Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: bad religion

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Simple Math 2015: Simple Math Is Dead; Long Live The Gospel According To Saint Me

Veruca Salt – The Gospel According To Saint Me

In October, a catastrophic hard drive failure cost me my entire iTunes library – more than 85,000 songs collected over just shy of two decades. (Really! I started building my digital library way back in 1996, with live Husker Du bootlegs acquired from online trading communities and handfuls of punk and ska rarities downloaded off of sketchy FTP servers.) It doesn’t seem recoverable, not without a small fortune, and very possibly not with one either. I haven’t quite decided if I intend to try and rebuild or not. The real value of the collection was the stuff that can’t be found online anymore (or ever); the parts I could replace are the parts that it might not be worth replacing rather than just resigning myself to streaming from now on instead of ownership. Fortunately, my life has been far too busy to spend time worrying about, or even contemplating, what to do.

Not that iTunes would have been much use for my tallying this year’s Simple Math anyway – over the last few years, it’s largely become an archive of non-digitally-accessible tracks and a repository of star ratings, something to track what I’ve listened to and whether I’ve liked it, but not how much I’ve listened to it. And the one thing it was most useful for – keeping track of which albums I listened to over the course of the year – fell by the wayside when I ceased to add albums to my library post-crash. Meanwhile, my Spotify “Year In Music” feature didn’t, so far as I can tell, include anything I played offline, and certainly doesn’t include anything I loaded onto my account locally. And my, by dint of not scrobbling Spotify plays on mobile, is essentially useless in providing any kind of accurate stats about my listening this year.

Even if I were able to get accurate stats, I’m not entirely sure what I’d find – this year has been one of change and upheaval, and my listening habits have been as chaotic as the rest of my life. The latter half of 2015 saw the bittersweet end of PropertyOfZack; a relocation from the urban hum of New York City to suburban south Florida; a farewell to six years of steady employment and a hello to a whole lot of question marks; and, six weeks ago, the birth of the most beautiful baby boy in the whole world*. Heck, truth be told, I’ve probably listened to more lullabies – played via Lionel’s sleep machine, by way of a decade-old iPod – in the last month than music the rest of the year combined.

The bottom line is that, after a four year run, the yearly tabulation post I’ve been dubbing Simple Math is, for all practical purposes, dead.

That said, Makeup For The Silence has, from the start, been about music and storytelling and the places where those intersect. And if 2015 is the year I stop quantifying the music side of the equation, it is also the perfect year to shine a light on the storytelling I’ve done. While 2015 marked the end of PropertyOfZack, it also saw me making my presence felt more than ever at Alternative Press, as well as opening up new doors at Myspace and the Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. And though things are currently a little to busy to focus on pitching elsewhere, I’m hoping that 2016 sees my writing finding its way into even more new spaces.

But it wasn’t just my reach that grew this year – I think I’m more proud of the writing I did in 2015 than any year prior. So, instead of recapping my musical stats, I thought I’d instead share some of the highlights of my year behind the keyboard. Welcome to The Gospel According To Saint Me. It’s gonna get loud; it’s gonna get heavy.

It Just Isn’t Like The Old Days Anymore – Mayday Parade [Alternative Press Magazine 328 / November 2015]

My first cover story for a national publication would have been the highlight of my year in any year. Mayday Parade, pop-punk’s ultimate play-it-safe band, bucked all expectations by growing darker and more daring at the exact time when most career-minded bands would have dialed back on the Risk-O-Meter. I suppose the jury is still out commercially – though it’s hard to imagine the band’s camp wasn’t disappointed by the precipitous fall-off in album-over-album sales, the band’s first in three outings – but Black Lines is an artistic triumph, and I think I did justice to the story of the album’s genesis.

Sting, Bon Jovi And More Help Celebrate 80 Years Of Overtown Legend Sam Moore [Miami New Times]

Writing for the New Times might not come with the paycheck or the prestige of other publications, but the access it’s granted me to big-name artists from across the pop spectrum is priceless. This year I had the good fortune to chat with everyone from piano-pop legend Ben Folds, to Emily Haines of Canadian indie heavyweights Metric, to up-and-coming tropical house DJ Bakermat. But none topped interviewing Sam Moore, one half of Sam & Dave, the voices behind “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and a dozen more hits that defined the sound of Memphis Soul at the turn of the ‘70s. I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did, chatting with a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would have been near the top.

