(Go here for the previous part of this series - My Favorite Music Artists - High School)
Almost immediately after I graduated college, I blindly bought a copy of a music album that I heard a lot of praise for - The Clash’s London Calling.
When I first listened to London Calling, I was floored by the album. It met the hype and was truly the greatest music release that I heard up to that point. I kept listening to it over and over again because it got better the more I heard it. There are so many details on that album that you don’t catch during your first listen. I bought their other albums and discovered that those were great too. The Clash (both the UK and US versions) was far rougher around the edges, but I liked the straight-forward punk rock with a bit of occasional reggae-styled digression that it offered. Give ‘em Enough Rope was closer to London Calling, but I felt that it was a little rough around the edges. Sandinista! was too long for its own good but had plenty of excellent songs. And Combat Rock offered some classic songs as well.
But they somehow weren’t my #1 band until I read Pat Gilbert’s book Passion is a Fasion: The Real Story of The Clash. It was an impulse purchase. I was visiting Tampa, FL and saw a copy of the book for sale at Mojo Books & Records. The biography looked interesting, and I wasn’t good with money.
I read the book and came away from it with a deep appreciation for what The Clash brought to the table and the different personalities that made the band what they were. It made a mega fan out of me, and I sought out biographies and documentaries. I also made sure to check out recordings of their concerts - they were fantastic live during their peak years.
If you want to start with The Clash, I recommend starting where I did - London Calling.
From 2005 to 2013, The Clash was more or less my only favorite band. I enjoyed listening to an ever-diversifying range of music, thanks mostly in part to a XM Satellite Radio subscription. Here is a short list of music artists that I enjoyed but didn’t really collect albums for: Arch Enemy, Faith No More, Gojira, Man… or Astro-Man?, The Minutemen, NOFX, Primus, Strapping Young Lad, Weezer (their first two albums), and Wu-Tang Clan.
I know that this is a “favorite music artists” article, but I don’t know of a better time for me to talk about my favorite XM Satelite Radio channels. Fungus was great - they mostly played punk but would have special blocks dedicated to ska, rockabilly, and surf rock. XM suddenly replaced Fungus with AC/DC Radio in 2008, which was lousy and soured me on AC/DC for a while. XM Liquid Metal played metal and had funny on-air personalities. After the Sirius-XM merger, Liquid Metal became almost unlistenable because they became Hard Attack with a different name. Hard Attack’s format was, apparently, “Bad Metalcore All of the Time”. But then they started playing metal again and they were okay until I stopped listening to SiriusXM with any regularity around 2010.
I didn’t really buy a lot of music during that period of time. I didn’t have much money, and it went towards necessary expenses and other hobbies.
In 2014, I started getting back into music a little bit. I had a new job, and it came with a 50-minute commute in both directions and a noisy work environment. I started listening to more music because I had more time to do so. I spent much time listening to podcasts and video game soundtracks, but I found a few new artists for me to get into. Some were discovered through Bandcamp, which was quickly gaining importance as a music platform. But my two favorites from 2014 to 2016 were projects from artists that I previously knew about.
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
By the time 2014 rolled-around, I still loved The Clash, but I was growing tired of hearing the same albums and compilations. And they were often a little immature lyrically. Joe Strummer, the former frontman, rhythm guitarist, and lyricist for The Clash, had another thing going on shortly before his death. And that thing was Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros. The music that they made wasn’t punk rock, but it was rockin’ and regularly catchy. Their three albums were a healthy part of my musical diet for a few years.
I recommend starting with their second album, Global A Go-Go, as it’s my favorite album of the three. If you like it, there’s more of it in their first album, Rock Art And The X-Ray Style. I remember liking Streetcore, but it is more of a straight-forward rock album than the other two.
I knew Devin Townsend from a previous band of his, Strapping Young Lad. I had a few friends in high school who loved them, and I got a little bit into SYL around 2005 or so. I’d describe their style as “hostile as h*ck metal”.
In 2014 or so, I decided to get some of Devin Townsend’s non-SYL albums, and he became a favorite artist of mine for a short time. I didn’t like all of his work, but it was always interesting.
My favorite of his work was Devin Townsend Project’s Addicted. Hard rockin’ metal with catchy choruses? Sign me up! His Ziltoid the Omniscient and Infinity releases were two other favorites of mine which are somewhat in the same style. Of course, I also liked Devin Townsend Project’s Deconstructed because it sounded fairly similar to Strapping Young Lad.
I didn’t like Devin Townsend Project’s Ghost or Ki, but they do illustrate that Devin Townsend can do more than just the metal thing.
Devin Townsend’s quite a prolific artist, but I’d recommend starting with Addicted or Deconstructed because they’re metal albums that aren’t goofy sci-fi epics (like Ziltoid the Omniscient) and don’t stray too far into genre-bending territory (like Infinity). To be honest, I don’t dig Devin Townsend’s music nearly as much as I used to. (I’ll explain more later.)
Even though platforms like YouTube and Bandcamp made it easier than ever to discover new music, I got to a point in 2015 where my interest in music was, once again, stuck in a rut. I mostly listened to artists that I already knew about, and I’d occasionally find new artists who made music in styles that I was familiar with.
This changed in 2016, the year that I accidentally got into Japanese metal. The next two articles in this series are all about artists that quickly became my favorites in 2016.