1/20/2006

Mega City Four.

There are a few things I'd change about Jack Rabid's long-running fanzine "The Big Takeover", but they are minor and nitpicky. Mostly, I'm just stoked to see a new issue appear every six months or so. Jack always introduces me to new bands in the alt/indie, Anglophile, post-shoegaze, and melodic punk categories that I'd never have heard about otherwise, as well as reminding me of bands that I love and haven't listened to in a while. There are certain bands that I love, but I only really think about twice a year, when the new "Big Takeover" comes out. Often, they're bands that I loved in high school, back when I was into punk, hardcore, and metal, but focused far more on the esoteric bands I heard on the local college radio station. Swervedriver is one such band, and sure enough, I was reminded a few days ago about how great they were by a mention in the new issue of "Big Takeover". I'm still reading the new issue today (it's 300 pages long every time, which I suppose is why there are only two issues per year), and a little while ago, I was reminded of another one of those bands I loved in high school but very rarely listen to anymore: Mega City Four.

Apparently, Wiz (guitar/vocals) and Danny (bass) from Mega City Four have started a new band called Ipanema. I have no idea when or even if I will ever be able to buy one of their records, but reading the review of their new, import-only full-length made me want to go home and put on my records by their old band. I have four, and I consider myself lucky to own them. Around five years ago, I was going through the "new arrivals" bin in the used vinyl section of my favorite local record store, and found Mega City Four's first two full-lengths, "Tranzophobia" and "Who Cares Wins," as well as a 12 inch collecting their first three 7 inch singles, and another four-song 12 inch called "There Goes My Happy Marriage". They were $5 apiece, and since I had a good deal more than $20 on me at the time, I snapped all four of them up. I didn't know this at the time, but in one fell swoop I had purchased almost everything Mega City Four released in their first three years of existence as a band (I was missing the "Awkward Kid/Cradle" 7 inch, and the song "No Time", which was added as a bonus track to the early-singles comp "Terribly Sorry Bob", but had everything else). I went right home and played all four of those LPs constantly for the next week. It probably annoyed the kids I was living with at the time--two die hard crust/metal purists who couldn't stand Mega City Four's overtly melodic sensibility--but I was on cloud nine.

I'd first heard Mega City Four when I was around 16 years old, and the aforementioned college radio station played their song "Stop", which was the first single from their third album, "Sebastopol Rd." I was captivated immediately; Mega City Four played fast and structured their songs around simple, catchy chord structures, but offset the no-frills nature of their basic song construction with Wiz's high, beautiful tenor, a voice that skirted the edges of saccharine/cloying territory, but always managed to stay just far enough away from it that he remained captivating rather than grating. Also, the distortion on their guitars was kept to a minimum, giving the music a clean sound that allowed the melodies inherent in the songs to shine through and complement Wiz's soaring vocal lines. The fact that Mega City Four were from England was no surprise; this type of poppy punk was something I identified particularly with English bands like The Buzzcocks and The Undertones, as well as more modern practitioners like Snuff and Leatherface (though these bands had very different vocal approaches than that of Mega City Four). It's different from American pop-punk, and I almost always like it a lot better. It's like the British melodic punk bands stick with different aspects of their punk roots, and move towards melody in different facets, than do their American counterparts. What I'm trying to say is that if you hear me call Mega City Four pop-punk and you think of NOFX or The Descendents, you have the wrong idea entirely.

It's harder to explain what they're doing in terms of what it is, rather than what it's not. Just using band comparisons doesn't really get the point across either. But in the end, I'm afraid I can't really do Mega City Four all that much justice. I've been listening to them for two hours straight as of right now; I'm playing "Tranzophobia" after having listened to the two 12 inch EPs first. One thing I've realized after listening to them for this long is that, to someone who doesn't like their music immediately, this much Mega City Four at once would be maddening. Each song has its own particular melodic hook, its own soaring chorus; each one would work really well as a mix tape pick. Problem is, after a while, they all start to sound the same. Of course, I'm reminded of a story told by The Wedding Present's David Gedge, about how their band was often criticized in their early days for writing songs that all sounded the same; in response, they made a t-shirt design that read "The Wedding Present: All The Songs Sound The Same!", and it became their best-selling t-shirt ever. The point I'm trying to make is that for a Mega City Four fan (or a Wedding Present fan--I consider myself a fan of both bands), this sameness is less like an annoying repetitive pattern and more like an embarrassment of riches. I love the way Mega City Four sounds, and I would jump at the chance to own even more of their albums, especially if they all sounded like the ones I already have.

