It was probably 1997 when the Autumns spent the night in my apartment. I was at home when my girlfriend called me from the radio station where she was interviewing them. I’m not sure why I wasn’t there; maybe I’d been at work. She put their manager on the phone to work out the details. Apparently they needed a place to crash for the night and park their trailer full of equipment. Was our apartment available? They could sleep on couches, on the floor, whatever worked.
At the time she was more into them than I was. I think she’s always had a penchant for pretty boys with pretty falsettos (what she’s doing with me I have no idea), and that’s their lead singer all right: long hair, lanky frame, killer cheekbones, gorgeous falsetto. I’d heard their album a couple of times, but not enough that I wasn’t suddenly shocked when I heard the music stop suddenly in the background while I was working out the details with their manager. I forget what I said, and I’m not sure he even noticed, but later I was embarrassed because I had just outed myself as someone who didn’t know that the title track of The Angel Pool cuts out in the middle and slowly resumes. But that wasn’t the worst thing I did that night.
The worst thing was that I actually went to bed after they came over. That’s right: like a fool, because I had work the next day, I hung out very briefly with one of the best bands I’ve ever heard so that I could get a few hours’ extra sleep. I was fucking 23 at the most, you guys. I can run on four hours’ sleep NOW if I have to. Why, just last night I skipped out on a party just because I wanted to sleep a few more hours and I didn’t even have a time I needed to get up this morning. Clearly older is not wiser. Correct your idiotic habits early, young fools.
So I wish there were more to this story, but I missed almost all of it. I think I came out of the bedroom at one point to ask them as nicely as I could to turn down the volume on Tekken 2.
Did you catch that? I could have played Tekken 2 with the Autumns. If I had not been such a monumental bore.
I have many regrets in my life. I am a regret machine. But that’s pretty high on the list.
Fortunately, I did get to trudging through the snow in the morning with them, walking them to where they’d parked their trailer. And we did get to see them live — three times, I think?
Once was for The Angel Pool, which I’d say is still probably my favorite album of theirs overall. It sounds even more like living in a snowglobe filled with real snow than their influences, Cocteau Twins, do. “Sunblush,” probably the most fast-paced song on the album, is still my favorite individual track, but the record as a whole is fabulous.
The second time we saw them must, I think, have been for this album. We drove all the way to NYC to visit a good friend of ours and the Autumns happened to be playing, so we all went downtown to check it out. I’m pretty sure that was the gig where Mors Syphilitica were playing, and if I’d known how good they were and that years later, half of MS would co-create The Venture Brothers, you can bet we would have stayed and I would have met him. But how could I have known? Another regret for the list.
In the Russet Gold of this Vain Hour is a wretched title for an album, almost as pretentious as the full version of Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…. But the music, again, is gorgeous. Where Angel Pool is joyful, Vain Hour is a bit more morose. One of the B-sides was a cover of the early Cocteau Twins song “Garlands,” back when they were a bit more goth, if that gives you any idea. But it’s still got plenty of catchy, ecstatic tracks like “June in Her Frost and Fur” and the exquisite “Bicycle.”
And the third time we saw the Autumns was on the other side of the country. We’d suddenly moved to the West Coast in the middle of 2000, funded by the tail end of the dotcom boom. I’d gotten a new job that was willing to pay to move everything I owned including my car. We packed the cats onto the plane in what was surely one of the scariest events of their lives (never again) and just like that, we lived in California — again, for my girlfriend, and for the first time for me. I didn’t expect to see the Autumns again, but why not? They were, perhaps are, an L.A. band. So, on tour for their self-titled third album, they played a small club in San Francisco and we drove up to see them. I think one of them might have remembered Margaret, but fortunately or unfortunately none of them remembered the guy who didn’t know their songs and was too lame to stay up all night playing Tekken 2 with them. But I remembered them. It was a great show.
Of course, the move across country changed everything for us. Most importantly as far as this blog was concerned, it was the end of our college radio career. No more promo discs, industry magazines, or artist interviews. But it was the beginning of dropping way too much money at record stores (Amoeba, Rasputin, Mod Lang) and living in an area through which pretty much every American concert tour would pass. If there was an artist I wanted to see, and they were playing in the States at all, they’d almost certainly be playing within 30 miles of me. I would suddenly have a chance to catch up on an awful lot of concerts I missed in my youth.
I would also suddenly have the chance to pay more than double the amount of rent I’d been paying back East. This combination of elements was not going to end well.
I didn’t find out about Stars until 2001 when they opened for Momus on his Folktronic tour. The Momus show was great fun, but I was enchanted by this adorable new band and their cover of “This Charming Man,” not to mention their fantastic originals. They ended up being one of the handful of bands I’ve gotten my girlfriend into — she likes them even more than I do these days.
Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life
Another brilliant, dark pop album from Luke Haines and his new band. Sarah Nixey’s deadpan, cut-glass voice lets him write songs he couldn’t have pulled off with his usual caustic rasp, full of dialogue and extended metaphors (driving = sex, freeway commutes = stale relationships). The title track was apparently a pretty big hit for the group in the UK, but the odds you’ve heard of them are close to nil. Pity.
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
I was a huge Dandys fan for a little while, but have always held them a bit at arm’s length, because either they’ve got their tongues firmly lodged in their cheeks at all times (not implausible), or they’re monumental douchenozzles. On this album they turn down the deafening fuzz a bit for some occasionally really gorgeous tunes (“Godless,” “Mohammed”), as well as some more satire-or-douchery? like the hilarious title track (“So, what do you do? Oh yeah, I wait tables too. No, I haven’t heard your band, ‘Cause you guys are pretty new. But if you dig on vegan food / Well come over to my work”) and the catchy, at-least-he-‘s-honest “Get Off.”
- The Cure, Bloodflowers
- Elastica, The Menace
- Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2
- Placebo, Black Market Music
- Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows
- XTC, Wasp Star
- Catherine Wheel, Wishville
- Goldfrapp, Felt Mountain
- Madonna, Music
- PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
- Freezepop, Freezepop Forever
- Geneva, Weather Underground
- The Soft Boys, Nextdoorland