When one works for an independent website and doesn’t get all sorts of free records from major labels or hefty payola incentives to hype the latest Kelly Clarkson record (which I would gladly do, for a modest price), one has to balance hard-hitting music journalism with frugality. And by “frugality” I mean “never spending a single red cent unless it absolutely can’t be avoided.” Unfortunately, this is one of those weeks when it couldn’t be avoided: I had one of my patented Big Ideas, and it necessitated spending some dough. If you would like to help me recoup the almost ten dollars I spent on this update, feel free to send a lavish donation (warning: all checks under a thousand dollars will be summarily incinerated by my butlers).

What Big Idea have I stumbled upon this week, you ask? First of all, fuck you. I don’t stumble upon anything, I use my legendary intellect to devise amazing ideas, and then I present them to you via my unsurpassed writing ability. Except for this idea, which I pretty much stumbled upon. I had to take a trip to San Francisco this weekend, so I decided to stop at Amoeba Music and use their well-stocked bargain bin as my nutritious comedy groats this week. I present to you The Bargain Bin Roundup!

I bought ten CDs for ten dollars. I shall now endeavor to listen to them all. Well, maybe I won’t listen to all of them all the way through,, but I’ll certainly listen to five or ten seconds of each song so I get a feel for it. To expect any more of me would be outrageous! I’m a busy man! I’ve never heard of any of these groups, and I’m guessing that most of you haven’t heard of them either. I haven’t listened to these in advance, so I’ll be hearing them as I write about them.

Since CDs are fucking long, I’ll have to undertake this endeavor in two “phases.” I bet you’ve heard that one before. You’re like “yeah, Dave, ‘Part I,’ we’ve heard that shit before.” But this time I’m serious. There is going to be a part two. I know because I paid for these fucking things and I’m not going to let my other five dollars go to waste.

Vic Conrad and the First Third – (Self Titled)

Cover Impressions: The cover features a cartoonish drawing of a sharply dressed bird with a cane. I’m expecting some degree of casual whimsy.

You're all washed up, Conrad!The lo-fi indie pop movement has produced some of the dullest material in the history of art, and this album, for the most part, fits proudly within that grand tradition. The high points come by way of occasionally interesting instrumental passages, such as a decent pedal steel interlude on the fifth track and some pleasant guitar/fiddle interplay on the tenth track. The instrumentation isn’t technically great, but it provides unexpected touches of flair in a sea of lifeless lyrics (“tell me now what you are feeling / I would like to comb your hair”) and uninspired vocals. To this CD’s credit, I wouldn’t get pissed off if I were stuck in a room with it. I would be able to safely and comfortably ignore it, while occasionally pricking up my ears at a momentary display of above-average musicianship. People e-mail me a lot asking what I don’t hate, and I guess I don’t hate this CD. Good on ya, Vic (he’s an Australian; that was an Australia joke)!

Worth The Dollar? I feel pretty good about spending a dollar on it. I might feel sorry for Vic if I’d paid fifty cents, but two dollars would have been a little too rich for my blood. A fair bargain.

The Blow Up – True Noise

Cover Impressions: It looks like a drawing of a Vespa smashed on a big black disc. Judging by that and the fact that the band may or may not be named after the seminal mod film “Blow-Up,” I’m going to guess that this is fake mod music for the Club Bang crowd. Sounds a little too hip for its own good.

Who needs the Blow Up?The first track of this record is nothing more than an extremely annoying noise, which is an immediate point in the “no” column. If I’m expected to listen to this thing more than once, am I really going to want to listen to a gross whiny noise every time I put the CD on? Luckily, that won’t be a problem; since all of the songs sound precisely the same down to the finest detail, I feel like I’ve listened to the CD fifteen times already. In a way, every track is its own annoying noise, but after the first track, they’re all disguised within shitty rock. Not a lot of variety here; the songs average approximately 2.5 chords, and each has the same distinct lack of melody and gruff garage-rock yowling.

If there’s a special, private David Thorpe hell, it’s going to sound a lot like this. Hipsters with hip band names playing the same goddamned song over and over and going “yayuh” like the guy from Jet ripping off Mick Jagger. And come on, a fucking Vespa on the front cover? I dare not even open the liner notes, lest I find photos of the band and their chump modboy haircuts.

Worth The Dollar? You could call it a bargain, of sorts, because it would probably cost you three bucks at the door to go to some shitty local bar and see a band exactly like this. But hopefully you’ve grown out of that phase and realized that all of your local scenester garage rock bands are goddamned terrible.

Woven – EPrime

Cover Impressions: Well, they’re the sort of band who thinks it encroaches on their artistic freedom to actually put the band’s name on the front cover. I predict boringness and moderate levels of pretension.

How to succeed in bigtime SUCKING.Woven are one of those bands that combines vocals and live instrumentation with heavy electronic elements, making them too bland and conventional for IDM fans and too… fucking boring for anyone else. Actually, that’s not how I intended to end that sentence, but I’m listening to this in headphones right now and I suddenly started to get angry at it for being so mammoth and awe-inspiring in its fucking boringness. Every song is sloooooow as molasses in January and full of “oh woe is me” vocals and electronic ticking and twiddling. When the first song was winding down, I was thinking “whew, that piece of crap dragged on forever, and then I looked down and, alas, it hadn’t even been three minutes.

