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MBG: Parts and Labor

MBG: Parts and Labor

One of my favorite albums from 2007, Parts and Labor’s Mapmaker combined the inaccessibility of noise rock with a melodic approachability. You wouldn’t think that it could work as well as it does, but Parts and Labor’s accessible noise punk is a successful experiment. Their upcoming album, Receivers, somehow broadens the gap between pop and noise, but augments all aspects of the music into greater roles. It’s noisier, but it’s catchier too. This band is like a centrifuge, gaining momentum and spinning faster with each new album, gradually revealing all of the musical elements that make up this magnificently huge sound. You can hear it clearer than ever before on Receivers.

Much of the noise on this album was actually contributed by fans. Parts and Labor sent out a call to the public to send sounds to the band that would be put onto the record. They posed  questions (“what do your parents sound like?” or “what are you afraid of?” for example) which were then interpreted in field recordings and original audio samples. They received hundreds of sounds, using all of them on the album in some fashion. And why this unique experiment? From the press release: “it comments on information overload while also championing the democratic nature of working in a increasingly digital music business.” This experiment alone warrants a post on the ol’ Releblog…

And I think it’s got the best cover art of the year.

The artist who created this lovely work is also our Music Blog Guest. His name is BJ Warshaw, and he’s actually better known as Parts and Labor’s bassist and vocalist.


Dylan: BJ, Receivers is so awesome. But what’s been your favorite album lately?

BJ: I listened to Wire’s “Chairs Missing” practically on repeat for the

better part of this year.  I’d always liked the album, but something

recently just clicked for me with it.  There’s not a bad song on

there but the track order is so counter-intuitive, there’re so many

moods and styles covered over the course of the record, from

straight, gentle pop to drawn-out, creepy psychedelia.  I can’t think

of a more rewardingly challenging rock record.

Dylan:  What’s the best show you’ve seen recently?

BJ: We luckily got to play a few shows in Europe with Harvey Milk.  I’ve

been a fan of their music for years but never got the chance to see

them live.  They played songs spanning their entire catalog (15

years?), they were telepathically tight doing slower-than-slow riffs,

and they were just plain crushing.  Surpassed my high expectations.

Dylan: Have you made some great memories on your last tour?

BJ: We just played the Siren Festival at Coney Island in NY, easily the

biggest crowd we’ve performed in front of in the States, and it was a

blast.  At the end of the set, frustrated by a broken FX pedal, I

threw my bass into the press box.  A security guard handed it to a

kid in front, and the expression of pure joy on his face as he

air-guitar’d is blazed into my brain.  I hope he kept the bass and

takes good care of it.

Dylan: Ha! Nice. It’s time for a philosophical/theological thought you’d like to share with the ReleBlog.

BJ: This is certainly a huge can of worms.  I’m an atheist, have been for

as long as I can remember.  I have a huge list of troubles with all

of the organized religions, but am especially concerned with the

late-capitalist form of Christianity that seems to be rising in this

country.  Fundamentalism seems rampant and intolerant, and at odds

with the basic tenants of all the Judeo-Christian traditions,

especially the Golden Rule.  We have in the past couple of years

watched our government leaders wage holy wars abroad (remember Bush

initially called the invasion of Iraq a “crusade”).  I respect

others’ beliefs and appreciate faiths of all kinds, but only up to a

point: the moment anybody forces their beliefs on others, religious

or otherwise, crises ensue.  Debate: yes.  Delusion: no.

Dylan: Sometimes I like to open up the can of worms, it can be a great opportunity for discussion/education. So what have you been learning lately? What have you been reading?

BJ: I recently read “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, which I found

illuminating in its portrayal of Afghanistan over several decades of

decline, but a bit melodramatic and too tightly-wound.  I read “The

Road” by Cormac McCarthy, and it’s like the novel I wish I could


Dylan: I want to read “The Road.” The movie looks cool and I have a feeling I’m missing out on some sort of genius in McCarthy. …What are you wearing right now?

BJ: Jean shorts and glasses only.

Dylan:  One more serious one… Why are you making music?

BJ: We’re all constantly making music, whether we know it or not.  I’ve

been consciously making music for as long as I remember, influenced and

encouraged by musical parents and family from the start.  It’s not

even something I try to do.  It’s a compulsion and it would take far

more effort for me to *stop* trying to make music than to continue

for the rest of my life.  If I’m not speaking I’m generally making up

melodies in my head.  I’ve written songs in my dreams.  It’s nonstop,

as simple as breathing.

Dylan: You’d make John Cage proud, BJ. Thank you, this has been great. Any etc you’d care to add? Anything at all?

BJ: Barack Obama.


Receivers will be released on October 21st, 2008 by Jagjaguwar. Here’s an mp3 to hold us over:

Nowhere’s High


Make sure to catch them on tour. I saw them a while ago in Chicago, and I won’t miss their next one…

10/23/08 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop

10/24/08 Chicago, IL – The Hideout

10/25/08 St. Louis, MO – The Billiken Club (FREE)

10/27/08 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive

10/28/08 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

10/29/08 Boise, ID – Neurolux

10/30/08 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project

11/01/08 San Francisco, CA – Hemlock Tavern

11/03/08 Los Angeles, CA – The Smell

11/05/08 Tucson, AZ – Solar Culture

11/07/08 Houston, TX – Walters On Washington

11/08/08 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest

11/09/08 Dallas, TX – The Lounge

11/10/08 Hot Springs, AR – The Exchange

11/13/08 Tampa, FL – Crowbar

11/15/08 Athens, GA – Caledonia Lounge

11/19/08 Bloomington, IN – Bear’s Place


we will make our way so silently

no one will know

we never made a sound

Dylan Peterson is a recently married bicyclist from Chicago. He provides internal help to Sound Opinions (check your local NPR station for times, or subscribe to the podcast). And he made an official muxtape for the Relevant Music Blog.

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