I used to call it the Chapel Hill work ethic. Certain Southern bands of the early nineties-Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Small (23), and the like seemed to understand their post-punk responsibility in terms of steady output and predictably pogo-y live shows. Often there was a female member, but not always; always they shared a penchant for feedback and catchy hooks and their voices always lilted with the softness of Southern accents. So it was that I was flooded with something like nostalgia at the first strains of the slightly distorted guitar tone and descending bassline of the first cut off of Together We’ll Burn Like Autumn Leaves.
Something like, I say. Problem is, I can’t listen to Superchunk anymore (despite an enduring crush on both Mac and Laura-and a rather uncomfortable sense of involvement in their relationship). Small has disappeared into the remainders bin along with its bastard child, Small 23. Archers of Loaf may have regained lost ground on All the Nation’s Airports, but Vee Vee was so freaking silly and self absorbed that anything since has felt like an apology. For whatever it may be worth, Nineteen Forty-Five is a decent example of a genre I gave up around the same time I misplaced my urgent desire for a tattoo.
Members of this Georgian four piece once played in another band, Three Finger Cowboy. Nineteen Forty-Five was originally conceived as a doo-wop side project-man, I would have loved to hear some of that stuff! Then, as Three Finger Cowboy dissolved, drummer Katherine McElroy and vocalist Hunter Manasco recruited new members to make a real rock record. Katherine switched to bass (the other feminine instrument) and Together We’ll Burn Like Autumn Leaves came together. They sent a tape to Daemon Records. Amy Ray — the darker, more dynamic half of the gynocentric folk-rock duo* The Indigo Girls — loved it and invited them aboard. (*I believe it was my friend and associate Kembrew McLeod who first coined the phrase “gynocentric folk-rock” to describe the Indigo Girls. It’s just too good not to use.)
Fans of early Superchunk and their cohorts know what to expect from this record: a sort of halfway fuzzy guitar, a lot of thrum thrum thrum suspense building, sharp and dramatically employed feedback, and earnest college boy vocals. The best cuts to these ears are the first track, “In a Red Cavalier”, and the last two, “My Old Ohio” and “Cordova”, all for their relative faithfulness to the genre. It’s a little less Hüsker Dü and a bit more Neutral Milk Hotel with these guys, but it’s still the same devotion to a rather hysterical emotional intensity. I’m sure they kick it old school on stage.
Unfortunately, however, the best I can say about this record is that it makes me think of those old days. I’m tempted at this point to put on one of my old Small EPs just to wax nostalgic, but nostalgia is only worth something insofar as it recalls a loss, a place to which one cannot comfortably return. My needs are different now — I mean, if I get a tattoo, they’ll never bury me in the Jewish cemetery!