From the MoSS? Pit: Riot Fest 2014

A staple at these festivals, Social Distortion failed to disappoint.

A staple at these festivals, Social Distortion failed to disappoint. (UNLESS YOU’RE A CURE FAN AND SOCIAL D RUNS LONG AND TAKES AWAY THE CURE’S ENCORE TIME! FUCKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!)

 

(Chris and Sam both attended Riot Fest Chicago. Below you’ll find their takes. Sam’s is up first; you can jump to Chris’ by clicking here.)

SAM

I won’t bury the lead: I’d like to announce my retirement from the three-day music festival. I just don’t think I can do it anymore. My poor back and feet can no longer take it. And if I was on the fence, Mother Nature made sure I came to a decision right then and there at the beginning of Riot Fest 2014.

Friday was pure hell. It was butt cold and rained almost all day, making the next two days (which actually had pretty damn near-perfect weather) pretty insufferable, too, because of the mudpit it created throughout Humboldt Park. I ended up wearing the same pair of pants all three days of the festival because I didn’t feel the need to ruin a whole gaggle of clothes. Hey, I guess a cheap bottle of Old Spice Swagger actually DOES have some value.

And somehow someway, my shoes actually survived … but let’s pause and pay respect to the towels at the low budget Howard Johnson’s we stayed at that had to make the ultimate sacrifice for my feet. They will be missed.

I didn’t get to see Slayer (seriously, that sucked), the Dandy Warhols, or Cheap Trick. Same with the Flaming Lips. The set-up kept me from properly enjoying Tegan and Sara, Television, and Patti Smith. The curse of the festival: Not getting to see everyone you want. Ugh.

Plus, there was plenty to complain about logistically, as my compatriots and Riot Fest veterans Skeet, T-Dub, Seany, and Chris (not MoSS? Chris … I’ll call this Chris Mr. Cool from now on) continually reaffirmed to me all weekend long.

But if this is my festival swan song (and I have no reason to think it won’t be … in my seven straight years of Lollapaloozas and now Riot Fest, I’ve seen almost everything I can possibly think of), I think the music of Riot Fest 2014 will make it a proper send-off.

(I ain’t even touching The Cure, OK? My MoSS? cohort Chris camped out all 10 hours of Day 3 and was rewarded with a prime front row spot not only for his favorite band of all time but other sets by Superchunk, Tegan and Sara, and Patti. In addition, he spent more time on the stage’s big screen than Robert Smith himself. I’ll just let him tell that tale.)

Let’s not waste time here … MASTODON!!!

Mastodon makes everything betters.

Mastodon makes everything better.

 

Riot Fest is pretty much known as a punk rock festival. And there’s plenty of punk rock I love. But I’m much more metal. I prefer killer riffs to anthemic choruses.

And when it comes to metal in 2014, it begins and ends with Mastodon. They’re the gold standard. Yes, there’s plenty of doom and gloom in their music. But with his jovial preening and crowd banter, bassist/co-frontman Troy Sanders showed that metal is super fucking fun, too. It reminded me of those old videos of Ozzy bouncing up and down with a shit-eating grin on his face while singing sinister songs like “Children of the Grave” and “Black Sabbath” in the California sun in the ’70s. And when lead guitarist/co-frontman Brent Hinds screeched the hook of “Blasteroid,” I would’ve needed plastic surgery to remove the shit-eating grin off of MY face.

And the riffs? Praise Jesus. The crowd went nuts when they tore into “Oblivion,” with the differing tempos and three different vocal sections (Sanders on the bridges, Hinds on the hooks, with drummer Brann Dailor tackling the verses ). It was just perfection across the board. The only thing that sucked is that they didn’t play longer.

Mastodon was my priority of the festival. Hands down. And they did not disappoint. In fact, all the shit on the opening day of the festival – the rain, the cold, the fucking mud, the smell, the congested walkways, the hampered VIP shit –was worth it, because Mastodon rocked my ass off.

Now the bad …

Hey, Riot Fest … fuck you!

Fuck you for making me choose between Slayer and Jane’s Addiction. Seriously, fuck you right in the ear.

In my life, I’ve seen them both an equal amount of times. So it became a question of hearing Reign In Blood start to finish or hearing Nothing’s Shocking start to finish. Both in my all-time top ten list. Not an easy choice. After Mastodon blew my doors off on the same stage, I was prepared to just stay put for Slayer. My hometown pals (and friends and colleagues of MoSS?) Chris, Travis and Annie were already there and I would’ve had a kick-ass spot. But because of the getting-home scenarios with my travelmates in the shitty weather and my unfamiliarity with the area, I ventured back to the other side of the park to find them for Jane’s … just as Slayer took the stage and tore into “Disciple.” I cursed under my breath the whole way over there like a kid with Tourette’s.

Jane’s? Yeah, they sounded great. Love that album. I could see them every day and never get sick of them. That said, I wish I would’ve stayed for Slayer … especially since my festmates took off without me anyway and left me in the middle of nowhere with no previous frame of reference for getting back to the hotel. But just as I was venturing into a pretty sketchy part of Chicago looking for solutions (I was probably a half a block away from getting my throat slit for 25 cents), I serendipitously ran into Annie, Travis and Chris again on the street in a crowd and we shared a cab back downtown. So yeah, guys, thanks for saving my ass. Drinks on me at Van Etten next month.

No seriously, Riot Fest … fuck you!!

For years, all I’ve heard about from my oft-returning friends is how much better Riot Fest is when you get VIP. Well, I got VIP the year they expanded to five stages and changed the layout. My pals were NOT pleased. In fact, they apologized to ME afterward.

Yeah, there were some perks. It helped to be able to take a piss without waiting in line. And I can’t front … the drink tickets were a plus. I’ll admit that. I got 12 drink tickets right off the bat, while the commoners had to spend $7 a beer all festival long. In fact, when I told Annie, Travis and Chris – who were serfs to my VIP – about the tickets, Annie did express some envy.

But for me, I bought VIP for sightlines. And there was nothing special about them. I had to stand out in the crowd with the cretins if I wanted even remotely a good spot for the bands.

Now, I did hear secondhand that if the weather had cooperated, there would have been a VIP path between stages avoiding all the congestion on the walkways that hampered everything. But those flooded almost immediately on Friday and were never opened. And I’ll never know if this also applied to the spots to stand and watch, too.

So, Riot Fest, I’m sure you meant well, but that’s did me no good. So suck it.

BEES!!!

The best part of the weather and the mud pit, besides the smell and piles of destroyed shoes, of course? Everybody spent all of Saturday and Sunday under siege by bees. I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie. It’s a miracle I never got stung.

OK, now the music …

After 15 years, the Dubs are finally off the hook

It only took 15 years, but I saw Face To Face

It only took 15 years, but I saw Face To Face

In 1999, I bought a ticket to see Face To Face at First Avenue in Minneapolis. It was back when I was a working a grueling schedule as a high school sports reporter and hadn’t had a day off in weeks. I needed this. Bought a ticket. Told my boys T-Dub and Skeet, who were also going. It was all set up. Except it wasn’t, because the assholes went without me. To this day, they swear we never had that conversation. They should know better than to test my memory, but whatever.

Well, after waiting a generation, I finally saw Face To Face on Saturday. Dare I say, it was worth the wait. You see, I like my punk rock heavy. A lot of it is actually quite bright and a little thin, which gets covered up by hooks that get shouted and chanted endlessly. But Face To Face’s riffs can be a little dirty. Crunchy. They speak my language. Two of my favorite punk records – Don’t Turn Away and Big Choice – are both Face To Face records. Fifteen years after I got left behind, I finally got to see “Disconnected” live.

So I forgive you, Dubs. Don’t let it happen again.

Banner says it all ...

Banner says it all …

When it comes to punk rock, the Brits still do it best

I started the festival with the Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast. Excellent. On Saturday, I watched the Buzzcocks, from England. Very strong. Caught a solo set by Paul Weller of The Jam. I was hoping for more old Jam songs, but it was still a solid outing. Hell, I even caught London vets Cock Sparrer while I was waiting for the Descendents. They were still super tight. I’m telling you: don’t fuck with our motherland, everybody. They’ve still got it.

