The opening lyric of Do It On The Moon, the new disc from Indianapolis-based rockers Everything, Now! (out now), is a simple question: “Why do people believe in rock and roll?” As I sit in my ragged living room, sipping coffee and nodding my head to the bouncing bass line of the opening cut, I can’t come up with an answer. As an avid rock and roll consumer and musician who’s spent years obsessing over things as trivial as what amplifier Lou Reed used in the Velvet Underground (a Silvertone Twin Twelve from the early 1960’s), I feel like I should know– but I don’t.
I know why I enjoy rock and roll. That’s easy: It feels good. When I hear McJagger croon, “I’m the man on the mountain, come on up,” at the beginning of “Loving Cup” for instance, there’s a natural biological response. No explanation is necessary. The synapses in my brain explode and my body starts pumping chemicals into my blood stream. I get a natural high. There are more than a few of those moments on DIOTM; the brilliant call and response bridge of “Why Believe,” where the band sings “What’cha gonna do without life insurance?” is one. It’s the kind of period perfect lyric you’d expect from someone like Frank Zappa, and as the record unfolds, the influence of Frank Zappa becomes more and more apparent. The line pretty much sums up, in six words, the essence of the biggest problem facing America in the next decade– but let’s not get sidetracked. The question was, “Why do people believe in rock and roll?”
A person’s “beliefs,” as we commonly understand the term, refer to a certain set of moral and ethical parameters that we use to make decisions as we go through life. Traditionally, our beliefs are informed by whatever religion we choose to worship, but there are millions of people in America who “believe” in rock and roll with a religious zeal. Look no further than the public outcry over Cee Lo Green’s rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly. People are outraged because he chose to add lyrics about faith to a song that has always been about the potential for peace if the world was full of atheists. Cameron Crowe’s paean to his childhood, Almost Famous, is another example– the older sister leaving her records for her younger brother to find, telling him “look under the bed, it will set you free.” But can it really set you free? A few million people seem to think so, and they have replaced their holy texts with records by the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Rock and roll in America has become a cult. There was an ideological and intellectual split between generations in the United States that occurred in the 1960s as a result of the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam, just as rock and roll was hitting its peak of popularity. You had the patriotic-to-a-fault Christian conservatives on one side, and the hard-rocking, progressive youth on the other, swallowing too much of Timothy Leary’s bad acid. The spirit of American social revolution has been fused into rock music because of the social climate of the decade into which it was born. Fans of rock and roll, and Americans in general, are endlessly obsessed with the 1960s. They have tirelessly glorified and commodified the decade and turned artists and thinkers from the era, for better or worse, into demigods.
So why does Jon Rodgers believe in rock and roll? He answers the question several seconds later in the same song, singing, “I don’t know, I don’t know, but I feel it in my soul.” As is the case with every other religion on Earth, the answer comes down to faith. Rodgers and company have been putting out records in the State of Indiana and plugging away since 2002, and Do It On The Moon is a high water mark in the band’s catalog. Some of these songs–“Over and Away,” “Hope in Fearsville,” and “Jesus Johnny Appleseed”– appeared on the E,N! chunk of the four EP collection Holy Infinite Freedom Revivalists earlier in 2011, but the new versions are decidedly superior, and DIOTM is a much more focused and coherent record. Rodgers and company have a completely unique way of reworking the music of the 1960’s and 70’s– stealing heavily from Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk as well as the catalogs of Can, Brian Eno, Marc Bolan, and the previously mentioned Frank Zappa– into something fresh. “Fire and the Stone,” is a great example– the not-so-subtle nod to Link Wray’s “Fire and Brimstone” is as addictive as crystal meth.
After laboring away in Drew DeBoy’s basement for months, Everything, Now! emerged with a record that is full of humor and wit, and that keeps the listener entertained effortlessly from track to track with clever hooks and lots of vocal harmony. In many ways, E,N! is a band that belongs in a different decade, and this record, at times, feels like a sound collage from 50 years ago, but what E,N! has actually done is created a sort of rock and roll oratorio for the true believer. In Do It On The Moon, Everything, Now! has produced a record that is worthy of the cult of rock and roll.[iframe: src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/23160559?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0″ width=”490″ height=”276″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen>]