a few words on a band called Schwervon!

a few words on a band called Schwervon!

Here's a dorky way to start this post: last year when i was visiting my family i watched the previous year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of several bands, like Van Halen, Patti Smith, and my ultimate heroes, R.E.M. An extremely well-spoken Eddie Vedder gave R.E.M.'s introduction, and between flashes to backstage for the band's goofy reactions he said his piece about each member ... the most memorable thing he said was about the guitarist Peter Buck, but it spoke in a larger sense of the whole band. Eddie said, to paraphrase, that Peter Buck plays guitar "like someone who had worked in a record store," because of course he had, but went on to say that didn't mean his playing was derivative, but more that he played "through the holes" of popular music. That really stuck with me as a very apt way to encompass that music, and as I go to write about Schwervon! it occurs to me that the same thing can be said of Matt Roth and Nan Turner.

This lady and gentleman have listened to a lot, a lot, a LOT OF MUSIC, people. If they weren't musicians themselves they would be the scholar-afficionados that every musician dreams of having in his or her audience. Some songwriters with a big musical library in their heads fall into the pit of making music that is immediately recognizable as straight homage. On the opposite pole, others make the mistake of being so paranoid about emulating their influences that they paint themselves into a corner and can make only cerebral and erudite meta-critiques on popular song.

Schwervon! listens to oldies and grrrl-punk, hardcore and nerd rock, country and noise. But with this vast scope of music history behind them, they keep figuring out new ways for their lean, mean duo machine to dance right through the holes between genres and the gaps between generations. With lesser bands, this mish mosh might give a listener a headache. With Schwerv, it just makes you wanna party. Wasn't there a bit of grungy CCR in that hook? Or wait, I meant the Zombies on speed... or no scratch that, Sonic Youth playing Weezer maybe? Oh hell, this song is awesome, let's just dance!

So, is this band doing a lot of thinking? Are they doing a lot of equation balancing? Well, they're sure as hell working hard-- Nan's drumming is at turns primal and hauntingly poetic, while Matt's guitar-playing is a weather system that turns from fluffy cumulous to frightening thunderheads at a moment's notice. That kind of energy takes PRACTICE.

But this is no cold calculation, and it's no self-conscious tribute, and it's no self-satisfied in-joke-- this is super-real, unapologetic, life-affirming rock and roll.

Thanks for all the music, you two!

(Schwervon! will perform at OJ All Day Downstairs Saturday May 24, 11:00pm)