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.
The Cars: As you may have noticed, I’m something of a completist, to a fault. If I love a band, I generally have everything they’ve ever done. But The Cars to me is the very definition of a greatest-hits band. I’ve never heard an entire Cars album straight through, I don’t think, and I’m fine with that. Because why suffer the minor gems when Greatest Hits is pretty much wall-to-wall good? Keeping one.
Neko Case: I’m going to lose some kind of A.V. Club membership card here, but I never, ever grab Neko Case CDs to listen to. New Pornographers on occasion, but never Neko solo. So they go. Purging two.
Johnny Cash: I own a really dumb assortment of Johnny Cash on disc: two hits collections plus, for some odd reason, just the fifth in the American Recordings series. Keeping one, purging two.
Casino Versus Japan: Casino Versus Japan is the one-man electronic project of my old friend Erik Kowalski, with whom I did much time behind the counter at Atomic Records many years ago. He was never much for socializing after work, presumably because he spent hours and hours perfecting his Boards Of Canada-inspired soundtracks. The best one is probably 2000’s Go Hawaii, which features his poppiest track, “It’s Always Sunny”—sort of an Orb homage that made its way on to a Hummer commercial, inexplicably, way back when. We haven’t been in touch in ages, but he’s still making great music, just releasing it in dribs and drabs. Keeping four, purging one.
Catherine Wheel: My first time seeing Catherine Wheel was when the British band opened for The Wedding Present—one of my all-time favorites—at Metro in Chicago, circa 1992. I think I had heard just “Balloon,” from their swirling, grinding debut Ferment at the top, and they were fantastic live. They blew up a bit after that, though never quite cracking America the way they might’ve. They’ve got an odd discography, too: two great albums out of the gate in Ferment and Chrome, then the dire attempt at fame Happy Days (which for some dumb reason I still own), then the incredible concept album that should’ve been massive but wasn’t, Adam And Eve. My jury is still out on the band’s swan song, Wishville, which I suppose I’ll give a spin before purging. Keeping three, purging two.
Cat Power: I think Chan Marshall is one of the greatest working songwriters, though for some reason doesn’t seem to get the credit (or fame) she deserves. It could be her wild inconsistency, though that’s not the right word, exactly: She follows her muse where it takes her, which can be confusing, but it’s also the mark of a tremendous artist. Though I’ve got pretty much her whole discography, including the weird (and thick!) DVD/CD/book set Speaking For Trees, the only one that gets super regular rotation is 2003’s mind-blowing You Are Free, a perfect showcase for her ability to cut all the way to the bone and find the beauty inside. I can’t part with any of these. Keeping seven.
C-Clamp: A Champaign band that made its way to Chicago and occasionally Milwaukee in the mid-’90s, C-Clamp was part of a weird wave of bands that sort of rode the line between Slint and slowcore. I remember a particularly epic show that they opened for Low at The Globe in Milwaukee, a club I spent a sort of ridiculous amount of time in back then. This is one I remember fondly, but that I can just find digitally with those angular, Tortoise-like bass tones. Purging one.
Chappaquiddick Skyline: I’ll cover songwriter Joe Pernice when I get to The Pernice Brothers (if I get that far). Chappaquiddick Skyline is a side project of his that starts with the lyric that kind of sums up Pernice’s funny, morbid outlook: “I hate my life.” (Then how do you write such sweet sadness, Joe?) The self-titled album was Chappaquiddick’s only one, and it also includes a great New Order cover. Keeping one.
The Charlatans UK: I was embarrassingly obsessed with British music in the early ’90s, pledging allegiance to The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. (Just wait ’til we get to Inspiral Carpets in this project.) That included The Charlatans UK—or just The Charlatans if you didn’t live in America—whose first two albums, Some Friendly and especially Between 10th And 11th still hold up remarkably well. Which doesn’t explain why I’ve got their “funky” self-titled album on my shelf. Keeping one, purging one.
Ray Charles: I used to have this great Ray Charles box set—on cassette!—but it was borrowed and never returned. (It was you, Dean C.) Now I’ve got, inexplicably, the soundtrack to the Jamie Foxx movie Ray, which features (thank God) Charles’ original recordings, but without much rhyme or reason. And I’ve never actually seen the movie. Purging one.
