Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists (Series Two) #53: Utopia

Note: For an index of all articles in this second “Favorite Songs” series, click here. For a summary of all artists covered in the original series, click here.

Who They Were: Having done my Todd Rundgren post in this series earlier this week, it seems fitting to return to discuss Utopia, the band he spent most of the ’70s and ’80s serving as guitarist-vocalist. When I originally conceived this series, I intended to include Todd’s solo work and Utopia as a single entry, but when forced to evaluate their respective catalogs, I decided that there were significant enough differences to merit separate group and solo entries. As an analog, I’d cite entries for The Beatles and Wings, both of which included Paul McCartney as a cornerstone member, but both of which were fairly distinct and different one from the other. That comparison seems especially apt here, as I’d count both Rundgren and McCartney among the greatest musical geniuses in the rock idiom of the past half-century, capable of doing technically and emotionally brilliant work in a variety of solo and group formats, and confident enough in their own abilities to allow the other members of their groups to shine in their own special ways. So with that as preamble, who were Utopia? They did indeed begin essentially as Rundgren’s backing band, releasing their first album, titled Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, in 1974. That disc, and its follow-up, Another Live (1975), featured extremely epic prog-rock styled, long-form jams and joints, with a keyboard-intensive sonic attack. But the group’s membership evolved quickly after those “supporting band” discs, and 1977’s Ra marked the debut of Utopia’s classic line-up, with Rundgren joined by Kasim Sulton (bass), Roger Powell (keys), and John “Willie” Wilcox (drums); all four members wrote, and all four member sang. That quartet incarnation quickly moved away from long-form prog manifestos into short-form pop-rock formats, and they were better for that transition, issuing eight high-quality albums before going their own ways in 1985. I caught one of their reunion shows in Chicago (with Gil Assayas replacing Powell on keys) on my birthday in 2018, and it was utterly brilliant, with one set of music from their prog days, and one set of music from their pop days. Here’s what it looked like:

Prog Utopia Set

Pop Utopia Set

When I First Heard Them: I can’t quite exactly pinpoint this one. I was familiar with Rundgren’s solo work well before the classic Utopia era, and I was familiar with the Utopia song “Love Is The Answer” before it became a cover hit through the version performed by England Dan and John Ford Coley, so I’d heard some of those late ’70s albums, though I didn’t own them upon their initial releases. I am pretty sure that the first Utopia album I actually purchased was 1982’s Swing to the Right, followed soon and enthusiastically in my collection by their self-titled “three-sided” disc later that year. Those two albums easily and clearly remain my favorites in their catalog, though I eventually acquired all of the Utopia albums that came before and after that pair of releases, and there are gems to be found on every one of those discs.

Why I Love Them: Everything I said about Todd Rundgren in the prior article in this series applies here, of course, but as his role in prime era Utopia was to be the guitar player and one of four lead vocalists, it’s equally important to consider the contributions of the other four members of the group. As noted above, all four of them wrote, and all four of them sang, and they were all aces on their instruments, making for a most impressive whole composed of those four particular parts. Post-Utopia, Sulton went on to be Meat Loaf’s musical director, and was also a member of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts. Powell was a protege of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog, has long served as a trailblazing computer programmer, and also played with one of David Bowie’s very best live bands, of the Stage era. Wilcox has played as a session contributor on a variety of project outside of Utopia, and also has had a long career as an audio engineer in a variety of interesting capacities, including slot machine sound design and digital game scores. Together, the four members created a tremendous catalog of smart pop-rock songs, all played with technical panache and sung with emotive passion. The quartet’s songwriting prowess resulted in a long list of epic ear-worm tunes, and they were also early pioneers in using music videos to show viewers something other than the usual stock lip synch fare that defined the early MTV era. Having seen them live again a few years ago, I was delighted to hear how good they all remain at what they do, and equally pleased to hear how well their classic era songs have aged over the past few decades.

#10. “Play This Game,” from POV (1985)

#9. “Hoi Poloi,” from Deface The Music (1980)

#8. “Hiroshima,” from Ra (1977)

#7. “Bring Me My Longbow,” from Oblivion (1984)

#6. “Swing to the Right,” from Swing to the Right (1982)

#5. “Hammer In My Heart,” from Utopia (1982)

#4. “Too Much Water,” from Oblivion (1984)

#3. “Junk Rock (Million Monkeys),” from Swing to the Right (1982)

#2. “Princess of the Universe,” from Utopia (1982)

#1. “Shinola,” from Swing to the Right (1982)

Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists (Series Two) #52: Todd Rundgren

Note: For an index of all articles in this second “Favorite Songs” series, click here. For a summary of all artists covered in the original series, click here.

