Listen Up: Thursday, September 19, 2002

41 Gorgeous Blocks

Swallow the Sandwich

(Rogue Elephant)

You’ve gotta love a band that takes its name from a line in The Catcher in the Rye, that perennial favorite of angst-ridden teens. (Catcher’s been a teen fave for a long time; the big news is that while I got in trouble for reading it at school a gazillion years ago, my daughter was assigned to read it last year. Can Burroughs and Bukowski be far behind?)

The group, 41 Gorgeous Blocks, is an extremely prolific foursome made up of three guys named Matt (Matt R, Matt M, and Matt P) and a dude named Deedle. They’ve cut two full-lengths since forming in the summer of ’99 and now this EP, Swallow the Sandwich. These boys win points for playing pop-punk, which probably existed before any of them were even thought of, without invoking the, uh, spirit of bands like Green Day or Blink-182 — acts that Hot Topic shoppers consider “old-school” punk. 41 Gorgeous Blocks also deserves props for naming their new record after “all those terrible bands you hear on the radio whose singers sound the same: like they sang their vocal tracks with a bite of sandwich lodged in their mouth,” a condition I refer to as Vedder’s Syndrome, characterized by inserting that “Rrrrr” sound into words where it doesn’t belong.

Matt R demonstrates an uncommon degree of self-awareness and introspection in his lyrics to songs like “Tribute” and “Age” — even if he and his bandmates show the relatively teeny number of rings around their respective trunks by covering the Gin Blossoms’ “Jealousy,” which comes across as a pretty cool little tune now that it’s no longer being shoved down our collective earhole by Clear Channel’s programmers the way it was awhile back. — Ken Shimamoto

The Who

My Generation (Deluxe Edition)

(MCA Records)

Listen: There was once a time when feedback on a rock ’n’ roll record was considered a flaw or a defect. When stacking one 4x12 cabinet on top of another was a novel idea. When the power chords that define both metal and punk hadn’t been invented yet. This is the record that took that world and exploded it — although it took a few years after its release in 1965 for its full impact to sink in.

For years, the original master tapes to My Generation have been tied up in legal battles between the band and its producer, Shel Talmy. Last year, Talmy was even offering them to the highest bidder on the internet. Maybe the band’s hand was forced by the enterprising bootlegger over in Europe who released a “re-mastered,” bonus-track-laden, mono edition a couple of years ago. Anyway, MCA and The Who dug deep in their pockets and coughed up enough dough to get Talmy to turn them over, paving the way for this first-ever release of an epochal album in stereo, re-mastered, with beaucoup bonus tracks and spiffy packaging for suckers like me, who’ve already bought it in innumerable other forms. As well we should. And so should you. Because, well ...

There once was a time when a pill-gobbling, brown-ale-besotted West London teenager, infatuated with the showmanship of big band drummers and the pop utopianism of the Beach Boys, had the unmitigated audacity to play rock ’n’ roll drums like a lead instrument. And his band’s guitarist-songwriter, who was still mad at the world and hadn’t yet been overtaken by arty pretensions, wrote songs around this drummer’s exuberantly extroverted style and played guitar like it was a weapon. Now you can finally hear, with sometimes astonishing clarity, the noise they made. The world has yet to recover. —Ken Shimamoto

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