Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 1 – Indie Rock & Post-Punk Region (Part 1)

Pregame: This region has a lot of bands that became my favorites during my adult life (well, starting around 18-19). Many of them provided the soundtrack for that crucial transition from youth to adult, helping give perspective during those awkward, difficult years of learning just what the hell being adult even means. There are some serious matchups in the middle portion of this region. I do predict at least one upset.

The Match: #1-Modest Mouse (9) VS #16-Unwound (2)

Modest Mouse sample song: “The Whale Song”
Unwound sample song: “Terminus”
The Winner: Modest Mouse

Postgame: A Pacific Northwest battle, Oregon VS Washington. Unwound, from Portland, OR, was an abrasive post-punk indie rock band for most of their active years. But their swansong double album, the magnum opus called Leaves Turn Inside You, saw them smoothing out the roughness for a slightly more accessible sound, also adorned with mild progressive elements. That’s when I discovered them, which was on that last album. The double set boasts some serious jams, like “Radio Gra”, “December”, “Look a Ghost”, “Off This Century” and the Pink Floyd-ish epic “Below the Salt”. Naturally, they fall to a #1 seed muscled up with 9 albums. No contest.

The Match: #2-Fugazi (8) VS #15-Nirvana (2)
Fugazi sample song: “Long Distance Runner”
Nirvana sample song: “Heart-Shaped Box”
The Winner: Fugazi

Postgame: The short-lived Nirvana got credit for officially ushering in a new movement in popular music two decades ago with the game-changing teen angst anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. They were the voice of a (my) generation, but ended short in early 1994. Who knows how the rest of the 90s would have turned out. But while they had their 15 minutes and change in the spotlight, they delivered two great albums, Nevermind and In Utero, and great songs like “In Bloom”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium”, “Rape Me” and the two aforementioned. I imagine the band (including the late Kurt Cobain) would be honored to know they’re losing to Fugazi. In fact, I bet they would repectfully insist on the defeat.

The Match: #3-Sonic Youth (7) VS #14-Q And Not U (3)
Sonic Youth sample song: “100%”

Q And Not U sample song: “X-Polynation”

The Winner: Sonic Youth

Postgame: Q And Not U was one of the great post-punk bands to emerge from the fertile, historic Washington D.C. underground (home of a couple of other bands in this region, like Fugazi and Jawbox). Sadly they came an went in a flash, like so many underground bands do. In their short time they showed great diversity over their 3 great albums: No Kill, No Beep Beep, Different Damage, and Power.  Most awesome songs include “And the Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight”, “Hooray for Humans”, “Air Conditions”, “Recreation Myth”, “Beautiful Beats”, and “Wonderful People”. But as great as they were, they’re up against the legendary post-punk/no-wave band Sonic Youth, still going strong today. ‘Nuff said.

The Match: #4-Karate (7) VS #13-Cursive (3)
Karate sample song: “What Is Sleep”
Cursive sample song: “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight”
The Winner: Karate

Postgame: Early on Cursive sounded like they came out of the D.C. scene with a sound that was distinctly influenced by the D.C. post-punk scene. But eventually they moved away from those early trappings to a more diverse sound (which all the good D.C. bands did anyway). Their album Cursive Domestica is a masterpiece, and the followup EP Burst and Bloom is succinct and solid. Jams include “The Martyr”, “The Lament of Pretty Baby”, “Tall Tales, Telltales”, and “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?”.
Surprise, surprise. No upsets in the first round again. But perhaps one lurks in Part 2 of this region? We’ll see later today.


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