In the mid-eighties the independent label SST put out some of the best albums ever made. This was before it was abundantly evidently that owner (and Black Flag guitarist) Greg Gihn was a complete dirtbag and many of the bands he signed started suing him for unpaid royalties. The SST catalogue is vast and incredibly diverse. From the early Husker Du and Sonic Youth albums to Bad Brains and Negativeland it covers the gamut of American independent music.
The Can-Do Attitude [Album Review]
Other notable eclectic bands on the label were Leaving Trains, Minutemen, and Meat Puppets. These three bands played beautifully warped versions of what would currently be called “Americana”. This discordant variation on American music was an entirely new level punk and I played the hell out of these albums as I drank my way through my late teens and early 20’s. It sounded like Chet Atkins and Pat Smear getting together to drop acid and drink Everclear in the Arizona desert.
The Can Do Attitude’s loose off kilter approach to rock and roll fits easily in with these innovators. Their eponymous release opens with “Good For You” that delivers a raucous and irreverent take on a classic chord progression. Singer N. Lee May’s distinct and authoritative voice spits lyrics as raw proclamations. The guitar is clawed feverishly like if a young Paul Weller had grown up in the southern U.S. rather than Northwestern England.
The song “Modern Girl” follows and makes me wish I could see this band live in their natural environment. Their songs seem like they would translate to a riotous live performance and I can feel my boots slipping on a worn tavern floor slick with spilled beer and sweat.
I especially like that this isn’t just a bunch of songs thrown together. The tracks are structured in an old school album format and are meant to listened to in sequence complete with an interlude hammered out on a piano that breaks the album up into two sections.
“Make Some Money”, a soulful lament to making music in the modern age, and the surreal and psychedelic “Popcorn” add further dimension to this band’s capabilities. The Can Do Attitude’s “we’ll play however the fuck we want and love doing it” approach to songwriting is the basis for any great rock album. I’ll be very interested to see what these guys have in store for the future. There aren’t any deserts in their home state but Virginia has plenty of mountain forests to drop acid in. Maybe they can coax Pat Smear out of LA and channel the ghost of Chet Atkins in the Appalachians.
Reviewer & Playlist curator
Bruce Wilson was born in the American south and after innumerable global relocations he now resides in Vancouver, British Columbia. Bruce grew up listening to his parents’ copy of The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat and quickly moved on to The Stooges, David Bowie, and The Dead Boys. These days he is a writer and sings for the Vancouver based band “Sunday Morning” who released their epymonious debut album in early 2017. He’d like to have a dog but his apartment is too small.
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