Idaho – People Like Us Didn’t Stop
Like many other insipid genre descriptors ending in “-core” that ran rampant in the ’90s, “slowcore” and “sadcore” personified the gloomy side of the early part of the decade via Low, Red House Painters and Codeine. Theirs was the music dimly lit environs were made for: guitars heavy with distortion; confessionalistic, often dour lyrical themes of alienation and hopelessness; and a pervasive, aggressively morose sense of gloom. Los Angeles’ Idaho was and continues to be one of the most innovative of its era, devising inventive tunings on custom-built four-stringed guitars, and creating waves of distorted ambience. Excepting Chris Brokaw, little has been heard or seen of the members of Codeine, and Mark Kozelek has aged into a fussy old bat. The Idaho of today makes reflective, introspective songs flecked with minimalistic nuance, and makes much more extensive use of Jeff Martin’s flawless piano playing. The Broadcast of Disease, a clutch of songs the band recorded in its embryonic state beginning in the early ’80s, surfaced in 2015. Its latest venture arrived at a plaintive moment: the passing of cofounder and multi-instrumentalist John Berry, felled by a brain tumor three Januaries ago.
The pairing of Berry and musical kindred Martin remains a fascinating one. Theirs was an improbable but compelling partnership, Martin a classically-trained pianist who learned music within the structured milieu of recitals, lessons and study, and Berry a Hollywood child, the adopted son of actors Ken Berry and actress Jackie Joseph. It was a most unlikely alliance to be sure, but one of indie rock’s most intriguing. Berry departed Idaho a following its dumpster fire of a 1993 tour (captured on 2001’s People Like Us Should Be Stopped: Live Volume 1) to treat a wrenching heroin addiction. Martin forged onward, further establishing Idaho as a band of constant sorrow. In an interview with Stomp and Stammer, he summarized Idaho thusly: “It’s evolving. It’s not losing its heart.” Berry, even in absentia, kept it beating.
Idaho tours are rare occasions these days, and that alone makes such batches of live audio, outtakes and rarities so welcomed. Such releases are as vital as the band’s eight studio albums, filling in blanks and further piecing together the Martin/Berry puzzle. Taped between 1992 and 2008 at shows, rehearsals and other events here and overseas, People Like Us Didn’t Stop: Live, Radio & Rehearsal, Vol. 2 is a new chapter in Idaho’s oeuvre. Perennial favorites like “God’s Green Earth,” “Drive It” and “A Ten to Noon” are as vital as they were when first written; “Stare at the Sky,” a languid azure ray, the band’s rendition of “On the Shore” on Stanford University radio a hazy shade of winter. Berry floated into and out of the band for live appearances throughout the 2000s, and his moments are among the album’s most touching: backing vocals on “Stare at the Sky,” guitar on “The Thick and the Thin;” the translucent four-stringed textures he was so adept at crafting throughout.
For longtime Idaho devotees, People Like Us Didn’t Stop offers an opportunity to grow ever more close; for those unfamiliar, a chance to discover; and for Berry, a unique talent and a happy warrior until the end, a tribute he’d undoubtedly love.
People Like Us Didn’t Stop: Live, Radio & Rehearsal, Vol. 2