My 2015 Yearbook (have a neat summer)

 

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

 

Yes, I’m back. WE’RE back. The MoSS? boys are all still alive and kicking. But life sometimes happens.

But thankfully, Chris’ 2015 yearbook lit my fuse, and Todd’s Cliff-Notes follow-up made it an actual necessity to respond myself. Woke up from an eight-month slumber to share my 2015 tour stories.

But unlike those guys, who continue to immerse themselves in the new stuff, my year on the road consisted of a tour through what I imagine is the stuff populating the used-CD bins at Record Collector these days.

I ain’t got no complaints …

Less Than Jake (Wooly’s in Des Moines, January)

The year started with this throwback of a show, which was really just a night for all my boys to reunite and celebrate 1997-98 all over again, when we were all just out of college and partying every night like you’re supposed to when you’re 23. There was a time when Losing Streak was the soundtrack to that party and it ranked among my very favorite albums. Well, those days are long in the past, but that album can still take me back to that moment in time. Of course, they only played one or two songs from it.

Oh, and Reel Big Fish opened the show … I felt like I was at a Milwaukee Beers BASEketball game.

Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)

Hey, that's not a wax sculpture ... it's Barry manilow!

Hey, that’s not a wax sculpture … it’s Barry manilow!

“I’m just going because my mom wants to see him.”

That’s was my excuse if anyone asked. Truth be told, I just used that as an excuse because yes, I’m a closet Fanilow. “Weekend in New England” and “Could It Be Magic?” make me misty. Shut up! When I was 4, my mom bought my brother and me t-shirts at the mall with our names on the back and ANY iron-on patch we wanted on the front. Logan got a Star Wars patch (the “a” and the “n” from his name quickly rubbed off his shirt, leaving only Log … which I still call him 38 years later). What did I get? You guessed it … a Barry Manilow patch. Shut up! I guess it was all those times I was forced to sing “Can’t Smile Without You” in the car because it was “cute” (I’m lucky I didn’t get beaten up more).

Anyway … it was enchanting (yes, I said enchanting), and I got some quality time with Mom in the process. And sadly, I’d never had better seats to a show in my life. Ever … only for them to be trumped about four months later.

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

 

Sleater-Kinney (Omaha and St. Louis, Feb./April)

I’ve already covered this one sufficiently. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that I love this band more now than I did then. I’m praying they take another run through the Midwest soon.

Foxygen at the Mission Creek Festival (Blue Moose in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2719This was the only show of the week I went to differing from Chris’ itinerary. We both caught Real Estate and Father John Misty (with King Tuff … those dudes were bad-ass). But he chose Shovels and Rope on Friday, and I chose this one. Glad I did.

A super-energetic show. Sam France has that androgynous look like some ’70s British glam rocker and the band has this wall of backup singers, like they’re Ike and Tina Turner or something, including one that looked like a sex-kitten version of Abbi from Broad City. Yes, I was captivated. I remember saying to Michelle, friend of MoSS? and my partner in the evening’s festivities, that the whole thing was like some hyperactive psychedelic version of Meat Loaf.

After the show, we bumped into honorary MoSS?-Man Travis …

“That was awesome,” he said with his typical chuckle and grin. “They were like psycho Meat Loaf or something, right?”

Bastard stole my line. Case closed.

Diarrhea Planet (Gabe’s in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2766Great stuff. But if I took away anything about this show, it was the realization that from here on out, I will never NOT take earplugs to a show at Gabe’s. These guys play three-guitar punk rock with shredding solos. And as I stood and watched, I could SEE the guitarists’ fingers moving up and down the fret boards with Yngwie Malmsteen-like dexterity, but all I could HEAR was harsh, distorted fuzz. On a whim, I just stuck my fingers in my ears … then and only then could I hear the flurry of notes. I love me some Gabe’s – it’s been my home base for over 20 years now – but the sound needs improvement (it has for a while). I used to worry that the day I started wearing earplugs would be the day I was officially old. I still love it loud, but I just want to hear what’s actually happening. That ain’t old.

IMG_2878

MASTODON!!

 

THE SWORD!!

THE SWORD!!

Mastodon (Five Flags Center
in Des Moines, May)
The Sword (Gabe’s in Iowa City, October)

Hail metal.

I love this doom metal shit, the sludgy stuff coming out of the south, especially – Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa out of Georgia, and The Sword out of Austin, Texas. I never want to grow up, apparently, because for as cultured as I like to think I’ve become over the years, I still love heavy metal and slasher movies. I hope that never changes.

IMG_2996

Royal Blood (Wooly’s in Des Moines, May)

In the era of two-man bands or even no-bass player bands (think White Stripes, Black Keys or Sleater-Kinney), those bands’ guitarists always find a way to replicate the bottom-end sound where the bass would be. Check out Corin Tucker on “A New Wave” or Jack White on “The Denial Twist” for good examples of this.

But I’ve never seen anyone replicate a screaming guitar lick on a bass before, while still playing bass at the same time. It’s a mindfuck when you see it. But that’s what Mike Kerr does in Royal Blood. Plus, it’s just good old-fashioned hard rock. I like these guys. Quite a bit, actually.

After the show, I asked their sound guy how Mike Kerr did it. “It’s gotta be just a series of effects pedals, right?” I asked. But he basically told me – in that very regal, polite way that only a Brit can – to go fuck myself.

IMG_3049Smashing Pumpkins (Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, June)

I mean, look at these!

I mean, look at these!

The Barry Manilow show gave me the best seats I’ve ever had for any show ever. Until this one. Second row center and seated, with no buffer between Billy and me (the front row in the center was for handicapped seating, but there were no handicapped people at the show, so it was just as good as front row). This show had sold out immediately months earlier, but I just knew the ungodly-priced VIP tickets would end up on the market again. Checked the day before, at just the right time, and bam, got four at a discount.

But no one wanted to go with me. I, of course, asked the MoSS? boys first (we’ll always have the fantasy draft, after all). Too short of notice. Finally, I got some takers in old reliables Kat and Von.

