11:15 p.m. - December 25, 2005
Yes, there are Christmas doing to expound upon, but we have a project to finish up by December 31, and finish up we must.
The 150 (or so) of the albums that I dig the most, that’s what?
I just received the “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” by Rolling Stone. While a lot of this list will overlap – I would have to say that mine may hold more water.
I mean, Britney Spears voted in that poll.
Tain’t no Britney here.
Shall we? We shall…
Exile In Guyville - Liz Phair
Summary: A suburban princess’ debut album, and it’s not Debbie Gibson. It’s a stark, bold, and refreshing album about relationships from the distaff side. Yes, it’s supposedly a song by song reply to Exile On Main Street but it’s much more than an elegy. It’s a profound statement in its own right.
Positives: The sound, lo-fi and spartan at times, is dead on for the songs. “Divorce Song” is a highlight of an album with many highlights.
Drawbacks: One may say that some of the lyrics and songs like “Flower” are there just for shock value. You would be wrong, but one could say that.
Verdict: She’s more popular now, which is a tragedy. This is the real deal, and I think she’s forgotten where she came from.
Random Trivia: “Guyville” is the term for the Chicago indie-rock scene at the time, coined by Urge Overkill.
Summary: One of the most innovative and forward thinking bands of the late 1960’s, Sly and the Family Stone broke all sorts of boundaries. Sly Stone fused all sorts of genres and elements into one delectable and danceable stew – then he got serious and scary. Then he got all drugged out. But this is a great collection of his lucid years which show him as a bandleader and artists almost without parallel in his time.
Drawbacks: Some may be a bit freaked by later songs like “(You Caught Me) Smilin’” where Sly was definitely under the influence, but those are just as powerful.
Verdict: You know the songs, buy the album and get the groove on.
Random Trivia: Sly Stone started out as a radio DJ in San Francisco, then became a record producer for several Bay-area pop-psychedelic bands like the Beau Brummels and the Mojo Men.
This Year’s Model - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Summary: Elvis’ first album with his backup band is biting, snarling, loud and out of control. This is the hardest rocking Costello album, and many say it’s his best.
Positives: “This Years Girl”, “The Beat”, “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” are prime examples of the power and fury of this model Costello.
Drawbacks: Again, the bonus tracks don’t add a whit to this collection, except for
Verdict: It could be Elvis’ best work, it’s definitely a keeper. When you play it, play it loud.
Random Trivia: As alluded to before, in America, “Radio Radio” was on the album, instead of “Chelsea”, which was a curious omission.
Summary: Husker Du’s first album of 1985 (they also released Flip Your Wig that year, heck of a year it was) has power, fury and melody all rolled into one. They fuse punk rock with honest to goodness pop songwriting and make a definite statement on the direction of modern music.
Positives: The first 2/3 of this record are almost perfect, with songs like “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”, “I Apologize”, and “Celebrated Summer” relentlessly pummeling you with power and majesty. “Terms Of Psychic Warfare” is the best song to sing to an ex-paramour.
Drawbacks: The production on “Books About UFOs” doesn’t ruin the song, but it covers it up too much. The last 1/3 of the record is filler, at least to my ears.
Verdict: It’s the second best Husker Du album; of course the best two were both released in 1985. Make sure the little snot-nosed punk poser hears this so he knows where his favorite bands copped their attitudes.
Random Trivia: In 1985, as well, they released a cover of “Love Is All Around” (the Mary Tyler Moore theme) as a B-side.
The Pretenders - The Pretenders
Summary: The debut album by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders stands the test of time as one of the greatest first albums, ever. From the opening cut to “Mystery Achievement”, this record is packed full of attitude and sensitivity.
Positives: The first side, starting with “Precious” and ending with “Stop Your Sobbing” is one of the greatest sides, ever.
Drawbacks: Some people don’t like the slow ones.
Verdict: With songs like “Brass In Pocket”, “The Wait”, and “Tattooed Love Boys”, amongst others, there’s no question of its brilliance.
Random Trivia: Hynde struggled for years to find a proper band after she emigrated from Ohio to the UK. She worked in the UK music press and also at Malcolm McLaren’s shop for a while.
