Eazy-E: I’m slightly tempted to keep the mostly subpar It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa for its ridiculous dis track “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” and for the artwork, which includes a photo of Dr. Dre in his glammed-out Wreckin’ Cru days. But Eazy’s solo stuff doesn’t hold up nearly as well as N.W.A’s, and even that’s pretty spotty. Purging three.
Echo & The Bunnymen: I’m surprised at myself for only owning the greatest-hits set Songs To Learn And Sing—I guess I never upgraded. So do I go looking for the classics at the used-CD store at this point? Probably not. But I do have fond memories of wearing out my older sister’s tape of the self-titled EP, a.k.a. The Sound Of Echo, at age 12 or so. Keeping one, contemplating getting more.
Editors: Editors are a British band known primarily in America for sounding almost unforgivably like its two biggest influences: Interpol and Joy Division. Since I love those two bands, Editors were catnip to me, but looking at this small stack of discs, I couldn’t even remember which ones I loved. Purging four.
Elbow: Another British band that I find occasionally captivating, but never end up digging out of the stacks. Someday I’ll take a trip through its catalog in the digital space instead. Purging one.
Elevate: I think me and my pal Shawn—whose label released this record—are the only two people who ever really cared about Elevate, a band notable in my memory mostly as “like Girls Against Boys, only not as good.” Purging one.
Electric Six: There’s so much to love about the first Electric Six album, Fire, that it sort of damned the rest of the band’s discography for me. As close as the other records might come, they’re never as good to my ears as the sublimely ridiculous “Gay Bar” or “Danger! High Voltage,” the latter of which features original E6 collaborator Jack White on vocals. Music and comedy (for lack of a better word) don’t mix well for me too often, but I love Fire a lot. Keeping one, purging three.
Electronic: Two guys from two of my favorite bands of all time—Bernard Sumner of New Order and Johnny Marr of The Smiths—collaborated on a few breezy, electro-pop records. The first one is great. They made some other ones apparently, too. Keeping one.
Eminem: Shit, this might get a little bit embarrassing. I was a little too old to get hit by the Eminem train, but I was a huge fan at the beginning, and both The Slim Shady LP and Marshall Mathers LP hold up, because say what you will about him, he’s a great rapper. That doesn’t excuse me for having bootlegs of the Slim Shady EP or Relapse or Curtain Call. He’s definitely one of those guys whose increasing fame has made him less interesting as an artist.
Here’s a bonus story that’s similar to the Dr. Dre one: My pal Matt worked for Eminem’s record label, and he asked me if I’d record—on a VHS tape!—a new MTV special about Eminem and bring it to the after-party for his show in Milwaukee. (Apparently Eminem was very excited to see it.) So I recorded the show, called BioRhythm, while the concert was happening, went to grab it afterward, and brought it to the dressing room door. My friends and I were pointedly not allowed in the dressing room, but we hung out in the venue, which was clear of everybody except us. Finally, Matt and Eminem came out of the dressing room, and we peeped inside to see… strippers. Just a bunch of strippers. Eminem came out and Matt introduced us, and Eminem said, “Is this the Atomic dog?” and gave me a bro hug. (I worked at Atomic Records and “Atomic Dog” is, of course, a classic George Clinton song.) We got a great photo of everybody—two friends of mine, me, Eminem—flipping off the camera, and if I can find it, I’ll post it here. Keeping two, purging eight.
The Enemy: The sticker on the cover of this British band’s first album reads “This will be the genesis of a thousand bands,” which of course it wasn’t—it was barely the genesis of one. And that one was pretty much a clone of The Jam, singing about working-class Brit problems by kids barely old enough to have experienced such things yet. It’s the kind of thing you could bop your head to and then immediately forget; the only reason I own the album in the first place is that I interviewed the band for SPIN after its first-ever American show. I never heard from the band again, nor did anyone else in America, I don’t think. Purging one.
Jeremy Enigk: Jeremy Enigk’s legend was solidified when his band, Sunny Day Real Estate, broke up. He had been an enigma throughout the band’s original run, never giving interviews or even having photos taken. The band split because he found Christianity, which should’ve meant that his first solo album was insufferable. But Return Of The Frog Queen is incredible, a total step away from swirling guitars and into the world of heavily orchestrated chamber-pop. Keeping one, purging one.
