(Second-to-last) Monday record review 7/10/2012: "Dixie," by Avail.

How ridiculous does a genre’s name have to be before we don’t take the genre, or artists in it, seriously? With the proliferation of file sharing and torrenting, genres splice and mutate faster than ever. Keeping up becomes a chore. So when I hear people talk about neobulimoscreamo or post-glitch or chill-fi I’m no longer sure whether or not the idea of genre is being played up, or if the music itself is so niche-y that it’s being further whittled down. Seriously: I can’t tell. Somebody help me. I mean, I think I’ve talked before about staying in a Greenpoint loft and having a casual conversation about mid-nineties Gainesville emo with one of its denizens and thinking “do kids really know this stuff nowadays?” and not ever getting a satisfactory answer. Does every kid have one song by every band ever on his or her iPod nowadays or something?

It’s kinda cool, all told. But the truth of the matter, sad though it may be, is that it was way more fun when people were bigger snobs about stuff, to the point of exclusion of other genres. How much fun was it (or is it) to have a chat with someone who knows New York hardcore, say, really well? All the family trees and sub-family trees and sub-sub family trees, this guy’s brother, another guy’s cousin who was the fill-in at that one matinee and played two shows with this guy who started that band, that sorta thing. That’s where the real fun comes in this age of general knowledge: gimme specifics, you know? It’s way more interesting to know the one or two things that a person is passionate about than to glibly nod along with every goddamn band ever as they scroll by on an iPod screen.

On the Nod

It’s because of that sort of specific knowledge that certain bands used to shine. Everyone used to know Hot Water Music, Fugazi, Avail. They all transcended that specificity because they were great, and because everyone could agree on them and their sweaty live shows. All energy, all killer, no filler. Is there a space for this sort of thing in the general head-nodding world today, or is it lost because it was so general? I hope it’s option one.

Avail was a punk band—maybe a hardcore band, if your listening tastes were mostly twee. But the crusties liked ‘em, and the pop-punkers, and the hardcore guys, and the straightedgers, and the emo kids, and even a smattering of grunge and alternative types. Everyone got duded up in their best gear, genre appropriate, and went to the show.

And Avail—probably, after Fugazi, the second best live band I have ever seen—delivered. Jeez, I remember the walls of the Middle East literally sweating one time I saw them—it was hard to stand in that room, dig?


But it wasn’t just the performances the band delivered live. They were one of the few bands of the era whose records provide an accurate representation of the live experience. There was no gimmickry involved (unless you consider a spastic second vocalist gimmickry, in which case we’re no longer friends, and go burn all your Public Enemy and Happy Mondays and Campaign for Real-Time and Pavement and Fugazi and fucking James Brown records, okay? Seriously: LEARN YOUR SHIT), just songs, written and delivered with craft and heart and hooks, honest-to-God hooks designed to incite bouts of dancing / moshing / weeping / crazy pitting and devoid of the sorts of signifiers that might pin the album to a specific time, cringeworthy or otherwise.

Or, you know, some subgenre, real or imagined.

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