Oh, there’s some great new punk rock, too

Check out the Menzingers. And PUP. For sure. PUP’s riffing had some serious balls. Highly recommended.

The ‘90s was the greatest era of rock ever, and it was well represented

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

Just because the surviving giants like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails weren’t there, Riot Fest found a few bands for the fans seeking some nostalgia. I caught a fantastic set by cult faves Superchunk with Chris (at the top of his Cure campout – I still don’t know if he made it through the day without eating, drinking, or peeing, as that stage filled up almost immediately after I left. If he did, kudos). I somehow missed the Dandy Warhols (sad face), but have it on good authority they were on point.

And even the rap was better in the ‘90s? Proof in point: Wu-TANG, Wu-TANG. The RZA was holding court on Saturday, yo. And with them, I’ve been lucky enough to see the majority of the Mount Rushmore of my rap fandom live, joining Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest (it’s impossible to see NWA without Eazy-E, so Ice Cube, I’m coming for ya).

On Friday, with rain and mud becoming a real issue, I was still unfamiliar with the layout of the park. There was no fucking way I was jeopardizing my shot at seeing Mastodon so I took the time to walk the routes. By doing that, I caught a few songs by Clutch (bottom heavy yet hook-y … a good combo), bookended on both sides by a few songs by Failure, a band I was never that familiar with before but I found myself really kind of enjoying them. Pretty damn heavy, technical, drony, almost prog. I found myself kinda wanting to check out their stuff when I got home. But they might not have been the right fit for that snotty, punky Riot Fest contingent. Speaking of which …

NOFX? Yeah, those guys are dicks

Failure wasn’t finished for more than five seconds on the Riot Stage when NOFX took the neighboring Roots Stage and frontman Fat Mike started berating the shit out of them for sucking. In fact, they wasted a ton of their set with stage banter insulting the crowd and the other bands on the bill, managing to fit their seminal 1994 album Punk In Drublic around it (I haven’t been able to confirm from anyone if they actually played the whole thing as they were supposed to as part of the festival’s “10 Essential Albums” series). But apparently being dicks is their thing, because their fans eat it up (believe me when I say I have decades of experience gathering intel on this matter), so more power to them.

I took off early to get my spot for Mastodon, but I did hear that when they went were in danger of going over their allotted time and told they only had time for one more song, they launched into “The Decline” – yeah, the song that’s its own EP, clocking in at over 18 minutes. When they got cut off early, Fat Mike announced “you’re the first people to hear three-fourths of ‘The Decline.’ See ya later.”

Yeah, with stunts like that, I can see why punks love them.

The other white whale I caught? DESCENDENTS!!!

The first two albums I bought as a University of Iowa student? One was M.O.D.’s U.S.A. for M.O.D. – undoubtedly the best album ever recorded that contain the lyrics “What a fucking beast/Her ass alone would be a feast.” The other was the Descendents’ incredible retrospective Somery. Played it endlessly. Probably my favorite piece of punk rock of all time.

Never got the chance to see them live before. Until Saturday.

As part of the “10 Essential Albums” series … I mean, when I think of the concept of hearing a band play one of its albums from start to finish, my brain expects to hear something like Dark Side of the Moon. Well, the SoCal veterans played their 1982 debut Milo Goes To College. We’re talking about “Myage.” “Suburban Home.” “Bikeage.” Those are some heavy hitters.

But still, yeah, it took all of about 20 minutes. You know what? Not a problem.

Because in reality, it felt like they tore through the majority of Somery. I can’t think of anything I wanted to hear but didn’t (well, except “Sour Grapes,” I guess). I got “Clean Sheets.” “Silly Girl.” “Weinerschnitzel.” “Get The Time.” I was happy.

And they actually sound lo-fi live. That’s not an insult, by the way. Actually, quite the compliment. They were fucking awesome.

A post script that must be documented for generations to come…

Text

My friends? Can drink. A lot. Like Vikings, in fact. That’s selling them short, actually. I mean, you know the tales of Vikings pounding stein after stein of mead at the Festival of the Vernal Equinox? Yeah, well, my boys make those Vikings look like 14-year-old girls trying wine coolers for the first time at a high school kegger.

As the t-shirt says, "Drink Malort or fuck off."

As the t-shirt says, “Drink Malort or fuck off.”

When we got to town on Thursday, we went out for a quick cocktail to start the weekend. Or so I thought, until the bartender brought us a tab 90 minutes later for $280, a Herculean effort in day drinking … and it was only Thursday. In what can only be described as a truly heroic intake of cocktails, Mr. Cool inhaled 12 Miller Lites the way normal people inhale … I don’t know, oxygen? Needed to be seen to be believed.

And T-Dub? He was Don Draper in a pair of Vans with his partaking of the Old Fashioneds . But I think Mr. Draper, the pussy, would’ve needed Mrs. Blankenship to hold his calls all day afterward as he napped on his office couch. For Dub, it was just Friday.

Hey, we were on vacation!

CHRIS

FRIDAY

Fueled up the Equinox. Hit Iowa City. Grabbed pear cider for Denise, my favorite Chicago host; she doesn’t consume gluten, hence the fancy pear juice. Picked up Travis, Annie, and a guy we’ll call, um, “Roger”. Listened to Descendents. Annie hated it, or perhaps just my singing. Avoided the traffic by rolling into Chicago at 2 a.m. Crashed for a few hours. Met Denise for lunch, ate my weight in tortilla chips. Rode in a cab driven by a guy named Lemmy. He ripped us off AND he listened to Backstreet Boys; obviously not the Lemmy of “Ace of Spades” fame.

Rain. Not heavy, but its persistence was characteristic of Chinese water torture. But not nearly as tortuous as the douche canoe behind us as we lined up to get beer tickets. Guy turned a Clash song into his own personal protest song. (“Beer riot! A beer riot! Beer riot! Riot for some beer!”) Yes, I’ve written out the lyrics; no, you can’t understand the fullness of the suck unless you were there. But go ahead, imagine how stupid it sounded. Annie and I played rock/paper/scissors to see who got to kill him, or we should have. Beer selection also sucked. Dos Equis Amber is the best you can do? Or Newcastle Brown Ale? Is an IPA too hipster and/or passe these days? But hey no PBR so hooray.

This was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY. So why not start with Gwar. But not too close; I was wearing a snazzy button-down shirt and didn’t feel like wearing “my” poncho to fend off the blood. (“My” is in quotes because it was a borrowed poncho, and I’ll just leave it at that.) Those guys are funny, even if they killed a Robert Smith parody. If the real Robert was on stage, those goofballs wouldn’t step to him, I GUARANTEE IT.

Clutch played next. Think my dad would have dug their set. Seriously. Bluesy, definitely his speed. If you know my dad, you’ll know that I’m not dissing Clutch. They weren’t incredible or anything, but good stuff.

Rain coming harder. Mastodon coming hardest. HOLY SHIT those guys were great. Owned the stage. And we had good spots. Common theme on Friday. Not sure if it was the rain or the workday or the shorter schedule but it wasn’t terribly crowded. This would change.

Biggest conflict of the festival was upon us: Slayer vs. Jane’s Addiction. I hadn’t seen either one before (unless you count Porno for Pyros, but that would be silly). Both were playing landmark albums front-to-back. But this was HEAVY FUCKING METAL DAY, and this was Slayer, and this was Reign in Blood, so really it wasn’t as tough as it first seemed on paper.

Slayer played the song that my wife LOOOOOOOOVES, “Disciple.” Sarcasm, of course. She once yelled at me for listening to it. “On a Sunday, no less!” Hilarious. God hates us all. Played a few more choice tracks, including “War Ensemble,” which made me think of Sam’s air-guitar antics at our first post-college job in M-Town. Kerry King ain’t got shit on Sambob. Then “Angel of Death” to “Raining Blood,” in one fell swoop. Travis and I provided great vocal accompaniment. There’s only one way out of here…PIECEBYPIECE! DO YOU WANNA DIE?!? I HAVE YET ONLY JUST BEGUN TO TAKE YOUR FUCKING LIFE! (devil horn hand gesture!!!!) One person in front of us commented how cute we were or something. Not very metal of her.

