July 7, 2022

The time period “indie rock” used to imply one thing totally different. As a style designator, “indie rock” was at all times fairly ineffective. The overwhelming majority of recorded rock ‘n’ roll comes out on unbiased labels, and there’s by no means been a lot of an aesthetic through-line uniting even the stuff that actively embraces the entire “indie” concept. However “indie rock,” as a time period in widespread use, didn’t at all times connote upwardly cell bookish tweeness. That in all probability occurred someday within the mid-’00s, when a sure type of NPR-friendly Decemberism grew to become a dominant pressure of American underground rock. Possibly this was the Pitchfork impact. (If it was, then I’m as complicit as anybody else; I wrote for Pitchfork on the time.)

Earlier than that definition took maintain, although, “indie rock” was a time period with a sure set of associations — the odor of low-cost spilled beer, the feeling of zine newsprint rubbing off in your fingertips, the horrible skree the place you weren’t positive whether or not the warehouse noise band was simply tuning up or whether or not the set had truly began. These associations are lengthy gone. Good Well being, the wonderful debut album from the Seattle band Fairly Ladies Make Graves, is among the final, finest artifacts of that point. Good Well being turns 20 tomorrow, and that event makes for a good round-number excuse to look again on the album, the band, and the period that produced each.

Fairly Ladies Make Graves got here collectively from the dissolution of the Homicide Metropolis Devils, the chaotic and guttural garage-punk band that spent a couple of late-’90s years spreading the gospel of riffs and squawks and self-administered tattoos throughout the American underground earlier than shattering into items simply as their style was discovering a measure of recognition. As soon as, in school, I turned down an opportunity to see the Homicide Metropolis Devils open for At The Drive-In in Buffalo. This is able to’ve meant a few hours in my buddy’s automobile, each methods, on a Wednesday night time, after I had class within the morning and an all-night security-guard shift the subsequent day, and my resolution meant that I missed my shot at seeing two totally different nice bands as each of them have been within the strategy of gloriously flaming out. Dangerous selection. I remorse it. Sleeplessness is non permanent, and rock ‘n’ roll recollections are endlessly.

Across the time that the Homicide Metropolis Devils have been within the strategy of breaking apart, bassist Derek Fudesco shaped Fairly Ladies Make Graves with 4 Seattle acquaintances, a few of whom had performed with Fudesco in short-lived punk bands like Space 51 and the Loss of life Want Youngsters. Fairly Ladies Make Graves took their identify from a Smiths tune, which in flip took its identify from a Jack Kerouac quote. Fudesco would possibly’ve been the best-known member of Fairly Ladies Make Graves, however an important was Andrea Zollo, a massively charismatic singer who screamed rather a lot however whose presence was nonetheless commanding when she was comparatively quiet. The brand new band hit the bottom working, they usually launched their debut 7″ “Extra Candy Soul” b/w “If You Hate Your Pals You’re Not Alone” as a part of the Sub Pop Singles Membership in October of 2001, every week earlier than the Homicide Metropolis Devils performed their final present.

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Earlier than 2001 was even over, Fairly Ladies Make Graves launched their self-titled four-song debut EP on Dim Mak Information, the label based by future festival-headlining cake-throwing EDM megastar Steve Aoki. Dim Mak, which now exists in a very totally different type, began out as, roughly, a punk label, placing out information from bands like Cross My Coronary heart and Planes Mistaken For Stars. Inside a couple of years, Dim Mak would hit gold with the Kills and Bloc Social gathering and the shift to blog-house, however Fairly Ladies Make Graves weren’t part of that.

Fairly Ladies Make Graves hadn’t even been a band for a 12 months once they dropped their full-length debut. Good Well being got here out on Lookout! Information, the Bay Space punk establishment that had launched the world to Operation Ivy and Inexperienced Day however nonetheless discovered a solution to finally exit of enterprise. By the early ’00s, Lookout! had parted methods with founder Larry Livermore and misplaced its identification because the defining Gilman Avenue-adjacent pop-punk label, however the Lookout! roster was nonetheless loopy sturdy — Ted Leo And The Pharmacists, the Donnas, the Oranges Band, Ann Beretta, the reunited Bratmobile. Since Fairly Ladies Make Graves have been principally a punk band, they match proper in.

Good Well being is a superb punk file and an awesome indie rock file; in 2002, these two issues might be one and the identical. The album’s sound is a passionate herky-jerk mess. Within the video for opening observe “Audio system Push The Air,” you’ll see loads of the signifiers of early-’00s hipster tradition — all of the tight T-shirts and floppy haircuts that typified that individual second. (Like “indie rock,” “hipster” meant one thing totally different in 2002, although even then it carried the obscure sense that you simply didn’t need anybody calling you that.) However there’s no distance in “Audio system Push The Air,” no sense of pose. As an alternative, Fairly Ladies Make Graves’ largest tune is an earnest and fiery ode to the ability of music itself: “Life’s issues and frustrations, they disappear when the music begins taking part in! I discovered a spot the place it feels all proper! I heard a file, and it opened my eyes!” They actually meant it, man.


