Sweet irony! All I was doing was buying tickets for The Incredibles for me, my daughter, and my son, when all-a-sudden a teenage-type girl in front of me drops her change. Instinctively I sensed the opportunity, along with the shame-driven compulsion to finally act my age.
Needless to say, that compuslsion failed. Call it, perhaps, information gathering. But I had to look, if nothing else, for posterity, right? Or maybe just for the posterior...
So this young gal, dressed in a belly-shirt and lowriders, perhaps unaware of her self-advertising, does what anyone would do and bends at the waist to collect it. Maybe I have an unhealthy curiousity regarding the undergarments of the still-youthful, but I had to peek. You know, I've seen young guys' undershorts hanging out of their ridiculous versions of jeans for years, I had to see what the chicks were up to. Thong? Panty? Some new hybrid?
How about NOTHING? I'm still not sure if what I saw officially constitutes a quarter moon waxing or a half waning gibbous, but let's just say there was clearly nothing between my eyes and celestial glory at that moment. I was tempted to high-five my son and yell out 'AWESOME! Normally you have to pay a cover charge and at least a few singles to see that!" But he's only six.
Ah well, the sophmoric enthusiasm quickly gave way to the chagrined realization that teenage girls could be - what's the phrase, not swingin' in the breeze, not goin' commando, hell I don't even know what the female variant is - airing it out? But for some reason, while watching The Incredibles, it just started bothering me. I couldn't figure it out. Maybe, like Mr. Incredible without the super-powers, I'm just getting old.
But how did it happen? Wasn't I formerly young and very cool once? Well not really, but young and passably cool? Yes, I played the drums for a travellin' band whose sole, tragically hip aspiration was to record for legendary indy great Twin Tone Records. That had to count for something. Certainly not super-hero caliber, but The Uninvited at least made a little noise. Yes, we had loved music for its own sake, and loved playing the shows to entertain our peers. But we left no legacy and wandered away from music for reasons I couldn't quite recall. As I often do, I perused my collection for answers.
And there it was, plain as day. A distinct litany of albums, as we old folk call them, and a clear demarcation point. I began reading liner notes, as pissed as I am for how small they've become on CD sleeves. I noted a trend. I have a large collection from before 1992, and not much after. That was around when I quit playing as well. What happened? I then noticed, amongst the disks from that time, Nirvana's Nevermind. And then it hit me: Nirvana killed music for me.
One thing I hate worse than surveying an ass which quite literally reflects my own moral character is Nirvana. They, more than anybody, reflect the ugliness of getting older for those in my age-group, because they made it profitable to be 'Gen-X'. 'Boxed and Bought', one of our better songs, was about that very subject, but we had no idea how true it flew until we saw grunge fashions on the racks at K-mart. Indy rock itself had been boxed and bought.
Perhaps there's little excuse for a 38-year-old never-was catching sight of fine tail in a theatre line, but there's even less for one who stood for what I once did, yet couldn't manage to pass anything on to the next generation. Yes, to be certain, I owe this young generation of ass-barers more than routine under-garment surveillence. So I consulted the CD collection that is my muse one more time, and came up with some classic indies that every young boy or girl should have:
Blake Babies - Sunburn
Way before female singers were all that cool, Juliana Hatfield was throwing down with her college band. This record is top-to-bottom gold. Everyone should own it. From 'I'm Not Your Mother' to 'Sanctify', she is lyrically and vocally on fire as she takes us on the female version of the hell-ride that is coming-of-age.
Soul Asylum - And The Horse They Rode In On
If there was a holy trinity of indy rock, it was born in the Nazareth of the Twin Cities, and The Replacements, Husker Du, and Soul Asylum were it. SA was the last, and the only to go nationwide (Grave Dancers Union), but before that, they released one last great one. From the title to the last song, it is less of an angsty Gen-x whine, more of a punch to the chops.
fIREHOSE - Flyin' The Flannel
Mike Watt and co. wore flannel well before Seattle burned out its coolness, but fIREHOSE disbanded shortly after. It is a shame, because their songwriting and stage presence are inimitable. Live or in the studio, you rarely saw better bass played in those days, and you rarely saw better drums.
The Pixies - Doolittle
Black Francis is a presence in and of himself. Pair him with Kim Deal, later a Breeder, and you have 'Gouge Away', 'Debaser', 'Monkey Gone to Heaven', and on and on. They didn't just create a disk with a single or two, they created a piece of art.
The Silos - Cuba
You probably never heard of the Silos if you didn't see some totally obscure indy movie about the music scene in Austin, TX back in '89. You can't get that movie on Amazon, but you can still get Cuba. Start to finish, it is great roots rock more than anything. 'She Lives Up The Street' may be the greatest ode to unrequited love for the girl-next-door that has ever been written, 'Tennesee Fire' one of the best road songs.
Dinosaur Jr. - Green Mind
J. Mascis, perhaps due to ego-mania, perhaps because his mates wouldnt' work with him anymore, played all the instruments on this. The result, instead of being pathetic, ended up being their best album, a continuous weave of style perhaps unheard since Dark Side of the Moon.
