Written by Erika Owen
Jeff Inman's daughter probably knew about Opeth long before she heard a single lyric from Selena Gomez or whatever Disney-bred pop princess was making the rounds at that time. That's symbolism, people. The Drake University journalism professor is just as well-known for his, um, eclectic music tastes as his tough feature editing one-on-ones.
He might be a hipster-glasses wearing, sushi-loving dude who's prone to "tell it like it is" in almost every situation, but to me he's a big part of why Band Bombshell exists. There's a reason past and present students of his gather long after classes end and talk about how much we've learned from him. His experience with music writing—the man's got bylines in/on Rolling Stone, Billboard, Ready Made (RIP, old friend), CityView and Las Vegas Weekly, among others—is one that will keep pulling you back into his office for mid-day chats on the Swedish metal bands he's been enjoying with his kids or that one time he was bawled out by some prima donna rockstar (for the record: There's been more than one time). It was never a surprise to find a group of students voluntarily waiting outside his office, just to chat.
Spend some time enjoying the favorite tunes of one of Band Bombshell's original influencers. From the token metal band (Soilwork) to the more niche alt.country (Uncle Tupelo), there's a little bit of everything in the following playlist.
The Shouting Matches // “Gallup, NM”
There’s a lot of possibility and disappointment in a strip of asphalt in the open desert. There’s the hope that the open road will take you to something better. There’s the hard truth that getting there is going to suck. And there’s the knowledge that to realize either you have to keep rolling forward. Eau Claire’s The Shouting Matches—Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Megafaun’s Phil Cook and Peter Wolf Crier’s Brian Moen—get that. They’ve all been on that strip of asphalt. “Gallop, NM” is the trio’s dust-covered ode to that hunk of pavement and all its prospects, right down to the plodding beat that synchs perfectly with that never-ending stream of white lines passing by.
Bob Mould // “I Don’t Know You Anymore”
The first time I met Bob Mould I was 17. He’d just released his first post-Husker Du album, “Workbook.” He was playing a solo acoustic show the Ranch Bowl, a bowling alley/club in Omaha that barely managed to do either well. I chased him to the dressing room, where he politely told me to give him five minutes. True to his word, he came out, signed my ticket—my first autograph—and chatted with me for a couple minutes before moving on to the next fanboy. “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” the first single from Mould’s latest, Beauty & Rain, captures everything that made me geek out 25 years ago: buzzing guitars, confessional lyrics, a hook big enough to catch a sperm whale. It’s four-chord perfection.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones // “Don’t Mean a Thing”
Yes, frontman Paul Janeway looks like a mathlete but sings like Marvin Gaye. And yeah, the horn section could double for Mormon missionaries. Hell, the whole band gives off a serious Commitments vibe, just without the Irish roots and Colm Meaney cameo. But when the band begins to build toward that blasting melody line, Janeway snarling into the mic and the guitar transitioning from a trill to a tornado, none of that stuff matters. It’s pure Southern-fried soul, the kind gospel groups dream about on Saturday nights and sinners hum on Sunday mornings.
Beady Eye // “The Roller”
The best five minutes I’ve ever had on the phone were with Liam Gallagher. He was a complete asshole. He swore constantly, told me to go to Hell, and proclaimed himself the best singer in the world—basically all the things he was famous for and what you wanted out of an interview with him. Of course, Oasis imploded (shock), the Gallagher boys separated. Noel went solo. Everyone else formed Beady Eye and quickly proved they could write just as awesome Beatles knockoff tracks as Noel could. Proof: “The Roller.”
Uncle Tupelo // “Chickamauga”
When I accidently saw Uncle Tupelo play the Maintenance Shop in Ames I didn’t understand what I was witnessing. I’d never heard of alt.country. The world was all about Seattle. There was Nirvana. There was Pearl Jam. And besides, Tupelo broke up after its next show. Except Jay Farrar went on to start Son Volt. Jeff Tweedy launched Wilco. And I heard “Chickamauga.” Then I got it. While there are arguably better songs on Tupelo’s final album, Anodyne, the snarly, Neil Young-soaked track was the one that stayed with me. It’s full of idealistic rebellion and unnecessary feedback. It’s stuffed with lyrics that could be smart if you bother to pay attention to them. And it hints at the fact that Jay Farrar had hit his plateau while Tweedy, singing the harmonies in the background, was just waiting for his moment to shine.
Criteria // “Prevent the World”
Stephen Pederson was always conflicted about practicality—whether he should give into his dreams of being a rock god or settle into everyday life. A founding member of Cursive, he had a chance at the former. He chose law school at Duke instead. But he didn’t hang up his guitar. When he returned to Omaha in 2003 he launched Criteria, a basement band full of friends and Saddle Creek vets. “Prevent the World,” the opener from the quartet’s second and final record, When We Break, sums up every argument he had with himself over which path to choose. “You’re preventing the world from hearing my songs,” he chides himself while bashing out concussive waves of distortion. Sadly, it’s exactly what happened. Pederson is now a VP at an Omaha investment firm, though rumor has it he’s recording a new album. If he does, let’s hope practically doesn’t win this time.
Hum // “Green to Me”
There was a hopeful moment in the mid-‘90s when it looked like nerds were going to rule rock. Weezer was everywhere. Sugar was on the charts. Alt.geeks idolized My Blood Valentine. And there was Hum. The Champagne, Ill., quartet looked like a bunch of comp sci dropouts. Frontman Matt Talbott sang with the enthusiasm of a dweeb about to be throttled. And the band’s lyrics could border on dialogue from a “Dr. Who” episode. But there was distortion. Lots of distortion. The group treated distortion like a fuzzy blanket—something to wrap your self up in and hold close. It vibrated you in your gut. Live, it literally made you clothes look like your were walking in a light breeze. And maybe that distortion was part of the reason the band scored a hit with the quirky single “Stars.” But Hum’s long-ignored final album, 1998’s Downward is Heavenward, is where the band mastered it. “Green to Me” was the catchiest song on the disc, but others like “Isle of Cheetah” and “Comin’ Home” are odes to the power of six strings and electricity. And while the nerds ended up ruling plenty of other stuff, Hum still stands as a testament to what could have been.
Soilwork // “Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter”
You have to be in the right frame of mind to eviscerate people. What gets me there: Swedish death metal. It’s angry white noise, perfect for either burning down a church or editing college papers. See, I regularly have to crush the dreams of students, and a song about suffering and murder set to the rhythm of a humming bird having a heart attack gets me pumped enough to truly grind people down. And while Soilwork is a favorite, others like Mnemic, In Flames, Amon Amarth, Dimmu Borgir, and Miseration will do just as well. Each power chord is a gut punch, each barked lyric a blow to the head—exactly what my students need.