Who He Is: Arguably one of the most important figures in the history of American rock music over the past half-century. If he’d never done anything but play his electric guitar, then Todd Rundgren would have been considered one of the modern masters of his instrument. And if he’d never done anything but sing the various songs under his own name or with his band, Utopia, that have become pop and AOR hits over the years, then Todd would have been considered one of his generation’s most acclaimed vocal geniuses. And if he’d never done anything but write the likes of “We’ve Got To Get You A Woman” and “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw The Light” and “Bang The Drum All Day,” then he would have been considered one of the classic rock era’s great songwriters. And if Todd had only produced epic, career-defining albums by the likes of (among many others) Sparks, Grand Funk Railroad, Hall and Oates, The Tubes, Badfinger, XTC, The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Fanny, Rick Derringer, The Tom Robinson Band, and The Psychedelic Furs, he could easily have laid claim to being one of the rock era’s finest knob-twiddlers. But Todd did all of those things, in addition to blazing pioneering paths in music video, interactive media, and self-released digital production, making him a wizard, and a true star (I presume you saw what I did there) for the ages, no arguments entertained.

When I First Heard Him: Early 1970s, when “Hello It’s Me” became a pop radio hit in its second version release under Todd’s name; the song had originally been recorded by his breakthrough band, Nazz. Around 1975, I had a beginner’s guitar chord book that included a lot of popular songs of the era, boiled down into simple arrangements for players of limited chops. Most of the songs in the book featured basic C, G7, E, A, D type chord structures, but I distinctly remember the entry for “Hello It’s Me,” which included such exotic (to young me) chords like Gm7 and Fmaj7 and C7sus4 and D#m7. That one song opened my eyes, ears, and mind to guitar sounds that veered into previously unknown directions, but as weird as those chords seemed to me at the time, the sounds produced by playing them were addictively mellifluous and sweet and melodic in complex ways, making them seem better and more important than the simple major chord and white key tunes that shaped so many of the other songs in that book. I acquired a couple of Todd’s early albums in the ensuing years, and a couple of albums by his band Utopia (who had scored their own rock radio hits with “Set Me Free” and “Love Is The Answer”), but it wasn’t until 1981 when he really moved into the forefront of my musical consciousness when I heard his song “Shine” playing on a record store stereo at Jacksonville Mall in North Carolina, near where I lived during my senior year in high school. I scored the album, Healing, from which that amazing song was culled, and it was and remains one of my all-time favorite records, holding a special place as the key always-on-the-stereo platter in the weeks before I left home to attend the Naval Academy.

Why I Love Him: As noted above, Todd Rundgren was and remains an incredibly accomplished and proficient artist as a guitar player, songwriter, singer and producer. And while that should be more than enough to raise him to special stature in anybody’s musical pantheon, he also blew my mind back in my teen years when I realized that many of the songs on his self-attributed ’70s albums were recorded as true solo works, with Rundgren playing all of the instruments, and singing all of the harmony lines. I marveled regularly at the skills he demonstrated on so many instruments over so many records, and also at his ability to conceive of something grand, and then arrange and build it, layer by layer, in the studio. That DIY approach was a cornerstone tenet of my own personal creative ethos way back in the days when I made music myself, though with but a fraction of the skill which Todd Rundgren demonstrates effortlessly and casually, over and over and over again. I also loved the fact that he created what was originally a backing band, Utopia, and then allowed it grow into a creative collaboration that allowed each of the group’s members to shine and take leads in their own capacities, without undermining the heft, value, and quality of their group work as a whole. At the high points of his most prolific career arc, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was great to be able to grab a Todd Rundgren album and love it, and then a few months later, be able to grab a Utopia album and love it, with equal fervor, though for different reasons. When I originally considered writing this entry about Todd, I intended it to be a “Todd Rundgren (And Related Artists)” post, including both my favorites from his solo catalog and the Utopia canon, but I’ve since decided to give Utopia their own separate and well-deserved entry at some point after I post this one. Watch this space.

