There are numerous ex-members of numerous bands from the mid '90s who look back on their entries in the indie-emo-post hardcore catalog and simply say, "Yikes." I know I do. And maybe they, like I, think about all the bands they aspired to sound like and whose sophisticated lyrical styles they attempted to copy, and how far from the target they landed. High on many a band’s envy list was Giants Chair's Purity and Control, which made so many followers think, "I wish I'd come up with that." Yeah, it was 1996 and plenty of Giants Chairs' tricks had been poured by bands prior, but where others noodled for creativity, this band's glowed in its basics: solid progressions of clever notes, almost everything treated for rhythm though melody seemed always job one. High-order lyrics lead to an inventive mid-program story based around the album's concepts of sight, sound, image and the lack of one or another. One may take Purity and Control for its gifted beats and melodies, but there's definitely more to absorb, and it's doubtful (it should be) that the band's ex-members look back and cringe, even a decade-and-a-half after the fact.
One band that I’m always drawn to at the moment would be Kansas City's Giants Chair, a band who pretty much refined and perfected the Midwestern post hardcore sound. Their approach was very rhythm driven and hard edged, yet musical with more complex song arrangements.
In appraisal of this mid 90s hardcore sound or "emo" (as it was often referred to then) few bands produced anything of lasting value. It’s crazy to think how "emo" has become a term commonplace to describe a fashion obsessed substance free brand of corporate rock. Anyway, many bands were just lacking anything beyond the stylistic traits of tight pants/white socks, paper bag sleeves, lyrics about angels or butterflies, photographs of old typewriters, the "quiet/loud" song template etc. Looking back in 2008 with a more critical eye I'd cite Giants Chair, Hoover, Navio Forge, Drive Like Jehu, Molly McGuire, Sideshow, Franklin, Current and Gravity Records as providing the more challenging and creative music from the mid 90s era. Rooting around a stack of old zines in search of information I found this interview gold from Hanging Like A Hex #8 (early 97) & scanned it as a .pdf :ENJOY:
The first time i took note of the name GIANTS CHAIR was this cool review in Second Nature magazine. It was quite hard even then to get ahold of their records, everytime I tried to pick something up it was always sold out. Fast forward ten years I have eventually tracked most of it down. Starting with "Red and Clear". you can hear an extremely accomplished debut album for the Caulfield record label. For me, the track 1000 of Anything demonstrates how focused and fluid their music sounds.
Giants Chair play circles around the now "legendary" emo bands like Indian Summer, Ordination Of Aaron, Cap n' Jazz etc. Another thing they possesed which many did not was the key ingredient of good songwriting that also rocked. This can be heard even on their first 7", check this track Common Cold which was backed with "Weed Roses", later rerecorded for "Red and Clear". You can DL that whole single thanks to this guy and his blog Rocket Science . Below are scans of Caulfield records ads for "Red and Clear" from HeartattaCk zine.
Unfortunately I am unable to rip the track "Ever Present" from their split 7" with Boys Life which, while excellent, is not enough when used to a full album doseages. One record I picked up in the late 90s (due to my inability to find any Giants Chair) was "In Passing" by The Farewell Bend who featured Giants Chair drummer Paul Ackerman and the guitarist and bassist of Boys Life. Well worth checking out, especially for Hüsker Dü fans!
One thing to note is that most Giants Chair records were packaged in beatifully minimal letterpress printed sleeves designed by guitarist Scott Hobart, he discusses this element further in this interview. The most impressive sleeve design appears on their second full length "Purity and Control" which was recorded in 1996 by Duane Trower (Season To Risk guitarist). His production is excellent, with a very open mix detailing each instrument & the guitar sound in particular just shreds! This album in my opinion is their masterstroke, everything seems measured out to create the exact dynamic or mood. The Instrumentation weaves almost seemlessly, nothing here sounds awkward or out of place. The natural ability these guys have to bring forth a perfect expression or feeling is inspiring to hear. The Speech is one of my favourite tracks from "Purity and Control", the middle eight (or end eight?) they drop into at the end of the track just sounds so awesome! The lyrics are definitely better on this album but are still oblique with no discernable subject matter other than personal stream of conscious. More importantly it fits with the music like a glove.
The first time I really heard Giants Chair was their split 7" with Ethel Meserve in Tree’s Postmarked Stamps series. Not really representative of their sound, the track Lost Dauphin is a guitar and bass instrumental with faint sounds of a pen scribbling overlayed. The track remains placid until the final note when distortion kicks in with a kickdrum hit, a cymbal rings out and then it's gone.
Giants Chair tributes are few and far between but Shiner titled a track "Giant’s Chair" on their "Starless" album & Cave In (the only band capable of handling a cover) recorded a rendition of The Callus on the "Tides of Tomorrow" EP. Aside from that it seems kinda rare to hear their name mentioned. In an ideal world someone should release a Discography collection because this shit shines like a beacon. I believe the band began playing again last year, see photo below from this year. The bands myspace page has other recent live shots and some other background but if anyone has any information, live recordings etc. please get in touch.
I guess people would call this emo for lack of a better term, but it's not at all what you would expect emo to sound like compared to current standards. In the 90's a lot of bands fell under the emo tag because they didn't fit neatly under the "indie rock" tag, and I think Giants Chair are one of those bands that defied classification to a certain extent.
