THINGS AT DISCHORD seem to be slowing down these days. The once-prolific DC label has put out only a few full-length records on its own in the past year (though they've taken part in a few split releases). Whether this is a factor of the aged state of Dischord's staff or a comment on the amount of DC-area music worth releasing doesn't change the fact that Bluetip, with the LP Join Us, is one of the few recent recipients of the Instant Cool Award that goes along with having a Dischord imprint on your record.
RKCNDY, Sunday, August 22
Label schmaltz aside, Bluetip carries on the great tradition of normal-guy, no-bullshit intelligent rock bands like Jawbox and Hoover, where the music is all substance and no image: There's no need to cover up any bad songs. Groups like these are the workhorses of indie rock (or what's left of it). Each band member could easily be the person in the next cubicle at your stupid job: clean-cut, polite professionals who concentrate on their work.
Formed from broken parts of the very excellent mid-'80s yelling chug-chug band Swiz, whose members also play under the unfortunately named Sweetbelly Freakdown, Bluetip hails from the nation's capital, where guitarist Jason Farrell and drummer Dave Stern started things up in April of '95. Bassist Jake Kump joined in a little later.
Bluetip is on its sixth drummer (insert obvious Spinal Tap joke here), an unfortunate lineup scenario that makes it hard to write new songs, according to Farrell. This month's drummer is Dave Bryson, who has plans to stay with the band until at least the end of their next show.
Sonically, Bluetip's latest release is much in the same vein of Jawbox (not surprising, since it was produced by J. Robbins), Three, or even later Fugazi. Songs like "Salinas" and "F-" are cut-up rockers with huge floor tom action. The title track is a rolling bluesy dirge—tight and sloppy at the same time. Other songs, like "Castanet," are midtempo melodic pieces with jangly guitars and cool little change-ups.
Bluetip may suffer from being a bit derivative at times, but remembering that these guys learned to play alongside bands like Ignition and Dag Nasty, I suppose derivative isn't the right word. Many songs are deceptively simple, with cleverly cloaked baby hooks apparent only after repeated listenings. Join Us certainly sounds better to these ears than their previous release, 1996's 101, which was a little too straight-up for my liking. Still, Bluetip manages to squeeze yet another drop out of that DC sound as that East Coast glacier slowly collapses into the Atlantic.
Even if you've never seen Bluetip, you may have seen Farrell's cover art for bands including the Make-Up, Shudder to Think, Ignition, Fugazi, Kerosene 454, and on both Bluetip records. His short film, North Rt. 1, was part of the recent tour featuring James Schneider's Blue is Beautiful (a.k.a. the Make-Up Movie).
Bluetip hasn't been to Seattle since the spring of '98, when they were here with Kerosene 454. This time they'll be showing up with El Paso's intense emo trio At the Drive-In, whose live shows can pry even the hip kids away from the bar—the band's latest LP, In Casino Out, ain't too shabby either.
As far as the era of the Dischord bands, it seems like the last days could be at hand, but if that's true, Bluetip's as good a ship to sail out on as any.