This isn’t really the kind of thing I typically do, but today I’m ranking EPs and singles from the band Self Defense Family. Mostly because I wanted to intentionally try to listen to all of them, but also because nobody wants to talk to me about Self Defense Family. The parameters of this experiment are as follows:
- Must be more than one song from the band. This means I’m excluding almost all splits they’ve done, though they have at least two that I enjoy a lot.
- Must be under the Self Defense Family name. I was going to include End of a Year EPs, but I'm tired. You can assume I like all of them.
- Must be listenable online.
- I understand I may have missed something– as a 25-year-old girl from Illinois, I can only spend so much time on the Triple B Records bandcamp page. We accept our flaws and learn to grow.
When I first wanted to start listening to this band my friend recommended I start with some EPs. I don't remember the rationale behind that, but I kind of get it. I think Self Defense Family is a band where there's a lot to be learned from the development and background and puzzle pieces of career beyond their full-length studio albums. Self Defense is a band that is palpably concerned with the process of creating art– the subject matter often deals in concerns about the limits of contributing music to the world, 7 inches that are the product of recording on islands, a rotating cast of people that creates uncertainty of who was involved. The process says as much as the product and I'm fond of what we get to see of both sides more often than not. It's corny to be like, "it's about more than the music, man!" but that is the way I approach the band to a certain extent. It's like loving Joan of Arc. It's the music, but there's more than that. I'm inclined to this sort of thing.
If you're wondering how I feel about their full lengths, I think my favorite is Try Me then Have You Considered Punk Music then Heaven is Earth. Try Me is, of course, unlistenable if I truly try to do it all in one go, but it's got the best A-side of any record I own and I'm more of a playlist girl myself so I still probably listen to Try Me songs the most. Have You Considered Punk Music, to contrast, is best listened to straight through. This isn't why we're here.
19. Kitten Beach Demos - 2020
I feel very little about this. Maybe my least favorite couple of tracks. For most of these I'm gonna put my preferred song, but this one.. well, it's last.
18. Working People (Part 1) - 2018
Not my favorite. Sparser than a lot of their other work in a way that loses the tension and momentum that I think is so special about Self Defense. I don’t necessarily vibe with it.
17. The Power Does Not Work in the Presence of Nonbelievers - 2016
"I’m on a Different Wavelength Than Everyone Else" is an almost danceable song which was a fun change of pace for this exercise. Kind of groovy. Then immediately into a real breathy Patrick Kindlon whispering track. That sort of song comes about every so often in their catalog and I don’t love it, but I don't hate it. I, personally, am not huge on "Deersong" either. Pretty sparse, very meditative, but not one I’ll probably ever listen to. If I’m gonna listen to a real long Self Defense song I prefer it to be one where Patrick is yelling or talking a lot.
16. When the Barn Caves In - 2015
Love Patrick’s performance on "Alan," not as much on the title track.
15. I Tried To Make Something You Would Enjoy - 2014
You were good, I’m waiting for you to be great.
14. Colicky - 2016
It's fine. I have no real qualms, I just don't ever find myself gravitating toward it aside from "Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile" and that's kind of a nothing way to say I don't like it that much.
13. Performative Guilt - 2019
This is not my favorite sounding SDF release. I don’t prefer the buried vocals. I love the song "Future Girls," though. I think it has some of Patrick Kindlon’s more compelling, sensitive lyrics. I might be punishing this EP in the order because I definitely overpaid for it on vinyl at the record store across the street from my house.
“It’s a worthless melodrama and a performative type of guilt for me to look back now and pretend I could have helped.”
12. Make Me A Pallet Fire On Your Floor b/w Local Clerics - 2020
“It’s a mental disease, needing people to agree, and you seem unwell”
Words to live by. Good couple of tracks. Patrick Kindlon speaks a lot to small mindedness in his many outlets for words and this song is maybe his most concise version. It's something I've found grounding especially regarding my own compulsive internet usage and this newsletter I put out. A need for people to do nothing but validate is a ridiculous way to live.