The Chemical Brothers: There aren’t a lot of party-starters in my CD collection, as you may have noticed already. A fantastic Chemical Brothers hits collection—Brotherhood—is the perfect remedy to all this sad shit. Keeping one.
Vic Chesnutt: Speaking of this sad shit… Vic Chesnutt spent his entire adult life largely paralyzed, which certainly played into the dark, deep, occasionally hilarious (“You Are Never Alone”) music he created over the years, frequently with more famous fans/friends producing or collaborating. Chesnutt killed himself in 2009, after releasing some of the best music of his long career. Not the most fun music to listen to, but he’s a guy who’s going to be remembered. Keeping two, even though I’m not sure I want my kid to find these records.
Chet Faker: Chet Faker’s debut full-length Built On Glass is one of 2014’s best records, a weird mix of electronics and soul, delivered by a surfer-looking Australian dude who found some fame after appearing on Ellen. Keeping one.
The Child Ballads: I’m going to save commentary for the entry on Jonathan Fire*Eater, whose singer went on to release one EP as The Child Ballads. Purging one.
Choir Of Young Believers: I have a fuzzy memory of reviewing this sad record for SPIN way back when. But that’s no reason to keep it. Purging one.
Christian Fitness: A solo project of Andrew Falkous, formerly of Mclusky and currently Future Of The Left. He is awesome and bitterly funny. Keeping two.
Cinerama: As an obsessive fan of The Wedding Present, I was required to follow its mastermind, David Gedge, into Cinerama, his more pop-centric band. But I couldn’t keep up with Cinerama’s release schedule (and, if I’m being honest, never enjoyed the milder sounds nearly as much as The Wedding Present). Gedge couldn’t either: He reignited The Wedding Present after a few Cinerama records, and now bounces back and forth between the two. Keeping two, purging two.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: This band is going to change the world, right? Because their first record was independently distributed or something? Was that all really 10 years ago? Keeping one, purging one.
The Clash: Weirdly, the Clash record I listen to the most isn’t a proper album, but rather the Super Black Market Clash compilation that mixes up early tracks like “1977”—the B-side to “White Riot”—and more out-there excursions like “Robber Dub.” This does not explain why I own two greatest-hits collections when all those tracks are on the proper records, all of which I own. Except Sandinista!, which I guess I should remedy? Though maybe not. I need to be a little more indulgent with the axe here. Keeping five, purging two.
Clearlake: No idea. Vaguely remember a halfway-decent song called “Almost The Same.” Purging one.
Clem Snide: Oh man, this is going to be a little crazy. I love Clem Snide with a sort of obsessive passion. I loved them from the first time I heard You Were A Diamond back in 1998, and it’s still one of my favorite records—a lonesome mix of country-ish sound with a New Jersey wit. That sounds terrible, but it’s so great, and Eef Barzelay is an incredible songwriter who’s been through the industry wringer. After that debut album, music industry legend Seymour Stein signed the band to Sire with promises of great things, but the equally awesome Your Favorite Music was barely even released. Barzelay has never stopped, though, continuing to release music under the Clem Snide name and his own. Recently he was on a yogurt commercial. The music world is a weird place.
A.V. Club founding editor Stephen Thompson and I bonded over a love of Clem Snide. I remember standing with him in Madison’s B-Side Records, and he asked me if Your Favorite Music—which had just come out—was any good, because he had liked the first one. I think I insisted that he buy it, and he repaid me years later by inundating me with Clem Snide bootleg CDs—live shows, demos he got from Barzelay, etc. I must have 50 tucked away in a box somewhere, and there are a dozen on this regular shelf. We’ve both become friends with Eef over the years—he even hosted The A.V. Club video series Pioneering. Isn’t that obsession enough to get you started listening? Keeping 27, dear God.
Clinic: It seems odd that I own seven Clinic CDs, since the band really just has that one song. That’s a bit harsh, but everything does get a bit repetitive and unnecessary—at least in physical form—after 2000’s glorious Internal Wrangler, which mashed that fantastic vintage organ sound into some sort of post-punk glory. And they wore (wear?) surgical masks when they play. I don’t know why. I saw them play at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago once. Again, I don’t know why that was happening. Keeping one, purging six.
The Coctails: Chicago was smooth and cocktail-y well before the rest of the country, and while The Coctails overdid things a bit with their image (and dolls), their final album is a perfect bridge to The Sea And Cake, where Archer Prewitt ended up. That’s the only one I’ve got, and it’s a keeper. Keeping one.