Poster Children - Flower Plower
A post-punk masterpiece that somehow is more punk than its antecedents. I'll sum it up with a lyric: We are the evidense here. This is the light at the end of the tunnel. They are as old as me nowadays, but you youngin's will get your butts kicked flat-out if you go to see them live.
Cave Dogs - Joy Rides for Shut-Ins
Sadly, this record appears to no longer be in print, and that is a loss. This trio, with three-part harmonies, great melody and rhythms, perhaps represents indy-pop vis-a-vis the turn of the nineties better than any. If you can find it anywhere, you've found a classic.
Dada - Puzzle
Most probably remember 'Dizz Knee Land', but perhaps not so many heard the whole album. It is a well-produced treat, with two-part harmonies, great instrumentation, and lyrics that will tug on your existential sensibilities. Existence is a puzzle, after all.
Meat Puppets - Forbidden Places
Speedy metal and country make strange bedfellows, but somehow the Puppets vacillate between the two nicely. A trio with autonomous approach, they did their own cover art and production, but is their musicianship that stands out. The fact that Curt Kirkwood picked with a quarter is hard to believe when you hear his licks.
Well, if you happen to see me sizing up your ass in some public place, and think, 'what a pervert!', don't say I didn't give you anything in return. I'm just trying to pass a little torch here. Hell, I don't care how you dress, as long as you don't care if I look. Just do me one favor, listen to these disks if you haven't already.
A long time ago, 30 years almost to the day, my big brother destroyed my 'Bay City Rollers' record, and said "You need to listen to this." He gave me some record with a blimp on the cover, and some pasty dudes wearing bomber jackets. I put it on, and I can honestly say "The Brown Bomber" changed my life. The first five notes of 'Whole Lotta Love', I was destined to be a rocker. (And probably a bum-looker as well, come to think of it!)
Maybe it's you, maybe it's Dan. Things aren't quite the way they should be. And now it seems Dan's peace of mind has come up for the bidding, and those that he respects and trusts must all have been just kidding. Dan's little world has lost control, but still it keeps on spinnin'...
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12.20.04 @ 4:37p
I think this is a really good list - funny, though, I don't have 90% of it!
12.27.04 @ 5:09p
Which 10% do you have? ;-)
12.27.04 @ 7:03p
You're a dirty old man, with good taste in music.
I'm surprised Husker Du and the Replacements didn't go nationwide. Usually if I've heard of a group everyone on the planet has already heard of them.
12.28.04 @ 11:46a
Me too, on both. Trace and Matt know more about this than I do, but I think it was a distribution thing. The majors wouldn't push a record nationally without which a band could draw on a large-venue tour and such, or had some singles with huge airplay. And the indies, which were kind of regionalized, just didn't have the muscle. CD's weren't cheap to produce back then, and people were still buying records, so you had to ship both. So great bands like the Replacements and Husker, while being very well known, were all college radio and local scnene word-of-mouth.
We're talking '80-'86 that Husker and the Replacements were putting out their best stuff. But the gold-rush - where majors were gobbling up indy bands or indy artists directly - didn't start until very late in the 80's or even early 90's, so something like RHCP's Blood-Sugar-Sex-Magik or SA's Grave Dancer's Union got national promotion but many other great records are practical figments of the 80's underground imagination.
12.28.04 @ 1:39p
Dan, I'll give you halfway on the Minneapolis trio. The Mats got *some* national exposure: they appeared on SNL in '85, and (after much cajoling by Sire Records) had a video for "Bastards of Young" that popped up on MTV a few times.
(Of course, MTV in 1985 did not want a video that showed a speaker playing a song for 3 minutes. It didn't get much rotation until the early 90s, when irony was cool, MTV started doing "Top 100" lists, and everyone except Nirvana claimed them as an influence.)
12.28.04 @ 3:18p
I had a girl at the airport over X-mas break give me an accidental mooning when she went to pick up something she dropped. I got a look at about 1/3 of her ass from the top down. I laughed and pointed it out to as many of those around me who may have missed it before I split. (Get it, "split?")
As far as who one should be checking out musically, I decline to comment. I am trying to stop declaring who I think is and is not worthy because, just like debating who should be president, the concern is wholly individual. (On the same page, I'm going to try to refrain from now on objecting so vigorously to stuff I think people shouldn't listen to, as I am want to do. On that note, I have decided that the latest Franz Ferdinand album isn't so bad -- an album I formerly dissed MJ for listening to. It's still not my favorite, but I can admit it has a certain level of catchiness).
12.28.04 @ 4:36p
As far as who one should be checking out musically, I decline to comment
You should let it fly, man, because your unique perspective is worthwhile, (like in the Pixies discussion.) And you're right, it is all personal, but that's exactly why music (like politics) shouldn't really be taken too personally, although most of us, myself included, seem to at certain times.
For example, I'm not really trying to tell people what they should listen to, I was just trying to come up with a list of what I thought, in my own limited experience, were some good start-to-finish albums from that era. Lately, I find fewer and fewer where I'm interested in more than 3 songs.
Perhaps ironically, at least 3 records in this column were recommended to me by other people. You could probably list a half-dozen that I've never really listened to but probably should.