Monday, August 13, 2007

Swearing at Motorists

I was recently on a long drive from a workshop when I found myself with no new music in the car of which to listen. After searching through piles of CD's, I stumbled upon a mix of songs by Swearing at Motorists. There were 35 songs on just one CD to be exact, and they filled my need for intensely exposed yet personal indie rock that invites you to sing along while traveling down long stretches of I-70. (I don't know if this is a genre yet, but it should be.)

I began to sort out in my mind just what made SaM so important to me. Was it that they originated in Dayton
before moving to Philly before moving to Berlin? Was it the great name? Was it their beautifully erratic live act? Was it the sudden impact of guitar chords followed by pain and silence only to repeat? Was it that they had opened for U2 in Europe but could barely fill a dive in their hometown? Was it the "average Joe" lyrics of hard times and even harder relationships? As I thought about the reasons why I love this band, I rocked out all the way back to COMO.

Dave Doughman is the primary player in SaM. His lyrics hit hard and mean something to anyone who has ever grown up in Ohio, has probably had too much to drink, and hasn't always had the best of luck with life in general. His sharp-witted lyrics, deep-throated delivery, and sparse instrumentation make up the SaM sound. Like the White Stripes (whom he's literally challenged in rocking out), SaM sound primarily involves voice, guitar, and drums. However, unlike his more successful counterparts from up north, the songs often are filled with space, and each instrument takes its turn to make a point.

I remember seeing Doughman for the first time at tOSU's Springfest. His set was the highlight of the day. A friend-of-a-friend talked me into staying around to check their set. He had the experience of a lifetime being a roady for the band at South By Southwest and convinced me that they were worth the wait. They were. (It should be noted that the headliner of that show was the White Stripes, way before they hit big.)

Doughman came out in a blue corduroy FFA jacket, Welcome Back Kotter mustache,
and a bushy 'fro. In addition to his non-hipster appearance, he spoke so fast and incoherently that you giggled at the sights and sounds before you. His speak consisted of the type of "here-ye, here-ye's" you'd hear at the circus or from an old-timey traveling medicine man. He was manically selling his band, and then he played. What came out was this deep, suffering wail between aggressive guitar licks and a slow drum beat. The man sold his pain, and I was buying.

My brother told me a story of a Dayton show that only confirmed my feelings of pure delight and intrigue felt that day. Many of Doughman's songs are about his continuous relationship problems. Apparently, one of those break-ups was rather public in the Dayton scene and eventually carried out at a SaM show.

The Dayton set began as a rival for a certain love interest of Doughman's walked through the door. Doughman suddenly stopped in mid-song yelling for the guy to turn around and leave (in so many expletive-filled phrases). He then took off his guitar and leaped through th
e crowd to chase the guy down. After a few punches were thrown and mamas insulted, the guy was given his money back and left, and Doughman returned to the stage to continue his show.

The impulsiveness of Doughman's actions in the Dayton story best illustrates his general demeanor on-stage and the feel one gets while listening to his songs. You sit back to relax and enjoy some heart-on-the-sleeve poetry with the occasional humorous quip when he abruptly throws you from your chair with a cry for help and intense strike to his guitar strings.

The music is a slower, more mature version of emo. It's on the blue-collar side of lo-fi and the road-weary side of indie. Conversely, Doughman and co. are considerably more exposed and artistic than the most working-class of the bipster set.

I love this music for its realness. Doughman knows best how to capture the pain of relationships, failure, and the resulting depression. In addition, he can contextualize his message into something that resembles growing up in western Ohio. Oh, and he puts on a great live show.

Buy Swearing at Motorists now!

Photo of Doughman flying stolen from pandora 1251.


ATR said...

Having my head in the weeds of a new edumacation system and shepherding in-laws all weekend can drag a man down (and make him an infrequent blogger). Thanks for bringing me back to the blue collar side of lo-fi and the road weary side of indie.

comoprozac said...

I sense some sarcasm...Did I give you guys any SaM in all those CD's I burnt for you before you left?

ATR said...

1) No sarcasm.
2) Yes, you did.
3) No union here in Lincoln, but collective bargaining between district and LEA.