In Binge And Purge, The A.V. Club’s Josh Modell is going through his collection of 2,000 CDs, writing a bit about each artist, and then purging the unnecessary in the hopes of cutting that number in half by the end of 2016. Read the intro here.
Tom Mabe: This is a prank call disc in which the tables are turned—Tom Mabe keeps telemarketers on the phone and fucks with them. It’s okay. Purging one.
Madvillainy: This out-there 2004 collaboration between MF Doom and Madlib is rightly praised for its forward-thinking weirdness and production. It’s woozy and weird, but I appreciate it more than I love it, and it doesn’t come off the shelf nearly as much as it did a decade ago. Purging one.
Magic Arrows: Original Promise Ring bassist Scott Beschta eventually turned toward bedroom electronica after years away from the damaging influence of emo, and every once in a while he releases music as Magic Arrows. It’s in the same neighborhood as Boards Of Canada, though with forays into more beat-heavy areas and live instrumentation. Keeping one.
The Magnetic Fields: Strangely, I don’t own my favorite records by The Magnetic Fields, Distant Plastic Trees or the consensus masterpiece opus 69 Love Songs. That said, I’m rarely in the mood to listen to Stephin Merritt’s downcast torch songs at the moment, so maybe it’s for the best. Keeping one (The Charm Of The Highway Strip) and purging two.
Majesty Crush: I was ready to purge these two discs before popping “No. 1 Fan” into my trusty blue Walkman. The song is great and strangely doesn’t feel terribly dated considering it’s an American version of a British phenomenon (shoegaze), and it’s 20 years old. Maybe it’s just how slightly off this Detroit band was, specifically lyrically: That song is about being a stalker, and elsewhere vocalist David Stroughter covered obsession with various famous women, heroin, and more. For now, I think I’ll keep one and purge one.
Stephen Malkmus: I’m a Pavement completist, or somewhat close to it anyway, but for some reason, singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus’ solo albums have never really done much for me. Maybe Pavement split at the right time, with exactly the right number of songs recorded to satisfy my need for its cerebral, noisy jams. Here’s a good story though: On his earliest solo tours, Malkmus would, understandably, not play any Pavement songs. So when he was coming to Milwaukee in 2003 on the Pig Lib tour, I wasn’t even planning on going to the show. I liked his self-titled solo debut (and will actually keep that one), but Pig Lib didn’t hit me. Anyway, my old friend Marc was working at the show, and he called me from the sound check and told me I had to come to the show, because Malkmus and his band were going to play all Pavement songs, as some kind of weird lark. I went, and they did, in chronological order, and it was pretty spectacular. Malkmus apparently remarked to somebody—or maybe it was the crowd—that it didn’t matter if they told anybody about the set list, because no one was going to believe them. (This is in the days before every cellphone had a video camera.) Keeping one, purging two. Don’t worry about the Pavement discs, they’re all staying, and go ahead and tell me which solo records I should give another chance. (I’m serious.)
Jeff Mangum: The only way Live At Jittery Joe’s could be any better is if it had real packaging, instead of a slim paper case with no spine. Because if it jumped out at me, I’d listen to the Neutral Milk Hotel mastermind’s live solo album way more than I do. It’s great, and it includes a cover of the ’60s classic “I Love How You Love Me” that’s unavailable elsewhere. (Except, I guess, the entire internet.) Keeping one.
Aimee Mann: I think Magnolia tricked me into thinking I liked Aimee Mann more than I actually do. I assume I have that soundtrack in here somewhere, so I can stick with those few classic songs. Purging two.
Maps & Atlases: This Chicago band did one of my favorite Undercovers ever, which flew sort of under the radar. The band mixes electronic elements into folky indie jams, and singer Dave Davison has one of those inimitable voices—he sorta sounds like the dude from Fine Young Cannibals, and he looks like a hairy hippie. (No offense, Dave.) I’m surprised the band didn’t make a bigger splash; maybe there’s still time. Keeping one.
Maritime: Maritime formed not long after The Promise Ring broke up, with drummer Dan Didier and singer Davey Von Bohlen continuing together and adding, for a while anyway, Dismemberment Plan bassist Eric Axelson. I’m old friends with all those guys, and I run a nearly nonexistent record label with Didier, which we use to put out Maritime vinyl. Now that’s out of the way, so you know my biases: Maritime makes great pop records, having shed the weight of its former band quickly. And while it’s less likely to inspire a generation than its old band did, why would it need to? They make great, thoughtful pop records, including last year’s Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones. Oh, and looking at a CD-R of the first album on my shelf, I’m remembering that at first they called the new band In English, which is a terrible name, and Glass Floor, the debut album, was apparently almost called Sleepless Light. Keeping five, two of which are cool Japanese editions with bonus tracks.
