Missed The Bus
Occasionally, I run across a band that I have never heard of but who has been putting out material for years and years. When this happens, I try to get friends interested in this band, and they laugh at me.
"You dumbass, you've never heard of xxxxxxx before?!? They've been playing their music on the radio for months now!"
In my defense, I don't listen to the radio. I'm not "too good" for mainstream radio, I just don't have access to it. When at home, I listen to Last.fm Soma.fm, Pandora and a few other streaming stations. This is how I usually find my new music. I also take suggestions of artists to check out from friends and websites like this one. When I am out in my Jeep, I listen to my iPod. The antennae on my vehicle is unhooked, so I only get the CD player and empty stations (great for the iPod transmitter). While at work, I listen to my iPod or switch on KUVO or KVOD (Jazz and Classical, respectively). NPR and the BBC at night occasionally sneaks into my cycle, but I tend to stick to my 80gig MP3 player for music.
I am not a musical purist, as some of my friends have claimed. I'm not out to find the most obscure band to listen to, and I'm not big on ridiculing the music of others (unless they intentionally spell their name incorrectly, like Staind, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Muddle of Pudd and all the rest of that nü-mëtäl bullshit.) I simply don't have the patience to wait for 5 - 6 shitty songs to end before a good one comes on. I don't like DJs yapping about Anna Nicole Smith, and I HATE any program with the words "Morning" or "Zoo" in the title. 4 hours of yammering fucktards is not pleasant after driving through the night and dealing with morning rush hour. J'accuse, Danny Bonaduce!
What I'm trying to get at is this: For all my musical knowledge and prowess, I tend to overlook some VERY common bands who release albums that are quite good. Color me jaded, but I've gotten to the point in my life where alt-rock and radio-friendly pop just doesn't do it for me anymore. I'm sorry, Seether. I'm sure your new disc really kicks ass. But every time I hear your name, I just think of Veruca Salt, and I start to gag. Same goes for you, Blink182/+44/Sum 41. Your stuff runs together to the point where I don't know when one song is ending, and a new one beginning. Besides, I was told there would be no math, and all those numbers and equations sound suspiciously like addition. Fuck that. I didn't turn on the radio-box to get no sneakified book-learnin'.
So here's a quick rundown of some of the great music I have almost missed out on over the years:
The Flaming Lips: I first saw them on old-school MTV (when the M part was still applicable), and I believe Beavis & Butthead even made fun of them in an episode. They sang a song about Tangerines and Vaseline and the lead singer was too falsetto for my current hard-rawk phase. So I didn't give them any further thought until my sister came over one day with a copy of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." I had been hearing snippets about how good this album was, but my impression of The Flaming Lips had already been carved out my my earlier run-in. After listening to the album, and then hearing "At War With the Mystics" the next day, I immediately changed my mind about them. They put out some of the coolest stuff I have ever heard, and I understand that their live shows are absolutely incredible. Like a giant birthday party with furries instead of pony rides. Of course, the college crowd has been hip to them for years, so getting tickets to see them is nearly impossible. But at least I found their albums.
We Are Scientists: Yeah, it's pop-punk, and yeah, it's a bit less hardcore than what I am into, but screw it. The music is catchy as hell, and I play the "With Love & Squalor" album quite a bit while driving, because my off-key singing helps to keep me awake. They haven't been around nearly as long as The Flaming Lips have, so at least I caught them early on. I'm not sure if I would pay to see them live, but as far as great recorded tunes go, this disc is full of them.
Buscemi: The album "Camino Real" is probably the best electronica disc I have heard in years. This is another act who has been around for over a decade and somehow slipped past me. Michael Franti pops up on a track, and the song Voodoo Voyage is something that I could listen to on repeat for hours on end. It's melodic, yet powerful house music that doesn't sound like house music. There's no feeling of the disc being an extended track with a few minor changes here and there. It's percussion-heavy, and there are some great Latin elements to it. Buscemi has released at least 4 other albums as well, and they have all proven to be useful for parties and evenings chilling out at home.
Explosions in the Sky and Porcupine Tree: I don't know how the hell I missed these two. No, actually I do. I'm not usually a fan of epic progressive-rock songs (not big on Rush, Tool, King Crimson or Dream Theater) , but EitS and Porcupine Tree are exceptions. I can't listen to it all the time, I have to be in a specific mood to listen to them, but it's killer rainy-day music or something nice to jam to during a long road-trip. EitS got a lot of play when I was making my way across Texas for a few days, and it helped to pass the time, especially since all their songs are close to 10 minutes long.
Mike Doughty: I honestly don't understand how I missed this one. I was a HUGE fan of Soul Coughing and owned all their albums. I was kinda bummed when the group broke up, but I never followed what Mike was doing afterwards. That's a damn shame too, because he's a great songwriter, and probably one of the only people I know who could pull off playing a concert with either a full backing band, or alone with an acoustic guitar. His voice is raspy and instantly recognizable, as well as the nonsense lyrics he spouts from time to time. As with The Flaming Lips, if I had paid attention to the college crowd, I might have caught him a bit earlier.
Morphine: I found "A Cure For Pain" a few months before Mark Sandman died on stage, and I had to get into their stuff posthumously. That really sucked, finding such great and unique music and knowing that this was it. No waiting for new albums, just the bootlegs and studio releases that were already circulating. What a great combination though. Drums, bass and saxophone. Who could possible do a good job of duplicating that?
VAST: I head a few tracks on the radio back in the day, but I passed them off as the typical radio fluff that comes and goes monthly (remember "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheetus? Didn't think so...), and so I just kinda passed over all their stuff. Turns out that VAST is actually a really great band that consistently releases great music. Go figure! I think I enjoy it because it's rock mixed with a bit of downtempo music and has lyrics that aren't rapped, screamed or spoken. Jon Crosby has a great singing voice, and once again, I find myself liking progressive-rock. Fortunately, he's still working on material, so I can anticipate forthcoming albums and not just stick to digging around for B-Sides and remixes.