Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Band Called Scrawl

Here’s a supremely talented, amazingly original rock band that’s been unjustly forgotten by both fame and fortune.

By: Vanessa Uy

If there was a redeeming quality of the on-line music business, it’s buying used vinyl LPs on e- bay. It’s Scrawl’s Bloodsucker album, the price offered is only half that of a full priced CD. Who says there are no more miracles?

I’ve always wondered why fame and fortune has eluded this band ever since I first started listening to them. Now that I have heard both of their Nature Film and Bloodsucker albums, it’s time for a deeper insight on why Scrawl achieved cult status despite of relative obscurity. While Bloodsucker is the first album that they released since the demise of their former record label Rough Trade. Rough Trade was a legendary record label that many a famous and infamous punk and power pop bands laid the foundation for the “alternative rock” movement of the 1990’s. Rough Trade is also notorious for releasing albums (especially CD) during the mid- 1980’s with a markedly more aggressive recorded sound quality than the norm. The band Young Marble Giants’ “NITA” CD (to be reviewed later); is a very good evidence to start.

What makes Scrawl great is not just defined by the timeframe when “foxcore” was in vogue circa 1989 to 1994. To me good songwriting skills can transcend the limitations of the music being created, thus making it timeless even though on closer scrutiny it betrays the era on when it was created. During their heyday, Scrawl resisted the urge to be a fashionable “foxcore” band like Courtney Love’s “Hole”, by cranking the volume or playing out of tune. Scrawl’s guitarist Marcy Mays has a whole different idea on what “foxcore” means because for her, it means less adept at your instrument and being more bitchy.

Scrawl’s minimalist and rhythmic style might make you think that they are cashing in on the popularity of early alternative/power pop bands like “The Replacements” or Bob Mould’s “Hüsker Du” but theirs is a bit more rough and brooding. Scrawl’s trademark has always been dark but catchy pop songs that stop just short of being melodic. Marcy Mays ascribes much of the credit for this sound to her Hamer sunburst- the same model favored by her favorite guitarist, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. As the band’s sole guitarist, Mays makes the most of it by using a lot of open strings as opposed to full chords to make her guitar ring and sustain. This may also be a factor in Scrawl having a distinct “sound” of their own.

Even though as a musical format, post World War II popular i.e. rock music is a rather old and utterly predictable medium (verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse…), Scrawl still manages to infuse theirs with intelligence and wisdom and ends up with songs that are hardly boring or routine. Lyric- wise, they are not your current-crop of Billboard Chart divas who are hell-bent on singing angry songs about the way boys treat her.

In my opinion, it’s a bit strange to label Scrawl as a guitar-driven rock band because in most of their songs, bassist Sue Harsh and drummer Dana Marshall are recorded a bit louder than Marcy Mays’ guitar parts. To me, this will only make their recordings sound more natural.

While they do most of their tours in the continental United States, they wish on someday taking their act overseas. As an audiophile we can help them by asking our “almighty record industry” to release their albums to our local record stores so that every local audiophile can buy them without hassles. Lets help Scrawl fulfill their wish in playing in Budokan, I think this is an ancient temple that hosts rock concerts in Japan. The all time famous bands who had played here before are Cheap Trick and Kiss.

You can send your fan mail to them @ Scrawl P.O. Box 82058 Columbus, Ohio 43202 or @ WWW.SCRAWL.NET.


Apple said...

I really loved the sentiment of Scraw's "11:59 (It's January)." You can't help but sympathize with them in this world of ours ruled by Judaeo-Christian Slave Morality. It's quite odd that the song was written 7 years before the Millenial / year 2000 New Years Celebration which I also thought the song is about. The song is far from new but it has this timeless quality that you can't help but fall in love. The new bands that clutter in the limelight of the current Billboard Charts should take a lesson or two from Scrawl. Long live your blog and long live the independent music press!

Michelle said...

I've searched high and low for Scrawl's Nature Film CD. Probably, it's now almost impossible to find even in Hong Kong. You're lucky to have one. Please make articles on obscure but gifted bands like Sleater-Kinney, Lunachicks, Team Dretsch, etc. I'm also a big Lunachicks fanatic by the way.

Sisto said...

I've been fortunate enough to have bought Scrawl's "Nature Film" album back in February of 2001 in a discount bin of Tower Records in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. It was priced cheap at about US$1 at the time. I was reluctant at first since I've never heard of Scrawl before. Since then, they're one of my if not my favorite band next to Lunachicks of course. Keep the independent music press alive. The world owes you one!

Adolf said...

I've heard Scrawl's "Nature Film" CD in its entirety being played in a hi-fi store demo near where I live. I liked the band very much. I just wish to the owner of the newly opened hi-fi store the best of luck in these fiscally austere times. I helped him out by buying a set of US$100 Monster Cable interconnects. Keeo the independent music press alive!

Heidi Gail said...

I was just discovered/introduced to Scrawl last year. Did you know that most of their official websites created before 1998 are no longer active? Please check them out on your free time. Also check out this new female fronted band Paramore, she's way way better than Avril Lavigne!

Lilith Fair said...

Have you visited the website called "Last Fm" (or should it be called "Lost Fm" due to the relatively obscure but nice tunes featured?) at http://www.lastfm/music . I saw it on BBC's CLICK on the report about We7 music download site which you featured in this blogsite. I think Peter Gabriel helped in establishing Last FM before he founded We7. I visited Last FM's site a month ago and the featured article that I stumbled upon is on the Minneapolis music scene which pre-dates Seattle's by five years or so.

Diogenes said...

Your blog on the band Scrawl was recommended to me by my students of the Computer Literacy Class that I'm teaching in our local Islamic Cultural Center. My students are "moderates" by the way (Is the stand-up comic Dennis Miller moderate?). But it's quite sad actually because when you "Google Search" the word Islam, the first 15 sites displayed are all about Extreemist / Terrorist Islam. After reading the various articles of your blog, my students suggested that you should have titled your blog "The Suicide Blogger" because of your contributor's fearless views. After all, being a "Suicide Blogger" is better than a "Suicide Bomber". Let the civil dialogue between pop culture and Islam continue. P.S. Somebody provided the "dial-up" of Scrawl's "Last FM" site, but you can use for faster access.

Anonymous said...

Given that they are very big Cheap Trick fans, it is quite ironic that Scrawl - in spite of their very talented songwriting and musicianship - didn't last as long as Cheap Trick. Which by the way is well-known to us "younger fans" thru the opening theme of That 70s Show and the Colbert Report.