When I consider the songs that had a profound impact on my life, and ones that made me a music enthusiast, the music of Armchair Martian sits towards the top of the list. It was 2007 and I was midway through college. A friend of mine was introducing me to the world of punk rock outside of The Clash and The Ramones. In particular, he showed me Bad Astronaut’s cover of the seminal NOFX song, "Linoleum". Bad Astronaut was the side project of Joey Cape, the singer of the California skate punk band Lagwagon. Cape wanted an avenue to be more exploratory with the music he was writing, and work beyond the confines of the punk that Lagwagon was playing (the members of Lagwagon would balk at the notion of incorporating a keyboard into a song). Bad Astronaut’s version of Linoleum is less abrasive, and slower, focused more around Cape’s great voice, and mounts to an explosive second half. I loved it and I was immediately looking for more of Bad Astronaut's music, which brought me to War of the Worlds, a split album between Bad Astronaut and Armchair Martian, where each band played the other's songs.
Armchair Martian’s music had a quality to it that I had not heard before. The singer, Jon Snodgrass, had something of a country twang in his voice, but the music was wholly unlike what I was accustomed to with such a voice. It was pounding rock and roll, with a slightly unrefined edge. Armchair Martian’s music was the first that I started to notice a band incorporating guitar hum and feedback into their songs. Those things added a vitality to the songs, almost as if I was hearing them live, with the hum of guitar amplifiers and all. It felt unlike most of what I had grown up hearing, which was perfectly recorded to remove all of that. Of all the songs on War of the Worlds, the song “You Deserve This” stood out immediately as my favorite. Snodgrass’ voice is front and center in the song, adding a sense of sadness to the slightly nebulous lyrical content of the song.
Armchair Martian was the band that helped me realize that I liked country-tinged rock music, and set me on a path to seek out more music in that vein. It was also one of the first musical discoveries of mine that really felt like my own, not just something that someone else showed me. I set about trying to find everything that Snodgrass was a part of, which included his excellent country band, Drag the River. All of these records were put out by small record labels which helped me find even more melancholy country rock music. The desire to buy a record player was partially to start supporting these smaller labels and the lesser known bands they were promoting. Furthermore, starting this blog was an effort, albeit a small one, to help support musicians like Jon Snodgrass and to spread the word (to the point that the blog’s name comes from an Armchair Martian song). Without Armchair Martian, this blog would not exist and I am not sure that my love of music would be what it is today.
Find Jon Snodgrass’ music here.