Memory is a fickle lady. It works out that you can remember the name of a bar you drank in one time in Dublin a decade ago but not the name of the girl you were just introduced to. You can remember the time you did something painfully embarrassing that no one witnessed with Proustian precision, but not the time on your phone you just checked literally a second ago.
Music is somewhat of anomaly in regards to this though. It’s something that’s etched and etched deep into very heart of your brain alongside the important things like birthdays and where the cheap booze is sold. Remembering facts and figures for revision is almost impossible but remembering the lyrics to ‘Mr. Brightside’ is instantaneous.
However not every song and artist is awarded this fate. Due to real life commitments, personal preference and the sheer amount of music being pumped out these days, it is more than easy for bands and musicians to disappear gently into musical limbo. Here are ten musical acts that are quietly being forgotten…
Like Yeah Yeah Yeahs or TV on the Radio, The Walkmen were a band that encapsulated New York City in every aspect of their sound. They started making music at a time when it seemed that everybody who was cool was in a band, these were the days when The Strokes were being effortlessly hip whilst being coked out of their skulls and getting off with all the pretty girls. The Walkmen weren’t as cool as The Strokes, but they had some songs to match.
Well, one song in particular. ‘The Rat’. It’s just one of those songs that’s a staple of university pre drinks similar to ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ or ‘Last Nite’. And it has the best drumming this side of the twenty first century, just a flat out frantic shredding of drum kit. It’s biblical. These great liquid whips of spastic drumming like they’ve put an octopus in a V neck sweater and taped drum sticks to his tentacles. It’s a song that travels at the speed of sound from bar one and the only reason they haven’t been remembered as emphatically as they should is because The Strokes have been hogging the spotlight. Just watch them on Conan and tell me they’re not awesome.
You can’t write the book on the supernova that is music in Seattle without talking about Wipers. They are right there in your first chapter, preferably somewhere near the start of the first paragraph. Wipers are a fiery brand of heavily distorted punk rock from the Pacific North West, and that is a collection of words that you can never, ever go wrong with. It’s the equivalent of finding out Chris Morris is involved with a project, or that the dessert comes with custard; instantly you know it will be good.
To say Wipers were economical with their sound would be an understatement, there are arctic tundra’s that are less sparse than some of their albums. Their songs have a simple structure with a coiled tension wrapped inside just waiting to explode out and they pretty much influenced everyone to come out of the area in the following years from The Melvins to The Dharma Bums. Nirvana even covered a couple of their tracks.
Wipers are like your bog standard DDT, simple, effective and absolutely beautiful when it’s done right.
Apologies for being a little rudimental here, but Imogen Heap’s great. Originally a part of Frou Frou who’s signature dish was based around cavernous lilting melodies and trippy electronic beats and hooks that swim around inside you head like a shoal of fish. Heap went solo and carried this sound over into work that was full of soft bleeps and warm chirps like the cicadas outside a Greek taverna with her dreamy, ethereal voice- the sort that would draw sailors onto the rocks- acting as the spine of her sound.
Heap however falls into the category of artists whose work is perhaps more well known for being in movies or sampled by others rather than their own. Similar to how people know Daft Punk, but not Breakwater. ‘Let Go’ featured heavily in Zach Braff’s film ‘Garden State’ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Whatcha Say’ is recognised more than Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’. She deserves more.
The very antithesis of the cash money era of hip hop, Lupe Fiasco quickly became a favourite with everyone who was getting bored with the direction of the genre. It was a case of skateboards and spectacles over Lambos and Laker jerseys. Any rapper coming out of Chicago is immediately cast into the shadow of the behemoth that is Kanye West, yet with his slinky flow and artisanal approach to lyricism, Lupe endeared himself to fans of hip hop and Kanye himself.
After two seriously stellar albums- Food & Liquor and The Cool- Lupe was quietly becoming one of rap’s kingpins. Unfortunately what transpired next knocked the stuffing out of any momentum he had built up. A debacle involving his record label allegedly watering down any semblance of politically charged content he wanted his next album to feature delayed production and the wheels came of quicker than a clown cars. His next couple of albums weren’t his best, but they were also better than people give him credit for, and he even chewed out Bill O’Reilly on live TV. So it’s swings and roundabouts really. Still, despite all this, on Lupe’s most recent work Tetsuo and Youth, he’s somewhere near to finding the voice people quickly forgot he had.
Oh My Gosh, can we talk about SSX 3’s soundtrack for a minute because it is incredible. Pretty much anyone from that game could be featured on this list, from Placebo to The X-Ecutioners to Caesars but perhaps the most fitting and prescient is Basement Jaxx. Be honest, can you actually name one of the albums? And also honestly, who cares if you can’t because their singles are absolute bangers and there is almost no one you can have more fun listening to.
