Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ode to Ned and His Dustbin

Suave and Sophisticated - Ned's Atomic Dustbin (mp3)
Spring - Ned's Atomic Dustbin (mp3)
Throwing Things - Ned's Atomic Dustbin (mp3)

It’s a bridge too far to claim Ned’s Atomic Dustbin was the most compelling creative force in rock music in the ‘90s. I’ll settle for claiming they were the most compelling creative force in the ‘90s that no one this side of the pond knew about.

I discovered them when they opened for Jesus Jones on their Doubt tour. What Jesus Jones had in polish and flash, Ned’s had in nuclear frustration, a more alluring kind of anger than the cliched rage vibe of most harder rock bands of the grunge era.
Half as drunk is twice as clever, appalled when tarred and feathered
Remarks upon the weather, will just retard endeavour.

Two bassists and a single lead guitarist in a five-man band places them in very rarified air. Only a handful of bands in rock history have carried two basses, but the sound isn’t so earth-shatteringly different. What it allowed, most importantly, was easier access to the vocals. You can hear and understand almost every word on Ned’s first two albums in an era of music where every band needed a lyric sheet to be understood.
Now you're tying up my heart strings / I've got no halo, got no wings
We've got verbal constipation; Let's start throwing things

Combine John Penney’s minimal-range baritone vocals -- anyone can sing along! -- and the fact you can actually understand the words -- whoa! he made a clever pun! -- and I fell in love with them quickly. Clever turns of phrase, especially the slight tweaking of a previous line for a different purpose, totally ropes me in.
So here's the prediction. You get an affliction. You gain an addiction. You grab what you can.
Another beloved theme in their music that pleased movie fetishists like myself was their penchant for inserting movie clips into their music. Al the cop from Die Hard. Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now. Duvall from The Great Santini. Movie quotes weren’t in every song but merely sprinkled in just the right spots.
You keep thinking I'm tired of you, but I'm just tired.
While I keep saying you're sick of me, but you're just sick.

The only thing that keeps us down -- It's the only thing that makes us sound.
So painfully humble, so painfully proud.
I'm one piece short of Legoland.
Ned’s was basically a 3-album band. Bob and I have been discussing on and off whether any band can maintain their peak past three albums, and I’m not even sure most bands get past one. Listen to the first Boston album and then the second one, and they went from rock immortality to borderline mediocrity in the span of 12 songs.

Ned’s 3-album arc went something like this:
(1) God Fodder -- Youthful passion with a chip on the shoulder and a lot of growing up to do
(2) Are You Normal? -- knowing who you are and settling into it but not being entirely happy with the relationship
(3) brainbloodvolume -- wondering if who you are is good enough and, in panic, attempting to chart a new path

Each album title says so much about the band. The first indicates their love of movies and wordplay, the second on their embrace of oddity, the third to a confusion that took away my favorite part: the ability to quickly and easily sing along with some catchy lyrics.
You're my son. I'm older than you. You can't be a man too.-- WHAT GIVES MY SON
I know nothing about their lives and never did and never cared to. Perhaps the taste for Ned's is difficult to acquire -- they sure as hell didn't take the world by storm. But, as averse as I am to making lists and best-of's, I can't imagine a desert island list of songs or albums that didn't have this band somewhere in the short list.
Could you mind be as shallow
As my five o'clock shadow?
Could things change this fast?
The one that you wanted is past tense
At present my presence no longer makes sense
At present you're too tense
Now I never said I'm the be-all and end-all
But you had to end it all, as soon as you'd seen more
I never said I was worthless or worth more
Does it have to be this ugly?
It's not like I stole your possessions or money
Things change this fast
The one that I wanted is past tense
At present your presence no longer makes sense
At present I'm too tense


Bob said...

I had heard of them, but not heard them. They are an interesting blend of commercial and progressive. Enjoyed listening to them. Thanks.

Daisy said...

I can't help wanting to like a band that quotes Santini!