Codeine: Hey, I got the mega-massive career-spanning Codeine box set that Numero Group put out in 2012, so whenever I want to hear painfully slow, sad, crushing music I can just go and grab that (from a different shelf!) and get rid of these two discs, Frigid Stars and The White Birch. Fun fact: The liner notes of one of these was the beginning (for me anyway) of people confusing me with Josh Madell, who owned the recently shuttered Other Music in NYC and who is thanked therein. We have very similar names and travel in similar circles, but have never met. Hello, Josh! Purging three.
Coldplay: Ah shit. I like Coldplay. I liked ’em since they were just eager indie kids who made a great debut (Parachutes), and I liked ’em when they got huge and shot confetti out of cannons. I like ’em enough that I even own a burned disc of B-sides (including their best song, “See You Soon”). I don’t like X&Y very much, but it’s okay. In sum: I’m sorry I like Coldplay. Or maybe it’s: I’m sorry, I like Coldplay. And to call back to an earlier Binge And Purge, I don’t own any U2 records, because I never really liked U2 very much. I’m trying to be honest with you, friends. This whole thing isn’t about the canon of popular music; it’s about what I’m keeping in my closet. Keeping five, purging two.
Cold War Kids: I’m pretty sure I never liked this band. Purging one.
Andrew Coleman: I probably liked this as much for its title—the Kurt Vonnegut-inspired Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt—as its jumble of live keys and electronic drums. Purging one.
Collections Of Colonies Of Bees: In the Milwaukee music scene of my well-spent youth, Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller were the slightly elder statesmen who were always pushing the envelope of what rock bands could do. They coalesced with Pele (who I’ll get to later), but also in the fantastically layered Collections Of Colonies Of Bees. The outfit that recorded Birds went on to back Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in Volcano Choir, and you can hear the seeds of that sound in this record. I’ve got Rance around here somewhere, too, but it’s one of those thin-pack CDs, so it doesn’t count. Keeping one.
Colorsound: I used to go to sleep every night to Colorsound’s You’re Only As Good As Your Sound, a soothing, slightly psychedelic record by an Australian guy who’s apparently better known for his pop songs than the kind of Spiritualized-biting stuff on this one. The first track still puts me to sleep, in a good way. Purging one.
Colossal: My old friend Pat’s band, which released a pair of excellent discs on Asian Man, the label best known for launching Alkaline Trio. Intricate, moody, math-y stuff. They were originally called The National, until they realized some Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio band started putting out records under that name. Colossal is due for a renaissance, which I know only because The Onion’s 25-year-old IT guy really likes them. Keeping two.
Compound Red: This band was in the Milwaukee punk/emo generation that came along just before The Promise Ring, and they were fantastic—everywhere except on record, for the most part. Compound Red is one of those bands that always makes me think of the Wilco lyric from “The Late Greats”: “The best band never got signed.” There was a period of Compound Red’s existence—and I realize that some of this has to do with me as well—when I couldn’t imagine a more exciting live band. But their first album is sort of overproduced, and the second featured a different singer, which seemed like a good idea at the time but probably wasn’t. (No offense, Greg.) But there are a handful of songs that were released as singles—including a great one on DeSoto Records, home of Jawbox and The Dismemberment Plan—that are absolutely unstoppable. And there are plenty of memories to go along with these, including shows at the West Bend Teen Factory and some barn loft in the middle of nowhere. So they’re staying. Keeping three.
Constantines: Constantines never made much of a splash south of the U.S.-Canada border, but those who love them really seem devoted. I remember them being in the Fugazi/Hold Steady arena, but I haven’t listened to these records in forever. Purging three.
Ry Cooder And V.M. Bhatt: I heard this on NPR a million years ago and decided I had to have it, then promptly never listened to it again. Purging one.
Cornershop: I could probably abandon the two excellent Cornershop discs that I own—When I Was Born For The 7th Time and Woman’s Gotta Have It—for a greatest-hits set, but I won’t. There isn’t a greatest-hits set for the British band that brought Indian influences to ’90s indie-rock. “Brimful Of Asha” and both “6 a.m. Jullandar Shere” songs are total jams. Keeping two.
Elvis Costello: I was about to bemoan the fact that my Elvis Costello CD collection is woefully incomplete, with just a greatest-hits set (The First 10 Years) and two early albums, My Aim Is True and Punch The Clock. Then I realized that’s actually one more than I’m going to listen to regularly, so it’s bye-bye Clock. Keeping two, purging one.
