Nashville is a place well-known for its music scene, obviously. Has been since Elvis recorded there.
And while it has long been the seat of power for both pop and less consumer-friendly country music, there has been, in the last year or so, a rise in the popularity, importance and prominence of the city's unapologetic dirtbag garage rock scene, and I mean that as a compliment.
The first of these bands to gain any real notoriety outside of Nashville itself is probably JEFF the Brotherhood, a two-piece band consisting of literal brothers Jake and Jamin Orall (whom you might know from their earlier participation in Be Your Own PET). They've been putting out albums since 2002 on their own Infinity Cat Recordings, a sort of modern-day Motown for 20-somethings who go to and play basement shows, but really gained national attention after releasing a split with Best Coast.
Their latest album, We Are the Champions, may lack the audacious oomph of their 2009 release Heavy Days, but it's nothing less than excellent and deserving of the fawning attention it's receiving from SPIN and Paste and NPR and the AV Club and Pitchfork.
But if JEFF is the scene's most accessible act - which is why Warner Brothers Records signed them (and Infinity Cat as an imprint for that matter) and is re-releasing We Are the Champions for a national audience - Diarrhea Planet is perhaps its most exciting, the most likely to be called "the Best of What's Next."
About six months ago, I was checking out some distro site or another and stumbled upon a 7-inch, released on Evil Weevil Records in 2009, called Aloha. The thing with a band called “Diarrhea Planet” is that you're obligated to check them out. Upon getting the record, I was delighted to see that the third track of five was entitled "Ghost with a Boner." Clearly, this was a band worth listening to.
It sounded exactly what you would think a band called “Diarrhea Planet” should sound like: sloppy and not recorded especially well. But the other thing you notice is how alarmingly catchy the songs are.
While "Ghost with a Boner" is the standout track - one that, once you've heard it, will kick around in your head for a week, guaranteed - both "Power Moves" and "Coral Beard Harris" come with eminently hummable tunes and the sing-alongiest of sing-along choruses.
In late July, their first release since Aloha was out on Infinity Cat. Entitled Yama-Uba, it's three tracks of the same thing listeners got before, except this time there's a whole hell of a lot more fret-tapping. Like, way, way more. And a song that's not played at a frantic pace; out-of-place but very good nonetheless. This release came about two months before the band's mid-September full-length debut, Loose Jewels, which I eagerly anticipate.
I say that because the band recently came to Boston for the first time, playing in some girl's basement on a Monday, and ripped through many of the songs that will be on the forthcoming LP. The new songs, like everything else the band does, were energetic and appealing. But perhaps the most impressive thing about Diarrhea Planet is that, despite this being their first tour through a significant number of cities in the northern U.S. that I'm aware of, they seem to know what they have on their hands.
Anyone who's been to a significant number of shows has seen bands that are good but think they're not so good, or bands who are complete shit and think they're unbelievable. Diarrhea Planet is both good and self-assured, which you might not expect from a band with only eight songs to their discography in two years.
They also know when they have a hit on their hands, since they turned "Ghost with a Boner" into a roughly five-minute solofest. This after the cops tried to shut the show down.
(I would also be remiss in not mentioning the other Nashville band that played the show, Big Surr, whose own 7" on Infinity Cat will be released at some point in the near future. They're more of an ultra-fun poppy type of garage rock with a hint of fuzzy surf about them and will nearly veer into lo-fi shoegaze as well. But they have that very distinct sensibility and sound that seems to permeate every band of note coming out of their hometown these days.)
Nashville is home to one of the most vital emerging garage scenes in the country, and once Loose Jewels comes out - especially because it's going to be on a major-label imprint - you can go ahead and expect it to get even more attention.
(Photo credit Rebbeca Seung)