Music fans are dicks. All of them. All of YOU. Either you like shitty music—glossy pap fed to the masses like so much chum to that day's catch—or you're an elitist pig who hoards obscure bands the way Jack Nicholson hoards anorexic actresses (in his basement never to see the light of day!). Okay, maybe you fall somewhere along the vague continuum between the two, but I will make one ironclad guarantee about your musical proclivities. Here goes.
There has been at least one band in your life who you raised up from a pup, fed them milk from a makeshift bottle, watched them play some of their first shows, bought the first godawful EP they released. And years later, after you saw them at too many half-empty bars to count, after they toured and toured and bled for their art, they finally got a spot on Conan! Or Rick Rubin produced their big record! Or they played at Bonevillechellybelly Music Festibration! Or whatever else counts as success in these post-digital days. And at that very moment when your dear little pet was experiencing their greatest thrill, you were grinning through clenched teeth, secretly cursing the fact that the beautiful thing only you knew about was now public domain for every sloppy frat dude to sing along with while he roofies an entire village.
And for that, you are a dick, but a totally sympathetic dick. After all, we've all done it. We have all, at some point, wanted to believe that we are the ultimate arbiter of taste. And indeed, in the most pure moments of consciousness, we are the sole arbiter of taste. We get to say what we like and what is good, and fuck what everybody says. But that's a pretty solitary existence. Eventually we want to go get drunk at shows with our friends, and that requires some kind of collective, mutual agreement about artistic merit.
The temptation to believe that we have discovered something is also understandable. If you were at a basement party in Seattle listening to Pearl Jam, or at a sweaty talent show when James Brown first performed, you'd feel like you were part of something seminal. In fact, you might attribute some of that person's success to the heaping helping of attention you first gave them. But that's absurd. They played the songs, did the shows, snorted the opiated rosewater, wrote the lyrics, banged the groupies, took the penicillin, etc. You did not.
If you really want to be a great fan and earn that pang of jealousy and regret when your little guy makes it big, the only thing you can do is be an apostle. Be a rampart for the giant cockrocking fortress that your band will become. And so here begins my absurd quest to write about some bands you've never heard of before in the hope that you will start listening to them and make them famous. Everyone in Williamsburg is so mad right now.
First up for this dubious distinction:
Their fifth album, The Better Angels of Our Nature is available for free! So if you don't want to read anymore, but just want some free badass music, go here now.
Established: 1997, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Genre: Rock and Roll
Glossary is certainly influenced by southern rock, country, alt.country, cowpunk, and whatever other genres and permutations you want to subdefine. But they are also influenced by Thin Lizzy, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Modest Mouse, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Big Joe Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Dixon and EVERYBODY EVER. They play rock and roll. Very few bands are willing to say just that any more. Glossary does not pretend to do anything else.
I first encountered Glossary in an alleyway in front of the appropriately named dive-bar, the Alley Cat Lounge. They were playing as part of the 2005 Midwest Music Summit and I had no plans to see them. I didn't know them from Adam. My friends and I were simply walking to get a drink between sets from other bands. But I paused for a moment in front of the makeshift alley stage and listened to them play three of the most well crafted rock songs I'd heard in years. Then they absolutely destroyed me with their encore, a beautiful rock waltz about being a wandering artist. And like a message of salvation stuffed into a broken bourbon bottle, unceremoniously thrown into a filthy vomit-laden gutter, I found this band.
For the last eight years, I've listened to them, written about them, and hoped rather fervently that they'd catch on for a national audience. But it just hasn't quite happened.
Despite that, they continue to record and release spectacular albums every two years or so.
Glossary's sound is authentic and American without resorting to kitschy signifiers. Nothing they do is old-timey unless it is somehow a necessary part of a song, or the story a song is telling.
And Joey Kneiser tells rather excellent stories. Kneiser's songwriting is at its best when he writes about concrete experiences framed within the context of life as a southern musician. He writes songs about being on the road that don't ask you to feel sorry for him. In Glossary's world there is always sacrifice for the sake of art. Are some nights, "too easy to forget," as Kneiser says in the song, "Shakin' Like a Flame?" You bet. Or as in, "Poor Boy," do you wake up some mornings so elated from the night before—still a little buzzed, still a little horny—that you wanna go out and get married to the sweet girl laying next to you? Absolutely.
Another frequent Glossary theme is the dichotomy between the values preached in southern churches and the behavior of the parishioners once they hit the sidewalk in front of the church. Sometimes Mr. Kneiser rails against the hypocrisy other times he relishes the forbidden fruit created when a religion espouses deprivation over moderation. "Save Your Money for the Weekend," takes a big bite of that apple, letting us know that, "southern girls are the sweetest when they're full of Jesus' love." Wink wink.
I'll admit that the casual listener will probably not be as into the entire Glossary discography (I celebrate their entire catalog) as I am. But every one of their albums has at least one single that is a major league alt.country grand-slam. And gosh darnit, you oughta listen to them.
Bingham Barnes (bass)
Todd Beene (pedal steel, guitar, vocals)
Eric Giles (drums)
Joey Kneiser (vocals and guitar)
Kelly Smith (vocals, percussion)
As their bio states, the band's lineup changed quite a bit between 1997 and 2005, but has been relatively consistent since then. The songwriting and lead vocals come primarily from Joey Kneiser, though Todd Beene, who is also a member of Lucero, assumes those duties on a few songs over the past few albums.
1998 Southern by the Grace of Location
2000 This Is All We've Learned About Living
2003 How We Handle Our Midnights
2005 For What I Don't Become
2007 The Better Angels of Our Nature
2010 Feral Fire
2012 Long Live All of Us
Grand Slams -
Save Your Money for the Weekend -
Days Go By -
Blood on the Knobs -
Little Caney -
The Flood -
Other Fun Videos:
Under A Barking Moon -
Keep It Coming (on Carson Daly) -