Saturday, December 20, 2008


This is Not Pitchfork has it's very own home now. No more Blogger.

Thank you to Wordpress for making it so easy to import the posts AND the comments. And thanks again to Host Matters for awesome hosting and service.

Check it out, let me know what you think. The paint is still wet.

Please update your bookmarks if you have this site added.

138. The Police - Outlandos d'Amour

I see you've sent my letters back
And my LP records and they're all scratched

This album spoke to me. From the moment I heard that line and remembered when Bobby gave me my albums back and yea, they were scratched, I knew the Police knew me. So, I never fell in love with a hooker and I wasn't born in the 50's and maybe I kept saying "Bologna" instead of "So Lonely," but this was the band for me.

Really, no one else was making music like this. This was, in my little piece of suburbia a time of hard rock (Van Halen) and a time of punk (The Ramones). What were the Police? Were they a little of both? Next to You, So Lonely and Peanuts had punk stylings, but there was something more to them, something broader than punk and deeper than rock. It was music. It was the arrangements of the songs that set them apart from whatever we were listening to at the time. The drumming was richer, the rythmns jazzier, the whole sound fuller.

This was and always will be my favorite Police album. I can put this on and still think of Sting as a cool, punky kind of rocker dude instead of the self-important schmaltz factory he began. Plus, there's Roxanne, which is the song we use in our family to torture my sister, whose husband's first wife was named Roxanne. Thanks, Sting.

Favorite song: Peanuts
Police wiki

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

137. Crowbar - Odd Fellow's Rest

I thought I'd follow up CCR with a band that really is from the Bayou.

This is true, literal heavy metal. I mean heavy in a "walking through a sludgy swamp in dense fog while wearing shoes made of steel and carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders" heavy.

Odd Fellow's Rest is an album to listen to in the darkest of times or in the angriest of moods. It's slow moving, in a trudging kind of way, and listening to it makes you feel as if you're in one of those dreams where you are trying to get away from a monster and you want to run, but your legs are moving so slow, you're doing a half crawl, half walk while this hideous monster gains on you.

It's in Kirk Windstein's deep, despaired, anger from the soul vocals. It's in the slow churn of bass. It's almost beautiful in an odd, disturbing way and as much as I love Odd Fellow's Rest, I can only listen to it in small doses, lest I venture back emotionally to what made me grab onto this sound in the first place.

Favorite song: Planets Collide (I really think this one of the heaviest song you will ever hear)
Official site
Side note: The current guitarist for Crowbar is the son of Barry Gibb.

136. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country

I heard Born on the Bayou on my way into work yesterday and I thought "I can't believe I forgot how awesome these guys were."

In the late 60s/early 70s, my cousin was in a band. Well, every teenage boy in the earl 70's was in a band. I used to linger around his garage on Saturday mornings to listen to his band play. I liked their sound, I liked the music they were playing. It wasn't until later I realized that Born on the Bayou wasn't this awesome song that my cousin wrote (as he told me), but belonged to the same guys who sang Proud Mary, a song my mother was pretty fond of. So I borrowed her album, listened to it and immediately realized just how crappy my cousin's band was.

I have a thing about getting stuck on first tracks. I listened to Born on the Bayou about forty times. I got lost in it. Something about Fogerty's voice made me picture him as this straggly haired guy with holes in his jeans and some kind of scary knowledge in his eyes. The fuzziness of the sound, the low guitar that was sludgy and bluesy; there was such a depth to this song that was missing from cousin's simple cover version.

For a while, I really believed all of CCR were from New Orleans. I was quite surprised later on to hear they were from California.

The rest of the album was great, especially the slow burn of Graveyard Train and the drawl of Penthouse Pauper. It made a CCR fan of out of me for years to come. I don't know what happened in the ensuing years that made me forget the awesomeness of this band, but I'm glad to rediscover this album and, in a way, rediscover the band.

Favorite song: Born on the Bayou
CCR at Classic Bands

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

135. X - Los Angeles

I bought this album on a whim - I'd only heard passing things about it, mostly from the local DJ who was a big Doors fan and pushed the album because it was produced by Ray Manzarek.

I didn't even get past Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not before I started it over again. I listened to that song about five times before I got to the listening to the rest.

Los Angeles is bleak and dark yet there was something X did to that darkness that made it appealing. It made me feel discarded and it made something wild stir inside me, a feeling of wanting to be wrong or bad or worse than I was. What Springsteen's Born to Run did for some people, Los Angeles did for me. It made me want to get out of this place and go somewhere else, where people felt, where people lived and died in ways that became songs.

