My 2015 Yearbook (have a neat summer)

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

I ain’t got no complaints …

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

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

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

Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bastard stole my line. Case closed.

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

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

IMG_2878

MASTODON!!

 

THE SWORD!!

THE SWORD!!

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

Hail metal.

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

IMG_2996

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

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

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

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

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

I mean, look at these!

I mean, look at these!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

 

80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3372Foo Fighters (Sprint Center in Kansas City, August)

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

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

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

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

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

X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …

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

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

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I’m finally seeing Pearl Jam … what took so friggin’ long?

PearlJam

This Friday night, after 23 years of fandom and so much bad luck, I’m finally going to see Pearl Jam play live music for the first time. It’s been quite a journey.

Why did it take so long? I don’t know. Obviously, in my prime years of band chasing in college, the Ticketmaster thing didn’t help. They just weren’t touring then, at least not anywhere near me. So there’s that.

But as the years have passed, it wasn’t enough to just see them. I mean, I live in Iowa. We’re flyover country, after all. I hate saying it, but there’s this fear that we’re not getting a band’s best show. We always feel like we’re the warm-up show before they play in Chicago or Denver or Detroit.

(A good example: I remember seeing the Black Crowes (who, like Pearl Jam, is a band that never plays the same set two nights in a row) in Des Moines a few years ago. It was an amazing show, don’t get me wrong, but I checked our setlist with the ones that surrounded it, and both of those shows were better on paper. I remember thinking, “Really? You can’t even play ‘Remedy’? Really?”)

Anyway, when it comes to Pearl Jam, it got to the point that it wasn’t enough to just see them.

No, it had to be an event. I mean, like I had to see them IN Seattle or something.

Or more realistically, I could have seen them for their headlining gig at Lollapalooza 2007 (the last year I didn’t go to a summer festival, by the way); their two-day 20th anniversary festival in Wisconsin three years ago (couldn’t get off work); or, most egregiously, their concert at Wrigley Field last summer. I tried in vain to get tickets to that show. Pulled every string I knew. Made every call I could think of. No fucking dice. To add insult to injury, my friend Stacy went to that show. Stacy, who in the entire tenure of our friendship, has never given me even an inkling of reason to believe she’d even heard of MUSIC, let alone Pearl Jam. And to make it worse, when the rain famously hit, she left. Basically, she and the other chicks she went with missed the whole fucking show (yes, shooting a sour glare in your direction, too, Kris and Jill). I promise you, if I’d gone, we might have had to sleep in a gutter at Sheffield and Waveland, but we wouldn’t have left. NO way.

But, at the core, this is really about one thing. One gigantic missed opportunity.

Pearl Jam 1991

On the brink of a musical revolution …

Twenty-three years ago, I could have seen them. When they were still nobodies. At the dawn of the alternative-rock explosion of the 1990s, the greatest era of music in the history of man. Seriously, at that point in time, no one in Iowa – at least where I was from, we were still drowning in hair metal and the lucky ones loved thrash metal – had heard of Green River or Mother Love Bone, so who the fuck was Pearl Jam?

On October 19, 1991, they played in Ames, as the third act on a bill with the headlining Red Hot Chili Peppers (on the cusp of their mainstream breakthrough with the just-released Blood Sugar Sex Magik) and with another no-name band I had just discovered named Smashing Pumpkins.

The show was on a Sunday night, and I got a call from my buddy Steve Chase. Did I want to go? Hell yes I wanted to go. But in truth, that night it would have been all about the Pumpkins for me (I didn’t know it yet, but Gish was on its way to becoming my favorite album of all time).

But for whatever reason, I couldn’t go. I think I had to work at my shitty high school job bagging groceries at Hy-Vee. In all honesty, I don’t remember why I couldn’t go. I think it’s one of those traumatic repressed memories not unlike those that victims of abuse somehow block out. All I remember is that I couldn’t go.

Not long after that, I saw the video for “Alive” for the very first time and thought, “This is the band I could’ve seen that night? Fuck off!”