Crawling Towards the Sun: The Hush Sound’s Bob Morris Starts Again, Again [PropertyofZack]

It’s easy to forget that 90% of the hot new buzz bands you’ll have served to you on a platter this year will be the ones flipping the metaphorical, and often literal, burgers a decade from now – talent (and, often, fanbase) be damned. Morris is back with a new project, Le Swish, but he’s also got a new outlook on life and some new ideas on where and how music should fit into it. His story isn’t unique, but you might think it was for how rarely it gets told.

SXSW Wrap-Up: These Things Happened. These Things Mattered. [PropertyOfZack]

South By South West is a strange chimaera, a beast of many looks that serves many masters, but it often only gets photographed from its “good” side. Truth is, there’s a lot more than happens at the industry’s yearly bacchanal than the anointment of next big things and the grousing of never-will-bes. There are other stories to be told and, while they’re not sexy, they’re frighteningly easy to find. But when the hype-makers are the ones charged with creating the official record, they develop a nasty habit of only recording what’s hyped. SXSW is so much more than anyone seems to talk about, and it deserves better treatment. With what will be a 3-month-old son, I’ll be missing out on SXSW 2016, but you can be sure my heart will be there, in all the corners the cool kids aren’t.

Andrew W.K. Isn’t Partying Hard Anymore, He’s Got Too Much Else Going On [Myspace]

Conversing with Andrew W.K. was everything I could have imagined it would be; the man is a whip-smart deep thinker and a master of introspection, and better yet, he uses his powers for good. It felt almost criminal to have to edit down Wilkes-Krier’s soliloquies on art, feeling and life into interview-sized snippets.

Start Today: Bad Religion [PropertyofZack]

Bad Religion aren’t only foundational figures in SoCal punk and stalwarts of the current scene, they’re a remarkably consistent machine that’s churned out excellent album after excellent album for more than 30 years. That voluminous output makes their catalog as intimidating as it is deep, and made them the perfect candidates with which to launch our Start Today feature.

Matisyahu Spent The Past Five Years Discovering His True Self [Broward-Palm Beach & Miami New Times]

When your bizarre musical schtick is just a reflection of your unusual real life, what becomes of your career when that life drastically changes? It’s a question to which Matisyahu’s fanbase is still working out the answer, even if the man himself seems more certain than ever of who he’s supposed to be.

10 Things You Should Know About Phoebe Ryan [Myspace]

Pop singer/songwriter Ryan’s star is on the rise, but with only an EP to her name to date, it doesn’t seem that anyone has really plumbed her backstory yet. There’s nothing groundbreaking in our conversation, just some fun and revealing anecdotes that I haven’t seen told elsewhere – and really, isn’t that what this is supposed to be about? Sometimes the workaday pieces are the ones you’re happiest with.

Matter Of Time: A Chroma Q&A With Cartel’s Will Pugh [PropertyOfZack]

I first saw Cartel live in 2004, opening for Brandtson and the Rocket Summer in support of their debut EP. The full length they were writing at the time, Chroma, would top my very first Yearly Top Ten list in 2005. I’ve interviewed Will before, but sitting down with him before the band played that album in full, on occasion of its 10 year anniversary, felt especially significant. What followed was a marvelously candid discussion of not just the album’s stratospheric rise, but the band’s slow and steady descent over the decade that followed – one that’s landed them at a true career crossroads today.

Links to everything else I wrote this year after the cut.




Live Performance Previews:

Other Music Writing:

If you enjoy these, as always, you can find a complete archive of everything I’ve written on the Clips page.

*every new parent says this about their child. All of them are correct.

Yr Own 5-10-15-20


5-10-15-20 is a regular feature on Pitchfork where we ask musicians about the music from their lives in 5-year intervals; I’ve done fun interviews with Johnny Marr and John Cale. If you wanted to do one I’d love to read it. I’ll add mine at some point. You could give the year for each age.

