Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Week 10: Where Kool Keith meets Low, prank calls, and a terrible jacket

Illustration for article titled Week 10: Where Kool Keith meets Low, prank calls, and a terrible jacket

Kaiser Chiefs: This British band has a ton of great songs that I never really think to listen to but would be happy to hear on the radio: “Every Day I Love You Less And Less,” “I Predict A Riot,” “Ruby.” Like Franz Ferdinand or The Futureheads, I appreciated them in the moment but no longer grab these discs. Maybe I’ll be surprised by hearing them on SiriusXM someday, if I ever get SiriusXM. (Who needs SiriusXM when you’ve got all these CDs?) Purging two.


Kid Koala: Kid Koala is a turntable whiz with a ton of credits and a deep well of contributions to other artists’ work, from Deltron 3030 to Lovage to Gorillaz. He’s the guy you go to when three turntables aren’t enough. His records are like the lighthearted kid brother to DJ Shadow, which isn’t necessarily a huge endorsement, but I’m keeping Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, because it’s a lot of fun on a summer day. Keeping one, purging one.

The Kids Of Widney High: These kids—actually a rotating cast—are from a special-education high school in Los Angeles, and their songs are sweet, guileless antidotes to everyday stress. Which is perhaps why stressful bands like The Melvins and Mr. Bungle have asked them to open shows—Mike Patton’s record label even released a CD called Let’s Get Busy, which features the unstoppable “Pretty Girls.” (Kid Cudi sampled it just a few years ago.) But that’s probably the only song I really ever need to hear, so it’s purging two. Sorry, kids!

The Killers: So the critical consensus is that Sam’s Town is the unheralded Killers masterpiece, is that right? I’ve got it, but I never listen to it. In fact, I only ever listen to Hot Fuss, and even then it’s only the first half. (What a precipitous drop in quality about halfway through, no?) For some reason I’ve got a rarities compilation, too—maybe because it’s got their not-very-good Joy Division cover on it… Purging two, keeping one.

Kyle Kinane: I know I said earlier in this project that I was keeping most of the comedy, and I love Kyle Kinane, but I can Spotify these. I’m in a chopping mood. Sorry, Kyle, you’re still awesome. Purging two.

The Kingdom: Here’s a record that I loved—it’s called K1, released in 2006—but that seemed virtually invisible to the rest of the world. (I only knew of its existence because I was assigned to review it for SPIN.) It’s a concept album about a cross-country race, and Charles Westmoreland sounds at times like Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals, but somehow it worked really well. For me, at least. The song I’m embedding from YouTube has 16 plays. Keeping one, purging one.

Kingmaker: This British band barely rates a footnote, and I think my love for them was rooted in Anglophilia more than anything. (For a couple of years there, if it was on the cover of New Musical Express, I loved it.) Still, the snotty, brash Eat Yourself Whole sounds good to my ears from time to time, though it was clearly downhill from there. What will happen when I get to The Wonder Stuff? Keeping one, purging two.

Kings Of Leon: I have little/no idea why I own these. Purging two.

Kitchens Of Distinction: You could almost duplicate the above Kingmaker entry for this one… In fact, I saw those two bands on a double bill at the Metro in Chicago sometime in the ’90s. Kitchens Of Distinction—terrible name, yes—at least had the, um, distinction of being sonically swirly and for saying something lyrically. Singer Patrick Fitzgerald was (is, I suppose) openly gay, and that was at a time—not so damn long ago—when that wasn’t particularly common. Consider him a kindred spirit to Bob Mould, who was out, proud, and a purveyor of loud, atmospheric music around the same time. I think most fans prefer Love Is Hell, but I’m only keeping The Death Of Cool. Apparently the original lineup recently reunited after nearly 20 years apart, too. Keeping one, purging two.


Knapsack: Knapsack is pretty much the same as The Jealous Sound, though Knapsack came first. (Same singer, I wrote about ’em last week.) They put out three records, two of which I listen to on a regular basis and one of which I never do. This project is easy! Keeping two, purging one.

Kool Keith: Kool Keith has never matched his Dr. Octagon years for pure insanity, though he’s certainly tried. The handful of solo discs I own are mostly focused on sex—including the classic Sex Style. But they’re also pretty damn similar. I’m keeping the space-focused Black Elvis/Lost In Space, though it does serve as a terrible reminder that I never ordered a Black Elvis wig from the booklet when I had the chance. That album features my favorite opening line of all time (“This is the intro”), and Sex Style features an incredible chorus (“Keep it real, represent what? / My nuts.”) So it’s keeping two, purging two.


