Discography: Fugazi, Part 8: The Argument

Twenty, thirty years from now, when the story of Fugazi is written by smarter people than me, they will probably point at "The Argument" as their crowning achievement, the culmination of their evolution as a band and the pinnacle of what they could do.  That would be hard to argue with.

I point to this: I had a friend who absolutely hated Fugazi, but loved this album.  This was Fugazi at a different level.  This was a band that produced "Red Medicine" and came through "End Hits" and ended up here.

This was a focused band.  The opening lets you know that this is going to be a journey.  "Cashout" is all about the vocals and a noise rock chorus that would make no sense coming from anyone else.

The verse on "Full Disclosure" has so much urgency you have no choice but to get swept up in it as it pulls you into a surprisingly poppy chorus, the likes of which would feel right at home on the alternative top 40.  Even crazier is the outro that follows the last chorus, like something ripped from 90s radio, as if Fugazi are finally acknowledging all their contemporaries.  Of course, they follow that section up with some good old fashion punk rock noise, a reminder that they cannot be pigeonholed.

"Epic Problem" is Ian McKaye's vocal stylings at their best.  The beauty is that he makes the lyrics a part of the song, a part of the actual structure of the music.  It helps that the music is great, with yet another 90s inspired section in the middle (I should probably point out that this album came out in 2001).  And then we get the outro, which is something right off of "13 Songs" with a little "Repeater" thrown in to finish it off. It's a little bit sing song, a little bit head bopping, and more upbeat than you would have expected given the beginning of the song.

Remember those things I said before about Guy's guitar style?  Welcome to "Life and Limb."  It's already a great song, but then you get to the center with this wonderful, quirky guitar solo over straight up pop music.  We come back to the moody stuff, of course, but that center section makes the rest even better.

You may have noticed a trend developing. There's an awful lot of pop music on this record, but it very often undercut, either by wedging it into more jagged parts or by layering it with discordant guitars. It's the perfect give and take for Fugazi, something that took them 7 albums to get to. These songs have the straight forward core of the best "In on the Killtaker" tracks with all the experimentation of the strangest "End Hits" songs.

When Joe Lally is singing you have an idea of the type of song you're going to get. "The Kill" fits right in.  It's ethereal, as most Lally sung songs are.  The song never explodes, never builds to anything, but it's a constant, mellow groove with a nice change from the verse to the chorus.

Let's just get right to it with "Strangelight" -- as interesting as the song is, it's what happens at the 4 minute mark that truly makes it great.  I don't even know what that note-y part is being played on (guitar doubled with keyboards? With a violin?) and the changing piano chords make it sound ominous.  It's wonderfully dissonant, yet darkly triumphant.

This could be the Fugazi album with the most mood changing moments in songs.  In this case, I'm talking about McKaye's vocals in "Oh," which is mostly sung by Guy.  But read back over my comments on the other songs on this album and the shift in tone is a regular theme.  Interestingly enough, the shift seems to frequently come at the end, a fitting microcosm of Fugazi's library of work.

"Ex-Spectator" has a wonderful, double drum opening.  The verse is sparse and the chorus is full and powerful, driven by McKaye's vocals.  What's really interesting about this song is how it almost seems like an answer to "Public Witness Program" from "In on the Killtaker."  Both songs seem to be about the dangers of not getting involved, but this song pulls the character forward.  The public witness can't stand on the sidelines any longer.

"Nightshop" is probably the clearest use of keyboards we've seen from Fugazi (at the two and a half minute mark), and they're used to excellent effect. We also treated to some acoustic guitars, as if the band decided they were going to jam all their non-traditional (for them) instruments into one song. This song makes me long for a new Fugazi record because it suggests that they were just beginning to experiment.

And now for "The Argument," theoretically the last song on the last Fugazi album.  It's everything you could hope for from a final song.  McKaye has said that the song is about how he will always be against war.  But he frames it as being a bigger argument that's generally not made.  The song itself would suggest that McKaye is calling out those who get bogged down in the small debates, who never see the forest from the trees: "that some punk could argue some moral abc's/when people are catching what bombers release."  It's an argument against the myopic.

It's also the perfect example of the evolution of the band.  The vocals are perhaps the pinnacle of what McKaye has managed to do over the years.  The song is fairly quiet and pretty, with a quixotic keyboard break.  And then it explodes.  It explodes in exactly the way you would want a Fugazi song to end, with heavy guitars from McKaye and a dynamic, catchy note-y part from Guy.  It's damn near perfect.

And then it's over.

If this is the last we ever hear from Fugazi....well, I'll still be sad about that, but they went out on a high note.

Discography: Fugazi, Part 7: Instrument

It became fitting that Fugazi released an album of outtakes (and documentary) when they did.  The band had already gone their separate ways and were making music together less and less frequently.  The writing should have been on the wall.

It's hard to call "Instrument" an actual album, as it's not.  It is exactly what it sold itself as: a collection of outtakes.  Sadly, most of those outtakes aren't particularly interesting.  It actually goes a long way to confirming that the band is the bunch of lo-fi, regular guys that everyone thought they were.  "Instrument" is filled with the type of junk that is being recorded in every basement in America.  This is Fugazi showing us that they're no different.  They record every single thing they think sounds good, too, even if they realize after the fact that it's crap.

In their defense, there are some gems on this record, some bits and pieces that I would have loved to have seen as complete songs.

The "Apreggiator" demo is interesting given how much they increased the speed for the recorded version, which was a smart decision. 

"Afterthought" introduces us to Fugazi using keyboards and it become apparent over the course of this album that they could have done great things with keyboards. Why they never did more, I don't know, but between this song and "Little Debbie" it was clear they could have produced something great incorporating keyboards.

"Trio's" is darkly atmospheric, more so than anything else the band has recorded, which is probably part of the reason it never materialized on an album.  "Turkish Disco" is the first track that sounds like a relatively complete song, so much so that I wonder why it didn't end up on another record. 

The question about keyboards is also applicable to piano, an instrument Fugazi used as window dressing in the past, but never as the focus for a song. "I'm So Tired" suggests that they should have placed it front and center for at least a few tracks.

The demos for "Rend It," "Closed Caption," and "Guilford Fall" are interesting enough for big Fugazi fans. The "Rend It" demo is great given how drastically the song changed over time.

"Swingset" has a fantastic verse, but the attempt at a chorus makes it clear why it's an outtake.

"Shaken All Over" is basically just a recording of Joe playing a bass line.

"Slow Crostic" is exactly what it says: a slower version of "Caustic Acrostic." This particular track is noteworthy because it's the basis for a song on the Wugazi album, a mash-up of Fugazi and the Wu-Tang Clan.

In the end, "Instrument" is a collection of songs for only the biggest of Fugazi fans.  It's great as a glimpse inside the creative process, but doesn't offer much beyond that. It is, to be honest, an odd duck of a release. Nothing about this record suggests that it needed to see the light of day, yet here we are.

It really just kind of mucks up the Fugazi library.

Discography: Fugazi, Part 6: End Hits

"End Hits" deserves the shit that it's gotten from Fugazi fans, but that doesn't stop it from being a great album.

If "Red Medicine" was the beginning of a new era for the band, "End Hits" is them pushing the envelope of that era, seeing what the limits are.  It's as if they were pleasantly surprised by the music they discovered they could make on the last album and now they were cautiously seeing if it actually suited them.

"Break" is the perfect first song for this album.  It's got a classic Fugazi groove layered underneath this relaxed, almost jazzy clean guitar part -- and is that piano I hear?  It sure is, this time used as an instrument and not as a vehicle for noise (as with the last album).  McKaye's vocals in the center, when it's just him and a single guitar, are strange, but still fit the song perfectly.

Follow that up with classic Guy rocker, "Place Position" and you've got the makings of a fantastic new school Fugazi record, albeit one that seems definable.  But you'd be getting ahead of yourself.

