Sunday, November 6, 2011
Our Band Could Be Your Life: The Soundtrack
Today we celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Michael Azerrad's excellent tome, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. As you can see from that handy link, I'm a little late to the party: apparently there was an actual party in NYC celebrating the book's birthday. Not knowing about this event, I decided to reread Our Band a few weeks ago. I flipped to the copyright date page, and realized it had been nearly a decade since I first read it (I'm pretty sure I read it in '02 or '03). As I made my way through, I thought I needed to do some sort of tribute to the book here at Burn and Shine.
I decided to make a companion compilation. The NPR article I posted above mentions that the book "was all about these obscure rock bands from 30 years ago". Having lived through this period, I don't really think of any of those bands as "obscure". I don't claim to have been riding this wave from the beginning, but I remember Black Flag playing Chattanooga, even if I was too lame to have gone. Then it hit me: 30 cussing years! When I was just getting into these bands in the mid/late 80's, I knew very little about the popular music of the 50's let alone, the stuff that was bubbling under the mainstream. So there is a generation of potential rock geeks out there who may not have ever heard any of these bands. Well I've got you covered!
I'm pretty sure all of the artists featured in the book have appeared on previous Burn and Shine compilations (one of these days I'm going to catalog all the songs/artists I've used in this here blog, but till then, I'll just have to rely on my increasingly unreliable memory). So instead of talking about the tracks I've selected, let me give you a list for further investigation for each band featured in the book.
Black Flag (Los Angeles): Kind of tricky, there is not one definitive album to recommend as the Flag had several lead singers and went through some distinct artistic phases. Start with the fabulous Pre-Henry Rollins compilation The First Four Years. Then of course you need Damaged, and finally My War.
Minutemen (San Pedro): Double Nickels on the Dime (1984), but if you like this, you're going to want everything.
Mission of Burma (Boston): Signals, Calls and Marches EP (1981). Both the Ryko and Matador versions of this add the totally essential "Academy Fight Song" single, for that reason it gets the slight nod over 1982's, Vs, the only studio long player released during their initial lifespan of 1980-83 (MoB have since regrouped and put out a handful of good to great albums).
Minor Threat (Washington D.C.): Finally an easy one! All you need (and all they recorded) is nicely compiled on Complete Discography.
Hüsker Dü (Minneapolis): Okay, I'll go with 1984's Zen Arcade, but really you cannot go wrong with pre-Warner's Dü (and I stand by their major label albums too).
The Replacements (Minneapolis): Sticking with the 1984 theme, start with Let It Be. Though few bands have recorded three back-to-back albums as brilliant as Let it Be, Tim and Pleased to Meet Me (the latter two on a *shudders* major label).
Sonic Youth (New York): The longest continually running band featured in the book, Sonic Youth also has the most daunting discography. Start with Daydream Nation (1988). Then if you like the noisy parts go backwards to their indie releases, or if you like the more pop-like tracks go forward toward their Geffen output.
Butthole Surfers (San Antonio): My personal fave is Rebrandt Pussyhorse (1986).
Big Black (Chicago): Another easy one, The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape (1987) as it compiles all of the essential Big Black Recordings on one handy disc.
Dinosaur Jr. (Boston): My favorite album is You're Living All Over Me (1987), but a great starting point would be Ear Bleeding Country: The Best of Dinosaur Jr., released by Rhino in 2001 shortly before the reunion shows and subsequent albums. I rarely suggest starting with a best-of compilation, but this one compiles songs from their indie releases and the cream of their major label output as well as some important non-album singles.
Fugazi (Washington D.C.): 13 Songs (1990) was my introduction to the mighty Fugazi, and it's still my favorite. It includes their first two EPs, and for my money Fugazi was never better. Repeater and Steady Diet were pretty great too, but after that they got a little too post-rock for my taste.
Mudhoney (Seattle): My favorite of the Seatle bands. If you already know "Touch Me I'm Sick" (featured on my compilation below), then jump on over to their last album released on Sub Pop, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991)-- the perfect blend of grunge and pop.
Beat Happening (Olympia): Hmmmm . . . One of these bands is not like the others. That would be the quirky Beat Happening. I've heard plenty of people scoff at the fact that BH were included in this book. I would venture to say that no other band on this list puts a smile on my face quite like Beat Happening. Sure, Johnson's booming baritone is an acquired taste, and Heather Lewis's voice isn't always on key, but damn put them together . . . and it just knocks my socks off. If you are a fan of twee, but don't know this band, then go ahead and indulge in the Crashing Through box set (2001) which compiles just about every note recorded by Beat Happening-- you'll thank me later. If you are new to this sound, then start with the pop-perfection of Jamboree (1988). If that record doesn't do anything for you, then there is no need for further investigation.
Alright, on to today's comp. I've sequenced the comp in the same order that they appear in the book. The only band that is featured here that does not have a chapter in OBCBYL is Ian MacKaye's pre-Minor Threat band, the Teen Idles. When an artist had multiple singers, I tried to include an example of each. Some of the bands only had one singer, but I made sure and gave everyone at least two tracks as it didn't seem fair.
Our Band Could Be Your Life: The Soundtrack
01. Black Flag, “Nervous Breakdown” . (Keith Morris)
02. Black Flag, “Jealous Again” . (Chavo Pederast)
03. Black Flag, “Six Pack” . (Dez Cadena)
04. Black Flag, “Rise Above” . (Henry Rollins)
05. Minutemen, “Tension” .
06. Minutemen, “Little Man With a Gun in His Hand” .
07. Mission of Burma, “Max Ernst” . (Roger Miller)
08. Mission of Burma, “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” . (Clint Conley)
09. The Teen Idles, “Sneakers” .
10. Minor Threat, “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” .
11. Minor Threat, “Think Again” .
12. Hüsker Dü, “It’s Not Funny Anymore” . (Grant Hart)
13. Hüsker Dü, “In a Free Land” . (Bob Mould)
14. The Replacements, “Takin’ a Ride” .
15. The Replacements, “We’re Coming Out” .
16. Sonic Youth, “Kill Yr Idols” . (Thurston Moore)
17. Sonic Youth, “Brave Men Run (In My Family)” . (Kim Gordon)
18. Sonic Youth, “Eric’s Trip” . (Lee Ranaldo)
19. Butthole Surfers, “Butthole Surfer” .
20. Butthole Surfers, “Creep in the Cellar” .
21. Big Black, “Passing Complexion” .
22. Big Black, “Heartbeat” .
23. Dinosaur Jr, “Repulsion” . (J. Mascis)
24. Dinosaur Jr, “Lose” . (Lou Barlow)
25. Fugazi, “Waiting Room” . (Ian MacKaye)
26. Fugazi, “Margin Walker” . (Guy Picciotto)
27. Mudhoney, “Touch Me I’m Sick” .
28. Mudhoney, “Into the Drink” .
29. Beat Happening, “Cast a Shadow” . (Calvin Johnson)
30. Beat Happening, “In Between” . (Heather Lewis)
Total Time: 1:17:19
Download it here: Our Band Could Be Your Life: The Soundtrack