Brian Eno: I’ve never been interested in Roxy Music or even any of Brian Eno’s poppier sounds, but there’s a reason that Music For Airports and Another Green World are considered classics. But it’s only Airports that I actually grab on a regular basis (though never, understandably, as the soundtrack to a road trip). Keeping one, purging one.
Esquivel: Remember the cocktail-nation craze, when Esquivel revivalists pulled the Mexican composer out from obscurity and started making fancy drinks again? Yeah, nobody else does either. Purging one.
The Evens: The Evens features Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, which I’ll write about more later. Preview of Fugazi: Great band or greatest band? Keeping two.
The Evolution Control Committee: Before the world was inundated with mashups—I’m talking about 1993 here—Evolution Control Committee sort of created the genre by putting together Herb Alpert’s music with Public Enemy’s lyrics. It was (and is) a great novelty, though it doesn’t seem nearly as exciting now as it did then. Purging one.
Explosions In The Sky: I’m always slightly confused at how an instrumental indie-rock band that makes huge, soundtrack-y songs could have gotten as popular as Explosions In The Sky, but I’m certainly happy for them. It can’t all be attributed to the soundtrack to the Friday Night Lights movie. In any case, I feel like owning almost the entire catalog on disc—except, strangely, the one that broke them through, 2001’s Those Who Tell The Truth…—is overkill, since I can’t necessarily distinguish one track from the next. Keeping one, purging three.
Failure: My favorite Failure record is the one the band’s disavowed: 1992’s dark, bruising Comfort. The band existed largely in the shadow of Tool—of whom I’m not particularly a fan—but never really broke out. It’s too bad, because Comfort and Magnified sound like they could’ve yielded real hits in a different decade. I never got into Fantastic Planet, which is considered the band’s classic. Keeping two, purging one.
Faith No More: Like a lot of people, it took me some time to take Faith No More seriously—to get over the rap and metal cheese and into the darkness. So yes, it’s Angel Dust all the way for me. (The new one is excellent, too, but I never got it on CD.) The Real Thing has its super jams, but I can find those anytime. Keeping one, purging two.
The Fall: A greatest-hits package from The Fall seems like a strange idea, considering the caustic British band’s fans tend to be obsessive—and thus there’d be no market for this. As much as it will make Sean O’Neal sad, this is the only Fall disc I own—50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong—and I never listen to it. It doesn’t even have “Oh! Brother” on it! Purging one.
The Fat Boys: Can you believe that the classic 1985 album The Fat Boys Are Back has never been widely available on CD? And never at all in America? I’m forced to own the hits set All Meat No Filler instead. It’s okay; I have Are Back on vinyl, and this disc features the hits from that record anyway. Rap was more innocent then. Keeping one.
Fatboy Slim: Right about now, the funk soul brother. Check it out now, the funk soul brother. Did you know Fatboy Slim was in The Housemartins? It’s true. Keeping one.
Felix: I know nothing about this band, except that the disc I own is on Kranky Records (a label I admire) and that I absolutely adore track one, which is this gorgeous, spare, weird song called “Death To Everyone But Us.” I’ll listen on YouTube when I need it. Purging one.
Benjy Ferree: I think I reviewed one of this Maryland singer-songwriter’s records for SPIN a million years ago, and I must’ve liked it enough to keep it around. Now it sounds pretty okay, but not more than that. Purging one.
Lupe Fiasco: Speaking of SPIN, I once traveled to Lupe Fiasco’s suburban Chicago home to do a feature called “In My Room,” in which artists talked about the stuff in their houses. It turned out he didn’t really live there anymore but still kept a lot of crap around, so it was a lot of “I’m not sure what’s in this box.” That made things a little awkward, as did the fact that he didn’t answer the door when we arrived. For like an hour. “Kick, Push” is still great though! Purging two.
50 Cent: I love you like a fat kid love cake, but I don’t know why I own Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Purging one.
