Topic: Music
Network: The Ringer
Podcast Year: 2023

I love music. I do. And I have no doubt that the host of Bandsplain, Yasi Salek, also loves music. But more than music, Yasi loves Yasi. And I’m not sure that’s because Yasi loves that Yasi loves music, or it’s just some millennial self-love bullshit that this generation wraps themselves in in order to shield their fragile egos. Also, she loves [The] Dave Matthews Band. Which is pretty much the death penalty in pretty much any instance. But I suppose if she wants to put in the incredibly hard, tedious work of pulling together a two-part, seven-hour podcast on The Smiths, I gotta tip my hat to her. Because having to delve into that much Morrissey research might drive any normal insane.

There is something you must prepare yourself for before taking on an episode of Bandsplain. Salek sounds identical to my girl friend from Encino in 1987. The vocal fry. The back-of-the-throat, through-the-nose nervous laughter that sounds like half snort, and half derision. It’s a voicing that comes off as sarcastic and vaguely disinterested. I have no doubt Salek is earnest in her appreciation of these bands, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. I found it’s best to take breaks in order to pull yourself out of that anachronistic San Fernando Valley lilt (though she claims to be from Torrence). It will drive you to the edge of madness round ’bout hour two of any podcast. And these are loooong, detailed pods.

The host’s vocal signature and tics aside (she says the word “babe” at least 200 times a show), this is one of those pods where you can kind of pick and choose which episode or series of episodes you want to listen to. Maybe you’re not a huge Third Eye Blind guy and feel your time might be better spent building a house for a Guatemalan family than listening to a three-and-a-half-hour pod about a guy who once wrote a whole album about his breakup with Charlize Theron. But then you see seven hours and forty-three minutes on The Cure and you just can’t help yourself. Because Robert Smith is just that interesting. Though that’s pretty extreme, even for the serious fan. Obsessive, even.

I do think the level of research that Salek does is impressive. She often has a guest on who may or may not know anything or everything about the band or artist in question. Your milage may vary based on the subject and the personality of said guest. But, again, Morrissey is an example of a subject who is endlessly easy to comment on. The man is just a walking ball of emo English silliness. You also get a big dose of Salek in your pod. She is constantly interjecting her own experiences into her narratives about the band in question. Sometimes it’s relevent. But often times it’s about Dave Matthews or whatever psychedelic drug she took the evening prior. Which is stupid. But you can definitely say that the show isn’t dry. She’s not just spouting facts; she’s making comments and she and her guest are often telling us about their personal thoughts, feelings and experiences around the band or the band’s albums. Being quite a bit older, her experiences are not my experiences, but I do enjoy it when she has a more age-appropriate guest on and we share buying some record at the same point at the Tower Records or whatever. It’s not as if any of anyone on the pod was alive when Talking Heads’ debut album came out in 1977, for instance. Yet, six-and-a-half hours on that band — the majority of whose output happened before the host was even alive. Oh, yes, she dives in.

Look, this isn’t bite-sized. This isn’t a TikTok or a Vine or an X? This is a commitment. But also it’s not, because you have the power to shut it off if you get sick of hearing about the boring dude from The National heading into hour three. But if you want to learn about the school yard brawls a young Dave Gahan got into in Essex, this is your pod. Because depressing British music doesn’t come from nowhere. Every artist has an origin story. And Yasi is here to tell you about it.