With The Sinking Ship open and less than a block from my house, I find myself spending lots of time there. While the owner, Damon Lyden, claims that the bar isn’t a “punk rock bar”, the music playing within tells a different story. On any given night, you are guaranteed to hear The Bouncing Souls, Less Than Jake, Against Me! or Dropkick Murphys. Those awesome tunes, however, are being piped in through an iPod and not a Jukebox... for now.
Lyden is currently in the process of obtaining a jukebox for The Ship but the iPod playlist fills in nicely for the time being. After talking with Lyden about the prospects of a jukebox, I began pondering the true importance of a good jukebox.
While I’m a firm believer in (true) Democracy, I often found myself scratching my head when I’ve read the results in NUVO’s “Best of Indy” Readers' poll. Jennie DeVoe for “Best Local Musician”? Yikes! Zero Boys for “Best Punk Artist”? Maybe in ‘82! Of all the dubious winners of the 2010 polls, none was more disturbing than The Alley Cat winning for “Best Jukebox”. The Alley Cat has a fine jukebox, but it is a digital jukebox that downloads selected songs from a database. Calling one of those things a jukebox is like calling an iPod a record collection.
The runners-up, The Melody Inn and Dorman Street, both have fantastic jukeboxes. Real jukeboxes, with real music, carefully selected by the owners to fill the coveted slots in the machine. While traditional jukeboxes vary in capacity, they all have a limited spaces for albums. This is what makes a good jukebox so important. Of all the albums in the world (millions) the owners have to choose a perfect balance of tunes to appeal to their clients and provide a suitable soundtrack to a night of drinking.
In my dream world, where I open up a Star Trek-themed punk rock bar in Munich, Germany, these are some of the albums that would be found in my jukebox:
The Replacements - Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was:
A jukebox without The Replacements isn’t really a jukebox at all. These second-wave Minneapolis punks took the raw punk sound and matured it into a sound all their own: “bar-rock”. This greatest hits compilation contains some of their best songs including “Within Your Reach” and the infectious “Color Me Impressed” which will get the entire bar tapping their toes to the melancholy beat.
The Ergs! - Hind Sight is 20/20 My Friend:
The Ergs! are one of the greatest, most under-appreciated bands in modern punk rock. Their sound strapped hardcore, pop-punk, rock and even elements of jazz onto a core of phenomenal songwriting and superb musicianship. Hind Sight is a lengthy collection of all their non-album tracks and includes the fantastic “Introducing Morrissey”.
The Lawrence Arms - Cocktails & Dreams:
To be honest, every single Lawrence Arms’ record should be in every single jukebox in the Midwest. TLA are the three-piece punk rock orchestra that provides the score to every night of rowdy, good-natured drinking. This collection contains the bouncy “Quincentuple You Money” as well as the band’s unofficial credo “Presenting: The Dancing Machine”.
Frank Turner - Love Ire & Song:
Frank Turner makes great drinking music, but in a very different way The Lawrence Arms. This British songwriter sings grown-up punk songs at a thoughtful folk pace. Most of his songs are roundabout reflections on the importance of good friends and good beer.
Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose:
The opening track of this 2001 record is called “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”. If the title alone doesn’t convince you that this belongs in a jukebox, wait until you actually hear the music: loud, rough, melodic punk rock sing-a-longs. What more could you ask for?
The Gaslight Anthem - The ‘59 Sound:
If you haven’t heard this album yet, then something is wrong. This album out-Springsteens Springsteen and oozes with barroom poetry. A easy shoo-in.
Andrew W.K. - I Get Wet:
This album is a perfect pump-up album. It assaults your ears like a beer commercial and begs to be played on repeat. Song like “It’s Time To Party”, “Party Hard” and “Party Til You Puke” can make any bar experience a memorable one.
The Murder City Devils - In Name and Blood:
This album is pure evil. By mixing outlaw country themes with satanic imagery and erie, organ-driven punk rock, MCD created a sound that was truly epic. The band broke up nearly a year ago but this, their last (and best) record captures their booze-soaked spirit.
Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak:
I don’t know what the hell happened to this band over the past few years but Aha Shake is a true modern classic. Their mix of southern rock, garage rock and punk rock accompanies the band’s tales of debauchery quite perfectly.
The Misfits - Static Age: You just gotta have some Misfits!