Joe Lally always seems to sing on the more atmospheric songs and "Recap Modotti" is no exception.  We're venturing into stoner rock territory here, which is shocking, given that none of them are stoners.  Even the teases of a build up ultimately don't pay off.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not something you'd expect from Fugazi...which is something you should get used to over the course of this album.

And while we're on the subject of weird song arrangements, here comes "No Surprises."

But then, like the parting of rain clouds, we get "Five Corporations," a fantastic example of how new Fugazi can still rock out like old Fugazi, but with more complex music.  And we've even got that trademark Fugazi anti-establishment going on.  Seriously, that tempo change for the chorus is unbelievable, particularly when it's followed by just bass, drums, and vocals for the verse.

"Caustic Acrostic" is a great song, a modern day Guy-style Fugazi song.  You could tell, since Red Medicine, that Guy had gotten away from playing chords.  I have to think that was a response to Ian McKaye's style of guitar, whose riffs and palm muting were more often a hammer than a scalpel. Guy's style evolved out of necessity and it made them a better band.

Things get weird again after "Caustic Acrostic."  "Close Caption" and "Floating Boy" are spacey, atmospheric jams that push the boundaries of traditional song structure.  They're glorious little oddities amongst the larger Fugazi library, wonderful experiments by a band that is no longer bound by a static sound. Most Fugazi fans I know hate these songs.

We bounce back with "Foreman's Dog," which is surprisingly straight forward for this album.  It kind of reminds me of something to be found on "Steady Diet," yet with a better sound.  And speaking of straight forward, then we get "Arpeggiator" which is ostensibly just a scale, but somehow Fugazi makes it great.

"Guilford Falls" feels like another new school Guy song, with an initial hook that is made up of picking each string rather than strumming chords.  It's also got the classic Fugazi "introduce a new part by having just one guitar play it, then everyone eventually kicks in."  Again, it's a complex song with layered guitars and an interesting structure, but it still has some classic Fugazi qualities.

 And then we hit "Pink Frosty."  It is possible there's no more maligned Fugazi song in their catalog than "Pink Frosty."  It's understandable: it's barely a song.  It sounds like someone took some drugs and mixed an outtake for the album.  It's completely insubstantial, which would be much less of a problem if it weren't more than four minutes long.

It's hard to figure out what Fugazi is doing here. They obviously liked "Pink Frosty" enough to put it on the album, but does it have a thematic purpose? Is it meant as a palate cleanser before the big finale? The album is 13 tracks long so it's not like this needed to be on there to fill it out. Or was this an attempt at creating a balance with their first record, just in case this ended up being their last?

The last song on "End Hits," "F/D" is bizarre, but it's only bizarre because it appears to be two completely different songs smashed on to the same track.  What's really interesting about it is that it's a clear breakdown between an Ian song and a Guy song.  The very quiet opening features a straightforward chord progression with McKaye's rhyme-y punk rock vocals and an up tempo drum beat.  But there's a break and then the Guy song comes crashing down, full of dramatic guitar and vocals.  Yet for the twangy, high end guitar part, buried underneath it is a simple, driving guitar part that is, again, classic McKaye.

After a few seconds of silence when the song ends, we get outtakes from "No Surprises," like a reminder that this album was all about experimentation.

"Red Medicine" was a much more together album, but "End Hits" was a clear bridge to where Fugazi was headed. This record felt like Fugazi preparing for the end, but not quite there yet.

Discography: Fugazi, Part 5: Red Medicine

"Red Medicine" was the first Fugazi album I ever bought when it was released.  Up until this point, I'd been playing catch up.

There's a decent argument to be made that this is their best album.  It's certainly the first salvo of the band taking their songwriting to the next level.

Right from the start, something is different.  There's the energy we're used to.  It opens with some crazy noise, but that's not too surprising.  But are those...clean guitars?  And it's an up tempo song?  And is that a guitar solo (loosely defined, sure)?

And it's like Fugazi knows this might seem strange to you and they challenge you right in the song.  "I've got a question/how/do you like me?"

We are Fugazi and we've taken it to the next level!

"Bed for the Scraping" is classic Fugazi with a new Fugazi twist.  Groovestastic bass/drums, Ian McKaye grunting, but the guitar work is sharper and more layered than what we've seen before.  This is a new kind of punk rock anthem, but still has all the old school energy.

"Latest Disgrace" says "remember those weird noises at the beginning of this album?  That was just a taste."  The first half of the song is bizarre, as if the guitars have been tuned differently, and everything besides Guy's voice is muted, particularly the barely there drums by Canty.  Oh, and Guy goes falsetto at one point.  But then it all collapses into the kind of straight forward rocking we expect of Fugazi, it just has more power now, because it's got new context.

"Birthday Pony" seems like it should sound like an old Fugazi song, but the production has changed it.  The palm muting, the big chorus -- this should be "13 Songs" era Fugazi.  But the big chorus isn't just big this time around, it's full.  There's a texture there that we haven't seen before.  And you're beginning to realize that Ian and Guy are pushing each other when it comes to vocals.  They're going into uncharted territory.

"Forensic Scene" is an instant classic.

And then we hit the weird stuff.

"Combination Lock" is probably the most "jam" feeling instrumental Fugazi has ever released.  It feels like a song they're just jamming on one day.  "Fell, Destroyed" could be a June of '44 song.  "By You" is a crazy wall of sound with these mellow vocals by Joe Lally.  "Version" is yet another instrumental, but this one features a clarinet...oh, and the bass line from another song on the album (which we haven't gotten to yet).  It's almost like an undecipherable remix of a song that comes later on the record.

We return to more straight forward, yet no less creative, Fugazi rock with "Target."  Yet again, though, there are guitars that are strikingly not distorted, and yet the urgency of the music hasn't lessened at all.  There's even the classic Fugazi palm mute a part by itself, then play it full blown with the rest of the band, yet it all feels much bigger.  Just listen to the guitars on "Back to Base."  We've never heard anything like that on a Fugazi record.  It's epic.  And "Downed City" is much the same, just more frenetic.  It's wonderful.

I love "Long Distance Runner."  In a lot of ways, it epitomizes "new" Fugazi.  We've got this full, kind of notey, two guitar bit, then some bass/drums action (with appropriate level of guitar noise), and a spectacular level of loud quiet loud.  It's also works as the perfect metaphor for the band: they are long distance runners.  They are constantly moving forward.  They have yet to get stuck because they can't stop.  "And if I stop to catch my breath/might catch a piece of death."  No two Fugazi albums have sounded the same.  No two Fugazi albums will ever sound the same, because they are still running.

I'm convinced that one of the members of Fugazi has synesthesia, because I have synesthesia and the majority of these songs are red to me ("Birthday Pony" and "Do You Like Me" are yellow).  I think one of them saw the same thing when it came time to name this album.

At this point, "Red Medicine" became my second favorite Fugazi record. I don't know that anything could dethrone "Repeater" from the top spot. "Red Medicine" would ultimately fall to #3 on my list, though, when it was all said in done. But which of the remaining records knocked it down?

Discography: Fugazi, Part 4: In on the Killtaker

If there was a darkness about "Steady Diet of Nothing," "In on the Killtaker" was Fugazi exorcising it.

"Killtaker" alternately features the most aggressive and, up until that point, the most beautiful songs Fugazi had recorded.

If you were unsure what you were going to get after "Steady Diet of Nothing," you knew from the first song, "Facet Squared."  Open with some playful guitar noises, lay down a nice bass/drums groove, then explode into a driving, closed fist punch of a song, complete with McKaye's forceful, grunting vocals.  This is a Fugazi that will not be ignored, something that was easy to do on the last album.  They're not holding back this time around.

Still unsure?  Welcome to "Public Witness Program."  They're in full on attack mode now, yet the vocals are only getting more and more catchy.  The guitar interplay at around the 1:15 mark lets you know that this energy isn't for show; you're going to get Fugazi's all on this record, and nothing less.

Then we get the first wild card: "Returning the Screw."  It's quiet and sparse, but McKaye's vocals tell you that there's something boiling underneath the surface.  And when it explodes -- and does it ever -- you realize that the energy from the first two songs is still here, just less frantic and more powerful.

