Deli Magazine

CMJ Marathon 2013 - Runners' Diary: John, Day 5
- by John McGovern

The end of this is approaching. My final morning was similar to that of Martin Sheen’s in Apocalypse Now. I had a vague feeling that I was hallucinating, a feeling being spearheaded by the chaos of the past four days. I shout, writhing with exhaustion, in an attempt to break myself out of the funk. Luckily, I am not in Vietnam, so the resemblance is slight. My only friend, the end.

When you hear Heliotropes (pictured on the right), you feel like you’re headed for a journey. What kind of journey, you ask? Heliotropes open all of their songs strongly, and build off of that foundation to explore all sorts of stoner metal, grunged-out divergences. They don’t sound as sludgy as most bands of their breed, but there is plenty of haunted, nonchalant vocals, melodic bridges, and knarly riffs to keep you head banging at a comfortable pace. It’s definitely a cop-out comparison, but I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t genuinely feel like it was accurate: their lead vocalist sounds like Kim Gordon. Yes, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. Maybe I’m full of shit but, regardless, Heliotropes is a band worth checking out if you’re into any genre derivative of rock and the blues. They don’t delve far enough into their psych/stoner metal groundings to not be a band with crossover appeal. Even I’m getting too old to throw myself around in the pit anymore, and I’m thankful for bands like this that I can jam out to without getting elbowed in the face.

The first aspect of Slothrust’s music that stood out to me was their enigmatic, surreal lyrics. These lyrics are indecipherable but not inane; they suggest, like a lot of surrealism does, that it’s impossible to depict reality in an objective way, and to do so is misleading. And that’s just the lyrics. Accompanying those lyrical puzzles is a grunge-centric power trio that’s full of mirth. Imagine if the Jesus Lizard sounded like they played in sunny backyards as opposed to grimy basements: that’s pretty much what Slothrust sound like. Those who sometimes wish that their favorite Touch & Go bands were more optimistic will enjoy their music.

It can be annoying to have to cross the river to see just one band, but this is the final day and I’m no quitter. Weird Womb is the type of band that you discover by accident. They’re loud, raw, and they don’t give a shit. There’s an unrequited energy here, a desperate dedication to push on through the muck with explosive transitions, half-baked guitar solos, and fearless vocals. They created the chaos, and then they fought against it. Sounds like a paradox? You can almost hear all the sweat and beer in the music itself and this is, after all, what we want to see when we go to see a rock and roll band; gutter rock and roll.

With a name like Harmonica Lewinskies, you can almost be sure that the band is going to put on a good show. There are never enough bands with good senses of humor around, and we can all be grateful for groups like the Lewinskies, who play nice music while having a grand old time. Here's another band that you can't appreciate fully until you've seen them live. The band might not take themselves as seriously as most of the bands you'll see around town, which is why they're intriguing. But humor and music are not always so antithetical. It's not like the band is only concerned with being entertaining; smooth jazz blends with old school blues and hints of folk to create music as groovy as it is fun. 

My last set for CMJ 2013 (I have nothing sentimental to say about this climatic moment; I am a cold-blooded nihilist with a stone heart) was Brooklyn’s Ghost Pal. So did my CMJ experience end with a bang or a whimper? The world may end with a whimper, but CMJ did not. Ghost Pal is a bunch of passionate performers. Frontman Oliver Ignatius has enough enthusiasm and soul to bottle and sell. Alright fine, maybe you can’t sell those things; so instead, you should just go see Ghost Pal sometime. In an interview with The Deli, the band described the spiritual undercurrent in their music (hence “Ghost” pal), and it isn’t just some hippy pseudo-science bullshit. It is reflected in the dedication that they tackle their elated, original, and bizarre spin on some of the best classic rock bands who have survived decades later, still resonating with contemporary listeners as Ghost Pal resonates with us.

It’s been a pleasure to describe my CMJ experience to you, and I hope you’ve found some cool new music. I am going into deserved hibernation now, start the countdown for next year’s CMJ.  - John McGovern