Distant Constructs

Great Bands



Great Bands

Deeper coverage of certain bands that I think are great, which is not to say that they're greater than other bands, or that there aren't other bands that I think are great, or that you'll think they're great (but I hope that you do). These are rock bands, I don't know enough about other genres to knowledgeably comment.

The Clash

Joe Strummer's got the lyrics and Mick Jones has the arrangements. Their albums, especially the first three are well made, and there is significant evolution in songwriting throughout their career. The range of their output gives a glimpse into a world that would have been possible of rock looked outwards and exploded with creativity rather than imploding into hair metal.

Their first two albums, while classics, are more stereotypical punk. London Calling is not so easily categorized and is their defining album. The vocal interplay on songs like "Spanish Bombs" is great. The albums become a bit problematic after London Calling. Sandanista!, which has my favorite string of Clash tracks ("The Equaliser" to "Washington Bullets"), is almost 2.5 hours long and almost impossible to listen to in a sitting. I find Combat Rock, which was tellingly made during the days that the band was falling apart, much less cohesive than their other albums. Non-album tracks such are worth listening to as well.

Media

  • Live in NJ (1980) - Quality live footage from this period is surprisingly hard to find. This is one of the best concerts that I have seen online by them. Check out "Bankrobber" at the end.
  • Live in 1977 - footage from the legendary year of punk. The break right before Garageland at especially cool.

Interviews

Strummer was an interesting speaker and there are several interviews with him littered around YouTube.

Minutemen

One of my absolute favorites. Just three instruments, and no effects, but a sound so distinctive that you can tell within seconds whether or not you're listening to a Minutemen song, which is all the more impressive because none of their songs sound alike. Add to it a distinct social and political conciousness and a the jovial spirit of the band, and you've got an unbeatable combination. The encountered them during a late-night YouTube crawl, when I was lucky enough to stumble upon "History Lesson Part II", which was my entry into the world of the American '80's punk scene. This band's ability to record out prodigious amounts of quality music and tour incessantly on a shoestring budget, without the backing of a major corporation, is astounding. Outspoken with their Do It Yourself (DIY) ideology and belief in the power of the punk philosophy ("there should be a band on every block"), the words and actions of the Minutemen can make true believers out of anyone with an open mind. Their live sets are absurd. They must get through around 30 songs in a 1 hour set. Their war stories (or tour spiels, if you prefer) are hilarious.

The best band of the 80's, in my opinion and one of the all time greats. The documentary We Jam Econo is a very good introduction.

Learning about D. Boon's early death was truly heartbreaking, especially given the talent and promise of the band. If only …

Interviews

Media

Fugazi

Who would think that music made by four non-violent, drug-free, and staunchly ethical punks could be so intricate, masterful, and intense?

Their albums are cohesive and distinct, and their well documented live sets are extremely well done. Truly great.

The interaction of vocals and interplay of guitars stands out on top of a monolithic rhythm section.

Given the unearthly sounds that appear in their songs, I was surprised to learn that they use minimal effects for their guitars. Their business practices teach more about managing a business than any Harvard Business School case study.

Interviews

There was a GeoCities page with links to many Fugazi interviews and general information about the band. Since GeoCities was shut down, this site can now be accessed at archive of the site at OOcities. Since Fugazi eschewed publications managed by large corporations, this is a valuable compilation of interviews that may be out of circulation or otherwise hard to find. Luckily, many of the interviews were transcribed on the GeoCities page and can still be accessed through OOcities. However, the passage of time is clearly visible in the number of dead links are to now defunct publications or sites. Even where sites that are still active link to an existing publication, the URL scheme may have changed, leaving the link useless. In these cases, the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, which maintains historical snapshots of webpages and can be used to view the pages.

The Low Times Podcast had an excellent interview with Guy Picciotto, which I recommend hunting for (I think that it is still accessible through iTunes). The Low Times website has now vanished. I will try to write up what I remember from it.

Media

  • Unlimited Streaming via Bandcamp - Dischord Records made their catalog available for streaming on Bandcamp. Give Fugazi a listen, and also check out their progenitors such as Rites of Spring and Minor Threat
  • Waiting Room the way it is meant to be played. Shirtless in front of an undulating mass of dancing kids.
  • Song #1 from Instrument - I wish I had moves like Guy.

first published: 2017-09-29 0033 EDT
last updated: 2018-11-10 1700 EST