It’s 1:37 p.m. and I’m late for my 1:30 Modern Music class. I burst into the classroom, coffee in one hand and a stack of compact discs in the other. The class is already fervently discussing whether or not to institute the 15-minute rule in the wake of my tardiness.
“No such luck today, kids,” I say with a smile, even though I’m a little hurt they’d rather go back to dorm rooms and play Vice City than listen to me talk about Unwound for two hours. “Okay, first thing’s first. I want to discuss last week’s assignment. Did everyone listen to the compilation CD that I assigned.”
“Punk-O-Rama?” asked Jolene Baker, a mall punk with ridiculous streaks in her hair and a Midtown T-shirt.
“No Jolene, the chapter on the deterioration of American punk rock was three weeks ago. We’re on chapter seven: If the Twenty-First Century Didn’t Exist, It Would Be Necessary to Invent It. That’s also the name of the comp I assigned. Did anyone actually listen to it?”
“No one listens to comps, Professor Somar. It’s, like, a rule,” mumbled Franklin Barker while thumbing through is dog-earred copy of NME.
“And why is that?”
“Because, if the first song sucks then you know the comp sucks,” he shrugged.
“That’s not true at all!” exclaimed Boris Malloy from the back of the room. Thank goodness, I was afraid I was going to spend another two hours talking to myself about the 5RC comp.
“Yes it is, Boris. The first song can make or break a comp. That Godzink Pink song … ‘The Thrill is Gone,’ I think it was just, I dunno, stupid,” shrugged Franklin.
“I agree that the Godzink Pink song was really bad and a poor choice for an opener, but I disagree that it makes or breaks a comp. There’s like 23 other bands on there. Lightning Bolt’s on it, for chrissakes. Lightning Bolt alone makes it worth your time, even if they offer one of the weaker songs on the CD,” said Boris.
“Well, don’t people just get comps because bands they already like are on it? I know that’s what I do. Then I stick it in my computer and make mp3s of the songs I wanted and sell it back to the record store. I mean, who honestly discovers bands through comps?” said Franklin.
“I listened to the whole thing and ended up really liking the Sick Lipstick, who I had never even heard of before. So that disproves your theory right off,” chimed in Becka Thomas, who liked to argue with Franklin out of spite. “And Boris, the Lightning Bolt song is not weak, you just didn’t listen to it enough times.”
“I liked track six a lot. That band Generic. They have a crappy name but that song where they merge the theme to Contra with the labyrinth music from Legend of Zelda is all I listen to. I really don’t remember anything about the comp except that and maybe the Seconds songs,” said Wendell, a stoner/video game addict who is amongst one of my favorite people in the class.
“I liked the Enon song,” chimed in Tex. A wannabe hipster if I’ve ever seen one.
“Actually Tex (I can’t help myself), I think you’re thinking of the Quintron song, which is essentially an eighth-tier Enon song if I’ve ever heard one.” This makes Becka smile. She hates Tex about as much as I do. “Well, did anyone see any bands on the comp that they had heard of and were curious about hearing?” I said, trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.
“Yeah. Xiu Xiu,” said Becka.
“Did you like them?” I asked.
“No,” she replied flatly.
“Why not?” I asked with genuine curiosity, even though I agreed that Xiu Xiu wasn’t very good.
“I dunno, sometimes stuff just sucks. I know that’s a crappy answer … I didn’t get any sleep last night,” said a rapidly disinterested Becka. If only she would focus.
“Any other bands you guys were curious about?”
“Yeah, Pink and Brown. Oh, and I guess Hella because some of those guys were in Don Cab,” said Boris.
“Well, both of their songs were live and as I rule I hate live songs on comps. So I was all like, ‘Fuck that live song shit, dude,’ ” he replied.
“Fair enough. I was curious about what everyone thought about Wolf Eyes …” Before I could finish the sentence the class unanimously proclaimed Wolf Eyes to be the absolute worst band they’ve encountered in the course thus far.
Our debate spanned the entire two hours and by the end the majority of the class, with the exception of Franklin, agreed it that If the Twenty-First Century Didn’t Exist was a really solid compilation CD, worth checking out if you find it for cheap and if you’ve been meaning to check out the Replikants.