When I was 14, I wanted to go to California to embrace a hippie culture that no longer existed. And here, at 17, I wanted to go to California to see a place where people lived like this, where sex and drugs and loneliness could make you so poetic and so dangerous at the same time. I didn't want to be a part of it so much as I just wanted to see it, to feel it and grab some of that decadence and despair that could make someone write words that sat in my stomach like a sickness. Words that made me feel.

I think every 17 year old thinks of breaking out, of doing something different and dangerous, something that would make their parents scream, something that they know they would regret later. I wanted to write poetry. I wanted to live a life that would make me write poetry like this. Every time I felt like that, I'd listen to Los Angeles again and think that it made for great music, but maybe I was better off listening to the music than living it.

Favorite Song: The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss

134. Iron Maiden - Powerslave

Iron Maiden is like the SchoolHouse Rock of metal. My sister actually passed an English course in high school because her make up work (forced on her after she cut too many classes) was a paper on Rime of the Ancient Mariner, all her knowledge of which she based on listening to the song of that name on this album.

I love Iron Maiden for so many reasons; they are unmitigated cheesiness coupled smug pretentiousness, overlaid with music that makes you want to bang your head while flashing the metal sign. I love that Dickinson strives to make his music work on so many levels at once. He's teaching, he's posturing, he's rocking the fuck out. His music was the antithesis to the mindless hair metal that ruled the airwaves during this era. It was smart, it was complicated, it had nothing to do with getting laid and getting drunk. Not that there's anything wrong with songs about sex and liquor, but sometimes, when Skid Row was making you feel dumb for having listened to them, a little Iron Maiden was all you needed to get a few of your IQ points back.

This is an album that will wear you out if you are trying to play air guitar or air drums to it. Aside from the winded feeling you get when trying to recreate Dickinson's piercing voice, the guitar work on Aces High alone will leave almost too exhausted to kick some ass during Two Minutes to Midnight. But you reach back and find the strength, because there are few things a bunch of drunken 22 year olds found more entertaining than singing the chorus to that song in a dive bar filled with old men trying to get their turn to play Sinatra on the jukebox.

Plus, there's Eddie.

Favorite Song: Aces High
Eddie has his own wiki

133. Korn - Follow the Leader

I liked this album before I hated it. I liked it for the hardness and I liked it because it made Korn come up with a great tour and I got to see Incubus and Rammstein and Ice Cube all in one night. I hated it because it ushered in a new era in metal, one in which the term nu-metal was born and gave birth to such wretched acts as Papa Roach and P.O.D. This was Korn's last decent effort before they got sucked up into the great lie of nu-metal.

I liked Korn before I hated them.

Every once in a while, when I'm in a certain mood, I'll pull this CD out. I can't listen to the whole thing anymore, but tunes like It's On and Dead Bodies Everywhere can still work me up into a frenzy if the timing is right.

Conversation I had with a friend while listening to this album:
"You're 36 years old, why are you listening to this crap?"
"Because it makes me feel like I'm 15."
"Name one good thing about being 15."
"No one told me I was too old to listen to anything."

Favorite song: Dead Bodies Everywhere
Official site

Monday, December 15, 2008

132. South Park - Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics

Let's face it; Christmas is not all Ho Ho Ho and holly jolly and good will toward men. Some of us get cranky around this time of year. Some of us, while we love the actual day of Christmas and while we love our families and gifting them with awesome presents and eating huge holiday dinners with them, sometimes the stress of the holidays get to us. Sometimes we are tired of hearing those damn jingling bells and we are tired of the Trans Siberian Orchestra and we have had it with malls and parking lots and the endless playing of Christmas carols.

And sometimes there is an endless stream of people just dropping by, wanting to share in the holiday spirit and spread some joy and ogle your awesome Christmas tree that nearly took three lives while decorating because the annual argument over ornament placement escalated into a war, and you don't want to entertain anyone, you don't want your kids coming into the living room every five minutes to tell you something else they put on their Christmas list, you don't want another call from your mother asking you what size slippers you wear, you don't want to hear your neighbor's animated, singing lawn decorations go off again, and that's when you put on this album, turn it up full volume and gather the family for a rousing chorus of Merry Fucking Christmas.

Favorite song: Christmas Time in Hell
South Park Spirit of Christmas

Sunday, December 14, 2008

131. The Runaways - S/T

1976. I was 14 years old. My parents had just pulled me out of public school and sent me to Catholic high school for "my own good." One of the first friends I made in that school introduced me to the Runaways and that spark of of teenage rebellion that was lit the year before blew up.

Hello daddy, hello mom, I'm your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb

Good girl gone bad. Turns out Catholic school girls were the last thing I needed for "my own good."

This album made me realize that girls could rock the hell out. The aggressiveness inherent in this record made me feel full of testosterone at a time I was being overrun by estrogen.

And hence began my fascination with being Joan Jett.

