Jog. Joooooog. Jog.
(Startime International, 2003)
I’ve caught an episode or two of Portlandia, the IFC hipster calling card that takes place in Portland, Oregon, and features SNL’s (and Trenchmouth’s) Fred Armison and Sleater Kinney’s/Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein. I came away without having a strong sense of how I should feel – I guess it was OK. I don’t think I smiled (forget laughed) once during the half-hour show that bills itself as a quirky comedy, but I guess I absorbed a little bit of the cultural milieu as filtered through a couple of folks in the know. So it wasn’t a total waste – and I’m not even sure I was turned off enough to never want to live there (even though it’s got this reputation, well-deserved or not, as the place rich kids go to turn into poor hippies). But I’m not the person to really make that call, sitting comfortably on my couch here in Pennsylvania, 2,757 miles away (if I follow I-80/I-84 West).
The Joggers are from Portland. Not originally though – I don’t think there are a lot of original Portlanders – as they relocated from points New Englandish. Not surprisingly for an indie rock band, they follow in the stylistic footsteps of another East Coast–to–Portland transplant, Stephen Malkmus. And although The Joggers employ multiple singers, they all have that disaffected drawl down, peppering the tunes with a faux-British accent here and there for taste (another Malkmusian trait), the perfect complement to rambunctious rawking. They even do a bit of that a capella harmony featured perhaps most famously (in indie circles anyway) on the Weezer classic “Holiday” – “Back to the Future” and “Neon Undercarriage” being the beneficiaries of the respite. The singers are pretty nondescript though. And they don’t need to be anything more than that.
Here’s the neat thing though – they do manage to get all riled up in various ways. Take how they “skronk” in something like “Neon Undercarriage,” a bitchy little homage stupid auto accoutrements. (I don’t know if that’s what it’s about really, but I want it to be.) They “squiggle” too – see the restless up and down tones on the “Hot Autism” and “Little Kings” guitar lines. And they – ready for it? – “choogle” too, at points throughout. I should probably check the glossary for these to help you out:
SKRONK: “Used to define music that is grating, dissonante, and frequently avante gard [sic].” Or: “The Snorting sound made by the former WWF/WWE Wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. The ‘Skronk’ sound is simular to a pig snorting.”
SQUIGGLE: “squiggle (verb): between a squirm and a wiggle. Sounds like: accross between a giggle and a squeal [sic]”
CHOOGLE: “A rhythm guitar style that employs a deliberately hard up and down stroke against the strings to simulate the motions of pistons or trains. A style made popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Creedence Clearwater Revival. That song meanders along until that mid-break, where, MAN! it starts to choogle!”
Seemingly atonal guitar runs that sound like The Ultimate Warrior? Instruments that giggle and squeal? Creedence? OK, I’ll bite.
Up/down, up/down, squirmy, restless, breathless, select, start. These tunes bite at the hot action offered by such disparate acts as Number One Cup, Preston School of Industry (some of The Joggers’ mannerisms are positively Kannberg-ian), Get Him Eat Him, and the like. “Every Other Word” is The Strokes with vision. “Loosen Up” has the electric campfire appeal of Akron/Family. And we’ve discussed the Weezer connection. Pant pant. Look at all that – inspiring, spiritual. An indie rocker’s dream.
And what better road trip music? Combine all this fun into one bite-sized package and hit the trail – you might not want this on repeat for hours, but maybe once or twice in a day. Sprinkle in any band above as well for your rotation, and I highly recommend lots of Malkmus. And snacks! Don’t forget snacks. Somehow my car smells like spaghetti, but I haven’t eaten anything in here except for that light lunch of hummus and pita the other day, along with a can of Diet Dr. Pepper. I guess that must remain a mystery, but I’d certainly be ready for a cross-country trip to Portland. I wouldn’t look forward to traversing the Midwest – the looooong Midwest – but I’d be set. Joggers, cyclists, lumberjacks – whatever – I’m on my way!
RIYL: Pavement, Number One Cup, The French Kicks, Preston School of Industry, Get Him Eat Him, The Strokes, Weezer