Thursday, March 19, 2009

MAX Indian: You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything

MAX Indian cd

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Growing up my four sisters and I were huge fans of Columbia House and BMG Music clubs. We took every opportunity to tape a penny to an ordering sheet and select the thirteen cassette tapes we wanted. We must have ordered hundred of albums and the funniest thing is we never "fulfilled" the commitment by ordering any at full price. Having placed the orders outside our mother's knowledge, every time she got a bill, she would reply with an excerpt of state law indicating the unlawfulness of soliciting minors. The accounts were deleted and the cycle continued all the while us thinking we were getting the albums for a penny. Completely oblivious to what was going on, by 1990 we had literally hundreds of free albums, and you might say we pioneered stealing music. Not limited by money since we were obviously only paying a penny for thirteen albums, we were still limited by how many we could order at a time. There were five of us and we had to come to a reasonable agreement on which albums to order. We shared everything growing up including our oldest sister's JVC dual cassette deck boom box which was the sole listening device for the albums. We had to order albums that all five of us would enjoy. We developed a rule of which we became stewards for and it guided us into "buying" only the good albums. The hard fast rule was that we would not order an album just because it had one good song. Past mistakes such as Toni Basil's album with "Mickey" lead us to see the error in this these ways. We only pasted the album sticker to the ordering sheet of those albums that we would listen to front to back, over and over. The songs on Phil Collins No Jacket Required became memory, Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits had to be replicated onto blank tapes due to the wear and tear it received by constant plays. Our system became the law for music selection.

The tapes have long since been boxed up to dissipate away into the attics and garages of our adult lives and the late nights spent taking turns playing favorites on the JVC now translate to a smirk and a chuckle at how calculating we were in ripping off the music distributors. But the principal to seek out albums that are solid from front to back remains. Practicing on this principal learned long ago, these days I spend money on albums that will play for weeks at a time in my car CD deck without the notion to skip a track or adjust the volume in any direction but up. Finding myself steadily increasing the volume track after track and week after week on MAX Indian’s You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything, I am reinforced that this is the best twelve bucks I've spent in a long time.

Tracks like "Heaven Help Us" and "What Ever Goes Up" are a fun listen and provide the staying power to keep the cd turning in my car's deck, but the intrigue that has me looking deeper into the album is it's cultural relevance to this town. As I listen to the tightly sprung guitar hitches and trackable rhythms I can't help but think that this is what Tom Petty would sound like if he were making indie Piedmont Southern rock in Chapel Hill, NC today. I feel the sense that this album is a re-invention of Southern Rock in a re-invented Southern town. Durham and the Piedmont were a landmark for blues and roots music long before Chapel Hill became a destination for Indy and in You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything, MAX Indian successfully draws upon the heritage of the region and less so the gleaming alt music foundation of the town. Southern rock has always expanded upon the roots music of the town its inspired in, and a truly great album like this is just the kind of thing that could spur a resurgence for it here.

But I say re-invented because we hear very few blues elements in this album, the bright and encouraging messages in "Together At Last" and "Oughtaghettachamra" are delivered with a stompable beat and are more liken to indie than the down cycling of blues. The traditional Southern rock influence is bold however and can be noted in the spongy tightness of their guitar tone and layering of vintage sounding keyboards. The immediately relatable "Now I Know" illustrates the pure ability of Carter Gaj and Nick Jaeger on guitar and leaves you understanding the MAX Indian style. Tongue-in-cheek titled "Oughtaghettachamra" meets the grand tradition of Southern Rock mixing its own dialect into the music and proves the ability for this album to create emotions on positive material. In an album full of sharks, the one that will bite the hardest and hold on the longest is "Heaven Help Us." This is my "hook" track, the song I heard first when given to me on a mix CD and the one that led me in. Its slow rolling jam and story driven lyrics invite nostalgia.

In a music town founded on alternative, Max Indian has accepted a more distant heritage and produced great Southern rock album. With a local music culture stirring with talent, the spark of influence can ignite a movement. With MAX Indian out front and a host of talented musicians keeping pace, it will be entertaining to watch where this goes. Meanwhile I'll keep turning up the knob on "Heaven Help Us" and carefully deciding which albums I want to spend my penny on.

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1 comment:

  1. Great story! Such a "so that's how it was" revelation!