It’s pretty weird to wake up one day and realize how old you are. For most of my life, and especially most of my life as a dude in a band, I was always kind of one of the babies. When my first band started touring, we were all between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. By the time I was in the band I’m in now, I was in my early twenties, but I was still very young for a guy who had been touring for a really long time. However, one day shit spun all out of control and suddenly I wound up in my mid thirties and I’m totally old. I really didn’t see it coming, but here it is. My friends are old, I’m old and (and this is the really weird part to me) the music that I like, or grew up with, is now old.
I mean, that’s crazy to me. music is obviously an important part of my life and it’s totally mindbending to realize that musicians that I think of as somewhat contemporary are (in music generations) generations removed from what’s happening now. I don’t think of the Queers (for example) as an old timey band, but their great album is fifteen or so years old. I don’t think of myself as having been in old bands, but fuck…I was touring when lots of the people that come see my band play were literally not even in kindergarten.
With that in mind, I’m gonna walk you people through a few records I grew up with, some records that I spun relentlessly. See, rock and roll is constantly evolving and the results are that lots of shit that was once seen as awesome or cutting edge ends up lame or forgotten or totally misunderstood. There are also bands (like the Misfits, for example) that are so fucking out there and ahead of their time that their records are every bit as mind blowing today as they were when they came out. This is sort of a very brief compendium of the music I listened to. Some of it’s super lame now, some of it’s awesome. It’s a chance to maybe check out something you missed, because lord knows that I didn’t have any guide to the old timey punk rock back when I was discovering stuff, and as a result, I can’t (for example) name a single song by the Germs (well, there’s that one about the panther…what’s that called? Who cares. It sucks. Sorry. True.). SO, check it out. Or don’t. Fuck. What do I care?
Bad Religion- No Control: This is the record that totally changed my life. It’s smart and bad ass and it just rips your face off for about 21 minutes and then it’s done. The song No Control is not even 2 minutes long and it’s as close to a perfect melodic punk song as you’ll ever find anywhere. It blows my mind that this record is considered to be ‘too old’ for some of the new BR fans. This is THE defining record of my life as a punk rocker and it’s something I still listen to.
Fifteen-Buzz This band has some shit that’s good, some stuff that’s pretty forgettable, whole albums that are embarrassingly terrible and a couple of songs, here and there, that are pretty much the greatest songs ever. This record, Buzz, is the best of the bunch by far. It’s dark and out of tune and it’s so packed with visceral emotion that the fact that no one can play or sing in time or in tune actually adds to the whole experience. This was the other record that changed my life. If bad religion taught me that music could be aggressive and smart and exist completely outside the mainstream and still be slick and polished and every bit as cool as whatever you’d see on MTV, Fifteen taught me that you don’t even need to be slick. There’s beauty in the ugliness of trying. I understand when people say that they think fifteen sucks, but those people generally haven’t sat down with Buzz, one of the best, best, best records in the Genre. Also a record I still listen to, and a crucial record in understanding where a whole generation of sloppy gruff bands got their ideas. Also, check out the songs Petroleum Distillation and End of the Summer from the Choice Of A New Generation album. Great shit.
The Queers- Love Songs For the Retarded- The queers are like a pop punk version of McDonalds. They crank out records like almost no other band. The songs are usually okay, and the lyrics are stupid and the whole thing reeks of really, truly not giving a shit. They have a record called “Beat Off” for fucks sake. Now, most shit by the queers, while decent, isn’t really worth revisiting. If you’ve heard one Queers record, you’ve kind of heard them all: decent pop punk that’s real catchy and typically just okay, not great, not terrible. There are, however two exceptions. Don’t Back Down is a really solid and enjoyable record and Love Songs For the Retarded is a straight up idiot masterpiece. It’s a kind of concept record where Joe Queer walks us through his life where his parents hate him, he’s a gleefully unemployed waste of space that has no interest in pulling it together at all, and instead wants to fart and get drunk and mock hippies. This is all set to 1950’s beach boys type melodies. The lyrics are completely retarded and reading them is like flipping through a mongo teenager’s trapper keeper, but man…it’s brilliant. It’s a real unique and bizarre concepty record that is too dumb to be as smart as it is.
Goo Goo Dolls Hold me Up- I’m dead serious when I say that this is the record that the Lawrence Arms entire program is based on. Listen to it and you’ll see. The bassist sings faster, raspier more aggressive songs and the guitar player sings the more melancholy or thoughtful jammers with a clean voice that dampens panties up to 2 miles away. I actually sing the way I do based on just trying to imitate the bass player dude’s voice when I was younger. Yes, they’ve gone on to be this toxic avenger version of Bon Jovi that makes the soundtrack to middle aged moms masturbating by candlelight in their jaccuzzis, but man…this record killed me when it came out. Great prince cover too, and I tend to hate shit like that.
Jawbreaker Unfun- I was 12 and standing in Reckless Records looking for some new music when I first heard this record. The clerk was playing it over the system there and she told me that they’d be coming through and playing in the store 2 days later. That was my first concert. I was twelve, and one of 6 people watching this band playing in a record store. The show, I don’t remember if it was actually good or if I was just so psyched to see something so cool happening (I was pretty small and going to a concert was about as kick ass as things had gotten up to that point [I wouldn’t touch breasts for another year]) but the record that they were touring on, Unfun, became a staple of mine and my friends. We eventually got all the Jawbreaker records and watched them get huge and went to almost all of their Chicago shows. The thing is, however, I never loved Jawbreaker as much as everyone out there always assumed I did, and this made me a little bit resentful of the band, which is highly illogical, but what are you gonna do? While we were starting out, we were getting written up as a bad, third tier Jawbreaker clone band. The thing is, we were, if you’ll look above, just ripping off the Goo Goo Dolls and trying to do something a little bit more reckless than Jawbreaker, who can be kind of stuffy and foppish at times. I’ve read some interviews with Blake of Jawbreaker where he says some stuff that really bums me out (I’m not gonna get into it here, but it seems like we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things) and the ultimate results of all this are that I’m always really hesitant to throw too much praise this bands direction. The fact is, though, that I was pretty fucking obsessed with Unfun and had more than a passing fascination with all the subsequent albums. 24 hour revenge therapy hasn’t aged particularly well to me. I kind of think it’s overwrought, self important and stuck in the 90’s but at the time I thought it was absolutely fucking brilliant. Unfun, however, was always just a rocking good time, beginning to end and it’s still good, even if you can’t understand a single fucking lyric besides “I want you” .
Okay, that’s enough for now. I gotta get my shit together. Happy trails!