Bob Marley: It’s not Legend, which was apparently issued to every college student from 1988 until just recently, but it’s almost the same. I own Africa Unite: The Singles Collection. But I never listen to more than one Bob Marley song at a time, so it’s YouTube for his ass. Purging one.
Doug Martsch: I kept way too many Built To Spill records, so it’s out the door with frontman Doug Martsch’s solo debut, Now You Know, which I had sort of forgotten existed. Purging one.
J Mascis: I’m fairly certain—I’ll say positive—that I couldn’t tell the difference between a song on any J Mascis solo disc and the post-reunion Dinosaur Jr. albums. And that’s fine, but it also means I don’t really need these, even though I remember liking the recent Several Shades Of Why. I’ve just got too much J already. Purging three, and lord, why did they ever release that live acoustic album? It’s kind of a hot mess.
Maximo Park: Let me walk back my earlier proclamations about all of the energetic British rock bands that I’m purging completely from my collection and say that Maximo Park’s debut album is still great. But I don’t need any more than that. Keeping one, purging two.
And with that, I am DONE with the first shelf of 1,000 discs. My eyeball guess about how many I’ve kept is 560, which means I’ve got to purge about 60 percent of the remaining 1,000 discs. My secret weapon (I think) is a bunch of compilations and soundtracks at the end, plus a smattering of classical discs and the odd discs that belong to my wife, who will probably be more than happy to get rid of them. There are also some immovable objects ahead, like the entire discographies of New Order, Modest Mouse, and Superchunk—so we’ll see what happens. Thanks for reading along with me this far!
Mazzy Star: Fade intoooo you, but out of my collection. Purging one.
MC Face: MC Face is the alter ego of Tom Green, though the joke on Not The Green Tom Show is that Face absolutely hates Green. That doesn’t sound funny, but I’ve got a special place in my heart for Green, from his TV shows to Freddy Got Fingered, and this will give me a laugh every once in a while. Keeping one, but wait a minute I just saw that it’s on Discogs for $100, so we’ll have to rethink that…
MC Hawking: This, on the other hand, probably won’t give me any more laughs in the future. It’s a rap album whose vocals are all performed via a computer voice simulator that sounds just like Stephen Hawking. And, um, all the lyrics are about being a badass scientist and are purportedly by Hawking himself. (The liner notes make it clear that they had his permission, so points to Hawking for being cool, I guess.) The concept is funnyish; the execution was funny for a minute. Purging one.
Mclusky: I only ever listen to the sublimely perverse Mclusky Do Dallas when I need a fix of hilarious British rage. But I’m keeping the other two for now, because they have great titles, and who knows when I’ll need a little more. Also, I seem to be a completist when it comes to the music of Andy Falkous, who’s also the frontman of Future Of The Left and Christian Fitness. Am I being too charitable at the moment? Probably not, plus Mclusky albums have great titles: The Difference Between Me And You Is That I’m Not On Fire and My Pain And Sadness Is More Sad And Painful Than Yours. Keeping three.
M83: I find M83 enjoyable but also sort of impenetrable, though there are certain of the French band’s songs that I absolutely love. I’m surprised that they’ve gotten as huge as they have, too. And I guess if they can surprise me this much, I should hang onto their records and play them until I submit. Also, my wife likes them and probably would want me to hang onto them. Keeping three, for now.
Colin Meloy: I’m a big Decemberists fan, but not so big that I need to hang onto a physical copy of singer Colin Meloy’s solo live album. Purging one.
Menomena: Portland’s Menomena borrowed some of the Flaming Lips’ weird energy for its excellent first album I Am The Fun Blame Monster! but added bits of glitchy drums and more nuanced production. They should’ve blown up after that album got a serious Pitchfork blessing, but it wasn’t meant to be. The band’s Brent Knopf is now half of El Vy with The National’s Matt Berninger, and you can hear bits of Menomena’s earliest vibe on that band’s one and only record. Keeping one, purging one.
