The Enablers, Nice Strong Arm’s Reality Bath, and tracking the death of indie rock starting in 1995, via Polvo albums

Here’s a video by San Francisco’s Enablers, which features Kevin Thomson from Nice Strong Arm. I’m a huge fan of the album Reality Bath by Nice Strong Arm, a nice experimental/postpunk/indie pop/noise rock record which features some really neat Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin/Magic Hour/Major Stars psychadelic acid rock guitar solos and Sonic Youth/Joy Division/Bauhaus/Josef K/Gang of Four/Live Skull -ish guitar work. Really great record, so much of POLVO, UNWOUND, MODEST MOUSE, MAGIC HOUR/MAJOR STARS and even mid-period SONIC YOUTH’S DAYDREAM NATION can be seen to be totally influenced by this (this came out in 1987 and can be seen as sort of a bridge between the guitar playing and chord choices on Sister and Daydream Nation, if you’re bored).

Kevin Thomson from Nice Strong Arm is in this band the Enablers. Sounds sort of like some Slint, Shellac, Sonic Youth, Live Skull, etc etc etc…which normally might not sound like too flattering of a description…but this music is very good. They are obviously pros who have a high level of quality control at this stage in their careers.

Highly recommended, for me, this kind of music died out in 1995, with some great stragglers like Don Caballero and The Fucking Champs, but the Enablers for me pick up where every other indie band seemed to die out around 1995, especially after Polvo started going way downhill after (in my opinion) after their great “Celebrate the New Dark Age” in 1994 and followed it up with the horribly lackluster albums “This Eclipse” in 1995, “Exploded Drawing” in 1996, and “Shapes” in 1997.

The Death of Indie Rock: A Timeline

1994=great with Polvo’s Celebrate the New Dark Age and Drive Like Jehu’s Yank Crime, Shellac’s Action Park: the last great year of indie rock.

1995=not so great but there was at least Don Caballero 2. Polvo’s This Eclipse=very bad/disappointing light-pop sellout attempt.

1996=ugh. Polvo’s Exploded Drawing=an even worse sellout attempt than This Eclipse, for some reason it sounds completely uninspired, something is very awry in the indie rock world. Enter the new era of “pop-indie” with Modest Mouse’s decent album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, which sounds hugely influenced by Nice Strong Arm’s Reality Bath by the way

1997=a ray of light emerges with the Champs’/C4AM95/Fucking Champs’ fantastic first album III. Polvo’s Shapes is so so so bad no one even ever mentions they ever made it

1998-on: There’s some decent Don Caballero, Fucking Champs, but other than that, it’s all sellout indie-pop like Yo La Tengo, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse…kind of indie-lite. Old stalwart bands like Shellac and Sonic Youth Dinosaur Jr etc put out some rather uninspired (if not flat-out bad) records.

2007 enablers=pretty darn good, too bad they weren’t around in 1995 to pick up the slack!

Some of the guitar in the middle of Nice Strong Arm’s “Minds Lie” reminds me not just of Josef K but of a song by the Gordons…remember them? And listen to the screaming in the middle and the guitar at the end of “Free at Last,” or the entire song “Disenchanted,” every single Unwound and Polvo song can be derived from these parts/songs. “Disenchanted” sounds like if you put every single good Polvo record and guitar part into one single song…great stuff!

mp3: Nice Strong Arm-Life of the Party

The following mp3s are courtesy of Vinyl Mine:

mp3: Nice Strong Arm-Life Is So Cool

mp3: Nice Strong Arm-Minds Lie

mp3: Nice Strong Arm-Free At Last


One Response

  1. […] in terms of obscure indie rock Nice Strong Arm’s Reality Bath is definitely a […]

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