Other than simply playing in two of my favorite mid cities bands (guitarist for the County Lines and bassist for Hard Times) Brad Dougher is one hell of a beer drinker, fun guy to be around, and an all around nice guy, as anyone who has ever spent even as much as two minutes around the guy would gladly attest to. As it turns out, he also happens to be a pretty fine writer as well. Kudos to Mr. Dougher for sending us the shining example of what the Guestlist is intended to be. Other local artists take note. That being said, we'll get right to the list without as much of the puffery you are normally accustomed to...
For anyone that has spent some time in North Texas, it’s an all too familiar landscape: as the suburbs haphazardly expand into the surrounding cross-timber forests and prairies like a wildfire of sterility and newness, they leave behind the abandoned structures of what was considered “new” not a decade prior. Suburban ghost towns manifest just as quickly as new developments do, and in this mad rush to create the next batch of Eulesses, Hursts, and Haltom Cities, we are left with the partially inhabited remnants -- the hand-me-downs of a culture that is hopelessly addicted to that proverbial “new car smell.” In these hollow ruins we find evidence that the conquest was far from complete. Patches of overgrown forest still grow amongst dated shopping centers whose vacant storefronts are commonly punctuated by laundromats, dollar stores, taquerias, and resale shops. Many of us are products of such environs, and in a sort of self-loathing way, I think it’s something to be proud of. I would not be who I am today without the landscape that surrounds me. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and I tend to obsess about the power of place. This place radiates comfortably decaying mediocrity. This place is a patchwork of old and new sewn together with the thread of an ass-backwards civilization that I can’t deny being a part of. Before I stumbled blindly into the world of substance use and abuse, I filled my days exploring those remaining patches of forest. I rambled aimlessly behind mini-malls. I did my best to look cool hanging out in front of 7-11s. Little changed after I discovered punk rock, malt liquor, and cheap weed. It’s been over a decade and I still find myself in this same condition. The only change I need is the kind that affords me a microwave burrito and a sixpack of tallboys. The following is my (very limited) soundtrack to this nostalgic landscape. I know I traverse it in good company, so if any of what I say rings true for you, check out some of these albums -- preferably with a cold beer in some neglected patch of woods.
"The Top Five Albums to Listen to While Drunkenly Traversing the Suburban Wasteland of the Mid-cities" by Brad Dougher
5. The GC5 - Kisses From Hanoi/Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (2003 CD re-release, Thick)
You can’t hit the streets without punk rock. Them’s the rules. And the GC5 are the ideal punk band. These guys don’t take themselves too seriously as many bands tend to, and the beer soaked singalongs that make up the majority of their music reinforce that fact. The power of these angsty anthems is enough to make anyone seek out the sort of anti-adventure that can be found by hitting the streets. This band is smart and quintessential. This band should’ve been bigger.
4.) Beck - One Foot in the Grave (1994, K)
The first album I ever purchased on my own was Odelay. Prior to that, my collection included a variety of “country superhits” type stuff. Odelay showed me that you really can do whatever the hell you want with music. From then on I ravenously sought out the rest of his discography. One Foot in the Grave was a revelatory gem that essentially became the reason I started writing songs. The lo-fi anti-folk blues of it really struck a dissonant chord in me, and became the musical manifesto behind my slacker ethos.
3.) The Anchor - s/t (2010, ADD/Hotdogs and Records)
The Anchor is a punk band from Austin -- personal friends of mine that are definitely worth checking out. Though the nostalgia I associate with these guys mostly involves my two-year stint in Austin, it has translated well to DFW. The music is straightforward, unpretentious, and reeks of sweat and cigarette smoke. These guys drunkenly worship at the altar of such legends as Avail, Leatherface, The Lawrence Arms, and all of their gruffly melodic counterparts. Their sound hearkens back to the age of those life-changing cheap punk compilations. When you’re wandering aimlessly through the suburbs with a backpack full of beer, you can’t go wrong with a band that would be right there with you if they could.
2.) Silkworm - Firewater (1996, Matador)
Though notably darker than anything else on this list, this album deserves recognition for its masterful articulation of the depressing side of aimless drunkenness. Imagine that all previous albums on this list represent the carefree, belligerent days of your post-formative years. Firewater would be the sinking feeling of reality setting in. This album has emerged numerous times out of the haze of my life to assert itself -- each time more relevant than the last. It has staying power. The lyrics read like apathetically pessimistic beat poetry. The music is abrasive indie rock with driving intensity accented by some of the catchiest guitar work I’ve ever heard. If you don‘t own this album, you really need to get your shit together.
1.) Drive-By Truckers - Pizza Deliverance (1999, Souldump)
Topping this list is my favorite album by one of my absolute favorite bands. The Drive-By Truckers are southern bards that paint a brutally honest and endearing portrait of the south with every word they sing, and as much as it may not seem like it, the root of much of our North Texan culture is southern. Though it may be waning, southern culture still shows itself in the remote and forgotten parts of the Metroplex -- those parts that are best enjoyed with an eye for the obscure and an appreciation for the little things. The Drive-By Truckers embody this concept and deserve a listen by anyone that remotely cares about such things. I was born in Longview, which is a medium-sized town in the piney woods of East Texas. It is by no means backwoods, but moving here at the age of eight was still quite the culture shock. It didn’t take long to ease into it though. I traded endless expanses of forest for the equally endless suburbs. By the time I had graduated high school, this album had become the standard summertime soundtrack for drinking whiskey in the woods and bitching about girlfriends. The songs are all well-told stories. Some about heritage, some about family problems, but most are about drinking, shootin’ the shit, and getting your heart broken. Get in touch with those roots you might’ve been trying to hide and it’ll all be okay.