erasing clouds

CoMo Music Anthology 1990 - 2005 Volume 1

reviewed by dave heaton

What do you know about Columbia, Missouri? To me it brings up memories of driving on a dark highway in the middle of the night, trying to keep myself awake as I returned from seeing bands play at one of a few venues in Columbia, the somewhat larger college town about an hour and a half from Kirksville, the town of 17,000 people that I called home for six or so years. I earned a couple of speeding tickets during those years, but I also saw some great bands. Most of them were national acts, but I was there enough to get a decent enough sense for what the local scene was like.

Some of the names and acts collected on CoMo Music Anthology Volume 1 - a collection of Columbia bands from 1990 to now - are familiar to me, then, but there's plenty that are not. You might not think of Columbia as a musical hotbed, but one look at the back of this 2-disc collection, featuring 40 tracks from 40 different bands, might change your mind, especially when you read that this is only the first volume of a three-volume set. Actually, though, I bet a collection like this could exist for almost any city or town in the country; there's always more creativity going on than meets the eye.

To say that the bands on this collection are a varied lot would be an understatement. There's everything from progressive electronic music (Jon Sheffield) to garage rock (Untamed Youth), from high schoolers playing punk rock (The Pows) to a heavy metal band that opened for Motorhead (Slugtrail). Some of the best bands on here are playing the sort of rough and smart country-rock that you might expect from Midwesterners, but there's also heavy doses of flamboyant showmanship and some really loud guitars.

The tone of the compilation is archival - this is a snapshot of what was going on in one place in a certain period of time. But it's also like a mixtape compiled by a super-enthusiastic music fan. In that way the spirit of the collection is infectious. Even bands which I thought I never liked sound pretty good here.

CoMo Music Anthology Volume 1 includes a couple of bands that could be considered "rising stars" - Mahjongg, Columbians who moved to Chicago, have been receiving deserved attention for their warped style of funk, and the pop-rock band Kingdom Flying Club, whose track "Artists are Boring" is one of the catchiest songs across the 2-discs, is going to get some airtime on The O.C. (oddly enough, a coveted gig these days).

But then there's also plenty of bands here who will almost definitely remain underheard forever. I imagine anyone familiar with any of these bands has one that they think could have ruled the world if more people had only heard them. Mine is the Columbia-via-Kirksville rock band The Incontinentals, represented here by "Assholes and Elbows," a pessimistic rocker about mortality that appeared on their final album, 2000's Beg Your Pardon. It's a great song, but its inclusion just makes me wish there was room for all their other songs, as this one only goes centimeters towards explaining what they were all about and demonstrating how unique they were.

While this collection reveals some interesting and eccentric bands from Columbia's past - the East Ash song especially stands out for me - it also shows that the music scene there today has a lot of weird energy to it, maybe more so than ever. CoMo Music Anthology 1990 - 2005 Volume 1 might be a local history lesson/current soundtrack for Columbia residents, but it should be a downright revelation to people who think nothing could possibly be going on in the middle of Missouri. This should be required listening for all the East Coasters who ignorantly ask Midwesterners like myself, "what do people in the Midwest do?"


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