(For what it’s worth, that night’s setlist at Setlist.fm lists only three songs, and I have no way of knowing if this is just an incomplete document. The Pumpkins setlist that night isn’t listed at all, so who knows?)

It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life and I think karma has made sure I never forgot it, evidenced by all the times I’ve struck out trying to make it happen now.

This will be my seat on Friday. Please God, no big speakers or banners ...

This will be my seat on Friday. Please God, no big speakers or banners …

So yeah, Friday. I’m finally going to see them. It’s in the Quad Cities (Moline, specificially). The fear is still there … will we get their best show? I have no doubt – this a legendary band who doesn’t know how to half-ass it. But they’re playing in Detroit the day before us and St. Paul, Milwaukee and Denver right after, so I can’t help it if it crosses my mind.

Plus, I’m afraid about the seats we got. Right on top of the stage to the side. If there’s a big set of speakers and amps there, we might be in trouble in terms of sight lines.

But I took a chance. I just didn’t want to wait one minute longer, even if we’re not a big market. I think two-plus decades of regret is penance enough.

So, illustrious gentlemen of Pearl Jam, for your consideration:

  • Please play “Oceans.” Please play “Garden.” Please play “Release.” My favorite songs from one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the most important albums of my youth. The thought that I might have missed these in 1991 in Ames has haunted me for decades.
  • Since the Singles soundtrack is another seminal album in my lifetime, please consider “Breath.” And since I know it’s on the menu now, the thought of hearing “Crown of Thorns” is too exciting to contemplate.
  • The Merkinball EP, one of the most underrated offerings of the era. Either song – “I Got ID” or “Long Road” – would be a treat.
  • And finally, Yield was the album that sucked me back in at a time when life and other circumstances had me not paying enough attention to music. I’d take any of the radio hits of that album, but in all honesty, I’d piss myself with glee if you played “Faithfull.”
  • Then after that, anything and everything for the other two-plus hours would be fine with me.

Can’t believe it’s finally here. After two decades of regretting that missed opportunity in high school, I’m gonna see Pearl Jam in concert. It only took 23 years.

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments here at Music or Space Shuttle? Have your say on our Facebook page. Yell at us on Twitter.

The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: The results

Look, these guys have had almost three years and several essays to talk about the Pumpkins. I went long. Way long. I hope you’ll indulge me a little catch-up. —Sam

As such, he has to go last. —Chris

#####

Deep down, we’re all fantasy nerds of some sort. Some of us play fantasy football. Others are into fantasy baseball.

Smashing Pumpkins, 1993. World domination was right around the corner.

Smashing Pumpkins, 1993. World domination was right around the corner.

 

The three of us, we’re into the Smashing Pumpkins. So we got together the other night at Buffalo Wild Wings and took turns picking songs for our own personal Smashing Pumpkins playlist. The waitress was quite impressed with our coolness. (Srsly.)

A quick recap of the format:

The playlist would feature 15 songs. Nine of the songs had to fit within the following categories:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song lasting at least 8 minutes
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girl’s name
  • A song from Pisces Iscariot
  • A song from either Adore or MACHINA
  • A song released after 2000

The other six songs were wild cards–whatever the drafter wanted to round out his playlist.

A game of “Odd or Even” made Chris the odd man out, meaning he would pick third overall (but first in the even rounds). Sam and Todd engaged in one round of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” which saw Todd’s scissors slice through Sam’s paper, giving him claim to the first overall pick.

The next hour was filled with tense stares, reactionary curses, and the occasional air guitar gesture. At draft’s end, three Pumpkin fans were quite happy with their playlists…

#####

Todd (a.k.a. Team Siamese Dream)

What was my drafting strategy? I played it just like Fast Eddie Felson from the movie The Hustler… Fast and Loose. I did very little in preparation for this draft. OK, I did re-listen to a few B-sides and get reacquainted with some old favorites but I did not walk into the draft room (Buffalo Wild Wings) with binders, notepads, or laptops filled with cheat sheets, lists, and sub-lists. No, I walked in armed with only my iPhone music library and a desire to drink beer and talk about great music. Honestly, I was just hoping that, aside from a few key tracks, the diversity of our musical tastes would allow me to pick at will from my favorite SP songs. I think my “No Strategy” strategy worked out well.