5 (1984): Paul McCartney & Wings – “Uncle Albert

I don’t much remember what I was listening to at age 5. I actually have much stronger musical memories from being 2 and 3: riding my rocking horse, Rusty, to the sounds of Michael Jackson’s Thriller; dancing with my dad in the living room of our townhouse to Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s sublime rendition of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” and Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”; digging through my parents’ record collection, marveling at the cover of Osibisa’s self-titled album, laughing about the fact that there was a band called Bread (come to think of it, I still do that now).

At 5, we moved to Connecticut; I started Kindergarten; I spent a lot of time watching He-Man and Transformers and USA Network’s Cartoon Express. Those are the things I remember about that time; I don’t think music was ever quite absent from my life, but there’s a gap there that opened shortly before and would close again a few years later.

There was a car my dad had, an ugly orange thing with a decaying inner roof lining and an 8-track player, the cassettes for which were prone to melting in the sun. Cassettes like The Doors’ Greatest Hits and Paul McCarney & Wings’ Ram. The sound of thunder in “Uncle Albert” scared me. I think that was around this time.

10 (1989): Bruce Springsteen – “Darlington County

The age intervals for this exercise are very awkward; my real transitional moment, the point at which I truly fell for music and everything changed, came at 11 or 12. Perhaps that’s by design? – from my experience, many, perhaps even most, people who grew into “music people” hit their stride at around that same age, so maybe this is intended to capture folks at the awkward age immediately before.

At 10, I was still pretty in-the-dark about the musical world around me; it wasn’t something I actively sought out, or had strong feelings on. I’m actually sitting here Googling songs I have random memories of from around that time, catching a snippet of a video on MTV or remembering a moment from the radio or something, to see when they came out; I haven’t found one that was actually in 1989 yet. I have some weird, vague memory of listening to a cassette of Springsteen’s Born In The USA, particularly the song “Darlington County,"before school one morning on a portable tape player. I don’t know why I had it, or how. I certainly didn’t know anything about Springsteen, or care, or have particularly strong feelings (or any feelings at all, really) about his music. I hesitate to even list it; I’m sure it’s not representative of what I was listening to at the time (if I was even listening to anything), and it isn’t in any way meaningful to me (though, a good two decades later, I did rediscover – and have a brief infatuation with – that album). But I don’t know what else to put down.

15 (1994): Live – ”Lightning Crashes

No, the big year for me was 1991; that was the year I discovered everything. The Shamen’s En Tact. Nirvana’s Nevermind. B-104’s Sunday night hour of "modern rock”, Planet B. 120 Minutes. College radio from WMUH. And most of all, Live’s Mental Jewelry. I loved everything about it, from the first time I saw four kids from just a few miles southwest of me dancing around a fire on MTV. The righteous anger of “Operation Spirit” and “Waterboy”. The spiritual yearning of “Mother Earth Is A Vicious Crowd” and “10,000 Years”. Everything about it spoke to me, and I wore that cassette tape out, to the point where I had to unspool it, cut out the mangled bits and splice it back together with scotch tape on multiple occasions. Live (+Live+, for those who were in the know) were my band.

So when I discovered in 1994 that they were finally putting out a second album, I could not have been more excited, in the way only 15 year olds can’t be more excited. Advance lead single “Selling The Drama” felt like a bit of a departure (where were those frenetic, popping basslines?); still, I grew to enjoy it pretty quickly. But it was no preparation for the full album – whatever Throwing Copper lacked in uncontrolled energy, it more than made up for with a more sharply-directed, heavier-hitting (if more cryptic) anger, from the dark pulse of “The Dam At Otter Creek” (still one of the best album, and concert, openers ever as far as I’m concerned) on through to the burn-it-all-down armageddon of “White, Discussion”. Indeed, the only track on the album I didn’t care for, the one I skipped each time as I listened on my Discman at Camp Airy that Summer of 1994, was “Lightning Crashes”. I didn’t hate it, per se; I just found it boring. The ballad that broke up the album’s pummeling flow. 