#10. “Real Man,” from Initiation (1975)

#9. “Drive,” from The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1982)

#8. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” from Something/Anything? (1972)

#7. “Everybody’s Going To Heaven/King Kong Reggae,” from Todd (1974)

#6. “The Want Of A Nail (With Bobby Womack),” from Nearly Human (1989)

#5. “Tiny Demons,” from Healing (1981)

#4. “Love In Disguise,” from Second Wind (1992)

#3. “Just One Victory,” from A Wizard, A True Star (1973)

#2. “Heavy Metal Kids,” from Todd (1974)

#1. “Shine,” from Healing (1981)

Only A Rumour: Pat Fish (The Jazz Butcher)(20 December 1957 – 5 October 2021)

I was deeply saddened this afternoon to learn of the sudden death at the age of 64 of Pat Fish, better known as The Jazz Butcher (“Butch” for short), which was also the name of a band he played in, when they weren’t called The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy or the Sikkorskis from Hell or JBC, and before his later bands Sumosonic and Black Eg and Wilson. The moniker thing was always a tricky bit when discussing the man and his music, especially since even Pat Fish was a pseudonym for the man born Patrick Huntrods in London in 1957. Whatever he was called, and whatever he called whatever he was doing, he was just an absolutely brilliant songwriter, and a charming singer-guitarist with a vast and rewarding studio and live career to his credit.

Pat Fish attended Oxford University in the late 1970s, and began playing with a collection of local musicians thereabouts, while reading Lit. Hum. at Merton College. A couple of his early collaborators (Rolo McGinty and Alice Thompson) went on to fame and acclaim as members of The Woodentops, while a couple of others (singer-guitarist Max Eider and drummer Owen P. Jones) stayed on with Butch to anchor his most impressive creative period in the 1980s, aided and abetted first by David J (former Bauhaus, later Love and Rockets) and then by Felix Ray on bass. (Note that I am pretty sure Jones is the only one of those core Jazz Butcher Conspiracy musicians whose stage name just might be his real name; I do know all the others’ true monikers, but why complicate things further with that, yeah?)

The Jazz Butcher’s 1983 debut album, In Bath of Bacon, found the group’s formative line-up in flux, but Fish’s unique blend of smart-to-silly lyrics, interesting instrumentation, and ear-worming sing-along melodies was already in full and fine effect, as were Eider’s exquisite jazz guitar stylings. By the time the second Jazz Butcher album, A Scandal in Bohemia, was released in 1984, the “Me n’ Max n’ Dave n’ Jones” line-up, as Butch name-checked them in the lyrics to the tremendous single “Southern Mark Smith (Big Return),” had cohered and utter madness and magic then spilled out, frequently and ferociously. This is about the time when I jumped aboard the Butcher bandwagon, having heard their song “Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present” on Washington’s (then)-great free-form radio station WHFS, which most thoroughly addled and altered my consciousness, making me realize in less than five minutes that I had a new favorite group, right then, right there, right now, and that I had to rush out post-haste and go into deep credit card debt to acquire their entire catalog at extortionate import-level prices. But it was worth it, and then some. Because do you know what happens if you leave a fish too long in an elevator? You don’t? Well, listen to the song for a clue.

From A Scandal in Bohemia‘s stellar musical platform, the Conspiracy leaped off the high dive and raged on prolifically through a tremendous series of singles, EPs, and albums, culminating with the Distressed Gentlefolk LP in 1986 (Felix had replaced David J on bass by this point) and the related mini-album Conspiracy, credited to The Jazz Butcher vs Max Eider. (In addition to his always scintillating guitar work, Eider generally also wrote and scored a couple of spotlight numbers of his own on each of the Conspiracy’s albums, and they’re often among the group’s finest works). Things seemed to be going swimmingly for the group from the devoted fan’s perspective, and of course that means that the classic Jazz Butcher Conspiracy then immediately blew itself up while on tour supporting Distressed Gentlefolk, with Max Eider departing to pursue a solo career.

Max’s debut album, The Best Kisser In the World, came out in 1987, and it was a joy to hear and behold. He and Jones also played on some David J records of the period. Pat Fish, for his own next move, left his long-time label home (Glass Records) to sign with Alan McGee’s hugely-influential Creation Records. The first fruits of that new partnership emerged in 1988 when The Butcher released Fishcotheque, featuring Herr Huntrods backed with a new crew of collaborators. I liked it a lot, but I did miss the “Butcher vs Max” dynamic, as on this and (most) subsequent records released under the Jazz Butcher rubric, there was definitely more of a “front man” and “supporting band” vibe to the proceedings than had been the case when Max served as a key foil and co-frontman for the group.

