Whither indie?

As Noise Pop turns 20, tracing sound from Overwhelming Colorfast to Young Prisms

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Indie upstarts Young Prisms

MUSIC How does one trace the warp and woof of Bay Area indie rock's silky, sick, multihued tapestry — with ticket stubs to long-ago shows, holey concert T's, or grainy snapshots of sweat-swathed guitar players, red eyes gleaming in a haze of smoke machine emissions? Perhaps one way is to chart SF indie's course from the first Noise Pop to the latest 20th anniversary edition, teasing out the tenuous connections between the first fest's headliner Overwhelming Colorfast, reunited this year, and newish local poobah Young Prisms.

The pinging, ringing unifier might be found in the cascades of distortion, the buzzsaw guitars, used to drastically different ends. Fighting it out, too, beneath Overwhelming Colorfast's fleet-footed crunch and Young Prisms' smoggy overhang of echo-chamber shoegaze are clearly discernible, sensitive hearts, pulsing through the dulcet vocal lines and delivered with perfectly imperfect, threadbare falsettos. You can hear the ties that bind the two bands in the tide of romanticism and even sentimentality running under OC's onslaught, YP's haze.

Back in their 1991 to '96 day, I confess I lost track of Overwhelming Colorfast: I don't think I even saw them during their brief lifetime, although the music-snob friends respectfully granted that OC were kind of OK. So it feels thoroughly weird to play catch up with the most praised recording, Moonlight and Castanets (Headhunter/Cargo, 1996), by Antioch's finest. Just as Overwhelming Colorfast was breaking up (only to reassemble, in time, as Oranger), Moonlight came along. Sprawling and ambitious with a bit of everything, it evokes the exploding mind of a particularly imaginative punk/rock fan, stuck in the suburbs and succored on chicken-fried '70s and '80s FM rock and moshpit-ready Amerindie hardcore bands that could be your life.

Of course, much like Young Prisms, accusations of derivativeness dogged Overwhelming Colorfast, whose inspiration and albatross was Hüsker Dü. Founding vocalist-guitarist Bob Reed couldn't help it — he had clearly ingested far too much SST, with a very special emphasis on 1984's Zen Arcade and Double Nickels on a Dime and 1985's I Don't Want to Grow Up. But listening to Moonlight now —particularly its forward-thrust first side — those snap dismissals and facile comparisons seem unfair.

The side starts "Starcrunch" with its heavy-outta-the-gate guitars that match Bob Mould and J. Mascis lick for lick, moves through "Mickey's Lament," which goes Weezer one better with its smart-kid, enjambed vocal delivery, rhythm guitar chug, and Stooges-y impaired piano drone, and closes the tender, breathy "Last Song" with a back-and-forth guitar line that captures the indecision as Reed sings, "Got a stupid note here / It's from me to you. It's all I could do / Thought I might just toss it / But it took so long. Tell me if it's wrong." Eventually a way-too-exuberant fusillade of guitars busts in, attempting to obliterate uncertainty: it's as if Reed peered into the overwhelming darkness— wondering whether he should hold this awkward note and whether Colorfast could last—then decided, "Fuck it."

Comments

hi kim i think more true is that leaving members of defunct OC joined Oranger and American Sensei became Oranger? OK?
I wrote 800 words of this here:
http://markweiss86.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/new-sensei-boogie/
Love you, Kimba-san.
Mark Weiss
in Palo Alto

Posted by Mark Weiss on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 11:36 am

Dude, if you are going to blaspheme a Saint at least spell her name like Martin Scorsese in "the last tempation of" whatever -- aight, Mary Magdalene unless you are trying to claim that you meant another mary like Hamburger Mary of Jim Carville's babymom.
But speaking of St. Mary of Moraga, there is a point guard on that team that sounds a little like Tracy Chapman, a lady lay lay (that is a Clapton reference not a statement about her virtue) and a heck of a Gael named Alexandra Carbonel hey that almost rhymes like Boots Riley double clicking that icon -- would wouldnt want to tap that?

(blas)Fame -- I want to burn forever!
Never apologize. Never surrender. Nice rack!

Posted by Mark Weiss on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

so now you delete the message where I blaspheme a saint but print the part where I acknowledge it? huh?

Posted by Mark Weiss on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

nice article kimberly. i'm sorry that you liked Overwhelming Colorfast so much. I assure you they suck just as much as Young Prisms (who i agree, do suck), but don't worry soon they will all be forgotten. Pretty much all bands with forgettable "not quite" names fade over time--there's just something about the character of their name-ers. I used to love a band called My Favorite way back when... it happens to all of us when we're young.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 1:53 am

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