Mercury Rev: Speaking of The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev had some great songs, but they may have lost the space race to the Lips, which eventually took a similarly psychedelic mantle to a lot more people. And while I used to really like their first two records—Yerself Is Steam and Boces—I now just want to hear the occasional single. Purging two.
Metric: Emily Haines of Metric sings one of my favorite songs of all time, but it’s on a Broken Social Scene record, not one of her own. (It’s “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.”) I remember really liking the first Metric album a ton, and seeing them live a couple of times, but these haven’t been off the shelf in forever. Purging two.
MGMT: I’ll just turn on the nostalgia station in 10 years when I need to hear MGMT, because they’ll still be playing “Electric Feel” and “Time To Pretend.” I once reviewed a live double bill of MGMT and Yeasayer at Schubas in Chicago—capacity about 150? Can you imagine that? MGMT was an awful mess. Purging one.
M.I.A.: I have two M.I.A. discs, and neither of them has “Galang” on it? I’ll hold out for the eventual greatest hits disc. Purging two.
The Microphones: For a guy who created what’s considered a stone classic under his belt—2001’s “The Glow” Pt. 2—Phil Elverum never seemed to build too big an actual fan base. Which is too bad, because that record—by The Microphones, though he’s also the main creative force behind Mount Eerie, too—is pretty amazing and nicely representative of the indie rock of its era. And it’s the only one I ever listen to, though even that’s rare. But let me take this opportunity to call attention to Phil’s GoFundMe campaign at the moment, to help his family in a terrible medical/financial situation. Keeping one, purging three.
Midlake: I was borderline obsessed with 2006’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther, otherwise known as The A.V. Club’s 46th favorite album of its decade. It’s such a weird, wonderful, mystical set of songs that it made me forgive and forget my prejudices against ’70s soft rock. It was a huge jump from its decent predecessor, Bamnan And Slivercork, and the band couldn’t quite repeat it with the even more folky The Courage Of Others. For some reason, I hung onto the more recent Antiphon, which features a new singer. Keeping one, purging two.
Mineral: The Power Of Failing is an emo classic that I always liked but never loved in the way that some of my friends did. Purging one.
Eugene Mirman: I love Eugene Mirman, but I don’t think I need four of his discs. I need to focus here, Eugene. An Evening Of Comedy In A Fake Underground Laboratory is thicker than the other ones, so I’ll purge that one and keep the other three. I’m bad at this today.
Mission Of Burma: I think one greatest-hits collection from this venerated Boston post-punk band is plenty, though for some reason I have two different ones. And nothing from the reunion era. Am I missing out? Keeping one, purging one.
The Mistreaters: Sometimes you unearth bits of treasure in old CDs, and while I haven’t listened to The Mistreaters’ debut in ages, I did find a funny note from the band’s singer tucked inside. They were a band from Milwaukee, doing garage-punk before it got cool again. And the record has a killer title, Playa Hated To The Fullest. Keeping one.
Joni Mitchell: Joni Mitchell’s voice has that rare ability to cut through just about anything else, and while I don’t celebrate her entire catalog, I do like to listen to Court And Spark and a hits collection from time to time. Keeping two.
Moby: I own Play, like the rest of America. Keeping one.
Modest Mouse: I’m pretty sure the longest interview I ever did was with Modest Mouse mastermind Isaac Brock a month or so before the release of what would be the band’s biggest-selling album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. We talked about the craziness of his band, his broken jaw, some time he spent in jail, and the allegations of sexual assault against him—which I don’t think he had ever spoken about before. At somewhere near the two-hour mark, he told me that his phone battery was dying, and that he’d call me the next day. I assumed that wouldn’t actually happen, but sure enough he called back and I happened to be home (these were the landline-heavy days of 2004), and we talked a bunch more. Those were also the days when we had stricter word counts at The A.V. Club, and you can read the results here.
Anyway, none of that would be of interest if Brock weren’t such a weird, straightforward dude and incredible talent. He was coming off of two nearly perfect indie-rock albums full of highfalutin thoughts about the solar system and human beings and cantankerous cowboys—The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon And Antarctica—and was getting ready to put the most radio-ready version of his vision out into the world, unapologetically. (And I love Good News.) I guess I pretty much celebrate the band’s entire catalog, though I’ve spent very little time with last year’s Strangers To Ourselves. I can live without the half-baked, nearly scrapped Sad Sappy Sucker and the collaborative EP with 764-Hero. I’m keeping 12 and purging just three. (The third is a CD single.)
