Thursday, October 6, 2011

myPod: Fr-Fu

[myPod is a biweekly attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]

Franz Ferdinand

I only like one Franz Ferdinand album, but it’s not the one you’re thinking of. I hated the group’s breakthrough eponymous debut; the tunes were so repetitive that they sounded like 30-second jingles stretched out to three minutes. Two years after its release, I’m kind of burned out on the dance-punk of Tonight. You Could Have It So Much Better, however, remains a must-have in my collection. It’s their most muscular record, owing a great debt to The Kinks’ for its sarcasm and brawn.

Verdict: Sell some, keep some.

Freaks and Geeks Original Soundtrack and Score

Maybe I just came of age at the right time, but Freaks and Geeks, the My So-Called Life of my generation, meant a lot to me. I was the same age as Sam Weir when it aired, and I identified with every young character on the show on some level. As soon as the soundtrack dropped, I bought it. While I was already into some of the bands (The Who, Joe Jackson), it also forced me to reconsider artists like Joan Jett and Rush. As a fan, I obviously have a strong emotional attachment to Styx’s “Come Sail Away” thanks to the pilot episode, but my favorite track is probably a sloppy/silly performance of “Jesus is Just Alright With Me” between Nick (Jason Segel) and Millie (Sarah Hagan). It’s really, really cute.

Verdict: Keep.

Lars Frederiksen & The Bastards

Believe it or not, The Bastards are what got me into Rancid. My friend Tim gave me two records for consideration in high school: Rancid (2000) and the self-titled Bastards LP. I wasn’t keen on Rancid (I’ve come around since, but I still prefer the Clash-leaning ’90s records to 2000’s hardcore reboot), but that Bastards record really turned my head and, along with Strike Anywhere, got me to shift away from pop-punk and explore the more discordant side of punk. Bastards has all the hits: “Dead American,” “Campbell, CA,” “Army of Zombies,” “Vietnam”… I could go on. The first album is genius. Viking, on the other hand, not so much. There’s always been a certain amount of fronting in the Rancid comp, but Viking tries too hard to sound tough. It can’t be a coincidence that the album came out not long after rumors started that Frederiksen was gay. Just saying. Anyway, my college roommate Eric and I had a blast making cracks about tunes like “Switchblade.” We both love Bastards unironically, though.



Someone sent me a reissue of Fridge’s EPH for free. I think it was No Idea. It’s somewhat experimental post-rock, it’s not bad, and I could see somebody doing a great job rapping over it, but I haven’t listened to this album since I got it and I don’t remember any of the tunes. That’s not a good sign.

Verdict: Sell.


Ian MacKaye has been an idol of mine nearly a decade now. It started with Minor Threat – so primal, so straight edge – but once I heard Fugazi’s 13 Songs, I knew which one of MacKaye’s bands was my favorite. To this day, the first three Fugazi records remain my top three, in order of release. 13 Songs, which is technically an EP collection but whatever, took hardcore, indie rock, and reggae and turned it into what we now call post-hardcore. Whatever you call it, it’s essentially discordant music with rhythm, and that’s exactly what’s missing from most punk bands outside of The Clash. 13 Songs the best Fugazi gateway, if for no other reason than it opens with “Waiting Room.” The tune slinks and snarls. Repeater, released a year later, sounds like a victory lap.

It was with Steady Diet of Nothing that Fugazi started to transform. Diet still has a foot planted in the Songs/Repeater mold, but it’s also slower and more discordant. “Reclamation” has always been my favorite track. It’s a punk mission statement (“These are our demands: We want control of our bodies”) about defining one’s own morality. MacKaye always pushed people to think for themselves, and “Reclamation” is the most direct expression of that sentiment since Minor Threat’s “Straight Edge.”

From there, things get weird. I love Red Medicine, which is uglier, and End Hits, which is more indie, but compared to those first three albums, they don’t get as much play. Same goes for The Argument. It’s the last Fugazi album, and it would sound like a different band altogether if End Hits didn’t serve as a bridge. Argument is a lot quieter and slower, content to explore ambience and rhythm over loudness. It’s undeniably good, though, as is the accompanying EP Furniture + 2. Instrument, an oddities collection meant to supplement a documentary on the band, is the least essential, but it’s still ’gazi. The group wrote of the best tunes of the ’80s and ’90s, self-released them, and then toured the world on their own, well before acts like Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins started doing the same thing on the Internet.

Verdict: Keep.

The Fugees

That’s right; I listen to rippity rappin’ music. The Score is a fine record, one I have celebrated time and again. I’m not going to act like I know squat about diddily here, but The Score is a chill rap record with some big hooks and a massive pop cultural index ranging from martial arts movies to Marvel comics to countless TV shows. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think Lauryn Hill so clearly defines this group, even though at the time folks heaped praise on leader Wyclef Jean.

Verdict: Keep.

Further Seems Forever

I’m always going to be a little emo, but just like with Dashboard Confessional, I think I’ve outgrown Chris Carrabba’s other band. Too many slow tunes; not enough pep.

Verdict: Sell.

Future Soundtrack for America

Long ago, in the year 2004, I really, really hated President George W. Bush. That hate has always kind of stayed with me, but 2004 meant a lot to me, given that it was the first election I could vote on. My vote didn’t get much done, but I still show up at St. Helena’s every time, hoping to balance out all the wealthy, white Republicans. Anyway, in 2004, there were two compilations released that I hoped would help motivate lazy young people to “rock” the “vote.” One was the two-part series Rock Against Bush; the other was Barsuk Records’ Future Soundtrack for America. It didn’t work, but at least I got some quality tunes courtesy of Jimmy Eat World, Nada Surf, Death Cab for Cutie, and Sleater-Kinney (They actually double-dipped on the comp-only “Off With Your Head” for Future and Rock Against Bush). While roughly half of the comp is of the dull indie/folk variety, there are enough original contributions that I feel compelled to hold on to this disc. That, and my hate.

Verdict: Keep.

NEXT TIME: G is for... good hardcore, girl-fronted alt-rock bands, and glorious side projects.

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