June of 44
The Rubb, Tampa • 5.1.898
A month or so before this June of 44 show, my friends were excited because Unwound was set to play at the Rubb in Ybor City. Unwound are a band I’d never heard much of, but I knew what they were about: intelligent, chaotic, guitar rock, arranged smartly, the type of music I used to tear over. But then something happened. Maybe too much Orb, or maybe it was because I wrote a few record reviews, two show reviews, and all of a sudden became a hyper-critical, trendy know-it-all, but God damn if I didn’t walk out of Unwound, because I felt bored and unchallenged.
I realize it’s all relative, and two years ago I would have definitely stayed. So, I couldn’t help thinking I was just being present intensive about Unwound, and limiting myself only to the enjoyment of “new” music; approaches and genres I hadn’t yet experienced. But I have a thick skull, so in the course of debating with myself on this trite issue, I stood fast in my view of Unwound; Maybe they’re just stale, maybe they WERE boring, They’ve been doing THE SAME EXACT THING their whole career. All the once-fresh bands have done the same thing that once made them compelling, until they now sound stale, like Eddie Van Halen. Eddie Van brought guitar tapping into the rock and roll universe, then everybody started doing it, now when he does it, I yawn (I yawn more for the lack of David Lee Roth, but that’s another article).
I genuinely believe that, had it been their first time hearing or seeing Unwound, half of their fans would have been bored too, in May of ’98.
So what about June of 44?
A few weeks after Unwound, June of 44 played at The Rubb. June of 44 sound like a slightly evolved version of the members’ discarded bands, Rodin and Slint. So why, save personal conflicts, would Rodin or Slint break up? It seems that musicians of that same vague modern guitar ilk feel the need to throw what they have away in order to do something new, as opposed to turning the whole steamer around and moving in a totally new direction. When will we get to see a trendsetting late Eighties/Nineties band follow their muse to its logical conclusion and continue to compel us by continuing to do new things? What’s the use of breaking up, changing one member, changing your name, and then sounding almost the same? If there’s upheaval of a successful artistic unit, I want to see the phoenix rise from that shit. I want to see something new and trend setting; I want to see what’s really next for these artists. Maybe I suffer from trendiness, or with something as over-done as loud dissonant music, maybe it’s just high standards.
That’s the picky over-view, but the question is; are June of 44 good?
If you want something fresh out the gate for ’98, June of 44 might not be it, but they’re definitely worth checking out, largely because of drummer Doug Scharin. In these fleeting Nineties, tastes have shifted slowly, like plate tectonics, to consideration of beats over melodies. At the Rubb, Doug Scharin, the band’s center piece and backbone, kept the beat junkies attention while the other members weaved repetitive riff jams and non-repetitive linear guitar compositions, adding lyrics sometimes, mainly for dynamic purposes (although the repeated line “take down your art” is about as good as lyrics get, in my opinion). Aside from a more modern conceptualism on their new record (a more subtle, textured affair as opposed to the rocked out live show), the only other thing that makes June of 44 sound fresh is this: where late Eighties/early Nineties bands were churning and mechanical, drummers like Doug Scharin add fluidity to that equation. The music is still edgy, mathematical, and choppy, but modern rock drummers such as Scharin realize the benefits of juxtaposing a smooth groove. Like their new album, Four Great Points, many highlights of the show consist solely of Scharin. At the Rubb, you got the bonus of seeing him lead the band like a conductor, waving sticks and smiling.
I had fun watching them play and I enjoy listening to their record. June of 44 are recommended for today, and that’s the important thing. But past and present are issues to critics and some music lovers (how many records do you listen to today that are over fifteen years old? There are plenty of good ones). As I watched and enjoyed June of 44, I couldn’t help thinking that two years from now I’d probably feel like walking out.
Feeling like a band has some kind of impending expiration/freshness date waters down that gushing passion that one feels when they are lucky enough to experience the performance of timeless music.