I loved this show. A stripped-down acoustic set. Yes, it was largely devoid of many hits or deep cuts from the 1991-95 era (more on that later), but at the same time, it didn’t feel like a rock concert. Lots of stuff from Adore (which I was cool with – “For Martha” was excellent, and the arrangement on “To Sheila” was KILLER), a couple of new ones, some Zwan stuff, some solo stuff, all meticulously arranged and presented almost like a Broadway show, with a locked-in songbook. I knew what I was getting.

But this was Des Moines. Home of a ton of buttrock FM radio. A lot of the people who bought tickets, guaranteed, probably didn’t read the fine print about what this show was going to be and expected to hear the big, loud anthems. They didn’t get them. I mean, he did play “Tonight Tonight,” “Today,” “Mayonaise” and “1979,” but mostly? Yeah, they didn’t get them.

Needless to say, it got ugly. For the first hour or so of the show, he had the room in the palm of his hand. But when people started realizing that this show must be winding down and they still hadn’t heard “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” they started getting antsy. During the end of the show, people started yelling out requests, which Billy actually took in stride, until some jackass yelled, “Play ‘1979’ again!” At that point, the famous Corgan petulance reared its ugly head. All tour long at that point, he had taken some requests for the final encore (including one stop when he played the entire Gish album in less than six minutes). But for us, he came out and played “Spaceboy” and got the fuck outta there.

Look, I’ve been very vocal over the years about how his refusal to play the old stuff is petty (basically, he feels like if he plays the stuff from Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, he’s no better than Warrant playing “Cherry Pie” at the state fair. “I’m still making new music, dammit. You should want to hear that,” he thinks). There is a middle ground. People will listen to the new stuff if they know you’re gonna reward the years and years of loyalty with a few of the deep cuts. He needs to realize this.

But on that night, in that room, under those circumstances, I was on his side. We (I mean Iowans in general here) looked like hayseeds and it reinforced my fear that this was one of the reasons that Iowa is just the warm-up show for Chicago or Detroit.

I got into it pretty intensely with Chris about this afterward. A snippet of our correspondence:

“I can’t be on his side if he can’t entice me to attend. He can’t be bothered to include true fan rewards like Crush or Suffer or Obscured or Soma or Hummer. These are not hits. These are legacy-affirming songs but because they were written in the 20th century he won’t play them, even though he’ll play 1979 and Tonight and Today. If he wants an entire room of disciples without having to play the entire Greatest Hits tracklist, he would do this.”

I agreed with every word of this (my response: “I knew this was coming. And I know your stance. In fact, how many times have we had this discussion … and I AGREED with you? Because you know that I do”), but the contents of his acoustic tour were well-documented. It’s just that I bet no one was playing attention.

Well, I bet Todd would’ve loved it … I think.

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

 

80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Jenny Lewis (she of Rilo Kiley, playing with the Watson Twins, and Jenny and Johnny) was awesome. Wilco was as good as they usually always are. Cloud Nothings sound better live than on their record. Run The Jewels were the balls. And Weezer played maybe the quintessential example of a perfect festival gig – every hit, a few deep cuts, a couple new ones, and the huge ones to shut it down.

In addition, on Friday night, I caught the Ataris play at the Gas Lamp … and the show was opened by Rational Anthem, my current favorite Iowa City band. Originally from Florida, they hooked up with fellow Iowa City punks Lipstick Homicide (also awesome) somewhere on the road and relocated to Iowa City when they realized that at any given moment, they were within a four- or five-hour drive of Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. If you like fun pop punk, check them out.

Against Me! (Wooly’s in Des Moines, July)

Tom Gabel was the shit. Best voice in punk rock. That was always the draw with Against Me!. Laura Jane Grace? Now she has the best voice in punk rock. I love this band.

Cheap Trick (RAGBRAI stop at the Coralville Marriott, July)

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees I’ve seen live” list as of July 2015: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss, Nirvana, Green Day, Parliament (well, George Clinton), Run-DMC (kinda) and Patti Smith (kinda).

Now, I can add these guys to the list. Getting inducted this year (as well as Steve Miller, who I saw in 1992 and is also getting inducted this year). So many awesome anthems. And I bought a great t-shirt to boot.

A sidenote: After drinking a few too many beers that night, my buddy and I headed over to the Lumberyard II for a little post-show entertainment. I just want to say this to the strippers of the world: Picking your music? Shouldn’t be that difficult. Hair metal or ’90s R&B. Just keep it simple, ladies. It ain’t hard.

IMG_3372Foo Fighters (Sprint Center in Kansas City, August)

Just one of the shows that you always imagine a rock concert will be like when you’re 12 and haven’t been to a rock concert before.

IMG_3434I have friends who rag and rag about Dave Grohl and his overexposure. It’s tiresome. And it makes my head spin so much that it’s impossible to gather and articulate my thoughts on the matter (check out this piece that Chris wrote almost over four years ago, then check my counterpoint in the comments. And Chris wrote this BEFORE he was just starting to truly usurp Bono’s roll as media-appointed rock ambassador… his roll has only gotten bigger since then).

But anyone who tries to say the Foo Fighters are not one of, if not THE best, arena-rock bands in the world is crazy. This night was a tour de force.

I went to this show with T-Dub and it was a classic T-Dub and Vodka Bob outing. More than a few frosty beverages. Screaming every lyric, including the end bridge of “Monkey
Wrench.” Making friends with total strangers. There was the
IMG_3461purple-t-shirt guy. There was the beautiful girl in the checkered dress. The dudes in the Cinderella t-shirts (by the way, we weren’t ripping on you … we actually do worship at the altar of Tom Keifer, guys!). We invited one woman who was partying hard and her sister from Idaho out for post-gig drinks … unfortunately, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this or anything after (I do remember asking Miss Idaho if she liked shopping malls, because I remembered a line in Adventures in Babysitting when the kids in the movie asked the guy who carjacked the car they were sitting in to please drop them off at the nearest mall and the carjacker said “where do y’all think we are – Boise, Idaho?”). I think I asked for her number and she did give it to me (I’ve never used it), but she didn’t tell me her last name. I think she made the right call.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and start checking the receipts in my pocket. It was all worth it.

