Thursday, July 13, 2006

Feathers / Feathers / Rating: 7.7

“the music on Feathers exists largely in the bucolic countryside previously occupied by the Incredible String Band, Comus and their progressive brethren. This might lead skeptics to dismiss this spirited collective as just another escapist hippie revival.”

This track listing image is from a mixtape one of the members of Feathers made for me in my late teens- around 17 years ago.

The year was 1989 and I was starting my senior in high school. Before “punk broke” big thanks to bands like Sonic Youth and Nirvana it was a lonely time to be a freaky girl music geek in grade 12. Luckily I had one year under my belt working at a ma and pa record store so by day I may have walked the halls alone but by evening and weekends (and a 40 minute commute) I was a part of a massive music loving community.

Every hour of every day I worked at this new and used store (5 years total) I was introduced to new music; new music meaning bands I had never heard of but was told for example, if I loved band A then I would HAVE to know about bands B, C, D, E, F that came before them. I was exposed to the idea that all bands come from a complex family tree of influences (be it the decade they are from, the region they are based out of, the bands they like or are friends with….) and there was no crime in this idea of a band having such influences. In fact the real crime was and still remains with the listener not taking the time (at least as a serious music fan) to investigate how the past influences the present. New music as it unfolds from month to month makes so much more sense when you actually have a decent sized context to place it in.

This record store job introduced me to a group of slightly older friends / fellow music fanatics that have remained life long friends of mine. These people also laid down a foundation of music knowledge that is so vast and varied that it continues to inspire me to this day. They opened up a world of music (punk, hardcore, noise, goth, experimental, oi, psyche, garage, folk, metal, rap… you name it) and it was their mixtapes and expertise that I can say without a doubt shaped the headstrong music nerd I am today.

You have to imagine my amazement when I discovered one of my core music heroes from nearly two decades ago (and briefly a high school boyfriend of sorts) shows up in a freak-folk band that people aren’t just talking about but seem to really dig. We fell out of touch in the early 90’s but holy crap there he is tucked among a group of people on the Feathers’ record cover.

Seriously if I could create a list of the ten most influential people in my life in relation to music, this guy ranks among the top five people I should thank.

The photo on the front of Feathers cd actually looks like a twisted communal version of how we once (about 6 to 10 of us) spent our summer evenings deep in the woods of Rockland County NY. We listened to cassettes on a battery powered boom box while some kids ate shrooms or acid tabs and the rest of us pounded shitty cheap beer while pillaging the forest floor for anything that might keep the campfire going all night. I passed on college to learn about music because I had some of the best teachers in the world sitting (and some occasionally passed out) around me. They supplied me with lists of records I NEEDED to own, played me their favorite artists night after night and shared stories about shows I kick myself for not being old enough to have seen first hand. (Swans/Sonic Youth - Pyramid Club or Bad Brains/ Minor Threat / Void - CBGBs for instance)

I can’t speak for all the members of Feathers because I only know this one fella but it isn’t often a person with impeccable taste in music goes on to form an incredible band that reflects one of the genres they practically have a PHD in. We all have friends with great taste in music but for some reason also happen to play in the worst sounding bands ever. I understand taste doesn’t equal talent so it is a truly pleasant surprise when a friend breaks this tradition.

Again, I can’t speak for the whole band but trust me when I say at least this one member isn’t just jumping on the psyche- rock / folk bandwagon. This friend of mine has had these songs in him all along; even if the music was only recorded in 2004 and 2005. This isn’t my favorite style of music- in fairness I only dabble in it but I am willing to swear that of all the new damaged folksters out there- a core member of Feathers had all these other artists beat by decades and I have this mixtape to prove it. Feathers aren’t flaunting a freaky psych-folk façade- this is as close to the real thing as it can get in 2006.