Friday, September 01, 2006

Red Collar, "post-punk", and the longest Oak Room post ever




Red Collar:

"Used Guitars"
"Why You Knocking"
(no album or merchandise yet, though they are on the 307 Knox compliation that's kicking around)

A reader took issue with my tagging A Rooster for the Masses with the "post-punk" label. See the brief exchange here -- I'm hoping he/she will come back and comment further. And I certainly invite input from others! My thoughts for this post were circling around the idea anyway, so it's a good tie-in.

In writing this blog, I constantly wrestle with my sporadic knowledge of music trends and history. I was pursuing some unorthodox and specific interests in high school and college and I'm still slowly filling in the gaps. Want to talk about obscure 80s heavy metal? The varied lineups of Yes? I'm your guy. More main stream stuff, or the general flow of "indie" rock in the last 10 years? At least as much hit as miss for me.

I was recently reading Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, about the musical reactions to punk in the late 70s and early 80s. It was pretty enlightening, but as Reynolds uses the term, "post-punk" turns out not to be very helpful as a description of musical sound -- covering as it does many different kinds of reactions to punk, and at least one wave of counter-reactions. Very little (if any?) contemporary music could be said to fall under the more-or-less ideological movement that Reynolds terms "post-punk" (at least not mediated by another "post-" or two), but the sonic markers of these styles have obviously seen a revival in recent years. I tend to use the term for the rock-guitars-plus-disco-rhythm kind of music that seems to stem from Gang of Four and recently illustrated by (e.g.) Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. That's my basis for classifying A Rooster for the Masses as post-punk, but I realize that may be an overly idiosyncratic definition.

Reading Reynolds' book, I was also intrigued by what I guess can be called art-punk -- punk energy and attitude merged with a bit more musical facility and some book-learning. Which brings us (finally!) to today's band, Durham's own Red Collar. I had an interesting exchange with guitarist Jason Kutchma, and learned that even the band's name fits with this notion:
I was working a desk jockey job for a while....At the time, I started really thinking about my job quite a bit, maybe obsessing about it a little too much. I'm not white collar even though I have a white collar degree and white collar air conditioning. Then again, I'm not blue collar even though I've got the blue collar pay and the blue collar vacation time. I kind of dress like a combination of both. It's a necessary job but it just kind of exists. It's this new brand of worker that seems to be popping up and I called it "Red Collar", filling in the obvious Red White and Blue....

The music kind of sounds like a blue collar work ethic done by people with college degrees. It doesn't quite fit punk rock or indie rock or bar rock but there are elements of that in the music.
The lyrics really seem to come from this perspective as well: "Used Guitars" is the broken-dreams narrative of a pawn-shop owner, while "Why You Knocking" illustrates the disillusionment of a door-to-door salesman. "Used Guitars" has knocked me out since I first heard it, and their other songs are quite strong as well.

The band is taking their time recording -- for now, what you see on their MySpace is what you get. I am impressed with the thoughtful perspective that Jason provided on their aims, and look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future. For the time being, you can see them next Friday (9/8) at Jo & Joe's in Durham.

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