I could go on and on about "Smallpox Champion," but it would just be sad because I love the hell out of that song.  When they move into the second half of the song, I get goosebumps.

And that's just the first four songs!  I haven't even gotten to "Rend It," "Sweet and Low," "Walken's Syndrome," or, perhaps the best song on the album and the best "slow" song Fugazi has ever recorded, "Last Chance for a Slow Dance."  This was clearly a band on a mission.

From what I remember, "In on the Killtaker" was a point of contention with Fugazi fans. There was a very clear divide between those who loved it and those who hated it. But I don't think I've ever heard a cogent argument from those who hated it beyond "It's not Fugazi," which makes no sense.

Is this record a change of pace for the band? I guess. But it's clearly a part of their evolution. You don't get to "In on the Killtaker" without the three albums that came before it.

I think this was the Rubicon for Fugazi. This was the record where they discovered their sound. That's not to say they didn't move forward on future records because they most certainly did, but this is the album that got them to that very Fugazi place, a combination of dynamics, intricate song writing, that incredible rhythm section, a phenomenal duel guitar attack, and some next level vocals from both singers.

Stylistically, this could be called the "outro" album, as this is when Fugazi really found their "outro" game. This would become a calling card for the band: a brand new part to a song that only comes at the end. The aforementioned "Smallpox Champion" is a great example of this, but a lot of the songs on this record have them.

This is perhaps the first Fugazi record that fully embraced the "loud quiet loud" style, although it's admittedly modified to better suit the band. Still, the dynamics on this record are certainly amplified. If you really wanted to reduce this album, you could call it "emo," although it's really not.

"Last Chance for a Slow Dance" was probably the song that created the divide among Fugazi fans, although I don't know that for certain. Every Fugazi album has a "slow" song, so to speak, from "Promises" to "Shut the Door" to "Long Division." All three of those are fairly unconventional as far as "slow" songs are concerned. "Last Chance" is much more produced and, yes, Guy Picciotto's vocals do, indeed, make it sound more "emo." Those Fugazi fans who didn't like it were not going to find much joy going forward, either.

It's interesting to note the titles of the four albums I've talked about so far.  "13 Songs" is almost tongue in cheek, like a refusal to actually name the collection of songs from two EPs.  In Fugazi's mind, it wasn't even an album at all, but a compilation.

Apparently, "Repeater" wasn't just named after the song, but was a play on the Beatles "Revolver," since a revolver is both a type of gun and a recorded -- the same as a repeater.  What better sign is there of a band embracing their creative energies than by dropping an allusion like that?

But the playfulness of the first two albums disappears and we get "Steady Diet of Nothing."  Not exactly a shiny, happy album name.  And then what comes after that?  "In on the Killtaker."  It's like depression and aggression, back to back.

This was all a part of the evolution of Fugazi, and evolution that would grow by leaps in bounds on the next two records.

Discography: Fugazi, Part 3: Steady Diet of Nothing

I hadn't realized until this moment that I associate most Fugazi records with specific seasons. "13 Songs" was a winter album. "Repeater" was a summer album. "Steady Diet of Nothing" took me back to winter.

That's appropriate, given that winters where I grew up were long and boorish, a seemingly infinite slog of depression. "Steady Diet" is kind of like that.

"Steady Diet of Nothing" is my least favorite Fugazi album, mostly because there's so little variation to it.  The songs all have the same basic feel to them.  The dynamics that were building on "Repeater" seemed to take a back seat on this album. It felt like a much less adventurous album, as if the band had discovered a sound that they weren't quite sure about, but were willing to play over and over and over again in hopes of getting it right.  

Fugazi didn't evolve like I'd expected them to.

Don't get me wrong, "No Exit" has a nice climax, although it's so insubstantial up until that point that almost anything would have felt climatic.  "Reclamation" is a stand out, and more of the type of thing I was expecting from them given the songs on "Repeater."  But "Nice New Outfit" introduces a rhythmic guitar part that seems to show up in some form or another on multiple songs.  Coupled with the similar structure of a lot of the songs, the whole album feels monotone.

The songs aren't as dynamic as they were on the first two albums. Fugazi was always a band that could make the most out of one or two parts for an entire song, but there was never a lack of depth or complexity. Long Division" is a great song, but it's ostensibly one part over and over again, much the way "No Exit" was just two parts.  Everything's at the same tempo, all the songs are fairly simple.

"Nice New Outfit" to "Stacks" to "Latin Roots" could be the most redundant section of the record. The famous start/stop dueling guitars of Fugazi are on display, but it seems like they don't know how to use them yet.

There's also a darkness to this album.  There was a certain amount of punk rock joy on "13 Songs," and you could actually feel the creative excitement on "Repeater."  That seems to have been sapped for "Steady Diet of Nothing."

The successful songs on this record are the ones that have a hook of some kind. "Reclamation" is a classic, built around a singular guitar sound and a wonderful bass line. "Polish" is the culmination of what every other song on this record was trying to do. "KYEO" could have been on "Repeater." The duel vocals push the song forward and the alternate chorus elevates the song and the final few "we will not be beaten down" resonate in a way that nothing else on the album does.

Looking at this record as a piece of the entire Fugazi catalog, this might be the most transitional record they produced. You can see the germs of what would become the next record already beginning to form. The Fugazi sound was starting to materialize.

Let's face facts: a mediocre Fugazi record is still better than the majority of music out there, so this is by no means a bad album. But I was expecting something more.

I would get it in a big way with "In on the Killtaker."

Discography: Fugazi, Part 2: Repeater

If I had any doubts about how great Fugazi was, those were removed when I heard the title track on "Repeater."  The chorus is not remotely something you'd expect from anything resembling a punk band.  And that rhythm section?  Holy cow.  This was a band that clearly knew what they had in Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, and they knew enough to stay out of their way.

"Merchandise" and "Blueprint" could be the best back-to-back tracks on any Fugazi album. 

I got "Repeater" the summer of 1995, much of which I spent working two jobs. My mornings and afternoons were spent at a grocery store, my evenings were spent at a pizza place. While the pizza place was kind of cool and filled with other late teen/early 20s employees just looking to stay afloat and maybe afford some cheap beer, the grocery was one of a chain and felt very corporate.

I drove the delivery van for that grocery store. We had a bakery and there was a convenient store not far away that ordered fresh doughnuts every morning. Delivery was scheduled for 5:45AM (15 minutes before they opened). I woke up at 4:30AM for that job. There were days when I would work at that job until 2PM and then go to the job at the pizza place at 4PM, getting off work well after midnight. Thankfully, I managed to schedule shifts so that I never worked at the pizza place the night before I worked at the grocery store, although that certainly wasn't the case at the start.

I listened to a lot of Fugazi that summer.

"Merchandise" became an anthem for me, the last song I would listen to before arriving at the grocery store. 

For as much as I love "Merchandise," though, "Blueprint" quickly became my favorite song on the album. Yet another song with an anti-capitalism theme, "Blueprint" was less raging against the system and more feeling beaten down by the system. To this day, the ending gives me goosebumps.

And let's not forget the driving "Greed," which is ostensibly just two parts, yet still works, or the triumphant "Styrofoam."  Is "Reprovisional" cheating a little bit?  Maybe, but it's a great example of how the band had evolved in just two albums.  "Shut the Door" is a great follow-up to "Promises" from "13 Songs," and is another step in the dynamic intensity Fugazi was quickly excelling at.

"Repeater" (the album) is also noteworthy because it's the beginning of the duel guitar formation that would stick with them over the rest of their career.  Guy Picciotto quickly become an excellent song writer, and I think his influence on Ian McKaye pushed them both forward as guitarists.

"Repeater" was a big step forward from "13 Songs." As much as enjoyed that first album, it had a specific sound, a lot of palm muting and guttural vocals. But "Repeater" was Fugazi's statement record. "13 Songs" felt like a demo. "Repeater" was Fugazi making themselves known.

