Friday, January 16, 2009

Montana: Land of Guns and Moose... But not Moose with Guns...


You're a good sized state with sprawling vistas, mountains, lakes, and rivers. The elite like to build vacation homes within your borders and pretend they're old west cowboys. You've given us hours of entertainment through jokes relating to your cities Helena and Butte, but you're a vast wasteland of uselessness when it comes to modern music.

What I'm saying is, it's not me Montana, it's you.

If only Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, or Willie Nelson, or Vanilla Fudge were from Montana, but no. Not a Leæther Strip, Perry Como, or Mannheim Steamroller to be found. No Doris Day, no Tool, no Yanni... To my knowledge, not a SINGLE Montanan has ever played Live at the Acropolis, performed in a video containing puppets watching pipes full of meat, or had a Dutch band sing a song about them.

Don't believe me? Here's the list of famous Montanans from

Dorothy Baker author, Missoula
Dirk Benedict actor, Helena
W. A. Tony Boyle labor union official, Bald Butte
Dana Carvey comedian, Missoula
Gary Cooper actor, Helena
Chet Huntley journalist, TV newscaster, Cardwell
Will James writer, artist, Great Falls
Evel Knievel daredevil motorcyclist, Butte
Jerry Kramer football player, author, Jordan
Myrna Loy actress, Helena
David Lynch filmmaker, Missoula
George Montgomery actor, Brady
Jeannette Rankin first woman elected to Congress, Missoula
Martha Raye actress, Butte
Michael Smuin choreographer
Lester C. Thurow economist, educator, Livingston

There's really nothing to work with here. Nothing at all. I guess I can worry about that later though. For now, there's Wikithings to fill space with:

- I know what you're thinking. No, Dirk Benedict never recorded a Starbuck Sings the Blues album, he also didn't drop a guest vocal as Face on Mr. T's Commandments. It's obvious to me that Dirk Benedict does not have my blog's best interests at heart.

- Montana (The Band) like Mississippi (The Band) is from Australia. I'm not sure why Aussies are so fascinated by naming bands after US states, but admittedly, I would have been surprised if Montana (The Band) actually WAS from Montana (The State).

- I found a singer from Montana! Pop star Neli Rangelova is from Montana... Bulgaria...

- Montana (The State, not The Band or The Bulgarian City) has the distinction of being the state bordering the most Canadian provinces. (British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan). It also borders 4 states (Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota). You'd think with all those neighbors SOMEBODY could have loaned them a rock band...

- Montana nicknames include Treasure State, Big Sky Country, and The Last Best Place. Montana nicknames do NOT include We Make Music, Form a Band Here, or We Like To Support Bloggers Who Make Lists About States' Musical Talents.

- Montana is ranked 44th in the nation in terms of population, yet 4th in the nation in terms of size (Only Alaska, Texas, and California are larger). As a result, the state ranks 48th out of 50 in terms of population density (Only Alaskans and Wyomingites have more room to spread out).

- Hannah Montana is the fictional alter ego of Tennessee's Miley Cyrus. That may be good enough to make the list...

- The Helena Handbaskets often battle the Butte Pirates for the battle of made up Montana sports teams. However, this year's championship went to the Helena Shripboats who defeated the Butte Kickers in an event that apparently did not require kicking buttes...

- For some reason, Butte always ends up bringing up the rear in these contests...

- Less than 1% of to Montana population identify themselves as African-American. We *may* have just pinpointed the reason for the lack of musical talent...

- Montana is a relative hub of beer microbrewing, ranking third in the nation in number of craft breweries per capita. How are they ranked 44th in population?

- Montana has no sales tax. Seriously... I want to live here.

- Per capita personal income in 2003 was $25,406, 47th in the nation. I LOVE California...

- The largest city on Montana is Billings. Know who is from Billings? Nobody.

- Petroleum County, Montana has a population of four hundred and seventy people. This means the aforementioned Miley Cyrus could give each resident of the county $10,638.30 and still have over $20 million dollars remaining from her purported 2008 earnings. I bet for that cash she could have Petroleum renamed...

- That's right, for just 1/5th of her 2008 earnings, Miley Cyrus could likely have the county of Petroleum change it's name to the county of Hannah, Montana...

Alright, I think I've cobbled together some choices, though they're shaky at best...

The selections:

Solo Artist: Colin Meloy

Meloy has released four solo EP's full of covers ranging from Morrissey, to Shirley Collins, to Sam Cooke. He was also the lead singer for indie Montana bands Happy Cactus and Tarkio, but he is best known as the lead singer for Oregon indie folk-rockers, The Decemberists.