Anyway, this record is full of tight almost mechanically precise drumming, churning rhythms, excellent guitar playing and of course emotional vocals. I recommend you listen to this record a few times and let it sink in, but if you want a quick fix go straight to the 3rd track "Gutshot and The Jogger" which is probably my favorite song on this record, I really like how the song builds on itself as it progresses...
Giant's chair is difficult to describe. Historically, you might place them in the whole Midwest emo/post-hardcore rubric. I know that's a loaded term, so let me explain.
When I say emo/post-hardcore, I mean the cultural values that came out of the punk emocore movement: authenticity, highly personalized lyrics, which are often abstract, poetic, and reflective. Scott Hobart (vocalist) has a wonderful vocal presence, I think mid-range, who usually resorts to yelling (no screaming though), but his approach never comes across like a cheap gimmick, but as a preferred mode of expression.
Catharsis is highly regarded value as well. And Giant's Chair is no exception. Many of their songs, especially "New Orleans" and "Mother Brother Sister Lover" and "Gunshot and Jogger" epitomize this musical element by using an abundance of dissonant melodies and counter-point to build tension. At some point the tension SNAPS and a new anthemic melody is brought to the fore, providing a sense of release that can be emotionally powerful for some.
Giant's chair is quite adept at this, and what makes them more amazing is their ability to couple this character trait with what sounds like a very technical guitar and drum style. I have heard this technical style described as "angular."
I suppose if "angular" were meant as irregular changes in rhythm, time signatures, strangely placed rested, and so on, then I would say yes, Giant's Chair is has a very angular and even jagged sound, but not so much that listening is a chore.
Indeed, among the thousands of songs I have on my computer, theirs are quite a unique treat. Highly recommended.
P.S. If you like this album hunt down their other album "Purity and Control." It's not AS good as "Red and Clear" but it is still VERY admirable.
After the breakup of beloved Kansas indie-rock band Vitreous Humor, three-quarters of the band almost immediately began playing under the name The Regrets, but their approach was markedly different to their previous band. With the loss of one guitar in the mix, The Regrets didn't have a wall of distortion to hide behind, and the resulting songs were equally tense.
crank! a record company
The breakup of cumbrous Kansas indie band Vitreous Humor, blamed on typical inter-member turmoil, felt abrupt. They planned and played a well-attended farewell show, true, but business seemed unfinished. They burned out with a thin catalog of a couple 7"s, a self-titled EP called The Vitreous Humor Self Titled EP, and, later, a posthumous collection called Posthumous. But like a late caboose, the Regrets dashed by. VH's original, three-piece lineup was a unit once more, within what seemed like minutes after the crash of their previous band. And whether intended or not, the Regrets showed a continuation of VH's work, but decidedly not as top-heavy. While a final lineup of four members created VH's wave of knock-around distortion pedal songwriting, maybe the Regrets' three-piece, mottled, semi-relaxed rawness was the direction VH would've gone. I’m absolutely sure that has nothing to do with title of the Regrets' only work, New Directions: Results Beat Boasts, released on the Crank! label in 1997. The homely production is a handsome pair with the (probably) budget-rate instruments and amps used to shape the album, while the swishy playing style and yelped, weird poetry are well in line with the family seal. Depending on your angle of view, it could be an updated Firehose, a librarian's Dead Milkmen, or a dilapidated R.E.M. (an improvement). New Directions finished Vitreous Humor's work, although I'm not sure any cut off the album beats the Regrets' satellite track, "Good Things Come To Those In Small Packages," which was featured as a bonus on VH's Posthumous. It's nearly a suggestion from the band (or label), that the two groups are, or should've been, one.
New Directions: Results Beat Boasts is the sole release from The Regrets, a three-piece comprised of members of Vitreous Humor. It’s a mid-'90s, mildly punkish, indie-rock record with clean, jangly bass and guitar tones and minimalist arrangements and instrumentation — most of the focus is on Danny Pound's acerbic, half-sung, half-shouted lyrics. Guitars are strummed relentlessly, with rubbery bass lines and busy but clean beats forming the unwavering backdrop for Pound's wordy and occasionally darkly funny observations.
New Directions definitely features hints of early Modest Mouse and Silkworm, but its barebones construction and Pound's opening line on "India Ink" speak volumes: "Oh, here comes another misuse of my talent." That isn"t to say this record is a waste of time or that it offers nothing. It was recorded in three days with three players; nothing is doubled; little to no effects are utilized; hooks are used and reused. The Regrets were pulling no punches about what they were doing. They wanted to make a statement, and they wanted to do it in little time with an overriding and straightforward tone, and that's what they did.
The tongue-in-cheek title of the Regrets' first and only album also serves as its manifesto. The band, made up of three-quarters of Vitreous Humor, decided to attempt something completely different, and they succeeded - at least to a degree. The wailing wall of guitars that characterized much of their previous band's output largely disappeared, replaced by clean guitars and a less tense, more funky rhythm section. What remains is this group's ability to write catchy rock songs that aren't sickly sweet or pop pandering. Singer/lyricist Danny Pound's lyrics are often darkly humorous but seem more personal in his work with the Regrets. From the intense "Play With Yourself Until You Faint" to the simply tense "Ode to Barton Fink," the Regrets burned bright and beautiful for a very brief time.