The music ends. The line for taxis begins. The rain continues. The cold gets colder. Taxis don’t come for 45 minutes or so before we finally started walking in search of a ride, which we found eight blocks away on Damen. But the wait was divine intervention, perhaps, as we reconvened with Sam and got him back to his hotel safe and sound (unless the cabbie did something impure/unseemly to Sam after we got out). Food run to nearby Walgreens. Muddy footwear left in the hallway. My socks were quarantined to a pocket of my suitcase. Jeans in rough shape but they’re going back on tomorrow. First day done. Fuck yeah.

(My gang hung together for most of Friday, although Denise missed the rainy day entirely thanks to being a responsible job holder and all that. So not much third-person post-script this time. I will say this of our pre-festival shopping trip: H&M has reasonably priced apparel.)

SATURDAY

Denise with us today; no more of that work stuff for her. More direct cab ride to Division. Found some good breakfast eats (read: chocolate chip pancakes) a few blocks from the park. Arrived at Humboldt to find a line longer than Bill Ennis-Inge’s junk (too obscure?) and a lot of bees. Annie and I would duke it out all weekend long to see who would deliver the best bee puns. I would say I won Saturday. Orderly punks seems odd and it didn’t last forever; eventually we swarmed the gates. We missed the Pizza Underground due to the wait. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I would have taken a free slice from Macaulay Culkin.

7 Seconds in a swamp of mud: pretty cool. Buzzcocks on more steady ground: awesome. Television while chilling under some trees about 100 yards from the stage: relaxing.

Left the punk scene and headed over to Riot Stage. Die Antwoord. I’d previously only thought of them in terms of gimmicky nonsense; now I think they’re a lot of fun, at least live. Freaky but I liked them a lot. Still, those haircuts are fucked.

Jeans were struggling at this point. Grabbed some sliders and nachos and found a quite area to feast. Went back to Riot/Roots stage area to watch Wu Tang Clan, who still claim they are nothin’ to fuck wit. I might beg to differ. I mean, I wouldn’t step to them, but the music is not beyond reproach. Left after a few songs, leaving Denise alone to later get dragged through the mud during Metric by some crazed kid. Bag contents strewn about the mud. Figures the one HUGE Metric fan would have to run by D.

I wanted front-row action for Descendents. Sat through the last few songs of Get Up Kids, then swam upstream against the fleeing flock of emo kids to get a spot on right side of stage. Cock Sparrer played on nearby stage; not bad. Milo comes out with backpack, ready to go back to college.

Band spends first 20-some minutes playing Milo Goes to College. Then knocks out probably 15 more songs after that. I sang damn near every word while holding on for dear life. Hadn’t been in crowd action like that in many a year. Couldn’t breathe against the gate a couple of times, still sang my heart out. Inner nerd came flying out with fist pumps galore. “I’m not a cool guy anymore//As if I ever was before.” Milo even came down to the rail so that the fans could sing; found the mic in my face. What fun. Got quite a workout passing crowd surfers over rail to security staff. Felt half my age in the moment but twice my age by night’s end/the next morning…sore as hell. Hardly any voice left; so what.

Despite that, I still sounded better than Danzig did with Samhain, which immediately followed Descendents on nearby stage. Fucker was out of breath by second song, even though he wasn’t being smashed against iron by a crowd of hundreds. They were horrible.

Learned our lesson about waiting around Humboldt for a cab. Walked down Division, grabbed huge slices of pizza, found a cab. Damen is the place to find a cab in that area. Got to Denise’s, threw away jeans. Put on different pants. Annie, Travis, and I hit a bar near Denise’s apartment, first stopping to get some cash and discuss the amazing nature of palindromes. Annie kept referencing “racecar” while I helpfully added “boob” and “tit.” Jukebox was rockin some country…until I played Slayer’s “Postmortem.” One guy across the way nodded in approval. Drunk ladies seemed oblivious. One such lady soon found the floor. I went to play more Slayer but some dude had put in 16 credits and was going to town picking Van Morrison tunes—an upgrade from Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” I suppose, but that seemed to be our cue to GTFO. Back to Denise’s to crash. Second pair of socks quarantined. Still had manic energy from Descendents set but somehow fell asleep. That’s one comfy ass egg cushion on Denise’s sofa sleeper.

(Stuff I missed: everyone else was raving about Flaming Lips; the fact that the power went out early just added to the legendary moment. Travis and Annie got a cool selfie with Wayne in bubble above them. Roger agreed with my Samhain summation: sucked. Annie had a good day catching Orwells, Dandy Warhols, and Tokyo Police Club. Wish I could have worked in Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas.)

SUNDAY

No one was worried about arriving too early. Slept in, grabbed delicious burger at Parlor, which just opened two days prior. Annie built an insurmountable lead in the “bee pun” game; one landed in her mimosa and she quickly observed, “That bee’s sure getting a buzz.” GAME OVER, although she made some other comment later about making a bee-line for something, piling on for good measure. Cabbie was playing King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley on way to Humboldt; our best taxi soundtrack yet. Punks learned to say “fuck waiting in line” or else we just got there late enough that most people were already in the park. Took a piss and prepared for my endurance test. Went over to Riot Stage, where the Cure would be playing to close out the fest, and caught Kurt Vile and the Violators. Set got over around 2:15, I plowed my way to the front rail. I would be staying there until the Cure played the final note of the set at 10:00. No food, no water, no bathroom break. Mind over body. I was about 25 feet from where Robert Smith would be standing so it was mission accomplished as far as I was concerned.

And it’s not like I just stood there staring at walls for the next five hours. I had great views of Superchunk (fun as hell) and Tegan and Sara (really great set) and Patti Smith (surpassed my expectations). When our stage was quiet, the nearby stage featured the music of Billy Bragg, Naked Raygun, Dropkick Murphys, and Social Distortion (who played a few minutes long and fucked up the Cure’s encore…more on that later). Sam hung out with me during Superchunk and I was surrounded by friendly Cure diehards—I wasn’t the only one willing to sit tight for the entire day. The woman on my right was surprised to learn I was going to stay there through the Cure; she figured with my Paddy cap and Donnelly’s Pub t-shirt, I would be sprinting over to Dropkick Murphys.

I counted five people hauled out of the crowd after passing out for one reason or another. The first one happened right at my feet during Tegan and Sara. Security couldn’t quite reach him, and seeing as many a member of the T&S audience belong to the small teenage female demographic, I had to do some serious heavy lifting to get the guy over the gate. Once again I felt it was proper to chalk it up as even more exercise.

Patti Smith was encouraging an overthrow of pretty much everything in between her rockin’ renditions of her tunes. I was more impressed with the ferocity of her music than the rally cries but whatever. She was not afraid to be confrontational with songs like “Rock n Roll Nigger.” I went into the set thinking it would be an interesting novelty act but I was genuinely impressed. Denise was not impressed. AT ALL. She had worked her way up, getting within about two or three “rows” of me at the front, but the diehards were not letting her through, even after I confirmed that she was with me. I was bummed, but at the same time, I get it.

Cure was supposed to go on at 7:45 but fucking Social D was still playing. They went over by five minutes. Not a big deal, one might say, but it was to us. Anyway, Social D shuts the fuck up finally, fog machine in high gear, intro music from the Wish era comes over speakers, the lads come out, and I swear to fucking god Robert locks eyes with me momentarily and gives me a hint of a nod. I know I sound 14 instead of 40 with that sentence but it’s an honest assessment of the moment so I’m sticking with it.

What is undisputed: I’m in the front row at a Cure show.

The first half of the set was really nice. “Open” led into “Fascination Street.” The latter is the one song I recorded on my phone; the video below will give you a glimpse of my view. And yeah, you can hear my finest Robert Smith singing voice on this vid.

One of my favorite “album tracks,” “Push” from The Head on the Door, was played fourth, followed by the sing-along keyboard line in “Play for Today” and the simple-yet-ominous tones of “A Forest.” As you can hear around 10:22 of the embedded video below, I unleashed a timely scream of “SIMON!!!!” just before he plays the closing notes of “A Forest.” I knew I gave it a good belt, confirmed by being picked up by some other guy’s video.

