Hate Thy Neighbor

The word “scene” makes me retch something awful. As in “what about the scene, man?” It’s right up there with “society.” Besides being vague and meaningless, it carries with it the unwritten rule that, independent of quality or substance, you’re supposed to appreciate your local band before all others. It’s an amalgamation of parochialism, sports-team association, and general guilt. There is a logic behind it: If people don’t support their Musicians Local 131, there will be no local music and therefore all music will be manufactured in Orlando. But the end result is that people are guilted into liking garbage just because their neighbor made it.
If only there were an allowance for the vagaries of opinion in local music, then maybe more people would take to it rather than suffer through another Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band for the sake of locality. I only mention all of this because it’s taken me some time to look back and recognize that some of the local bands I heard growing up were really, objectively good—not just yokels pandering for attention.

Ignoring the name, Trans Am are kings of the champion prog sound. Somewhere between Kraftwerk, Goblin, and Van Halen, they’re like American krautrock. Similar to the German originators but stronger and faster. No longer a D.C. band per se, they’re grandfathered here by putting time in like it was community service.

» Listen to Trans Am at undomondo

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Influence-wise, I’m not sure who the Impossible Five might resemble. Maybe a bit like the Cure or Nation of Ulysses, but it swings rather than mopes or screams. Members of the Impossible Five have since taken a 180-degree turn and formed Dead Meadow, whose droning psychedelia has gained some popularity. I can’t help but yearn for more of the active element they once had.

» Listen to the Impossible Five at Despite These Times

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Everybody loves Ted Leo, and how could they not? He’s agit-prop and pop all in one. Some songs can mix in too much politics with the poetry, but otherwise he’s a gold mine. His original band Chisel sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, but it’s cut from the same thrift-store T-shirt.

» Listen to “The Guns of Meridian Hill” by Chisel

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El Guapo used to make some excellent dramatic/melodic punk-something-or-other until they got sued by another band named El Guapo and had to change their name to Supersystem. Somewhere in there they also gave up the jagged style, decided to make blipping bleeping nonsense, became a dance-punk band, and then broke up. Oh well, it’s still great to go back to the original album and reminisce.

» Listen to “Jacob West Hartman” by El Guapo

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Just as jagged and melodic but much more spastic was Skull Kontrol. “Drunkenly cartoonish speedcore” makes it sound like a bad thing, but don’t let that dissuade you from listening. Make a mix tape of this with some E Pak Sa and Melt-Banana and you’ll be ready to disassemble your television just to see what’s inside.

» Listen to “Primitive Offerings” by Skull Kontrol

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