Favorite song: Cherry Bomb
Runaways on wiki

130. Various Artists - AmRep Equipped

I love compilations, they're a great way to find new music. This is a CD that I came to own by stealing it out of the collection Todd brought with him from California. Sure, it's really still his, but he hasn't seen it since it first made its way into my CD player.

AmRep is Amphetamine Reptile Records. The label has put out records by Helmet, The Melvins, Mudhoney, Steel Pole Bathtub, a bunch of other bands you might have heard of and some you probably haven't. They specialize in noise rock, which is a lot better genre than the name would imply.

Of all the bands on this comp, I'd heard of only Unsane, Supernova and the Cows, the only song I knew was the one by the Cows. But at the time I stole it, I was bored with my music collection and looking for something new. I found it. I literally loved every song on this CD and it remained my driving music for about two months before I made myself sick of it.

Through this comp, I discovered the wonders of the band Gnomes of Zurich. I needed to find out more about them. So I dug into the internet and while I disocovered that the Gnomes of Zurich is a term used by British labor ministers during the 1964 Sterling Crisis to refer to Swiss banks, and they sold their gold and they were involved in something that may have angered the citizens of Switzerland, I found out very little about the band. But I did get a nice history lesson on Swiss finance. And I bought 33rd Degree Burns, the GoZ album featuring their song that appears on this comp.

So you see, compilations aren't just there to help us discover new music. They can teach you things. Fun and educational!

(Part of my goal with this project is to hopefully turn some people on to music they haven't heard before, which is why I really enjoy reviewing the lesser known artists in my collection, and why I proved links to videos/downloads on each review)

Favorite song: Gnomes of Zurich, Big Teeth Skeletal Face
Runner up: Supernova, Vitamins

129. Steely Dan - Gaucho

I have this weird relationship with Steely Dan, which started with Aja . I tried really hard to like them, because I thought I was supposed to like them, as someone who claimed to appreciate music. And I did appreciate their musicianship; I went through this psuedo, rock/jazz phase for a while where I listened to a lot of Jeff Beck and Jean Luc Ponty, so I enjoyed Steely Dan's jazzy rock style, and I felt like I could smugly say I listened to it for the music and not because everyone else thought it was a great make out album.

Then Gaucho came out and I gave them another try, even though Hey Nineteen was on the radio constantly and I was at that phase where I eschewed radio hits. But hey, they did make a reference to pot in the song and, being an 18 year old in 1980, that meant something to me. So I bought Gaucho and smoked some fine Columbian while I listened to it, fully expecting to dismiss it after one song and go back to Motorhead.

I liked it, though. It was really good "mellow out" music. There's definitely some albums that are made for sitting back, closing your eyes and letting the music wash over you while you come down. You don't think much when you listen to it, and it becomes part of the ambience of the room you're in, like the posters on the wall or a lamp on the desk, it's just part of the whole of what's there.

Listening to Gaucho now, for the first time in many years, it still feels like that. It's not something I'd purposely take out and play, but it does give the room a bit more ambience.

Favorite song: Time out of Mind
The biggest Steely Dan fan I know

Saturday, December 13, 2008

site news

I bought Some time over the weekend, I will be importing all these reviews over to a new WordPress blog, hosted by the only hosting company I would ever use, Host Matters.

I know some of you have emailed that you hate leaving comments on blogspot, so hopefully this wil make it easier. Also, it will be prettier.

Thanks to everyone who has read, linked, commented, sent requests and all that thus far. I am enjoying the hell out of this.

128. Huey Lewis and the News - Sports

What can I say? It's Huey Lewis. How can you not love this guy, with his charming smile and skinny tie and earnest pop songs?

I was working in the record store when this came out and I was at the time heavy into buying import singles of post punk bands and working on maintaining my edgy, yet sophisticated personality that was trying to say "Hey, I'm totally 80s without being, you know, totally 80s." Because there were two kinds of 80s. There was the New Order 80s and there was the Huey Lewis 80s.

Worlds collide, Jerry!

I had a dilemma. I liked this album. A lot. So my punk self met my pop self and we had a meeting and decided that we didn't really care what anyone thought of us. If loving Sports was wrong, we didn't want to be right. So we bought the album AND we bought the cassette and we played it in the car and we played it at home and we discovered that there were a lot of other "totally 80s but not totally 80s" people out there who had also embraced their inner pop selves and fell in love with Sports and Huey Lewis.

Favorite song: If This is It
Huey Lewis and American Psycho

127. Sleater Kinney - One Beat

There are not a whole lot of women in my record collection. I don't know why this is, I guess I just never took to girl groups (or even mostly girl groups) the way I thought I was supposed to. This always made me feel vaguely guilty, as if I was a traitor to my gender by not embracing Heart and then, later on The Bangles, The Go-Gos , L7 or The Donnas. There were exceptions to this rule, of course; there was the Runaways, Drain STH and there was Sleater Kinney.

