Big Black established Chicago’s Touch & Go Records, Butthole Surfers nearly undid it, and Ted Leo stuck with the indie for far longer than anyone expected. But there’s also a whole roster of lesser-known, weirdo, commercially doomed T&G releases that likely contributed to yesterday’s announcement that the label’s manufacturing and distribution wing will end. That doesn’t make them any less excellent. Behold six of our favorites.
Girls Against Boys, House of GVSB (1996)
15 seconds into this video it’s painfully clear these guys weren’t quite as badass as I’d thought back when I was 18, but growing up basically involves having that realization over and over and over, I suppose. Big fans of The Wet Look and surly, debatably erotic noise-punk, these dudes obviously scan as a wee bit corny nowadays (I can’t believe I owned a single with the title “Disco Six Six Six,”), but “Super-Fire” sounded fantastic on my town’s one “alternative rock” station, mashed betwixt Smashing Pumpkins and Alanis and whoever else it would traumatize me to now remember. Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby and Cruise Yourself are much much higher regarded generally, bu when I throw on House of GVSB tonight I suspect it will trigger much air-bass nostalgic delight. Bonus points for having the second-best song on the Mallrats soundtrack.
(That GVSB’s frontman has a new solo record called Failure American Style is a pretty good indication of how their jump to a major turned out.)–Rob Harvilla
Skull Kontrol, Deviate Beyond All Means of Capture (1999)
This record, Skull Kontrol’s only true full length, lasts about 17 minutes. No idea what the pseudo-documentary is here that precedes the video for “New Rock Critic,” but it kind of gives you the right idea: self-deprecating, sarcastic, ADD dudes argue about how much their great riffs suck, then get sick of their own song at around the two minute mark. This was sort of the perfect moment in the evolution of the D.C. frenetic angular thing: Circus Lupus, a digressive, portentous vintage D.C. shoelaces-type band begat the Monorchid, who sped everything up and got marginally more abrasive and funny (Touch & Go put their record out, too); then Skull Kontrol came along, and things got even more snotty. Brooks Headly, of Universal Order of Armageddon, played drums, Chris Thomson from Monorchid sang (that band’s guitarist, Andy Coronado, later joined up, too), and Kim Thompson of Delta 72 played bass. Vintage D.C. self-satire.–Zach Baron
Enon, High Society (2002)
Mutant-pop act Enon could’ve been way bigger if they’d ever deigned to write more than two songs that sounded like they came from the same band. Blame their past-and-future affiliations: co-vox/merch girl Toko Yasuda had a brief stint in Blonde Redhead (who not-so-coincidentally put out three full-lengths on Touch & Go), de-facto leader John Schmeral was originally in Brainiac (another should-have-been-huge T&G band), and then-drummer Matt Schulz would eventually leave Enon for Holy Fuck. And so the biggest flaw of their 2002 release High Society is that it’s more schizo than Syd Barrett. “Leave It to Rust” borrows from Lou Barlow. “Count Sheep” is what sex-and-candy-asses Marcy Playground would’ve sounded like if they didn’t suck. “In This City” is both the best song the Cardigans never wrote and the best song Lykke Li never sang and High Society is the best 8.8 Runoff readers have never heard.–Camille Dodero
The Black Heart Procession, 2 (1999)
Their albums all seemed designed to lull you into a stupor, it’s true, but many a lovelorn mixtape was improved mightily by “It’s a Crime I Never Told You About the Diamonds in Your Eyes.” Why don’t you go ahead and think of a more emo song title. We’ll wait.–R.H
Rodan, Rusty (1994)
I dunno, does “The Everyday World of Bodies” count? This short-lived Louisville Slint cousin was a subject of fascination at my college radio station: it was advanced, incongruously for such an opaque, ephemeral document, as a kind of foundational text without which you could not understand music in the 1990s. Not sure about all that, but you owe it to yourself to listen to “Shiner” as far as the Shoot me out the sky! bit. No videos survive, although there is a great Peel session here.–Z.B.
Polvo, Exploded Drawing (1996)
Can someone please tell me why more people didn’t shit their pants when Polvo reunited last year? Exploded Drawing is so tremendously bonkers, a discordant monster of time-sig travels, sneak-attack rhythms, and emotionally betrayed outbursts. “Math-rock” can go fuck itself–this record deserves better. I’m looking for a metaphor that you might like. I can’t find. THE ONE. THAT YOU. DESERVE. TO HEAR!–C.D.