Figurines: Danish band that sounds like The Flaming Lips and The Beach Boys. This disc literally has dust all over it. Purging one.
The Fire Theft: Hmm, what did I decide about the Jeremy Enigk solo canon up above? On the one hand, he’s awesome. On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time I listened to this almost-Sunny Day Real Estate record. (It’s three of the four members of that band.) So I guess it’ll be digital or nothing. Purging one.
Harvey Sid Fisher: I’m not sure how to explain this. Harvey Sid Fisher is a seventysomething actor and model who made an album called Astrology Songs that somehow became a hit in the indie-rock world. Gregg “Neil Hamburger” Turkington released the version I have on his label. The songs are catchy as hell—and weird and evocative of a time that may never have existed. I ran into Fisher at the first SXSW I ever attended and had my picture taken with him. I think I almost just talked myself into keeping one, but no, PURGED.
Flake Music: Before they were The Shins, they were Flake Music, and since I only ever listen to 1.5 Shins albums, I don’t need this ol’ curio. Purging one.
The Flaming Lips: There was a time when I might’ve considered The Flaming Lips among my favorite bands—during the slightly maligned Hit To Death In The Future Head and mainstream crossover Transmissions From The Satellite Heart era. I saw them play a million times back then, from small clubs to opening for Candlebox once things got weird. The stack of discs I own isn’t reflective of that limited fandom, so some of these have to go. So goodbye compilation of the earliest stuff (Finally The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid) and relatively recent At War With The Mystics. I’m keeping Zaireeka, and maybe one day I’ll do the surround-sound experience again. (It’s four discs intended to be played simultaneously, which I did twice way back when—once in the record store I worked at and once in a club. It was fun.) Keeping five, purging six.
The Flaming Stars: This sullen, slinky British band—featuring an ex-member of Gallon Drunk—made a debut album so great (1996’s Songs From The Bar Room Floor) that it kept me buying everything else they did for a while, even though I still only listened to that one. Keeping one, purging six.
Fleetwood Mac: I own Rumours, which I have no recollection of buying. Maybe that’s how it got so popular—they just sneak it into everybody’s collection? No use getting rid of it if it’ll just appear again. Keeping one.
Fol Chen: For a minute in 2009, Fol Chen seemed poised for something big, and the record from that year—John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made—is still weird enough to be interesting, though maybe not enough to hang on to. Purging one.
Foo Fighters: I have finally decided to let go of the first Foo Fighters record, which for a long time I thought I liked. Now when I hear any Foo Fighters song on the radio, I can’t turn it off fast enough. Was it them or me? Purging one.
The For Carnation: It’s funny to think that when the first (incredible) For Carnation release—an EP called Fight Songs—came out, it seemed like a bigger deal that it featured then-current members of Tortoise than its real star: former Slint frontman Brian McMahan. It sounds like a logical extension of Slint, too, and I’m surprised that all that band’s resurgence hasn’t fomented more interest in this one. All three For Carnation releases are excellent. Keeping three.
¡Forward Russia!: Although it probably seems like I’m finding lots of stuff in here that I barely remember, part of the fun of this purge has been rediscovering records that I haven’t heard in years but really do like. Case in point: the debut album by the British band ¡Forward Russia!, which now seems like a clear precursor to Bloc Party. Part of the reason I had forgotten about the band’s excellent debut, Give Me A Wall, is that it’s in a thin cardboard sleeve that slips in between jewel cases. But I’m rocking it again, for now at least. Keeping one.
Four Tet/Fridge: Can I do these two in one entry since they’re so close to each other on the shelf and feature the same guy? The first Fridge album, 1997’s Ceefax, is deeply indebted to the instrumental post-rock of the era—it’s very Tortoise-like, in other words. It has some of my favorite CD artwork of all time, with all of the information printed in a tiny font on the spine and a completely white multipage CD booklet. (It’s heavy-duty paper, even, but blank!) Kieran Hebden found a lot more success as Four Tet, though I’ve always enjoyed that outfit more as background music—way more Spotify than CD-in-the-car. Purging two.
Sage Francis: For a minute here and there, I’ve tried to enjoy the more forward-thinking hip-hop the universe has to offer, but then I just go back to N.W.A and DMX. Purging one.