After winning a cutthroat round of “Odd or Even” and an even more brutal game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” I won the rights to the 1st pick. This was the outcome I was hoping for. By having to fill mandatory categories I knew certain songs would be highly coveted. With that in mind, I chose “Cherub Rock” as my first pick and used it as my “album opener song.” It is without question the Pumpkins’ greatest opening track and I knew I couldn’t go wrong using it to set up my 15-song playlist.

To further underscore my feeling toward this song, I will lift a passage from a past post of mine naming Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, my favorite album of all time…

I really don’t have the words to properly describe the awesomeness of this record but I’ll try. The drum roll at the start of the opening track, “Cherub Rock”, gives you the feel of being at some boardwalk sideshow. You half expect a carnival barker to start yelling,

“Step right up folks! Get ready for the greatest thing you have or will ever hear!”

Then there’s the slow build until shit just fucking explodes. The guitars are thunderous and almost force your arms into the air guitar position “You will bow down to the awesome and air guitar or I will destroy you!”

cherubI also would have bet my life that “Cherub Rock” wouldn’t be available had I waited for the snake draft to get back around to me.

Which leads me to the one problem with starting 1st: You have to watch some positively amazing songs get selected while you not-so-patiently wait your turn. Take “Drown,” for instance. It’s the one song I truly wish I would have picked but didn’t get a chance. Sam took it as the second pick. I knew it was going to happen. And if he didn’t take it then, I guarantee Chris would have used pick #3 or #4 to select it. “Drown” is probably my “gun-to-the-head” choice as favorite Pumpkins song. It’s not just my favorite Pumpkins song; I would wager that 90% of us Pumpkins freaks would choose “Drown” as his or her favorite song. It’s the last song on the legendary soundtrack to the movie Singles. To help underscore my thoughts on “Drown” I will lift another passage. This time from Chris’ awesome post about the aforementioned Singles soundtrack…

And this was eight minutes of the Billy Fucking Corgan Experience. A nice groove, laid-back vocals, quiet-loud dynamics, killer drum fills, and then four minutes of feedback bliss, layered many times over.

So why didn’t I pick it when I had the chance? Maybe I’m a fool. I went with my head and chose a killer lead track to setup a killer playlist instead of going with my heart and choosing my sentimental favorite. I’ll stand by my decision. It only stings a little.

Back to the draft… One of the nice things about sitting at the start of a snake draft is that you pick 2 at a time after the 1st round. I used this to my advantage, usually taking a song to fill a mandatory category and then a personal “must-have” song.

My 2nd and 3rd picks, I used to select “Mayonaise,” a standout from Siamese Dream, and “Bury Me,” my favorite song from Gish.

Fourth and fifth, I selected the epic “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” to fill my “8 minute song” selection and “Rocket” because I fucking love the guitars on it.

For my 6th and 7th picks, I chose Siamese Dream closing track “Luna” and my favorite song from Pisces Iscariot, “Obscured.” I was ecstatic that “Luna” was available. Now I had the opener and closer from my favorite album of all time. Getting “Obscured” was another victory because Sam voiced his disappointment in missing out on that one. It slightly made up for his “Drown” selection.

8th and 9th, I was pleased to select “Siva” and the Fleetwood Mac cover song “Landslide.” I was actually pretty surprised to see “Siva,” one of Gish’s standout tracks, still available. It’s another personal favorite and face-melting guitar rager. On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised to see “Landslide” available but I wanted to fill my cover song category and I do love me some Fleetwood Mac. It just seemed like a natural fit.