Fish remained active under the Jazz Butcher persona with a variety of collaborators through the latter part of the 1990s,  at which point he apparently tired of the constraints evoked by that musical brand’s baked-in associations, opting to form and record with the more electronic Sumosonic as a next step forward. But that was to be a short step, as Creation Records dropped the group after their first album. Phooey! And so, at that point, why, and well, and golly, it sure made perfect sense (no, no it didn’t, not really) for an unexpected Butch and Max and Jones reunion that resulted in the delightful Rotten Soul album in 2000, credited once again to The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. The ever-volatile Max and Pat pair worked together on and off and on and off again over the years following, while Eider’s solo career built strength upon strength with a series of just soul-crushingly brilliant and beautiful records, one of which, Max Eider III: Back In The Bedroom, I named as my Album of the Year for 2007.

Fish’s post-Conspiracy and post-Sumosonic trajectory then anchored itself around a new band called Wilson, which gigged like champs over the years, and then, time passed, and of course, it once again made perfect sense (no, not really, no it didn’t) for Max and Pat (and Jones on one song) to join forces again for yet another delightfully unexpected album, Last of the Gentlemen Adventurers. That record, released in 2018, was funded through crowd-sourcing, to which I eagerly contributed. As a donor of a certain level, I was offered a meaningful memento from the band, and I asked Max to send a hand-written set of the lyrics to the group’s epic song “D.R.I.N.K.,” personally inscribed to my daughter, Katelin. (Ironically, neither Katelin nor I drink anymore, and the cautionary tale contained in that song is probably as good a reminder as any of why that’s a sound idea. I mean, God forbid we start playing “Sweet Jane” sober, especially with that god-awful “heavenly whine and bullshit” coda that Lou insisted be grafted back onto the song decades after its better original release. Doug Yule was right, in this case, dammit!) (But I digress). Anyway, I just told Katelin about Pat’s passing and she sent me a photo of Max’s kind gift, which I share below; you can click on the image to hear the song itself.

Anyway. I’m very sad that Pat the Butcher of Oxford and Wilson has flown away from us all on short notice. I knew he’d had some health issues in recent years, but I also knew that he was back gigging as long as the damnable virus let him do so, that he was active with online performances after the pandemic shutdown (he had one scheduled for last Sunday night, which he had to cancel because he was not feeling well), and he’d recently announced that recording of a new Conspiracy album was underway, with Max back in the fold once again. Max’s announcement on the Butcher’s official Facebook page noted that Pat “died suddenly but peacefully on Tuesday evening,” so it wasn’t an expected demise, and 64 years is just way too young to be saying farewell for folks of his capabilities and capacities. In thinking about how to title this post, I elected to use “Only A Rumour,” the title of a gorgeously dark song from 1985’s Sex And Travel, which contains these lyrics: “And how I wish I knew for sure how many years I had before this state I’m in will put me under the ground.” I guess we all wish we knew that, but all I know right now is that Pat didn’t get enough of those years on his tally.

All of that said, even as I’m very sad to lose an artist who moved me so deeply over the years, I’m also so very happy to have the catalog he left behind, which always makes me smile, so good is it all, and so smart, and sometimes stupid-smart, and other sometimes stupid-stupid, but in the good sense, always fun, always meaningful, always a pleasure, always a joy. The catalog is rich for exploration, but I’ll end this post by appending a special Jazz Butcher edition of my “Five Songs You Need to Hear” Series, featuring a quintet of my favorite Pat Fish numbers. (I’ve already linked to “Caroline Wheeler” and “Southern Mark Smith” and Max’s “D.R.I.N.K.” above, so I’m kinda sorta gonna ignore them and cheat and include five other songs below; consider those bonus cuts above, all of which you also need to hear). RIP Butch. You were one of the great ones.

“Grey Flannelette,” from In Bath of Bacon (1983)

“Holiday,” from Sex And Travel (1985)

“Real Men,” from A Scandal in Bohemia (1984)

“Partytime,” from In Bath of Bacon (1983)

“Angels,” from Distressed Gentlefolk (1986)

Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists (Series Two) #51: Ween

Note: For an index of all articles in this second “Favorite Songs” series, click here. For a summary of all artists covered in the original series, click here.

