In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we asked, “What’s a song you like by a band you know absolutely nothing about?”
When The A.V. Club’s mini-empire of local websites spanned the continental United States and crossed international borders—cheers to A.V. Club Milwaukee, the last vestige of that bold experiment—generating content for the site and populating the local section of The Onion with weekly event “picks” was occasionally a one-person operation. (Cheers to the freelancers and interns that alleviated that burden.) During my time as Austin City Editor, I wrote up dozens of capsule recommendations for bands I only knew by reputation or streaming singles, acts like Follow That Bird, Flesh Lights, and OBN III’s who offered regular opportunities to get to know them better. But because I’m much more suited to soaking up artistic works from the comfort of a living room, I rarely made it out to see these bands, which is a terrible way to cover a scene. To be fair, there were also shows by touring bands, the city’s booming comedy scene, and special screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse to cover; still, that didn’t prevent me from feeling like a total fraud when making references to, say, OBN III’s “uncontrollable proto-punk urges.”
But it’s possible to also see this self-imposed bubble as the source for a uniquely pure form of criticism—no scene politics or self-mythologizing could gunk up my take on what was OBN III’s then-limited recorded output, best evidenced by the buzzsaw brio of “Do My Thing.” Sure, the fact that the band was something of a local supergroup—comprising members and ex-members of other, similarly noisy-and-snotty acts The Strange Boys, Bad Sports, and A Giant Dog—colored my opinion, but that was about it. Then, as today, “Do My Thing” plays on its own, thundering merits, a boneheaded garage-punk declaration of independence that finds a little bit of soul in a dumbed-down Motown bassline. Elsewhere, frontman/band namesake Orville Bateman Neeley III does his Iggy Pop thing, with shouted instruction to his fellow musicians lending the whole enterprise a fiery R&B preacher twist. The song makes for a bracing opener to the Gerard Cosloy-curated compilation Casual Victim Pile II—a sequel to a Matador-issued snapshot of the Austin underground, named after an anagram for the city’s “Live Music Capital” slogan—one of the essential documents in my by-proxy coverage of the environment in which OBN III’s continue to operate. I can still probably tell you a little bit about the bands that appear on the comp’s tracklist—though that information stems almost entirely from said tracklist.