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5 Bands I Like: Devo, The Church, Mission of Burma, Wire, and New Model Army
5 groups that have been around forever, but you probably have never heard about.
I don't go out of my way to listen to the most obscure music around. I don't go out of my way to see guys rattling pieces of tin or beating those same pieces of tin with chains; I did, however, see that when Black Leather Jesus opened for Sonic Youth in Marfa, Texas a few years ago.
While my friends would argue that I do go out of my way to be difficult, I actually find it rather depressing to try and explain what I'm listening to on my iPod or who I'm going to go see in concert. I have to do that every time, without fail.
I've picked 5 bands that have been around for decades, but who have continued to make new music and tour. I'll go from least obscure to most.
1) DEVO. Everyone's heard of Devo. If you mention them, they say something about "funny hats" and are able to, possibly, come up with, "Whip It." If they're old enough, they might even remember them wearing said funny hats while selling Honda scooters. They don't know any other song because 99.9% of their catalogue (read songs that aren't Whip It) has never been heard on commercial radio. A good starting point? Their newest album, Something for Everybody . They also put on a great live show. Or at least they did until they started throwing weird crap into the audience. My wife still is angry about the 5 pound bag of "Buttmilk Pancake Mix" she got beaned with in Denver earlier this year.
2) The Church. Although quite well known in their native Australia, most of the rest of the world knows them solely for their late 80s hit, "Under the Milky Way." While they've been described as neo-psychedelic because of their jangling guitar sound, they've always rather resented the title. When they're touring near you, they put on a great show. They've often amazed audiences with much more energetic, straight-ahead rock versions of their albums. They've also been known to rearrange their classic rockers for acoustic sets. Starting places would be one of their "best of" albums and Untitled #23 , their latest. Untitled #23 is one of the best reviewed of their entire history, earning a 5 star review from Rolling Stone Australia.
3) Mission of Burma. Often described as post-punk, the lyrics of many of their songs put them more firmly in the punk category. A favorite of Boston in the early 80s, they broke up right as they were nearing fame; that fame seemed to be part of it. When they reunited in 2002 for a reunion show, they began to write again, seemingly taking up where they'd left off, but with a more mature outlook. Mission of Burma is one of those bands that you've never heard of, but they've influenced a generation of people you have. The best starting place is Vs from their original catalog.
4) New Model Army. They’re another punk/post-punk band from the 80s that has continued working and touring. Unfortunately for those of us in the United States, they have been rarely allowed entry into the US because of their political views. "51st State of America" is a strong anti-imperialist statement from their first album that probably sealed their fate with the US authorities. Not coincidentally, the Australian band Midnight Oil also had trouble getting into the US to tour for many years. History: the Best of New Model Army is a good starting point, but any of their 11 studio albums and two live albums make for enjoyable listening.
5) Wire (or Wir). Wire came out of the British punk explosion of the 70s. But they never really fit the mold in that punk quickly created for itself. Often dismissed as too rigid or cold, they've created some of the most interesting music of the past few decades. They've also not been afraid to experiment and move outside of their comfort zone. Like Frank Zappa, they're the masters of taking a song and reworking it multiple times. They never seem quite happy with their music, so it's constantly evolving. Their album, The Drill, is merely a collection of iterations on a single song; I do not recommend this for the weak. Since they've experimented so much over the years, they do have some vastly different sounds or eras. I would recommend 154 from their early period, It's Beginning to and Back Again from their mid period, and it's a toss up between Object 47 and Red Barked Tree from their newest efforts.