Amend Your Trousers

In the canon!: Modest Mouse and scores of equally deserving, smaller-than-thou indie-bands get their due in the new issue of Badaboom Gramophone

IF YOU'RE THE sort of person who owns a copy of The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, published last year as a supplement to the now out-of-print Trouser Press guides of the mid-'80s, chances are you've already waded hip deep into music your mom/next-door neighbor/significant other has overheard, but never actually heard of. Chances are also good that you cherish some pet sounds so obscure that even the obsessively complete Trouser Press tomes didn't catch them.

Perhaps, when you opened up the Guide to '90s Rock, you burned indignant at the omission of Omit, the absence of the Amoebic Ensemble, or the disregard for Drunks With Guns. Well, fret and fume no longer. Now, with the full permission and blessing of Trouser editor Ira Robbins, a fanzine out of Leonia, New Jersey, has filled some of the gaps. The "Bands Not In the Trouser Press Record Guide Guide"--known only slightly more economically as BNITTPRGG--makes up the bulk of the latest issue of Badaboom Gramophone, a zine intermittently published by one Ben Goldberg (a.k.a. Ba Da Ben).

"The types who care about these things (including me, of course) all have their one or two favorite bands, which weren't in the book," Goldberg explained recently. "So I thought it would be interesting to have everyone write about the neglected groups."

Since submissions came in on a purely voluntary basis, lots of bands are still left out--hence, Unbunny gets an entry while Bunnybrains does not--but Goldberg points out that he wasn't trying to do a complete or definitive supplement.

According to Goldberg, BNITTPRGG and Badaboom Gramophone exist to let "people write about things that they are passionate about even if they are not experts." The journal's name references a Jacques Derrida essay titled "Ulysses Gramophone." In the piece, Derrida addresses a group of Joyce scholars on the subject of his own ignorance of Joyce's work, arguing that his lack of knowledge allows him to bring a fresh, perfectly valid "outsider" perspective to the texts.

Of course, his disavowal is a bit disingenuous. As is Goldberg's: His contributors--drawn from different nooks and crannies of the indie music biz--are hardly outsiders, and they know an awful lot about the bands they meticulously document. But it's not all cliquish obscurantism. BNITTPRGG rectifies some major oversights: Influential artists such as Autechre, Mouse on Mars, Belle & Sebastian, Popol Vuh, and Neutral Milk Hotel are given their due, and, in a glorious flourish of defiance, ELO are enshrined in the new-wave/art-rock canon.

Though they might flirt with the unknowable, the entries make entertaining reading even--or especially--when they stretch the criteria. It may be a bit misleading to include an unreleased album by the band Research, but it's great to know that the album would've come with the inspirational title The Post-Modern Always Rings Twice. Likewise, you don't have to be (or want to be) a fan of Evil Weiner or Nudge Squidfish to appreciate the mere fact of their existence.

And, in case you're interested in actually hearing some of these unearthed gems, Badaboom Gramophone puts its music where its mouth is: Every issue of the zine comes with a CD compilation. The newest one (#3) complements the BNITTPRGG with several worthy selections from acts listed in it, such as Philly droners Azusa Plane, Iceland electroscapist Paul Lydon (a.k.a. Sanndreymi), and a few spaced-out artists from Goldberg's own Ba Da Bing! record label: Bright, Juneau, and Windy & Carl. Of course, Goldberg himself pens the BNITTPRGG entries for the Ba Da Bing! bands, and he does so with the passion of a fan and the reasoned balance of an expert.

Other experts surface in Badaboom Gramophone #3. There's a well-researched piece on the history of subliminal advertising, and Goldberg's mom, a psychoanalyst, contributes an article examining theories on the recovered memories of childhood sexual-abuse victims. Obviously there are more things on Ben's mind than music--meaning that folks still incensed that their ex-boyfriend's cousin's band didn't make the BNITTPRGG may have to publish the next version themselves. "Badaboom is definitely not going to become the 'New Bands to Add to Trouser Press' zine," Goldberg says. "There are too many other things I want to pursue with it."

Badaboom Gramophone #3 is available for $10 postpaid. Write to Badaboom Gramophone, P.O. Box 204, Leonia, NJ 07605.

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