Moving on with my listicle.
11. Bastard Form - 2017
Rules. Fantastic drum tones. "Bastard Form" is a stickier song than "Maybe You Could Explain It to Me." Sometimes the songs just rule!
10. Wounded Masculinity - 2017
I think this is the hardest one to place for me, which is why it's landed around 10. I think sonically it’s more scattered than most of SDF's releases. Opening track is real slow, then a more prototypical SDF song, then two songs that have this driving electronic (or electronic sounding, at least) percussion. It’s weird only because so many of these EP and single releases are really cohesive within themselves. That said, I think the final track, "Mary Devoured By Horses," is really good. I love the quiet, rushed spoken word vocals. I love the scattered guitar licks. To my ears, it earns its 9.5 minute run time because Patrick Kindlon has much to say that I tend to find compelling.
On my podcast, when we were doing our year end round up of favorite things, I talked about Drug Church's Hygiene. Michael, my cohost and friend, told us he doesn't really buy into Patrick Kindlon as a figure independent of his music. I think that's fine. I can't imagine Michael would buy into any of the people I view as influential on me in terms of creativity. Michael's not gonna read an issue of Cometbus and meditate on the meaning of punk and subculture as a both life sustaining and self destructive force depending on the day of week and how you play it. It's good I know him, but the point is that it didn't surprise me that he said that. It did, however, make me consider what it is I find compelling about Kindlon. I think it mostly comes down to my broad interest in people discussing their lives as people who make things. Patrick Kindlon's music could speak for itself, but you've gotta put your blinders on. I like that. I like people who talk about their process and perspectives on the goings on of the world. I obviously don't agree with everything he says. First, because he says a lot of stuff. Podcasts and newsletters and multiple bands and blurbs under a bunch of the bandcamp posts–if you want to know his thoughts, there are a lot to dive into. Second, because it would be weird if I as a woman at least 15 years younger than him with a vastly different set of life experiences was to sit down and say, "yeah this guy's ideology lines up perfectly with mine." And last, but most importantly, that's not the point.
I take issue with the obsessive perspective that the things you read or watch or listen to must be a reflection of your politics. All that's ever done is make fans project their highly individual morals onto public figures who will inevitably and invariably disappoint. It's important to develop a sense of self that is distinct from the things you consume. It'll make it easier to draw your own lines when people who make things you may enjoy do things that you find at odds with your personal morality. Do I think the people who make things I like have nothing to do with the art once it's in my hand? No, but the decisions around "support" and "platforming" are more individual than people want it to be. This also means being okay with people taking a different route– more or less strict– than you choose for yourself in any given situation.
9. Long Island - 2020
Both these songs are sludgier and heavier than a lot of their more recent music. I think the more buried vocal works better for me with something heavier like these songs. I think they’re both cool, but "PARTMAXIMUM" is my preferred song. Maybe it is time to bring back full stacks.
8. Self Immolation Family b/w World Virgins - 2012
I think the Island 7 inch series is a good entrance point for what the band really is. They all feel comfortable in what the band is. I love the guitar tones on both these songs from the Iceland installation of the series, but I don’t feel a lot about the songs themselves until the end of "World Virgins." I typically really like this kind of SDF song where the momentum builds at the end as they play out with a repeating line or couple of lines. This is no exception. I don’t know that I’d accept “you need my cum to exist” as a line from anyone else, but it’s fine here. Lyrics really are mostly about delivery.
7. Two Genuine Oddities from our Distant Past - 2014
The first song "I Got Kicked Out of Germany" is mostly just Patrick Kindlon telling a story of, well, when he got kicked out of Germany. You kind of get what you see on the tin with this EP. The titles are all very straightforward. The second song is "I Encapsulated The Human Experience In A 10 Sec Song." Again, kind of what you see is what you get. I think I like this so much more for the idea, but this is my listicle and I'll order things how I see fit. Not gonna pick one for obvious reasons.
