MAGNET’s editors came up with the idea of a Where’s The Street Team? directed at one band for each of the 15 years the magazine has been in existence. Fifteen years? Yeah, right. I know full well that MAGNET was founded in 2003 for the express purpose of providing a vehicle for this column. I’m pretty sure the boardroom meeting went something like this: “Well, we need to surround Street Team with music coverage, features, reviews and such, just to give the reader a breather.” I’m a good sport, of course, so I went along with this whole “15th Anniversary Issue” applesauce.
1993: Urge Overkill
Urge Overkill, which adorned the cover of the first issue of MAGNET, was responsible for approximately two-and-a-half albums in the style of “good.” The reason for Urge’s cover-stardom was major-label debut Saturation: a juiced-up, unholy cocktail of Journey, the Who and a trickle of aggro noise. So why am I writing about Urge? It’s not because the band promptly started to suck (which it did). It’s not because the members of Urge became bloated, drug-addled rock stars (minus the “star” part). It’s because Urge was a crystal ball looking into the future we’ve been living for several years now. In the once-sacred indie-rock early-’90s, bands did not dress up, party with actual party drugs, brazenly seek fame and act like vapid idiots, even with tongues firmly in cheeks. Now, “indie rock” bands are simply vehicles propelled by the consumerism of assembly-line socialites. So yeah, Urge Overkill was on to something. It just happened to be something really depressing.
1994: The Afghan Whigs
The Afghan Whigs started out in that nether region I like to call grundie rock: the purgatory a band resides in when it’s a little too challenging to be grunge and a little too X-station-date-rape-radio-ready to be indie rock. See also: Best Kissers In The World, late-period Screaming Trees, Coffin Break and Paw. Then, a funny thing happened: The Afghan Whigs became the Afghan Wiggah Puhleeze! For better or worse, frontman Greg Dulli deserves points for being ahead of the curve with the paint-alt-rock-black thing. Consider the Make-Up, Har Mar Superstar, Midnite Vultures-era Beck and the eight-years-too-late humor found in most Flight Of The Conchords songs. Dulli loses points for being the guy who reliably attempted to fuck your girlfriend whenever the Whigs came to town.
1995: Rocket From The Crypt
It’s painful to be reminded that this band shared a member with the greatest post-hardcore unit of all time, Drive Like Jehu. Encompassing absolutely everything that made ’90s garage-rock/rockabilly culture utterly stupid, Rocket From The Crypt can be thanked for further popularizing mouth-breather favorites like matching mechanic’s shirts, faux-gearhead lifestyles and horn sections put in places where horn sections should never be.
1996: Spacemen 3
Spacemen 3 is perhaps the most overrated “seminal” outfit of the past three decades. So, you like bands whose lyrics are interchangeable with the bad poetry of a 17-year-old stoner? There’s going to be a drug revolution in the streets? Guess what, boys, that never happened. What did happen was a neutered, when-minimalism-goes-tedious version of the Jesus And Mary Chain combined with a neutered, when-minimalism-goes-tedious version of the Stooges.
1997: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
This was the period that found Jon Spencer pulling stunts like We’ve Got A Real Live Black Bluesman Onstage. Utilizing R.L. Burnside was a fortuitous last-gasp move, seeing as how every record nerd north of Kentucky eats that shit up like a BBQ sandwich being served through a hole in the wall of a broken-down shack. Next to the limp-ass rockabilly he’s peddling these days with Heavy Trash, I’ll take what Spencer was doing in 1997. And I’ll take it for one dollar at a yard sale.
Tortoise led a school of thought that settled for humorless, jazz-inflected tedium, opening the floodgates protecting underground music lovers from the onslaught of identity-allergic crap and raining the term “post-rock” upon every leftfield misstep uttered by those bored with troublesome tactics such as hooks, vocals, charisma and energy. Post-rock? Try post-good.
