Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Brent Houzenga – Quit The Biz

My big break was roughly ten years ago when I started writing a column for a professional wrestling site. And not just any site, one of the most popular in the world, for the subject matter anyway. The big issue was that I was really bad at it. Like, Hindenburg bad. Like, even worse then I am now. I tired way too hard, and I shoehorned a bunch of odd gimmicks to, I dunno, try to find a foothold or a niche or anything that made me stand out. I only remember liking two columns that I ever wrote, one was a satirical piece where I talked about how I thought Triple H was going to be a bigger movie star than The Rock (Where I had a lot of people extremely mad from tongue in cheek mentioning that I thought Triple H would make a good Othello). The other was a comparison between pro wrestling and punk rock.

I will spare you my essay length thoughts on Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (nutshell: he‘s awesome), but my thesis from that column applies to today’s artist, Brent Houzenga. What I supposed was that sometime between Johnny Rotten leaving The Sex Pistols to form Public Image, Ltd and Blondie releasing a disco song that punk stopped being so much a genre as it was a way of life. Punk in the late 70’s to early 80’s presented the idea that you can be punk and not have a Mohawk and studded leather jacket. It was less about three chords and “Oi!” and more about artistic expression and self expression despite what society demanded from you.

I think this idea rings through in Brent Houzenga’s album Quit The Biz. The album is a very interesting study in that I think the ideals of punk, both genre and lifestyle, are imbedded throughout. They are quick songs with easy lyrics (although the last track “Really True“ is a bit of a romantic opus, complete with whistle solo!). But the thing is, it’s just a guy and his acoustic guitar.  Houzenga’s slight rasp sings the lyrics in a slow, slightly off key echo. Although, they seem more conventionally suited for a quicker tempo, the choice to go acoustic gives the album a deeper more conscious vibe.  It is a nice surprise for someone who maybe heard that it was an acoustic performance and expected a more coffeehouse singer-songwriter.

The tracks mostly share a lot of personal reflections and a lot of thoughts on love and relationships. There are a few that stray a little from that.  I think the track “Understand” best compliments my idea. I mean, the entire song pretty much encapsulates my little thesis in a minute-forty. But I actually like the songs like “Bomb It” and “Quit the Biz” better for the slightly more subtle nature. I will be honest though, most of the lyrics aren’t exactly Shakespeare.  But what they are is a mostly direct story told with honesty and heart.

While I like the performance of the album a great deal for it’s simplistic yet adventurous nature, I like the idea of the album even more. I like the idea that all you need to be an artist in this day and age is a plywood guitar, a microphone and something to say and the honesty and guts to say what you want to say. I know some people would disagree with that, but I think it is endearing. The lack of production and the slightly out of tune and off key music actually adds to the whole idea that DIY is as punk rock as you can get. This isn’t just a troubadour with a whine and an acoustic guitar sitting under a tree on the quad trying to pick up chicks, this is a guy who simply wants to be heard. This is a free download or stream at brenthouzenga.bandcamp.com, so give it a shot.

Try Not To Miss Shows – 2/16 – 2/22

Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom: Des Moines Social Club Multiple Showings

Not even a little music related, but it’s my column and I will talk about what I want. This is a cool show starring some cool people. There are video games and action and suspense and giant screens. Theater is boring, but this isn’t, so you should go.

The Pharmacy w/ Tomorrow Pig and Tracy Trance: 2/16 Vaudeville Mews 630pm (All Ages)

Kimya Dawson’s former backing band, these garage rockers bring an old school sound, but a sound that never seems to get old

Allen Stone w/ Masquerade and Tommy and the High Pilots: 2/16 Gas Lamp 7pm

Allen Stone is a talented guitarist with a lot of Soul and Blues influences. Should be interesting.

Jason and The Haymakers: 2/17 Gas Lamp 9pm

Pure country music, which if you’re a frequent reader, you know I love.

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