X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)

IMG_3546One of my favorite movies of all time is The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (why Penelope Spheeris has never done a “Where Are They Now” follow-up on the London dudes, the Wet Cherri guy, the guy with the one-side-bleach-blonde/one-side-blue-black hair, and Randy O. from Odin, I’ll never know. I mean, I REALLY want to know, for real).

Anyway, The Metal Years came out when I was 15, and after that, I was obsessed with seeing Part 1. For 25 years, I tried seeing it. I tried renting it everywhere. Never had it. Out of print. I started checking every used video store. No luck. Any time the TV guide said it would be on, I set the timer and it ALWAYS ended up being The Metal Years. No dice.

Finally, this year, the red tape finally got cleared up and the entire Decline of Western Civilization trilogy got released on Blu-ray. Part 1, for the uninitiated, is a deep dive into the L.A. punk scene of the early ’80s – The Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag, most predominantly. But X, with that infusion of rockabilly, stood out to me.

Skeet and I loved it. Doe rocks. Exene Cervenka kinda looks like a crazy Muppet these days, but still had me in the palm of her hand.

Plus, I didn’t want to think of John Doe as just the guy that said, “that guy at the end of the bar is fuckin’ Dalton, man.” Glad I went.

Beach House (The Pageant in St. Louis, September)

IMG_3711Chris already covered the specifics of this show well. I was just disappointed that he left out the late-night driving playlists I utilized to keep myself occupied while he slumbered … an ‘80s New Wave that featured Erasure, Duran Duran, Bananarama, The Dream Academy (twice!), Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Romeo Void, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds … I could go on and on, but it wasn’t until “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti came on that he finally said, “Can we listen to something else, please?”

Then, on the way home, it was Vol. 4 of my essential “Anson Thrash” series, with enough Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Venom, Death Angel, Coroner, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Overkill and Death to satisfy any knuckle-dragging, wastoid, headbanging degenerate like myself.

He didn’t say it (he was dozing), but I know he was impressed.

Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …

… but I will say goodbye to a couple of dudes that meant a whole hell of a lot to me.

It was a good year. See you in 2016 … I mean, I hope I don’t fall asleep for another eight months.

What Makes a “Song of the Summer”

Ariana-Grande-ProblemWhat’s wrong with me? I’ve been sitting here for awhile searching my phone and the internet for something cool to listen to but it all bores me. I’m tired of it all. Well, except for one song. My mind keeps drifting back to this horribly awesome song my daughter initially forced me to listen to a couple of months back, Ariana Grande, “Problem (Feat. Iggy Azalea).”

Yep, Ariana Grande, the super cute girl with the goofy voice from that stupid Nickelodeon kid’s show. Who knew she could sing so well? She’s like Mariah Carey Jr. Have I become an official member of the Arianator nation? No, but the song is catchy as hell and could probably be officially declared the “Song of the Summer.” You know, that one song that turns up out of nowhere, gets played over and over and ends up being the soundtrack to your activities from June to September? I know we can’t take a car ride in my family without a request for “Problem.” My daughter even raps along to the Iggy Azalea part.

Normally, I have my own song of the summer that doesn’t match what’s playing on the radio. Take last summer for instance. While everyone else was listening to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, I couldn’t stop myself from playing “The Wire” by HAIM, such a great summer song. That’s got me thinking…what were some other notable past songs of summer? Let’s look back. Shall we?

These are the top 10 songs from summer 1985. From the looks of it, a great year for music.

1.”Shout” – Tears For Fears
2. “Everytime You Go Away” – Paul Young
3. “The Power Of Love” – Huey Lewis & The News
4. “A View To A Kill” – Duran Duran
5. “Sussudio” – Phil Collins
6. “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” – Sting
7 . “Raspberry Beret” – Prince and the Revolution
8. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” – John Parr
9. “Heaven” – Bryan Adams
10. “Never Surrender” – Corey Hart

Now, which would you crown the “Song of the Summer?” What are the criteria for summer song dominance? Let’s dive in.

I think it has to be an upbeat number. No love songs or sad songs. That eliminates Paul Young, Sting, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart.

In my opinion, it shouldn’t be a song from a movie soundtrack especially if it’s heavily featured in a summer movie. That eliminates Huey Lewis (Hello…McFly!!??), Duran Duran’s song from the shittiest of James Bond movies, (Seriously, Roger Moore was like a thousand years old. Horrible!) and John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire suckfest. So what’s left? “Shout”, “Sussudio” and “Raspberry Beret.” All excellent songs. All bona fide contenders. So who wins? I’m going with my man Patrick Bateman and picking Phil Collins “Sussudio”, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

While that was a tough choice, other years have a clear winner. Take summer 1988.

1. “Roll With It” – Steve Winwood
2. “The Flame” – Cheap Trick
3. “Hold On To The Nights” – Richard Marx
4. “Monkey” – George Michael
5. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard
6. “Hands To Heaven” – Breathe
7. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses
8. “Make Me Lose Control” – Eric Carmen
9. “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” – Elton John
10. “Foolish Beat” – Debbie Gibson

Instant disqualification to Steve Winwood for extreme sucking. I hated that song. The rest of the ten are a collection of sugary love songs that were staples on Loveline dedication radio shows. You know, it went something like this…“I’d like to dedicate “The Flame” to Johnny Smith from East High School. I can’t wait for homecoming. I love you Johnny, Wooooooooooo!!!!!!”

That really just leaves Gun N’ Roses and Def Leppard to choose from. While “Sweet Child” was and still is a kick-ass song, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was by far the song of that summer. Its sticky sweet sexual innuendo filled lyrics dominated all car radios back then.

I know what you’re all thinking now. Hey Todd, are there any other criteria for song of the summer success?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at the top songs from the summer of 1991.

