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Cool Town reconstructs the musical hotbed that birthed R.E.M., The B-52s, and Neutral Milk Hotel

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Graphic: Libby McGuire

The trendy various music scene started, most appropriately, at a home occasion on Valentine’s Day, 1977. The efficiency was concurrently an embrace and a kiss-off of nearly the whole lot new, outdated, and in between that up to date pop music needed to provide: punk, new wave, disco, dance, surf, and funk. Of their first-ever public gig, three homosexual males and a pair of beehived ladies, all dressed as if a thrift retailer had exploded on stage, sang songs about marine animal seaside events and a pink-aired planet named Claire. Starved for one thing, something, new, the group had a lot enjoyable that they watched the band carry out the six-song set of weirdo originals a second time by means of. At The B-52s’ second live performance, one other home occasion every week later, a good friend of the band could possibly be heard, over the dance-mad din, screaming many times, “I can’t imagine that is taking place in Athens, Georgia.”

Athens was nothing if not taking place within the dozen-plus years following that first mythic present. And in Cool City: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Different Music And Modified American Tradition, historian Grace Elizabeth Hale makes the case that with out the small Southern faculty city, there could be no grungy Seattle, no hipster Williamsburg, no bizarre Austin.

Cool City: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Different Music And Modified American Tradition

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COPYRIGHT_BP: Published on https://bingepost.com/cool-town-reconstructs-the-musical-hotbed-that-birthed-r-e-m-the-b-52s-and-neutral-milk-hotel/70743/ by - on 2020-03-23T15:55:47.000Z

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Cool City: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Different Music And Modified American Tradition

Creator

Grace Elizabeth Hale

Writer

The College Of North Carolina Press

Like these boho hotspots, Athens was overwhelmingly white. Not like these locations, Hale argues, Athens’ scene included many feminine and queer artists, none extra soon-to-be-famous than Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M., arguably essentially the most influential post-’70s rock band (simply ask Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke, or Patton Oswalt). Hale enrolled on the College Of Georgia in Athens simply as R.E.M.’s debut EP, Continual City, hit document bins and faculty radio stations, and she or he does a great job of reconstructing the band’s fabled early years, from their first efficiency in a ramshackle former church to the love-hate relationship with the city they known as dwelling—whilst infinite excursions beckoned. In 1983, Rolling Stone named R.E.M. “the essential Athens band.” Native scenesters denounced them as conservative and the “‘digestible-by-frat-boys’ model of the Athens sound.” The band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, bit again. “I feel the entire Athens factor is blown up,” he mentioned in an early interview. “It’s only a dumpy little city.”

Hale does a fair higher job resuscitating these bands that didn’t play Japan quite a few occasions, these artists the frat boys hated. Individuals like Jeremy Ayers, Athens royalty who escaped to New York and joined up with Warhol’s Manufacturing unit, the place he took the identify Silva Thinn. He returned dwelling to change into a townie Svengali who wrote songs for the B-52s and R.E.M. and mentored many homosexual younger men-turned-artists (he even briefly dated Stipe who, Hale claims, copied Ayers’ angular, akimbo, scarecrow dance style.)

The Athens sound of the ’80s had no unifying aesthetic, Hale writes, past a inventive, DIYer amateurism. Lots of these bands have been capable of rating nationwide album critiques and patch collectively excursions just by billing themselves as hailing from what one music journalist known as, “essentially the most well-known metropolis of its measurement on this planet.” Hale paperwork teams lengthy misplaced (just like the Bar-B-Q Killers and her personal band, Cordy Lon, through which she performed the cello earlier than heading off to grad faculty), these you may bear in mind (Love Tractor), and at the least one with critical indie cult cred (Pylon, Pylon, you need to be listening to Pylon, who opened for the Speaking Heads, U2, and, in 1987, was named the nation’s finest band by R.E.M.’s Invoice Berry).

Finally, bands like Butthole Surfers and Flat Duo Jets relocated to Athens for transient stays to capitalize in town’s renown. A second wave, most notably Vic Chesnutt, the Drive-By Truckers, and the Elephant 6 collective (together with Impartial Milk Lodge, Of Montreal, and others), discovered higher success. It’s seemingly that your favourite hometown band additionally tried to make a go of it in Athens—shout out to Lafayette, Louisiana’s UrboSleeks—and Cool City ought to encourage widespread ransacking of outdated shoeboxes to dig up forgotten cassette tapes.

Lots of these bands, large and small, have packed up their gear and relocated elsewhere. The B-52s nonetheless tour, however R.E.M. stopped performing collectively practically a decade in the past. As we speak Athens appears increasingly like every other college city: gentrified, hellscaped with scholar condos, frat- and football-obsessed, but additionally friendlier to outcasts of all stripes, an excellent metropolis, an alternate forebear in a world the place most each municipality can declare an alternate scene. “Don’t really feel misplaced,” The B-52s sang on their debut album “’trigger there are literally thousands of others such as you / Others such as you / Others such as you.” Due to Athens, there are others like us.

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