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.
Q And Not U: This D.C. band came in at the perfect time to grab the torch from Fugazi—Dischord even released their records. There’s a fantastic urgency to the first album, No Kill No Beep Beep, that gives way to a more groove-oriented, airy vibe on Different Damage. I had forgotten there was a third album, which I’m going to give a spin before likely purging one, keeping two.
Quasi: I always wanted to like Quasi more than I actually do. Featuring “Birds” is, I think, their consensus best, but I only remember a couple of songs at this point. They used to tour with Elliott Smith both as opener and backup band, so I saw them a few times that way. Drummer = Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, fun fact you probably knew. Purging one.
Quicksand: Speaking of Fugazi (I was, again, just above, as usual)… Quicksand was another spiritual heir to that sound, if not the ethic. Both bands descended from harder-edged hardcore bands (Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuits, respectively), but learned to slow down, simmer, and occasionally groove a little bit. For me, both Quicksand records—1993’s Slip and 1995’s Manic Compression—have actually aged amazingly well, and I listen to them frequently. And though they’ve played some reunion shows—I saw them at the tiny Cobra Lounge a few years back, after a Riot Fest show—they’ve resisted the urge to mess with a pair of perfect post-hardcore records by making any new music. That might be the right call. Keeping two, purging the EP.
The Raconteurs: Jack White and friends. “Steady As She Goes” is a rocker, though I can’t remember the last time I listened to the whole record. The hour is getting late and the shelves remain full, so I’m going to purge one.
Radar Bros.: This languid L.A. band has more recently been going by Radar Brothers, I assume because the word “bro” has gained some negative traction in recent years. Listening to them, you’d never mistake them for bros, though: This is the type of sad, slow, soupy music I used to listen to a lot in the mid-’90s. I remember interviewing them once outside the Unicorn in Milwaukee, and if I remember correctly, our conversation was hijacked by a homeless guy who wanted to do a magic trick. I haven’t listened to the records in ages, though I have fond memories. Purging five, keeping one for old time’s sake.
Radiohead: Hey, 42-year-old music nerd, do you perchance own the entire Radiohead discography, on vinyl and CD? (Yes.) I’m in the typical camp that puts OK Computer at the top of the pile and appreciates but doesn’t get too gushy about the more recent years. I will say, the cardboard-box reissues are a little bit annoying on the shelf, and I never listen to Pablo Honey (do you?), but I’m still keeping the catalog. I’ve got some bootlegs to decide on, though: I’m pretty sure Lost Treasures is covered well enough by the deluxe reissues, which contain most of the same material, so that can go. An acoustic KCRW session is surely available online. I haven’t gotten around to purchasing A Moon Shaped Pool in any physical format—the first time I haven’t gotten the crazy deluxe package in a couple of albums. You know the ones: They sit on the shelf and you forget they exist because they’re so big and complicated, and then you listen to it on your okay computer instead. (I’m not dissing; I still love Radiohead.) Keeping eight, purging four.
Railroad Jerk: This New York band mixed indie rock with a sort of ramshackle blues, and they’re a weird case for me: I love one of their records, but never really got into any of the others. The Third Rail is fantastic, though. Keeping one.
The Rakes: This British band was the toast of South By Southwest in 2006—for me, anyway. I saw them play a few times (including once at an Urban Outfitters) because I was enamored of Capture/Release; it’s exactly the kind of record that I sort of laughed at liking earlier in this project—very British, very catchy, sort of forgettable. I’m definitely purging two and maybe keeping one—I need to give it another spin. Temporary reprieve! (That sounds like the name of a Rakes song.)
Ramones: Weirdly, the only Ramones I have on disc is Loud Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits—it’s not even the best Ramones hits collection! But don’t worry, I’ve got the classic first five on vinyl to pass down to my kid, the way my older sister passed them down to me. I have vivid memories of staring at both the covers of Leave Home (scary!) and Road To Ruin (cute!) and of bopping my 10-year-old body around the room to “Beat On The Brat.” Keeping one.
The Rapture: I never fully bought into the whole dance-punk revolution of the early aughts, though there were songs here and there—including The Rapture’s kinda classic “House Of Jealous Lovers” and “Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks”—that got my motor running. But they really don’t anymore, and I don’t have any real memories associated with them. Purging one.
Ra Ra Riot: Another band I like but don’t love, and a disc with no real artwork. Easy! Purging one.
Jay Reatard: Due respect to the dearly departed, if I own one Jay Reatard CD, it probably shouldn’t be Singles 06-07, right? I’m not tough enough to like him anyway. Purging one.
