Music » Music Stories

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

B-Sides finds other Franken-guitars to match Junior Brown's creation, earns some holiday cash on eBay and discovers that Milemarker and My Chemical Romance have more in common than you'd think

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A Million Miles Away
Milemarker and My Chemical Romance are from different worlds. The former is an art-damaged, new-wave-disco-punk band from back before such things were fashionable. The latter is a platinum-selling, mascara-clad emo-core act from Jersey. But without MCR, there might not have been the new Milemarker album, Ominosity, which was released on Eyeball Records.

You see, MCR released their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, on Eyeball, which is co-owned by Geoff Rickly of fellow Jersey screamers Thursday. Bullets and an early Thursday CD have helped fund the small label (and, hence, provided a sizable enough budget for Milemarker to do their album right).

But more important, it took a 2004 meeting between the Eyeball founders and Milemarker guitarist Dave Laney and bassist Al Burian to even convince the band to record Ominosity. Though Laney avers Milemarker never broke up, they did go on an extended three-year hiatus as their flamboyant keyboardist Roby Newton left the band, and Laney and Burian started the more straightforward punk act Challenger.

"The band got pretty intense being on the road all the time over the years, and it caught up with it," Laney says. "Eight years of going all the time warrants taking a step back."

True to Milemarker form, though, recording sessions for Ominosity went on right down to the last minute.

"We never have enough time, which is nice and frustrating," Laney says. "If you have too much time you over-think everything. I know people who've been recording albums for months and they're like, 'We pretty much took all the congas and Brazilian flutes off the track.' And I'm like, 'If you'd only had a month, it would have still been in there, and you would have something really weird-sounding!' You start getting too self-conscious."

Ominosity is a smorgasbord of sounds — and somebody dosed the silverware. Half the album consists of songs that extend past the five-minute mark (some well beyond it), like Renaissance if they'd been into Gang of Four. At times aggressively riveting and other times strangely entrancing, it's truly a product of their kinetic process.

One thing Milemarker does share with MCR aside from the connection with Eyeball Records is a sense of theatricality, which has always made their shows something of a spectacle. And for Laney, the live experience has always been an important element of the band.

"It's got to be saying something more than just playing your CD really loud," he explains. "You pay $30 to see Iron Maiden and you get a show. They've got a robot that comes out and is set on fire. Now, you can pay $15 to see an indie band, and they don't service you like that. They don't move; they don't even say hi."

Milemarker at the Creepy Crawl, 412 North Tucker Boulevard. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 4. Tickets are $8; call 314-421-9333 for more information.

Weird Science
Fundamentally, the guitar is a simple and cheap instrument: Get a cigar box and some rubber bands and twang away. But when fused with electricity, it becomes infinitely, often bizarrely, hot rod-able. For some gear-heads, whammy bars and b-benders won't suffice. Take Texas guitar god and recent Dukes of Hazzard narrator Junior Brown: He invented the "guit-steel," a sui generis cross between lap steel and Telecaster that sounds like Hendrix igniting a five alarm honky-tonk fire. Brown's got the chops and the cojones to reinvent the axe. And he's not alone.

Artist: Rick Nielsen
Instrument: 30-string guitar
Description: No one needs a kitchen-table-size checkerboard guitar with five necks, but when you burn solos in Cheap Trick for 30 years, you can afford to super-size penis envy.

Artist: Béla Fleck
Instrument: Banjitar
Description: Sometimes confused with the electric banjo, this six-string wonder lets you look as sharp as a bluegrasser without all that pesky wood-shedding.

Artist: Wang Chung, Prince, Yes
Instrument: Keytar
Description: Also known as the "belly-synth" or "gui-board." You don't have to be in a hair band to play this strap-on keyboard; you just have to be, à la Devo, through being cool.

Artist: Mark Deutsch
Instrument: Bazantar
Description: When former St. Louisan (now San Franciscan) Mark Deutsch bows this handsome, patented creation — an ultimately indefinable hybrid of upright bass and amplified sitar — the sound is Eastern, Western and all points in between.

Artist: The Gongs
Instrument: Chucky
Description: This Lorain, Ohio, band tinkers with homemade, mostly electronic instruments. Some involve sine waves or steel discs found by train tracks, but the Chucky appears to be an elegantly carved, six-string phallus that emits tickling, shivering drones from another dimension.

Artist: Punk as a Doornail
Instrument: Skatar
Description: Sk8r culture meets avant-garde meets impractical transport to the 7-Eleven. Orange, California, punk Keith Irish built this instrument out of electric pick-ups, bass strings and a skateboard. The tubular tone almost compensates for songs about flatulence and "tarantula pussy."

Artist: Cornell Nanofabrication Facility
Instrument: Nanoguitar
Description: You think space is tight in the van? Try being a molecule on tour; you'll need something more compact than a ukulele. You'll also need an atomic-force microscope to play this ten-micrometer-long, silicon-crystal instrument invented by Ivy League geeks who can't even hear the sound it makes when struck by electron beams. (The grant didn't cover a stack of nano amps.)

Junior Brown at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. Doors open at 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 30. Tickets are $20; call 314-727-4444 for more information.

Gold-Earnin' Soundz
Attention, indie rockers and punkers looking for some Christmas cash: It's time to start trolling your beloved record collections and lopping off a few of your favorite limbs, as real estate isn't the only exchange experiencing a bubble right now. The market for indie vinyl is peaking — and the proof is on eBay.

About three weeks ago, a copy of the first Nirvana 45, Love Buzz, sold for $1,691. Copies of the original pressing of Guided by Voices' Propeller LP have reportedly sold for over $6,000; their early out-of-print seven-inches are selling in the $100 range.

"The focus shifts from certain artists to others," says Robert Griffin, perennial eBayer and head of St. Louis-based Scat Records, which released a few of the early Guided by Voices records and has just reissued Propeller on CD.

Griffin has seen the peaks and valleys of the collector's market. "Stuff that's selling for $50 one month is $20 the next, and $30 the month after that," he says. "It's not consistently high. Timing is everything. But as a whole, I don't see it going away." Right now, says Griffin, underground metal label Southern Lord is on fire. Even releases that came out eight months ago are selling for $80 a pop.

B-Sides recently unloaded a few of its gems — and as a result, Christmas is shining a little brighter this year. Pavement's first 45, Slay Tracks, 1933-1969 went for a cool $117. A Nirvana/Melvins split seven-inch went for $83. Belle and Sebastian's Lazy Line Painter Jane sold for $22.

Griffin isn't surprised. He unloaded a Misfits 45 for over $400. He says that rockers can take comfort in their savvy investments: "Who knew that you had a savings plan all along?"

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