[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
New Jersey college rock band that existed somewhere between early R.E.M. and Adam Ant. Their first record, Drums Along the Hudson, is something of a lost post-punk classic. The lyrics are a little boring sometimes, but frontman Richard Barone had a knack for hooks, as revealed on insanely catchy yet dissonant numbers like “Glow in the Dark” and “In the Congo.” They also do a great job with “Mambo Sun” by T. Rex. The re-release is unfortunately crammed with useless live tracks, but the original album, bolstered by unreleased track “Nuts & Bolts,’ is stellar.
I don’t know why Bon Jovi ever qualified as a metal band in the ’80s, because in truth they were just like all the other schmaltzy soft rockers like Foreigner and R.E.O. Speedwagon (The ’80s were a weird time for genre classification). They just happened to write better songs. Whether it was rockers (“Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Blaze of Glory”) or ballads (“Bed of Roses,” “Prayer ’94”), they were just better. I would never put Jon Bon Jovi on the same level as his New Jersey neighbor Bruce Springsteen, but I at least get why people like him. Dude wrote some great songs about being a faux-cowboy. And c’mon, you like “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Don’t front.
The Bonebrake Syncopators
There are a handful of musicians whose career paths I would love to follow. One of them belongs to D.J. Bonebrake, a classically trained percussionist who wound up the drummer for the seminal West coast punk act X. He later went on to join Auntie Christ and Devils Brigade. Bonebrake’s talents extend beyond punk, as evidenced by The Bonebrake Syncopators, who play lounge-y jazz. Their record, That Da Da Strain, is light and airy and pleasant. I’m not sure I’d own it if Bonebrake wasn’t involved, though. I just get a kick out of my hero having fun.
I like Boris Smile because they write catchy indie-folk songs about awesome topics like bears (“Beartooth”), robots (“Program Me to Love”), and outer space (Rockets EP). Unfortunately, they catch a lot of flak because their name references the Japanese metal band Boris, who put out a record called Smile, despite sounding nothing like that band/album. I think the name is going to hold them back, but the tunes are solid.
I dip into technical hardcore every so often, so you best bet I know a thing or two about the genre’s most important band, Botch. As much as I love Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch did it first. American Nervoso and We Are the Romans still carry an otherwordly aggression to them, simply by virtue of being so loud and so technical. I can’t handle listening to this music too much, but when I’m in the mood to get my ass kicked, Romans works out well.
Verdict: Keep, although I don’t see the point in uploading the demos from the American Nervoso re-release.
In high school, I worked at Sam Goody. I got a 40 percent employee discount on CDs, which meant I could check out whatever I wanted on the cheap. Intrigued by her single “Another White Dash,” I picked up Butterfly Boucher’s Flutterby back in 2003. I was kind of indifferent towards the album then, and now I realize that I probably should have gotten rid of it a while ago. It’s actually a pretty catchy, pseudo-electronic record. But Boucher’s lyrics are so clumsy and awful. Sample lyric: “I think I’d like my soul back.” Here’s another one: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles / But in whose hand?”
The Bouncing Souls
The Bouncing Souls were one of the first punk bands I loved, nearly 10 years ago. At this point, I’m a lifer for their pogo-worthy pop-punk. It’s not entirely hyperbole for me to call them one of the best punk bands of all time. I first heard the group through the compilation Punk-O-Rama Volume 6, which featured “True Believers” from How I Spent My Summer Vacation. That comp. served as a primer for Epitaph’s punk roster, and I soon picked up Summer Vacation. The band’s hooks and humor remain true throughout their discography, but it’s the drummers that define two separate eras. Michael McDermott, the group’s current drummer, has a tight and technical style, and it serves as the basis for the Souls in the new millennium. His four records with the group – Summer Vacation, Anchors Aweigh, The Gold Record, and Ghosts of the Boardwalk – turned the Souls into a muscular, taught punk act.