Quickly back to “Siva.” This song brings up a minor area of contention for me. Before the draft, we agreed that alternate versions of songs The+Smashing+Pumpkins+Gish+eracould be used as long as they were on a proper release. I didn’t really think it through before I agreed. I probably would have been outvoted anyway but… what a crock of shit! I was lucky enough to score “Siva” mid-round and 4 picks later Chris takes a Peel Sessions version? Sort of takes the thunder out of my pick. Guess next draft I’ll have to use some rarities album with alternate takes of songs I missed out on. “With my 10th pick I’ll take the Jack-off Sessions version of ‘Drown.’ You know, the one where D’Arcy farts the bassline into the microphone.” Again, Crock of Shit!

[ED: This was my suggestion … total strategy. I knew that if Todd or I took “Siva,” from past CD mix experience, Chris would absolutely take the Peel Sessions version. He couldn’t have resisted. I was trying to open up another slot for myself down the road. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering taking the Earphoria version of “Silverfuck,” solely for the “Jackboot” outro. – Sam]

For picks 10 and 11, I selected “Frail and Bedazzled” from Pisces Iscariot and “Here is No Why” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Neither of these filled a category but they were too good to pass up.

My last four picks I purposely held onto until the end betting that no one else would have chosen them. To fill the “Adore/MACHINA” category I selected my favorite song from Adore, “Once Upon a Time.”

My last wild card spot went to the oddly titled but totally kick-ass “Set the Ray to Jerry,” one of the more obscure little nuggets from The Aeroplane Flies High.

I selected “The Boy,” also from Aeroplane, for my “James Song.” Not much to say about this one. It’s a James song. It’s nice.

And finally, my post-2000 selection, “Owata,” a jaunty little number from the still in-progress project album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.

Was it a perfect draft? No. Did I walk away happy? Hells yeah! I was only disappointed in missing out on 2 or 3 songs, and the songs I chose instead will more than suffice. If we had added 3-4 more people drafting, things would certainly have gotten ugly. All in all, the drafting process was not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be. The really grueling experience was creating the proper lineup for my selections. After hours of re-arranging and listening through several variations, I’m pretty happy with the finished product. Give it a spin and hear for yourself.

#####

Chris (a.k.a. Team Pisces Iscariot)

When I was the odd man out in our Odd or Even game, I thought, “Well, there’s only one way I really lose here. And that’s if both ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Drown’ go off the board 1-2.”

Well, yeah, that sucked.

But otherwise, like the other two fellas, I’m happy with how things turned out. I’m not surprised. The Pumpkins’ catalog is quite deep and rather varied. The three of us have diverse tastes at a granular level, even though we are in lockstep on a macro scale. This project was tailor-made for us, and looking at the “snubs” playlist we created after the draft, we could have invited a fourth person and it would have been satisfying for the entire quartet.

Songs I really wanted that I got: “Silverfuck” (#2), “Starla” (#3), “Suffer” (#4), “Soma” (#6), “Siva (Peel Sessions) (#9).” I guess I like the letter S.

I do indeed love the Peel Sessions version of “Siva.” More raw. Longer pause after the “I just want to get there faster” line before crashing back in, so more tension. Billy’s scream of “YEEEEA-AAAHHHH!” after they come back is powerful. Love it.

“Soma” is the perfect crescendo song. They opened with it at Lollapalooza 1994 in St. Paul, which seemed like an odd choice but ended up being quite memorable. “Silverfuck” is primal. You should have seen me tear through the mosh pit at the Palmer Auditorium show in 1994 after the whole “Over the Rainbow” interlude played out and the band crashed back to life. Flannel dudes went flying like bowling pins as I flailed through the circle.

i am one back image“Starla” is one of my favorite grooves, and it lasts a satisfying 11 minutes. The guitar work over the second half of the song isn’t quite “Drown” levels of awesome, but close. And “Suffer” has more fans than just Sam. Heck, even Tricky used the song to form the foundation of his song “Pumpkin” on his debut album, Maxinquaye. If I were going to make things personal, I would have grabbed “Jackie Blue” for my cover song.