So naturally, “Lightning Crashes” was the album’s third single, and the one that, after a year-long slow burn, finally catapulted Throwing Copper to #1 on the Billboard charts, exactly one year after the its release. It became the song that defined the band; suddenly, this little thing I had loved in private for three years was “that band with the song with the placenta”. Suddenly, everyone loved this private thing of mine. Just a hair less suddenly, everyone hated this private thing of mine. It was weird and wonderful and terrible all at once, to see this little band of mine become something so definitively not mine.

It’s something that’s happened to me countless times since, but you never forget your first.

20 (1999): Old 97’s – “Jagged

Like a lot of people around the Turn Of The Millennium, I fell hard for the alt-country scene. Granted I was listening to a ton of other stuff too – everything from Moxy Fruvous to Bad Religion to Reel Big Fish to Our Lady Peace to Blur – but if you were to ask me for my current favorite artist in 1999, I would have said Old 97’s without hesitation, and both Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo would have been right behind. I was an avid reader of No Depression; I was already spinning Johnny Cash’s American and tracks by the Jayhawks and Beechwood Sparks and whatever else I could on my new music show at WBRS, and would soon start DJing a weekly country/bluegrass/y’allternative show.

I saw the band debut this track during a marathon show at TT The Bear’s that January, a two-and-a-half-hour-long sweat-drenched bodies-crammed-in-at-twice-capacity epic of a show that I still rank among the best I’ve ever been to. The 97’s were riding high on their career-defining Too Far To Care, and while Fight Songs ultimately proved to be a much lighter affair, “Jagged” was a brooding jolt of electric desperation that stunned everyone in the room, myself included. It was soul-stirring; I’ve been a die-hard fan ever since.

25 (2004): My Chemical Romance – “Thank You For The Venom

2002-2005 rivals the early 90’s musically in terms of importance to me; it was another period of seismic shift in my listening habits. Alt-country had burnt itself out; alternative decayed into NickelCreed; indie rock was dreadfully uninspiring, with all the joy I’d taken in acts in the late 90’s like Belle & Sebastian snuffed out by the brooding, art-damaged likes of Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, bands that (so far as I could tell) only people in New York and readers of Spin even pretended to care about. I was listening to a lot of music, but finding myself inspired by less and less of it.

It was also a transitional time of my life. Boston led to San Diego; San Diego led to boredom; boredom led me to MakeOutClub; and MakeOutClub led me to an emo scene that was just on the verge of breaking into the mainstream. That was late 2002, and I lept in headfirst, gobbling up all ends of it, everyone from the likes of Akaline Trio to Coheed & Cambria to The Blood Brothers to From Autumn To Ashes. The scene bubbled bigger and bigger until, in the summer of 2004, it seemed like the world suddenly flipped on its head in a way I hadn’t seen since Seattle kicked hair metal to the curb.

I had seen My Chemical Romance live a couple years prior, and had enjoyed their set, so I was expecting good things from the band’s upcoming second album, but I was still completely blown away by the awesome, hooky power of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. I wasn’t the only one, either; if emo had been forcing its way through the cracks in the dam for a year, “I’m Not OK” (and, perhaps, Hawthorne Heights’ “Ohio Is For Lovers”) was the drop that cleaved the levee in two. I liked that one, but it was “Thank You For The Venom” that really captured me; I remember sitting on my floor playing the album for the first time over my computer, and feeling the guitar solo suck the breath out of me, only to gasp it back in as Gerard Way exploded into the final chorus as the drums kicked into half-time. The power, the intensity, the tunefulness despite; I knew I was right where I belonged, and I haven’t left since.

30: (2009): Owl City – “Umbrella Beach

By 2009, I was writing about music here and compiling yearly Top Ten lists, so what I was listening to is all right there. It was the height of the scene’s neon phase and the apex of laptop-pop, and I was all for it, though that’s not so much reflected in my year-end picks. Looking back, it’s probably due to the fact that that era was marked more by great singles than by great albums. At this point I was living in NYC, settled in and going to shows 4-5 days a week. I spent a large chunk of the year out of work, and took the opportunity to both listen to and write about a lot of music; it was a key time for me deciding to take the music writing thing more seriously.