1.”(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Bryan Adams

2. “Rush Rush” – Paula Abdul
3. “Unbelievable” – EMF
4. “I Wanna Sex You Up” – Color Me Badd
5. “Right Here, Right Now” – Jesus Jones
6. “Every Heartbeat” – Amy Grant
7. “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” – Lenny Kravitz
8. “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
9. “P.A.S.S.I.O.N.” – Rhythm Syndicate
10. “Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave)” – Roxette

Notice number eight? “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. If your song actually has the word “summer” in the title, you get an automatic win. With lyrics like this how could you pick any other song?

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
A back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness

It’s generally pretty easy to choose a “Song of the Summer.” Looking through the top 10 songs from the last 30 years I was able to fairly quickly choose one in every year except one.

2004

1. “Confessions Part II” – Usher
2. “Burn” – Usher
3. “Slow Motion” – Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim
4. “The Reason” – Hoobastank
5. “If I Ain’t Got You” – Alicia Keys
6. “Lean Back” – Terror Squad
7. “Move Ya Body” – Nina Sky feat. Jabba
8. “Turn Me On” – Kevin Lyttle feat. Spragga Benz
9. “Dip It Low” – Christina Milian
10. “Sunshine” – Lil’ Flip feat. Lea

Look at this shit show. The only one of these songs I’ve actually heard was the Hoobastank song. Hoobastank…(shudder)

Now the opposite happened when I looked at 2013. Either the pop music gods shown down with all their glory or my kids influence over the radio has finally made an effect on my listening habits. There are easily 7 songs that one could make a case for “Song of the Summer.” Honestly, I still can’t decide.

2013

1. “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke

2. “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons
3. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
4. “We Can’t Stop” – Miley Cyrus
5. “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton
6. “Cruise” – Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly
7. “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
8. “Treasure” – Bruno Mars
9. “Cups (Pitch Perfect’s When I’m Gone)” – Anna Kendrick
10. “Come & Get It” – Selena Gomez

So which would you choose? How about this year? Feel free to post in the comments section any past or current summer songs you’ve loved.

MoSS? Madness 2014: Best “Side One, Track One” Song

moss-mad-16 2014

It’s time again baby! That’s right, the most exciting event since the invention of the bracket, MoSS? Madness 2014. This year we are keeping with the Sweet 16 model from last year. Why only 16? Well, many reasons. First, no early round snoozer match-ups. Who wants to sit through a bunch of blow outs before we get into the good stuff? Second, I’m lazy. I can only spend so much time at my PC using Google Docs and MS Paint for this stuff. Third, what’s with all the questions? Just go with it and mind your business.

This year you are going to be voting for your favorite “Side One, Track One” song. Not familiar with the term “Side One, Track One?” Remember back in the old days when we had to listen to albums and tapes? We’re talking about the rare instance when an artist or band kicks off side one of their album with a particularly great song. Most times (not all the time) this turns out to be the start of an excellent album as a whole. Others times the artist blows their wad right away and the rest of the album is,well, a turd.

With only 16 songs in the competition, many songs didn’t make the cut. Some of your favorites may not be on the mix. Can’t wait to hear about the ones we should have included. Really. Give us hell in the comments. You may be wondering, “How can one choose between such beloved classics as “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” A difficult task no doubt. You’ll have to figure that out if you want to help us crown the MoSS? Madness 2014 Champion.

Also, everyone should send their condolences to Chris. His Iowa Hawkeyes lost in their bid to get into the NCAA round of 64 last night. Valiant effort though boys. Now I expect you all to be cheering for my #3 seeded Iowa State Cyclones. Let’s go Clones! First things first, vote below!

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #9

Yep, we’ve made a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

We’ve reached the really good stuff: our top 10s. We’ll roll these out one per day (Monday-Friday) over the next two weeks, reaching #1 on Friday, Dec. 14. The following week, we’ll unveil our favorite music from 2012.

Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #9: Duran Duran, Rio

(click play button below to sample this album)

rio coverDuran Duran. The supposed Achilles heel of my musical tastes. I understand that not everything the “Fab Five” did was golden; Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the album that included “The Reflex” and “New Moon on Monday,” is otherwise kind of a steaming pile. Some of the albums in the late ’80s and the early early ’90s (Liberty, anyone?) are completely inconsequential to the band’s discography. And that Thank You covers album really did stink up the joint.

But the first two albums…I’m sorry, they’re early-’80s pop perfection, especially the second one, Rio. I believe the following points illustrate that fact (mascara is not on the list).

The three singles from this album are fucking top-shelf

“Hungry Like the Wolf” seems to be everyone’s favorite Duran Duran song, what with its “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo” verses and the singalong “I’m on the hunt; I’m after you” chorus. The guitar is sharper than usual, the drums are bigger than usual, Simon’s voice is as sure as ever. “Rio” also was made for singing along with a smile, with the chorus “Her name is Rio and she dances on the saaaaaaaand.” And “Save a Prayer” is the slow burn, showing a vulnerability that contrasts with the other two singles. Plus, it has that weird trick where Nick Rhodes plays a note on the keyboard and then slides a lever back and forth to bend the note into something exotic.

The videos for the three songs couldn’t have been any cooler

Seriously, “Hungry Like the Wolf” was a better Indiana Jones sequel than Temple of Doom and that most recent one (which I wasn’t duped into seeing, I’m proud to say). I’m pretty sure Harrison Ford paid off Simon LeBon to not incorporate the bullwhip or the fear-of-snakes angle into his “Wolf” character, for fear that Ford would be replaced by LeBon in the Indy title role. (If nothing else, I’m going to update Harrison Ford’s and Simon LeBon’s Wikipedia entry to say as much.)

“Rio” incorporates tropical scenes, a really attractive brunette, and yachts without sounding like yacht rock. And in addition to the attractive scenery, it had some of the oddest non sequiturs. One: John Taylor lounging around reading a combat comic book; flash to scene of John in pseudo military gear, storming the beach, only to find a scantily clad woman lying on the beach with wine/booze being poured into a glass perched on her perfect stomach. Artistic genius!

