February 2002 • Rockbites Alternative Daily

 • back to February 2002 index
  today’s stories •
recent news •
older news •
reviews •
The Long Winters: the return of John Roderick
18 February 2002
Through rose colored glasses, deep personal strife gives birth to great art. But it’s not true. It just spawns more strife.
    Then again, and oh so rarely—look at John Lennon, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, or Jim Morrison—it seems to fuel amazing creativity. At those times it earns an undeserved cachet of glamour, one that’s lost on the individual in the spotlight.
    Which brings us to former academic John Roderick (associated with the University of Alaska in Kuskokwim), who in 1998 founded the incendiary Western State Hurricanes in Seattle. After an all-too-brief run he broke up the band, moved to Europe on a one-way ticket, and hiked solo from Amsterdam to Istanbul over a span of five months—frequently sleeping outdoors and narrowly escaping death more than a few times.
    His head duly cleared of the frustrations that drove him away, Roderick returned to the States in 1999 and soon found himself the touring keyboards player for Harvey Danger—having not played keyboards before—at the invitation of HD frontman and friend Sean Nelson. It went well.
    Indeed, it inspired the jaded Roderick to rock once more. Last winter he asked some friends to help him record a few of his new songs, and they enthusiastically agreed. Those friends included, among others, Nelson, Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie, Ken Stringfellow and Brian Young from The Posies, Joe Bass from Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jim Roth from Built To Spill. Roderick christened the project The Long Winters, and Seattle’s Barsuk Records releases it tomorrow under the title The Worst You Can Do Is Harm.
    For the most part, the new album is modestly evolutionary in terms of sonic textures—catch a snippet on the radio and it may not turn your head. But that only means there’s less quick-to-rot flash & fashion to distract from and tarnish the timeless integrity of these amazing songs. The Worst You Can Do Is Harm is a stunning, unexpected intersection of lovely sentimentality, fucked-up strangeness, hopelessness, hope, and a dawning sense of power... and it is the best album I’ve heard so far this year.
    Variously evocative of David Bowie, Neil Young, Califone, Eels, and Daniel Taylor (DarlingD), The Long Winters LP soon reveals a unique identity, burrows under your skin, and sets up home in your heart. The album is a work of true love and it shows, measure by measure, note by note.
    Barsuk has done a great job with the CD packaging as well, including a 28 page full color booklet featuring lyrics, photos from Roderick’s European trek, and some almost-too-personal letters from Roderick’s friends.
    The Long Winters touring band comprises Roderick along with bassist Eric Corson, Harvey Danger keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Sean Nelson, ex-Western State Hurricanes drummer Michael Shilling, and keyboardist Chris Caniglia. They play the 2002 Noise Pop festival on the 28th at San Francisco’s The Make Out Room, and LA’s Spaceland club on 2 March.
    No, personal strife doesn’t give birth to great art. Personal strength does. Rockbites gives the debut album by The Long Winters five bites out of five.

Rockbites ratings  5: life changing, 4: stunning, 3: captivating, 2: amusing, 1: annoying.

    Not yet available from most online retailers, you can pick up The Worst You Can Do Is Harm directly from Barsuk Records now for $10. | The Long Winters on Barsuk Records | | Carparts (full length MP3) | | top of page |


 back to February 2002 index
  today’s stories •
recent news •
older news •
reviews •

  click for Rockbites Home
Copyright © 1998 - 2001 M. Jason. All Rights Reserved.
Rockbites is not for profit and supports human rights.

“Rockbites” and “Alternative Daily” are service marks of Rockbites.
All names are the property of their respective owners.

Send your feedback or questions to
Send your press releases to

Rockbites Alternative Daily contact information