Who: Japanese garage-punk trio from Nagasaki (or the Planet of the Wolves, if you believe singer/guitarist Seiji). The hard-touring band, which began performing in 1987, lost original bassist Billy (Bass Wolf) to a fatal heart attack in 2005, but remains active to this day.
Why they matter: They’ve been called the loudest band in Japan. Invest in earplugs.
On Matador: Guitar Wolf’s intense ’90s trio—Missile Me!, Planet of the Wolves and Jet Generation—was issued in the U.S. by Matador.
Spin it: “Jet Generation”
Who: Mathy NYC quartet (guitarists Matt Sweeney and Clay Tarver, bassist Scott Marshall and drummer James Lo); active ’93-’99. Though the group never technically broke up, shows have been few and far between in the ’00s.
On Matador: From the start; 2006’s Better Days Will Haunt You compiles everything released by the band.
Spin it: “Top Pocket Man"
Who: Toronto-based hardcore-punk traveling circus.
Why they matter: One of the genre’s most exciting bands, Fucked Up defies categorization. Its live shows are legendary—Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham is a shirtless, howling hurricane—and its sometimes-surprising musical detours (covers of U.K. cult heroes Shop Assistants and Dolly Mixture, for instance) reveal broad, diverse musical tastes. Above all, they never take themselves too seriously, a rarity in hardcore-punk circles.
On Matador: 2008’s The Chemistry of Common Life, a singles collection and a handful of 7-inches.
Spin it: “Black Albino Bones”
Who: Noise-rock personified. The defiantly deafening New York outfit—singer/guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, singer/bassist Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley, augmented live these days by Pavement bassist Mark Ibold—celebrates its 30th anniversary next year.
Why they matter: As music critic/one-time band nemesis Robert Christgau once put it, Sonic Youth “made alt-rock a life force.”
On Matador: After 16 years on major label DGC/Geffen, the band joined up with Matador for 2009’s The Eternal.
Spin it: “’Cross the Breeze”
Who: Pillars of ’90s American indie rock. The SoCal fivesome’s longtime lineup—singer/guitarists Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg, bassist Mark Ibold, drummer Steve West and multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich—gave in to mounting demand by reuniting this year. Matador at 21 marks the band’s final scheduled U.S. date.
Why they matter: Nirvana gets credited with lighting the fuse for the alternative explosion, but without Pavement, indie music might not be the tastemaking force it is today.
On Matador: All five of the group’s albums were released by the label, which later issued meticulous deluxe editions of the first four. So much for the Pavement-as-slackers-unconcerned-with-legacy myth.
Spin it: “Frontwards"
Who: An Austin-via-Tucson, Arizona, rock trio.
Sounds like: Knock-kneed garage-pop fried with askew hooks, bluesy swing and distorted harmonies.
On Matador: 2009’s Hippies and a reissue of 2008’s self-released Free Drugs ;-).
Spin it: “Friendly Ghost”