This was SK's second to last album and, I think, their best. The lyrics have more substance, the music is fuller and there's a resilient energy here that wasn't exactly missing from their previous albums, but was subdued. They find their voices here, they experiment with things that they just touched on in the past and they let it all out, loud and unabashed. From the pop friendly Oh! to the brooding bass (though it's not really a bass, but a toned down Rickenbacker) of Light Rail Coyote, this album is what pushes Sleater Kinney beyond the riot grrl label. And it's that specific song, Light Rail Coyote that encompasses everything good about this band; the musicianship, the harmonizing, the hard rock influence that lies beneath the pop punk layers.

To put it in some perspective if you've never heard the band before: Sleater Kinney is what the GoGos might have been if they based their career on Skidmarks on My Heart instead of Our Lips Are Sealed.

Favorite song: Light Rail Coyote
Farewell to an Iconic Band

Friday, December 12, 2008

126. Fear - The Record

It's funny how so many people dismiss Fear as a bunch of noise. They probably never really listened to the music. Beneath the sometimes odd (Beef Bologna), sometimes angry (Let's Have a War) and sometimes funny (New York's Alright) lyrics there were some driving rhythms, air-guitar worthy licks from Lee Ving and damn good music.

It's a testament to the music that you really don't care what the band is singing about. Sure, the lyrics can be a bit offensive and you might not agree with a single word they are saying, but there's something so powerfully raw about the music, something that makes you want to shout "Let's have a war!" even though you really don't want to.

This is music that was made to piss people off. Not in a social commentary kind of way, but in a "I want to make you hate me" kind of way. Fear, living up to its name, certainly made people hate them, but they also separated the wheat from the chafe among my friends who claimed to love punk rock. You either embraced Fear, or you went on to become one of those people who later on would say "Punk rock died in 1979."

Favorite song: I Don't Care About You
John Belushi, SNL and Fear

Thursday, December 11, 2008

125. Love and Rockets - Express

Considering this band was made up mostly of former members of Bauhaus, they were surprisingly un-Bauhaus. Which is a good thing. Aside from the goofy novelty of Bela Lugosi's Dead, I never really liked that band or their moody, gothic poetry. Love and Rockets, while sometimes taking pieces of that goth sound, were more a beautiful conglomeration of a bunch of different sounds; they were part new wave, part dance sensibilities and part psychedelic, groovy tunes.

There are great songs on this album. Kundalini Express is a bizarre train ride with lots of power and a very strange vibe.It Could Be Sunshine starts out all new wave dance bit that builds up into a dark, post-punk love song with an abrupt ending.Yin and Yang and the Flowerpot Man is all 70's psychedelia acid trip. And All in My Mind was a great way to bring about a truce when road trip music fight broke out. We all knew the words, we all drummed out the rhythm, we all got a little louder during the "sometimes you really don't, really don't..." part and then when it was all over we got back to our punk v. new wave argument.

Favorite song: All in My Mind (at the moment. it changes)
Love and Rockets

124. The Kinks - Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

Do you know how many great songs this band had? It's really a shame that so few people mention them when making lists of the greatest rock bands of all time. Look over their catalog - they tried a little of everything; fast, hard, mellow, groovy, conceptual - and almost all of it worked. They were really a brilliant band whose work spanned almost 20 years before I started to wish that they would stop.

The most well known song on this album, Victoria, is everything that was great about 60's music, with none of the bullshit. It's groovy and funky and it's got great harmonizing laid over some cool rock and roll.

I had this awesome babysitter back in the early 70's. Linda let us watch horror movies and made us pancakes for dinner and she always brought her records over and made me listen to them. She talked about the songs as if she was teaching my the meaning of life, and maybe she was. One night she played this album for me and I was so completely taken with Mr. Churchill Says that I decided right then and there that when I was a little bit older I would form a band and I'd be the songwriter and I would write an awesome song like that and one day some girl would be babysitting and play my album for the kids and they'd hear my awesome Kinks-like song and they'd be inspired to......well, you know how that goes. I set my standards for myself way too high. Very few people write songs like Ray Davies.

Favorite song: Mr. Churchill Says
The Kinks photo project

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

123. Dick Dale - King Of The Surf Guitar: The Best Of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

This is my happy music. When I need to find that happy, sunny place where everything is rainbows and fluffy bunnies and kittens, this is what I put on. It's instant sunshine on a winter day. It's "get up and dance" when I want to do nothing but crawl under the covers. Studies have proven that if Dick Dale is playing in my car, I am more likely to let you merge in front of me on the Expressway even though you clearly have no idea how to merge. I put this on my headphones at work because it makes a workplace incident less likely.

