10,000 Maniacs

Though they would eventually achieve tremendous commercial success, 10,000 Maniacs seemed like unlikely candidates for mainstream stardom at the start of their recording career. The eclectic sextet from the remote upstate New York burg of Jamestown originally drew inspiration from an unpredictable array of influences, from folk to punk to reggae, an approach that’s reflected…

Sonic Youth

Latter-day rock’n’roll revolutionaries have shown a marked tendency towards swift burnout. They reveal their raw vision to the world, but the world, being the philistine place that it is, turns away; the musicians move on. Sonic Youth, unlike so many of the noise bands that formed in New York at the beginning of the ’80s,…

Feelies

These New Jerseyites are the stuff of legend and cults. Led by guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million (originally featuring future avant-star drummer Andy Fisher, aka Anton Fier), the Feelies dressed like nerdy preppies and paid only passing attention to the conventional demands of rock and roll. Even during the original band’s period of highest…

Naked Raygun

Chicago’s Naked Raygun was one of the encouraging new punk bands that bloomed in the Midwest long after thrash had apparently isolated the punk aesthetic in its own circumscribed ghetto, where it would never again challenge the musical values of regular folk. Lump the longer-running Raygun in with Hüsker Dü, Man Sized Action, Big Black…

Rain Parade

Like most of the bands implicated in the West Coast psychedelic revival (the paisley underground, if you will), Rain Parade has a better ear for style than for substance. Most of the genre’s bands tend to make very deft, subtle music but have nothing to say; Rain Parade at least knows the nuances of form…

Minutemen

San Pedro, California’s greatest musical export clearly understood the concept of brevity. The trio’s albums and EPs pack an astonishing number of songs, most of which (on the early releases, at least) clock in at under a minute. In that brief time, they took apart rock, jazz and funk and put the pieces back together…

Game Theory

Game Theory, the songwriting vehicle for Northern California native and pop-eclectician Scott Miller, was a clean, and for a time, mildly psychedelic, pop band from northern California, whose departures from conventional meat-and-potatoes reality were more quirky than trippy. Although sometimes lumped in with Los Angeles’ Paisley Undergrounders like the Three O’Clock, Game Theory was more…

Butthole Surfers

There are few experiences in this life that leave one feeling as sullied as a spin through the grooves of a Butthole Surfers record. Unlike so many nouveau scuzzbos, Austin’s Buttholes don’t descend into the depths of squalor to make a point about the human condition — they just like it down there. Splotches of…

Meatmen

Obnoxious, crude, offensive, blasphemous, tiresome and funny — the Meatmen are one band you’d never be able to explain to your parents (or even the vast majority of your peers). The rude punk parodists from Michigan heard on the infamous Blood Sausage and Crippled Children Suck 7-inches stomped on the sensitive issues of society with…

Offs

This punk-identified San Francisco quartet-plus-horns ensemble, possessed of both art and boogie aspirations, won a place in rock’n’roll history with the single, “Everyone’s a Bigot,” one of the best songs from the almost uniformly fine Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. A rolling sax riff and naive but sincere lyrics gave the song a compelling sense…

Man Sized Action

To be the coolest band in Minneapolis nowadays you need a little more vision and talent than the gallant Man Sized Action could muster. But to be a cool band anywhere, all you need is this unpretentious lot’s commitment to a few good ideas. Man Sized Action opened up punk structures with distorted, ringing guitar,…

Newcleus

A couple of songs from Jam on Revenge were successful, so it would be unfair to call the youthful Newcleus a one-hit wonder. But the only track that’s worth talking about is “Jam on It,” a hip-hop celebration of the joys of juvenilia. Innocent but not gooey, the song takes rap off the street and…

Malcolm McLaren

Most people, if they get the chance, have to settle for one great achievement in the cultural arena. Not for Malcolm McLaren. Besides being an imperialistic cultural plunderer (a non-judgmental designation), he is one of rock’s true visionaries. His role in the formation and promotion of the Sex Pistols has been construed as everything from…

Necros

This Ohio punk quartet’s crunching thrash metal is devastating — and not just in its speed and power, although those qualities are present in brutal abundance. The tough part about listening to the Necros is the awkward, ungainly chord sequences they drag you through. As soon as they gather a head of steam, the band…

Minor Threat

As the seminal hardcore band of our nation’s capital, Minor Threat played fast, impassioned music that defined the genre while never succumbing to its shortcomings. The quartet had both a sense of melody and a sense of purpose. “Straight Edge” was among the first hardcore songs to call for abstinence from drugs and booze, and…

Feederz

In the fine tradition of pre-grunge Northwest punk bands, Feederz made an art of being irritating and abrasive. Their lyrics are fairly offensive, their album cover has a piece of sandpaper on each side, and the insert offers such words of wisdom as “Don’t say ‘yes teacher’ — say Jam it bitch!” and “time to…

Angst

This Denver-to-San Francisco artpunk trio of brothers Joe Pope (bass/vocals) and Jon E. Risk (guitar/vocals) plus drummer Michael Hursey serves up uncompromising, driving music in a number of directions on their debut EP. They get funky on “Pig,” a heartwarmingly old-fashioned song about the law, drone on the junked-out “Another Day” and drive straight ahead…

Swans

Play the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” at half-speed — go ahead, do it — and you’ve got Swans plus a sense of humor and the possibility that, if you just adjust the speed control, everything will get good. Take away the sense of humor and the speed control, and you’ve got Swans. In all probability,…

Oh-OK

After hearing so many art bands buried in their own sense of self-importance, it’s refreshing to bask in the modesty of Athens’ Oh-OK. Like R.E.M. (with whom they share a family tie), this humble group put their elliptical ideas over as much by being good guys as anything else. Oh-OK was a guitarless trio on…

Fat Boys

It helps to have a gimmick, and this Brooklyn trio — originally known as the Disco 3 — had several. While most rappers brag about what great lovers they are, Prince Markie Dee (Mark Morales), Buff Love (Darren Robinson) and Kool Rock-ski (Damon Wimbley) brag about what great eaters they are. In this, their claim…