Who They Are: Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo were junior high school friends from New Hope, Pennsylvania, who have been making music together under their noms du rock Gene Ween and Dean Ween since 1984. In their early days, the pair primarily recorded and performed as a beat-box-backed duo, but by the late 1990s, a live version of the band featuring Glenn McClelland (keyboards), Dave Dreiwitz (bass), and Claude Coleman Jr. (drums) emerged, and that quintet continues to make music together on-stage to this day. (Esteemed producer Andrew Weiss was also a live member for several years in the 1990s). Around 2011, Gene resigned from Ween to deal with some serious substance abuse and mental health issues, later releasing a pair of albums under his birth name, while Dean launched his own Dean Ween Group, featuring other live members of their parent band. Dean and a cleaned-up Gene buried the hatchet and reunited in 2015 for ongoing live performances, though they’ve not released any new studio material since their hiatus.

When I First Heard Them: Around 1991, when I saw two songs from their sophomore album on the Shimmy Disc Volume 3 video collection. I was a huge and devoted fan of Shimmy Disc, a record label formed by former-Shockabilly/Butthole Surfers and future-Bongwater singer-bassist-producer Kramer, so after watching Ween’s videos for “Pollo Asado” and “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese,” I felt obligated to acquire their debut album, GodWeenSatan: The Oneness (released on the then-similarly influential Twin/Tone label) and their sole Shimmy Disc album release, The Pod. I loved the debut and liked the sophomore album, and I then acquired their third record, Pure Guava, when it was released in 1992. It was good, too, but Dean and Gene really took things to the next level with their following release, Chocolate and Cheese, which I anointed as my Album of the Year for 1994. I’ve stuck with Dean and Gene ever since, and they’ve rarely disappointed with an additional five studio albums, and a handful of singles and EPs, and loads of live releases issued across the years that followed. I’d certainly love it if they returned to the studio at some point, but their extant body of work is pretty spectacular already, so it’s certainly not a show-stopper for me if they just continue to exist as a live act.

Why I Love Them: I tend to think of Ween in the same ways that I think about Frank Zappa: They’re artists of profound technical competence, with strong and influential songwriting skills, who also just happen to recognize that humor in music is not necessarily a bad thing, the nastier and/or sillier the humor the better, much of the time. Every single Ween album has contained at least a couple of songs that made me actually, literally “LOL” when I first spun them, and that’s also not a bad thing, not at all. Behind the chuckles, though, Ween also offer some truly sublime songwriting, production, and performances in their studio work, and their ability to pick any musical genre and absolutely master it is pretty much unparalleled in my experience. Probably the best example of that is their 1995 album, 12 Golden Country Greats, which found them offering ten tremendous country-and-western songs, backed by an A-list assortment of Nashville session players and singers, more accustomed to supporting the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash than a pair of drug-addled goofballs from the Philly suburbs. I was deeply amused at the time when the popular music press tended to positively review the album as some sort of deeply authentic country music classic, many critics apparently not investigating the noise and weirdness that had come before it. Gene handles most of the group’s lead vocals, and he’s a deeply talented song-stylist, capable of delivering compelling performances across a variety of styles. Dean, who sings lead on occasion, is a guitar-hero’s guitar hero, and I’ve always appreciated that he tends to admire and respect and pay open tribute to master string-benders like Eddie Hazel and Gary Shider from Parliament-Funkadelic, and Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers Band. Finally, I have also always appreciated the personal mythology that Gene and Dean have woven around themselves over the years, including the demon Boognish which allegedly directed the pair to begin making music together, and their pursuit of the ephemeral life concept of “brown,” which they have defined as being “f-cked up, but in a good way.” I get that, and I appreciate that, and Ween certainly bring down the brown in ways that most bands can only dream of, if they dared.

#10. “Push th’ Little Daisies,” from Pure Guava (1992)

#9. “Exactly Where I’m At,” from White Pepper (2000)

#8. “Nan,” from GodWeenSatan: The Oneness (1990)

#7. “Fluffy,” from 12 Golden Country Greats (1996)

#6. “Roses Are Free,” from Chocolate and Cheese (1994)

#5. “Friends,” from “The Friends EP” (2007)

#4. “Your Party,” from La Cucaracha (2007)

#3. “Mutilated Lips,” from The Mollusc (1997)

#2. “Transitions,” from Shinola, Vol. 1 (2005)

#1. “Transdermal Celebration,” from Quebec (2003)

Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists (Series Two) #50: The Minutemen

Note: For an index of all articles in this second “Favorite Songs” series, click here. For a summary of all artists covered in the original series, click here.