That very same earnestness extends to the remainder of Good Well being, as Good Well being can also be an awesome emo file. There’s a tune about being on tour and lacking somebody who’s again at house. There’s a tune in regards to the romance of discovering somebody and working away out of your lives collectively. There’s a tune the place the one lyric is about “attempting to not fall in line” — again within the time when not falling in line nonetheless felt like some form of possibility for idealistic younger individuals. (Web-era capitalism beat these notions out of most of us actual fast.)

The sound of Good Well being is quick and pressing and adrenaline-charged, with Zollo and the remainder of the band shouting backwards and forwards at one another. Nevertheless it’s additionally wealthy and dynamic. The flinty, trebly guitar components wrap themselves up into tight balls, and the occasional organ-bleats recall Mates Of State, fellow early-’00s yearners for transcendence, greater than something resembling storage rock. On Good Well being, pressure and launch are one and the identical. The album burns itself out in 28 delirious minutes, and it’s sufficient to go away you breathless and stirred.

The music on Good Well being sounded nearer to the tangled-up post-hardcore popping out of Dischord in that late period — Q And Not U, Black Eyes — than to many of the retro-minded indie and storage rock that was getting important buzz on the time. Lyrically, Good Well being would possibly as effectively have been hardcore. “Audio system Push The Air” is an anthem about staying related to the youthful rush of vitality that music ideally ought to offer you. In its message, “Audio system Push The Air” is actually the identical tune as “Can We Begin Once more,” the large anthem that Boston hardcore heroes Bane included on their very own debut album a couple of years earlier. The music sounded totally different, however Bane and Fairly Ladies Make Graves have been basically coming from the identical place.

The one time I noticed Fairly Ladies Make Graves stay was a couple of months after Good Well being got here out, once they performed on the Siren Pageant, a free present at Coney Island that my future employers on the Village Voice used to placed on yearly. In 2002, the Siren Pageant was filled with bands that have been on their solution to being well-known: Modest Mouse, the Shins, Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Donnas. Fairly Ladies Make Graves appeared and sounded nearly as good as any of them, however their music wasn’t cool just like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or soothing just like the Shins. As an alternative, it was jittery and sharp-edged and galvanizing. Musically, Fairly Ladies Make Graves had extra in widespread with New York’s personal Les Savy Fav than with some other band on the invoice. However Les Savy Fav made an entire art-stunt out of being entertainers; Tim Harrington was a form of ironic vaudevillian. Fairly Ladies Make Graves have been an entire lot extra honest than that. They got here off because the punk band that they have been.

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On the power of Good Well being, Fairly Ladies Make Graves signed to Matador, which in all probability isn’t the most effective label for any band that has something remotely in widespread with Bane. When Fairly Ladies Make Graves launched their follow-up album The New Romance in 2004, Matador’s large meal ticket was Interpol, and Fairly Ladies Make Graves had principally nothing in widespread with that band. The New Romance is a dope-ass file — possibly even a greater album than Good Well being — however it didn’t precisely flip Fairly Ladies Make Graves right into a buzz band. They adopted The New Romance with one other album in 2006 — one which I don’t bear in mind in any respect — earlier than breaking apart a 12 months later. Completely different Fairly Ladies Make Graves members moved on to totally different initiatives: Jaguar Love, the Cave Singers, the reunited Homicide Metropolis Devils. Andrea Zollo grew to become a hairstylist, and he or she’s been coping with some medical issues these days; her GoFundMe is right here. So far as I do know, there’s by no means been a Fairly Ladies Make Graves reunion.

In a way, the music on Good Well being is deeply tied to its historic context; that form of stressed-out angular post-hardcore was in all places within the wave of At The Drive-In. However Fairly Ladies Make Graves by no means felt like a cynical try to money in. They simply made intense, passionate music that left its affect on the individuals who heard it. I’m not going to take a seat right here and inform you that they need to’ve been stars; who am I to make that form of declare? However they made nice music, they usually meant an entire lot to me at a pivotal private time. They have been, of their second, precisely the band that I needed to listen to, and that visceral connection stays. I don’t know how Good Well being would possibly sound to somebody who wasn’t there on the time, however for these of us who have been, Good Well being continues to be a pointy sufficient shock to remind you what the music meant. And nothing else issues while you flip it up loud.