for the Country, an LP from Boston in 1987
Once in a while, with just the right defeat, we remember a song, a particular song. That song is a soundtrack; it may be the soundtrack to a particular memory, a girl, a woman, a boy, a man, a love, an apartment, a time, a job, a city, or a band. Such a song becomes braided with a singular emotion.
Strike the Em7, the hook, and the saturated, single coil opening to ‘for the Country’.
“Can’t you see?
Just go away
A million miles between us
and you get your own way”
By 1986 Dumptruck achieved what many of us, most of us, fantasize about: they had written, practiced, loaded, driven, unloaded, played, reloaded, unloaded again at 3 a.m., to the top of the local scrapheap. In this story, it happens to be Boston. (And for those of you who don’t know, as with so many things cultural, when we say Boston, it’s geographical, but in terms of seminal, local, grassroots arts, its Cambridge. Cambridge is art, Boston is business.)
Dumptruck’s first two records are still listenable. They are young, not brilliant, not landmark, not well produced, not even enduring, but in their time they were among the best of what was coming out of the Boston rock scene. (It might be noted, that at this time, Jonathan Richmond moved to Knox County, Maine.) Even in retrospect, those records show us the band’s potential and Seth Tiven’s strengths as a songwriter. I believe Dumptruck even achieved the death knell of all rock bands in Boston: they won the WBCN Rock N Roll Rumble. Woe betide the bearer of that tiara.
After that, the extraordinary happened: Dumptruck was able to make a third album. And bear in mind that means vinyl, in 1987. There is not room here to encapsulate the cross section of 1987: of money, of culture, economy, politics, of Mike Dukakis and Tip O’Neil and Joseph Sader, and how that mix makes the arts possible, how that propels the mainstream and the underground as well.
In 1987, Seth Tiven wrote, and Dumptruck recorded, one of the best albums in the history of American rock n roll. It is a testimony to the bell curve, and to the event horizon of all things coming together at the apex to enable the beautiful, the amazing, the unlikely, the personal, the soundtrack one remembers later, after it has been long forgotten, long lost. It should be mentioned that one of those elements was a new guitarist, Kevin Salem. Salem’s playing style fit the band well and the infusion may have inspired his new band mates as players and performers. The band and the record also became the cautionary tale for anyone producing local, anyone indie: the disaster contract, the band killer, and even the career killer. But in this story, in that scenario, it couldn’t kill an enduring, a seminal, a local work of art and achievement.