The implicit logic of the ordered, year-end top-ten list, of course, is that art is a competition. That one purpose of every song, film, and book cover design is to engage in a horserace with every other one and get named the “best.” It can be a fun exercise, but even the most carefully constructed list is bound to leave too much behind. Just ask Rodney Anonymous.
Every year the Philadelphia City Paper enlists a pool of writers in such an enterprise and collates the results into the annual “Best Music” of the year list. This is how artistic merit gets meted out: by groupthink and committee. I’ve contributed to this in the past. Rodney Anonymous, one of the two front men of the Dead Milkmen, was supposed to be among the contributors for 2012.
The Dead Milkmen, as you may recall, are best known for their 1988 single “Punk Rock Girl,” but they were a vital, wise-acre mainstay of the local and national punk rock scenes before that and since then have gone on to achieve a near-legendary status. Speaking of the band’s other singer, Joe Jack Talcum, the music critic Butthead once said, “This is the only guy that’s ever been in a video that you could kick his ass.”
The Milkmen are an institution in Philadelphia, a city in great need of more institutionalization. The band broke up years ago after the death of bass player Dave Blood—who lived in Yugoslavia for a while and once came to say with me in Budapest for a few days—and reformed a few years later. Their live shows have regained their hilarious intensity; they’re a better band, musically speaking, than you might think.
You might also think that the free weekly would listen to what Anonymous had to say about his favorite music of the year, but no. They didn’t include any of his choices in their aggregate list, so he took matters into his own hands. On Saturday Dec. 22, he began posting a series of photos on Twitter and Facebook in what he called Project Payback. He printed his own list at home and stuffed it in City Paper vending boxes around the city and pasted stickers with the names of his favorite records on some copies. He called it, “Reversing the Pitchfork Effect.”
“Fight back!” he wrote. “Demand an end to the Hipster-ocracy.”
Here are Rodney Anonymous’s Top 10 CDs of 2012:
1. Assemblage 23, “Bruise” (Metropolis)
2. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, “Theatre is Evil” (Alliance Ent Special)
3. Rome, “Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit” [“A Cross of Wheat/A Cross of Fire/ A Cross of Flowers”] (COP International/ Trisol)
4. Angels on Acid, “Exile” (Angels on Acid)
5. Caustic, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Stop” (Metropolis)
6. Dead When I Found Her, “Ragdoll Blues” (Artoffact)
7. DarkDriveClinic, “The Covers” (via bandcamp.com)
8. Aaimon, “Flatliner” (Artoffact)
9. Cenotype, “The Hour Before” (Industry8)
10. Grendel, “Timewave Zero” (Metropolis)
Finally, here’s footage of Anonymous’s band 25 Cromwell Street performing “Honey Bee” by Nick Cave and Grinderman. It was filmed at the publication party for my first book, Extraordinary Renditions, on October 9, 2010 at the Spiral Bookcase in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: @rodneyanon
25 Cromwell Street Video Credit: Dean Sabatino