And “Save a Prayer” completes the trifecta of Sri Lanka beauty. One of my favorite aspects of this video is that Simon LeBon is dressed as if he is about to meet with Tony Montana and Alex Sosa to discuss the yeyo biz.

Who the hell didn’t want to live like Duran Duran after seeing these three videos? They hung out in kick ass weather wearing cool clothes chasing hot babes everywhere! And there were elephants and old world architecture and more babes, too.

The album’s closer, “The Chauffeur,” is Duran Duran’s best song of all time

The song has an eerie, dreamlike sequence of keyboard running throughout, along with bending bass notes and perfect percussion accents that give shape to LeBon’s lyrical tale of “the droning engine throbbing in time with your beating heart.” (The one thing I’ll admit about Duran Duran: the lyrics are usually pretty lame, although the words in “The Chauffeur” aren’t completely wince-inducing.) I don’t know how long it took Nick Rhodes to compose this synth-ony, but it’s pure bliss. And someone made a video that included a few topless women doing interpretive dance, so there’s that.

The other five “album tracks” are, for the most part, seriously great songs, too

No, they’re not radio-made tunes, but the five songs that fill out the album’s playlist beyond the three singles and “Chauffeur” elevate your typical album from the 1980s into something seamless and worthy of repeated spins. “Hold Back the Rain” is perhaps the most straightforward rock song they’d done on the first two albums, and remains a live favorite to this day. “My Own Way” is upbeat and tense, a perfect second song to follow the leadoff title track. “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “New Religion” are both moody pieces that play well.

“Last Chance on the Stairway” is probably the closest thing to a throwaway tune to my ears, although I like it for a couple of reasons: I love the sound of someone flicking a lighter, taking a drag, and exhaling smoke at song’s beginning, with Nick Rhodes’ keyboard slowly building around it all; and John Taylor gives the bass strings a workout throughout the tune. Which leads me to my next point…

John Taylor is a stud of a bass player, a point he proves repeatedly on Rio

The dude is flat-out funky. His lines are so tight; the notes just pop at times, probably since he famously uses a pick to strum the low end strings. His stressed notes accent the fast songs and he provides the steady framework for the slower songs. And really, John is the coolest guy in the band, going on to play in a band with Duff McKagan at one point, so I felt I had to point out his contributions, as Simon and Nick seem to get the lion’s share of the attention.

And a more general point: These guys are so much better than you’ll ever allow yourself to admit

And why won’t you admit it? Because they have keyboards in their music? Because they considered image/fashion as one aspect of their overall package? What?

These guys took aspects of dance, rock, punk, and funk and made it work. And it works not only because these guys made cool videos or looked trendy or whatever; the fact of the matter is that John Taylor and Nick Rhodes can really write great pop songs, especially in the early going. And they were smart, especially when you consider how young they were and they weren’t managed like some fucking boy band. They embraced the video medium like no other, a move that paid off exponentially with the advent of MTV.

And I’m sorry, some who scoff at Duran Duran are the same people who tell me with a straight face that Journey is fucking great, or they can’t shut up about how awesome Aerosmith is.

Journey? Yeah, that’s more synthesized than Duran Duran…the Journey guitar sound makes me want to throw up. Seriously, listen to something like “Separate Ways” again and then come back here and tell me that is authentic rock music. Because Journey fans seem to think it is. Mind-baffling! And the dude sings at a register five octaves higher than Simon. But you’re right, Journey is way more “awesome.” Just look at this video for proof:

(This should be the next installment of my video breakdown series.)

Aerosmith? Yeah, since you started listening to them sometime in the 1990s, they’ve written exactly ONE SONG. And then threw new cheeseball lyrics at it about 50 times and put out a few albums. Nothing good since “Toys in the Attic.” Nothing.

And the authorities can’t understand why I want to throat-punch people sometimes…

So anyway, yeah, I’m putting Rio here. To reference a song from my #11 album, consider this my own Revolution 9.

Todd’s #9: Ride, Nowhere

(click play button below to sample this album)

NowhereridecoverWhen I first set out to rank my favorite albums of all time, I found that this was one of the few albums on my list that I didn’t own a copy of anymore. I was a bit shocked when I looked in my iTunes library and, other than the song “Vapour Trail” which I’ll talk about later, it wasn’t there. I converted all of my CDs to MP3 long ago. Made a pretty penny selling all the hard copies at a garage sale a few years back. I did hold on to a select few sentimental picks so I checked in there. No copy of Ride Nowhere there either. How could that be?

I had no idea when I quit listening to it, but Nowhere has always ranked near the top of my list of favorites. When I showed my finished list to my wife (She got a VIP early premiere) she immediately objected to the Ride record’s spot in the top 10. “How is that a Top 10? You’ve never talked about that record or listened to it since I’ve known you.” Was she right? Had I truly not listened to it in close to twenty years?  Why? I really had to think about it until I came up with the answer. I quit listening to it because… it made me feel bad.

When I think back at the time when I would listen to this album obsessively, I realize now that I was pretty depressed. I’m not going to bore you about why I was depressed. This blog isn’t for sob stories or a source of fodder for “After School Special” writers. I will tell you this, it wasn’t some “We Need to Talk About Todd type scenario and I didn’t spend my spare time torturing cats or anything like that. I was just unhappy a lot of the time. After I came out of that funk, I associated Nowhere with that unhappy feeling. So I quit listening to it.

When Chris came up with the idea for our joint best of lists I thought it would be impossible. Then once I got into it, I found it to be a lot of fun. Re-listening to hundreds of records and reminiscing about them has been amazing musical therapy. Since making this list, I’ve listened to Nowhere a dozen or more times and now it has a much happier association for me. I guess I have Chris to thank for that. Although, he did give me shit for my Counting Crows pick at #75. Such a dick.

The thing that I notice most now when listening is that Ride’s rhythm section is incredible. Something like that could easily be overlooked on a shoegaze genre record where you generally get overwhelmed by the wall of guitars and distortion. The opening song “Seagull” starts off with a long intro of drums and killer bass line and never looks back. By the time the vocals come in, I’m already exhausted and I’m just listening.

