On “Total Restraint,” the debut album by D.C. quartet Tosser, lyrics like “Staring at a wall and I can see my breath / You see my mind’s a mess” and “Heal myself with another excuse / Can’t taste what I smell” seem to speak to the malaise and psychosomaticism of life in the time of coronavirus. Similarly, the band’s guitar-powered songs sound like audio attacks aimed at breaking down the walls of homebound claustrophobia.
Yet “Total Restraint” was released about three weeks before the pandemic fully took hold in the U.S., making the album less predictive of what was to come and more descriptive of underlying issues that would soon be exposed and exacerbated by the virus.
For most musicians, the pandemic brought their life’s work to a crashing halt, with concerts canceled or converted into live-streamed facsimiles, inspiration sapped, and opportunities to play and record music limited.
For D.C. multihyphenate Rick Irby — who performs and produces as Jau Ocean, drums for D.C. acts Den-Mate and Wanted Man, and serves as production manager at H Street NE venue Pie Shop — the stay-at-home orders presented an opportunity to reset.
Amid the incalculable losses of the pandemic, live music might seem trivial to some. But at their largest — with thousands of young people, pure of heart and purpose, screaming and stomping, mobilizing air and shaking concrete — concerts can shock, awe and inspire. On Saturday night at the Capital One Arena, a capacity crowd broke its 18-month fast and returned to the collective communion of a live concert, thanks to Harry Styles.
In 1993, the iconoclastic alternative act Morphine reached its apex with the album “Cure for Pain.” And while the Boston-born trio doled out narcotized, low-end-heavy rockers, the band took its name not from the opiate, but from “Morpheus,” the Greek god of sleep and dreams.
Nearly 30 years later, “Cure for Pain” has inspired a range of local musicians to interpret Morphine’s cult-favorite record as they seek deeper, personal meanings by covering the album, song-by-song. On Sept. 10, DMV-based label Growroom Productions will release the covers as its first volume of “Growroom Interpretations.”
“When it comes to music, I mostly try to avoid nostalgia. The majority of my musical consumption — whether listening at home or in concert, as the subject of my writing or content of the occasional DJ set — is focused on what’s new and next. Even as anniversary tours have become the de rigueur way for bands with more than two albums to push tickets, I’ve rarely indulged.”
“Slithering through a crush of people on the dance floor to meet a friend or make a new one. Orders shouted, arms extended and drinks spilled at the bar. Sweat descending, its origins not always clear.”
“Two years ago, Washington was in the throes of the debate about Initiative 77, which would have phased out the minimum-wage exemption for tipped employees. David Combs, guitarist in the D.C. band Bad Moves, felt the controversy acutely, having worked in restaurants for over a decade, but was shocked at how hostility over the bill had been internalized by the people it was intended to help. He even spoke about it on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU — but felt he had to do so anonymously. The experience stayed with him.”
“If you were to analyze Time Is Fire’s new album “In Pieces,” well, in pieces, you’d find bits reminiscent of music past and present, with punk, dance, dub and psychedelia, and a heavy dose of sounds from across the globe. But looking for signposts of musical forebears would be a fool’s errand.”