Dancefloor classics and house party anthems that follow the divine mantra of the big beat manifesto, namely ‘Big Beats are the best, get high all the time’. Their stuff is catcher than chicken pox and there probably being forgotten because honestly, who cares what band or song is playing when you’re having this much fun.
Interpol are still making music apparently; it’s just that no one listens to their new stuff. Similar to The Walkmen, Interpol shot to fame out of New York during a period where it seemed like everyone in that city was in a band. Their debut album, ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’, was loved by everyone. It was morose yet crushing, and much darker than you remember when you go back and listen to it after you stumble upon it in the recesses of your record collection.
Deadpan intensity in crisp funeral suits, Interpol were a cooler version of The National. See, The National would help you through the problems you were having with your girlfriend, Interpol would just steal her. And they’re still cool people to this day; Paul Banks just released an album with RZA, Carlos Dengler has produced a movie and Daniel Kessler owned a top notch bistro on the Lower East Side. All the impossibly cool members aside, Interpol are a band that sound like a lot of other stuff from the early 2000s, but no one really sounds like Interpol.
The Marked Men
The Marked Men made really high quality poppy punk rock that nobody can seem to get right anymore. There used to be an absolute slew of bands making this sort music at the start of the last decade, but Texas outfit The Marked Men threw their own sort of stank on the genre. It’s harmonious, yet gritty. The sort of sound The Beach Boys would have had if only they’d have been born a couple of decades later and grew up in the Lone Star State. This is stuff you wear out the repeat button on.
Everything with The Marked Men happens in bitesize chunks. Their tracks are two minute capsules filled to the brim with infectious guitar riffs and driving drum beats that you just intrinsically begin to head bob to like it’s part of humanities missing link. It’s real kick you in the balls, pick you up, slap you on the back and kick you in the balls again sort of music. The Marked Men would splinter off into several groups, most notably Radioactivity and High Tension Wires, but you really can’t beat a good, Texas sized dollop of pop punk that The Marked Men give you to kick start your morning routine. Sorry to sound like a grumpy young man, but they just make them like this anymore.
A band that received almost universal critical acclaim at the start of the new millennia without almost no radio airplay or sales were The Microphones. It’s probably fair to call them a one man band, as frontman Phil Elverum was the principal song writer, composer and instrumentalist across all releases. Call The Microphones what you want when it comes to categorisation, but in essence, they made incredibly subtle, gorgeous pop music coated in a layer of fuzz like an old peach.
Its music that’s perfect for a long road trip at night, one where the continual onslaught of street lights and white lines melts into the heady gooeyness of carefully plucked guitar strings and muffled drum beats. Everything this band ever made was done so simply, yet continually beautiful. It’s volatile, yet comforting, like watching an enormous storm race towards you.
All their tracks are wilfully understated, they let you fill in the blanks they leave for you. Like so many other groups to come and go before them, The Microphones’ legacy is probably dented due to their non-existence on radio stations or high album sales, and it’s a shame because in their short time as a group, they didn’t even come close to making a bad track.
The 13th Floor Elevators
The absolute pinnacle of sixties psychedelica, The 13th Floor Elevators essentially wrote the book on how to make trippy music. Their first album, The Psychedelic Sound of The 13th Floor Elevators is the pinnacle and the benchmark for every band that fits into this heady genre. Chocked full of spiritual freedom, lucid lyricism and dizzying guitar riffs that make you feel like you staring into the Dream Machine; The 13th Floor Elevators are pupil dilating goodness.
They sounded raw and untextured with a DIY ethic as if their aesthetic and sound had been made in a garage using gasoline and paint. Despite being deservingly successful, The 13th Floor Elevators faded away along with the hippie mentality it helped define. They were also overshadowed by lead singer Roky Ericsson’s paranoid schizophrenia and subsequent placement in a psychiatric hospital where he underwent electroconvulsive therapy. Despite this, Ericsson and the Elevators managed to inspire bands such as Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain and R.E.M; a sad case of a band being remembered for those they influenced rather than their own work.
This is the epitome of the forgotten man of the music world because most people will not have any idea who Link Wray is. Essentially- Elvis aside perhaps- he invented rock music. And that’s not hyperbole. The power chord in ‘Rumble’ is the musical equivalent of the Shot Heard ‘Round The World. One day music was one thing, then Link Wray decided to change it. Now without any semblance of exaggeration, without this man there’s no Iggy Pop, no Led Zeppelin, no Neil Young and no The Who.
So, to all the music curators out there, put the man in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame right now or there is basically no point in there being one. It’s like how Toots Mondt isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame. Link Wray is the OG so induct him already. God knows he’s deserved it.
This article was written by Dave Pittaway, a GIGsoup contributor