Songs I got that I like that I figured I’d get without a fight: “Whir” (#11), “Tarantula” (#12), “Hello Kitty Kat” (#14). “Whir” was my favorite song on Pisces Iscariot that hadn’t already appeared as a b-side. And “Tarantula” reminds me of songs like “Siva” and “Quiet,” and I instantly liked it better than anything on Adore or MACHINA. “Hello Kitty Kat” is a solid rocker that I was cool with at #14. It’s not as good as “Frail and Bedazzled,” but it’s as good as/better than “Plume” or “Pissant.”

Songs I picked above my personal valuation: “I Am One” (#1), “Blew Away” (#5), “A Night Like This” (#7). Well, if I can’t have “Cherub Rock,” this has to be my opener. First Pumpkins song I ever heard. Instantly hooked. “Blew Away” is classic James, so why not. And I had to have the Cure song for my cover. I overpaid for all three, but it’s like picking Joe Mauer early in a fantasy baseball draft. The talent pool isn’t deep at some spots.

Song I like better now than I did back then: “Tonight, Tonight” (#10). One of the songs I often skipped past when listening to Mellon Collie, now it’s the only Mellon Collie song on my playlist. Go figure. I do love some Mellon Collie stuff: “Porcelina,” “Zero,” “Thirty-Three,” “Bodies,” “Muzzle,” “1979,” “Galapogos,” “Thru the Eyes of Ruby,” even “We Only Come Out at Night.” But this album didn’t quite go in my wheelhouse like the earlier stuff did. Anyway, I like the grand scale of “Tonight, Tonight” a little more these days than I did when I used to air-guitar more often. (I still air-guitar at 40, but nothing like I did at 21.)

Two great songs without comment: “Daydream” (#8) and “Quiet” (#13).

One song because I had to pick from two albums I don’t really like: “Ava Adore” (#15). Adore isn’t as horrible as it sounded to me 16 years ago. MACHINA still sucks.

So I was able to close my playlist with “Starla,” “Silverfuck,” and “Daydream.” That was priority one. I also got a few b-sides that I love. More than anything, I really enjoyed what this fantasy draft yielded: three dudes who didn’t know each other during the heights of Pumpkindom (but I believe shared the floor at the Palmer Auditorium show in 1994?) reminiscing about when they first heard the Billy Corgan Experience and why certain songs spoke to them. I’m not sure there are many gangs of three in my social circle that could speak confidently and passionately about many other bands than the Pumpkins. I do wonder how this would have played out had our Iowa City friend Travis rounded out the draft…

#####

Sam (a.k.a. Team Gish)

I retired from fantasy football in 2004, mainly because I had the annoying knack of ruining guys’ careers if I picked them. In 2002, I took Kurt Warner with the first overall pick, but apparently his deal with the devil ran out after emerging from relative obscurity for three consecutive league-wrecking seasons; he got his eggs scrambled and broke his thumb in Week 1. In 2003, for reasons I still cannot explain (I’m saying I had a temporary stroke; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), instead of saying Peyton Manning, which my brain was thinking, I said Donovan McNabb, who was still an elite quarterback at that point in time. He had the worst year of his career. Manning? He threw 49 touchdowns. In 2004, I had Ahman Green, who got injured in the last preseason game. Fuck this shit.

But I know the Pumpkins. I could do this. No problem.

Yes, I put together a cheat sheet. It took all of about seven minutes. Three or four tunes in each category and all the album tracks that popped in my head. I know the catalog that well. There was no need for me to Mel Kiper the hell out this draft board.

But after arriving at the war room (in this case, Buffalo Wild Wings), as I got out of the car, I remember thinking, “I have to get ‘Drown.’ And ‘Hummer.’ And ‘Rhinoceros.’ And ‘Suffer.’ If I don’t get them, I’m gonna be fucking pissed.”

Ummm, I may have taken this waaaaayyyyyy more seriously than I care to admit.

I would be picking second, which I was secretly happy about (but only if I got my first choice). I’d rather take one song and sit out two picks, than get two picks and have to sit through four.

When it was all said and done, I thankfully got my first overall choice. I also got my first choice in seven of the nine specialty categories.

