Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 2 – Indie Rock & Post-Punk Region

Battle of the Bands Tournament, Music

Pregame: We are now down to a field of 32 bands in this Second Round of the “tune-ament”. Starting with this round most of the matchups will come down to counting great songs, especially as the field wittles down to the Elite Eight on down to the Final Four and the championship match.  By the by, I’m not sure what I was thinking in my geeked out little mind when I started this little project for the fun of it, but let the games continue.

The Match: #1-Modest Mouse (9) VS #9-Pretty Girls Make Graves (4)
Modest Mouse sample song: “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Pretty Girls Make Graves sample song: “Sad Girls Por Vida”
The Winner: Modest Mouse

Postgame: As a die-hard fan of both these bands, I’m sad to see Pretty Girls Make Graves bow out so early, but at least they’re losing against an indie rock juggernaut. At any rate, PGMG’s growth from post-punk upstarts to indie rock darlings was as sudden as it was transient considering the band called it quits after less than seven years (pretty much the norm rather than the exception for bands of their ilk).  The frenetic frenzy of their jagged guitars and anthem-laden songs on their first three releases, The New Romance, Good Health and the self-titled EP had a huge impact on me in 2003 when I decided to start playing electric guitar again after a long hiatus that included me playing bass for much of that time. Then with Elan Vital, their swan song album, they traded the dual guitar attack (due to a regrettable lineup change) in favor of keyboard instruments like the accordion, melodic, etc.  Essential listening includes “The Grandmother Wolf”, “Teeth Collector”, “A Certain Cemetery”, “Speakers Push the Air”, “Head South”, and “The Nocturnal House” and “The Number”. There’s not one song on any of those albums that I could honestly say I don’t like. And Modest Mouse marches on…

The Match: #2-Fugazi (8) VS #10-Jawbox (3)
Fugazi sample song: “Public Witness Program”
Jawbox sample song: “Reel”
The Winner: Fugazi

Postgame: Just like the match above this one features two of my absolute favorite bands. And like Pretty Girls Make Graves above, Round 2 is entirely too early for Fugazi to be defeating their buddies, neighbors and label-mates in Jawbox. But considering that Fugazi existed for six or seven more years than them puts Jawbox at a decided disadvantage with only 4 proper albums (plus 1 great compilation of loose ends and rarities). Still, this early exit does not diminish them or the greatness of their music. From their absolutely perfect albums Novelty, For Your Own Special Sweetheart (!!!) and Jawbox, we were given great songs such as “Dreamless”, “Spiral Down”, “Tongues”, “Static”, “68”, “Savory”, “U-Trau”, “Reel”, “Mirrorful”, and “Iodine”.  Like  Fugazi, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Q And Not U, Jawbox was a major influence on my post-punk/noise rock project Faulty Schematics.  Sad to see them bow out of the tourney so early.

The Match: #3-Sonic Youth (7) VS #6-Sunny Day Real Estate (4)
Sonic Youth sample song: “Unmade Bed” (Live on Conan)
Sunny Day Real Estate sample song: “Days Were Golden” (set to “The Outsiders”)
The Winner: Sonic Youth

Postgame: This win is purely about numbers. Sunny Day Real Estate is the sentimenal favorite and a song-to-song matchup would definitely earn them the win on emotional resonance alone. But with only four albums total, they’re just a little short on songs against Sonic Youth. Their first two albums were strong, but when they broke up (prematurely) they went out at the top of their game with (arguably) their best two albums: The Rising Tide and How It Feels to Be Something On, which blessed my ears with beautiful songs like “Faces In Disguise”, “Guitar and Video Games”, “Tearing in my Heart”, “Every Shining Time You Arrive”, “Pillars”, and “Fool in the Photograph”. Yes, like many indie rock bands, SDRE were gone too soon and are sorely missed.

The Match: #4-Karate (7) VS #5-Sleater Kinney (5)
Karate sample song: “Original Spies”
Sleater-Kinney sample song: “Entertain”
The Winner: Karate

Postgame: A good battle that Sleater-Kinney ultimately loses. And like their opponent, they’re no longer a band anymore. Both bands gone too soon, yet oddly they had about the same amount of output, both with their unique brands of indie rock. S-K have three stellar albums: Dig Me Out, The Hot Rock, and All Hands on the Bad One, and another four that are pretty good. Excellent songs include: “Night Light”, “Combat Rock”, “Ironclad”, “Was It a Lie?”, “Start Together” and “Turn It On” as well as the title tracks to those three albums. Their secret weapon was the trading off of contrasting vocals between Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein…and of course the drumming of Janet Weiss. A very important band, for sure.

Nary an upset in this region, at least numerically (not that I expected there to be). All four top seeds will move on to the Sweet 16. Next up is the Second Round for the Gen. Rock & Alt-Rock Region.

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