Classic rock? Check. Alt.rock? Oh yeah. Skinny-tied new wave? Of course. Bar-brawling Celtic punk? You bet yer ass. Boston’s music scene has offered all this and more…
Most of them still live here. They’re walking around, mixing it up with the mortals at the grocery store or at the movie theatre. It’s great. And while we can’t really be responsible for any of the bullshit they wrote the past few years when they were slumming it in Lost Angeles, you just can’t beat 70s era ‘Smith. The sleaziest, druggiest, most decadent gang of rock’n’roll outlaws this town has ever seen. And still the best.
The Pixies essentially invented the formula bands like Nirvana used to rocket to the top. Quiet verse, screamy chorus, rinse and repeat. Their songs were catchy and insane. They hated each other and probably hated this town, too, but we loved them and still do. The defining band of the alt-rock era, really.
If you really think about it, I mean, wow. Nothing about The Cars were cool. They didn’t look cool, they weren’t cool on stage, their music was herky-jerky and stilted, they had terrible haircuts. But like Devo, they somehow transgressed the rock’n’roll code and became wicked-cool anyway. Probably the most accessible new wave band ever. You will never spend a summer without spinning their greatest hits album at least once.
Some people say that Boston weren’t a ‘real’ band, that they were merely a studio creation, the work of obsessive tech-nerds worshipping strange machines. Well, maybe. But those nerds created More Than A Feeling, one of the greatest songs not only of the 1970s, but of all time. All time. You can’t argue that. Not in this town, anyway. Plus, Amanda? C’mon, man. That shit is as real as it gets.
They didn’t invent ‘college rock’, but they sure as hell perfected it. Also I’m pretty sure head Lemon Evan Dando is our very own Axl Rose.
Mission Of Burma
One of the first “post-punk” bands, Mission of Burma’s rattling gloom-rock is the stuff of college-radio legend. One of the most name-dropped bands of all time, they were a direct influence on future indie-stars like Sonic Youth, REM, Nirvana, Fugazi, and Pearl Jam. Every alt-rock band worth it’s salt has covered their classic That’s When I Reach For My Revolver at some point.
**The Entire 80s Punk Scene **
Boston spawned a crazed brand of spastic hardcore that was hugely influential on punk scenes around the globe. Bands like SS Decontrol, Jerry’s Kids, The Freeze, Gang Green, The FU’s and Negative FX fuelled a vibrant and violent scene that crackled with teenage ferocity. Eventually most of the bands grew their hair long, took up beer drinking and started playing metal, but in the mid 80s, Boston was ground-zero for militant straight-edge hardcore punk. I still have scars from that bullshit.
**J Geils Band **
Led by the irrepressible Peter Wolf, there was a time (early 80s) when J Geils were America’s pre-eminent party band, responsible for ear-wormy chart-toppers like Centerfold, Freeze Frame, Love Stinks and Boston’s very own Louie Louie, (Ain’t Nothin’ But A) House Party. No one loved (or understood) rock n’ roll better than these guys.
Boston’s only notable contribution to the 80s glam-metal movement, Extreme are not wholly responsible for the steaming gutpile of “power ballads” that clogged the charts for more than a decade, but they are responsible for arguably the best and certainly one of the most popular: 1991’s More Than Words. They had lots of other songs, too, most of them a lot heavier. Later on their singer split and messed up Van Halen for a few years.
Probably the purest distillation of the essence of Boston ever created. They play the goddamn baseball stadium here, they’re on floats during our parades. Everybody loves them. They sound like a bunch of Irishmen having a bar fight, which is wholly accurate. Seriously, spend a week here, you’ll get it.
**HONOURABLE MENTIONS (a couple, not so honourable, really…) **
**Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers **
Pretty unknown except in underground circles, but the Modern Lovers were Boston’s very own Big Star. Or maybe our own proto-Replacements. One of the finest power-pop/rock n’ roll bands this town has ever had.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The biggest ska-punk band on the planet. Their 90s era hits are still playing, incessantly, on alt-rock radio stations today. They show up every New Years and play a week of shows in town. Complete mayhem, every time.
Realistically, they were 80s new wave one-hit wonders, but Voices Carry is still lauded as one of the defining hits of the era, so there you go.
He was from the suburbs and White Zombie were a New York band, but we still count him for some reason.
Also from the suburbs and one of the main architects of the dreaded nu-metal era, but Christ were they popular for a while back there. I don’t even want to get into Staind.
**The entire 80s garage revival scene **
Lots of scenes had scores of 60s inspired garage rock bands in the 80s, but very few had bands of the caliber Boston did: see Black Jacks, Del Fuegos, Nervous Eaters, Willie “Loco” Alexander, etc. An amazing scene.
**Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls **
Palmer is one of the most polarising figures in modern music. Famously, the wealthy artist asked her her cashed-strapped fans for money to make her next record. They gave her a million dollars. It opened the floodgates for every cheapskate richie rich to get on Kickstarter and beg for cash, too. Unfortunately she’s more well-known for off-putting antics these days than her music, but her cabaret-rock act Dresden Dolls were pretty next-level, man.
**Letters to Cleo **
See the Til Tuesday entry and just update to the 90s. But still, how great was that song?