Several years before I was born my father was working in his bank office in downtown Atlanta when he got a phone call from a bank friend in Athens. The man asked my father to be on the lookout for someone in Atlanta that might want to take a job at the bank in Athens. The job wasn’t in my father’s department so the friend was surprised when my father responded, “well what do you think about me?” There may not be a more significant question asked in the formation of the man I’ve become.
My parents were planning to start a family and didn’t want to raise children in the hustle and bustle of the big city. My father took the job, which was pretty much a demotion, and a few years later I was born. A couple of years after I was born Micheal Stipe met Peter Buck at Wuxtry Records on Clayton Street. Being born and raised in Athens GA has shaped every aspect of my appreciation of music. Everyone knows the big names from Athens, REM, Drive-By Truckers and Widespread Panic and all three have influenced me a great deal. But my curiosity about the bands playing in bars lead me to wandering Clayton and Washington Streets looking for clubs that would let an 18-year-old inside to check out some music. There are also the highly influential bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Flat Duo Jets and Drivin’N’Cryin that probably aren’t technically Athens bands but are Athens by association. Because I grew up in Athens my musical identity evolves from that genesis.
I don’t know if this idea about Athens music is something I made up or something I read that one of the town’s noteworthy figures said, but the great thing about Athens is that there is always some kid in a dorm room or in a shitty rental house that’s working on music that will make even the most jaded music fan sit up and listen. Whether the music will change the world or just change your world doesn’t matter, what matters is that there is always a kid in that town that does it.
That feeling of sitting up, being surprised and overjoyed is exactly what happened the moment I dropped the needle on Blue Blood’s debut album This Is The Life. Blue Blood isn’t reinventing the indie-rock wheel but they are without a doubt a crucial spoke in the evolution of Athens music. To make a name for yourself in Athens, to get people to come to your shows, you have to be really good. You have to invest in the art of your music but you also can’t try too hard. Trying too hard is what happens in Atlanta. Everything great about well-crafted, nonchalant rock music jumps out of the speakers throughout This Is The Life but especially during “The Kids Are The City.” If you want you can sit and listen to crunchy guitar leads and well-delivered, townie-life lyrics or you can just nod and sway. But what makes “The Kids Are The City” so quintessential is that if you’re really willing to let go of yourself, shake off the inhibitions and live a little, you can dance your heart out. It’s not a dance song, not by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for a reason to dance the beat will find you.
“Money To Lose” begins as an easy sing-a-long with melodies like comfort food from Wilson’s Soul Food restaurant. Yet the song ends in an out-of-nowhere and glorious guitar solo that’s reminiscent of Wilco’s “Impossible Germany” or The Glands’ “Straight Down.” But unlike those two noteworthy guitar solos, Blue Blood cuts this one shorter than they could have, possibly because compelling guitar work also highlights the following song “Birth Right.” But within “Birth Right” as in each of the selections on This Is The Life, everything serves the songs. Each of the 11 songs are instantly memorable yet interesting upon repeated listens.
The drums on “The Buyout”, the next to last song, song like they’re ready to take off into full-on rock mode but the rest of the band isn’t ready to go there just yet. The musical tension between the drums and the rest of the band builds slightly throughout the song but the band wins. With the line “the walls are falling down” being repeated multiple times it completely sets the stage for the album closer.
“Black”, delivers the line “we had the time of our lives/don’t let it go to your head” enough times that you feel like, not only is the album over but so is the life within This Is The Life. The album doesn’t end with a bang or an outburst of drama but it feels conclusive and complete. It ends with the kid still in his room, trying but not trying to hard. Wanting to makes sense of life or the weekend and not always finding it.