By Ryan

So three weeks ago I introduced the concept for this column, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna do it again.  Read it here, then read part two here.  Without further ado—and God knows I love ado—here are my final comments and grand champions of the all-important (not important) Reactionary Century historical music comparison contest:


The Beach Boys

This was a tough call for me, because I really think that Besnard Lakes carry on the musical tradition of the Beach Boys better than any other band.  That said, The Beach Boys are more than just their musical output; for instance, just by writing about them on this blog, our hits today will go up by about 100 just due to people Googling “Beach Boys” and sifting through tons of crap just to find random blog entries about a band that hasn’t been relevant for almost 50 years.  And you know damn well that in 2059 hipsters will still be Googling “Animal Collective” to find new bits of opinion about their favorite harmonious tunesters.  Add that to both groups’ propensity for crafting what is essentially bastardized pop-rock, and we have our winners.


Animal Collective

“Unsolved Mysteries” from Strawberry Jam

“My Girls” from Merriweather Post Pavilion


Bob Dylan

I love me some Andre Ethier, but I think everyone—even that crazy Courtney Love chick—feels that Ryan Adams is the best heir to Dylan we have.  Like Dylan, he started out playing traditional music, has a reputation for being an exceedingly difficult personality, and whether either would admit it or not, always considered himself an “artist” first.


Ryan Adams

“Let It Ride” from Cold Roses

“To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)” from Heartbreaker


The Rolling Stones

When I come back to the Stones, it always amazes me just how talented this group was musically for as popular as they were.  The four album stretch of Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street is probably better than any four consecutive albums of any other band ever.  And they just keep selling out shows even 35 years later.  You think the Velvets would still sell out shows?  Hell, even Dylan doesn’t have the same touring success as the Stones.  I don’t know if The White Stripes will survive Jack’s creative ADD long enough to still be touring even 5 years from now, but as long as they do, you can guarantee they’ll be a hot ticket.  They might never top De Stijl, White Blood Cells, Elephant, and Get Behind Me Satan, but, like the Stones, they may never need to.


The White Stripes

“Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise” from De Stijl

“As Ugly As I Seem” from Get Behind Me Satan


The Clash

I’m not sure if there’s one Clash song that really contains the band’s entire ethic (“Death or Glory”?), but maybe Art Brut laid it out on “Formed A Band.”  The latter’s off-the-cuff, no frills rock is more fun than “punk” music was ever supposed to be, but, in some ways, The Clash got there first (“Rock the Casbah”).


Art Brut

“Formed A Band” from Bang Bang Rock & Roll

“Emily Kane” from Bang Bang Rock & Roll


The Velvet Underground

Julian Casablancas might be a little more Lou Reed than Bradford Cox (okay, a lot more), but Deerhunter reminds me more of VU than The Strokes do.  Listen to any bootleg of the nearly-twenty-minutes-and-sometimes-more “Sister Ray” (given the studio treatment on White Light/White Heat) and tell me what The Strokes have ever done to compare to that feedback-heavy jam.  Deerhunter can flat out do the dirty, but they can also pull it back for dreamy shoegaze that’s like Reed at his sweetest.



“Cryptograms” from Cryptograms

“Agoraphobia” from Microcastle


Bruce Springsteen

I like the Arcade Fire, but I just feel that The Hold Steady’s Boss-influenced sound is somehow more authentic.  The Arcade Fire are art school where The Hold Steady are bar stool.  If Bruce and the E-Streeters had the choice, who do you think they’d hang with?  The Texas/Canada prep school crew in their waistcoats or the beer-swilling Midwesterners in jeans?  Both bands are great, but The Hold Steady just does a better job carrying on the workaday traditions of Bruce.


The Hold Steady

“Your Little Hoodrat Friend” from Separation Sunday

“Chips Ahoy!” from Boys and Girls in America


Van Morrison

A.C. Newman is like caffeine; his music gets into your system quickly and in small doses, proves a rather enjoyable high, then exits as quickly as it came.  Andrew Bird, on the other hand, needs time to crawl around in your head, seep into your core, sometimes leaving you humming his intoxicating melodies much later, never knowing what song you have stuck in your head.  So he’s like wine maybe?  I don’t know, this isn’t a damn metaphor factory.  Winner=Bird.