After two albums, I was hooked and I was prepared for "Steady Diet of Nothing" to move Fugazi even further forward.

Discography: Fugazi, Part 1: 13 Songs

Pearl Jam doesn't get enough credit.

I think every generation has those bands who are immensely popular and are very open about their not so popular influences.  Nirvana did the same thing, although they were, like most of Pearl Jam, more interested in promoting their fellow Seattle bands, the ones who had played big parts in their lives but weren't getting the same attention.

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, was vocal about his favorite bands.  He would go so far as to sing bits of their songs during concerts.

Way back in my high school days, I got my first ever bootleg.  It was a recording of Pearl Jam playing at a small club in Paard van Troje in the Netherlands.  It was, appropriately enough, called Pearl Jam: Small Club.

The 8th song of that show, after "Black" and before "Release," was a song that Pearl Jam, to my knowledge, never actually recorded, which is actually for the best, as it's not a particularly good song.  On the bootleg, it's titled "Saying No," and it's more or less about rape.  It's a four minute song and at the three minute mark, Eddie Vedder stops singing his own lyrics.  Instead, he sings the outro of a song called "Suggestion."

This was my introduction to Fugazi.

13 Songs

In the winter of '94, I had a CD player, but I didn't use it much.  I was still mostly listening to casettes, so that's what I bought: "7 Songs" (sometimes known as "Fugazi") by Fugazi which included not only the aforementioned "Suggestion," but "Waiting Room," which was, for whatever reason, Fugazi's best known song.  It was easily my favorite on that tape, although I loved "Bad Mouth" an awful lot, too.

Not long after that, I got "Margin Walker," the cassette that made up the other half of what is considered to be Fugazi's first album, "13 Songs."  "Margin Walker" solidified my enjoyment of Fugazi, as the songs began to become more complicated.  That opening to "Margin Walker" (the song), the bass line in "And the Same," the vocals in "Burning, Too" -- all great stuff.  And that's ignoring what was, I had been told, Fugazi's real classic, "Promises."

At this point in my life, I knew enough about guitar/bass/drums/vocals music to appreciate well crafted, creative songs when I heard them.  The only hesitance I really had to fully embracing Fugazi was Ian McKaye's voice.  His were not the polished vocals that I was used to.  Even the other non-mainstream bands I listened to (Jawbox, Sunny Day Real Estate, Velocity Girl) had, if not clear, than clean vocals.  McKaye sounded like he was grunting out his lyrics, which took some time for me to get used to.  Fortunately, I took to Guy Picciotto's vocals right away.

To this day, I can't hear "Waiting Room" without thinking about driving in nigh complete darkness, snow, and far below freezing temperatures to my job at a factor in Kent, Ohio. That was how I spent my winter break home from college, working the 6:00AM to 2:30PM shift on an assembly line making parts for semis. And there was something oddly appropriate about listening to Fugazi on the way there, a band which had done battle with capitalism throughout its existence, a band who most of assumed lived in squalor to stand for their beliefs.

Fugazi Margin Walker.jpg

Fugazi was working class punk rock when so many other punk rock bands seemed like they were still living off their parents.

For as liberal as they were, Fugazi spoke to my blue collar surroundings and helped me to realize that those to things were not antithetical. You could sit at a crimping machine attaching to parts together over and over again for eight hours a day, five days a week, and still believe that everyone should be treated equal, that social programs were important and should be funded, and that war was never the answer. Fugazi didn't just talk a good game, they lived it, and that came through in their music.

But as much as I liked "13 Songs," I didn't completely fall for Fugazi then.  No, that would happen when I got my hands on "Repeater."

My Awkward Assocation with Punk Rock Part 3

I ostensibly moved to Atlanta because the drummer in my last band had moved there a year early.  He, however, had a job at CNN lined up, whereas I had nothing at all.

Not long after I moved, one of the bands from my hometown came to Atlanta to play a show.  I went to said show and got to see a few people I went to high school with that I'd now known for nearly a decade.  The band, Party of Helicopters, was pretty well known in the "scene," if you will, so their show was a big deal.  It was at this show that I met the king of the scene.

I don't know if such creatures exist anymore, now that we have the internet.  I mean, we had it then, too, but most people I knew were still on dial-up, so it wasn't exactly the go to way of staying in touch or getting music.  I honestly don't remember what the king of the scene in Atlanta's name was.  For some reason, I want to say Matt.

Anyway, we met at that one show and he was nice enough and since I was new in town, it was cool to have someone to talk to that was into the same things as me (or, in this case, one thing that I was into).

Not long after that, another band from my hometown came to Atlanta to play.  This was a little bit different because I was no only friends with these guys from high school, they were also some of my best friends.  They came to my place before the show, we all hung out after the show, they stayed at my place while they were in town.

There van ended up breaking down when they tried to leave, so they stayed a few days longer while it was getting fixed.  The king of the scene even managed to set them up with another show.  I think the Party of Helicopters was there again for that show, so afterwards it was this fairly big group of "indie" people hanging out.  At this point, the king of the scene seemed to assume that, since I knew all these bands from my hometown and I liked a lot of the same music, I was going to be a part of the "scene."

I distinctly remember having a conversation with the king about some upcoming event.  Honestly, I remember it as being a phone conversation about an event that was either that night or the next.  I told him I was going to miss said event and I don't believe I had a reason for missing aside from the fact that I just really didn't care.

He told me that it was the type of thing that I "had" to go to.  I remember him saying that much.  I don't remember how direct he was, but at the very least the implication was that if I wanted to be a member of the "scene," then I had to go to "scene" based events.

Needless to say, that was my last experience in the "scene."

There's something to be said for the timing of that.  It happened the summer of 2000, and I was spending

more and more time online.  It was the heyday of Napster.  I didn't need to go to shows to discover music.  Hell, I didn't need to know anyone to discover music.

Two years later, I moved to Los Angeles.  The first few years were difficult for me with regards to music.  I met a lot of people and made some great friends, but none of them listened to the same things that I did.  I began going to shows by myself, which ultimately wasn't nearly as pathetic as I thought it would be.

During those years, my tastes began to change, aligning with where I'm at now.  I still listen to the recorded in a basement, angst and anger punk rock, but it's not my go to music.  It's music of a mood.  It's no longer my every day music.

These days, my music has softened.  I'm indie rock.  That's probably the best way to put it, as much as that might pain me.  I listen to earnest rock music by bands that don't have mainstream success.  The songs are more accessible, but still challenging, probably more so, even.  I listen to more singing than yelling, although I still enjoy some quality yelling.

Slowly but surely, I met people who were into at least some of the same bands I listened to.  Nicole quickly came on board with a lot of my music.  We started going to shows.  We started going to shows with friends.  The Troubadour was the greatest place on earth.

Even this started to tapper off after a while.  I got old.  A show that went until 1 AM on a week day was exhausting.  My feet hurt from standing.  I wasn't the angry young man I was two decades ago.  And I'm fine with that.

These days, I listen to Pandora and Soma FM to hear new music.  My friends on Facebook talk about their favorite new bands.  I share with Nicole the bands I think she'll like and keep the others to myself.  Every once in a while, if it's a band we both really like a lot, we'll make the drive into the city to see them.  We'll stay up late.

I'm not punk rock.  I don't know that I ever was.  But I had fun dabbling.  I had fun dabbling and it got me to where I am now.

It was worth it.

My Awkward Association with Punk Rock Part 2

I mostly ordered records from Subpop and Dischord, since I knew I liked the Afghan Whigs and I knew I liked Jawbox (although I'd first heard both bands on major labels).  Seven inch records cost between two and three dollars, which wasn't much of an investment to try out a band I'd never heard of.  I stuck some money in an envelope, stuck the envelope in the mail, and a few weeks later I had some vinyl goodness.

Once I discovered that Jawbox had their own label, DeSoto Records, I got a little crazy.  I don't think DeSoto released a 7 inch that I don't own.  Seriously, I'm looking at their web site right now and I'm pretty sure I own all of those.