Simon Gallup is age-defying; at 54 he has more energy than rockers half his age. It’s no wonder I once named my cat after him, because he rules. (So did my cat…RIP.)

The second half of the set featured a few of the overly poppy songs that I enjoy (“Close to Me,” “The Walk”) and some that I could do without (“Mint Car,” “Friday I’m in Love”) but it’s a festival so there’s no sense brooding about not hearing 23 deep cuts. And truth be told, the pop songs are quite good but just not my favorite side of the Cure. But toward the end we got “One Hundred Years,” which is as punishing as pretty much anything played throughout the festival.

So the band finishes “End” right at 10:00. Robert says thank you (or, you know, “Q!”) and then looks at us and shrugs and walks off. Photo of the setlist reveals that they were going to come back out and play a one-song, four-minute encore: “Give Me It,” a great song from The Top that would have satisfied the diehards, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, fucking Social D had to run long and fuck it up, since Chicago has a very strict noise ordinance that cuts off the music at 10:00. Lot of whining from fans around me, mainly because they didn’t get to hear “Boys Don’t Cry,” which it turns out they weren’t going to play anyway. Ha. Still, while not the perfect setlist, the performance was top-notch and my front row spot was amazing. Worth not consuming or excreting anything for eight hours.

Stopped at the same pizza joint from the night before. Left my knapsack there…goodbye awesome gray Paddy cap. Would have cost three times the retail value to take a cab there and back, as I only realized the loss once we were back at Denise’s. Third pair of socks quarantined. Lou Mitchell’s breakfast in the morning before returning to our Iowa reality.

(Stuff I missed: the gang applauded Primus. Annie and Denise enjoyed Weezer. Denise HATED Patti Smith—did I mention that already? It needs to be noted twice. HATED HER. Dropkick Murphys made people happy.)

My top 5 of the weekend:

5. Die Antwoord

4. Mastodon

3. Slayer

2. The Cure

1. Descendents

Honorable mention to Buzzcocks and Patti Smith.

If this mega-sized version of Riot Fest irons out some wrinkles (the park layout was horrible; a couple of scheduling conflicts seemed unforgivable), I think I’d go to this as long as I’m physically able (and as long as my wife keeps letting me go to these things). Maybe I can make it long enough that The Next Generation could go with me…a dad can dream.

(Jump back up to Sam’s recap)

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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, #15-11

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’ #15-11

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

15. TrickyMaxinquaye

14. InterpolTurn on the Bright Lights

13. The CurePornography

12. PortisheadDummy

11. The BeatlesThe Beatles

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#15: Tricky, Maxinquaye

Trip-hop can be divided into two columns: the amazing (Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky) and the generic coffeehouse variety (everyone else who followed). But even if these Bristolites caused inferior imitation, they did provide an imprint that still sounds cool today. And where Massive Attack thrived on chill groove and Tracey Thorn, and Portishead incorporated more turntable scratching, brass, and Beth Gibbons, the young man known as Tricky was all over the place…in a good way. Dark, textured, truly interdisciplinary music with beats big enough to satisfy the “hop” crowd and eccentricities that worked for the “trip” audience.

The thing that struck me about this album upon first listen was how well he incorporated other people’s material into his own warped vision. Consider a three-song stretch in the album’s first half, where Tricky covers a Public Enemy song (“Black Steel,” with female vocalist Martina Topley-Bird handling the Chuck D rhymes), samples his friends from Portishead on an eerie song aptly titled “Hell Is Round the Corner*, and then works the drums and guitar bits from the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Suffer” into his song, respectfully titled, um, “Pumpkin.” So he covers a song by my favorite rap act, samples a current band that I love, and then samples my favorite group from the Alternative Nation gang…and does all that in a way that allows him room to do his own thing with the material or accent his songs with the samples, rather than a rote cover or using the samples as the primary element of the songs a la Puff Daddy.

(* – “Hell Is Round the Corner,” found in my sampler above, was used by the show Rescue Me during a scene depicting the aftermath of a tragic death in Tommy Gavin’s family. You’d have thought the song was written specifically for that scene. Incredible.)

And on the album’s opener, “Overcome,” Tricky took some lyrics he had given to Massive Attack (which they used for the song “Karmacoma,” a somewhat upbeat tune*, and showed the old boys how it was supposed to sound. Martina’s voice and her looped gasps pierce through the atmospheric keyboards and persistent thump of the drums, creating an ominous yet sexy song. When she sings, “You sure you wanna be with me? I’ve nothing to give…but I’ll lie and say this loving’s best,” accented by those aforementioned gasps, I find myself saying, “Um, yes. Yes I do.”

(* – I would be willing to be that “Overcome” has equal/greater BPM than “Karmacoma,” but I would never describe “Overcome” as upbeat. It’s all about the mood, the tone.)

The album has extended grooves (“Aftermath”), slightly abbreviated grooves (“Abbaon Fat Tracks”), aggressive jams (“Brand New You’re Retro”), and one truly bizarre track toward the end (“Strugglin'”) that truly makes you question the guy’s sanity. A decade and a half after trip-hop arrived, I still find myself enjoying this album…maybe not as much as I did when I was 21, but enough to deem it #15.

#11: The Beatles, The Beatles

My dad had four proper Beatles albums in his LP collection: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour. So I had the luxury of listening to the Beatles at a pretty early age. But he didn’t have anything after that; he explained to me that he got a lot of his records from the radio station at St. Ambrose, and he transferred to Illinois for his DVM studies in 1968, before the “White Album” came out. (Indeed, his copy of Sgt. Pepper’s has the call letters “KSAR” written in one of the upper corners of the cover.)

So I did what any self-respecting fan would do: I found one of the cool girls in my class and asked her if she had the “White Album” and if so could I please borrow it and record it to one of my various TDK blank tapes? (File sharing at its best.)

And so began my love affair with the wonderfully varied (scattershot, some might say) double album, one that was among my first 10 CD purchases when I made the move to the newer medium. I listened to it over and over, night and day, forward and backward…which, of course, led to me believing there were myriad hidden messages suggesting riots and new world orders and who knows what else (not really).

(I don’t subscribe to the Charlie Manson school of thought; I don’t buy all the subliminal messaging, or at least not his translation of them. However, there is that part at the end of the song “I’m So Tired” that sounds like gibberish. When that is played backward, it does sound just a little bit like “Paul is dead, man, miss him, we miss him, miss him!” in that typical backmasking kind of way. I assume it is either coincidence or the Beatles having a bit of fun with the urban legend. They were known to use reversed sound in their music, as early as 1966 with vocals on the song “Rain.”)

My original acquisition of the “White Album” coincided with the peak of my Beatles obsession. I would grab my Walkman and my “White Album” tape and go for walks around town almost every night that I wasn’t making pies at Pizza Hut, just so I could spend 90 minutes alone with my thoughts and the Beatles piping into my ears. (Exercise by accident!) My friend David and I had scored a book via interlibrary loan that detailed the Beatles’ studio recordings, and it painted quite a dreary picture of the band during the “White Album” era. It seemed like there were quite a few songs where the instrumentation was documented as such:

“Mother Nature’s Son” (Lennon/McCartney)

  • Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar, timpani, bass drum
  • John Lennon: not present
  • George Harrison: not present
  • Ringo Starr: not present
  • George Martin: brass arrangement

But so what, even if the album was ironically named after a unified group? The tunes, all 30 of them, are at the very least intriguing and often outstanding, and to my ears the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It never bothered me that it jumped around a bit; you can grab one of the numerous bloated 80-minute rap albums that came out after the CD era exploded. (THAT is monotony.) I loved the quirky stuff like “Wild Honey Pie” and “Martha My Dear” (an ode to Paul’s dog) and “Piggies” and “Rocky Raccoon”*. We got four George songs instead of one or two, including one of the best songs in the entire Beatles catalog (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”).

(* – Shortly after I borrowed the tapes from the cool girl in my class, a couple of her good friends, older dudes I got along with just fine but didn’t typically hang out with, came up to me during Advanced Keyboarding class and asked me how I liked the “White Album.” I told them I really dug it, while also wondering if an invite to get high in the parking lot was soon to follow. The follow-up statement from one of the dudes: “Isn’t ‘Rocky Raccoon’ a great song?” What else could I say but a statement of agreement? I never thought I’d be bonding with anyone because of the song “Rocky Raccoon”; proof that anything is possible.)

