The Words of Dead Humans.
At the end of last week, I recieved an email from Ted Barlow of the phenomenal Crooked Timber blog with a question. He was planning a friday arts post, and wanted some input from some Mp3 Bloggers. I let him know I'd be late in getting back to him, as things have been crazy, but I wanted to make sure I got to it because as soon as I read the question, the answer was pretty obvious.
Imagine that I've been asked to start a new satellite radio station. We'll be playing songs that should have been huge hits, but weren't. I'm looking for songs from any period that you liked the first time you heard them, songs that are immediately catchy and pleasurable, songs that would please your coworkers rather than the clerk at the local independent record store. The artists could be obscure or famous, but the songs should not be in regular rotation on terrestrial radio stations.
There are a lot of buried 'Hey Ya!'s, 'Tainted Love's, and 'You Shook Me All Night Long's out there. Help us find them. Bonus points if you an think of a popular song that more-or-less shares the appeal of your obscure song.
That post, and it's various replies, can be found HERE. There's some phenomenal music hidden in there. (But as a sidenote, "Chuck the Writer" - "Blue Monday" is the best selling 12" single of all time. I wouldn't call it obscure, though it is of course great.)
Back to the matter at hand though. When I recieved the email, the reason I was eager to write this response was because only one band immediately sprang to mind and stayed there. Osker.
Osker - Motionless - Osker signed to Epitaph in 2000 on the strength of a demo. They soon released an EP of straight ahead, rancid-aping punk rock. It was generic, but not terrible. Especially considering that at the time, the guys were still in High School. Hell, one of them was only a sophomore. The band toured like mad, and quickly earned a reputation as "the most hated band on Epitaph." The live shows quickly became legendary for confrontations with fans. The band would often introduce themselves with a simple "We are Osker, Fuck You." Fights were not uncommon. And then, something happened. The band went back into the studio to record a full length album. And the result was Idle Will Kill. "Motionless" was the albums lead single, and it's one of those songs that, from the crunchy opening riff, to that drum kick, and the soaringly nasal, cheap-trick-esque chorus, screams "pop." And yet, lyrically, the song is... horribly bleak. Leaving aside the wrist-slittingly-emo opening lyric, we have a song that is, essentially, about stasis. About trust. And about a young band, on the brink of success, unused to actually having to give a fuck about what they're doing. Given the content of the songs on Idle Will Kill it's pretty easy to see why Osker broke up in early 2002, while still not of legal drinking age. But that doesn't mean that the breakup wasn't a tragedy, even mourned by as few as it was.
Osker - Contention - if "Motionless" is an opening single, a shot across the bow, than Contention is the knockout punch, to use a terribly pun-itive metaphor (Okay, I'll stop now). I remember the morning pretty vividly. I was in the studio of my old college radio station, with my friend James. I had only been doing the radio gig for maybe... 3 weeks, with James as my Co-Host, and we were playing mostly punk rock, and various ____core stuff. And bouncing bands off of one another. And then, I realized that James didn't know Osker. I put Contention and Motionless on the air, back to back. And while that was happening, we pulled up Oskers website, to see if there were any fun facts we could talk about on the outro. And the site had gone black. About an hour earlier, it was announced that the band had broken up. It's funny, how things like that happen. Here, I was preparing to talk about how huge Osker was going to be. How a song as driving and hook laden as Contention, a song that beat Jimmy Eat World to the "not quite punk, not quite emo, not quite pop" punch, and did it better than Jimmy ever could (I still miss the decidedly Emo Jimmy of old - see a few entries back). Those backing vocals are so sacharine, that snarl so fierce, they were destined to succeed. Except, they parted ways. And in truth, I hate them for it. Most hated band on Epitaph indeed. Osker always did love pissing off the fans.
[Buy Idle Will Kill from Insound.com!]
In other news, TTIKTDA has been nominated for A 2005 Bloggie for Best-Kept-Secret Weblog. The Competition is looking pretty damned tough, so please head on over and vote for me. Early and Often.
Now I just need to find someone to foot the bill on a flight to Austin so I can give an acceptance speech. Hey Music Mags, newssites, whatever - I'll write something for you if you send me!