12.12.2005

A Gesture of KARL HENDRICKS

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I think you'll find that a lot of bloggers (at least the music bloggers) out there are what I like to call Attention Whores. They're out there trying to rack up big numbers, attracting readers with the latest big thing or remix of the latest big thing. They're posting Neutral Milk Hotel demos or deep tracks off of Sufjan Stevens' "THE ILLINOIS YELLOW PAGES AS SUNG ALPHABETICALLY BY A LARGE COLLECTION OF TWEE SWEATER WEARING MINIONS." They run the music sites that scoop even Pitchfork before they can run a snide, rarely funny dis review.

And then you have guys like me. Guys who post about albums that are 12 years old, trying to get one last copy sold before the record and its memory fade like a million No Hit Wonders that came before. Guys who are so unhip that when they finally do post a song that winds up being a bandwidth buster, it's not a WOLF PARADE exclusive track. . . it's a dusty old nugget from the Traveling Wilburys (their biggest hit, no less!).

With that in mind, get ready to hop into the Way Back machine for another dusty one. This time I'm taking you back to Pittsburgh, PA in the mid-1990s. Back to a time when the term Alternative Rock was just about to lose all meaning entirely. This is the era of THE KARL HENDRICKS TRIO, 3 skinny post-SUPERCHUNK rockers who made beautiful dischord out of every indie geek's worst nightmare: dealing with women.

While two albums and an EP preceeded it, "A GESTURE OF KINDNESS" is -- in my opinion -- the complete realization of the band's sound (and therefore its masterpiece). The guitars are jangly and explosive, the lyrics full of regret, embarassment, bitterness and quite frankly, a little bit of misogyny. From what I've heard, Karl Hendricks looked a bit like Steve Albini if he'd turned out more like Mark Borchardt and dressed more like Garth from "Wayne's World." I like to think that this album is what Robert Crumb would sound like if he'd made a punk band.

The album opens with the tone-setting "Foolish Words of a Woman in Love," which sounds like an exact combination of the aforementioned Superchunk and the ARCHERS OF LOAF. The band is on a roll that continues through the rest of the album, starting with "The Official Shape of Beauty" (a great DINOSAUR JR song, if J Mascis took out 3 minutes of guitar solos and just made a pop song). Following that is the jazzy "The Scoffer's Reply", where Hendricks takes on his biggest critic, his ex-girlfriend ("The scoffer's reply: 'It's not jazz when you play like that'").

My favorite track on the album comes 7 songs in, "King Beds Morning Coffee." Even if you hate the rest of the record, you've got to love this one. It has a really cool opening bassline that leads into a great descending guitar part, and some great sad lyrics that -- even if they were in some made up language -- sound exactly like what the guy is feeling. If you only spoke Spanish and heard this track, you'd still know it's about a bitter geek and his lost love. (Unrelated trivia: Does anyone know if there was actually a coffee brand called King Beds' Morning Coffee? For some reason, I've always thought there was.)


FOR MORE ON TONIGHT'S POST:
- The Karl Hendricks Trio at Merge Records. Stream a few more recent tracks here.
- "A GESTURE OF KINDNESS" was out of print for years, but was just rereleased on Spirit of Orr Records. If anyone out there has the reissue, I'd love to hear the bonus tracks.

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6 comments:

mkudlacz said...

Dammit, now I have to purge "King Beds" from my queue. Scooped again! Sometimes it's a real bitch that we're so interchangeable.

~ k

Dylan Gaughan said...

Someone we know sent me a private email asking if I'd become hipper than thou because of what I said in my intro paragraphs.

I must reiterate to all readers of this site: In no way do I think this blog is cool. I don't think I'm cool. As far as blogs go, mine is pretty high up in the irrelevancy department.

So please, don't let my snide sarcasm scare you away. Only geeks man this tower.

Dylan

walbers said...

the name of the song is King Beds AND Morning Coffee. so I think his talking about the size of the bed and a generic cup of coffee in the morning...as opposed to a specific brand...rgds, will

Cheryl said...

been lurking here a while, enjoying your eclectic and anachronistic choices in music... and I am glad there are alternative blogs like yours... so "Thanks."

BJA said...

Too good for Some Girls Like Cigarettes, huh? Karl Hendrix had a new album out about a year ago. They opened for Criteria when they played Omaha. I had thought these old Merge releases were out of print. In any event, Great post, great band.

Dylan Gaughan said...

walbers: I looked all over when posting that one, and saw it posted as "King Beds, Morning Coffee" in a bunch of locations (allmusic.com, amazon.com, cduniverse, my own memory). I've seen the song file mislabeled with the "and," though. I'm sure your interpretation is still right, but I stand by the song title.

bja: Some Girls is a great record, but I never fell in love with the whole thing the way I did "Gesture." To each his own. Their last album was 2 years ago, and it was called "Jerks Win Again." I don't think "Gesture" was on Merge, but most of their other stuff was.

Dylan