On The Mouth - Superchunk
Summary: Superchunk starts to evolve and grow, yet still retains their trademark squall. Laura Ballance’s bass is still heavy as ever, and new drummer Jon Wurster adds some new rhythmic tricks.
Positives: The first half, with “Precision Auto”, “For Tension” and “Mower” is dynamite. “I Guess I Remembered It Wrong” could be the song for any relationship.
Drawbacks: There are a couple of cuts I could do without, but most all of these songs are on heavy rotation in my ears.
Verdict: It’s loud, and squealy, and tinny (of course) but it rocks hard and has
Random Trivia: Superchunk were originally signed to Matador Records, though they did have their own record company as well (Merge). When Matador signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, Superchunk asked out of its contract to remain amongst the independents, just saying no to the corruption corporate jack.
Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan
Summary: Not the first double album by a rock artist, but probably one of the most essential double albums. This finds Dylan moving way past folk into uncharted territory, with loud songs, long songs, and songs that to this day mystify listeners with their imagery and sonic tricks.
Positives: “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” is my favorite Dylan track, at least it is today.
Drawbacks: I’m not going to say anything is wrong, per se, with this record, though 11 minute tracks sometimes test my patience. Oh, and I get the gag on “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35” already.
Verdict: It’s well deserving of its status as a rock and roll classic.
Random Trivia: This features performances by his touring band, the Hawks, later to be called the Band, although Levon Helm left the group at the time, not to return until The Basement Tapes were being cut.
Trompe Le Monde - The Pixies
Summary: The Pixies swan song (thus far) is louder, but still has all of the offbeat hallmarks of a Pixies album.
Positives: Joey Santiago cranks up the guitar and drives the songs. (My friend Moose, “Joey studied his heavy metal, didn’t he?”). Black Francis is snarky on “U Mass” and “Subbacultha”, and “Planet of Sound” and “Alec Eiffel” just flat out rock. Then there’s the “Sad Punk”, which I cannot describe.
Drawbacks: As with any Pixies album, there are a few cuts that could be trimmed. They’re not heinous, just not as good as the rest. Kim Deal doesn’t get to sing a song on this record, either.
Verdict: Hey, I’m not saying Surfer Rosa or Bossanova are sub-par. I just enjoy this more, for whatever sick, twisted reason. (Hey, I’m entitled to a ‘pinion). Besides, any album with a tribute to Sea Monkeys is fine by me.
Random Trivia: They found Kim Deal by placing an ad for a bassist who liked “Husker Du and Peter, Paul and Mary.”
Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
Summary: It took them a long time, but Sonic Youth finally released the album that they were capable of. For years, they were obsessed with noise over songs, and after they started concentrating marrying the noise with melodies they were still uneven at times. This is when it all comes together.
Positives: “Teenage Riot”, “Silver Rocket”, “Kissability”, amongst others, are prime examples of the melding of songwriting and sound experimentation.
Drawbacks: This is one Sonic Youth album without a cut that will just make you fast forward over it – there’s no experimenting for experimentations sake. Well, maybe “Providence” but that brings the funny.
Verdict: It’s a critic’s album, and this critic loves it. It’s hard to get at first but when you get it YOU GET IT.
Random Trivia: Their original drummer, Richard Edson, is an actor that you may have seen in “Eight Men Out”, “Good Morning Vietnam”, and “Do the Right Thing”. He’s quite busy in independent films.
Anodyne - Uncle Tupelo
Summary: The ‘founders’ of the “No Depression” (later named alt-country, for what it’s worth) splintered after recording this album, which is their most realized album every. Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy each contribute winning songs, and the playing by the group is masterful.
Positives: They combine rock, folk and country and make it sound easy. “Chickamauga”, “New Madrid”, and “The Long Cut” are the standouts, but the whole album is just filled with great songs, evocative vocals and empathetic playing by the band.
Drawbacks: Once again, bonus tracks rear their head. The only version available now has bonus tracks that do nothing to add to the set.
Verdict: It’s funny to say that the last album is the place to start for a group, but it is the case with Uncle Tupelo. It’s a classic.
Random Trivia: Jeff Tweedy took this version of Uncle Tupelo, minus Jay Farrar, and formed the first version of Wilco.