This is happiness in musical form. It's light and airy and makes me think of the beach, the sand and the surf and even though I'm really not a fan of beaches or sand and I've never been surfing and I never will, all those things are probably a hell of a lot better than where I am at any moment I'm looking for my happy place.

Favorite song: Misirlou
Official site

122. Lynyrd Skynyrd - (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd)

Country rock, southern rock, redneck rock. It was called a lot of things and given a lot of names in the 70s and we stuck with "southern" because it made it seem less like country music and less like we were some hicks from Georgia with confederate flags.

No offense, Georgians. I was 14, ok?

We were big on this phase. Some of us may have even bought suede, floppy cowboy hats to wear to the Outlaws/Marshall Tucker concert. Some of us may even have bought Charlie Daniels albums. Some of us embraced this genre simply because of this album. And, yea, Freebird.

Of course I knew all the words to Gimme Three Steps (which now causes involuntary projectile vomiting upon hearing it) and I cried listening to Tuesday's Gone, but it was Freebird that got the most play.

Freebird was more than an anthem to us. It was the great common denominator. It was what connected with stoners with the jocks, the teachers with the students, the nerds with the geeks. We had a stereo in our school cafeteria for one year (before the disco/rock riots of 77) and we had to take turns playing everyone's favorite music, but when Freebird came on, the whole cafeteria rocked. Everyone sang. Everyone played air guitar. We'd hold up our Bic lighters and sway together when he said "And this bird you cannot change," and WE ARE ALL FREEBIRDS TODAY! Well, something like that.

I dropped the southern rock phase pretty fast and got tired of Freebird not long after. And all these years later, the classic rock stations are still playing this damn song and a whole new generation of kids are playing air guitar to it and even though I switch the station pretty fast if it comes on, every once in a while I'll flip back just for the last ten minutes or so to see if I still remember the guitar parts note for note.

I do.

Favorite song: Tuesday's Gone
Long Island's very own Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

121. Neil Diamond - Greatest Hits: 1966–1992

I love Neil Diamond. I love him in the same way I like Abba and Air Supply and Death Cab for Cutie. Sometimes four chords or shouting at the devil is not what the day calls for.

I'm a sucker for nostalgia. And nothing makes me more nostalgic than music.

Every person is different when it comes to evoking powerful memories. For some it is pictures, or sounds, or smells. Perhaps it is a combination of all those things. We all have something that triggers the snapshots that exist in our head. Moments in time that are embedded in our mind, sometimes forgotten and then dredged up again by a flash of of memory that triggers our senses. A whole scenario can come flooding back as if it happened only yesterday. Your senses transport you to wherever the memory came from and you ride it again, whether you want to or not.

There is nothing like music to bring back specific moments in my life. One note from a certain song and I am in a time machine. And last night was one hell of a ride in that machine.

Cherry Cherry is autumn; leaves on the ground, some time around Halloween, crisp air and definitely one of my earliest memories. We had this huge stereo in the living room that was more like a piece of furniture than something to play music on. I remember this song on the radio, my mother singing, my aunt dancing.

Cracklin Rosie is an end of summer song, driving home from upstate in my aunt's red Dodge Dart, this on the radio and me and my cousins pretending we knew all the words.

Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show is a party in the backyard, the grownups with fancy drinks and cigarettes talking about things children shouldn't hear, the kids on the grass chasing fireflies while the hallelujah chorus drifts through the summer night.

The whole album is like that, one memory after another, me getting lost in time and then getting back to the present. Todd and I went to see him this past August and it was really one of the best shows I've ever seen (Todd is an unabashed Neil Diamond fan). Just enjoying being there with Todd and that carefree happiness of my youth catching up with the happiness of right here and now. It was one of those rare times when your face muscles hurt from smiling and everything just feels right and good.

There are definitely songs here I don't like. You'll never hear Sweet Caroline or Song Sung Blue coming from this house, the latter because I had to sing it in sixth grade chorus and when you are forced to sing a song five days a week, five times a day until you get it perfect (and we never really got it perfect) it ends to leave a residue like vomit in your brain. It's the same reason I hate Sloop John B. by the Beach Boys.

But for every Sweet Caroline, there's a Cherry Cherry or Cracklin' Rosie to bring sunshine and a smile to any day.

Favorite song: Cherry, Cherry
Video for Cherry, Cherry, because I want to spread that sunshine.

120. King Diamond - Voodoo

Sad to say, this is not the only King Diamond record I own. I have no idea why I have these; I only listen to two songs of his, and both in a novelty sort of way. Maybe because I liked his former band Mercyful Fate, I thought I'd enjoy his solo work as well, in the way one enjoys gothic, Danish black metal.