Ride uses that “wall of sound” strategy, for lack of a more original term, on many songs on Nowhere. I tend to like the songs which allow the noise to ebb and flow a bit more though. The song “Dreams Burn Down” is a great example. It slowly builds around already loud guitars and drums until the chorus when they take it up a notch and the result feels like the musical equivalent of a gut punch.

Then there’s the song “Vapour Trail.” If you held a gun to my head and asked me what my favorite song of all time was it would be hard for me not to pick this song. I could listen to that main guitar riff all day and the fucking drumming on the two minute outro blows me away every time. The guy just goes crazy. Actually everyone does. Guitars, bass and drums all doing their own thing but all in the confines of the song. The structured chaos goes on until a string quartet fades in playing the main melody and pulls every thing back together. I’m always left wanting more. If you’ve never heard this song, I suggest you follow these steps immediately:

  1. Quit reading right now (well not now, continue with the instructions and then quit reading)
  2. Click play on the song sampler above
  3. Jump to “Vapour Trail”
  4. Turn up your shitty computer speakers
  5. Enjoy
  6. Do it…Really…You won’t be sorry

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

#15-11

#10

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #60-51

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #60-51

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

60. Jose Gonzalez, In Our Nature

59. The Breeders, Last Splash

58. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags and Codes

57. Burial, Street Halo

56. Radiohead, Kid A

55. Duran Duran, Duran Duran (1981)

54. Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place

53. Cults, Cults

52. N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton

51. Pixies, Surfer Rosa

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#55: Duran Duran, Duran Duran

duran duran front coverWhen you are 10 years old and living in a town where the main music supplier is the Pamida store on the edge of town, you find yourself struggling to get your hands on a cassette from a band’s back catalog, even a band as current in 1984 as Duran Duran. If you wanted to buy Arena or Seven and the Ragged Tiger, no problem. Even Rio could be found from time to time. But the band’s eponymous 1981 debut? The Pamida staff isn’t that savvy.

But there are ways to get what you want. In my case, you agree to go shopping in nearby “metropolis” La Crosse, Wis., with your mom and your little brother and be good THE WHOLE TIME. Then, and only then, will my mom take me to Musicland and buy me the elusive Duran debut.

It was a struggle. This meant having to walk through the women’s sections of Dayton’s and JCPenney and Younkers and Maurices and god knows what else, but also not picking on my little brother while killing time surrounded by blouses and slacks. But I was on a mission, and it was successful.

And well worth it, I might add. Not only did I now possess the songs “Girls on Film” and “Planet Earth,” but I was introduced to the deeper cuts that define this album as a New Romantic masterpiece. “(Is There) Anyone Out There” is a wonderful blend of spiky guitar, atmospheric keyboards, and plucky bass. “Careless Memories” is a rock song that uses the right touch of keyboard and percussion flourishes. “Sound of Thunder” is probably the standout track on the more avant garde Side B of the album, a song that has more in common with stuff like the Cure and Joy Division than any of the “totally ’80s” stuff like Bow Wow Wow or Kajagoogoo, even though Duran Duran is often lazily categorized with the latter. If you don’t believe me, check out album closer “Tel Aviv,” a song that will defy most people’s conventional thinking about the band. (And a song that makes a wonderful soundtrack during a family vacation in the Rocky Mountains, with its soaring keyboard, guitar, and vocal effects playing against the backdrop of Colorado’s snow-capped rocky peaks.)

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking the songs you’d find on Duran Duran’s Decade or Greatest albums, but the band’s debut shows an intelligence behind the band’s glamour image that goes ignored by music fans and historians alike.

#52: N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton coverI landed a copy of this album when I was 15, and I swear it took me probably six months to get past the first three songs. Not because I couldn’t stand more than 15 minutes of gangsta rap in one sitting…far from it. It’s just that as soon as “Straight Outta Compton,” “Fuck tha Police,” and “Gangsta Gangsta” had run their course, I’d immediately hit the stop button on the boom box and rewind to the beginning, and repeat that trifecta of street knowledge.

Eventually I found the gems later in the sequencing (“Dopeman,” “8-Ball,” and the preview of Ice Cube’s solo work, “I Ain’t Tha 1”) but the opening three songs, had they been released alone as an EP, might have carried Straight Outta Compton to immortal status.

Ice Cube’s opening flow on the title track is still mesmerizing, even if the language isn’t nearly as shocking now as it was to a 15-year-old northeast Iowa boy (maybe it should be more shocking to me now as a 38-year-old father?) who thought Tackle-Hoops-playin’ Theo Huxtable was flush with street cred. MC Ren was a decent change-up to Cube…not as confident, but just as crude.

If Ren was the change-up, Eazy-E was the 12-6 curveball. This high-pitched voice talkin’ big about being tired of gettin’ jacked up by the motherfuckin’ police or being a brother who’ll smother your mother or drinkin’ Olde English 800 like a madman and steppin’ into the party and dissin’ yo ho and his boyz in the hood keepin’ him cool…WTF (as in WHO the fuck) is this? Did Cube and Ren let their little brother drop some knowledge? Is he on here because he has the best name of the bunch? (The dude with the worst name, DJ Yella, comes off as nothing more than Dr. Dre’s understudy; the guy with the oddest name, The Arabian Prince, I’m not sure he actually says more than 10 words throughout the album.)

And wasn’t I a little bit intimidated by his stuff despite sounding like Alvin, Simon, or Theodore?

I couldn’t relate to much being said on this album, but I was just one example of the thousands (millions?) of suburban kids who found themselves fascinated by the raw language and the sweet beats laid down by Dre and Yella. And this was more punk than anything considered punk at the time, the perfect music for a teenager looking to rebel against something, anything. Even in Waukon, yo.

In my opinion, once Cube left, N.W.A. went south in a hurry, at least in retrospect. (I hung around for the 100 Miles and Running EP, but then I was out.) But I’ll always go back to Straight Outta Compton to get my gangsta nostalgia on.