The Recoys: The Walkmen were also cited as the band spawned by Jonathan Fire*Eater, but two members came from the not-as-successful Recoys—singer Hamilton Leithauser, who’s now on a killer solo kick, and Peter Bauer. Three songs on the confusingly titled Rekoys ended up as Walkmen songs, too, so it’s like hearing a bit of history. And I love The Walkmen, as you’ll see later. Keeping one.
Otis Redding: The Very Best Of. I’ll certainly be keeping that one.
Lou Reed: I could almost repeat the Ramones entry here. I’ve got a bunch of classic Lou on vinyl, but only the Different Times: Lou Reed In The 70s compilation on CD. I guess the hits are good for the car? Keeping one.
The Regrets: You can’t tell the story of The Regrets’ only album—New Directions: Results Beat Boasts—without jumping ahead to the letter V, for Vitreous Humor. (Stay with me; the records are great.) Vitreous Humor was a noisy Kansas band that got lumped into the emo scene, but whose lyrics and energy were always a little weirder, scratchier, and more mature. When that band broke up, three of its members became The Regrets, and without a second guitarist, they sounded drier, more mysterious, still weirdly groovy. I count both Vitreous Humor and Regrets live shows among the best I’ve ever seen, and though I don’t often encounter people who’ve actually heard of The Regrets, when I do it feels like a shared secret. This record is awesome. Keeping one.
R.E.M.: Oh dear lord, this stack of R.E.M. discs is huge. They were one of the first “cool” bands I liked—I remember going to Musicland in the Bayshore Mall in Glendale, Wisconsin, to buy Document after “The One I Love” hit the radio in the mid-’80s. I trekked out to Alpine Valley to see the Green tour, where I heard “Cuyahoga” for the first time and fell in love again. (Who had money for the back catalog back then?) I marveled at the “hidden” numbers on each album cover—you can’t do that with your MP3s, sonny. I’ve got the whole catalog, it looks like, even some doubles by accident, what with all the deluxe reissues that showed up and got shelved without looking too closely.
So the big question is: Do I keep Around The Sun, the 2004 stinker of the bunch? Every once in a while, I take it off the shelf to see if it’s as uninspired as I remember. How could it be, with such an insanely good/varied/at least interesting catalog surrounding it? And it’s always bad. And what do I do with Reveal, the R.E.M. album that always solicits the same reaction from me when I see it on the shelf: “Oh, I totally forgot that album existed.” I guess they should both go, because there’s no sense in them taking up even more room. And besides, I’ve got everything else to keep me warm at night, from the classic Lifes Rich Pageant to the absolutely underrated gem Up to the final two albums, unfairly dismissed, that together would make one amazing collection. (Just realizing I don’t own Collapse Into Now on disc; do I need to remedy that? Probably not.)
Jesus Christ, I have three separate greatest-hits collections. Part Lies features three “new” songs from the final sessions in addition to band-chosen hits, so I can live without that. And I Feel Fine has an interesting rarities disc, so that’s a keeper. And In Time features the William Burroughs-assisted “Fuck Me Kitten” and the killer, soundtrack-only song “Fretless,” so that can stay for now. So sheesh, I guess I’m keeping 16 and purging eight. (For the record: doubles of Lifes Rich Pageant, Green, and Document, plus Monster—never liked it—Reveal, Around The Sun, a hits collection, and a bootleg. Doesn’t feel like enough, but in case you can’t tell, I like R.E.M. a little bit.)
The Replacements: Not as important to teenage-me as R.E.M., but still important. I got excited when I got the Complete Studio Albums box set in the mail not too long ago—mostly because I thought it would save me some shelf space. But I realized when I got it home that it didn’t feature any of the bonus material that the 2008 reissues do. But what about the music? Let It Be is in my top 10 of all time, and the Replacements record I reach for nine out of 10 times. But as I look over the track list for pretty much every record, there’s none I can really let go of. For now. My purge game is weak today. Keeping eight.
The Residents: The most mysterious band of all time had me befuddled as a kid, but I loved Duck Stab, with its weird, creepy cover art and weirder, creepier songs. It’s the band’s most commercial album (besides The Commercial Album, which is the only other one I own). I don’t know that I’ll listen to it very often, but it’s got great memories. Keeping one, purging one.
Retribution Gospel Choir: When Alan Sparhawk and Steve Garrington of Low want to step further outside the often-quiet constraints of Low, they become Retribution Gospel Choir—a harder-hitting, occasionally jamming, vaguely psychedelic rock band. I’ve seen them play a dozen times, from more straight-up rock sets to sweat-drenched revivals to a set that ended up with a dub-reggae-inspired jam. It’s awesome. Keeping two.
