Saturday, February 18, 2012

Five Favorite One-Album Bands

A few months ago I was working as a part-time security guard at a shopping center in Queens, NY. I mentioned this briefly when I made my top 5 favorite songs that were on the work place playlist. While I was working there, I would do a whole lot of nothing and I'd spend most of my time standing at the front door and thinking up ways to make it closing time a whole lot sooner. One of my favorite ways to pass the time was to come up with top 5 lists, with the assumption that I would later create a blog entry about it and expand upon what I had written down on the paper towels that I had with me. With the exception of the aforementioned work place playlist, I never did any such thing. I mention this as an introduction to my five favorite one-album bands because I recently found that piece of paper towel that I had written on and I was reminded of all the lists I hadn't made.

As one can probably guess from the title of this list, I have compiled five bands that I enjoy based on the number of albums that they have released (just one). I had a couple of guidelines while picking them, first and foremost I actually have to like the album in question. It would've been too easy to just appeal to the masses and tell everyone that the Germs' GI is at the number one spot when, in reality, I much prefer the Lexicon Devil EP. (I still like GI, but I kind of get bored before the album is through). Speaking of EPs, pretty much every band on this list has also released an EP or single, or even made a comp appearance at one point, but has never recorded enough material to release as a second album (unless you count compiling a bunch of outtakes and live recordings, which I don't). It took a good long internal debate about whether or not a band would make the cut if they had any EPs, but I decided that I would turn my original list into two separate lists: one full of artists that have released one album (the list you're about to read), and a second list of artists that, for whatever reason, only have a single release to their name (which you'll see tomorrow most likely).

You'll also notice that 4 out of the 5 entries are side projects. Coincidence? Hardly. On with the bands!

05. Blackpool Lights
Blackpool Lights is a project that Jim Suptic started up when he wrote a bunch of songs that he didn't feel really fit with the Get Up Kids. When the Get Up Kids called it splits-ville, he made the band his priority. You know the song Ten Minutes off of Something to Write Home About that Suptic sang lead on? The Blackpool Lights album, This Town's Disaster, is an extension of that sound (I'm sure their self-titled EP is also an extension of that sound, but I have not had the pleasure of hearing it yet). While the Get Up Kids were (and still are) ever-evolving with their sound, Blackpool Lights takes it a step back to the earlier days of the band when they were still wearing their Sunny Day Real Estate and Superchunk influences on their sleeves. While the album is a great callback to 90's indie rock, Blackpool Lights quietly disappeared as the Get Up Kids returned. I probably would've ranked the band higher, but a little over a year ago they reformed and released the Okie Baroque EP through bandcamp. I wouldn't be surprised if the band records another album while the Get Up Kids take a break from touring. If they do, I'll have to revise this list.

04. +44
I have no trouble admitting it: I was one of the many who found the blink-182 hiatus to be devastating. Not life-shattering or anything, but it was sad to hear that these three guys, who always looked like they were having fun being goofs, had a falling out. In 2003, their "final" album got me through a lot of my roughest unbalanced hormonal phases, so it was sad to me to know that they wouldn't be making any new music together in the near future.

Enter the post-blink-182 projects. I was excited for Angels & Airwaves at first, but it just never really clicked with me. I think it's kind of cool that Tom was willing to do something far-removed from what he's known for, it's just not music that I would really listen to ever. +44, on the other hand, was a much better transition band for me. Despite being announced as an electronic project at first, +44 wound up being more of a natural progression from blink-182 (I'm sure somewhere down the line that Angels & Airwaves is also there, but several steps down and not the immediate next one like +44). When Mark and Travis got together and recorded When Your Heart Stops Beating, they weren't trying to change the world: they were just trying to create some fun music together. What I really liked most about it is that we got an album full of Mark songs. His presence was lacking a bit on the previous blink-182 album (and for that matter, there's a lack of him singing on Neighborhoods, too), and When Your Heart Stops Beating more than makes up for that.

03. Operation Ivy
Uh oh. I'm bending the rules a little bit. Technically these guys only have one album (Energy) which was then compiled with their first EP and two comp tracks into one large discography (Operation Ivy, often erroneously referred to as Energy), but they've still got enough leftover material that can make up (and has made up) entire bootlegs. These guys are why I decided not to count the bootleg albums for this list. Therefore, Operation Ivy only has one proper album under their name (again, Energy), although it has been re-released under another name since its original pressing.

What's there to say about Operation Ivy that hasn't been said? I feel like there was a brief period last decade where it became uncool in some punk circles to cite them as an influence or as your favorite band. Now that Jesse Michaels is back, it's almost like all the Operation Ivy fans have come back out. Or maybe it's just that I don't pay close enough attention to things. Either way, Operation Ivy is still one of the best ska-punk bands out there even if they have been defunct for over 20 years now and they still sound pretty fresh to this very day (except for maybe Freeze Up, where the lyrics explicitly state that "it's 1989"). No slow cuts or pauses on this album, each track is pure (*ahem*) energy.

02. The Draft
The Draft is what you get when a band calls it a day because one key member wants to take a break from touring but the other three don't want to take a break. So instead of just replacing the guy and continuing on as the same band (and thus running the risk of tarnishing the band's established name), they find a replacement but also come up with a new name, writing and recording music as a completely different band.

I'm a latter-day Hot Water Music fan, so I often find that it's Chris Wollard's songs that I enjoy more. So naturally I'm drawn to an album full of songs performed by him. The music itself is also very similar to the later Hot Water Music albums, with more accessible song structures and chord progressions. With Chuck Ragan always going on the Revival Tour, I wish that the Draft would get back together and record a proper follow up instead of the few scattered singles that they have. At the same time though, there's supposed to be a new Hot Water Music album coming soon and maybe that will be enough to fill the void.

01. Box Car Racer
Yep, another blink-182 project. At this point, I'm sure everyone knows how Box Car Racer started because Tom DeLonge wrote a bunch of songs that were more in the vein of late 80's post-hardcore and early 90's emo (boy, it's funny how those terms have changed over the years) as opposed to the usual blink-182 style, so he set out to record them under a new name. I've discussed how, at the time I discovered this album, I had never heard anything like it before, so I won't go into details about that, but this album was kind of a game changer for me. When blink-182 announced their hiatus, I was hoping that Tom would reform Box Car Racer even if it did mean finding an actual drummer instead of just asking the drummer from his other band. Thinking back on it now though, I'm happy that Box Car Racer was left alone. I hardly think that We Don't Need to Whisper would have gotten a kind reaction if Tom has released it under the BCR moniker and in turn that negative backlash would have turned BCR into just another band with a solid debut that just couldn't follow it up. I, for one, am glad that did not happen. The Box Car Racer album is special to me, and never recording another album helps keep Box Car Racer to be a special, one-time only deal.

There are my five, but I'm sure there are only a million bands that I overlooked. What or who are some of your favorite bands or artists with only one album to their name?

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