The Coup: The Coup is the most exciting, slept-on act in hip-hop, though that genre designation is pretty woefully incomplete for this Oakland outfit. Still, the only record I’m listening to regularly is Party Music, whose original cover—due for release in September of 2001 but created months earlier—depicted The Coup’s Boots Riley blowing up the World Trade Center. It ought to be known just as much for “5 Million Ways To Kill A C.E.O.” and the hilarious “Wear Clean Draws.” Keeping one, purging one.
The Cribs: Great album title—Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever—but I have only the vaguest recollection of what this British band sounds like. Sorta like Franz Ferdinand, maybe? Purging one.
Jim Croce: Someday, my son will hear “Time In A Bottle” for the first time, and I’ll really want him to love it, because I loved it when I was a little kid; but he’ll probably just roll his eyes and listen to EDM or something. Still, I’m keeping one.
Crocodiles: I don’t remember what this band sounds like, hang on a sec. Oh yeah, they’re fine. Purging one.
Crooked Fingers: Man, I’ve already written a lot about Eric Bachmann, both as frontman for Archers Of Loaf and a solo artist. But his main gig has been Crooked Fingers, which has been going strong for longer than Archers did. Each album is different, from the singer-songwritery 2000 debut to the Spanish-influenced Dignity And Shame. I’m proud to say that the tiny little record label I co-run released vinyl versions of Forfeit/Fortune and an EP called Reservoir Songs. In this stack, I’ve got the regular releases, plus a few live shows, demos, and assorted other stuff. Keeping 12, purging three.
David Cross: I get why people think that David Cross is a preachy, smug stand-up, but they’re wrong: I once saw him do well over two hours to a Milwaukee crowd that was about 90 percent enrapt and 10 percent ready to leave. It was the furthest thing from what his peers do—there was no tight hour of perfectly honed material, but rather it felt way out on the edge. It was the kind of performance that you hear about happening in small clubs on the coasts, but he took it around America with bands and killed it. I wish he’d do stand-up more, but he’s got three records to look back on even if he never does; the best is probably Shut Up, You Fucking Baby! Also, David Cross is a nice dude who sometimes hires Austin Powers impersonators to greet people in the lobby of his shows. Keeping three.
Crowsdell: I’m sorry, indie-rock band led by Shannon Wright, who is an awesome songwriter. I’ve been keeping too many things. I’ll keep at least one of your harrowing solo records when I get there. Purging two.
C-Section: This Milwaukee fella—veteran of a garage-rock band called The Mistreaters—made a couple of filthy full-length hip-hop records under the name C-Section. I don’t think they were released beyond copied CD-Rs, but that wasn’t because he didn’t take them seriously. Still, I don’t find myself busting out “Tattered Labia” or “Gimma The Ass” much anymore. (Don’t worry, Chris, I’ve got ’em all digitally.) Purging two.
The Cure: I’m a big Cure fan, but there’s probably a reason that I never really upgraded my tape collection from high school to a full digital package. But I think I’m okay with what I’ve got on hand, which includes my favorite Cure records: The Head On The Door, Disintegration, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, and a couple of different greatest-hits collections, including the Greatest Hits edition with a bonus disc of newly recorded acoustic versions, which I actually bust out on a fairly regular basis. Now before you tell me that my life is incomplete without Faith and Pornography, I will tell you that those saw their share of my brainspace, and I’m sticking with these. Keeping six.
Cymbals Eat Guitars: I’m confused about why I only have one of this band’s records on disc, instead of all three. Where did my copy of 2009’s Why There Are Mountains go? Did I loan it to somebody who likes fierce, tightly wound indie-rock à la Superchunk or Modest Mouse, but with more of an axe to grind? Keeping one, pining for the other two for now.
The tally: Big week for purging, with 48 out the door, for a total of 148 gone out of what will hopefully total a thousand. Though if you look at the picture below, you’ll realize I might not get there. (Above the empty space is what I’ve kept through letter G or so.)
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Catherine Wheel, Adam And Eve; Cat Power, You Are Free; Clem Snide, You Were A Diamond; Crooked Fingers, Crooked Fingers; The Cure, The Head On The Door.
Next up: All of letter D, from Evan Dando to The Dylan Group.