Diamond's albums are like Dean Koontz books set to music. That's not necessarily a good thing being that Dean Koontz is not exactly high literature (I'm pretty sure the author of Twilight would cite Koontz as one of her literary heroes) and Danish black metal, while somewhat enjoyable if in the right mood, is mostly a guilty pleasure.

Voodoo is a story about well, voodoo. And New Orleans. And speaking in tongues. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is just one song on the album, One Down, Two To Go. Have you ever heard King Diamond sing? He sounds like a screaming banshee took possession of an opera singer. If you listen to him without being aware of who he is or what he does, you might think it's a Spinal Tap variety parody. It's something I listen to with part amusement, but part full on, absolute, unironic enjoyment. And this particular song is my karaoke song. If I ever did karaoke, which I never have.

The way I figure it, if I'm going to get up there and embarrass the hell out of myself, I may as well go full tilt. Watching me sing would be like one of those early contestants on American Idol where you sort of squirm uncomfortably as they hit every bad note and key.

Which is why I'd sing this song. The sheer joy of watching the horrified look on people's faces as I sang "You used to be so beautiful, but now you're gonna diiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" in a wretched falsetto that would make Bruce Dickinson sound like the singer from Cannibal Corpse in comparison would be so worth the ensuing humiliation.

(The other King Diamond song I listen to is No Presents For Christmas)

Favorite song: One Down, Two To Go
King Diamond at Encyclopaedia Metallum

Monday, December 8, 2008

119. Michael Jackson - Off the Wall

I was rummaging around in my mother's attic yesterday and came across this album. Memories of the Michael everyone loved and adored came flooding back.

First, let's harken back to 1972, when the fresh-faced young boy released his first album, Got To Be There. That face, that smile. You just want to pinch his cute little cheeks! At this early point in his career, Michael had yet to develop the large ego that would allow him to build Neverland later on. This is evidenced by the selection of songs on the album. There are quite a few cover songs. Obviously, Michael wasn't self-assured enough to put out a solo album of his own songs. And it's obvious from the song titles that Michael was ready to embrace life on the wings of love.

And he nearly did. In 1979, Jackson released Off The Wall. Was that title trying to tell us something? Did Michael already feel like he was losing his grip on reality? This album was pure disco. It was Michael strutting his stuff and doing his crazy little dance. Get on the floor, girlfriend and burn this disco out! Jackson started writing his own songs on this effort. Obviously, his ego was growing. And, as his ego grew, so did his popularity and his ability to hypnotize people just by looking into their eyes and saying, don't stop 'til you get enough. Ah, yes. That's a little known fact about Michael. How do you think he got all those girls to scream for him even though he was clearly stealing Jermaine's style? It was at this point that the old, cute-as-a-button, sane Michael Jackson left the building and it was here where we parted ways with Michael Jackson and said hello to the King of Pop. The descent was in full swing. Out came the white glove and red leather jacket, the change in hairstyles, the lighter tone of his skin and all that jumping in the air and waving his hands around like Liza Minelli on a bender.

This album was the last shred of Michael's sanity before he began the slow descent into Peter Pan madness, where he dreamed of building gingerbread houses in which to entice children into his oven.

That might or might not be a metaphor.

Favorite song: Rock With You

Sunday, December 7, 2008

118. Billy Joel - Turnstiles

Liking Billy Joel was almost a prerequisite in high school. Our school, after all, was in the town Joel grew up in. We hung out at the village green made famous on a latter album. We were living in Billy Joel's world.

Truth is, I liked Joel. Later, after The Stranger came out and songs like Only the Good Die Young became overplayed anthems for Catholic school girls and after Brenda and Eddie become symbols of Long Island, I lost whatever taste I had for his music. Or maybe his music just outgrew me. But no matter how far I strayed from Joel, no matter how much I make fun of him now or how much disdain I have for the overreaching pop of Glass Houses or the emptiness of The Bridge or the pretentiousness of River of Dreams, I always come back to this album to remember why I really loved his music once upon a time.

Turnstiles is what being a singer songwriter is all about it. It's not about some melodramatic guy with a guitar or piano singing self conscious songs about love and loss. It's about making poetry out of life. It's about a guy with a flair for words and a talent for making music putting those things together to create something that grasps your heart and makes joy within your soul, even when the words are melancholy. The joy comes in the completeness of the words and music together, in a connection that seems almost spiritual in its beauty.

Summer, Highland Falls is the essence of all that; it's Whitman poetry with modern musings set to a pretty tune. The rest of the album is just as good. Miami: 2017, James, Angry Young Man and New York State of Mind, played out as it is, still makes me smile and remember all the reasons I love living here even when I hate it. I Loved These Days will still make me do an impromptu karaoke when it shows up on my iPod.