Anyway, where was I… We got the nice Paul moments like “Blackbird,” “I Will,” and the aforementioned “Mother Nature’s Son.” We got the John rock ‘n’ roll tunes like “Yer Blues” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.” Paul rocks out with “Helter Skelter”; John gets wistful on “Julia” and “Cry Baby Cry.” You get “Dear Prudence,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Corky!), a slowed-down version of “Revolution,” “Birthday,” and arguably my favorite song on the album, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” And the album closes with “Good Night,” a song I used to sing to my son at bedtime when he was just a little tyke.

Even “Revolution 9” is worth exploring from time to time, just to pick out the various sounds woven into the fabric.

This is one of two consecutive double albums in my countdown. What will be at #10? Come back Monday…

Todd’s #15-11

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

15. Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De lo Habitual

14. The Beatles, Abbey Road

13. Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

12. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

11. Prince, Sign O’ the Times

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#13: Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

cover for gishWhere to start here? Like Chris who ranked it at #17, Gish was a hugely defining album for me. It sort of blew me away the instant I heard it and destroyed every preconceived opinion I had about music and what was good.

I first heard Smashing Pumpkins on the radio show Off the Beaten Track. If you read my post about Pixies Trompe le Monde then you will remember that this was a show that played exclusively alternative and indie music. It was on late night on Sundays and I would stay up and listen until I fell asleep. Often I would record these shows and replay what I missed later. On one of these tapes I discovered Gish. Well part of Gish. During the show they played 2 songs from the album. “I Am One” and “Siva.” I fast forwarded the tape immediately to try and find out the name of the artist. The DJs briefly talked about the songs and maybe goofed on the name Smashing Pumpkins a bit but the big revelation was that they were going to play Gish after the show. After every show they played a new album in its entirety.

So I fast forwarded some more to the end of the show hoping I had enough tape to catch the whole album. I was elated as “I Am One” came over the speakers. I’d heard that one earlier but that was fine, there was new songs coming. Thinking I was going to be hearing the whole album I cranked up the volume sat back and enjoyed. I loved how lead singer Billy Corgan’s voice was franticly snarling and screaming out the lyrics. His guitar work was filthy and grimy (notice I didn’t write grungy) and I couldn’t get enough. Next up was “Siva”; great tune but I had heard that one already too. I was getting impatient for something new. Finally, the third song “Rhinoceros” came on and I was enjoying its blissed out psychedelic dreaminess when the tape cut off. Blurgh!!!  I had to hear more!

The next weekend I went to the record store at the mall to grab my very own copy. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell it. I think the dopey record store guy thought I was kidding when I told him the band’s name was Smashing Pumpkins. I should have known better than to go to the mall anyways. Back in the day if you wanted hard to get or more underground artists you had to go to Co-Op Tapes and Records. The mall had the chicks but Co-Op had the selection. So I buzzed over to the nearest location and asked the hipster dude at the counter if they had Smashing Pumpkins. He seemed truly impressed. Must not have been everyday that preppy 16 year olds came in asking for that record. He grabbed me a copy and I immediately threw it in the car tape deck. The rest of the day I drove around playing Gish over and over.

Since then, I’ve met several guys with similar stories to me. They loved Smashing Pumpkins and were the first people in there town/school/state to listen to them. They talk as though they were the area ambassadors for the band and introduced them to the world. I can say I did not do this. I didn’t hoist the Smashing Pumpkins banner and wave it for everyone to see. I did tell a couple of my friends about them but mostly I kept quiet. The band was just for me. It stayed that way until their next record came out and they truly unleashed the awesomeness…

#11: Prince, Sign O’ the Times

I’ve been trying to write a blurb about the album Sign O’ the Times for a while now. Things have been slow because I’ve been busy messing with technology issues. This is ridiculous, how am I supposed to get inspiration when I can’t get to the online streaming database and listen to the record at 320 bit digital perfection? First, the internets weren’t working. Then, once I got the modem online the Wi-Fi wouldn’t connect to my laptop. So I tried my phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot. Two songs in, I realized that I was using way too much data. My cell provider will send me an enormous bill if I go over my allotted gigabytes. What was I to do?

Then I started thinking about my first copy of Sign O’ the Times. It was a dubbed cassette tape from my brother. We didn’t have a dual tape deck so I just pushed my tape deck next to his and hit play on his and record on mine. I stuck this crude contraption in the closet so it wouldn’t pick up sound from the TV in the other room. A valiant effort but during the song “Adore” you could still hear Hawkeye arguing with Hot Lips Houlihan from the M.A.S.H. rerun my Dad was watching. At one crucial point in “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” you could hear my mother telling me or my brother to take out the trash. Not a perfect system but it worked. What more did I need? I wanted to hear the songs and didn’t care if it was a perfect digital copy or not.

I remember having a lot of music recorded that way. If you looked in my cassette tape storage unit back then (shoe box), you would have found dozens of tapes with songs recorded off of the radio. I used to spend hours listening to the local pop stations waiting for specific songs. Who cared if the DJ was talking up the first 30 seconds of the song as long as you got enough of the song to jump around your room singing Su-Su-Sudio? It really was the earliest form of music pirating. Much more difficult, but way more satisfying. You really had to work to get that free version of “One Night in Bangkok.”

Technology makes things so easy now. If I want to listen to any song in my over 100 gig music library,* I just tap the screen on my phone or iPad and wireless speakers start playing. If I want to listen in the car, I plug my iPod or phone into the stereo and hit play. What I wouldn’t have given for that back when I rode around with $1000 worth of CDs in my car. Back then, if you told me we were going to have a device like the iPod, I would have expected there to be flying cars and robot prostitutes too. It would have seemed impossible.

*(Believe me I’m not bragging, I know people that have Napstered and BitTorrented there way to ten times that amount. All my music was paid for (wink) and obtained legally (wink). I’m no pirate. Arrrrr!)

And just like I couldn’t imagine file sharing and streaming music services back then, I can’t imagine what is coming next. Things change so fast. 12 years ago I didn’t own a cell phone or personal PC. Since then, I have had 10 cell phones, 2 smart phones, 4 PCs, and 2 tablets. What? I have to stay plugged in. I need to be notified in the middle of the night when I can save $20 dollars on Zappos.com and how else can I find out which boner pills are guaranteed to satisfy.

So, in closing, Sign O’ the Times is real real good.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #30-21

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’ #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Interpol, Antics

29. School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms

28. Vampire Weekend, Contra

27. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain

26. The White Stripes, Elephant

25. The Cure, The Head on the Door

24. Nirvana, In Utero

23. The Radio Dept., Pet Grief

22. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (a.k.a. II)

21. Pink Floyd, The Wall

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#27: Prince & the Revolution, Purple Rain

cover for Purple RainCan you recite the opening lines of “Let’s Go Crazy”?

Of course you can. My co-worker Tom (the one who writes) prides himself on it. Every now and then we’ll talk about music and somehow, either through my prompt or his way of steering the conversation, he’ll rattle them off (often double-timing it just to show how awesome he is):

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called “life”
Electric word, life; that means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell ya, there’s something else:
The afterworld
A world of neverending happiness
You can always see the sun
Day
Or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one
Dr. Everything’ll Be All Right
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
Cause in this life, things are much harder than the afterworld
This life…you’re on your own

(I realized after I typed that up that I didn’t use the letter “U” every time the word “you” is used. Or the numeral 2 instead of the word “to.” An oversight for which I have no apology.)

If John Lennon had been alive in 1984 and heard this opening track, he would have turned to Yoko and said, “Did you hear the way that guy in purple started off his new album? Much cooler than ‘I dig a pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf-Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats,’ innit?”