This is really more of a 'pick to click' rather than a 'look at what this guy has done' selection. There's some good tunes amongst the first four Decemberist releases. Enough good that venerable Seattle based indie label Kill Rock Stars lost them to Capitol prior to the release of their fourth long play The Crane Wife. Still, in any other state they likely wouldn't get a sniff, or would at best get a side mention as another band from the state. Here in Montana though, we'll take what we can get, so the lead singer of a little known Oregon act it is.

Here is a Decemberists cut from the above mentioned album. The track is called O Valencia

Band: Through the birth of founding member and bass player Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam.

This is a total cop out, but Montana needs some help, and Washington has musicians to spare, so just for now Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder, and Matt Cameron will join Ament as honorary Montanans.

Ament and Gossard were original members of underground grunge pioneer band Mother Love Bone who broke up following to heroin overdose and subsequent death of lead singer Andrew Wood. MLB's debut album, Apple, was released within days of Wood's passing.

All was not lost however. The experience Ament and Gossard had gained from Mother Love Bone, and their prior work in underground Seattle rock band Green River allowed their new group, Pearl Jam, hit the ground running, releasing one of the most influential debuts of the grunge movement, 1991's Ten. Together with other Seattle based bands Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and side projects made up of assorted members of though groups like Mad Season, and Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam built a new kind of music based more on the artists and their instruments rather than the corporate machines, and in studio finishes of much of the other popular music of their generation. Grunge rock, like the flannel and unwashed fashion it inspired, had gone the way of the dodo by the turn of the millennium, but the DIY revolution it inspired lives today in the form of every unsigned band selling tracks on iTunes and getting their name out there with MySpace. Grunge, and the Internet have shaped the music industry of today, and after Kurt Cobain's suicide, Pearl Jam became the most recognizable, influential, and successful face of grunge.

Here are MONTANA'S favorite Seattle band singing a song whilst kids throw mud...

Honorable Mention: Steve Albini

You may not know Steve Albini by name, you may not have heard of of his bands Big Black, Rapeman, Flour, or Shellac, but you're probably still familiar with his work. As the founder, owner and operator of Electrical Audio in Chicago, Albini, who's family settled in Missoula, Montana when Steve was 12, has engineered and recorded albums by Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Bush, Page and Plant, The Stooges, Urge Overkill, Breeders, The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Fred Schneider, Veruca Salt, Gogol Bordello, Scott Weiland, and Manic Street Preachers. Since opening shop in 1985, Albini has engineered in whole or part, over four hundred albums, mostly for indie outfits looking to get a start. Not just a sound engineering genius, but a purveyor of what's now and real in rock music...

If you're thinking 'What's so special about taping someone else playing music?' You are missing the difference between a Steve Albini recording and a random-studio-multi-track-nameless-machine recording. One of the staples of Albini's recording style is using strategically placed microphones in a 'live in studio' setting to capture the breadth of a song as the band plays together, rather than overlaying multiple tracks on top of one another. While multi-track recording has it's place, for example, it allowed The Beatles to record all thirteen instruments played on The Ballad of John and Yoko despite the fact that John and Paul were the only two band members playing on the recording, it also eliminates the raw power and collaboration of listening to musicians play off of one another. Albini's ability to pull the perfect recording out of the chaos of a live in studio performance is worth of recognition, even if he wasn't from Montana.
Take for example this gem, for the classic Pixies album and Steve Albini project, Surfer Rosa. This is Where Is My Mind?

It took some creative selecting, but Montana is complete, and with it, so are the 'M' states... Man, I'm glad those are done since there's like EIGHT of them... Glad thing we're moving on the the 'N's... Since there's only... eight... of them... Anyhoo, next time I do a state, It'll be the state of Nebraska.


CRwM said...

Not related to nothing, but 33 1/3 RPM, that nifty series of little album books just posted the long list of proposals they got for the next slate of books:

The question is, what album would you have submitted? Long time fans named CRwM want to know.

OCKerouac said...

There's so many good albums, and a great variety already covered...

I've been in kind of a psychadelic mood of late, so I think Easter Everywhere by The 13th Floor Elevators would be an excellent addition.

Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy would be a good one too, if for no reason other than getting to write a chapter about Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner...

That's a pretty cool site. I have seen the books before but didn't know the were also in the blogosphere. I think I'll add it to the sidebar. Thanks!