The Boston Phoenix
wanted to do something a little different to celebrate our nation's independence this year, so they sat around and tried to do the impossible: Name the best bands, solo artists and contemporary acts from each of these 50 states. And before you cry Elliott like I was want to do, in the "All-Time Best Solo Artist" category, you should know that artists had to be born
(and bands had to be formed) in the state in which they were voted best.
As is usually the case with these things, The Phoenix
isn't claiming to have conversation-ending winners. As they say in the piece: "You want fireworks, you got 'em. We've lit the match. Discuss."
To that end, here are the Oregon results (but keep reading for our super-secret extra victory):
All-Time Best Band: The Wipers
All-Time Best Solo Artist: Tim Hardin
Best New Band: Menomena
Portland has remained a reliable outpost for out-of-step punk rock for three decades, and almost all of its exports have been directly or indirectly shaped by Greg Sage's eternally untamable WIPERS. The band's 1979 debut Is This Real? was still delivering shockwaves 13 years later, when Nirvana cherry picked “D-7” and “Return of the Rat” out of obscurity, but Sage's original versions retain their primitive heat and oddball angles. | Smack-addicted folkie TIM HARDIN became a boomer icon when he warbled “If I Was a Carpenter” at Woodstock, but subsequent generations of less-easily-impressed connoisseurs have also taken to his keenly melancholy compositions — even as discerning stars from Rod Stewart to Billy Bragg have continued to cover classics like his “Reason to Believe.” | MENOMENA — whose latest album, Friend and Foe, single-handedly rescued the dying art of CD packaging (it was nominated for a Grammy) — produced one of the year's most arresting music videos (“Evil Bee” 's Discovery-Channel-meets-Tool animation clip) and proved that Radiohead aren't the only ones who've mastered the art of making fleshy, blooming, inscrutably adventurous pop albums in an age of digital craftsmanship.
For your reference:
Menomena (they're the ones not hanging from the van)
Okay, so it's hard to argue with the highly influential Wipers (though Dead Moon, Sleater-Kinney and the Kingsmen are all regularly mentioned in features like this), and when you get Elliott out of the way Tim Hardin makes sense. I know we can argue about Menomena all day on LocalCut, which is why we're posting this, of course—cause we want to see some sparks fly. I love Menomena and won't argue the point very long, save to say that:
1. The Thermals
will go down as one of the greatest—if not the greatest—punk bands of their time—like top 3.
2. The Shaky Hands
are probably the most OREGON band in Oregon.
is the most criminally underrated band in Oregon.
Actually, I have like five or ten other bands to mention, and I'm not sure how I'd actually vote on the whole "Best New Artist" thing. You? Before you decide, keep in mind that Oregon scored a number of secret victories
1. Portugal The Man
was voted Alaska's Best New Band, and that's fair game, as (according to WW
contributor/former Alaskan Brandon Seifert) they formed in AK. They played their first show in Oregon, though, according to Seifert.
2. Maryland's all-time best solo artist? John Fahey
. Score one for Salem!
3. Colin Meloy
picked as Montana's all-time best solo artist. Says the Phoenix: "Proof that the Treasure State can inspire joy—as well as a tendency to dress like an extra from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." Wowza.
4. New Mexico's all-time best band? The Shins
. I don't have enough NM music knowledge to judge that one. But jeez there's a trend here, isn't there?
5. Elliott Smith
won in Nebraska. So sayeth the Phoenix: "Elliott Smith might be more strongly identified with his long-time home of Portland, Oregon, but he's actually Nebraskan. Big deal—it's a testament to his talent that his music continues to eclipse the details of his tumultuous biography.." On that note, can I get real with you for a second? I know it's a little bit cliché for a Portland-based music writer, but I have a hard time just thinking about Elliott Smith these days. I'm grateful for the amazing body of work he left behind, but is it just me or does that music get harder to hear all the time? If I'm in a bar or coffee shop where Smith is playing, I can barely hear whatever conversation I'm supposed to be having, I just disappear into the tune. And I didn't know him or even see him live—I can only imagine how tough it is for his friends and contemporaries. What a crazy loss.
So what does this all prove?
Well, if you believe The Boston Phoenix
to be a credible source, it proves that Oregon (and especially Portland) may well be the most influential state in American music history. Maybe that has more to do with the strange way this thing was constructed (this is not a poll; most music critics are of a certain age range and demographic; the birth requirement throws a real wrench into things), but it certainly says something about The Beaver State
I could spend all day going on about this, and I'm glad the folks in Boston gave it a shot. Head on over to their story
to talk shit/praise directly, or we can just have it out here. I'm especially interested in the Prince vs. Dylan poll The Phoenix
is hosting for best Minnesota solo artist. Though it seems like kind of a cop-out.
P.S. Just so you know, I was born in Oregon. So I'm eligible to be Oregon's best all-time music writer. Not a lot of us that can say that. I'd appreciate your vote.
Boston Phoenix article
, the official Elliott Smith site, maintained by very dedicated fans.
Photos stolen from all over.