Ordinarily, I don’t care for music recommendations. It seems to me they’re compelled more often by the recommenders need to talk about themselves than anything else. Now that I’ve said that, let me recommend some albums…
1. The Reaction
In 2002 or 2003 Showbread briefly toured with an Oregonian Punk band called The Stivs. Apparently, The Stivs had been born from the ashes of the short-lived punk outfit The Reaction, and it was The Reaction’s album they were selling at their merch table. I have been listening to that record regularly for a decade now. A fantastically catchy hybrid of Misfits, The Ramones and Motörhead, there are certainly bands comparable to The Reaction, but when attempting to list a band who effectively distills all the best elements of their influences as well as The Reaction, none come to mind.
Can you buy it? For hardcopies, Ebay is your only hope. iTunes has the digital version along with the glam-punk follow-up. Can you stream it? Yes, actually. The record was re-released recently under The Stivs moniker.
2. Raft of Dead Monkeys, Thoroughlev
Raft of Dead Monkeys was a bizarre Seattle outfit made up of dissolved Tooth and Nail records bands Roadside Monument and Ninety Pound Wuss. Allegedly a sort of performance art satire of rock culture, their short-lived career began with an EP of screamy, abrasive songs whose titles I don’t feel comfortable mentioning. Then, strangely, they followed their DBM EP with what would be their only album, Throughlev, a genre-bending exploration of punk, math rock, progressive and… I don’t know what else. Quite a feat of songwriting and the awesomely weird.
Can you buy it? No. And good luck tracking down used copies. Can you stream it? Not on more prominent streaming services, but Grooveshark has it.
3. Quiet Science, Dark Words on Dark Wings
In 2011, Showbread spent some time touring with floridian synth-rock band Quiet Science and developed an immediate rapport. Shortly thereafter, they (independently) released their sophomore album, the conceptual Dark Words on Dark Wings. While Raft of Dead Monkeys is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, Dark Words on Dark Wings is one of those rare albums that could have, given the right circumstances, easily connected with an audience of millions. Quiet Science has fans to be sure, but the fact that their audience isn’t 100x larger is a travesty. Dark Words… creates a beautifully atmospheric sci-fi-esque landscape and populates it with haunting hooks and bittersweet melodies. Some fantastic songwriting here. When I play it at home, my wife asks, “how in the world did this not catch on?”
4. Sullivan, Cover Your Eyes
Not unlike Quiet Science, Sullivan were great friends/touring companions of Showbread. Before the band called it quits in 2007, they released their swan song, Cover Your Eyes, to minimal fanfare. Until then, Sullivan had been lumped into the hardcore influenced indie-band thing that was happening at the time, so imagine my surprise when they sent me a few tracks from the studio. Casting aside the lame trappings of their peers, Sullivan managed to create a deeply memorable (and surprisingly dark) alternative rock album in the tradition of early Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins. Undeniably catchy and largely sociopathic, Cover Your Eyes was yet another missed opportunity. The world would’ve loved this album, but instead the band called it a day.
Can you buy it? Yes, please do. Can you stream it? Seems to have gone strangely missing.
5. The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Armed Love
Dennis Lyxzén is a punk rock icon. And while everyone actually aware of punk music is familiar with his band Refused and their seminal album The Shape of Punk To Come, a surprisingly small number of that same audience kept up with his band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and what an awful shame. Sure, they’re mildly aware of the band and may have heard a track or two on those punk-o-rama compilations, but they’ve overlooked the sheer joy of listening to an (I)NC record. Somehow, (I)NC managed to do that whole garage-punk revival thing infinitely better than any Hives or Strokes act ever could. The difference being, in theory, that while so many of those bands popularized in the early 2000’s were fun as a novelty, (I)NC actually meant it. By the time the band signed to American records and released their Rick Rubin produced fourth album, some awful combination of circumstances kept the album from a proper North American release and just about any promotion at all. Heck, the fantastic videos for “Black Mask” and “A Small Demand” only have a couple uploads each on youtube, and half of them seem to be from the band themselves. When was the last time you heard of a major label release so negligently overlooked?
6. Squad Five-0, Late News Breaking
Squad Five-0, not unlike Showbread, is a band that with such a polarizing genre shift from album to album that announcing yourself as their fan beckons the question: “Well, which version of Squad Five-0?” Originally a Sucicide Machines-eque, anthemic ska-punk outfit transformed into a glam-metal band in the tradition of Guns N’ Roses, turned Rolling Stones and The Clash mash-up. The whole thing crescendoed in the band’s final album, Late News Breaking. When the band signed to major giant Captial records, I was certain Squad Five-0 was destined for the big times, but with little to no label push whatsoever the world turned a blind eye. Having since gone their separate ways, some of the band has expressed a bit of remorse over the album’s more negative themes, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that the songwriting and production are the apex of the classic genre they breathed new life into before hanging it up.