Pick 1: “Drown”

My whole draft hinged on this. With Track 1s at a premium (only two absolute slam dunks), I was banking on Todd taking one of them with the No. 1 pick. He didn’t disappoint, snapping up “Cherub Rock” before I could even think “I hope he takes ‘Cherub Rock’ and not ‘Drown.’”

Whew.

I didn’t hesitate. I took “Drown” without allowing anyone else to blink (and filled my “8-plus minutes” slot at the same time).

Chris groaned loudly … those were his top two picks and they were gone. I personally think he took it out on me the rest of the night.

Look, I get why Todd did what he did – taking “Cherub Rock” was like taking Hakeem Olajuwon in the ’84 draft. Hard to pass that up, with athletic 7-footers (and dominating Track 1s) that can win you a couple of titles coming at a premium. But as far as I was concerned, he could have Hakeem – I wanted Michael Jordan.

Singles soundtrack cover imageOne of the defining songs of my youth. When it came out, I swear to God I listened to it at least once a day for six straight months. The soundtrack to some very memorable moments in my life. It made a time that I almost hooked up with a girl I had fantasized about (but ultimately didn’t) a memory that’s lasted since my sophomore year of college. If “Drown” wasn’t the song playing in the background, I’d have forgotten about it years ago, but because it was the angsty ’90s and you tended to romanticize even the painful missed opportunities … hey, it’s all good.

Happy to have you on my team, “Drown.”

***

With my next five picks, I alternated a couple wild-cards – I quickly grabbed “Rhinoceros” second and “Hummer” fourth (I got a thing for the quiet/LOUD builder-uppers) – while filling in some of mandatory slots (all first choices) with “Glynis” (girls’ name), “La Dolly Vita” (Pisces), and “Jackie Blue” (cover tune). I remember feeling lucky that “Glynis” was still there (that and “Drown” headline the two defining alt-rock compilation records of the ‘90s in No Alternative and Singles, respectively), but since I would have bet my life that Chris was gonna pick The Cure’s “A Night Like This” as his cover tune (which he did), I didn’t sweat that the Ozark Mountain Daredevils would still be there for me (I had Blondie’s “Dreaming” waiting in the wings, just in case). But with Todd lurking, I just wanted to be sure.

Pick 7: “Stand Inside Your Love”

I was stunned when I realized I didn’t take one single Adore song in the draft. I’ve always believed that while that album didn’t have the depth that the original trio of albums had, the four or five songs that I really liked on it, I actually loved. A lot. I would’ve loved to have found a spot for “For Martha,” “To Sheila,” and “Shame.”

On the flip side, I could never get into MACHINA. Maybe it was because of things I didn’t know at the time (such as the fact that it was supposed to be part of a double concept album that the label nixed), but the whole thing felt fragmented at the time (and now I know why). But “Stand Inside Your Love”? That song is the fuckin’ truth. It’s the last truly essential song by the original lineup, and I hold it in the same regard that I hold Gish and Siamese Dream. Easily topped my list in the “Adore or MACHINA” category.

Pick 9: “Thru the Eyes of Ruby”

I saw Jane’s Addiction during their original reunion tour on November 3, 1997, at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. The surprise unannounced opening act that night? The Pumpkins. I have three favorite songs on Mellon Collie (“Muzzle,” “Porcelina,” and “Ruby”). In a brief five-song set that night, they played all three of them. They opened with “Ruby.” That concert was one of the first “yes, I was there” bragging moments of my life up to that point.

Pick 10: “Panopticon”

The Smashing Pumpkins in 2012: Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, Mike Byrne, and Jeff Schroeder

The Smashing Pumpkins in 2012: Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, Mike Byrne, and Jeff Schroeder

Not only was this the song at the top of my board for the “Post-2000” slot, it’s the song that has me the most excited about the future of the band. Nicole Fiorentino creates the foundation, with a bassline that elegantly yet confidently cuts through the galloping, stuttering guitar riffs laid down by Corgan and Jeff Schroeder. But the true revelation here is young Mike Byrne, whose relentless pummeling of the drums makes it clear to any worry warts out there that there is indeed life in Pumpkinland after Jimmy Chamberlin. Once Tommy Lee is finished laying down the beats for the new album, I look forward to the opportunity to see Byrne anchoring the Pumpkins on tour somewhere down the line.