I hope this piece has done this band, whom I love, at least some justice. I know I've probably done a terrible job of showing what it is that I love about them, and why it is that twice a year or thereabouts, I absolutely have to dig out their records and listen to them all night. In the end, I don't really know why I love them so much. The songs just grab me, hit a spot that I often don't realize hasn't been hit in a long time until Jack Rabid reminds me of them again. I guess what it is is that their no-frills power-chord-based songwriting mixes with the beautiful melodies present in the vocals in such a way that it fulfills my pop jones and my love of tougher, edgier stuff. Maybe my love for Mega City Four and other bands of that sort is a precursor to my recent weakness for radio emo. Whatever, it is what it is. One last thing, though; even if I've done a horrible job expressing why I love these guys so much, I still highly recommend that if you ever come across one of their albums, you pick it up. Hell, they're rare enough that if you find one, buy it, and don't like it, chances are I'll take it off your hands. I may have four records by them, but there are a good three or four more full-lengths and over half a dozen singles I still don't have. And sometime before I die, I hope to pick them up.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Jesse said...

Thank god for Big Takeover! I've been a steady reader for probably 8 or so years now, and I always get psyched when I see a new issue in the bookstore. Though I don't always agree with Jack's taste, we have a lot of sensibilities in common (like a love for all things Bob Mould and Greg Graffin related), and I've discovered a lot of favorites through the magazine that I might never have noticed otherwise (Visqueen and Rogue Wave come to mind).

I've heard Mega City Four's name bandied about before, but I've never really listened to em...one more to put on my list!

1:42 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Hi,
The terrific Ipanema album is available on ebay, directly from their record label (Bosstuneage shop on Ebay). As a MC4 fan, u must have it and promote it.

http://cgi.ebay.fr/IPANEMA-Me-Me-Me-CD-ex-MEGA-CITY-4_W0QQitemZ4811698049QQcategoryZ2252QQcmdZViewItem

Cheers

David,
Paris.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Andrew TSKS said...

fuck, that's awesome! i'll check it out. thanks.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Petri said...

Ah, my all-time favourites! And I really feel your story makes them justice. There's not that much variety in the songs, but... they're damn near perfect in what they do. Whatever it is.

Everything MC4 have released is excellent apart from the last album, Soulscraper, which was a bit of a letdown (even though the 3 singles are very good). I dont' know if you've bought the Ipanema 6-track yet, but you might like to check some samples here first:

http://www.myspace.com/ipanemarock

The music is heavier than before, but the melodies and Wiz's voice (always one of the great assets) are still there.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Andrew TSKS said...

I think I'd actually be excited to hear the music be a bit heavier. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Karl Bakla said...

I like Big Take Over but that dude needs to edit those interviews a little, as for Mega City Four I'm a huge fan, I first heard them when my dad came back from the UK. At the time for the most part I only listened to hard core. When my dad was in the UK he popped into a record store & told the clerk he had a son into punk & wanted to surprise him with something punk rock that the kids in the UK dug, but no one in the states has heard of yet. what he brought back was Mega City Four, I instantly fell in love with it, & didn't quite listened to as much Cro-Mags anymore, now I had to stuff Samiam & Monsula inbetween those hard core break downs, thanks for writing about MC4, sadly they never made a big enough splash state side

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Former Mega City Four singer Darren "Wiz" Brown died from a blood clot on the brain on December 6, 2006.

He was taken ill at a rehearsal earlier in the week and died Wednesday afternoon at St Georges Hospital, Tooting, South London.

Condolences at
http://www.furtive-mts.com/wiz/

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