Today’s posting comes from Brian Feltch (@DTXNBA). A man passionate about hoops and music. If you want to send in your Top 5 Faves, go ahead and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
We’re on Planet Earth in the year 2011 and we’re still making lists about bands. You can change your sex, you can start your car with a cell phone, you can even find a spouse without leaving the house. But we’re still talking about bands. Doesn’t that limit us just a bit? Is it relevant to restrict our choices here to just bands — performance-based groups of two or more individuals making music — or can we broaden this a bit to include any human-based entity that creates musical content to be enjoyed by an audience? Well, that’s what I’m doing here. I would never say that bands are obsolete. I would say, however, that bands compete with (and collaborate with, and are inspired by, and enjoy listening to) other similar entities that don’t necessarily fit the term “band,” strictly defined. So, as many of us are just as likely to listen to bands as we are to “artists” (for lack of a more specific, or better-suited, term), I’m making a list of my Top 5 Favorite Musical Content-Creating Entities.
5. Galt Macdermot – I’m not writing about show-tunes here, but Hair is good, I guess, if you’re into that. Macdermot, a Canadian-born composer, never gained absolute mainstream success outside of the Broadway musical (which just finished a 10-week Broadway run, more than 40 years after it initially premiered there). And therein lies the tragedy. Macdermot’s early work (3 records between 1965-74), mostly instrumental soundtrack music, is as gorgeous, funky, and original as anything being produced at the time or since. While he has recently gained recognition from the Hip-Hop community (Madlib’s brother, Oh No, made a record using Macdermot samples exclusively), his work deserves to be enjoyed as it was originally crafted. Busta Rhymes’ flow makes any beat better, but Galt Macdermot made better beats before anyone even decided to start rapping over them.
4. The Hold Steady – There’s an initial letdown that happens when you see The Hold Steady live for the first time, especially if you don’t spend your life cruising blogs and looking up pictures of the bands you like. It goes something like this: You can’t wait to see this band. Their half-spoken and worldly lyrics about grimy individuals doing grimy things have a certain wisdom and humor to them that suggests equally worldly and grimy individuals who have seen life’s underbelly and live to sing-tell jokes about it. These guys sound worn in on their records. But then you show up and the band looks exactly like you. You see a couple pairs of nerd glasses and Chucks, a receding hairline, and a dude with an ironic mustache. Shortly thereafter, a really shallow, superficial strand of disappointment sets in. You can barely shake the feeling that these guys should be listening to your music (even if you don’t make music). Then they start playing and singer Craig Finn looks like a 12 year old girl who just got high for the first time, jumping around flailing his arms like a Ritalin-riddled lunatic. And your disappointment morphs to confusion, which slowly (almost without you noticing) turns into enthusiasm. Then time flies, and next thing you know, you’re walking out onto S. Lamar street (I wish I could say I’ve seen them at the Granada, but I haven’t), you’re covered in sweat, your vocal cords hate you, and you wish you could do it all over again.
3. Amon Tobin – There was a time when serious music fans who cut their teeth on some form of rock music would find it difficult to acknowledge sounds made by a computer as “music.” I’m from that time, and I find it difficult. But Tobin’s excellence is hard to deny. He is an astonishingly talented and creative force in electronic music. Tobin’s songs aren’t loud, club-thumping house beats, and they’re not flimsy, celestial trance jingles, either. If those club-thumpers and trance trips are to techno what dick jokes are to comedy, Tobin’s work is a combination of Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Jerry Seinfeld’s best bits: Masterfully sculpted, carefully laid out classics that leave you wondering how this artist sets himself apart from all the other crap that jams up his artistic arena.
2. DOOM – He now goes by the single, four-letter moniker (which he insists be spelled in all caps) but has some a.k.a’s: MF Doom, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Madvillain, Metal Fingers, Zev-Love X. Doom emerged from the ashes of his defunct eighties rap group KMD with an eye on taking his revenge on the music industry (record companies, concert promoters, everyone). So he releases records under a plethora of monikers, making it just a little harder to market his music (to DOOM, even the little headaches count as revenge). He rarely appears in public without wearing a metal mask and sends imposters to ruin his own shows, leaving promoters up the creek without a paddle. But there’s also his music. Lyrics that time punch lines better than Chris Rock and Louis C.K. combined (“and the lucky contestant was sent/a whole year’s supply of buckets of yucky excrement”). He crafts subtle beats that let rhymes shine through, and you might be surprised to find out how many of your favorite Ghostface Killah tracks were produced by the metal-faced rap villain. This dude does everything the way he wants to do it which makes DOOM, on Planet Earth in the year 2011, more “punk rock” than any of the punk bands limping across the country, no matter how many whack tattoos or guitar stickers they have.
1. Talking Heads – Any Top 5 Favorite Bands list (even if “bands” is a restrictive term, and even if “Top 5 Favorite” is a redundant term) is incomplete without mentioning this band. Putting Talking Heads on this list feels cliché, like I should hold myself to a higher standard and not put EVERYBODY’s favorite band on this list. But what the fuck? If they’re everybody’s favorite band, they belong on the list, right? Is there any other band that sounds ahead of the times 34 years after their first record was released? R.E.M. is a great band, and Murmur did more for indie music than people give it credit for (and people give it a lot of credit), but that record is decidedly not ahead of our times. Listening it to it requires that you cut it slack. It makes you think back to the early eighties, when it was legitimately pushing the envelope. Listening to 77 or Fear of Music, or watching the band perform in Stop Making Sense makes you wonder how decades-old music is still pushing the envelope at a time when artists seem to have to wear meat for clothes or otherwise dress as an alien to be considered forward-thinking. Oh, and it makes you want to shake your ass really, really hard.