Mogwai: There was a time when I listened to a lot of this Scottish band’s overwhelming instrumentals. It may be the loudest live band I’ve ever seen. But I’m trying to pick one of these to hang onto, since I have so many and I don’t know which is which. So I’ll stick with the early singles collection, Ten Rapid, and purge the other five.
The Moldy Peaches: Is it possible that Michael Cera was not born, but rather materialized from the same ether that produced The Moldy Peaches’ “Anyone Else But You?” It can’t be a coincidence that the song played a crucial role in the movie, Juno, that helped make him famous. The band’s self-titled record actually has a lot more than overly sincere monotone jams—it has “Who’s Got The Crack?” That song was great, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to it. Purging one.
Monotonix: I once wrote a profile of the Israeli band Monotonix for SPIN, a story assigned because the band was completely insane live—lighting the floors of venues on fire and generally making the kind of chaos that good rock music should. But as is often the case with crazy live bands, the recordings couldn’t do them justice. Purging one.
Travis Morrison: Travis Morrison had his solo career cut off at the knees by one of the most brutal Pitchfork reviews in history—a very rare 0.0 assessment of his post-Dismemberment Plan debut. I could relate to the reviewer’s frustration, considering what a huge D Plan fan I was (and am), but Travistan and its follow-up, All Y’all, have plenty of solid songs between them. That said, I think I can make one good playlist out of both full-lengths, and that’ll keep the “Get Me Off This Coin” songs away. (Those were rough.) You’ve gotta applaud him for taking things in a different direction than his old band. Purging two.
Van Morrison: I’ve never been a huge acolyte of Lester Bangs’ writing, but I can definitely point to his essay on Van Morrison’s classic Astral Weeks for making me appreciate it in a different way. (I liked it before; he made me love it.) Morrison is one of those guys who finds the other side of a song and clearly doesn’t care who he’s pleasing other than himself—yet his songs can still be awfully pleasing. Does that make any more sense than “the viaducts of your dream”? Does it matter? Keeping that one, along with a greatest hits set, and I think Moondance is around here somewhere, too.
Morrissey: I’m a bit of an obsessive Morrissey/Smiths fan, though I’m under no illusion that his most recent albums have been anywhere near his early-’90s heights. But on his first American tour—on Kill Uncle, in 1991 and 1992—there was no one better at commanding a stage. (And he was still making fantastic records.) My then girlfriend/now wife and I basically stalked him at the time, meeting him once at a hotel and another time at the airport and another time at Harold Washington Library in Chicago. (She sort of accidentally met him again a few years ago, and he said something like, “You probably just think I’m saying this, but I remember you.” Can’t beat that.)
Anyway, the music… Viva Hate and Bona Drag are right up there with the entire Smiths catalog, and Kill Uncle is way better than its reputation suggests. I actually have two copies each of Hate and Drag, because I was going to write a piece at one point about Morrissey messing with his catalog—changing cover art and track listings on reissues. But why bother? Morrissey’s gonna do Morrissey, whether it’s making some of the most emotionally affecting music of the last 50 years or saying dumb things about the Chinese. Keeping 13, purging four (three doubles and a promo-only compilation with nothing rare on it).
My Bloody Valentine: Allow me to spit some heresy here by saying that I merely like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless very much, but I don’t consider it the holy grail of swirly guitar music made by a genius whose image must never be tarnished. It’s really good though. Keeping one.
My Morning Jacket: I remember first hearing of My Morning Jacket because they put out records on tiny indie label Darla, which had released records I liked by much spacier bands like Flowchart and American Analog Set. I saw them once or twice way back when, and then all of a sudden they were huge. Maybe it wasn’t all of a sudden. I wasn’t paying much attention, clearly. I do remember liking “Off The Record” from Z, the only disc I own at this point. Am I missing anything? Purging one.
The tally: Not a banner week for purging—52 more out the door. But altogether, I’m at 537 gone out of a thousand.
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Maritime, We The Vehicles; Mclusky, Do Dallas; Midlake, The Trials Of Van Occupanther; Modest Mouse, just let me cheat this one time and say The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon And Antarctica, plus just “Never Ending Math Equation”; Van Morrison, Astral Weeks; Morrissey, Viva Hate.
Next up: More letters, alphabetically. Camping out for New Order tickets. And more?