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the three 45RPM records I have from Purple Rain; I didn’t even own the album in its entirety for probably two years after its release. I had a third of it already, along with the sweet b-sides like “Erotic City” (they say “fuck” on that one, Tipper!). I also had “When Doves Cry,” the song that occasionally prompts a re-enactment of the video in my office to the chagrin of my officemate. (I’ve got that crawling-across-the-floor move down.) And he might refute it now, but I clearly remember my dad coming downstairs while I was listening to my records and asking, “What Prince songs do you have?” I showed him Doves and Crazy, he frowned, then said, “So you don’t have the ‘Purple Rain’ song?” After my next trip to Pamida, I did. “Purple Rain”: kid tested, dad approved.

I really had no interest in getting the album as a whole until I heard about “Darling Nikki” and all its lyrical glory. Not from my friends or the older kids in the neighborhood or at school; no, I read a big article in the Des Moines Register about the PMRC and Tipper Gore and the attempts to keep the smut out of the hands of kids. All because Tipper heard the “masturbating with a magazine” line in “Nikki” and lost her shit. Before long, Washington wives were making a list of the “Filthy Fifteen” (which included “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper*) and dudes like Dee Snider and Frank Zappa were testifying before Congress. But it was John Denver who put it best in his testimony: “That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.” Yep, as soon as I read about all of this nonsense, I couldn’t wait to get the whole album.

And it was a good thing, as I discovered a treasure trove of later singles that I hadn’t bought on 45 like “Take Me With U” and great album cuts like “Baby I’m A Star.” And much to Tipper’s disappointment, I never became a depraved sex fiend after hearing “Darling Nikki” and I didn’t join the occult after listening to Slayer and I didn’t kill myself after listening to Suicide and I didn’t kill any cops after listening to Body Count or Ice-T or N.W.A.

But I loved this Prince album. Still do.

(* – “She Bop” was flagged for masturbation references. Masturbation was the furthest thing from my mind whenever I heard/saw Cyndi Lauper.)

#22: Crystal Castles, II

album cover for Crystal Castles IITwo years ago, I came down with some strain of flu (avian, swine, whatever) and found myself lying listless for about a week straight. I was too tired to read, too woozy to get out and about…I couldn’t even play video games, which was a red flag that something was definitely wrong.

So how did I spend all that recovery time? Listening to an album with songs called “Fainting Spells,” “Suffocation,” “Violent Dreams,” and “Pap Smear.” And finding my favorite album of 2010 in the process.

The band that had the coolest 8-bit sound around, quite evident on the eponymous debut that came out two years previous, suddenly decided to take the tunes in a shoegaze direction (with an electronic twinge, of course). And it was beautiful. Songs like “Celestica” and “Suffocation” (despite the gloomy title) soared thanks to Alice Glass’ actual singing (!!!) and the keyboard chords created by Ethan Kath. No longer were these two relying solely on piercing, mutated screams and Donkey Kong samples to create art. (Although that was cool too.)

Whether it was the thumping beat and impassioned howls of “Baptism” or the shrewd use of a Sigur Ros sample in “Year of Silence” or the whirling whiplash of “Pap Smear” (I know, these aren’t the most appetizing titles, but the songs themselves aren’t 1/1000th as nauseating as songs bearing benign titles like “Moves Like Jagger” or whatever geeks like One Direction call their songs) or the brilliant use of Robert Smith vocals on “Not in Love.” For people yearning for the chaos of the first album, there are cuts like “Doe Deer” and “Fainting Spells.” “Intimate” provides the dance-floor crowd something to devour, and, um, weirdos everywhere could rally around the generally spaced-out “I Am Made of Chalk.”

There’s something sinister about each of these songs; sometimes it’s evident, sometimes not. Even the gorgeous “Celestica” has a dark side: the song was inspired by an incident at a Celestica plant (it’s a plastics company in Canada, apparently) where an employee fell into a boiling vat and died.

On that note, I hope you all catch swine flu and spend a week listening to this masterpiece.

Todd’s #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

29. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

28. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

27. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

25. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

23. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

22. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

21. Depeche Mode, Violator

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

This was the first Prince album that I ever got. Not to say it was the first I’d ever listened to. I had dubbed copies of other Prince albums from my older brother who was a big fan. Parade was the first one that I actually went to the store and picked out. My parents let my brother and me each pick out something from the music section at the local Target store. This was a rare occasion so I took a rather long time deliberating over many options. I believe at one point I had three tapes picked out and had the plastic security doohickeys around my wrist.

Remember those things? So many times I remember perusing the music bins of Musicland or Disc Jockey spinning one of those around my wrist as I looked. I sort of miss going to record stores. It made the album selection process more important. If you were going to leave the house, find a record store and then plop down the majority of your hard earned cash on an album, you wanted it to be good. Not just one or two songs good and the rest crap. Believe me, I bought a ton of those over the years.

I’m pretty sure my brother picked his tape right off. He chose INXS, Listen Like Thieves. (In itself a great album that I briefly considered putting on this list. Unfortunately, it did not meet all the strict requirements to make the final cut) Based upon his aggravated looks and comments, I’m sure my brother was getting pretty annoyed with me because I couldn’t make up my mind. Around my wrist I had:

Peter Gabriel, So. (Great album that made this list at #37)

Pet Shop Boys, Please (Good album but never considered for this list)

Prince and the Revolution, Parade (So incredibly good that it should be on everyone’s list)

Apparently, I was shopping exclusively in the P’s section of the store. After flip flopping on my decision for twenty minutes or so, my brother made the decision easy. He looked at my selections and said “It’s not that hard. That’s dumb (Peter Gabriel), that’s stupid (Pet Shop Boys), and that’s Prince. Put that other shit back and let’s go.” So that’s what I did. I just needed a little push in any direction. If he would have said Peter Gabriel was the better choice I probably would have taken that one home.

Prince turned out to be the right choice as I learned later. I ended up getting both of those other tapes at subsequent visits to the store. Parade got way more plays on my boombox. Is there a lesson here? Yes. Two lessons.

Lesson 1: Listen to your older siblings. They may seem like they’re being jerks sometimes but they are actually secretly looking out for you.

Lesson 2: “That’s dumb, that’s stupid, that’s Prince.” Words to live by.

#24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

Back when I was in high school, I would spend my Sunday nights not going to bed early and preparing for a new week at school, but instead staying up late listening to a radio station broadcasting from the middle of a corn field near Muscatine, Iowa. Specifically, a show called “Off the Beaten Track.” They played all kinds of early alternative and college rock. I heard many of my all time favorite bands for the first time listening to that show. The DJs were Mary of the Heartland and some dude named Roberto. (Roberto will come into play in some of the upcoming album blurbs.) I used to put a fresh cassette tape in my radio/tape player/CD player and listen as long as I could until I fell asleep. The next day I would rewind the tape and listen to what I missed.

After the show, they would premiere a newly released record in its entirety. I could catch most of that on the same tape if I stayed up late enough to flip it over. It was a great way to get a new album for free if you had the time and a crap ton of blank tapes. On one of those nights, they played The Pixies, Trompe le Monde. It was the first Pixies album that I’d ever heard. From the start of the title track I was confused and blown away at the same time. Was it punk? Was it surfer rock? The next song “Planet of Sound” played more like a metal song with Black Francis’ screaming vocals. The next song, “Alec Eiffel”, went back to surfer-punk, well kind of, because they sneak in a keyboard part at the end. Then, they really confused me by throwing in a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain song “Head On.”  They were all over the map and I loved it. And I didn’t even have to buy it!

I still have a weird reaction when I listen to the last song “The Navajo Know.”  My tape cut off right in the middle.

Upon construction
there is the Mohawk
his way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
skywalk
some people say that
[click]…

Years later, I bought Trompe le Monde on CD. For quite awhile, I would still expect the song to end at that point. It took me a long time not to anticipate the abrupt ending. At least I finally got to hear the last of the lyrics and learn “what some people say.”

some people say that…

the Navajo know
a way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
oh no.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

Some content on this page was disabled on May 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from PRS for Music. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/
Some content on this page was disabled on May 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from PRS for Music. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #40-31

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’ #40-31

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

40. The Beatles, Help!

39. Stereolab, Emperor Tomato Ketchup

38. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career

37. Nick Drake, Bryter Layter

36. The Black Crowes, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

35. Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique

34. Sonic Youth, Goo

33. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet

32. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm

31. Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#40: The Beatles, Help!

cover image for help!This album is the perfect mix of “Yeah Yeah Yeah” kind of Beatles and the more introspective type of song the band would write more often in the second act of its career. Makes sense, seeing as it is the fifth of the band’s 12 albums (going by the British catalog). But that’s only part of the reason I like this album so much.

