16. The Evolution Control Committee
Ok, fuck EBN. This is the real shit. Mark Gunderson is a personal hero of mine. He is stil making incredible music. Go hit his website and buy something. When I've played records in public, I've always gotten the crowd rocking with my sure-fire secret weapon: Gunderson's mashup of Public Enemy rapping over Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I'll slide some Kraftwerk under that beat, and suddenly I'm Mr. Mixmaster Extraordinare.
OMG. "Punk folk music". This band is better than they have any reason to be. I never thought the ashes of the electro-punk "Cop Shoot Cop" would produce this amazing world-music influenced band. They rock as hard as the Pogues, but with amazing original songs. Ok, ok, not *all* original... their recent "Songs We Should Have Written" CD is an album of cover songs. But what great covers they are: with "Paint It Black" and "The Beat Goes On" to name two warp and twisted covers. Kind of like what Adam Lambert tried to do on Ameica Idol, but a lot better and lot earlier than him. I like the earlier "The Man On The Burning Tightrope" and "Psychopharmacology" CDs a lot more than the newest one. But there is plenty of promise that this band will make great music for some time to come.
18. Gear Daddies
This band was part of my life for a while. it seemed everyone in college knew the band members personally... at least the guys from Austin - home of Hormel and Spam. That sense of gritty blue-collar hopelessness was the core of the Gear Daddies music. The first time everyone heard them play, the first comment was usually, "Wow! That Martin Zellar can really sing!" But we stuck around for the great tuneful songs like "Wear Your Crown" and "She's Happy".
You might know the band from the the song "(I Wanna Drive The) Zamboni" that they play before every hockey game in the US. I think the band sabotaged themselves by hiding that track on their major-label-debut CD as a hidden track, ensuring that no prospective buyer could find it. The band exploded, and Marty and Billy Dankert made solo albums, but it's not really the same is it? Number one of my favorite rock bands that coulda been, shoulda been.
19. Great Big Sea
I almost left this band off the list because they had a sucessful public television special, so you've probably heard of them. But they are so good... I wanted to make sure. Sea shanties sung with rock guitars. Excellent cover versions of traditional songs mixed with outstanding originals. In Newfoundland, this band is a legend. Here in the US, they are just quite good. When my friend Rob got married, I bought him every CD Great Big Sea ever recorded. He was a little perplexed, having never heard of them before. Ten years later, the happy couple is still together, and sings the GBS songs together on road trips. It was the best wedding gift I ever purchased.
20. The Housemartins
This band is the reason I started this list. I can't believe not everybody knows this band. Fuck Morrissey, fuck Erasure. If you want pure English pop songcraft, this is the band. Keyboardist Normal Cook went on to become Fatboy Slim, while singer Paul Heaton founded The Beautiful South. But for two beautiful albums in the eighties, this band made astounding songs with soaring harmonies and witty lyrics. Who could ask for more?
You might have heard their a capella version of "Caravan of Love". In my opinion, that song became *too* popular, and fans thought that's what their music should sound like. For my money, the bittersweet "Flag Day" or acerbic "Get Up Off Our Knees" were a lot better. Dr. Who David Tennant is a big fan of this band. It's a shame that beautiful things can't last.