Shal Khichi, their original drummer, had a looser style, and the songs he played on have a rougher, easier style. Again, there’s a clear progression through the Souls’ songs, but you can instantly tell which decade the songs are from. I love Khichi’s records – The Good, The Bad, and The Argyle, Maniacal Laughter, The Bouncing Souls, and Hopeless Romantic – but my favorite album is constantly up in the air. For the longest time it was Summer Vacation, then Maniacal Laughter. Lately, I’ve found myself gravitating towards the band’s short, hilarious, awesome self-titled full-length. Other punk bands write about problems, be they with girls or the government. And the Souls touch on those issues too. But ultimately, they’re a band I associate with positivity, fun, and kicking ass. They are possibly the greatest East coast punk band of all time, with apologies to Against Me!, The Clash, and every band Dr. Dan Yemin has ever been in.
Verdict: KEEP MOTHERFUCKER.
David Bowie is a genius. Detractors have tried to knock him down over the years – he peaked a long time ago, depends on collaborators for ideas, etc. – but you can’t stop “Changes.” Dude laid the groundwork for punk rock, only to start working on post-punk by the time everyone else caught on. For a few years, my entryway into Bowie was Changes, a CD best-of that I listened pretty much every day in my best friend Tim’s car. I eventually picked up Best of Bowie, which covered a greater area of his discography.
When I got a record player, I started venturing into studio album territory. I think I’ve more or less purchased every essential Bowie record – Space Oddity through the Labyrinth soundtrack, plus some live albums and a collection of his early novelty singles. Since then I’ve started purchasing some of my favorite Bowie albums on CD as well. Space Oddity will always be underrated because of what came later, and while it’s not perfect, there are some lesser known songs like “Janine,” “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed,” and “Memory of a Free Festival” that I need at my disposal at all hours. Aladdin Sane is Bowie’s underrated glam album. Ziggy gets all the love, but Sane is better recorded and starts to incorporate Bowie’s love of soul music. Low is his best album of all time, although Station to Station comes close, as the recent box set re-release revealed. I’ve had “TVC15” stuck in my head for weeks. I also have a couple of live albums on CD. Bowie’s style constantly evolved, and he altered his catalog to suit whatever sound he was pursuing, which is why I’m OK with having like five different versions of “Changes.” Like I said before you can’t stop that song.
Verdict: Keep… can we get a Low deluxe edition? Maybe finally release the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth?
I just realized I don’t like Billy Bragg as much as I thought. I went through an intense phase of dedication back in college, circa the summer of 2007. Bragg started off as a solo performer in the ’80s, a Woody Guthrie antidote in a vapid pop climate. He eventually started adding a full band on later records, but he found the perfect mix on his first full-length, Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, which blends in acoustic stringed instruments and percussion with his electric guitar and charmingly British voice. This is how folk music should have always sounded, with songs jumping from the sexual to the political and back with ease. Back to Basics covers the EPs leading up to Taxman, but they don’t quite carry the same dosage of wit, humor, and action. Don’t Try This At Home is probably the best Bragg-with-a-band record. Bragg is known for his political songs, as he should be, but not enough gets said about his humor. “Sexuality” is a pro-equality anthem for the LGBTQ crowd, but it’s also pretty campy (in a good way). “Accident Waiting to Happen” is the song that got me into Bragg, and it remains my favorite. Home is a little unfocused musically, but it’s still great. The same can’t be said for later records, as Bragg’s success ratio starts to dim. William Bloke and Mr. Love and Justice are still solid, but songs like “The Johnny Carcinogenic Show” and “The Space Race is Over” aren’t nearly as clever as he thinks they are.
Verdict: Sell Back to Basics, edit the rest. Outside of Don’t Try This At Home, I don’t really need any of the bonus disc demos.
NEXT TIME: B is for... boring TV soundtracks, British grunge bands, and Buzzzzzzzzzzcocks.