were. That seems to be something that should be right up your alley. Of course a few of those songs are specifically directed at people that we think are assholes, and there are also the songs about about near-fatal car wrecks, gentrification, reticent consumerism, crooked bank practices. I guess what’s going on is that seeing our lyrical content being boiled down to “Hey, we like to drink beer, and fuck dudes who wear their pants too tight because they suck,” makes me wonder if there’s a disconnect between song and audience, because I take a lot of pride in my lyrics, and I know Chris and Adam do too. Granted, we tend to use humor a lot, and some people just aren’t into humor in rock music.
I don’t know if I could play four more songs after “Watching The Hydroplanes,” it would seem anti-climactic. The third record is going to be really varied and have a lot of whacked out shit on it. “Hydroplanes” is going to make a lot more sense in that context. It’s most likely going to be the last song on the record, too. Oh well.
Hey, did you know that Ian MacKaye was very nearly the singer for Black Flag? He was next on the list after Rollins. Try to wrap your head around him singing “Six Pack” every night. He’s also a huge Ted Nugent fan. Go figure.
I’m not trying to change your mind about any of this stuff, but it seems that you’ve been struggling quite a bit over whether you like our band or not, and I thought that perhaps some context could push you into either one camp or the other.

don says:
August 30, 2009 at 11:20 am
Bands already have changed the world. There are many, many examples of bands that have done so much good for the world. Of course, many of these examples are subtle changes to the way people think, soundtracks to revolutions, pushing the boundaries of acceptable lifestyles, etc. There are even some major label bands that have done good things. You can too if you want.
After my fourth time seeing you guys, I have started to hear lyrics other than the chorus to Northern California. I haven’t gone back and read the lyrics in the one CD I have, but I’m sure there’s stuff I believe in in there. This is why I keep sticking around for your sets. However, right now, all I can remember is the Northern California song and “No one wants to see your band tonight.” Memorization happens through repetition, right? So the lines you sing the most are, of course, the ones stuck in my head. Our conversation is pressing me to search deeper than the catchy chorus next time and I’m glad to hear there is more than pro-beer, anti-fashion in there. Maybe your sarcastic lyrics are indeed getting mixed up with the serious ones by us uninformed listeners. It’s pretty tough for people to catch those subtle things sometimes. Unless you sing like Jello Biafra, he does sarcasm excellently.
The cool thing about music is that there are a million different ways to do things. Your way and my way are different and we’re both able to do what we want, so that’s cool. Play Hydroplanes at the end if you want. I’ll check it out on the third record.
I was unaware that Ian MacKaye was possibly going to be the singer for Black Flag. That would be quite ironic for him to sing Black Flag songs. As for the Ted Nugent, I can actually see him being a fan. They are both ridiculously dedicated to the things they believe in. I could see him admiring that dedication, even though the ‘Nuge’s political stances are completely opposed at times. The thing they do agree on is not drinking or doing drugs, though…
Thanks for discussing all this, James. I think this is one of the good ways the internet can be used. To come to consensus and to figure things out.

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Keywords: IfIHadAHiFi, police teeth, show, the bismarck, The Funhouse

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