I forgot until now how much I adore this album and how much I adored Billy Joel once upon a time. It makes me forget how Scenes From an Italian Restaurant makes me cringe, in a way only someone who spent a lot of time at the village green in Hicskville, Long Island can know.

Favorite song: Summer, Highland Falls
Long Island music hall of fame

117. Talking Heads - Fear of Music

I loved this album first, because it was Talking Heads and at that point in their career, they could do no wrong. I also loved the album for the cover, which was embossed and felt something like running your hand over a metal plating and yea, I spent hours doing that.

But I loved this album for what it was and wasn't. It wasn't afraid, it wasn't modest, it wasn't shy. It was different, it was weird, it was intriguing and captivating.

I listened to I Zimbra under all sorts of mental circumstances and I can honestly say that it's a tune that, while enjoyed thoroughly under the influence of various illegally bought products, is best listened to with a clear mind and head. I tried to convince so many people that this was artistic brilliance, but metal heads tend to be skeptical about anything that doesn't rock and I often found myself listening to this with my friend Kevin, the only other person who wasn't afraid to immerse himself in the various sounds and textures provided by David Byrne. I Zimbra was, and still is, a song to dance to and to revel in.

And then there was Cities, so new wave before new wave even had a name (though they called it post punk then, but that label is such a lie), with its flourish of sound and jerky beats, and Life During Wartime - a classic song that was was the soundtrack to so many late night parties and gave birth to our catchphrase of the summer of 1980 - This ain't no party, this ain't no disco.

Fear of Music is the epitome of Talking Heads; its everything that was brilliant and daring about David Byrne, and the highlight of a band that went to hell after Remain in Light.

Favorite song: I Zimbra
The name of this site is talking heads

116. Deadbolt - Tijuana Hit Squad

Imagine, if you will, a bunch of hillbillies drunk on moonshine and looking for trouble. Now imagine they have a band. With two bass players. If "Squidbillies" had a soundtrack, it would be made by this band.

It's part rockabilly, part punk, part drunken cowboys. It's the kind of music that would be playing in that Mexican vampire bar in "Dusk Before Dawn." This album is a drunk, slightly bowlegged gunslinger walking into an almost deserted town in search of long lost enemy, looking to even up an old score. But he gets distracted by the 50 cent beers in the saloon and ends up telling stories all night about murder and mayhem and prison time while his enemy slips out of town. And all those stories are told with some kick ass bass riffs.

They call themselves the Scariest Band Alive. Whatever they are, they kick my ass.

Favorite song: Conductor
Official site

Saturday, December 6, 2008

115. Night Ranger - Midnight Madness

There is only one reason I have this album.

That's right. Sister Christian.

That song is my albatross. There are people who know me solely as "That girl who likes Sister Christian." As if there's only one of me. I know you're out there. I mean, the song was a hit. There has to be people out there who still like it, right? I know, it’s cheesy, it’s bad, it’s everything that was wrong with 80's metal. But. It’s Sister Christian.

Look. There are extenuating circumstances here. Memories.

A party in the park, a keg of beer, me on air guitar, standing on a picnic table. Swearing that guitar was real. Singing. Motorin........

Some club. Tequila. Hair metal night. Tequila. Lots of hair spray and tight jeans. Tequila. Standing on a huge speaker cabinet. Tequila. Swearing that guitar was real. Singing. Motorin........

A bachelorette party. Me with a giant penis on my head and coconut shells over my tits. Drunk as all get out. Swearing that guitar was real. Singing. Motorin........

I think you got the point.

Man, it’s not quite the same without the alcohol. Or the penis on my head. But I still kick ass at air guitar. And I still love this song.

I don't think I have ever listened to anything else on this album.

Come on, admit it. You love this song, too.

Favorite song: As if there was anything else.
It even has its own wiki

114. Cheap Trick - at Budokan

It doesn't matter what else is on this album. All that matters is I Want You to Want Me and Surrender. Despite those two songs being released on other albums, and despite the airplay they received, these live versions will, for me, always be the versions of the songs. The screaming in the background and the "Let me talk so slow so you can understand me" intro: I want YOU to want ME; that's Cheap Trick.

They never did much for me otherwise (besides my weird, geeky affinity for Rick Nielson) and I love those songs more for the memories they provide than anything else. Surrender is just one of those tunes that I will never turn off when it comes on the radio; I'll sing it as if it's still 1979 and the line "got my Kiss records out" is relevant.

Favorite song: Surrender
30th anniversary edition

113. INXS - Kick

This album was the culmination of my mental affair with Michael Hutchence. Ever since Shabooh Shoobah and The One Thing, I had been carrying on a sordid affair with him in my mind. Here I was a (mostly) grown woman, and I was swooning like I hadn't swooned since I had that poster of Leif Garret on my bedroom wall. Hutchence was sultry. He pulled off sexy in that smoky, decadent way that is usually reserved for raspy voiced women in cocktail dresses.

