Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Remember when Sufjan Stevens claimed he was going to make albums about each of America's 50 states? Well, Stevens clearly isn't going to be able to keep that promise but we are! Okay, so we're not making albums per se, but we WILL bring you the top 10 bands from each state in the union. We've already done Kansas and the District of Columbia and today, contributing writer and Maryland native, Casey Buckler, takes on Maryland.

Most people would think crab cakes when you say Maryland or maybe the great Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is known to offer steel mills, shipyards, The Wire and some of the best heroin on the East Coast. You probably wouldn't associate a supportive, incubating music scene when you think of the state but what's truly great about Maryland is that it's so boring that it forces misfits to actually get together and make some really great music. Here's the top ten.

10.) Good Charlotte
Hailing from Waldorf, MD, I knew these guys before they were covered in tattoos and dating Hollywood hipsters. I played guitar in a loud rock band called French Tickler back in 1998 and we booked shows together at places like ACME & Armadillo’s in downtown Annapolis. I was at the ACME when they were “Discovered." The twins were known for their great harmonies and someone from Big Music came in off their yacht, saw them singing and the rest is history. “Right place, Right time”.

9.) Misery Index and Dying Fetus (a tie)
The number 9 slot goes to Grind-core/Death metal powerhouses; Dying Fetus & Misery Index. After years of touring and self-promotion, Dying Fetus was signed to a legendary major label, Relapse Records. After signing with Relapse, there was a rift within the band and the bass player, Jason Netherton formed Misery Index and they were also offered a recording contract. Signing with Relapse has put both bands on the map and they are constantly touring all over the globe. Death metal is not my cup of tea but I must admit that I love these 2 bands.

8.) Shudder To Think
A great band that enjoyed minor national success for a short spell before breaking up. Shudder to Think was signed to Epic in 1994 and when things didn’t go well Epic dropped them, only to be picked up by legendary DC label, Dischord (home to Fugazi). Shudder to Think’s mastermind, Craig Wedren, has gone on to produce several highly regarded movie soundtracks such as Last Rites, Down to You and Velvet Goldmine. The band briefly re-united in 2008 to play at the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore. Though often described as angular or mathematical, don't be scared off by it. When you here their music, it’s unmistakably a sound that has inspired artists ranging from Pearl Jam to Incubus and even Jeff Buckley.

7.) Jimmie's Chicken Shack
Jimmie’s Chicken Shack had one great album, Pushing the Salmonella Envelope, but went completely downhill after firing their guitarist (as if a heroin addiction is a good reason to fire a guy!) Now Jimmie's Chicken Shack is... Well, they're just here. Oh and they're from Maryland.

6.) Lake Trout
Because of the fact that the jam band scene often pays an homage to fish (or Phish) when choosing band names (See: Leftover Salmon, Aquarium Rescue Unit, The Flying Frog Brigade, etc.), Lake Trout were unfortunately lumped in with these bands early on despite the fact that they were always more of a drum-and-base dance act. After breaking away from that scene, with their second album they have done quite well for themselves. I saw them at The Black Cat when they were supporting their major label release, Not Them, You, and they were brilliant. After touring for that album in 2005-2006, they went on to co-produce an album with UNKLE. Since 2007, Big in Japan (Lake Trout’s side project) has been the touring band for UNKLE live. We’ll hopefully see something from Lake Trout again soon.

5.) Clutch
This is truly one of those bands that started off touring in their father's work van and eating PB&J with a side of nothing. They gained their success by tearing up the road, printing their own flyers and T-shirts and earning a following fan by fan with their remarkable shows. Their debut 7," Passive Restraint garnered the attention of the label EastWest records and with their first LP, Transnational Speedway Leauge, they were already being called stoner-rock pioneers. At this point Clutch has gone through 7 different labels and will probably go through 7 more by the time they are said and done, but they are still burning up the tires on the van. If you like loud, bluesy, rock-out-with-your-cock-out music, go buy a Clutch album now. Be sure to turn it up loud and disturb the neighbors.

4.) O.A.R.
Of a Revolution, better know as O.A.R., hail from Rockville, Maryland. O.A.R. exploded by word-of-mouth without any formal marketing or advertising. Never a band to turn down a show, they began playing frat parties and were eventually headlining hippie festivals. The exposure paid off and their third album, Risen, debuted at #11 on the Billboard top internet chart. Over their career they have gone on to sale over 1.2 million records. With album sales like that, O.A.R. don't have to worry about being stuck in Maryland, you know, unless they want to be here.

3.) Tori Amos
Holding the third slot is the eccentric pianist who is know for her openess of sexuality and religion in her songwriting. Watching Tori play live is a mindblowing experience - the way she straddles the piano alone is incredibly sexy but also obtuse and uncomfortable. She has done wonders for women in rock opening the door for a slew of amazing lady-led groups like Belly, The Breeders, Hole and L7, to name but a few. We are most definitely proud to have her as a Marylander.

2.) Animal Collective
I have to be honest, I think Animal Collective sound like one keyboard on a looping station with Duran Duran style vocals repeating themselves over and over and over again. All in all it has the effect of a cheap novelty designer drug, which is to say - it's awesome!

1.) David Byrne
The great white-haired weirdo! If he didn't invent the Talking Heads there would be no Arcade Fire, enough said? The man is still rocking and there are countless bands that have been influenced by his vocal style and stage antics, so give thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Casey! I'm from Maryland and never had proud for it until I read this. I can't believe David Byrne is from MD!