Revenge: I was such a huge New Order fan in high school that I somehow convinced myself that the debut album by bassist Peter Hook’s side project, Revenge, was really great. (It wasn’t. It’s okay.) But I’m hanging on to the band’s debut CD single, because I got it autographed by Hook—who’s an undeniable musical hero, regardless of this band’s middling record—in person when I was 16 or so. Revenge played at Metro in Chicago, and somebody—either Rich, the owner of Atomic Records, or Joe, the owner of Metro—took me backstage after the show. I was starstruck, and the famously cranky Hook was charming as hell. So I won’t listen to this disc, but it’s got good memories. And now Hook—estranged from his New Order bandmates—is out playing New Order and Joy Division songs with a band of his own. And, believe it or not, it’s actually pretty good. Keeping one.
Rex: More genre fun: Rex was part of the slowcore movement that I loved so much, and though I have fond memories of their records, I haven’t listened to them in at least a decade. Purging four.
Ride: I was surprised at how excited I was by the prospect of a Ride reunion last year; I was never the hugest fan, though I definitely revisit the great first and second albums from time to time. They were on the more muscular end of the shoegaze movement, and beneath all the layers of guitars, they’ve got some classic songs. I definitely jumped off the train after Going Blank Again, along with a lot of people. Hilariously, Wikipedia has a header on the band’s page called “Change in musical direction,” for when they largely abandoned their past and tried to go classic rock. Tellingly, the reunion shows featured exactly one song released after that change in direction. I’m ditching a couple of CD singles, but keeping the first two albums. Keeping two, purging two.
RJD2: I’m going to have to go back and ditch some things that I’ve kept, because the shelf is getting full. Later letters are at a disadvantage, and while I really like RJD2’s collage-y debut Deadringer, I’ve already got the superior DJ Shadow record Endtroducing….. It’s time to get tougher! Purging two.
Chris Rock: That goes for you, too, Chris Rock. I can find you online so easily. Purging two.
Rocket From The Crypt: Can I still say I love Rocket From The Crypt if I’m prepared to ditch half their catalog? I think I make up for losing Group Sounds and Live From Camp X-Ray (sorry, Kyle Ryan, I know you love it) with the intensity of my love for Circa: Now! and Scream, Dracula, Scream!. The San Diego band’s horn-assisted punk burned amazingly brightly from 1992 to 1998 or so, and the reunion show I saw a couple of years ago was as good as any I saw back in the day. Combine the best songs of my favorite two albums of theirs, and you’ve got one of my favorite (non-existent) albums of all time. Keeping four, purging three.
The Rolling Stones: Shelf space is getting scarce, and I’ve got the whole catalog digitally. (And if I have to pick between The Beatles and The Stones, I pick The Smiths anyway.) Excoriate me if you want, rockists. Keeping one (Hot Rocks) purging four.
Mark Ronson: I can’t imagine what possessed me to keep a CD copy of Mark Ronson’s Version—I can only guess it’s the pretty bad Smiths cover featuring Daniel Merriweather? Purging one.
Röyksopp: Another mostly instrumental electronic duo from the ’90s. Good, but I have enough of those. “Poor Leno” is still a jam. Purging one.
Run-D.M.C.: I got Raising Hell as a gift when I was 12—don’t remember from whom, but thanks!—and I’m quite certain I still know every single word on it. The rhyme schemes and production seem a little quaint at this point—rap moves pretty fast—but the album itself is still pretty undeniable, both as historical touchpoint and for its badass songs. Keeping one, purging one. (I never really listen to the self-titled debut.)
Run The Jewels: I appreciate RTJ as much as the next music lover, but never listen to it on CD. Purging one.
Rural Alberta Advantage: Solid, pleasantly hyper, thoughtful Canadian band whose first record I liked a lot but haven’t pulled off the shelf in five years. Purging one.
The tally: Another 49 added to 634 is 683. That’s not bad considering this is a shorter Binge entry than any of the others. But I am woefully behind, and next week I need to do a quick re-purging.
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Quicksand, Slip; Radiohead, OK Computer; The Regrets, New Directions; R.E.M., Lifes Rich Pageant or maybe it’s Up; The Replacements, Let It Be; Rocket From The Crypt, Circa: Now!; Run-D.M.C., Raising Hell.
Next up: Taking off next week for Labor Day and to catch up. Then, on September 13, letter S. Yuge letter. One of the best letters in the American alphabet, which, by the way, was invented by Americans.
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