[myPod is a biweekly attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
In retrospect, Tom Gabel’s 2009 solo EP Heart Burns was an indicator that maybe the Against Me! frontman was maybe losing his judgment of what did and did not sound good in the studio. I’m not even talking about the tunes; all seven tracks on Burns are great in terms of composition. But the first two songs, “Random Hearts” and “Conceptual Paths,” suffer from clunky ’80s-esque production, drum machine and all. Having heard a live bootleg from when Gabel was road-testing the songs, I can say for sure they would have sounded better stripped down. The later tracks on the EP, like “Amputations,” further confirms this. After the first two songs, Burns really takes off as a great Billy Bragg/Bruce Springsteen-indebted politi-punk work.
Like Talking Heads and Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel occupies a pleasing niche of funky, world music for me without overindulging. The guy wrote some amazing singles after he left Genesis, and for a long time the two-disc best-of Hit was all I needed. You get massive singles like “In Your Eyes,” “Solsbury Hill,” and “Sledgehammer,” plus lesser known tunes like “Signal to Noise” and “Father, Son.” Less pleasing is Scratch My Back, the only other Gabriel release I’ve purchased. An orchestral covers record, it manages one amazing interpretation (Elbow’s “Mirrorball”), but otherwise it’s tedious. Gabriel decided not to use guitars or drums for the album, and some of those tunes are just begging for percussion.
Verdict: Keep Hit, sell Scratch My Back.
Garbage had a sort of jack-of-all-trades quality. They were kind of alternative, kind of industrial, kind of goth, and while that lack of distinction means I’ve never loved them as much as, say, The Cure or Nine Inch Nails, I still harbor a love for all four of their studio albums. For a long time, my favorite release was the group’s self-titled debut. It’s got some of their biggest hits (“I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl”), and on top of that it’s just such a slinky, sexy affair. Version 2.0 is a little derivative in the lyrics department, but the hooks are still huge. I realized recently that I actually like beautifulgarbage quite a lot, and it might secretly be my favorite Garbage album. It had a wider swath of influences, jumping from Prince to surf rock to electronica from one track to the next while maintaining a surprising amount of cohesion. That record has no duds. I was a huge fan of reunion/swan song Bleed Like Me when it dropped in 2005, but that enthusiasm has gradually dissipated. Still, it’s their most overtly rocking record, with a nice amount of low end and lyrics about sexy sex to propel it. It’s a little heavy on the ballads, but it’s still solid. I never bothered picking up Garbage’s singles, but “Why Do You Love Me” comes with a cover of The Ramones’ “I Just Wanna Have Something to Do,” so…
Garden State soundtrack
While the film that spawned it is debatable, the Garden State soundtrack boasts some choice tunes from The Shins, Nick Drake, and Frou Frou. It’s yet another compilation that introduced me to a couple of artists that I’ve chosen to hold on to.
The Gaslight Anthem
I’ve got a love/hate relationship with The Gaslight Anthem. They’re such a solid American punk band with a classic rock fixation, but my problem is that they pilfer so many moves from other acts. Just as I chide Lady Gaga fans for acting like Madonna never existed, I can’t fully respect TGA for lifting lyrics and styles from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Counting Crows. The more I explored the band’s catalogue, the less interested I got, so much so that I didn’t even bother with American Slang. And yet, I find that I cannot part with Señor and The Queen, the stunning concept EP about lovers from yesteryear.
EMBRACE THE FACE. These Florida punkers write super catchy, fun No Idea-style punk rock for shits/giggles.
The Get Up Kids
I got into The Get Up Kids a little later than everyone else. They didn’t really come on my radar until Guilt Show, arguably their weakest album, and by that point in my life I was drifting away from pop-punk. My cousin Mike was a huge fan though, so I went with him to see their farewell tour in 2005. Oddly enough, that show made a fan out of me, and I gobbled up the group’s pop-punk/emo/Superchunky first two records, as well as the more acoustic/indie-leaning On a Wire. After Mike and I had a falling out, however, which made it a lot harder to listen to his favorite band.
Then, after he died in 2010, I couldn’t stop listening. Almost every line from every song reminds me of Mike, even the ones that are so clearly written about girls and what-not. “We’re loyal / Like brothers,” “When he lied about intentions / I should have done something,” etc. 2011 saw a new Get Up Kids album, There Are Rules, which I absolutely love for its drone and ambience. It’s a big departure from the band’s amped up angst, but just as great. That said, part of me always comes back Four Minute Mile and Something to Write Home About. Four Minute Mile sounds like ass in terms of production, but the songs take me back to another time.
Ghost of the Russian Empire
Spacey, psychedelic rock band from Texas. When I first became a staff writer for Punknews.org, their album The Mammoth was the only good record out of a box of maybe 50-70 promos. While I named the album one of my top picks of 2008, I haven’t listen to it since then. I still enjoy the record, but knowing that I went three years without once thinking to put this album on has me rethinking its place on my shelf.
Man, remember when Buddyhead’s cyberbullying passed for music criticism? While the Web site doesn’t hold much weight with me, their Gimme Skelter compilation does. Hosted by Iggy Pop, who shows up every few tracks to rip off a quick tune, the comp sounds eerily contemporary, even if it is split between ’90s alt-rock acts (Mudhoney, Weezer) and early ’00s garage rock bands that fell apart (Your Enemies Friends, The Icarus Line). Still, it holds up.