From 7 inch records I went to compilations.  I was in love with compilations.  It was a great way for me to discover new bands, particularly if some of the tracks were by bands I already knew.  There was the Simple Machines 7' series compilation, the first Jabberjaw compilation, Dischord's State of the Union comp, all those Kill Rock Stars compilations, and endless records put out by tiny labels in every town in America featuring bands their friends were in.

And then there were the 'zines.  Listen, I'm not much for "real" or "true" definitions of labels, like the whole fake geek business.  But if you were actually involved in underground music at all back in the day, you read 'zines.  I mean, you just did.  The internet wasn't the place it was today, so you had to get all your information about upcoming shows, upcoming records, etc. from 'zines.  And some of the bigger ones would even release compilations of their own.

This was all going down during my sophomore year of college, my first year at Ohio University (after leaving

a very small, very conservative school in the middle of the state).  I'd been playing guitar for over a year by this point, so I was actively trying to find people to be in a band with.  I actively sought out people by the music they listened to.  It was all that mattered to me.  It was horribly close minded, but I'm nothing if not committed.  I dove in.

I spent five years at Ohio University, three finishing my undergrad, two in grad school, and during that time I became a bizarrely active member of the "scene."  I put that in quotes because I didn't think such a thing existed, but often found myself in situations where I was planning shows that my band wasn't even playing in.  The younger kids were really into creating a community, which was great, but I've always been a misanthrope, so going out of my way to organize social functions was very strange.

There weren't a lot of "indie" rock bands at OU back then, and by default my first band, Middle Kittanning, became this strange kind of figure head.  A lot of that probably stemmed from the fact that we had a PA that other bands could borrow.  It also probably stemmed from my aforementioned involvement in the "scene," as it were.  As if to firmly cement myself as part of this strange sub-culture, I got a job at a local record store.  Now I was that guy in that band who also works at the music store.  I was defined by all of this.

I realize all of that sounds pretty arrogant and I don't mean it to be.  We're talking about a couple of dozen people in this so-called "scene," at least at this point (it seemed to get larger as the years went on).  And Middle Kittanning really only filled a void left by the graduation of a band called Mr. Hand, who were a stark contrast to a lot of the garage rock that was going on at the time.  I was nothing special.  I'm just trying to make it clear at how completely submerged in this I was.

The kicker came in grad school when I moved into a house with other like minded individuals.  We had a basement full of musical equipment.  We were all in bands of one kind or another, if not multiple bands.  We had shows in our basement which bled out into parties in our house.  We became that house.  Every town has one of those houses, where the loud angry bands play through shitty PA systems and boys with patches and girls with pixie hair get drunk and awkwardly try to make out with each other.  We were that house.

I remember a really nice kid from Memphis, new to OU, setting up a meeting with myself and another member of the house, to discuss the upcoming punk rock events.  I'd suddenly been roped on to the underground social committee.  A band once showed up at our house to play a show, but no one had told us (or anyone else).  They were on tour, so they just hung out.

Eventually, we even had recording equipment in our basement and a audio production major who could use it all (two, really).  Records were now being recorded there by bands from other towns.  It sounds arrogant to say that the house was a hub of some kind, but it really was.  I don't remember there being a house like ours in the years previous.

A funny thing happened while my head was buried in all these things at OU: the music scene in my hometown of Kent, Ohio hadn't become a big deal.  Okay, that's relative, but it seemed like every punk rock crowd in every town in America knew about the bands from my hometown.

I mention this because it became important when I finally left the nest, graduated from OU, and moved to Atlanta.

My Awkward Association with Punk Rock Part 1

Like most kids, I grew up listening to Top 40.  I listened to Casey Kasem's (and later, Rick Dees') countdown show every Sunday, if I could.  My parents listened to a lot of ABBA and Neil Diamond, so that was always in the peripheral.  That was pretty much how it was through the 5th grade, aside from one blip: some small time college band called R.E.M.

My brother introduced me to R.E.M. for one reason and one reason only: they had a song about Superman.  It would be years before I even realized the song was a cover.

For some reason, once I reached middle school, I started borrowing tapes from my brother (yes, tapes).  There was more R.E.M., of course.  The B-52s.  Depeche Mode.  The Sundays.  They Might Be Giants.  Nine Inch Nails.  Jane's Addiction.  Mostly "progressive" music that would either become or lead to "alternative" music.

I remember my friends at the time thought everything I listened to was weird.

I entered high school in the fall of 1990.  That first year I mostly continued listening to my weird progressive music.  I was an angsty kid, and at the time it was as close to angsty as I could find (aside from metal, but I didn't know any metal kids, so it was a complete mystery to me.  My metal phase would come much later).

In the fall of '92, things changed.  I was still angsty, and suddenly there was music for exactly that emotion: grunge.  For about two years, it was the majority of what I listened to.  I know it sounds stupid, but it spoke to me.  It said the same things I was saying.

In the winter of '93, I joined a band.  We called ourselves oral groove (yes, lower case).  Our biggest influence was probably Ned's Atomic Dustbin, although I was clearly trying to be Eddie Vedder, at least for the first year.

Being in a band exposed me to more music (like the aforementioned Ned's).  Aside from the flavor of the day, we each liked different rock music, from metal to hair bands to hippie jam bands.  None of us really listened to anything that might have been called punk rock, not really, not then.  But we did seem to push each other to find new bands outside the growing alternative mainstream.  The Afghan Whigs and Quicksand were two notable finds.

Grunge was the first cultural phenomenon I got on board with early on, and the first one I watched expand like crazy and ultimately become co-opted.  I'm not saying I wasn't part of that, but it was strange to watch.  As grunge became alternative, it was watered down, and very quickly third and fourth generation bands were mimicking the same sound.

Alternative music also lacked the angst that grunge had.  It veered into hippie territory.  I was far too disgruntled for that.  I had to look elsewhere.

I can still remember sitting in my parents living room watching the video for "Unsung" on MTV.  Helmet were four dorky guys with short hair playing heavy music and I broke my cassette of their second album, "Meantime" I played it so much.  The last part of my senior year, Helmet had unseated many of the grunge bands.

And then I graduated.

Musically, I took Pearl Jam, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, R.E.M., Weezer, Helmet, and the Afghan Whigs with me.  Say what you want about Pearl Jam, but they were always the grunge band that got me.  I didn't have the refined pallet to appreciate Nirvana the way I do now.

I had a good mix going.  Weezer hadn't really taken off yet, but I bought their first album as soon as I heard "Undone."  The Afghan Whigs was a band that my friends and I absolutely loved, and that no one else we knew seemed to care about.  It was the same way with Ned's, although they were more of a pure alternative band.

Two bands happened to me the fall of my freshman year of college that completely changed the way that I thought about music.  Those bands were Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate.

Oh, and I also started playing guitar.  Suddenly I was much more involved in creating music, and if mainstream music had turned me off before, it was even worse now.  The lack of integrity in mainstream music became very apparent when I started creating my own.

The final element of my musical awakening, if you will, came from a discovery that was, funny enough, facilitated by the internet.  Back then the internet was, for me, mostly about BBS forums and record label web sites; there were no such things as MP3s.  But internet gave me the information I needed for something very important: mail order records.

Armed with catalogs I'd printed out from web sites, addresses from the same, and a record player I'd had for at least a decade, I began my submersion into the world of underground music.

Pop Essay #1: Weezer

The summer of '94 was pretty great. I'd just graduated from high school and was getting ready to go college that fall. It seemed as if my parents had either become completely lax in their enforcement of my curfew or just no longer cared, as such a thing would soon be out of their hands, anyway. The only drama I had involved leaving behind an ex-girlfriend who never became completely ex, at least at that point, but it was the type of drama dependent upon someone liking you, which meant that, at its core, it was almost good to have. I was eighteen and I had my friends and I was done with high school and freedom was in the air.

And this is when I first fell for Weezer. Heck, I believe I even gave said ex-girlfriend a mix tape with "The World Has Turned" on it, because I loved the song and because I felt it related to our relationship, and what more could you ask for from a band, from a song?