I love the movie Help! Just love it. It was the second movie for the Fab Four, and it served the same purpose as their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night: an excuse to have the Beatles play their music on the big screen. Since the first movie’s plot was “let’s show the Beatles being the Beatles, playing music everywhere they go in their everyday lives,” Help! needed some sort of exotic plot. Here’s what they came up with:

A girl is to be sacrificed by some offbeat cult. However, she mailed the “sacrificial ring” to Ringo, who put it on his pinky finger only to have it stuck on there. Soon, the cult leader is pursuing Mr. Starr, as is a British mad scientist who thinks he could “rule the world” with such a ring. Oh yeah, the sacrificial girl’s sister shows up to help the Fab Four escape the evil clutches of Ringo’s enemies (and she’s kinda hot, so naturally she likes Paul despite being fawned over by George). Hilarity ensues, and (SPOILER!!!!) Ringo lives to drum another day.

The movie’s tone is a bit like Monty Python, albeit not nearly as clever. But it did beat the Pythons to the punch with the nonsensical “intermission” bit spliced into the movie:

And Help! had the great tunes you all know (the title track; “Ticket to Ride”) and the equally great ones you won’t find on greatest hits compilations (“The Night Before”; “Another Girl”; George’s “I Need You”; “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”; and one of the best songs in the Beatles’ entire catalog, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”). The tunes used in the movie are amazingly catchy, and the second half of the album is just as solid, featuring seven more songs not used in the movie. Hardly throwaways, either: the most-covered song of all time, “Yesterday”; Paul’s wonderful vocal on the quick romp “I’ve Just Seen a Face”; the interesting guitar sound complementing John’s raw voice on “It’s Only Love.”

Many a person likes to look at Rubber Soul as the album where the Beatles got “serious”; I think Help! is a better collection of songs, an album that shows the band capable of greater musical flourishes (the guitar interplay between John and George is wonderful throughout) and finding a better balance of Beatlemania-pop and serious content. It’s no wonder they cobbled a movie together to showcase this stuff.

#36: The Black Crowes, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion

cover image for the southern harmony and musical companionI remember the first time I heard the second album from the Black Crowes. I had just moved to the second floor of Rider Hall at the University of Northern Iowa. My folks and my younger brother helped get my dorm room in order, which wasn’t a tall task, as all I brought were clothes, books, my CD player, and my CD collection. What else did I need? I was going to go to a party at the infamous “White House” later that evening with one of my good friends and a girl who graduated from Waukon a year ahead of me. (When you bought a cup at the White House, they wrote a number on your hand; mine was somewhere among the first 20. Toward the end of my night, I saw some numbers in the 800s.) I was just a couple of days away from starting my training as a computer scientist (a trade I would abandon after three semesters of outdated computer code–it was 1992 and I was learning FORTRAN, for fuck’s sake–and way too much calculus).

Anyway, life at that moment was good. But I was a little nervous all the same. Kinda like when I started kindergarten, but without the risk of peeing my pants this time (after a few hours at “the White House,” though, all bets are off on urinary control). During those first few days of kindergarten, I would find my buddy Alex, who was in first grade, on the playground at recess. He would invite me to come hang with the other first graders, playing tag or kickball or participating in whatever tomfoolery first graders did at a Catholic grade school. That helped me get used to school, and soon enough, I was the coolest kid at St. Pat’s. (That last part is false.)

Lucky for me, my buddy Alex now lived on the same floor of Rider Hall as me, in the other wing. So I went to find him.

Alex was a sophomore, so he had this dorm room thing down. His room looked like pimped-out compared to mine. (Read: he had a lofted bed, a TV, a stocked fridge, and a sweet stereo.) He asked me how I was going to spend my first night at UNI; I told him I was heading to the White House. “Gonna get some puss?” I was asked. Not “pussy,” but “puss.” (While I probably responded with “Yeah!” or “I hope so,” the answer turned out to be “no.”) As we talked, he flipped on the stereo, and the opening riffs of “Sting Me” filled the room.

Suddenly I wasn’t thinking about dorm rooms or “puss” or an offer to hook me up with a $5 case of Meister Brau (which, before the afternoon was over, I accepted…unwisely). What I was thinking: Damn! The Crowes have a new album! Who can give me a ride to Sam Goody?!?

So Alex and I shared a cold drink or two while listening to the Crowes and talking about college. It was just what I needed, both from a calming standpoint about my new life as Joe College, and hearing good tunes. “Sting Me” moved to “Remedy” and “Thorn in My Pride,” two songs tailor made for rock radio, and then two soulful jams, “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” and “Sometimes Salvation,” which in my opinion is the best one-two punch in Black Crowes recorded history. There’s not a bum track on this album, an opinion I formed with Alex and later confirmed over numerous listens. The Crowes’ first album was pretty great, but the follow-up sounded like a band more comfortable with themselves, stretching their legs and groovin’ the fuck out. And it’s an album that stirs up the positive memories I have of my friend Alex, who sadly passed away not too long ago. Alex and I lost touch once I transferred to ISU, but I’ll always remember the times he helped out his younger friend, and his good taste in music in 1992.

And his dropping of the “y” from “pussy.” (smile)

Todd’s #40-31

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

40. Ben Folds, Rockin’ the Suburbs

39. N.W.A, Niggaz4life

38. M83, Saturdays=Youth

37. Peter Gabriel, So

36. Vampire Weekend, Contra

35. Prince, Dirty Mind

34. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II

33. Pearl Jam, Ten

32. Beck, Mellow Gold

31. Portishead, Dummy

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#39. N.W.A, Niggaz4life

Three seventeen year old suburban white boys are rolling down the street in a ‘79 Monte Carlo. Out of the obnoxiously loud sub-woofers come the soothing sounds of N.W.A, Straight Outta Compton. One of the guys is looking extra menacing with his NY Yankees hat on backwards. Of course, back then I weighed about 135 lbs. so you could see why I looked so menacing. I also wore that stupid Yankees cap for about 2 years straight.

Your time is coming soon.

Why? I had such thick luxuriant hair. Why cover it up? I took it for granted. To all you haired men out there, never take it for granted. Never. You assholes…I know you’re taking it for granted. I can tell. Right now you’re laughing at me. You’re saying, “That guy’s nuts. My hair is never falling out.” Well take it from me. It sneaks up on you. One day you’re reading a book and you notice two small strands of your hair slowly drift onto the paper. You scoff at it; “Plenty more where that came from,” you’ll say. Then one day you’ll see the top of your head on a video camera as you walk into the local Target store. You will be blinded by the reflection from your un-camouflaged scalp. Again you will be in denial. “Those surveillance cameras must have some weird filtering effect or something” you’ll say. Then the day will come when you look in the mirror and realize your head looks vaguely like a half plucked chicken. What little hair that is left is wispy and pathetic. You will have two choices; Comb-over or shave it. I chose to shave it like a man. I hope you choose to comb-over when your day comes.

So as I was saying, we were rolling down the street and listening to tough guy gangsta rap. I was new to the art form at that point and wanted to have a copy of my own to bone up on all the gangsta rap terms: gaffle, endo, and suckamuthafucka. Also, how else was I going to learn all the different ways to degrade women?

So we head over to the Best Buy. Gangstas shop at Best Buy right? Yeah, we were living the thug life. We head over to the rap section looking for Straight Outta Compton. That’s when I saw that N.W.A had a new album out. Niggaz4life. I grabbed it and opened my wallet to see if I had enough money. The Velcro ripping noise of my wallet was extra gangsta I’m sure. I had a $15 in there. What a pimp! The tape was only $9.99 so I was all set to purchase. That’s when I noticed dozens of papers pinned up all over the rap section of the store stating that you had to be 18 years old to buy the cassette in my hands. Not any other tape. They made a point to call out Niggaz4life specifically. They would be verifying I.D.s at the checkouts. Suckamuthafucka!

