Back From the Grave
I had developed an interest in ’50s and ’60s garage rock – proto-punk at its most proto – from hanging out at the Philadelphia Record Exchange. The owner there plays the loudest, greatest early rock I’ve ever heard. While I’m still a novice to the genre, the Back From the Grave series has filled in the gaps. The compilation series collects rare seven-inches from obscure bands from the era; some bands’ scant discographies are completely represented by these comps. Some of it comes off a little misogynistic (The Painted Ship’s “I Told Those Little White Lies” is a little too stoked on ruining an ex-girlfriend’s life), but overall it’s a pretty great series, and I look forward to completing the set.
Band of Horses
I’ve been a BoH fan ever since I saw the video for “Funeral” on Subterranean. I was obsessed with their first two records of country rock in the vein of My Morning Jacket in college, and while new album Infinite Arms is a step down, I still spin it on occasion. Frontman Ben Bridwell has a knack for crafting haunting melodies and pulsing road-ready anthems. Cease to Begin has been my favorite release for about a year now. One day I realized that most of that record reminds me of my girlfriend… besides “Is There a Ghost.” But “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “Detlef Schrempf,” and “The General Specific” form a nice triad of cuddles, so to speak.
In another life, I was straight edge. Since then I’ve adopted a more casual attitude towards alcohol but maintain a pretty strict aversion to other drugs. I still hold on to straight edge hardcore band Bane, though, just because the music is dang energetic. Holding This Moment is one of my pick-me-up albums. For whatever reason, it’s soundtracked a few of my failures and speed bumps, and in doing so made me want to try harder. Sounds corny, but these guys keep me going.
Verdict: Keep… except for The Note. That one was a little too mallcore…
Here’s a guilty pleasure for you: The Bangles’ best songs were almost always written by other people (“Manic Monday,” for example, was Prince’s futile attempt to get Susanna Hoffs to sleep with him), but their knack for ’60s melodies a la The Hollies made them better than most ’80s pop acts. I think the band would have been better off forming either 20 years before or after they did – get passed the hammy production of the era and there are some great songs on their greatest hits collection like “Hero Takes a Fall” and, uh, “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Shut up; don’t judge me.
I almost always disagree when bands get compared to Jawbreaker, The Cure, and Bruce Springsteen. Those names get tossed out a lot, but they’re rarely earned. Banner Pilot is one of the few groups I’d actually give the Jawbreaker tag to, though, circa Unfun. Well, that and Dillinger Four. The group bothers to write really catchy songs and really personal lyrics. Frontman Nick Johnson crams each song with images, even though you can’t always tell through his gruff vocals. At this point, my only complaint is that Banner Pilot hasn’t released more material – last year’s Collapser was such a breakthrough that I need another album ASAP.
My Canadian girlfriend hates Barenaked Ladies. She makes a big stink about having Canadian pride – she even cheered on Team Canada during the Winter Olympics – but she can’t stand “If I Had $1000000” or “Be My Yoko Ono.” Which is why I usually get death glares when I shout “It’s been!” in her ear. Or maybe it’s because I’m screaming at her. I don’t know. Our relationship is weird. Anyway, I’ve got All Their Greatest Hits, which is pretty much all the BNL I need. It’s got “One Week;” I’m good. The songs are kinda catchy (“Lovers in a Dangerous Time”), kinda silly (“Pinch Me”), kinda nonsensical (The one that goes “Shoebox of lieieieieieieies!”).
Dave Peisner wrote an article for Spin about a year ago about Savannah, Ga.’s metal scene. It was a well-written scene analysis that introduced me to Baroness, Kylesa, and Black Tusk, and I still return to it every few months hoping for more wonders. Us music journalists love labeling any gaggle of bands part of a movement, but Savannah really is the source of today’s best metal bands. These groups write heavy, sludgy jams that just rock so dang hard. Baroness arguably has the most diverse sonic palette, dropping classic metal (“Grad”) and Alice in Chains-style alternative (“Steel That Sleeps the Eye”) into the mix. At this point, I almost have their complete discography. Or, I will once their split with Unpersons comes in the mail. I haven’t loved a metal band like this since Tool circa Lateralus.
Batman Forever soundtrack
I’ve gone back and forth over this album since its release 15 years ago. I loved Batman Forever when I was a kid, but then I got older and got into punk and kind of started to hate “Kiss From a Rose.” Apparently, I didn’t pay much attention to the track listing, since it also features choice cuts from The Flaming Lips, The Offspring, PJ Harvey, and Sunny Day Real Estate. Method Man contributes “The Riddler,” a fucking rap song about the got-damn Riddler! Never has the tag “Music from and inspired by” been more accurate! The Flaming Lips’ “Bad Days” was used quite well in the film, specifically when Jim Carey’s Riddler kills his boss right after hearing the lines “In real life you hate your job and your boss / But in your dreams you can blow his head off.” Come to think of it, The Riddler might have the best music taste of any Batman character…
In a sense, The Beach Boys are the biggest cult band of all time. They were never the most popular band of their era (That would be The Beatles), their best album was a commercial flop (Pet Sounds), and their best period occurred long after the public stopped paying attention (Sunflower, Surf’s Up, and Wild Honey are so good!). Unlike The Beatles, whose best songs almost always ended up as singles, The Beach Boys have a slew of deep cuts on par with any of their hits, like “Salt Lake City” or “All I Wanna Do.” Yeah, sometimes they get a little square – Friends is too hippy-dippy and they wrote way, way too many songs about surfing – but overall The Beach Boys turned out an insane amount of smartly crafted pop songs. Pet Sounds really is their best work, and listening to anything else after it is a little bit of a bittersweet letdown. Brian Wilson’s melodies and arrangements are at their richest, and he never again matched their beauty and dexterity, as Smiley Smile and Wild Honey clearly shows, but the records that followed are still mighty catchy, foreshadowing a lot of what’s going on in indie music right now. Now I’m seriously considering pushing even further into their ’70s discography, as I’ve just read some pretty great things about Love You.
Verdict: Keep, although some of the bonus tracks on the re-issues aren’t worth my time. I love “Good Vibrations,” but how many alternate cuts do I need? Same goes for the pre-Pet Sounds material. I’ll keep the singles and ditch the deep cuts. Have you heard “Farmer’s Daughter?”
NEXT TIME: TERRRRRROOOORRRRHAAAAWWWWWWWK, MMMMMMEEEEETTTRRRROOO, and Chuck Berry.