Filtering Music through a ToM Lens


“Starting with the affirmation of man/ I work myself backwards using cynicism,” Mike Watt sings on the Minutemen’s classic track “The Glory of Man.” “I live sweat, I dream light years/ I am the tide – the rise and fall.” For many of our writers individuals like Mike Watt and bands like the Shins or rap groups like Das Racist have served as a means to connect and filter our understanding of late 20th  and early 21st century culture and history. Needless to say it was a veritable red letter day when Watt tweeted at ToM regarding an article we had written about the band.  Undoubtedly, Watt remains a testament to the ethos of the hardcore punk movement—”Punk rock is an idea, not a musical style”—so any endorsement from the San Pedro icon makes the editorial staff quiver with pogo-like excitement.

Over the years, ToM writers have ventured out into cultural studies and politics to engage a variety of music related topics from unpublished Beatles’ songs about immigration to the conspiracy-laced politics of post-9/11 underground hip hop to the controversy over Amanda Palmer’s crowdsourcing indie rock. Our own Alex Sayf Cummings even just published a book on music piracy Democracy of Sound, so clearly ToM is invested.

“Mr. narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me. My story could be his songs I’m his soldier child,” sang the late D. Boon on the Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part II.” “Our band could be your life.” For some of us, music has been, perhaps not our life, but a significant portion of it.  Take a look at some ToM’s work below because even if you don’t believe us (a reasonable position if there ever was one), Mike Watt’s beyond reproach.




Economic Hardcore: Remembering the Minutemen Nearly 30 Years Later

Angry and Privileged?: The 1980s, Class, and Southern California Hardcore

Inauthentic Authenticity: Ian Svenonious and the Challenge of Indie Rock Satire in an MP3 World

“When She Talks, I Hear the Revolution”: Looking Back at the Riot Grrrl Revolt

Electoral Heshers: The Politics of Hardcore and Thrash Metal in the Age of Paul Ryan

Rap/Hip Hop

Running the Jewels in a Government Town: Killer Mike and El-P in the Nation’s Capital

Christmas Clipse: Spending Your Holiday Trill with Virginia Beach’s Most Notorious Rap Duo

“My man MCA’s got a beard like a billy goat”: MCA, the Beastie Boys, and Identity

Requiem for a Heems: An Obit for Das Racist

9/11 and Its Aftermath in Hip-hop Culture: The Hip-hop Critique of 9/11 and the Bush Administration

Taking Chances on Chicago’s South Side: Acid Rap and Summer 2013

Compton as Bellwether for Urban America

Indie Rock

The Enduring Mystery of Guided by Voices

“Cherish Your Memorized Weakness”: The Politics of Pavement

Rethinking the Replacements: The Production of Cultural Memory in the Aughts

Decide Yourself if Radio’s Gonna Stay: A Post-Mortem of R.E.M.

Between Adolescence and Adulthood: How Girls and Toro y Moi Capture Our Awkward 20s

Amanda Palmer’s Tempest in a Teapot: Or How Should One Ask for Volunteers?

Sparkling Music for a Dishwater World: The Shins and the Limitations of the Indie Rock Narrative

Mountain Goats and the Music of Survival

Classic Rock (including old people “alternative rock”)

“No Pakistanis”: The Racial Satire the Beatles Don’t Want You to Hear

A Shot in the Arm: The 21st Century Evolution of Wilco

Fuck Ted Nugent: The Nuge and the Legacy of the 1970s

Demonizing Don Henley: Unwrapping the Byzantine Politics of a Boomer Icon

Tramps Like Us Swagger Like Us: M.I.A., the Boss, and the Class Politics of Pop


The Pirates of Los Angeles: Music, Technology, and Counterculture in Southern California

The Joys of Organized Nerd Singing: Best of 2012 Part VI

Beyond the Mustache: The Cultural, Racial, and Class Implications of the Hipster Identity

Why MOOCs Are Like the Music Industry

The End of Ownership