I'm not sure why I latched on to Weezer as quickly as I did. Part of it, I'm sure, was their image, as I was something of a dork myself. I'd also grown quite fond of driving around in the summer time and singing along with my car stereo, and Weezer was great for that.

Because I was eighteen and filled with all the bitterness a Midwestern teen can muster, I viewed people in two groups when it came to Weezer: the "Undone" fans and the "Buddy Holly" fans. I was the former, of course, and at one point my pretentiousness actually drove me away from the almighty Weez because of those "Buddy Holly" fans. The rift didn't last too long.

But let's start right from the top, shall we?

The Blue Album

Weezer played in Cleveland before anyone had really heard of them. I didn't go to that show (it would be years later before I ever saw them live), but they did a radio interview for a local station the day of the show. It had to have been the middle of the afternoon and I can't imagine too many people heard it. I don't even think the DJ really knew who they were, but he was at least good enough to intersperse a few of the band's songs throughout the interview. It might not have been the first time I heard "Undone," but it's the time I remember the most. I also remember that there were a group of six or seven, hardcore Weezer fans standing outside the radio station with signs proclaiming their love for the band.

I love the Blue Album for a lot of reasons. Yes, it's awesome. There's only one song on it that I could live without ("Holiday"). But, of course, it holds sentimental value. For me, it's probably my favorite album of theirs, basically because of context.


I was in college when Weezer finally released their second album and I will admit, to this day I don't understand what all the fuss was about -- and I mean that on both sides of the fuss aisle. There's no question that Pinkerton's a great album and a worthy successor to the Blue Album. I am genuinely baffled, however, but the positive and negative claims about it being dark and/or abrasive. Compared to the Blue Album, it's definitely darker, but on it's own? No, I just don't think so. Hell, I spent most of the winter of 1996 listening to this album, and winters in Ohio are about the most depressing thing in the world, and I still didn't see what was so incredibly dark about this record. Is it as pop friendly as the Blue Album? Of course not. But it's still power chords and vocal harmonies. Hell, at times it's filled with borderline silly lyrics.

More intense than the Blue Album? Definitely. And I think that's ultimately what scared so many people away. But I also think that it became the record that Weezer fans used to define themselves and, sadly, the band. It turned into "if you liked Pinkerton, you must be a real fan," and that was unfortunate. Even worse, a certain segment of their fan base took that belief even further, now believing that anything that doesn't sound like Pinkerton is a failure for Weezer.

I love Pinkerton. It's a very specific record from a very specific time. But I would hate for Weezer to try and recreate it, and I'm glad they haven't.

Green Album

I'll admit it: I was thrilled when I heard Weezer was releasing a new album. Since I was still pretty new to the whole "obsessing over a band online" thing, I was completely in the dark as to the circumstances that led to the release of the Green Album, or the fact that there appeared to be hundreds of unreleased Weezer songs. When I first heard "Hash Pipe," I got even more excited; it was everything I wanted from a Weezer song, big guitar sound, catchy vocals, weird lyrics -- clearly, I thought, this new album was going to pick up where they left off.

Well, it did, I guess, if picking up where they left off meant putting out a bland and, dare I say it, trite record. Don't get me wrong, I still love "Hash Pipe," and there are one or two other songs on the Green Album that I enjoy, but overall this was...well, this was weak. I had no choice but to chock it up as Weezer's version of spring training, and that they had to get this album out of their system before putting out a real Weezer record.


And that's exactly what they did. Sure, I love the Blue Album and Pinkerton, but Maladroit, to me, was the future of Weezer (I was wrong about that one, it turned out). It is filled with giant guitar sounds, big riffage, and catchy vocals. It was an album that said that Weezer couldn't really be that dorky band everyone knew and loved years ago, but that they could rock better than pretty much anyone else. If their first two albums were "alternative" and their third album was "pop," this album was rock and I freaking loved the hell out of it.

Just listen to "Take Control" and tell me it doesn't sound like something Guns N' Roses could have come up with.

Anyway, I've just read that this was Weezer's least successful album to date, which I suppose is only appropriate. I like big rock records and that's what Weezer gave me, so I'm grateful, even if they dropped this sound completely going forward.

Make Believe

As soon as I heard "Beverly Hills," I knew this was not going to end well.

I don't loathe Make Believe the way that many Weezer fans do. But coming on the heels of Maladroit, it just felt like a huge step backward, and some reviews went so far as to suggest that's exactly what Weezer was trying to do. There seemed to be a belief among some music reviewers that this was Weezer's attempt (and probably producer Rick Rubin's as well) at putting together another Pinkerton. If I need more validation on my belief that they should never try such a thing, this supports me pretty nicely.

What's really strange to me about Make Believe is just how tame it is, something made all the more obvious given the album it followed. And that's not to say that I don't enjoy some of the songs; I actually like "Perfect Situation" and "We Are All On Drugs," and I think "The Other Way" is really catchy. But by and large it's just, well, a wussy record that feels nearly as by the numbers as the Green Album.

Clearly, Weezer weren't going to use Maladroit as the basis for their future. It seemed like they weren't really sure what kind of band they were going to be.

Red Album

If I need confirmation that Weezer was going through an identity crisis, I got it with their sixth album. If there's a singles song on the Red Album the epitomizes the entire record, it's "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," as I think it actually covers every style Weezer has ever tried in a single song...which is actually why I like it, because it's just insane.

The experiment of letting other members of the band write and/or sing songs didn't go over so well, either. Those songs stick out like sore thumbs and break up any momentum the album had, although that's giving it a lot of credit. This was also the first Weezer album released in two versions, one with bonus tracks. As would become a trend, some of the bonus tracks ended up being better than some of the regular tracks, which calls into question the song selection. In fact, it would be be possible to put together a 10 track version of the Red Album that's far superior than the one that was released, just by replacing a few songs with the bonus tracks.

As unstable as this record seemed, there was a seed in it that seemed to be the future of the band. The accompanying tour, where fans were encouraged to bring instruments along and play along with the band, was another clue as to what the future held for Weezer. It was going to be different, for sure, but not entirely without precedence in their catalog.

They were going to embrace this new style whole heartedly on the next record.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is the new Weezer: a sublimely ridiculous rock band, full of spectacle and hooks. This is not the Weezer you knew when you were a teen. There is no angst here, but tongue in cheek bravado and a desire to have a slightly warped good time.

Personally, I love the hell out of it.

I'll admit there are a few clunkers on this album, although, again, that could have been fixed had they dropped those songs and replaced them with some of the higher quality bonus tracks ("Get Me Some," "Run Over By A Truck," and "Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World" should all be on this album). But the size of it, the overblown style and the pure, unadulterated joy of music practically oozes from every song.

This is also the first record in some time where Rivers' incredibly awkward sincerity comes through. He's completely earnest on every track, even when he's singing about things that are completely foreign to him. But he's so painfully honest that it still works, even when he's singing about his "homies" or his "posse," or telling a girl that she's his "baby, and I'm your daddy." It's so wrong, yet oh, so right.

I'll be interested to see where Weezer goes from here. I would expect another record like this one, although I can't see how they'll be able to maintain this much beyond that. Then again, these albums always seem to reflect where Rivers' is at in his life, so who knows what he'll be doing years from now.

So, yes, Weezer, I still love you, probably more than I did way back in that summer of 1994, not in spite of all the changes and missteps, but because of them. And I'm looking forward t the future.

Biograhical Mix, 2002: The City of Angels

Of all the questions to be asked about the 19 (currently working on 20th) mixes like this I have made, there is one that had a definitive answer: Which mix has the best first song? You will find no better way to start a mix than the way this one begins.