6. Superior - 2016
I love love love "The Climate of the Room" and "Good Idea Machine." I think they’re both really interesting songs within the SDF catalog. "The Climate of the Room" has this juxtaposition of hazy, almost lazy, layered vocals over characteristic, tight driving drums and crunchy guitars that I find really exciting and cool. As the song plays out, everything converges and resolves the discordance. I love Patrick Kindlon’s performance on the song. Superior is nice, there’s not a lot of instrumental tracks and I love this one. Great EP.
5. Leeds - 2020
I love "Secular Trust." I love the vastness of it and the movement that breaks up the almost 7 minute run time. Not quite as tightly wound as a lot of SDF songs can be and better for it going into the more pulverizing "Lust for Nuke."
4. I'm Going Through Some Shit b/w All Fruit Is Ripe - 2011
Again, all the Island Singles are pretty good. "I’m Going Through Some Shit" is maybe the song I might pick to show someone Self Defense. I think it’s the most Self Defense song of all the Self Defense Songs. "All Fruit Is Ripe" rules. I love a song where the singer says their own name.
3. Indoor Wind Chimes b/w Cottaging - 2014
On an episode of their (sorely missed) podcast, Ian Shelton told Patrick Kindlon that "Cottaging" could have been Self Defense’s Big Song if they had put Cottaging first in the track list. I don’t know if I believe that, but it is a better song than "Indoor Wind Chimes." I like both tracks, but "Cottaging" might be the best Self Defense song full stop. Nobody writes a song about infidelity like Patrick Kindlon. It also has my favorite cover photograph of all the island themed EPs.
(I'm like 90% Ian Shelton did say that, but best not to fact check that podcast anecdote)
2. Duets - 2014
Caroline Corrigan’s voice is undeniable and the interplay and contrast between her voice and Patrick Kindlon on this EP is beautiful. It feels looser than some other SDF stuff because of Caroline’s voice in a way that is refreshing and brings a new energy that I appreciate. I think the themes of misunderstanding and despair and disappointment through this one really work and feel like one unified piece with some extra dimension. Reminds me of what lyrically works so well for me on the front half of Try Me.
Friend of The Newletter Jay (who wrote a very good post about Self Defense at Krazy Fest. I think it's paywalled, but his work is fun all around.) told me that he thinks I'm the only person who rides for this EP and I think that's probably true. Would I look at you wanting to get into Self Defense Family and say "yo you should check out this EP!" No, absolutely not, but I do like it a lot! "Cancel Man" is a fantastic song that I can listen to endlessly.
1. The Corrections Officer in Me - 2013
Three awesome songs. I love the repetition and background chanting in "Pop Song Written on the Automall," I love the spoken intro explaining the first song, I love all of it. I think their brand of spoken wordy post punk works for me because it’s balanced against more aggressive music that makes the spoken word feel like this loosely contained thing that is at risk of breaking open at any moment and you get to know what that breaking open sounds like.
“Bad for my hair line, great for self worth”
I interviewed James Goodson for the upcoming issue of Creem Magazine and he brought up a point about wanting his band to feel like something a listener could come across and want to dive into because it feels like a world of its own. I think that's something I like about Self Defense. It's a part of a world I'm not necessarily engrained in– hardcore, East Coast posturing, the impulse to be confrontational– but in itself it's a world with a perspective. I like that. I like that contrast against how Drug Church is received as something of a hype band.
That's all for today.
This week I am also reminding everybody that I have reinstated the paid level of my newsletter, if that's something of interest. Not sure how to sell it, but I'm trying to write more and have some zine stuff coming that I'd love to share with people who want to support!
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, podcaster and law school drop out based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter to hear about my ailments and baked goods: @mirandareinert. You may also send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. As always, thanks for reading!