Todd’s #60-51

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

60. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

59. Alice in Chains, Jar of Flies

58. Arcade Fire, Funeral

57. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

56. Nada Surf, The Weight is a Gift

55. Van Halen, 1984

54. Ice Cube, Death Certificate

53. The White Stripes, Elephant

52. Pixies, Surfer Rosa

51. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#59.Alice in Chains, Jar of Flies

I bought this EP on a very cold February day back in 1994. I must have come into some money that day because I remember buying three other CDs at the same time. Fine. Since you are all so curious, I’ll tell you what the other three albums were; My first copy of The Clash’s London Calling, David Bowie’s Changesbowie, and Tori Amos’ Under the Pink. Quite the odd collection there.

Let’s get back on track shall we? I was never a huge Alice in Chains fan. I enjoyed a few songs from Facelift and there was a time when you couldn’t get away from their album Dirt. Every “bro” in town was listening to that one since Poison wasn’t making records anymore. I just wasn’t as into them as some other bands from that era.

That attitude changed one day as I was driving to work with a friend. As we got on the road, he threw in a new CD and told me to take a listen. After the first few bars of track one, I was hooked. I asked who the band was and didn’t believe him when he said it was Alice in Chains. Of course, it was obvious as soon as the perfectly harmonized vocals of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell came in during the first verse of “Rotten Apple.”

Hey Ah Na Na
Innocence is over
Hey Ah Na Na
Over

The whole EP seemed completely different than other Alice in Chains releases. From the acoustic songs like “Rotten Apple” and “Nutshell”, to the instrumental “Whale and Wasp”, this was an Alice in Chains I could get into. Jar of Flies owned my Sony Discman for the next few weeks. I don’t think I even opened up that Tori Amos record until April.

#51. Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak

Nothing fancy here. Hard driving bass and drums. Overpowering guitars. Wild, growling vocals. Early Kings of Leon was straight up “we don’t give a fuck” rock and roll. Not to disparage the newer KOL music too much, but it does come across a bit more polished than the tunes on Aha Shake Heartbreak. Now enough praise for these guys. The record’s great, cool lead vocals, sexy lyrics… blah blah blah.

Why the KOL hate on a post praising their album? Because I’ve heard each of their songs so many times that I’ve lost all enjoyment in hearing them. It wasn’t me playing them over and over, but I am to be held responsible. I created a monster. A 5’2″, brunette haired, KOL listening monster.

For most of our relationship, my wife has enjoyed the same music as me. On occasion, I will introduce her to a band that we both enjoy equally, but usually I like a band and she is neutral. That’s how it started with KOL. I really liked Aha Shake and she seemed to enjoy it too.

The next Kings of Leon record, Because the Times, came out and the same thing happened. We both liked it, but she never would have chosen to listen to it on her own. Then came the fourth KOL release, Only By the Night. I got a “totally legal, not pirated” advanced copy of that record and could tell it was going to be big. There were several songs on it that just screamed “radio hit.” And big it was. You couldn’t turn on an FM station without hearing “Use Somebody” within five minutes. This is where I witnessed the early KOL addiction signs from my wife. Let’s go over the addiction checklist from a pamphlet I found on the topic.

-Frequent, bordering on obsessive KOL listening?…Yes

-Listening to KOL by yourself?…Yes

-Unable to listen to any other groups music?… No

-Internet Stalking of Band Members?…No

-Internet Stalking of Band Member Spouses/Potential Murder Victims?…No

Man was I relieved. She only got a 40% on that test. I quit worrying and everything was fine for awhile. She stopped listening to Only by the Night and we enjoyed many other artist’s albums for a year or so. Then came that home-wrecker of an album, Come Around Sundown. God bless her, she resisted at first. She even said she didn’t like it, but she slowly wore down. How could she resist. They write lyrics that are like catnip to rock loving girls everywhere. Every song seems to be about how a guy likes a girl and wants to fight some other dude so he can be with her.

Example:

The song “Pickup Truck”

Hate to be so emotional
I didn’t aim to get physical
But when he pulled in and revved it up
I said, ‘you call that a pick up truck?’
And in the moonlight I throwed him down
Kickin’ screamin’ & rolling around
A little piece of a bloody tooth
Just so you know I was thinking of you
Just so you know ohhhhh

Well, after that it was all over. We’re talking 100% percent on the KOL addiction test. Those KOL supermodel spouses better watch out. My wife is watching and waiting. If I read in the paper one day that one of those lovely ladies “accidentally” tripped and broke her neck, I will know my wife won’t be coming home for supper anymore. I may have to host an intervention or hire one of those therapists that “de-program” cult members. I’m praying for a band break-up. That could be the only thing that saves her.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

MoSS? Mixtape Flashback: March 1987

The MoSS? mixtape vault has finally been opened. Our dedicated staff put in hundreds of man hours cataloging overwhelming amounts of cassette tapes, compact discs and vinyl records. This month we asked our interns to dig even deeper and scavenge the darkest recesses of our music library for any references from the year 1987. What they came back with was eye-opening. I was still listening to music with a pop sensibility. Chris was just testing the waters of heavy metal and rap while still listening to Duran Duran. So check out what your favorite pubescent pair of music loving lads was listening to clear back in March 1987.

Side A : Todd’s Picks

[audio http://s0.wp.com/i/support/feedback/automattobot-sad.png,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/big_timepeter_gabrielso1.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/09-to-be-a-lover.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/12-open-your-heart.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/yankee_rosedavid_lee_rotheat_em__smile1.mp3 |titles=Starfish and Coffee,Big Time,To Be A Lover,Open Your Heart,Yankee Rose|artists=Prince,Peter Gabriel,Billy Idol,Madonna,David Lee Roth||width=500]

1. Prince, “Starfish and Coffee”

2. Peter Gabriel, “Big Time”

3. Billy Idol, “To Be A Lover”

4. Madonna, “Open Your Heart”

5. David Lee Roth,Yankee Rose”

Side B : Chris’ Picks

[audio https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/01-angel-of-death.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/02-stryper-to-hell-with-the-devil.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/04-posse-in-effect.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/01-notorious.mp3,https://musicorspaceshuttle.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/05-walk-like-an-egyptian.mp3|titles=Angel of Death,To Hell With the Devil,Posse in Effect,Notorious,Walk Like an Egyptian|artists=Slayer,Stryper,Beastie Boys,Duran Duran,The Bangles||width=500]

1. Slayer, “Angel of Death”

2. Stryper, “To Hell With the Devil”

3. Beastie Boys, “Posse in Effect”

4. Duran Duran, “Notorious”

5. The Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian”

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Crystal Castles’ upcoming album: Eponymous? (Probably.) Awesome? (Probably.)