I was not living the thug life or looking particularly gangsta as I wandered the music section looking for an adult that would take my money and buy the tape for me. I found a college dude willing to do it, if he could keep what was left of my money after the transaction. Eazy-E would have said that I got gaffled there. So gangsta.

33. Pearl Jam, Ten

Ten was released in late 1991 and by summer the next year everyone I knew had a copy. To borrow a line from Wayne’s World, “If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.” Wayne was of course referring to the album Frampton Comes Alive which somehow avoided both Chris’ and my lists. Ten was very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads — they all adored it. They think it’s some righteous music. Include me somewhere in that bunch. I’ll let you decide which category I was in. I think I enjoyed it mostly because it felt very intense bordering on angry much of the time.

After seeing the video for “Even Flow” I was totally hooked. Lead singer Eddie Vedder was like a man possessed. He appeared to be an incredibly charismatic front man with his angry head banging and microphone swinging. At one point in the video, he climbs around in the rafters of a venue during a live show. He swings on pipes, scales walls, and finally dives off of a ledge into frenzied crowd below. After that, I swore that I would see them live.

I was all pumped up for the next Pearl Jam release Vs. I even waited in line with fifty other music nerds at Co-Op Tapes and Records for the special midnight release. It was good but I wasn’t obsessively listening to it like I did with Ten. I was still on the lookout for a live show though. That would have to kick ass right? Then I saw this performance on MTV.

That was the beginning of Eddie Vedder’s potted plant phase. He hardly moves. The intensity seems to be there but it looks like he’s in a straitjacket for much of the performance.

By the time Pearl Jam’s third album Vitalogy was released I had almost no interest in them. Pearl Jam toured in support of that record and were coming only 2 hours away to Chicago. They were in a battle with Ticketmaster at the time and were using some other ticketing agent. You had to call a special number and could only buy four tickets at a time. You also had to call from an Illinois phone number. Most of my friends were in Iowa. I had a girlfriend who lived in Illinois and hatched a plan to call from her place. We got through three times before the concert sold out and came away with 10 or 12 tickets to the show. We marked up the price and sold them to friends and acquaintances for a nice chunk of money. I even sold my own ticket, using the money to buy more CDs, lots of beer, and a mountain bike. I think I made the right choice. I still have the bike and you should see my calf muscles. They’re enormous. My friends that went to the concert only came away with a hangover and mild tinnitus.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #100-91

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’ 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

99. Ice Cube, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted

98. Pet Shop Boys, Please

97. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela

96. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat

95. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

94. Motley Crue, Too Fast for Love

93. Hooray for Earth, True Loves

92. The Cure, Seventeen Seconds

91. Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#95: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears

blood sweat and tears self-titledIt might seem a bit odd to see this album on my list, ahead of Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking and albums that won’t make my list like Alice in Chains’ Dirt or Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. (That’s right, I couldn’t find room for either of those. Dirt is probably my #101; Mellon Collie needs to be a single disc.) But here it is all the same.

This is a pick of sentimentality. This is the first “real” record I remember listening to as a child. We were living in Eagan, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. I used to dance around like a little banshee to “Spinning Wheel”; my parents might not remember this, but I truly do remember getting scolded for jumping around on my bed during the instrumental breakdown a little over halfway through the song. Good times.

Nowadays it’s one of those “right mood” records, but when I’m in that zone, I love hearing stuff like “Sometimes in Winter” or “More and More” and the aforementioned “Spinning Wheel,” the song that represents the album in my playlist above. Better stop typing before Mom and Dad come in and yell at me…

#91 Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey

cover for the land of rape and honeyI remember first hearing Ministry over at my friend Jeff Perry’s house. He had the 12″ Singles compilation, which features “Everyday Is Halloween” and the unfairly maligned “The Nature of Love” (I still think that song is OK). I thought it was decent synth pop. Flash forward a couple of years: I go golfing with my cousin Mark; he’s wearing combat boots and a Ministry T-shirt that has a skull on it. Same group? Nah, couldn’t be. I don’t ask.

Then one summer, my friend Brian’s cousins roll up to Iowa from San Antonio. One of them, Billy, is armed with Ministry cassettes, including one called The Land of Rape and Honey. We throw it in the Ford Tempo tape deck, and “Stigmata” subsequently blows my mind and scares me a little bit. For weeks (certainly for the rest of Billy’s stay) I find myself annoying people by using my voice to make the guitar riff noise from that song (duh duh duh duh DUNNNNNN!!!).

The rest of the disc is great too. Odd chants, mad drumming, Kevin Dillon samples from Platoon…this album had a little bit of everything. Even my Grandma Clair liked it, coming into the room dancing while I was listening to the powerhouse second track, “The Missing.” I even crashed a car listening to this album. Yep, sounds like the 91st best album of all time.

Todd’s 100-91

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

100. Radiohead, The Bends

99. Hoodoo Gurus, Mars Needs Guitars

98. Michael Jackson, Thriller

97. Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood

96. Bjork, Debut

95. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Evan Sank

94. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

93. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls

92. The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

91. Eels, Daisies of the Galaxies

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#94 Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

This record is a bit of as sentimental pick for me. It came out in early October 2007, and was on fairly heavy rotation on the alternative satellite radio stations. One day around that time, I was running errands for my very pregnant wife. My daughter, who at the time was 3 years old, was with me. The song “Is There a Ghost?” came on the radio. It’s a pretty simple tune with basically one verse repeated over and over behind slow building guitars.

I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
I could sleep
When I lived alone
Is there a ghost in my house?

Since this was around Halloween and the song had the word ghost in it, my daughter thought it was cool and asked to listen to it again. When we got home I bought the record to play on future car trips with her (anything to get a break from the Annie soundtrack). After a few listens though, I realized the rest of the record was very good too. I generally am not a fan of country rock or down home type rock but this was different. The big reverb filled vocals and sweeping guitars really sucked me in. Band of Horses was a mainstay on my iPod for the next few months.

It was actually playing in the car as I drove my wife to the hospital to deliver my son. So whenever I hear Cease to Begin, I think of both of my kids. Plus, how can you go wrong with a record that has a song titled after former NBA superstar Detlef Schrempf?

#92 The Church, Gold Afternoon Fix

When I started the 9th grade, all I really listened to was hair metal and classic rock music. That was until a friend of mine introduced me to a few albums his older brother brought back from college. It was my first exposure to so-called “College Music” bands like The Cure, HooDoo Gurus, The Connells and many more (some of which you will see on this list). I was hooked right there. I have gotten into other genres of music since then but have never strayed far from “alternative” or  “college” or “indie” or “whatever they are calling it now” music.

Back to #92. One of the records my friend had me listen to was Gold Afternoon Fix by The Church. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Maybe it was the excitement of hearing new type of music. It was all dark and moody and at that age I think sometimes you need to feel dark and moody. Whatever the reason, I thought it was great and this record definitely shaped my future musical tastes.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the band basically hated this release. I read an interview where the lead singer Steve Kilbey called the album lousy, hashed together and hideous.  I would agree that The Church albums before (Starfish) and after (Priest=Aura) are probably better all-around albums but I discovered Gold Afternoon Fix first and it holds a special place in my heart. Lousy? Really? Let’s look at a small sample of lyrics from the song “Metropolis.”

Back in Metropolis, circuses and elephants
Where the oranges grew
Back in Metropolis nothing can ever topple us
When I’m standing with you
Back in Metropolis talk about a holocaust
And then visit the zoo

OK, maybe that is a bit hashed together and lousy. I still love it.

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MoSS? Mixtape Flashback: February 1992

The MoSS? mixtape vault has finally been opened. Our staff put in hundreds of man hours cataloging cassettes, compact discs and even a couple of DAT tapes. This was not an easy task. We lost a few staff members gathering information on Chris’ rather long Sigur Ros phase. One devoted intern went mad poring over my extensive Camper Van Beethoven collection. It was worth enduring these losses for the privilege of unveiling to you our new series of mixtape flashbacks. First up, we find out what was playing in my Volkswagen Rabbit and Chris’ Pontiac Bonneville way back in February 1992.

Side A : Todd’s Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks


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.”