MUSIC BLUES is the solo project of Stephen Tanner, bassist for sludge titans Harvey Milk. His debut album Things Haven’t Gone Well will be released next month via Thrill Jockey. You’ve already heard his first single 91771 (if you missed it, you can check it out here) taken from it, and now you can hear another track called The Great Depression. It’s a slice of heaviness, building up to a crushing crescendo and then rides a slow, uneasy groove to its conclusion. Watch the accompanying split-screen video, which appropriates and juxtaposes seemingly disconnected short clips of entertainment and violence, crafting a disturbing collage below:
Things Haven’t Gone Well. No shit.
We’ve been fucked by the banks, our children’s life expectancies are lower than our own and the zombies, computers, and/or zombie computers are going to rise up and crush us all. But for STEPHEN TANNER, the bassist of HARVEY MILK and man behind MUSIC BLUES, things have not gone well since birth.
Things Haven’t Gone Well was written by Tanner while he crashed at HARVEY MILK’s vocalist and guitarist Creston Spiers’ house in 2010 in Georgia following the death of longtime friend drummer Jerry Fuchs (LCD Soundsystem, Turing Machine, !!!).
“Depression has always been the main theme in Harvey Milk and all that started when Jerry passed away. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anywhere to live, my girlfriend and I broke up. I stayed at Creston’s house which was more depressing than anything, for 3 months.” There Tanner watched 6 hours of the original 90210 every day, drank, and attempted to write the new HARVEY MILK album.
Instead he wrote Things Haven’t Gone Well, his debut as a solo artist and the first album under the name MUSIC BLUES. Completely written and recorded by Tanner, in Georgia at Creston’s and in his Brooklyn apartment, he continues on with the musical touchstones of HARVEY MILK (Melvins, Gore, Earth, ZZ Top, Kiss and Judas Priest) while forging ahead into a strange, and at times harrowing, unknown.
Tanner’s life, from birth until now, is the theme of the album. The first song, 9/17/71 is his birthdate, and the second one Pre-Cesarean Delivery about being cut out of his mother three weeks prematurely, an act he attributes to most of his problems. He takes to heart the words his father told him at a young age: “You think life sucks now, just wait.” It’s a dirgey sludge with solid boogie moments and Fade to Black melancholy. Tanner calls it depressing, but the album hits far more notes than that. It’s slow and heavy, but it moves, and there’s an expansiveness that picks up steam, a vastness akin to soundtracks. It has a cinematic quality that reveals the influences of John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone, albeit different in musicality.
STEPHEN TANNER was probably born on a dirt road somewhere in Georgia. He claims he was good at baseball as a kid until he discovered Kiss, and that shit ruined him. It made him the tequila-filled beast he is today. Instead of leading a third-tiered Kenny Powers-esque life in baseball, he went on to play bass in the mighty HARVEY MILK, who formed in 1992, disbanded in 1998 and rose from the irrelevance ashes, thankfully to much acclaim and avail, in 2008.
Brooklyn, New York is home, where he is highly regarded in the food world and has been lovingly reviewed in the New York Times, both for his cooking and HARVEY MILK. Tanner plans to tour on the back of this behemoth, but watch out fellas! He doesn’t have a driver’s license.
Things have not gone well, indeed, but the listening is great.
Things Haven’t Gone Well will be released via Thrill Jockey on CD, LP and Digital formats on 25th August 2015.
Photo Credit: John Fell