Mark Kozelek: This might seem surprising considering my general taste for molasses sadness, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Mark Kozelek, a.k.a. Red House Painters, a.k.a. Sun Kil Moon. But for some reason I have Kozelek’s covers album, The Finally LP. Maybe I kept it because it’s got a version of Low’s “Lazy” on it, but that’s no reason to hang on forever. Purging one.

Kraftwerk: It’s probably a credibility faux pas to only own Kraftwerk’s The Mix, a not-quite-greatest-hits set that features old tracks re-recorded—but not sounding all that different from their original versions. Still, it’s enough for the novice, though it doesn’t have “Tour De France,” a song I used to listen to obsessively as a 10-year-old. The rhythm track includes the sound of a bicyclist breathing! (That kinda blew my mind.) Keeping one.


Lali Puna: I remember almost nothing about this band or record (Faking The Books), except that it was vaguely pleasant electronic pop, released on a German label (Morr Music) that released a bunch of stuff kind of like it in the early ’00s. It’s pleasant enough, but I’m still purging one.

Kendrick Lamar: I’m not necessarily on the “Kendrick Lamar is a timeless genius” train (yet), but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is refreshingly old and new sounding. And now I find myself thinking I should get To Pimp A Butterfly on CD, but I need to stop that kind of thinking right this minute. Keeping one.

Lambchop: I own 10 Lambchop CDs. Ten! That’s enough witty, quiet, countryish weirdness to last me a couple of lifetimes. And as I sat trying to decide which one I will allow myself to keep—the classic How I Quit Smoking or the earlier, closer-to-my-heart I Hope You’re Sitting Down or that EP with “I Sucked My Boss’s Dick” on it—I had the revelation that I don’t need to keep any of them, even the chunky reissue of Nixon. They’re all good, but they’re all available. And it’s so nice to say that I’m purging 10. I will make up for this very shortly when I get to the band Low.


Mark Lanegan: The Screaming Trees singer has made a solid solo career out of smoky, gruff, slightly mellow songs, and though I liked Whiskey For The Holy Ghost plenty when it came out, it’s mostly a memory now. Purging one.

The La’s: The one and only La’s album (should that be La’s’ album?) sounds as fresh now as it did in 1990, which is to say not fresh at all. That’s not a knock, just an acknowledgement that it’s as throwback-y as they come. The band seemed like a huge deal in the early ’90s, mostly because singer-guitarist Lee Mavers was convinced that he was the greatest songwriter of his generation. Lucky for him, Sixpence None The Richer made a La’s song (should that be La’s’ song?) a worldwide hit in 1999, giving Mavers time to tinker with a second album… which never materialized. Still, this one gets some nostalgia play around here, and it’s nice to have a band’s complete discography on one disc. Keeping one.


LCD Soundsystem: As great as LCD’s live show was (is?), I don’t listen to the band’s records much, so I’ll hang on to Sound Of Silver but dump This Is Happening. I might’ve kept that one if “Drunk Girls” wasn’t on it. And yes, sometimes people tell me I look like James Murphy. I’m never sure how to take that. Keeping one, purging two.

Led Zeppelin: Another one that reminds me of being a kid—between my oldest sister and brother, we had the punk, dance, and classic-rock spectrums taken care of. I remember IV being played quite a bit—gotta have “Stairway To Heaven” somewhere in your life, I suppose—and being beguiled by the cover art of Presence. I got the fancy new reissues in the mail not that long ago, and I’ve already ditched that one and Coda. I’m gonna go even slimmer and just keep I through IV for the moment, plus the excellent BBC Sessions. Keeping five, purging two.

The Lemonheads: The Lemonheads made a lot of records, starting out as spunky punk kids before finding their way—after shedding everybody except frontman Evan Dando—to alt-pop perfection with 1992’s It’s A Shame About Ray. There are fantastic songs littered throughout the rest of the catalog, like “Stove” from Lovey and “Mallo Cup” from Lick, but not enough to keep around. I will hang on to Ray and the dark horse Car Button Cloth. Keeping two, purging four.


John Lennon: I’m keeping Double Fantasy for sentimental reasons, even though all the hits are also on Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon. Keeping two.

Ted Leo: I keep coming to artists that I own exactly the wrong CDs of—the ones I like least or the ones the world likes least. With Ted Leo, I think I’ve got it just right (for me, anyway) with Shake The Sheets and my favorite, Hearts Of Oak. I saw Ted a few times when he was first playing solo, and I remember it being kind of a mess—just him and a boom box, if I remember correctly. Now he’s a finely tuned political pop machine and purveyor of the first (and one of the best) A.V. Undercovers ever. Fun story: The day we recorded that, then CEO of The Onion Steve Hannah recognized Ted and said, “Teddy Leo? You lived down the block from us in New Jersey. I knew your mom.” Small world. Keeping two.