For what it's worth, I spent the first 5 months of 2002 living in Atlanta. I then drove back to Ohio, and then flew to Los Angeles. There's very clearly a song on here specifically for that drive out of Atlanta (and, in theory, my flight to California). Most of these songs seem to take a turn for the fast paced, which only seemed appropriate given my new surroundings. While the "underground" music that seeped into Ohio from New York, DC, and Chicago seemed much more experimental and heavy, it just felt right somehow to listen to upbeat, singalong type music once I got to Los Angeles. If I'm ever independently wealthy, I'd love to research and write a book about the differences in the underground music scenes from the west coast and the east coast -- and the north coast, for that matter. They all seem very much rooted in some sense of geographic identity.

Anyway, with all that in mind...

"Party Hard" by Andrew WK
"California" by Phantom Planet
"Hate to Say I Told You So" by the Hives
"City of Angels" by the Distillers
"Another Morning Stoner" by Trail of Dead
"Diazapam" by Karate
"Disco" by the Butchies
"You Are Invited" by the Dismemberment Plan
"It's Over" by the Fire Theft
"Get Free" by the Vines
"Paris In Flames" by Thursday
"Fell In Love With a Girl" by the White Stripes
"Beautiful Disaster" by American Hi-Fi
"Cochise" by Audioslave
"All Systems Go" by Boxcar Racer
"Clocks" by Coldplay
"Light Rail Coyote" by Sleater Kinney
"Eastern Wave" by Three Mile Pilot
"Taste of Ink" by the Used
"Keep Fishin'" by Weezer
"No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age

Seriously, there was a point over the summer when I listened to just the Vines, the Hives, and the White Stripes. It was all very strange. I blame my exposure to KROQ.

I will say this: moving to a new city caused me to latch on to music in a way that I hadn't really done before. Going forward, I would keep track of release dates and end up buying a new CD nearly every week. I'd never really been a part of that ritual, but I found that I needed new music every week -- it brought me a sense of stability, akin to new comic book day on Wednesdays.

Perhaps that will be my next stroll down memory lane -- a biographical mix of comic books.

Biographical Mix, 2001: Also Full of Stars

As I mentioned way back when I started this series of blog entries (and the fact that I'm still doing this has to be a testament to my social life), my current mix process involves making quarterly mixes over the course of each year. Basically, I have a playlist called "New" which is filled with music I'm currently listening to, both old and recently released. At this point I actually have a backlog of music to listen to, so I also have a playlist called "Next" which I use to reload "New" at the end of every quarter. New releases, however, generally move to the top of the list.

So as the months go by, I start putting my favorite songs on a playlist called "Year Part Whatever." I don't pay attention to how many songs are going on it at that point. And, as I make my way through albums, I remove them from "New." Rare is the month where I have to add more songs from "Next," but it has happened.

Anyway, round about the middle of the final month, I add the last of my favorite songs to "Year Part Whatever" and go about thinning it down to the length of one CD. Sure, this is a process that will be obsolete someday (probably the next time I buy a car), but for now it's what I do so I can listen to the mix while I drive. I cut down and organize the mix, then burn it onto a CD, which gives me the last two weeks of the month to listen to it, basking in the last three months of my musical month.

I mention all this because I did exactly that for "2009 Part Three" today.

And now, back to some post-college angst.

"Cut" by Pinback
"Understanding In a Car Crash" by Thursday
"Sever" by Karate
"Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta" by the Getto Boys
"B.O.B." by Outkast
"Beautiful" by Flickerstick
"Life In a Glass House" by Radiohead
"Schism" by Tool
"The Authority Song" by Jimmy Eat World
"Never Say Never" by That Dog
"You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" by Weezer
"Wrecking Ball" by Creeper Lagoon
"Sing" by Travis
"The Best Deception" by Dashboard Confessional
"Sparks" by Coldplay
"Drive" by Incubus
"Outside the Aviary" by Burning Airlines
"Travel By Telephone" by Rival Schools
"Chop Suey!" by System of a Down

A few, obvious influences show up in this mix. The first is the fact that I was living in Atlanta, and if you think Outkast was big, you should have been living in Atlanta; they were everywhere, and they were everywhere well before they were anywhere else. It was a little strange, actually, to move to a city and discover this band that was really big there, only to watch them blow up nationally just a few months later.

Then there was the VH1 reality show "Bands On the Run." I was addicted and, to this day, I'm shocked it never got a second season. But I followed it religiously when it was on, and that's how the band Flickerstick ended up on this mix.

It's funny to look ahead. Atlanta managed to inject at least a little bit of hip hop into my mix, and I saw Coldplay perform in an old church in the ATL before they'd really taken off, which is how they ended up on this mix. But Atlanta wouldn't have nearly the influence on me that my coming move to Los Angeles would.

Biographical Mix, 2000: Mono

Believe it or not, this mix actually raises any fairly complex question as far as the formulation of my mixes is concerned or, more to the point: what do I do with songs by band my friends are in?

This issue was brought on by the first few months I lived in Atlanta, when the Pankration came to live with me for a week. That wasn't their intention, but a dying van and an opportunity to play a second show a few days after the first one lead to them sleeping in my living room for multiple nights. They were still waiting to get copies of their CD, but had hand packaged a few, and since I had the inside track, they gave me a copy.

As far as memories go, living with the Pankration is hard to match.

But you'll notice that there's no Pankration song on this mix, just as there were no songs by Putty on earlier mixes. My rationalization behind this is that, if I were to start putting songs onto mixes by people that I know, it would be never ending. Even worse, what would I then do about my own bands? Clearly those bands represent a specific time even more so than these songs. So I just decided to steer clear of the entire issue.

Entertaining side note: a few weeks after the Pankration left, I ended up in the emergency room with an enlarged spleen, a result of having mono for months and not knowing it, although it's more exciting to say that the Pankration stayed with me and left me in the hospital.

"Sugar" by System of a Down
"New Noise" by Refused
"Black Jack Mastered" by Pretty Mighty Mighty
"Nagarkot" by Very Secretary
"Soda Jerk" by Buffalo Tom
"My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit
"Little Black Back Pack" by Stroke 9
"Is Anybody Home?" by Our Lady Peace
"Change (In the House of Flies)" by the Deftones
"Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" by Travis
"One" by Sunny Day Real Estate
"No Sensitivity" by Jimmy Eat World
"Everything In Its Right Place" by Radiohead
"Tinfoil" by Rainer Maria
"Sweetness (demo)" by Jimmy Eat World
"Sonny" by Palo Alto
"Spite and Fire" by Rainer Maria
"What I Would Say To You Now" by Jimmy Eat World
"Mark David Chapman" by ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

This mix is very evenly divided between the last half of my final year of grad school (through Our Lady Peace) to the beginning of my stay in Atlanta. Much of the first half was influenced by the top 40 station I listened to while working at the gas station in Athens, Ohio.

And to connect everything together, this was not my first experience with the awesomely named Trail of Dead. Years earlier, they were supposed to play in Athens, and my band, Middle Kittanning, was supposed to play with them. They were then supposed to go up to Akron for a show, which they were going to play with my friends in the Underground Asian Movement. Unfortunately, Trail of Dead got robbed after a show in New Orleans and had to cancel the rest of their shows, and thus my brush with rock stardom was destroyed.

Biographical Mix, 1999: Insert Prince Joke

I have a lot of really specific memories from the songs on this mix, more so than most of my mixes. While all of them give me a sense of a period of time, not all of them make me think of exact moments in time, but I think perhaps this is all due to the fact that the final year of the 20th century (and those who argue that the first year of the new millennium is 2001 should consider the fact that hitting 1 marks the end of the first year, so '99 was actually the 100th year of the 1900's -- just like birthdays, people, it's not science) and, being the sentimental sort that I am, everything seemed amplified.

There's also the simple fact that 1999 marked the end of a lot of important things for me, from the end of my last, full fledged band, the end of my first, long term relationship, the start of my last year of college. In other words, this mix is kind of mushy in spots, which is funny, given that next year I would start an entire series of mixes featuring only slow songs (but I will spare you those, unless you're a sadist).

