Birmingham Bohos


By now you probably know the Crutchfield sibs Allison and Katie (identical twins but so were Nelson so let’s not make too much about that) through their collaboration in P.S. Eliot or their respective bands Swearin’ and Waxahatchee. But you’d only be scratching the surface of their itinerant output if you stopped there. Genuine bohemians of the Twitterverse, they’ve scattered their recordings not just across cassettes and vinyl and a couple of CDs, but among Tumblrs and Blogspots and Bandcamps as well—much of their music is download-only, some you can pay for and some you just run across as you insert various google search terms—as if they were carefree and willful about their art at the same time.

Katie and Allison have bounced around geographically as well— living communally in Birmingham, Brooklyn, Philly, maybe elsewhere. They started young so they’re growing up in their music before our eyes and ears. Katie is Robert Pollard-meets-Eudora Welty with a streak of Taylor Swift thrown in, Allison seems more goth and rocking, but these are broad generalizations. You can suss their biographies elsewhere, but for the sake of humanity I’ve tried to assemble their discography here in one place. It’s no shame to be confused: Robert Christgau got the Crutchfield’s shared recording debut wrong and I’m sure I’ve missed stuff as well, so we are all in good company. But the many musical identities the Crutchfield sisters have assumed are a story as scattered and timely as the music itself:

The Ackleys: S/T LP (2005) Straight outta Birmingham’s Oak Mountain High School with Katie on guitar/vocals and Allison on keybs, this is the sound of cocky kids sorting out indie pop song form. “Harlequin Romance Ruins Lives” sets the tone—neither jaded nor gullible enough to take the world at face value. “Lon Chaney” (“Hold that thought babe cuz I like the way you’re thinkin’”) is a stone classic and “I Saved Latin” preserves the classics.

The Ackleys: Forget Forget, Derive Derive EP (2007) Shlocking up the tunes slightly with circa 1980s keyboard fills is a kind of hoot, but the rhythm section shows its limitations on these five swan songs for the Ackleys. The first of many transitional EPs in the Crutchfield oeuvre.

P.S. Eliot: Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds LP (2008) Allison moves over to drums, which is a big upgrade, and the racket quotient rises accordingly. Punky, winsome, just not quite tuneful enough. A huge lyrical leap by Katie though— worthy of the trot sheet provided. Powerhouse: “Troubled Medium”.

P.S. Eliot: Living in Squalor EP (2010) Download-only, this is the sound of a band fully realizing its potential in five whip-smart moments of fury. “Let’s admit that we’re only human baby/Let’s take it night by night” is a credo, meeting a hookup on the floor in a DC apartment is how you bring that credo to fruition. Broken records, acid flashbacks, and bears named Otis should suck you in, but the best loud-fast drummer since Janet Weiss and/or Jon Wurster brings you back for one more slam. N.B. I append the contemporaneous “Bruno Is Orange” single to this EP to make six songs, and also to make you even more inclined to accept my down-South Sleater-Kinney comparisons.

P.S. Eliot: Sadie LP (2011) Listen to how the thunderous drums of “Crosseyed” crescendo into the hell-bent chorus about moving on, then bop around to the tumbling thrash of “Watch On Mute”.  Lyrically sometimes obtuse, but the overall sense of an independent woman trying to wipe the tough part of young adulthood out of the way shines through clearly. And sometimes Katie captures an image just right:  I only tangentially understand “I’ve got grief ascending out/like Styrofoam sierra allies on a fated planet” but I still revel in its vivid specificity. Not a clinker in the bunch.

King Everything: The Drought

King Everything: Demos 2

P.S. Eliot: Demonstrations

P.S. Eliot: The Bike Wreck Demos EP

These get lumped together here because they are all demos, most of the songs popping up elsewhere. Some housekeeping notes: Beware that there is another prolific Tumblr band named King Everything. These King Everything releases and Demonstrations are solo Katie takes on songs that (mostly) appeared on the studio P.S. Eliot releases, and in that sense foreshadow where she would eventually go structurally with Waxahatchee, at least at first. The Bike Wreck Demos are mostly electric (“Amazing Grace” on a kiddie flute is not) and seem to be a lo-fi Katie and Allison jam—whatever else you have to say about the recordings, they sound like the auteurs are having more fun than you or I do on an ordinary day. Obviously, all of this is for completists, but it’s nice of them to share.

To be continued… .