I recommend this record if you have two weeks to live and you want to stretch out every single second so it feels like an eternity. Maybe if you know your true love is about to move away to college or something, you can stick this shit in the stereo and make the moment last while at the same time listening to pussies whine about bitch shit. Just like you.

Worth The Dollar? Only when I got this home did I notice that it wasn’t even a whole album. It’s just an EP. What a rip-off! I guess I’ll call it a blessing, though; the less of this dreck I have to hear, the better.

Ringside – (Self Titled)

Earnest appreciator or annoyed creature?Cover Impressions: Not a bad cover. The band appears to be a duo, and one of them is dressed as a seventies-style sports reporter, interviewing the other one, dressed as a football player. I kind of liked the look of it, until I looked at the liner notes and realized that one of those guys is actor Balthazar Getty, star of White Squall, and that the album gave credit to none other than Fred Durst as the “executive producer” and “A&R director” (read: he’s the guy whose dick they sucked to get a deal on Sony). What’s worse, the album came out in 2005, meaning that this is what Fred Durst is up to now. Eew.

Hey, not bad. The singer can, to some limited degree, sing. Balthazar Getty doesn’t seem to be fucking up whatever it is he does, which must be programming drum machines and playing keyboards and stuff. Considering the actor-album aspect and Durst’s involvement in this project, I wish I could come up with some bad things to say about this record; unfortunately, it’s decent. I’m tempted to just make up some bad things about it to satisfy your lust for my top-notch zings, but my efforts would be fruitless. This is a solid piece of mediocrity that would slide by unnoticed amid anything else on the radio.

It’s not that there’s anything even remotely interesting about this album, but one wonders why a well-produced record, released by Geffen and even featuring the little FBI Anti-Piracy Warning logo on the back, would be relegated so quickly to the bargain bin. I’m guessing that the label noticed Fred Durst’s name tied to it and immediately thought “lead balloon! abort!” and pulled any and all funding out of marketing the thing. I can’t really say I blame them, because how much confidence did I have in this thing after reading the monolithic D-word in the liner?

Worth The Dollar? As long as no part of that dollar landed in Fred Durst’s pocket, yes. Maybe I can sell it back to a used CD store for a buck fifty.

Destroy Everything – Please Help Me

Cover Impressions: Looks like middling punk, judging by the clichéd Xeroxed black-and-white cover photo and the edgy typefaces employed. Even more telling is the half-thought-out political floundering gracing the liner notes—they’re making some sort of a statement on the free distribution of music, apparently, by allowing free downloads of the entire CD on their website until such a time as they auction off the rights to the music to the highest bidder. Too bad the bidding ended in 2001, or we could have pooled our resources to buy the rights and order all copies destroyed. Song titles of note include “(Hello My Name Is) Dickhead,” and “USA Out of North America.” As the dude from Quantum Leap would say after he realized he was inside the body of a disabled woman who was about to get raped, “oh boy.”

Please help me get a bitch to PUT EM ON THE GLASS!Unsurprisingly, it is middling punk. Actually, giving them “middling” is a little bit generous. “Punk” might be giving them a little bit too much credit as well, but I suppose there’s no minimum intelligence requirement for that categorization. The lyrics on this CD are the intellectual equivalent of a middle-schooler etching an anarchy symbol on his Trapper Keeper. Consider the song “Homeowner,” which rails against the evil of owning a house:

And now you're a homeowner,
A sculptured hedge gives you a boner.
You pull weeds, spread fertilizer;
You're a landscape sanitizer.
Now you're a homeowner,
You've got one up on the junkies and stoners.
You're indentured to a national bank,
For the rest of your life you'll be turning the crank.

If they object to me reprinting their lyrics here, well, fuck ‘em. Music is free, man.

You might want to go check out their website, www.destroyeverything.com. If nothing else, it will let you bask in the pathos of their beautiful failure:

Anyway, since we got back from the last tour, we all went out and got jobs (gasp). So we've been working like assholes for "the man" in order to finance the next round of shenanigans which we will be unleashing on ya'll in the near future (if they only knew where their corporate blood-money was going to...).

At least, if nothing else, I can use this CD as an illustrative tool if I ever teach a class on the idiocy and cultural irrelevance of punk. However, I might just take the advice inherent in the band’s name and destroy the CD.

Worth The Dollar? No, fuck you, you corporate sheep! You’re always buying stuff! What’s with that? We should all, like, live in communes and make what we need and trade sorghum for shoes with the commune down the road! Fuck the government! Oh shit, I’m late for my shift at Wendy’s.

That’s it for this week! Next week, check out exciting review of exciting CDs by bargain bin winners like The Forms, Ollabelle, Giant Value, The Secret Society of the Sonic Six, and some fucking band called, not kidding: TRIK TURNER. Cough. Okay, if you’ve got any questions or Powers Boothe trivia, send them along to davidthorpe@somethingawful.com.

– Dr. David Thorpe (@Arr)

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