The junkyard. The Dead Zone. The scrap heap. The junk drawer. The clearance section. The bargain bin.
Whatever you call it, this is an area we can all somewhat visualize in our minds. A section of a shop (I suppose this extends beyond record shops) that is full of stuff that nobody is buying because nobody wants it, The store has already paid for the merchandise, so they aren’t going to throw it out. It is doomed to sit there occupying precious real estate until the store gives up or some magical customer comes in to buy it all in one shot – not gonna happen!
There are people out there, myself included, that will buy things out of this section. Some for the urge to find something closer to the truth, others for bragging rights, and other still, for the thrill of a good bargain. The misconception is that these items aren’t any good. In terms of music, the case could be made (as I’m making it now) that it’s less to do with quality and more to do with promotion/branding. These neglected titles are so because no one is familiar with them. I would imagine that music sales are often driven by recognition or familiarity. I would guess that people who actively purchase unfamiliar music are in the minority of music listeners. This leads to genuine artistry being piled up and sold in bulk to try and get it off the floor.
Here’s a bunch of cool titles that I found in a 3/$5 section of my local record shop (Turn It Up):
An Emotional Fish – An Emotional Fish, 1990
Brand New Sin – Brand New Sin, 2002 (Reissue 2006)
Dink – Dink, 1994
Pete Droge & The Sinners – Find a Door, 1996
Earlimart – Everyone Down Here, 2003
Phantom Planet – Phantom Planet/The Guest, 2002/2004
I’m listening through these albums and they are all very solid. Some of them are much better than their cover art would suggest. An Emotional Fish delivers true early nineties alternative rock; something that could only crawl out of the very late eighties. Brand New Sin hits hard with a blend of Rock, Blues, and Metal; imagine if Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up on punk and hard rock. Dink is an interesting mix of metal and electronic music; a genuine wave that may or may not have led to Nu-Metal. Earlimart offer some enjoyable indie rock; sometimes intimate, sometimes driving. Phantom Planet is one part high energy and one part echo/experimental on their double offering.
The star of this bunch, in my opinion, is Pete Droge & The Sinners. This is a solid album presented by a very fine songwriter backed by tasteful musicians. I would highly recommend this album to fans of Americana Rock/ Folk Rock/ Alternative Rock. Specifically, I would say Pete Droge echoes the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty (maybe Wildflowers). The tunes are well arranged and have the same nineties timbre that served the likes of the Counting Crows and The Wallflowers so well. For one reason or another, Pete Droge managed to fall through the cracks as so many truly talented artists do.