Adam Franklin: I love Swervedriver, but not enough to hang on to a decent solo album by its frontman. Purging one.
Franz Ferdinand: I used to own three Franz Ferdinand CDs, until right now! Purging three.
Frightened Rabbit: This is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve written about their Scottish sadness extensively. The Midnight Organ Fight is top 10 of all time for me (I think), and it’s telling that it’s not the band’s only album I ever pull off the shelf. They’re all great. Keeping five.
The Frogs: Oh, man, we’re on a hot streak. How do you explain The Frogs to somebody who’s never heard of them without sounding silly? Brothers from Milwaukee who made music together since they were young. One tall, one shortish. Both brilliant and completely crazy. It’s Only Right And Natural is an album all about how awesome it is to be gay, though neither is gay. (Those were different times.) They were beloved by Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Billy Corgan, and more. They thought they were going to be huge stars—and maybe they should’ve been—but their songs were too weird or too funny or too wonderful to be anything but cult-inspiring.
The Frogs went through a bunch of bass players over the years, including my old pal Damian. He took me to a bunch of their big shows opening for Pearl Jam—I witnessed Dennis Flemion (a.k.a. Dennis Frog) writing in Vedder’s notebook words that ended up on No Code. (“Miss you already” became the chorus of “Smile,” and it’s Flemion’s handwriting in the Pearl Jam liner notes.) It was always bizarre to watch big bands’ audiences try and wrap their heads around songs like “Homos,” especially when Vedder would get in a Frogs-like costume and join them for a song or two. Sadly, Dennis drowned a few years ago, but the legacy of the band lives on, in the underground where it belongs. Keeping five, purging two.
Fugazi: I’m not even attempting to exaggerate or be provocative when I say that Fugazi was/is a hundred times more important to me than The Beatles or Stones or your-favorite-band-ever could ever be. We grew up together, me and Fugazi: The first time I saw the band live I was 15. It was in a weird hall in Milwaukee called Crystal Palace, where I never saw another show. I asked Ian MacKaye for his autograph after the show, and instead he gave me a lecture about how it was just a name on a piece of paper. (I’m not mad, and he wasn’t wrong.)
Fugazi matured musically right along with me; every record felt like a leap forward that was still strongly connected to the past. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them play probably a dozen times over the years, and their shows were every bit as intense and exciting as their legend suggests. There was no set list, just four guys locked into each other so perfectly that there was always room for something weird to happen. My proudest moment as a show promoter was a Fugazi show in 1998: Support bands were The Promise Ring, Jets To Brazil, and Compound Red. Tickets were $6. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t even get to see the whole thing because I was busy “working.” After I paid MacKaye, I saw him sign a few autographs. In sum: Fugazi is the best. Keeping 10, which for those counting at home, includes every official release plus a bootleg called First Show.
The Futureheads: Wikipedia tells me that The Futureheads—a British band active in the early ’00s—claim Fugazi as an influence, but I’m not really hearing it, nor am I remembering much what they sound like. The only song title that’s ringing a bell for me—and I own three CDs—is “Decent Days And Nights,” which is still a corker of post-punk energy. Purging three.
Future Of The Left: This band was formed after the breakup of Mclusky, a brilliantly brutal, sarcastically psychotic British band that made one perfect record. FOTL has been far more consistent than Mclusky, with five solid albums that harness frontman Andrew “Falco” Falkous’ caustic energy. (And Falco did one of the greatest HateSongs in the history of that A.V. Club feature.) Keeping five.
The tally: My best purging week yet? I think so, at 67, for a grand total of 268 purged, through the sixth letter of the alphabet. That’s an average of about 44 per letter, which by my probably illogical math, should put me at 1,144 discs gone by the time I get to Z. Eyeballing the shelves does not make me that optimistic.
Personal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): Jeremy Enigk, Return Of The Frog Queen; Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight; The Frogs, My Daughter The Broad; Fugazi, man do I really only get to keep one? Okay, how about In On The Kill Taker?; Future Of The Left, Travels With Myself And Another.
Next up: Nothing but some G things, baby.