12 Days of Mixmas: Day 11 – Justin Rice of Bishop Allen

Bishop Allen is the reason that we have You Aint No Picasso. Yes, we can take that literally and say that I stole the name from one of their unreleased songs; but there’s something more important there. Bishop Allen got me into independent music. I downloaded their album Charm School in early spring of 2004 and I’m not sure that it left my cd player for the next year. They taught me that a band doesn’t have to be signed to a major record label (or any label, in fact) to be good. Actually, sometimes they have to work harder than the U2s of the world, who can sell a million records without putting any effort into it.

MP3: Bishop Allen – Little Black Ache

Sometimes I get headaches trying to describe bands. Most often it’s because I can’t think of anything that’s that special about them. But with Bishop Allen, my headache is because they’re almost too good. Musically they’re a blend of everything from The Modern Lovers and The Talking Heads (both of whom they do fantastic covers of) to The Violent Femmes and Johnny Cash. I can honestly say that there’s no other band out there that I more strongly suggest that you listen to than Bishop Allen. It’s for this reason that I was so happy to hear that their lead singer, Justin Rice, was willing to contribute such a wonderful mix for our 10th day of Mixmas (the calander took a break, okay?)

Mix 11: “Streets of Despair” by Bishop Allen
Our band, Bishop Allen, took our name from the street we used to live on. I guess a fair number of bands do something like that, from Sleater Kinney to the E Street Band. That got me thinking of songs about streets. I realized that many of my favorite songs are set on mythical sad-and-lonely streets. Here are a few:

MP3: Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues
A wailing song about a man abandoned, alone, and overlooked sinking to his knees on the side of the road. The legend is that Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the guitar like that, and that transaction took place at — you guessed it — the crossroads.

MP3: Hank Williams – Lost Highway
A song of warning from a man who has been down the wrong road. Gambling, drunkenness, a woman’s lies.

MP3: Bob Dylan – Desolation Row
This one goes on and on. It seems like he was thinking about Cross Road Blues and Lost Highway. Every down-and-out character ever stuck on some dilapidated and overlooked street. The recently released the No Direction Home version sounds uncannily like one of the dronier Velvet Underground songs. I chose this over “Highway 61 Revisited”, another great Dylan streets-of-despair type song. That song gets it’s name from the highway that runs through the Mississippi delta, perhaps the very same road where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil?

MP3: The Kinks – Dead End Street
All the other songs are very American, but this one is staunchly British. They made a video for this that Top of the Pops wouldn’t play because it featured an undertaker.

MP3: Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
Lately, I’ve been really into this song and Born to Run in general. It’s so heartfelt that it overwhelms the cynic in me. This may be the most hopeful song on the list. But it may be the most despairing.

12 Days of Mixmas: Day 1 – Dean from the SUF
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 2 – Tapes ‘n Tapes
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 3 – John Vanderslice
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 4 – Ryan Allen of Thunderbirds Are Now!
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 5 – Dodge from MOKB
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 6 – Chris from GvB
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 7 – The Rinse
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 8 – CO from Bishop Allen
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 9 – Jay from The Light Footwork
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 10 – Becca from The Light Footwork

7 thoughts on “12 Days of Mixmas: Day 11 – Justin Rice of Bishop Allen”

  1. Fantastic. Thanks “You Ain’t” and thanks Justin (you were rad in Bujalski’s movie).
    Now what’s all this about a Modern Lovers cover? I would pay cash money for that.

  2. Kinks’ Dead End Street is unique in that it is “British”?? Hello, you heard Waterloo Sunset, A Well Respected Man or Dedicated Follower of Fashion?

  3. your comments about independent music generally (and bishop allen, more specifically) were very interesting. i am glad you found inspiration to share your musical tastes after learning that an independent band could be just as meaningful as U2. But you discredit U2 by saying they hardly have to do any work. WRONG! That’s a band that has been playing for decades, touring the world and making great music. not only are they trying to spread a positive message with their music, but bono has gained political influence as a superstar. he wants to save the world. more power to him, i say. please, don’t knock something just because it’s on the radio or a lot of people like it. that’s foolish! just ignore it, blissfully, as any music blog should. :)

  4. i don’t think he’s discrediting U2 by saying that independent bands have to work harder to sell records. this is especially true in U2’s case: they could put out an album of one song, recorded in the backseat of a car, using only their teeth as instruments, and it would still go platinum. whereas indie bands have to try a hell of a lot harder (and make a hell of a lot better albums than, let’s say, U2) to “make it” and sell maybe a thousand records. (the arcade fire is the obvious example here – didn’t they open/play with U2 recently/ironically?) i think i rest my case.

    and this “mixmas” deal was a really really cool idea. kudos.

  5. I had this whole big thing typed up, and then I saw that Jerimee had already said what I was going to say, but far shorter and far better. Thanks :)

  6. i concur on the born to run awesomeness. the concert dvd w/ the new boxed set was the best thing that happened to me this year musically.

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