[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
Death Cab for Cutie
I always forget how much I love Death Cab for Cutie on account of A) the members always come off like jackasses in interviews and B) their fans are wieners. But man can they write catchy indie rock tunes. It’s weird thinking that We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes came out 11 years ago. It’s even weirder realizing that Death Cab has become my generation’s R.E.M.; a reliable indie rock band that broke through the major label barrier without compromising its integrity.
While I’m sure others would disagree, I think DCFC got better with each record, from the propulsive, almost dance-oriented drone of The Photo Album to the more expansive rock of Transatlanticism to the overripe melodies of Plans. Narrow Stairs dipped slightly in its attempt to show off some muscle, but only slightly. Frontman Ben Gibbard preserves a knack for rich songwriting – emotionally, pictorially – throughout. The EPs are strong too, but the full-lengths are where it’s at.
Christian hardcore featuring Alan Popoli (ex-Prevail) on vox. So blistering, yet so respectful. The Deliverance EP gets a little scary-hobo-ranty on “Salvaged (Ezekiel 36),” but otherwise it’s all good.
Oh man. I never listen to The Decemberists. I mean, I respect their literate prog-folk-rock style. I like them enough when they’re on, and my band, Science Club, is probably going to cover “The Rake’s Song” in the future, but I never seem to put them on. I do the same thing to Death Cab for Cutie, but I can only keep so many albums I rarely play. Sorry guys.
For a while, Deftones were a band out of time. Equally inspired by metal/post-hardcore and ’80s new wave/goth, the band’s debut, Adrenaline, came out in 1995, during the beginning of grunge’s long, sad decline. Then they got lumped in with the nu-metal likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit, even though all they wanted to do was play with Far and Quicksand. In a sense, Deftones are to nu-metal what Thursday became for screamo – they didn’t deserve the derided genre tag, but they’re the exception that proves the rule. Around the Fur and White Pony were brilliant bursts of ethereal metal – like Jesu with balls. White Pony was always my favorite Deftones record; I love the drums on “Digital Bath” and “Change (In the House of Flies.” Both tunes find a great middle line between the aggressive and the ambient. Deftones is a close second for me, though. “Minerva” packs a huge chorus and a massive booming bass line. Again, anytime Deftones play in cut-time, I listen. The grooves are too good to ignore. While Deftones feels at times like a reaction to scream, it also delivers some of the band’s quietest moments as well.
From there the group slowed down a little. A nifty B-sides collection of covers appeared in 2005. I didn’t bother with Saturday Night Wrist; I wasn’t keen on the sterile production. Diamond Eyes won me back over, though. Recorded after bassist Chi Cheng was left in a coma from a car accident, the group plays with renewed figure in tribute, with assistance from ex-Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega. Like I said, all the guys wanted to do was play with their friends.
Deftones fill a nice niche for me. In the last couple years, I’ve really grown to love sludge metal, especially anything coming out of Savannah. At the same time, I love the swirling soundscapes of My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. Deftones embody both sides.
Verdict: Keep, although I’m going to sell off my “Back to School (Mini-Maggot)” Japanese EPK. “Back to School” is the closest Deftones came to actually playing nu-metal, and it’s kind of an embarrassing song to listen to now that I’m 25. The live tracks that accompany it are merely OK.
Ah, Depeche Mode. They form the goth triumvirate, along with The Cure and The Smiths (with The Jesus & Mary Chain on the sidelines. Actually wait, no, I left out Siouxsie & The Banshees. This metaphor is going terribly…). ANYWAY, Depeche Mode wrote some stellar synth-pop in the ’80s. Then they just kept making records.
But for a while, DM was nifty keen. It took them a while to achieve artistic success, though, which is why I prefer to summarize their early years with Catching Up With Depeche Mode, a singles collection. Some of the material is embarrassing (“The Meaning of Love,” “Love in Itself”), but there are also some neat early synthesizer numbers (“Dreaming of Me”). The band didn’t hit its stride until Some Great Reward though. That’s when Depeche Mode struck upon a songwriting formula that could alternate from the sexual (“Master and Servant”) to the socio-political (“People are People,” “Blasphemy”) to the romantic (“Somebody”) without sacrificing melody. At this point, the group became the synth-pop version of U2. The lyrics could get cheesy at times – “People are People” is so stupid, but Martin Gore’s hook is so huge – but occasionally the group came up with a cool idea. “Blasphemous Rumors” is a massively nihilistic number with a hooky chorus, for example. Black Celebration upped the ante on both the gothic melodrama and the political screeds: “New Dress” juxtaposes real world problems with the Western world’s obsession with celebrity. As celebrities become less and less known for actually doing things, “New Dress” becomes more and more prescient. Oh yeah, and Black Celebration has “A Question of Time.” That song rules.
Part of me is sad that Depeche Mode dropped the political stances near the end of the ’80s, but then again, their two best albums, Music For the Masses and Violator, were their least political. Just a bunch of sexy, dirty songs like “Never Let Me Down Again,” “Strangelove,” and “Enjoy the Silence.”
After 1990’s Violator, Depeche Mode probably should have broken up. Songs of Faith and Devotion attempted to move towards live rock instrumentation as a means of dealing with grunge, but it was just embarrassing, and things went poorly from then on until 2009’s Sounds of the Universe. That record is a late period comeback that happens to sound exactly like Depeche Mode’s ’80s heyday. While it’s a little too long (I’d cut Martin Gore’s “Jezebel” for one; Gore wrote some great songs about sex, but this one just drags)s, it’s still great to hear David Gahan’s deep voice bellow over electronic beats again.