Unlike my swooning of the past, this one involved the music as well. It wasn't just him and his hair and the way he looked. It was the combination of his looks, his voice and the music that all together was an orgy for the senses. Seeing the band live was a treat. Hutchence's stage presence was magnificent. He was mesmerizing and entertaining. He was part rock and roll and part lounge singer crooning to groupies. Even the guys were mesmerized by him.

This album had the most hits for the band and I think made the best use of Hutchence's voice, showing off both the power and sexiness of it. While songs like Devil Inside and Need You Tonight/Mediate are great reminders of the awesomeness of the band, it was Never Tear Us Apart that left its mark on me. At this point in my life, I had graduated from singing with a fake microphone (broom handle, thumb) in my room to singing with a fake microphone (cigarette, thumb) in my car. I'd put that song on, roll up the windows because nobody but me needed to hear this, turn the volume all the way up and drive, drive, drive until I wore my voice out singing it over and over. I was off kilter and off key and sounded like the bastard love child of Yoko Ono and Kim Carnes, but I owned that song when I was in the privacy of my Mustang.

I think I need to take a car ride now.

Favorite song: Never Tear Us Apart
Michael Hutchence bio

112. Johnny Cash - At San Quentin

My parents had this album. They played it mostly on Saturday mornings while we were doing chores and I spent a long time dusting the wooden cabinet that housed the stereo while this played, mostly just imagining what it was like to play in a prison.

I must have had a pretty skewed vision of what prison was like, because every time Johnny started singing, I would imagine Johnny sitting in a pit of giant rocks while prisoners in black and white pinstripes, ball and chains attached to their legs, sat around swaying to his music. Maybe I got all my information about prison from exaggerated stories about Alcatraz. I don't know, I just pictured Johnny surrounded by prison guards with loaded guns at the ready in case any of those bad people tried anything funny.

I listened to the music, too. I loved I Walk the Line and Wreck of the Old 97, but I had such a hatred for A Boy Named Sue that I had to leave the room when it came on. That song made me angry. Who the hell would name their son Sue? I listened to the lyrics, I tried to understand it, but my child's mind couldn't grasp much beyond Sue? WTF?

And then I'd come back into the room for Folsom Prison Blues and always, every single time, he would get to that line "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," and I would lose interest in whatever I was supposed to be doing at the time to think about what it would feel like to shoot a man just to watch him die. Then I'd wonder if Johnny Cash actually did that, or did one of the prisoners do that and he was singing to him? And I'd imagine the whole scenario in my head, even though I had no idea where Reno was but I imagined it was some godforsaken place in the middle of nowhere, where bad men who killed indiscriminately hung out and murdered each other for kicks.

It wasn't until many, many years later that I would come to really appreciate Johnny's music. But I still to this day think of that same image of rocks and pinstriped prisoners when I listen to this album and I still have a visceral, irrational hatred for A Boy Named Sue.

Favorite song: Folsom Prison Blues
Review of the re-release (Legacy Edition)

Friday, December 5, 2008

111. Genesis - Foxtrot

Hard to believe there was a time when I thought Phil Collins was a genius, but there was. Long before Sussudio, there was early Genesis and Peter Gabriel and some of the strangest music to ever be put in the rock category.

This was deep stuff. This wasn't the kind of music you'd put on at a party. This was quiet. You put the record on and you studied the lyrics and studied the music because there was going to be a quiz on this later, and that quiz would come as ten of you sat in the dried out landfill on a hot summer night and spent hours discussing the lyrics and the meaning while you passed around bottles of Boones Farm wine.

Unlike a lot of the stuff I listened to in high school where I thought the music was deep and profound and then later on laughed at myself for thinking so much of so little, I still like this album. I still think the story within is a good one and the music is good and I never, ever get tired of saying: A flower? I might not be able to sit through 23 minutes of Supper's Ready in a dumbfounded stupor like I did in the 70's, but I can still appreciate it. The musicianship is superb and is a great reminder of what both Collins and Gabriel were; brilliant musicians with incredible ideas (that's not to take anything away from Banks, Rutherford and Hackett), but both those artists went in different and opposite directions, and neither of those directions give any indication to the creativity and musical intricacy of what they used to do together in Genesis.

By the time I got around to seeing Genesis live, it was July, 1978. Gabriel had long left the band but he showed up that night to join Genesis for an encore. Awesome night I will never forget.

I loved so much of their early stuff, but Foxtrot is like a Neil Gaiman novel set to music. How could you go wrong with that?

Favorite song: Supper's Ready
Foxtrot Wiki