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Every Don Caballero Album Ranked Worst to Best

If you didn’t grow up in the ’90s, the instrumental noise rock of Don Caballero might be as foreign to you as Netscape, Tamagotchis, or affordable housing. Let’s dive into the definitive ranking of Don Cab’s studio albums, giving you the knowledge to impress snobby record store clerks and that weird uncle whose band once opened up for Unwound.

6. Punkgasm (2008)

“Punkgasm” was the second album by Don Caballero featuring a new lineup with original member drummer Damon Che remaining at the epicenter. This album builds on the more pounding rhythmic approach of the previous “World Class Listening Problem” and is the first Don Cab album to feature vocals. If you’ve been an instrumental band since the early ‘90s, introducing singing is taking a chance but the ‘80s prog rock inflection of “Celestial Dusty Groove” works surprisingly well. While “Punkgasm”, the album’s namesake track also has vocals, it’s the wackiest song Don Cab ever recorded sounding like a Van Halen tribute band suffering from the effects of heatstroke in an unairconditioned practice space.

Play it again: “Bulk Eye”
Skip it: “Punkgasm”

5. For Respect (1993)

1993 was an inflection point in alternative music. While Nirvana trolled their fan base with the less than radio-friendly “In Utero” bands like Green Day and the Offspring were readying their polished major label debuts in hopes of gigantic payouts. “For Respect”, Don Caballero’s first full-length, sounds like it comes from an alternate timeline where Grunge, chain wallets, and frat bros going to shows never happened. It’s an important album, with Don Cab effectively creating their own genre of frenetic instrumental music, unattached to any scene or pretenses.

Play it again: “Our Caballero”
Skip it: None, unless you’re a total poser whose mom pays for your Manic Panic and Doc Martens.

4. What Burns Never Returns (1998)

Most music that is labeled as “math rock” is pretty sterile and boring. While an 11/16 polyrhythm might be impressive to someone who graduated from the Berklee College of Music, its complexity is lost on those of us who can’t even get clapping on the one and three right. Don Cab may experiment with odd time signatures, but calling them math rock is unfair. On “What Burns Never Returns,” Damon Che’s drumming is as precise as it is chaotic, with Ian Williams’ guitar lines adding abrasive and intricate textures. The rest of the players anchor these songs, giving Damon and Ian plenty of room to fill with swirling pulses of sound.

Play it again: “Delivering the Groceries at 138 Beats per Minute”
Skip it: None

3. Don Caballero 2 (1995)

A great sequel takes what made an original special and amplifies it. “Don Caballero 2” is the Empire Strikes Back to For Respect’s New Hope, expanding their musical universe and adding depth. While most of their previous song clocked in at five or six minutes, “Don Caballero 2” sees them pushing things with several tracks at the ten-minute and 11-minute mark. This studio album also captures Don Cab experimenting more with dissonance and atmosphere, complicated song structures, and a head-bashing sense of repetition.

Play it again: “Repeat Defender”
Skip it: None, but skip the whole album if you have the lyrics to “Pretty Fly For a White Guy” memorized.

2. World Class Listening Problem (2006)

Remember when you were in a relationship for eight years, you broke up, and months later you were dating someone new? World Class Listening Problem is Don Caballero’s rebound with Damon Che finding an entirely new lineup than who six years earlier wrote and recorded American Don. Most notably missing was longtime guitarist Ian Williams (now of Battles), who had contributed so much artistically over the previous four albums. Though most bands can’t weather through such a change in lineups “World Class Listening Problems” feels fresh and optimistic, seeing the band go in a new direction that’s more linear and riff-based.

Play it again: “And and and, He Lowered the Twin Down”
Skip it: “I’m Goofballs for Bozzo Jazz”

1. American Don (2000)

“American Don,” the band’s fourth studio outing, would be Don Caballero’s last before the line-up change that would leave Damon Che as the only original member. With spindly guitar lines, pummelling bass, and galloping drumming, this album shows them at peak chemistry, despite the ongoing friction between Damon and Ian that would be their undoing. Add analog recording wizard Steve Albini, who captured it all on tape with a punchy and organic sizzle, and “America Don” of the best albums of indie instrumental music ever recorded.

Play it again: ‘You Drink a Lot of Coffee for a Teenager”
Skip it: None, this album should be etched onto a gold platter and sent off on a satellite to show alien civilizations that humans are capable of perfection.