Saturday, October 16, 2010

The American Joy Division

Back in the day, my crew (buncha damn art punks) was way down on the emo lyric . . . like, who wants to hear your petty problems, whiner?  Anger and nihilism was the currency of the day, as it ever was and shall be.  Of course, when nobody was paying attention, each and every one of us rocked our Joy Division.

Like everyone else, we were floored with the proto-goth atmospherics of Unknown Pleasures and Closer, but the more aggressive live sound showcased on the Amsterdam live 1980 bootleg was our real touchstone.

And here is the connection with Mark Edwards, a.k.a. My Dad Is Dead.  Like Ian Curtis (Joy Division was big influence on Edwards), Edwards is determined to strip life raw with his highly personal lyrics.  Unlike Joy Division, there was no Martin Hannett to tart up (or down, as the case may be) the recordings.  Edwards, previously a drummer, decided he wasn't willing to trust his vision to anybody else, so he taught himself guitar, got himself a drum machine - thanks to Big Black, drum machines were perfectly acceptable in mid 80's alt rock - and did everything himself.  In this manner, he released a couple LPs on local Cleveland labels before signing up with legendary 80's label Homestead Records and releasing three records, two of which ("Let's Skip the Details" and "The Taller You Are, the Shorter You Get") are absolutely essential.

Later Edwards augmented MDID with various bass players and drummers, frequently borrowing the rhythm section from fellow Cleveland alt rockers (with the emphasis on RAWK) Prisonshake.  His first full band recordings included "Shine(r)", which feature re-recordings of some of his old songs along with new material.  He has since moved to Chapel Hill and, in spite of threats to quit, has kept up MDID to this very day.

The shady business leading to the demise of Homestead didn't spare MDID.  In the midst of recording the fourth album for Homestead ("Chopping Down the Family Tree"),  Homestead voided his contract by cutting his advance in half, so Edwards bailed and went back to Cleveland label Scat, and then to Emperor Jones.  After not receiving royalties on his Homestead Records since he left, he tried to recover the rights to the records, only to find that the current owner wanted $10,000 each for them.  Unwilling and unable to pay anywhere near that much for the rights, he countered by posting all his early records for free on his website.  Lucky us!

If you're a fan of the bedroom rocker, the raw lo-fi singer/songwriter who doesn't fear a chunky guitar, then check out My Dad Is Dead.  "Shine(r)", "Chopping Down the Family Tree", "Let's Skip the Details", and "The Taller You Are, the Shorter You Get" rank along with the best of 80's/90's alt rock.


DC said...

I am a fan of the bedroom rocker, the raw lo-fi singer/songwriter who doesn't fear a chunky guitar!

Gabino said...

Buncha damn art punks, indeed!

Bill Zink said...

Not to mention major league pains in the ass!

Gabino said...

Bill, I still smile every time I think of "Appetite For Deconstruction", one of the best titled recordings ever.