Andrew Bird

“Scythian Empire” from Armchair Apocrypha

“Masterswarm” from Noble Beast


Fleetwood Mac

For unmatched skills in pop music, the award just has to go to The New Pornographers, right?  Lots of other bands strive to make pop cool, but I’ve never gotten the sense that Carl Newman and his pals give a damn about cool, which, as cool people know, is really pretty cool


The New Pornographers

“Letter From An Occupant” from Mass Romantic

“Use It” from Twin Cinema


Led Zeppelin

They’re a little weird, a little mysterious, and the best drugged-out live show at Bonnaroo every year.  They dabble in blues, metal, and even freak-funk.  My Morning Jacket is Led Zeppelin in spirit if not perfectly in sound.


My Morning Jacket

“What A Wonderful Man” from Z

“Aluminum Park” from Evil Urges


David Bowie

This provided more internal debate than perhaps any other choice here.  Admittedly, Destroyer is my favorite musician ever, so it’s hard for me to compartmentalize him to the point of comparison.  A few studied listenings of Hunky Dory later I had my decision.  White Antony Hegarty lives the Bowie lifestyle, Dan Bejar makes the Bowie music and, ultimately, the Destroyer mythology, replete with self-references and in-jokes, pushed it over the top in the closet call here.



“Modern Painters” from This NIght

“The State” from Trouble In Dreams


Pink Floyd

As a music fan, I worry about Grizzly Bear pigeonholing themselves a bit, although, if you have to pigeonhole, it’s a damn good pigeonhole to be in, the pigeonhole they’ve chosen.  The airy production, the stony space, and understated emotionality of Grizzly Bear recall those same traits in much of the work of Pink Floyd.


Grizzly Bear

“Knife” from Yellow House

“Two Weeks” from Veckatimest



I’m not sure there’s a singular personality to match Prince in today’s music scene, other than Prince himself.  And maybe Kanye.  Yeah, probably Kanye.  But musically, TV on the Radio took sexuality to a whole new level on Dear Science, imparting drops of freak-funk on their buzzy guitars and teardrop-falsettos.  There’s something inherently sexy about their music, though it’s subtle enough to sneak up on you.


TV on the Radio

“Poppy” from Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

“Crying” from Dear Science


Neil Young

If freak-folk is the new folk-rock and comedy-folk is the new pile of shit (take that Flight of the Concords!), then Bonnie “Prince” Billy is undoubtedly the new Neil Young.  Both have this quality where you can listen to their albums for the first time and feel like you’ve known their songs forever—Time Life Music Collection folks call it “timelessness.”  Thematically, vocally, you name it, B”P”B is like a bizarre-world Young.  Also, Young has long hair and no beard while B”P”B has no hair and a long beard.  It all adds up.


Bonnie “Prince” Billy

“I See A Darkness” from I See A Darkness

“Beware Your Only Friend” from Beware


Talking Heads

If a phrase like “buzz band” was even used before the internet, you can be sure that it was applied to The Talking Heads, one of the classic “love ‘em or hate ‘em” bands in alternative music history.  I guess with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah it would be “blog ‘em or flame ‘em.”  As is the case with most bands’ whose reputations are largely built online (see Tapes ‘n Tapes, Vampire Weekend), CYHSY suffered incredible backlash.  The fact that they managed to escape just scathed enough to record their scintillating (and far too overlooked) second album speaks to their talents in the tradition of the Heads.


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

“Some Loud Thunder” from Some Loud Thunder


The Smiths

The quiet, shy, unassuming, and very, very, sad Morrissey deserves to have his influence felt through one of the better American bands today, The National, which, like The Smiths, are not recommended for listening to in an airplane while flying above glowing Midwestern cities if your goal is to avoid crying.  Why so serious indeed.


The National

“Daughters of the SoHo Riots” from Alligator

“Mistaken for Strangers” from Boxer


If you made it to the end, I sincerely apologize for the drawn-out, month-long excuse for a column that this was.  It was really just for me, and for you few music nerds out there, and, really, we’re the ones who matter, no?  Leave a comment, a dis, or whatever you’ve got in the comments, and thanks for reading.