1999: The Magnetic Fields
Talk about a guy who needs to lighten the fuck up. Let me take you back nine years, when Stephin Merritt should’ve terminated his membership in the cult-of-one that believes everything he writes is a pop gem. 69 Love Songs was the line of demarcation between the early inspiration/fun-seeking/exploratory phase of indie rock and men turning a blind eye toward embarrassing acts of domesticity such as carrying your infant on the front of your body.
2000: Badly Drawn Boy
Looking like a decade-too-late extra from Slacker, the man I like to call Badly Dressed Boy had his three minutes of fame dumbing down Built To Spill hooks and over-intellectualizing Britpop. My girlfriend at the time used to chase me around the house with a MAGNET photo of Damon Gough’s mug taped to her face. That’s why we’re no longer together.
2001: Queens Of The Stone Age
It took a couple albums, but Queens Of The Stone Age eventually scared off discriminating listeners by attracting thuggish, aging mallternative rockers and homogeneous pea-brained bartender types to their shows. Gotta love standing next to a guy as he marvels at the inclusion of vinyl on the merch table, only rocks out during the hit(s), then shuffles off to do shooters at Buffalo Wild Wings.
2002: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Because the late ’90s and early ’00s were so boring, the members of Trail Of Dead looked to be on the brink of success due solely to the fact that they smashed their shit up onstage and usually lived up to the rumors that they were walking garbage cans. What didn’t work was their sound (adult-contemporary screamo) combined with their age (pushing if not exceeding 30) at a time when every early-20s asshole with a guitar had learned to play Wire and Gang Of Four riffs.
People still can’t give the Joy Division shit a rest. Interpol updated ’90s indie rock by brilliantly revisiting first-wave post-punk and the Church. 2003 was a heady time for the New York City foursome, when the world stayed oblivious to the fact that this was a one-and-a-half-album band. That reality slapped Capitol across the face four years later when Interpol delivered major-label debut Our Love To Admire, a small-scale Waterworld for modern rock circa now. Will this entry conclude without a slam against bassist Carlos D? I like to believe the rest of the band whispers, “Do something irritating, wear something ridiculous, keep getting attention,” into his ear during hours of deep slumber.
2004: Tom Waits
When MAGNET readers came across a Tom Waits entry in issue #66’s Street Team column, something shifted ever-so-slightly. Before my hatred of Waits’ music (I do not hate the man) and fans was made public, infrequent partygoers or show patrons might credit me with making them laugh or politely let me know they disagreed with me. After my feelings about Waits were revealed, however, people treated me as if I went on VH-1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Artists and used the N-word to describe Afrika Bambaataa. Some folks just don’t understand how a music lover could possibly dismiss Waits. It’s easy. I’m like Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live, but instead of special sunglasses, I have special ears that can hear just how contrived, unlistenable, heavy-handed, unsubtle, silly, irritating and grossly overrated 100 percent of Waits’ output is. The infestation has already spread so widely that I feel helpless in my fight against his impenetrable awfulness. I’m only one man.
By the time Sleater-Kinney reached final album The Woods, every rube on the scene had weathered a ’70s-inspired hard-rock makeover. It took The Woods to prove that if you wanted this sturdy formula to fail, give the job to a group of bleeders. The women in Team Dresch still stand as the only birds who could blow your brains apart with rock. Sleater-Kinney rocks about as hard as Monday morning in a Planned Parenthood waiting room.
How groan-inducing is the hipster embrace of Gypsy music? The exact second I became cognizant of it was the exact second I despised it deeply. I’d like to see it spiced up by Beirut’s Zach Condon and his fellow multicultural vultures acting like the “other Gypsies.” You know, the “Irish travelers” and such. I’d like to see Condon get caught trying to con some hard-working homeowner with a poorly done driveway-repair scam. That would be funny.
2007: Against Me!
Q: How many members of Against Me! does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Against Me! isn’t going to change shit.
The best thing about the end of the Bush administration? Maybe the PG-13 major-label politico-punks will go away. It boggles the mind to think of how many adults listen to and enjoy children’s music. No one is against you, no one is threatened by what you have to say, and one day you’re going to seriously regret those tats.