Les Savy Fav: Speaking of memorable Undercover episodes, Les Savy Fav was game enough to join us on a boat and sing “School’s Out.” It was an incredible day and reminds me that I love to see LSF live but almost never listen to the band’s records. Purging two.

Liars: These heady dance punks lost me after a couple of records, but They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top still sounds bracing as hell 15 years later. But it never makes regular rotation, so it’s purging two.


The Libertines: How come every semi-big British band is going to save music forever, and then none of them do? The thing people will remember about The Libertines, I imagine, is a couple of decent songs (maybe) and singer Pete Doherty’s tabloid-reported substance issues. Purging one.

Lift To Experience: This is a comment from a YouTube video of Lift To Experience’s “Falling From Cloud 9,” which is a great song: “In a just world, LTE would have been headlining festivals, blowing people’s heads off and generally making the world a better place. This is the sort of music that I imagine U2 think they make.” I’m not sure that’s true, but there sure is a small group of people who freaked out about this short-lived Texas band. I was never quite there. Purging one.


Lil Wayne: If I’m going to listen to Lil Wayne, it’s going to be like the kids do, on YouTube. Purging one.

Longmont Potion Castle: This is not intended to be exaggeration: I think the single funniest comedian—if that’s the right word—working today is a prank caller from Colorado who’s never been entirely identified. He may be “Mike from Golden” when he calls into the occasional radio show, but he’s known on his releases as Longmont Potion Castle. The name makes no sense, but the calls kind of do. They have their own absurd rhythm, and the joke is less on the person being called than on the world in general. He’s an insistent customer calling Radio Shack for items that don’t exist. He’s the Robin Hood who gets a scam salesman on the phone for 10 minutes and teases him by pretending to be a buyer. He’s the guy who finds rednecks willing to pick a fight, and then threatens to put a “cleat upside your lip.” To say that I’m keeping three isn’t entirely correct, as I also have the Longbox Option Package box set on a different shelf. Yes, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 discs of this stuff, and they’re all really, really funny.


Longwave: Blending the easiest parts of Interpol and Radiohead must have seemed like a good idea in the mid-’00s—I apparently liked this combo. But now it sounds pretty dull and dated. Purging two.

The Long Winters: The Long Winters were (maybe are?) a notable side player in Seattle’s pop scene: Singer-songwriter John Roderick recruited Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla and Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson for one of his band’s earliest incarnations. But TLW never seemed active enough to really break through, in spite of some solid songs. My favorite of theirs, “Cinnamon,” isn’t even on the disc that I own, so it’s purging one time.


Loomis: These Milwaukee friends o’ mine were part of the emo-for-lack-of-a-better-word scene that Milk Magazine was sorta associated with. In fact, it was my co-publisher, Jim, who sent Loomis’ demo tape to Grass Records and apparently got them signed. The result was one album and a lot of good memories (for me, anyway). Guitarist Chris Rosenau went on to Pele, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, and Volcano Choir. Guitarist Dave Kawczynski is one of the angriest/funniest people I know, which has no bearing on the music, but now you know. Keeping one.

Loose Fur: Was Wilco a jam band before Wilco became a jam band? Maybe “jam” isn’t exactly the right word. This Jeff Tweedy-led project was a huge catalyst for the sound of Wilco’s breakthrough album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—you can view the self-titled Loose Fur album as the bridge between what Wilco was doing and what it would do. Loose Fur’s drummer, Glenn Kotche, became Wilco’s drummer, and musician-producer Jim O’Rourke, a member of Loose Fur, would continue to influence Wilco for years. And while I don’t listen to them very often, I know I can’t hear them on Spotify, because Drag City Records don’t play that. So I’m keeping two.


Los Campesinos!: These Welsh kids (well, kids at the time, I guess) were the most exciting thing to emerge in 2007, mixing loads of energy and verve with lots of clever words. Singer and chief songwriter Gareth Campesinos (they all share that last name, in a nod to every American emo band of the ’80s and ’90s) is funny, sharp, and very specific to the experience of being young and passionately in love with both music and other people. (See the B side of their first single, “It Started With A Mixx,” which is literally all about trying to make a mixtape for somebody.) They toured with Titus Andronicus in 2009, and whoever decided to put those bands on the road together deserves some kind of rock-tour prize—it was great. (I saw the show at the Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago; do they still do shows there?) That said, I’ve lost some interest as they’ve continued to release records, so I’m keeping three oldies and purging two.