I was a big fan of Owl City’s prior work, and the two single releases which preceded Ocean Eyes – “Hot Air Balloon” and “Strawberry Avalanche” – were pure gold. So it was both a pleasant surprise and a bit of a relief when Ocean Eyes actually lived up to the anticipation I had laid on it. I spent many a late night during that period when I was out of work wandering lower Manhattan with that album on my iPod; it was a soothing, warming accompaniment, it turned what could have been a series of sad-luck strolls into genuinely enjoyable experiences. Adam Young’s wide-eyed optimism comes in unceasing tidal waves; they crash down over the top of you, there’s no way to avoid getting soaked in his positivity, of sucking it into your lungs, of not giving in to the joyous, peaceful baptism of sound. It was exactly the music I needed exactly when I needed it, and until “Fireflies” took off at the very end of the year, it was very much the private pleasure I needed it to be.

Now Playing: Pearl Jam and Fountains of Wayne

Fountains Of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers [spotify] – Bright Future In Sales [spotify]


I got Jackie the CD of the Pearl Jam show we went to; it’s fucking great, the sound is absolutely pristine, I wish every band would do the same for their fans. Still listening to a lot of them lately, and the new Fountains of Wayne has been getting heavy play as well. It’s not as consistent as Utopia Parkway, there are actually a few rather abysmal numbers IMO, but the best material is as good as anything they’ve ever done, just pure sublime pop music by the reigning kings of the genre. No particularly good shows coming up this month, the summer seems to be pretty dead in terms of quality bands touring, but at the start of Sept. is Street Scene, a massive festival held all over the downtown area for three days. REM is headlining; also appearing are Bad Religion, Social D, Wilco, X, G Love, Goo Goo Dolls, Love, Arrested Development, the B 52s, Macy Gray, Nickel Creek, the Sex Pistols, Finch, Presidents of the USA, the Dropkick Murphys, Rev. Horton Heat, Kathleen Edwards, AND THAT’S JUST THE BANDS I CARE ABOUT!


originally posted 7/31/03

Onelinedrawing Live Review

now playing: Bad Religion – No Control [spotify] – I Want To Conquer The World [spotify]

Saturday night’s show was fucking great. Openers Waiting for Autumn were fantastic; they were pretty generic emo-rock stuff, alternated screaming/singing, big choruses, that kind of thing, but they pulled it off really well, and they’ve got the instrumental chops for it. Definitely enjoyed them. Hopesfall were kind of similar, a little more on the screamo edge; not my kind of thing, but they were energetic, and the kids were into them, so what the hell.

I don’t think I could rave enough about Onelinedrawing. Jonah (onelinedrawing is his one-man show, just him on electric guitar accompanied by a drum machine taped to R2D2’s head) has a fantastic voice, and just this phenomenal intensity. He’s one of those guys who can stand on stage all by themselves and have no trouble commanding the attention of the room. Lots of interaction with the audience (including stopping in the middle of songs frequently to chat). Came out without a setlist and just played requests for the full set. Who knew a solo electric Deftones cover could sound so fucking amazing. Plus, he leaks charisma out the ass like it was made of Olestra. (How’s that for a fucked up simile?) As he left the stage, he apologized for not having time to play everyones requests and promised to play more in the parking lot after the show.

Coheed and Cambria were good. Not amazing, but very solid. The crowd was fucking rabid for them however, and that makes all the difference; pretty much everyone was singing along the whole set. Sadly, their sound was kind of muddy, and they played a really short set (maybe 50 minutes). I think there were time issues or something, because they didn’t encore and never played Time Consumer. Still, they sounded great, played almost all of The Second Stage Turbine Blade (highlights included 33, Everything Evil and a sick sick run through Devil in Jersey City), and played one new track which sounded really excellent.

[A]s promised, after about half an hour Jonah came out to the parking lot with a little battery powered amp and played a 45 minute campfire-style set to the 60 or so kids who stuck around for him. Amazingly, the parking lot set was even better than the indoor set; intimate works really well for him, he played some quieter stuff, a couple unrecorded tracks that will have me preordering his new CD whenever he gets around to recording it. He said he’ll be back through town next month, and I’m gonna make a point to get out to see him.

originally posted 2/17/03

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