Tag Archives: What It Is

Day 313: Algernon Cadwallader – What It Is

7 Jan

Motivational Song / Spit Fountain 

Live albums are weird things.  They’ve got to be special—and I mean really special—if they’re going to work.  What’s “special” or not varies immensely from person to person, so like all music, it’s hard to discuss live albums without getting all emotional.  Fortunately, I abandoned objectivity on Day 1, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

I know for a fact that this particular live record won’t work for 90% of my audience.  Last time I checked, you lot don’t really embrace shouty emo tunes, so a live version of the stuff—recorded with mediocre equipment, no less—really won’t fly with y’all.

However, I love this music, and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve been to an Algernon Cadwallader show.  This is the type of band that plays in a basement (without proper ventilation), where crowd surfers are at serious risk of being impaled by some broken pipe sticking out of the ceiling.  There’s no stage, no monitors, no setlists, and no bullshit at these shows. The next band is setting up before the last band has cleared out, and everybody’s just happy to be there.  Including the drunk people, who are out in much smaller numbers than at your average concert. But still, the inebriated ones aren’t even ruining everything.  It’s just a completely different atmosphere than your typical $25-dollar-plus-convinence-fee show.

It’s an atmosphere that shines through on this record, in all of its sweaty glory.  Algernon has built up a dedicated and large fan base, considering the type of music that they put out, so no matter where they play, there are always quite a few people who know every word to every song.  Those fans dominate this album, and are heard through long stretches where you can’t even differentiate the lead singer from the elated masses.  Whether that’s due to the sheer volume, or to the fact that his mic stand was inadvertently knocked over, is up for speculation.  To quote the lead singer himself, “you guys are incredible.  Or retarded.  I can’t tell.”

If you want insight into what I think are some of the most fun rock shows around today, spend a few minutes on the internet, and download Algernon Cadwallader’s What It Is.  (Good luck finding a hard copy—there were only 500 released. All of which were  on cassette).  I’ve given you a starting point, though—none of the recordings from this record have made their way to The YouTubes yet, so I’ve linked to a clip of a performance by the band up top.

I can’t blame you if you don’t like the sound—it’s harsh, abrasive, and most of all, really low in quality. The crappy set up is only exacerbated by a bad camera mic.  Look at all that fun that’s being had, though.  You don’t see that at too many concerts with stages.