It’s been a totally fun project but also really challenging in a lot of ways. To start with, there’s the sheer volume of music that I love and listen to – I don’t think she realized what an absurdly small number 12 is. So, I ended up making two CDs with a total of 24 songs, dividing them into punk/hardcore, and well, everything else.
I did my best to narrow it down by picking bands that have been important to me and then choosing one song from that band – which sometimes given five (or more) albums worth of material to choose from, was daunting. Literally every song I chose comes from an album that is on my list of all time favorite records. There are so many great bands that aren’t included here that pressing “publish” pains me a bit. Maybe that means there needs to be a part two (and three and four….).
I spent a lot of time thinking about what bands have been truly influential in my life. And though the second CD includes some really important ones (like Billy Bragg, Casey Neill, The Mountain Goats, and the Avett Brothers), it’s the punk/hardcore CD that I spent the most time on. All the songs I chose have been particularly meaningful because they define a certain formative period of my life, including where I developed many of my most important and lasting friendships and where from a young age I developed my politics and belief systems – that the capitalist system doesn’t work for everyone, that it can change, that we can make that change happen (as opposed to waiting for someone else to make improvements), and that there are better alternatives. Each song has a story (or many stories) associated with it, so you’ll have to forgive me a bit with the authobiographical stuff. So much of this is truly the story of my growing up.
I have a few more comments at the end, but here are the songs. Keep in mind that much of this commentary was written for someone outside of the punk scene. If you want me to make you a copy of this CD, just email me with your address and I’ll send it right out, or I’ll send you a download link. The CD mostly is album versions, and links here are also mostly to album versions, the video clips are just for fun.
These three bands represent a particular type of melodic hardcore that centers around Richmond, VA. There are loads of examples of the Richmond sound, but these three are the most important to me. Inquisition and Strike Anywhere in particular (those two bands have the same singer, Thomas), exemplify the kind of politically charged lyrics that I really go for. The Inquisition album is called “Revolution, I think it’s called inspiration” says it all – that we want/need change, that we can make a better life, and that we just need to be inspired to get there. Overwhelmingly I find their lyrics political yet very positive, which I love. I love that the music is really energetic and upbeat and makes me want to move.
It is a great regret for me that I never got to see Inquisition live, though I have seen Strike Anywhere a couple of times. I’ve always been inspired by Thomas’s dedication and humility, qualities I’ve come to recognize as essential in people I most admire. One of the first issues of Clamor had a quote from this Strike Anywhere song on the back (“I will do everything to kill the sleeping cop in me.”).
I remember being instantly attracted to Avail’s sound when I first heard them, and this is one of their early songs. I first saw them live at a YMCA on the west side (I’m thinking Brecksville but I could be wrong on that) and just fell in love with their sound and their energy, particularly live. One of their first recordings is the “Live At King’s Head Inn” 10″ that I really loved. I’ve probably seen them live more than another band aside from Hot Water Music. The singer, Tim Barry, does solo stuff now and one of their roadies I met during that era, AC Thompson, is an amazing investigative journalist now, and another is part of 1984 Printing. I just love it that people I met a long time ago have grown up to do really amazing things (and so many of them have – there’s something to think about there, probably.).