An Iowa kid’s salvation in angry rap music

Let me tell you a little story about how the world’s most dangerous groups helped a kid from Iowa keep his sanity …

NWA

When I was a kid, I was short. Scrawny. Maybe a bit too impressionable. Forcefully extroverted and overly demonstrative, often to the point of showing off. Maybe I still am a little bit. But I’ve never been in a fight in my entire life … well, unless you count with my older brother, which I don’t, because said “brawls” (mostly pushing and shoving from both of us, maybe an occasional punch in the arm, and I think I spit on him once) always consisted of the same move – him grabbing me by my shirt, shoving me into a wall, and then pulling me off the wall and throwing me about three feet to the ground. I’m seriously still stunned he never followed it with a bound off the ropes and a flying leg drop. It was very pro wrestling. But that’s really about it.

But yeah, because I was that guy, I got picked on. A lot. But never physically. I would never say I got bullied. That’s a word that gets thrown around far too easily these days, but I got scapegoated. Often made to feel inferior. And most of the time, it was by my own friends. Sometimes I brought it on myself. Many times, I didn’t. You see, kids can be mean. And one day, you (and they) grow out of it. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t still scars. You just can’t see them.

But back then, what was I going to do? I couldn’t fight unless I was OK with getting my ass kicked every single time I tried. So inside, I burned. All the time. I was full of helplessness and rage. Blind rage. With no outlet. And if you bottle that up for too long, you might explode. Hurt yourself or somebody else. There has to be a release. Some people cry. For some reason, I never really did. I just put on a dopey grin and pushed through it the best I could.

I finally found an outlet in angry music. At first, it was heavy metal. I can remember multiple times, lying in my bed, pounding my fists on the mattress and punching the hell out of a pillow, banging my head until my neck hurt to Reign in Blood. Or Master of Puppets. Or Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? Or Among the Living. Just releasing mental anguish.

(There’s a tremendous scene in the brilliant VH1 documentary series Metal Evolution that explains this phenomenon much better than I ever could (skip to the 5:35 to 8:11 mark). But rest assured when watching this, I was this kid.)

But eventually, I branched out. I never thought I would. I remember thinking, at age 14 and 15, that the only CDs I would ever buy would be metal of the extreme variety. I can still, off the top of my head, tell you the first 10 to 15 CDs I ever bought … Anthrax, Maiden, Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer, Forbidden, King Diamond, Sepultura, S.O.D., Kreator, Exodus, and on down the line.

Eventually, I broke that streak with Led Zeppelin IV. Then, for some reason, it was the Black Crowes’ Shake Your Money Maker.

FOABP But then I got It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy, followed quickly by Fear of a Black Planet.

And then it was Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

Why did these prophets of rage enthrall me so much? It certainly wasn’t because of what they were saying.

No, it was just … how they said it.

SOCLet’s be honest here: I didn’t necessarily identify with what these guys were preaching about. I was a mid-to-lower middle-class white kid. From Iowa. What the hell did I know about gang violence and turf wars, oppressive police violating my civil rights, selling crack to survive, or gentrification in the ’hood?

I’ll tell you – nothing.

And although I always considered myself to be a sensitive and intelligent human being with an open mind, it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t come from the most diverse community growing up (I can still probably count the amount of black kids I went to school with from K through 12 on two hands).

Truth be told, it didn’t matter how many think pieces I read in Rolling Stone or how many times I watched Boyz N The Hood growing up in an attempt to “educate” myself – it didn’t change three very distinctive facts about myself: I’m straight. I’m white. I’m male.

Because of the way those three things work together in unison, I was probably going to have more opportunities than most people, and there would probably be people who didn’t even know me who resented or hated me for these “privileges” alone. In a very general, stereotypical way, I was probably part of the very problem these guys were railing against.

But I didn’t care. And I still don’t care. The rage spoke to me. So while I can’t say I personally identified with the vast majority of the content in the rhymes they were spitting, I still respected it. Chuck D. Ice Cube. MC Ren. Standing at a pulpit, pointing their fingers at me and everyone like me, declaring, “You may not know me. You may not be like me. But you will respect me, motherfucker!” And I did.

Public EnemyMore importantly, I identified with the conviction and the piss & vinegar they used when saying it. The anger. The authority. Listen to “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck Tha Police” and “Burn Hollywood Burn” and “Fight The Power” and “When Will They Shoot” (cheating there … that’s just Ice Cube) and tell me that the power with which they are presenting these “cases,” on top of those back-breaking beats, doesn’t make you want to march down the street with your middle fingers in the air. It provided another outlet for releasing my own pent-up frustrations. I just had to venture out on a different branch to do it.

Make no mistake, I’ve always been a rock guy first and foremost. Guitars, more guitars (preferably with Big Muff distortion pedals) and big-ass drums. So when I started discovering rap music, I subconsciously always equated it to the rock music I loved. Public Enemy was like CNN … well, at least CNN before MH370 (much like Metallica and Anthrax): buried within this earphoria, you felt like you learned something. But N.W.A.? It’s just pure “fuck you.” They were Slayer. Just unapologetic in the frenzy.

(Worth mentioning: It’s no surprise that once I branched out to more introspective music, coinciding with the alt-rock explosion of the ‘90s, that I discovered and gravitated toward A Tribe Called Quest.)

But time passes. Anger and resentment subsides. Even so, I still love their storytelling. Something that gets lost is that underneath their message, these guys had a sense of humor. God bless Flavor Flav. Tell me that at least once in your life, you didn’t use “you got a rip in your couch,” “your mother got gold nipples” or “wash your butt” as a snappy one-line comeback.

And Cube, my favorite, I just want you to know that if a new girl moves on my street, I’ma introduce her to my meat, know what I’m sayin’? And you best believe that if I ever get busted, I’ma go to jail in my muthafuckin’ drawers.

This past fall, my buddies and I were tailgating at Kinnick Stadium, the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, in the heartland of Iowa. And our song of choice on this particular day was “My Summer Vacation” off of Cube’s Death Certificate. Some woman walked up to us and said there were kids nearby and could we please turn it down.

I think we said “tough shit.”


Some of this angry shit made Music or Space Shuttle’s “Undisputed Top Albums Ever” list way back in the day (2012). Read about them below:

Chris’ #8 and Todd’s #8: Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back / Dr. Dre, The Chronic

Todd’s #39: N.W.A., Niggaz4Life

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

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, #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? Madness 2012: The Round of 64

The match-ups for the round of 64 are set. Dexy’s Midnight Runners survived a late rally by Right Said Fred to earn the last #16 seed. Dexy will be going up against the Beatles in the first round. Can they pull a spectacular upset over “The Fab Four”?  It won’t be easy, but your votes could move them on. All four regions’ match-ups are ready to go. Please make your selections below.