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Obscure Band Update

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I occasionally post track lists from mix tapes that I’ve made, and with a few exceptions, I generally get comments along the lines of “Oh, boy. Twenty more songs by bands I’ve never heard of.” The funny thing about this is that I really haven’t had access to any good source of obscure bands. I mean, sure, I read some music magazines, and reviews at the Onion AV Club and 75 or Less, but until I rediscovered KEXP’s webcast, I haven’t had anywhere to hear new music before buying it. (Yeah, Amazon offers song samples for most of their CD’s. The thing is, there are a lot of really bad songs out there with a brilliant thirty-second stretch in the middle. I’ve been burned by that before…)

Anyway, since I’ve got KEXP on my computer at work these days, I’m hearing a lot more new stuff, and I’ve been keeping notes on random scraps of paper. This has added a number of really obscure bands to my personal purchase list and eventually onto my credit card bill, much to Kate’s chagrin. For lack of a more inspired post topic, I’ll list a few recent purchases here, with miscellaneous comments.

  • The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft. This was actually a free “gift” for pledging money to KEXP. I have, at various times, confessed a bit of a fondness for art rock bands. I like the occasional touch of the operatic in my pop music, and The Fire Theft are certainly good for that. “It’s Over” is the song that got me to pick this one off the list of available prizes, and it sounds a lot like Marillion (or at least the one album of theirs that I picked up used because Mike Steeves kept talking them up).
  • Reconstruction Site, The Weakerthans. Speaking of art-rock bands, this disc features song titles like “Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call,” “Plea From a Cat Named Virtue,” and “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961).” Which pretty much tells you where these guys are coming from. What you can’t really get from that, though, is that the music is terrific. The songs don’t necessarily hold to a conventional sort of structure, but they know how to put together a catchy tune, and the lyrics are full of vivid little phrases that might not mean anything, but sure do sound cool. I picked up a lot of good albums recently, but this was the best of the lot, and good enough to get me to buy their previous release, Left and Leaving.
  • Worse for the Wear, The New Amsterdams. The new band formed by some of the guys from the Get Up Kids, if that means anything to you. They caught flack for doing songs that were a little too mature and “pop” for their core audience, and after striking out with a new name, this record pretty much runs with that idea. It goes very well with Reconstruction Site, actually.
  • It Still Moves, My Morning Jacket. A new contender for the “Band Name Most Likely to be Mistaken for an Album Title” prize, this is a bunch of guys from Kentucky playing a sort of dreamy Southern rock. If Dave Matthews wrote songs for the Allman Brothers Band, it might sound like this.
  • Cup of Sand, Superchunk. These guys briefly had some sort of major-label deal in the US, with one of those genius labels who yank everything after a couple of commercial flops. I bought one of their albums several years ago (the one with “Hyper Enough,” a song that’s on the list of “obscure cover tunes I would do if I knew how to play guitar and had a band”), and couldn’t find anything else for years. This is a made-in-Canada collection of “Singles, B-sides, Rarities, and Unreleased Tracks” (so it says on the cover– I’m not seeing a lot of singles in these songs). I haven’t listened to it as much as the others on this list (they’re not really Kate’s sort of thing), but the couple of listens I have given it suggest that it’s pretty good stuff. Not to all tastes, maybe, but good alternarock.
  • Time Bomb High School, The Reigning Sound. This one was recommended in comments here, and is very good indeed. Much better than most of the albums I’ve heard from the new “garage rock” craze– these guys actually have a bit of range. You get some straight-up sixties frat rock, a few country-ish songs, and the occasional Memphis soul flourish. These guys sound like the Strokes would, if they cared enough to put in a little effort.

There’s another stack of a half-dozen CD’s sitting here, but I haven’t listened to them enough to say anything sensible, so I’ll stop now.

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About Chad Orzel

  • mike

    “The Weakerthans”?!! Where’s Ted Nugent when you need him?

  • duane

    Ted is currently running through the West Virginia woods trying in a panic to scrape a crazed bobcat off his head. Yes, it’s a man’s life.