The other day, the heir to the throne (who turns 6 very soon, gotsta get some Phineas & Ferb swag for the DS, yo!) asked me about my favorite songs of all time. Yep, Junior threw down the impossible question for music nerds. I can handle favorite groups/artists (Cure, Beatles, Nirvana, Portishead, and Duran Duran, for starters). I might be able to rattle off my favorite albums, at least #1-4 with confidence (Disintegration, Loveless, Revolver, and The Velvet Underground & Nico).

But songs? To quote Clay Davis from The Wire, “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.”

Can’t do it, G. “A Day in the Life” is probably #1, if you stick a gun in my face. “Plainsong” by the Cure is my favorite song of theirs, so I’m sure that’s up there. “The Rain Song” by Zeppelin is one of those songs I love. “Time Has Told Me” and “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana. “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. “Welcome to the Terrordome” by Public Enemy. “Natural’s Not in It” by Gang of Four. And about 3,534 more contenders I might list. And then you want me to prioritize them?

So I went with the redirection strategy. “I dunno. What are your favorite songs?”

Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles stand in an alleyWithout blinking an eye, Will came up with his top three.

“‘Beep Beep’ is #1.” (Read: “Celestica” by Crystal Castles. He’s referencing the occasional electronic “beep-beep” noise throughout the song.)

“‘Bathtism’ is #2.” (Read: “Baptism” by Crystal Castles. And no, it’s not a speech impediment. He thought it was some sort of washing affliction, I guess.)

“And then #3 would be that Radio Dept. song.” (Read: some song by The Radio Dept. [shrug])

I admire my son’s definitive opinion, and it’s obvious my influence has rubbed off on the boy. Crystal Castles’ 2010 eponymous collection was my favorite album that year; and my son’s “favorite song of all time” is arguably my favorite song from that year. (I would argue that “Bathtism/Baptism” is the third best song on that album, behind the Robert Smith-vocalized “Not in Love.”)

So you can imagine our collective excitement when I read today that the Canadian duo will land in Croatia to record album #3 in short order, with an eye for a summer release. In the wake of such euphoria, I was left to ask myself some questions…

Chris: What should they name this album?

Chris: Duh. The only acceptable title other than Crystal Castles is Self-titled.

Chris: Why do I think Alice Glass is hot?

Chris: The same reason people think Alison Mosshart or Karen O is hot: the music blinds their vision while amplifying their sense of hearing. And all you hear is passionate vocals, either delivered in reserved/heartbreaking tones (“Celestica,” “Suffocation,” “Tell Me What to Swallow”) or piercing screams (“Baptism,” “Alice Practice,” “xxzxcuzx me”) or, um, I dunno (“Crimewave,” “Untrust Us”) and you just find yourself having these primal reactions to the words, to the voice. And Alice is petite, brunette, dresses in black…that kind of works for me.

(As shallow as this sounds, I feel obligated to point out that Romy from the xx still doesn’t do it for me, even with that voice.)

Chris: Why does Music or Space Shuttle? scribe Todd not like Crystal Castles?

Chris: I don’t know! I always assumed this would be right up his alley, what with his love for Neon Indian and M83. No, they’re not the same, but similar enough in certain elements (the first album plays more like Neon Indian; some of the grandeur of the second album seems a bit M83ish). You can ask Todd yourself by sending him an email at toddisdumb@chrisrules.com (please use the Subject Line “Chris is so cool; what’s your deal?” to ensure a prompt response).

Chris: Why do I like them so much?

Chris: Listen to the lush opening chords of “Celestica.” Listen to the aggression in “Baptism.” Listen to the swell of the music as Robert Smith approaches the chorus of “Not in Love.” Listen to the abrupt synth mashup following each verse of “Pap Smear.” Listen to the sampling of Sigur Ros on “Year of Silence.” Listen to the disturbing, quiet cry for help in “Tell Me What to Swallow.” Listen to the confident groove throughout “Vanished” and “Crimewave.” Listen to the quirky Donkey Kong sample in “Air War.” Listen to the soaring synth against the restrained vocals in “Suffocation.” All of these moments are like fucking dopamine for my ears. That last sentence is the most efficient way for me to state my feelings toward this music.

Chris: Any chance this album won’t disappoint, given my love for the first two albums?

Chris: Sure, there are some reasons to be worried. After two albums, I thought Bloc Party was one of the greatest bands of the 21st century (although unlike Crystal Castles, I thought BP’s second album was a lateral move rather than a step forward). Then they put out Intimacy. [shudder] And you’ll never hear me defend the Crystal Castles live sound, at least based on the recordings I’ve heard (never seen ’em live).

But this is a band that recognized that the 8-bit sound that infiltrated much of its debut couldn’t dominate album #2, so they evolved. Ethan Kath seems to have the perfect muse in Alice Glass. The lone bum song on the second album (a cover song, so it was the lone song Kath didn’t write) was later elevated to untouchable status by collaborating with Robert Smith on a new version, which shows they are shrewd and credible. And they’re traveling to Croatia to record this new album, so I’m guessing they’ll be focused. (Not sure what I mean by that…)

And don’t forget: this band wrote and recorded the world’s greatest song ever (according to my son). They’ve probably got another good song or two…or 12…or 16…

I can’t wait to find out. Until then, we’ll always have “Beep Beep.”