Love And Rockets: I was embarrassingly obsessed with Love And Rockets in high school—far more into them than the band that birthed them, Bauhaus. I had an army jacket with a giant Love And Rockets logo painted on the back, along with a painting of a Bubbleman, which is a fairly obscure reference to a Love And Rockets side project. This was just before the band finally found an alternative radio hit in “So Alive” from its 1989 self-titled album. Strangely, I don’t own what was my favorite of the band’s—1986’s Express—on disc, just Earth, Sun, Moon and a hits compilation. And that should be plenty, really, so I’m keeping two. Fun story: I once camped out overnight for Love And Rockets tickets, to see them play in Milwaukee in 1989. We ended up in the second row, and the Pixies opened. Doolittle had come out about four months earlier. Guess which band was better? Trick question: Both were great.

Low: I may have the most complete Low collection in the world, and I’m fine with that. The band has been making consistently excellent, beautiful, and ever-changing music since 1993, amassing a huge, complex discography that miraculously barely repeats itself. That’s particularly strange considering that the band started with the idea of being incredibly slow and simple, with just guitar, bass, two voices, and the most minimal drum kit imaginable.


I first heard Low via an advance cassette of 1994’s I Could Live In Hope. My Milk Magazine partner, Jim, and I were immediately taken with the record; while the rest of the world was getting fairly loud—we were still grunging—that album made you move your whole body to the speakers in order to get closer. We published a review of the album and a short time later got an answering-machine message from singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk, with a sweetly sincere thank-you. He was under the impression that no one would like his new band, I think, so it was a welcome surprise. But he and Mimi Parker—drummer/co-lead singer, and also Sparhawk’s wife—went on to make 11 albums (and counting) over the past 23 years. God, I feel old. They’ve gotten louder, softer, added electronics, added more acoustic elements… They’ve released scary songs (“Don’t Understand”) and sweet ones (“Venus”) but almost never dull ones. They’ve faced personal difficulties and written political songs. But they’re doing what a band that lasts this long should do: evolving and challenging themselves and their audience. Over the years, Milk promoted a ton of Low shows—I’ve probably seen them live more than any other band, except possibly The Promise Ring. The number has to be 50. It might be a lot more. And though I know for sure that I’ve fallen asleep at at least one Low show, it wasn’t because I was bored. I love them, and I’m keeping and cherishing 30, which includes a bunch of live and in-session bootlegs, and purging two, one of which is a remix EP.

Lucas & Friends: This curiosity came out on the defunct Vinyl Communications label sometime in the late ’90s, though it doesn’t feature any music: It’s a compilation of the weirdest things that a guy named Pea Hicks found on thrift-store cassettes, including a bunch of recordings from an incorrigible little shit named Lucas. (He reminds me of me as a kid, so I mean that in a positive way.) It’s a challenge to get through the whole thing, but it is an interesting artifact. Purging one.


Lullaby For The Working Class: Lullaby was the first big sign of life in the Omaha, Nebraska scene of the mid-’90s, releasing gentle, thoughtful records that burned bright but burned out pretty quick. They were clearly an influence on a young Conor Oberst, and Lullaby’s Mike Mogis went on to be a key member of Bright Eyes. While I always liked their records, I never really loved them the way they wanted (and maybe deserved) to be loved. Great live band, though, the few times I saw them way back when. Purging three.

Luna: I’ve loved Luna since I first heard the band’s debut, Lunapark, in 1992—before I was even terribly familiar with singer-songwriter Dean Wareham’s tenure in the semilegendary Galaxie 500. And while I listened to and enjoyed every new Luna record that came out since 1997’s Pup Tent, it’s only the first few that I return to, especially in CD form. I saw one of their reunion shows earlier this year, and I’m going to see another, so I’ve still got lots of love for their cooler-than-thou delivery and spacious songs, even though I’m purging five and keeping four.

Lungfish: I was lucky enough to see Lungfish play a couple of times in the ’90s, especially considering that the band’s legend was built mostly on live shows—its records are solidly hypnotic but never capture the band’s live energy. When you’ve got a frontman like Daniel Higgs, that’s no surprise: He’d get lost in his own weirdness, pushing his thoughtful lyrics out like they were little sentence demons. He’s gone on to become a fairly sought-after tattoo artist, making pictures that are as inscrutable as his words. He’s continued music, too, making varied records that aren’t nearly as accessible as Lungfish’s—like an album consisting of nothing but him playing a jaw harp. Purging three.


Jason Lytle: The main visionary behind Grandaddy has made some solo records, though none have ever grabbed me the way his band did. Purging one.

The tally: Sixty-six new purges in addition to the 419 I’ve already bid farewell, for a total of 485. So I’m almost halfway there, and not quite halfway through the alphabet. Success!


Peronal Hall Of Fame (the discs that I’ll take to the grave, maximum of one per artist): The Lemonheads, It’s A Shame About Ray; Longmont Potion Castle, III; Low, Secret Name; Luna, Bewitched.

Next up: A lot of Ms, naturally, and I get to the actual end of the first shelf. Hoo-ray.