Who They Are: One of the most original and important post-punk groups in American musical history, hands down. Singer-guitarist D. Boon, singer-bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley released four albums and six EP’s (along with a choice collection of singles) through their real-time creative career, all of them essentially essential, truly. The trio were poised to follow their fellow of-the-era indie heroes R.E.M., The Replacements, and Hüsker Dü into major label stardom, until they were cut down in their prime when Boon died in a tragic vehicular accident in 1985. After a respectful period of mourning, Watt and Hurley continued to work together in fIREHOSE (with guitarist-vocalist Ed Crawford) for a dozen years after The Minutemen’s demise, and Watt then went on to a critically successful solo career, while also playing in a latter day incarnation of Iggy Pop’s Stooges. He’s a bass boss, for sure. I’ve seen Watt in concert several times since the demise of The Minutemen, with one of his shows turning up on my “Best Concerts Ever” list, a summary of which is available here.

When I First Heard Them: In 1983, on the SST Records compilation The Blasting Concept. After that outstanding sampler album came out, I became fully and actively engaged with the emergent and ongoing SST catalog (and, with similar blind loyalty, also with the Alternative Tentacles and Touch and Go catalogs), and in those simple pre-Internet days, I basically bought anything released on any of those labels, confident that they would be outstanding. That was actually a very good gambit in terms of record-buying in an era when my finances and listening time were limited, as the quality of the music being offered by those brilliant labels was consistently high and sound and pure and ground-breaking. I had originally come to the SST catalog as a fan of Black Flag (which featured SST boss Greg Ginn on guitar), but the short and quirky tunes by The Minutemen on The Blasting Concept immediately made me do a hardcore sidestep to investigate their catalog further, and that catalog pleased me to no end with its innovative jazz-meets-punk blend of spazzy chops and smart lyrics, all offered by the trio’s players with joyous aplomb.

Why I Love Them: The Minutemen initially embraced the early punk and post-punk ethos of recording and releasing short, sharp shocks of songs, but as the years went on, the trio engaged and explored various pop-rock idioms with acute skill and an impressive veneer of personal and political maturity. As much as I loved Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and other fallen rock n’ roll heroes who flew away during that era, D. Boon’s death was one of the most significant gut-punches in my formative listening years, and the truncation of what should have been a life-long creative career for The Minutemen made me imbue their extant works with a lot of heft and resonance and meaning. I’m probably a listening anomaly in terms of loving both classic jazz and hardcore/post-punk in equal measure, but it was always a joy to hear Boon, Watt and Hurley deliver delightful high-energy tunes anchored atop rhythmically and melodically sophisticated instrumental tracks. After Boon’s tragic demise, The Minutemen’s essential cuts have become, for this listener, anyway, a fine example of the ways in which post-punk music could eagerly and enthusiastically embrace “uncool” approaches to song-craft, delivering genre-defying blasts of musical brilliance to eager listeners, regardless of the surrounding and adjacent musical ethics of the day. I also must exhort readers here to investigate Our Band Could Be Your Life,  the Michael Azerrad book that I consider to be the most essential written document of the era in which my alt-music tastes were primarily forged, for better or for worse. The title of that book is culled from a Minutemen song, and it’s completely apt that that’s the case, as the Boon-Watt-Hurley trio were truly on the cutting edge of independent musical culture in their day, changing the ways in which I heard and perceived post-punk music, deeply devoted and beholden to their clamorous and technical approaches to the riffs they were grinding out, for our pleasure.

#10. “Ruins,” from The Punch Line (1981)

#9. “Paranoid Chant,” from Paranoid Time EP (1980)

#8. “Search,” from The Punch Line (1981)

#7. “Price of Paradise,” from 3-Way Tie (For Last)

#6. “Little Man With A Gun In His Hand,” from Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat (1983)

#5. “Corona,” from Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

#4. “Joe McCarthy’s Ghost,” from Paranoid Time EP (1980)

#3. “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing,” from Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

#2. “Courage,” from 3-Way Tie (For Last)

#1. “History Lesson, Part Two,” from Double Nickels on the Dime

With Which I Am Well Pleased XIII (Japanese Birds)

Yet another installment in my recurring series, within which I share 15 things that have rocked my world over the past month or so. As always, I welcome your suggestions on things that I might have missed, but need to see, hear, watch, read, eat, play with, or experience!

FILM

TELEVISION

MUSIC

BOOKS