Birdcloud is the word

bc1Earlier this year, I found myself enthralled by the YouTube music video single “SMOKO” by the Australian band The Chats. It was endearing to see young folks playing rock music about mundane shit in their lives that has a sense of humor because god knows it has been ages since anyone that matters in rock music had a sense of humor about anything.

I bought the band’s EP (excellent by the way) and followed them on Instagram. Mostly they just advertise gigs on their social media, but one day a photo of them with two female American country music artists appeared on the timeline.

This seemed a bit bizarro, so of course I had to do a search to find out what the hell was going on. The group was Birdcloud from Nashville. I typed it in YouTube and clicked on the first thing that looked appealing, a video for the song ‘Fuck You Cop”. Maybe this wasn’t the ideal place to start since this is probably the only full band version of any of their songs, but I fucking loved it. It was playful and clever. The lyrics were spitfire and flowed like they were from the pen of the daughters of AC/DC’s Bon Scott.

The video was recorded in 2012. A sense of disappointment came over me as I felt betrayed this has not been in my life up until now. Where were you Weird Twitter? Degenerate forum posters? Punk rock pals? Podcast addicts? How the fuck does this genius fly under the radar for so long?

Within a span of 24 hours I devoured whatever videos were available and bought the “Singles Only” album. In my late 30s, I don’t think I should be this enamored about anything, but these gals spoke to me despite my ass being a tried and true Yankee from rustbelt Ohio. The music told stories and I wanted them told to me over and over and over again like some toddler jonesing for the same damn bedtime story every night. Tell me more about this place called Springwater, I need to go there. I want to enter the Ice Balls world. I want to attend that anti-death penalty rally and sing about sweet Humbleberry pie. I want to meet Granny.

The songs are all what normies would classify as filthy. They reek of sex, booze, drugs and other elements of Southern trash culture (let’s face it…this culture is fucking everywhere at this point). It is punk rock. It is shit that digs right into your god damned soul and does not ever leave.

Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green appear to be in their early 30s. They met at Middle Tennessee State University sometime in the last 10 years and seem to originate from humble backgrounds in the state of Tennessee. They have produced about 30 or so studio-recorded original songs in their time together. The biggest hit on YouTube is the little ditty “Warshin’ My Big Ol’ Pussy” which has 180,000 views. The group’s channel has a meager 5,000 subscribers. In terms of criticism, there doesn’t seem to be a large volume of material written about them (but the stuff that is out there is quite good).

In video interviews on YouTube, the duo are very standoffish at times, calculating a moment to strike with madness or some offbeat hijinx. It’s a chill vibe though. It’s really hard not to want to be their friend and to root for their success. You can tell they take a lot of time to carefully construct the songs they release despite presenting an image of being party animals. I have no idea if new shit is around the corner, but they are still going strong playing gigs. I would hope this continue long enough for me to take in a show, but I feel I am late as fuck to this party and hopefully the kegs will not have run dry by the time I get there.

 

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Retail death as it happens

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Sears, 2017. It’s the one in the Southern Park Mall in Boardman, Ohio. I had not been there in five years, but I noticed that the sign on the front lost an A & R during some sort of weather event probably in the last one or two years. It could be longer, I have no idea.

With all of the news regarding old retail’s eminent collapse, I decided I had to go check this place out. If this Sears is bold enough to let its sign just be a pile of shit for months if not years, it must be a treasure trove of depression inside.

The first thing I noticed was the mattresses prominently displayed right as you enter on the first floor. Yes, Sears. The place for mattresses. I didn’t bother looking at prices. Those are the same ones that will last you five years just about every other place selling mattresses has.

There are still racks of clothes about, but a lot of it is discount level sports items, basically piles of ugly Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and Browns gear that might have looked passable if it were 1992.

Next to the sports crap, is more generic sports crap. Large circular racks of USA T-shirts probably made for the Olympics or a soccer event catch the eye. At $3.99 a pop, it’s $3 too much. There are some shitty FC Barcelona shirts are mixed in there as well.

There are dozens more $3.99 racks, selling stuff which TJ Maxx probably would reject. It’s a sad state and it’s store wide. The store is still technically open, but it seems like a giant store closing sale.

I remember coming to the store as a kid and noticed a lot of carpet, flooring, paint and floor displays were the same, only in much worse shape. Nothing about any of this modern, even the one or two workers on the entire first floor were ancient.

I figured the upstairs would be the most depressing state of affairs as it seemed clear that the store no longer had enough merchandise to go around.

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Upstairs at Sears

As I rose up the elevator, wondering if this would be the last time I would ride such a thing in a department store, I noticed the emptiness almost immediately. There were sections of kitchen, bath and bedding goods, but mostly the center floor was bare and quite embarrassing.

The last time I was up here, there were TVs and stereos. A toy department might have been in this space in the ’80s. I don’t quite remember.

I walked the perimeter of the floor and checked everything out. It all seemed temporary then in the bedding section the smell of weed hit me. I walked around the area a few times just to make sure and yeah…that was weed. I didn’t see any employees or customers around, so who the hell knows what was going on.

I didn’t linger much longer because I wanted to check out the mall’s other anchor stores to see if they were in similar shape. To my surprise, Macy’s and Dillard’s were pretty much as I remembered them. Things were clean, there were employees. Some sales, but nothing ridiculous. Customers? Nah.

J.C. Penney has had some much publicized trouble of its own and I thought there was a chance the cracks would begin to show there. Visually it was pretty damn normal as I approached the entrance. Nothing appeared to be on the level of the Sears fiasco and I was a bit disappointed, to be honest.

Then a hot blast of air hit me as I entered the store. It must have been 80+ degrees in there. Apparently the air conditioning was not operating yet in mid-April or it was broke. You could tell the employees were miserable and the customers were scrambling to get the hell out of there.

In between those trips to the big department stores, the mall’s concourse showed plenty of signs of terminal failure. There were plenty of closed store fronts, but what amused me are the ones where they tease you with a variation of “Watch this space: Something exciting is on the way.”

This used to be a place of fountains and fake plants. I remember there being a statue of the mall’s founder Edward DeBartolo Sr., but it appears like it’s now gone.

(Sears announced the closing of this store in 2018)

 

Amazing Stories: The Amazing Falsworth

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If I recall correctly, Amazing Stories aired at 8 p.m. on Sundays. This certainly was not the timeslot for a tale about a serial killer (two brutal strangulation murders are shown in the opening minutes), but here it was in all its fantastic noir glory.

Gregory Hines and Richard Masur do an admirable job of keeping up the fright factor with the final clash reminding me of something out of The Sopranos. 9/10

Amazing Stories: The Mission

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Despite the presence of Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Costner, this starts off like 1980s dude-bros doing the bare minimum to LARP as WWII bomber crew members. Luckily once the attack happens the pacing and editing liven things up to make it a worthy episode. This was one that I remember seeing as a kid and occasionally themes from this episode pop up in nightmares, namely being a trapped belly gunner under a plane with no wheels.

On this more recent watch, I viewed it as the belly gunner not surviving, but forcing himself into a dreamlike state just before he meets his demise under the weight of the bomber. Or perhaps he is being welcomed into an afterlife of some sort. 8/10