Polyvinyl Records, 2014
Just out, from Bloomington, Indiana’s Stagnant Pools is Geist, the follow-up to their debut, Temporary Room, from 2012. Temporary Room won the hearts (and minds) of the intelligent but angst-ridden (not faux angst like the weirdos who listen to Korn and used to think Fred Durst was some kind of genius [ha ha ha]). But where are they now? Living back at mom’s house? Selling insurance? Doing data entry? Hmm…
When I was getting into indie stuff, the first indie genre I got into was hardcore, back in the early 80s – bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, MDC, GBH, Subhumans, Misfits (after Glenn Danzig left they should’ve just called it quits, but hey, they needed the money!) and Naked Raygun, Bad Brains, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Minor Threat, The Exploited, CRASS, and more. These bands were “hardcore”, a subgenre of punk, unlike plain punk like The Clash (in their early days). But later on I got into a variety of “alternative” subgenres – this was not monolithic: you had The Smiths, Joy Division, Bauhaus, then, after Ian Curtis killed himself & Peter Murphy split, there was Tones on Tail – briefly, while David J was fooling around in the Jazz Butcher, until he came back and Love & Rockets was formed and after Curtis died, Stephen Morris’s girlfriend, Gillian, joined up, playing keyboards and New Order was born. Then 1991 arrived and like an atomic bomb, “Grunge” arrived and Nevermind was a huge success (to the huge dismay of Kurt Cobain). Almost literally, overnight, Nirvana was a household name. At the same time you had Pearl Jam, Soundgarden (who’s first album I happened to hear over at this guy’s house where there was a small party going on – no one had ever heard of these guys yet, so when the guy who had the big record collection there said “Hey, dude, check this band out…” and put it on I was blown away. I thought, “wow – here’s a band that nobody’s heard of and I think they kick ass!” Needless to say, within a year, they were huge. Yamamoto had left as bassist, then Ben Shepard joined and the album that got them airplay was Badmotorfinger, with classics like “Rusty Cage”, “Outshined” and my favorite from the album, “Jesus Christ Pose”. That was a good album too. Unfortunately, they, like Metallica, cut their hair(!) – but at least Soundgarden’s next album didn’t suck. Superunknown was a good album – I just didn’t really dig “Spoonman”, but I LOVED “Head Down”, a kind of Beatle-esque, trippy tune, written by Shepard.
In the midst of all this, the rock scene (sub-genres and all) changed forever – never again would people who didn’t want to, be subjected to garbage like Motley Crue, Poison, Skid Row and the likes of them – they were dumped by the wayside by the greedy corporate labels with whom they signed. Hence, after that labels like Sub Pop, Rough Trade, Touch & Go!, TAAANG, Merge, Amphetamine Reptile and others emerge to bring music that mattered to people of good taste. But one of the best indie labels who was around long before this big change – from back in the early 80s – Greg Ginn’s SST was the granddaddy of them all (Ginn being the founding member of Black Flag).
So what does all this have to do with Stagnant Pools? Well, it is following a continuum that, at its core, has remained relatively unchanged, although there are all kinds of subgenres out there that would’ve never reached anyone’s ears had it not been for the MP3 revolution. Things like Dubstep, Grindcore, Drone and noise rock, etc. are all making the rounds of people’s social networks and onto their playlists, etc.
Stagnant Pools takes me back to the aforementioned days of the great bands like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (and his Birthday Party), My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, etc. Why? Because just listening to Geist you can hear elements of said bands – the cacophony of swirling guitars from My Bloody Valentine to the sonorous baritone, reminiscent of Nick Cave and also a little like a more recent band, Interpol.
Stagnant Pools is the creation of two Indiana brothers: Douglass and Bryan Enas. They’ve busted out of the Hoosier mentality and gone to a better plane of existence. You can see this quality in a lot of bands that don’t always come from either NYC, L.A. or the Bay Area. This is because they aren’t surrounded by a bunch of other bands who feed off each other and end up as similar as pie and coffee.
The opening cut, “You Whir” has a nice, wind-up start to the album. “Intentions” has a kind of Sonic Youth, vibe – raw, potent, it takes its time, like a slow-speeding bullet. “His Head Was Warm” sounds like Interpol with the Melvins as the back-up band. The closing tune, “Brute”, slows down a little and drags out a melancholy vision that can be almost described as anthemic, except that I tend to dislike that term, as if a rock song is somehow a call to arms or a rallying point. That aside, I dig the line “save yourself” that he’s trying to get across. That is the way to get out of this jungle of lookalikes, fakers, liars, Janus-faced A&R men and crooked managers: Save Yourself! Not so much in a selfish way, but don’t get dragged down by faceless demons who don’t care – only you and yours should get through the maze and, once out – don’t look back, take what you’ve learned, apply it and go forward, always trying something new: new media, which means new messages, new collaborations which can cook up innovative things that, though juxtaposed, complement each other. That’s the secret of survival in this cutthroat den of the music business: and whatever you do, stay away from the guy who says he’s going to make you a star. He’s nothing but a corporate lackey whose company wants to get a hold of you, chain you up, then chew you up and spit you out when they’re done with you. Always go your own way and don’t let people like that get to you or try to get you to change a thing. If you think that something you’re doing or have done is right, it’s right. And, if you have a fan base – they will respond – they are the ones to whom you should take heed. Go to the usual sites for indie/DIY music: Lastfm.com, bandcamp.com and for Stagnant Pools – you can get more information as well as ways to get their music from http://www.polyvinylrecords.com. -KM.