Monday, June 27, 2011

Apples in Stereo -- "Can You Feel It?" (2007)

Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh,
Turn up your stereo!
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh
Drown out the bullshit on the FM radio!
Can you feel it?

The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed LP -- probably their best -- had these words of advice printed on the record's sleeve: "THIS RECORD SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD."  Amen to that.

The Apples in Stereo went the Stones one better.  The first line of this song -- which is the first track on the New Magnetic Wonder album -- is "Turn up your stereo!"

By the way, whatever happened to FM radio?

Back in the 1960s, there used to be top-40 stations, which were great -- because top-40 music was great then.  There were AOR ("album-oriented rock") stations, which played the songs from Beatles albums and Rolling Stones albums and Jimi Hendrix albums that hadn't been released as singles, and which you didn't hear on the top-40 stations.  And there were college stations, which played all this crazy stuff that only crazy, obsessive college-radio DJs knew about.

Now FM radio is about 99% crap.  I'm sure there are FM stations somewhere that play Apples in Stereo songs, but none of the ones where I live (Washington, DC) do.  

Earlier this month, I wrote six posts about the Joplin tornado, each of which featured a song from their 2007 New Magnetic Wonder album.  Unlike most 2 or 3 lines posts, those say almost nothing about those six songs or the group that recorded them.

The Apples in Stereo got their start about 20 years ago on a bus in Denver, Colorado.  Robert Schneider (the lead singer/songwriter on most of the group's songs) was a 20-year-old student who had recently moved to Denver from Ruston, Louisiana.  Jim McIntyre, the band's first bass player, took the same bus that Schneider took.  The two men talked about the Beach Boys -- they were both huge fans -- and discussed starting a band and even starting a record label.

Denver bus (1994)
Schneider and a group of his friends did form a recording collective called "The Elephant 6 Recording Company."  That collective spawned a number of legendary indie bands, including The Olivia Tremor Control, Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and -- most significantly for purposes of my story -- the Apples in Stereo.  (No, I did not make any of these names up.)  McIntyre was the band's original bass player, although he left it a long time ago.

A number of these bands eventually signed with major labels, and The Elephant 6 Recording Company became more of a symbol of a certain type of indie music (which was variously called "psych folk," "psychedelic pop revival," and "lo-fi") but was revived by Schneider in 2007 when he issued the New Magnetic Wonder album on that label.

The Apples in Stereo have released seven studio albums -- this is only one I have -- and Schneider has a number of solo projects that sound interesting.  Plus there are all the other Elephant 6 musicians -- especially Neutral Milk Hotel (whose 1998 In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album was inspired by Anne Frank).  I feel an Elephant 6 series coming on . . .

The official music video for "Can You Feel It?" takes me back to my college days, when my friends and I took stereo equipment very seriously.  (I can't remember the last time I turned my 20-year-old-plus stereo on.  I now only listen to music on my Mac, or my iPod, or in my car.)

The version of the song that's used in the video is G-rated -- the "Drown out the bullshit" line that is on the CD is replaced by "Drown out the static."  But everyone knows that there's no such thing as FM static -- static is a phenomenon that's limited to AM radio. 

(My parents were surprised recently when I hooked up a pair of rabbit ears to one of their televisions -- they lost their cable service due to the tornado, and it still hasn't been restored -- and the picture was perfectly clear.  They expected "snow," which used to be a problem with analog television signals, but is not an issue with digital TV.  Try and explain that to your 85-year-old parents.) 

Here's the "Can You Feel It?" video:

Here's the version of the song that features the lyrics quoted above.  It accompanies a YouTube video (it's really a slide show) that appears to have been made by an Asian or Asian-American college student who spent 2007 studying abroad.  (The creator of this video is going to be AMAZED to suddenly be getting hundreds of views a day thanks to 2 or 3 lines.

Here's a link you can use to order this song from Amazon:

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