Whatever kind of alienation I might experience in the bland drunken cornfield that is a Big Ten college town, I have to imagine it’s orders of magnitude worse in North Dakota. That backwater state seems to be coming up more and more in the news, as cannibalistic oil conglomerates sniff around for new sources of global warmth for the rest of us to bake in. They’re already burning off enough crude for the flames to be visible from space. Meanwhile, regressive politicians play off their constituents’ latent rural misogyny to close the state’s one abortion clinic, tugging the nation backwards with the most stringent ban in the country.
Enter Nora & the Janitors, slamming their (his?) head against a brick wall of willful ignorance in the most listenable way possible. These two tunes bounce along somewhat like Orange Juice, but instead of said band’s carefree joviality, this reeks of the bitter resignation I associate with ’80s Siberian punks like GrOb or Yanka. It can’t be easy to work such desperate howling — with lines like “fell asleep, it was July // woke up, it was November // did I kill that cop? I can’t remember” — into synthed-out, guitar-driven pop songs and have it come off as well as it does. I dunno, people will probably compare this to the Smiths, but I get the feeling that’s not where Nora et al are coming from. Whatever it is, I’ve had “Banister” on repeat for weeks now, and have yet to tire of it. Maybe my favorite song of 2013 so far. I shouldn’t even be devoting this much text to a two-song single. But this stuff really affected me, and it deserves a wider audience.
These two songs are coming out on a tape split with a Minneapolis band I can’t find any information on. For now, get this single at N&tJ’s bandcamp.
Hey! You can call me Nora. It’s not my name but whatever. If I’d been a girl, it sure would have been. I started playing drums when I was ten and that was awesome but by the time I was thirteen I got sick of the limitations of a drum set; it’s not an easy thing to articulate your sadness and disgust with the world through rhythm and volume alone. I got into Daniel Johnston and although I was never cool enough to crash airplanes and get beat up at a circus, I drew a lot of comics, bought a chord organ and started singing. It was an incredible moment to me when I realized, sitting in my basement, that anyone can write songs - even drummers. When I was sixteen I released my first album, Frank, a cassette of noise music recorded during the summer of 2008. I thought Armageddon was coming. It was interesting. Eventually I started playing guitar, played some shows around NoDak and a couple out on the West Coast with a different band. Went to university for a year and a half, it sucked, and I released a shitty cassette-a-la-Johnston single on the internet (Elevator Song) about how much I hated it there and how weird life is. So I got out of that situation. I’m close with the people at a recording company here in Bismarck and I learned the basics of audio engineering. Last summer I grabbed all the instruments I could play and recorded what will become one half of a split release with MT/ND band Lawrence, Jennifer entitled Girls Just Want to Have Gun. It has a digital release date of August 8th, 2013.
But that’s my story in maybe too linear a fashion. Here’s what you need to know about me: When I was little I had a brother and we played with Legos. He would build these castles and towers, vehicles and robot warriors, artfully colored and of his own design. He was an architect. Me? I made up stories. Danger and romance at five years old - and I think back to the ultimate hero of those stories, and I’m still trying to be like him. Or like her. Either way. Dressed in armor all black. Sometimes my Legos would play in my dollhouse and my dad would come over with the VHS camcorder and I’d give him the stories. Life is huge. The Earth is Absurd. Time’s moving on. And that’s the sound I strive for. Lemme turn on my amp and I’ll tell you all about it.