"Clarity" by Jimmy Eat World
"Breakfast of Champions" by Rainer Maria
"Coffee and TV" by Blur
"Carnival" by Burning Airlines
"Generator" by the Foo Fighters
"Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" by Prong
"Wear Two Eyes (Boom)" by June of '44
"Atlantic" by Rainer Maria
"Devil You Know (God Is A Man)" by Face to Face
"Virgin State of Mind" by K's Choice
"I Don't Care For You" by Action League
"Disappear (Version Chula Vista)" by J Church
"Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" by Cake
"With or Without You" by U2
"Days Were Golden (live)" by Sunny Day Real Estate
"Goodbye Sky Harbor" by Jimmy Eat World

Buffy continue to have an influence on my life, as the Face to Face and K's Choice songs are from the soundtrack. The two songs after that are from the "Songs for the Broken Hearted" compilation that I actually bought well before being broken hearted. While that Sunny Day Real Estate song is from the album they released the previous year, this was a live recording they'd release in 1999, and it was a song that I really, really loved when I saw them play it live.

That Prong song might be the best example of how one person can work a song into my life; my friend Jay used to play that every night before parties. I still can't hear it without returning to the living room at 18 Oak St., expecting to see Jay with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

Sadly, those days were numbered after the century ended. My mixes, however, would continue on undeterred.

Biographical Mix, 1998: The Local Arm

A lot happened to and for me in 1998. I graduated from college and, not yet ready to let that gravy train come to an end, decided to go to grad school at the exact same school I'd just graduated from. I joined a new band, The Local Arm, which, I think, was some what more forceful in its style. Sunny Day Real Estate got back together and released a new album, and even went on tour. And, of course, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I like this mix an awful lot. If I were to rank my various mixes, I'm sure this would be somewhere near the top. I listened to a lot of great albums during this year of my life -- that and the fact that I was in a new band had me as hyped for music as I'd been in a while.

"Somethin' Hot" by the Afghan Whigs
"If You Are to Bloom" by Hum
"Be Quiet and Drive" by the Deftones
"Enjoy the Silence" by Therapy
"Green to Me" by Hum
"My Own Summer" by the Deftones
"A Disgust for Details" by Coalesce
"Good Intentions (original)" by For Love Not Lisa
"Pillars" by Sunny Day Real Estate
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" by Nerf Herder
"Cavity" by Boy Sets Fire
"Milwaukee Sky Rocket" by Braid
"Color of Contrast" by Compound Red
"My Bejing Hot Rod" by Flu Thirteen
"Five Corporations" by Fugazi
"Of Information and Belief" by June of '44
"Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2" by Radiohead
"How It Feels To Be Something On" by Sunny Day Real Estate
"Little Chang, Big City" by Seam

Odd fact: I have a very mild form of synesthesia. I can remember, after band practice one day, asking the other guys if they saw our songs as colors. They all kind of looked at me like I was insane. They then quizzed me, asking what color each of our songs was. And I had answers for all of them.

This mix, more so than any of the others so far, has a color to me. And while the obvious answer would be "green," it is, in fact, blue. I have no idea why. You just have to trust me on this. It still happens to me to this day, although not as often as it used to.

Biographical Mix, 1996: Middle Kittanning

Being in a band in college is so completely different than being in a band in high school that I feel like there should be different terms for them. Going a step further, being a "singer" in a band in high school (and, yes, that should be in quotes) and being a guitarist (and main songwriter) in a band in college are like night and day. Suddenly, everything I listened to became an influence on what I was producing, and as a direct result, my basic criteria for music became simple: I wanted to listen to stuff that I would like to play.

I was also surrounding myself with very specific group of people. Athens, Ohio is a pretty small town and the live music scene there is pretty fractured among many sub-divisions, but even a small sub-division was more than I'd ever been a part of before. For as much as I loved being in Oral Groove, and for as much as I talked about being in Oral Groove, it was never something that defined me, mostly because everyone knew me before I joined the band. In college it was different. In college I became guy in a band and everything spread out from there.

This was both good and bad. On one hand, I discovered some great music, got to play in the first of what would be two bands in college, and met some great people. On the other hand, it was completely insular. It also took over my life in ways that are impossible to explain to most people.

Like I said, though: I discovered some great music, and while lots of new bands show up on this mix, a few of the old standby's managed to stick around.

"Cherry Coke" by Karate
"Fagetarian and Dyke" by Team Dresch
"June Miller" by June of '44
"Stretched Too Thin" by the Crownhate Ruin
"Blame, Etc." by the Afghan Whigs
"Hey, Latasha" by Seam
"Spoiler" by Jawbox
"Scenic Pastures" by Archers of Loaf
"El Scorcho" by Weezer
"Visible Distance" by the Universal Order of Armageddon
"Corpse Pose" by Unwound
"Screwing Yer Courage" by Team Dresch
"What Did You Expect?" by Archers of Loaf
"Going to Town" by the Afghan Whigs
"Call It In the Air" by Jimmy Eat World
"Something to Forget" by Texas Is the Reason
"The Prizefighters" by Seam
"Sink Is Busted" by June of '44
"Desert Sea" by Jawbox
"Leave" by R.E.M.
"Shade and the Black Hat" by Jeremy Enigk

Over the next year, though, the other members of Middle Kittanning would start to have even more of an influence on what I was listening to...

Biographical Mix, 1994: D.C. Comes Calling

I could just as easily referred to my 1994 mix as "The Dying of Alternative," at least in my world at that time. A fad that I had so completely submerged myself in was beginning to lose its appeal, as most fads do after just a few years. Part of it was the fact that the mainstream was now hyping up incredibly bad bands with the "alternative" label, so the genre itself was getting watered down (as my brother once said, "alternative to what?"). The other part was that I discovered independent labels and, more specifically, the wide wonderful world of the Washington, DC music scene.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the band that got me into Discord Records and all the various smaller labels associated with wasn't Minor Threat or even Fugazi, it was Jawbox. Sure, I knew who Fugazi was and I was even growing to enjoy their music, but Jawbox was much more my style of music. They were far less abrasive (although I do generally like abrasive), their lyrics were weirder, and they had a chick bass player -- I was sold. I don't even remember why I bought the cassette of their second album, Novelty, but I did, and I practically wore it before buying the CD version, simply because it had two extra songs on it.

Still, while there are glimpses of what people would call punk or post-hardcore or indie music on this music, there was still a healthy heaping of mainstream, alternative rock, probably the most that would end up on any of my mixes going forward.

Oh, and after a disappearance from the last mix, R.E.M. makes their triumphant return, making them 4 for 5 on mixes.

"Work For Food" by Dramarama
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" by R.E.M.
"Sick of Myself" by Matthew Sweet
"Waiting Room" by Fugazi
"Static" by Jawbox
"Unfulfilled" by Quicksand
"Seven" by Sunny Day Real Estate
"Fountain and Fairfax" by the Afghan Whigs
"Interstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots
"Right Turn" by Alice In Chains
"Get It Together" by the Beastie Boys
"Cut Your Hair" by Pavement
"Basketcase" by Green Day
"My Name Is Jonas" by Weezer
"Milktoast" by Helmet
"March of the Pigs" by Nine Inch Nails
"All Apologies (unplugged)" by Nirvana
"Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots
"Corduroy" by Pearl Jam
"My World Is Empty/I Hear A Symphony (live)" by the Afghan Whigs

There are some interesting songs on this list. Even though Fugazi had a number of albums out by this point, I dutifully bought their music in chronological order, although for the life of me I don't know why.

The aforementioned Oral Groove covered a Green Day song, although it was "Longview," not "Basketcase." My friends Matt and Rob (also of Oral Groove) and I discovered Quicksand because of an episode of Beavis and Butthead. I bought two CDs before going to college that I considered essential: "God Fodder," by Ned's Atomic Dustbin (I'd been listening to a copy I got from Matt or Rob) and the "What Jail Is Like" EP by the Afghan Whigs, specifically because it had live tracks on it, and I thought they were the greatest live band I'd ever seen.

It's also interesting that Sunny Day Real Estate snuck their way onto this list, given how huge they would become in my life.