***

Things were humming at this point. I had snagged one of my favorite Gish album tracks (“Snail”) at 8, and it actually got to a point where it kinda felt like Todd and I were working in unison (we weren’t).

But that’s when Chris started working at Al Davis/Jerry Jones levels of terrorism in the war room.

With only two absolute slam dunks in the “Track 1” category (“Cherub Rock” and “I Am One”), before we started, I had lobbied that the opening piano-only title track on Mellon Collie could be combined with “Tonight, Tonight” (which is actually Track 2) as an album opener. I seem to remember Todd agreeing quickly and Chris fighting it. But he was outvoted. All three guys now could take a beloved epic opener. Everyone would be happy.

That is, until Chris, that dirty sonofabitch – already the owner of “I Am One” – took “Tonight, Tonight” as one of his wild cards.

As I dreamt of smacking Chris with a leather glove and demanding satisfaction, I moved on momentarily by filling my “James Iha” slot with Mellon Collie closer “Farewell and Goodnight” (my first choice). But that’s when I realized the other two slam dunks in the “album closer” category – “Daydream/I’m Going Crazy” and “Luna” – had both already been scooped up.

Was I really going to have to move “Farewell and Goodnight” to the “closer” slot and pick another James song? That would be like picking two kickers in lieu of two running backs. And besides the one I already had, there was only one other acceptable “James” choice in my book – “Blew Away” (that guitar solo … swoon).

But it was already off the board. Owned by who? The terrorist Chris, of course.

Thankfully, I found a loophole …

Pick 12: “Smiley”

One of my favorite b-sides. It’s the last song on the great Peel Sessions EP. Score.

Pick 14: “Doomsday Clock”

After snagging another wild card with “Window Paine” off Gish (so glad it was still there), it was time for my Track 1. It was gonna be “To Sheila” or this. It was at this moment that I almost gleefully remembered, “You know something? I never really liked ‘Tonight, Tonight’ all that much anyway.” And then I remembered that of all the songs on the uneven 2007 comeback album Zeitgeist, “Doomsday Clock” was my favorite. By far. And it Absolutely. Fucking. Shreds. Do I like “To Sheila” better as a song overall? Maybe. But I wanted to kick off my playlist with a nut crusher. Check. Mate.

Pick 15: “Crush”

For my final pick of the draft, there were still four songs on the board I really wanted. “Slunk” was there. “For Martha” was there. “Blue” was there. “Muzzle” was there. But I went with “Crush,” the ballad of Gish. Here’s why …

When I was in high school, my pack of girl friends, for some reason, called themselves the Galloping Weasles. I still have no idea why. I also have no idea why they spelled Weasels “Weasles.” Measles, maybe? They all had a pair of blue mesh shorts with “WEASLES” scrawled across their asses. Some of us guys took great pride in calling them the phonetically correct Weez-Less. It was a never-ending source of cheap laughs.

But the ladies debuted these shorts on the night that my pal Aaron Eads and I DJ’ed an after-game dance in the cafeteria our senior year. It was the annual National Honor Society dance and our sponsor – the assistant principal, Mr. Bell – tasked a couple of us with finding a DJ with reasonable rates. Eads and I, without putting too much thought into it, kind of impulsively said, “We’ll do it ourselves, and you don’t have to pay us.” He gave us a skeptical look but then foolishly agreed to let us take a shot.

One slight problem – we had no DJ equipment. Nothing. Just boatload of CDs. But we started a guerilla-style round of advertising, christening our big debut as “the alternative option to the regular school dance,” which had over the course of the previous couple years become more and more sparsely attended (I remember Eads, who went through a phase where he really thought he was Jim Morrison, scribbling on one of our ghetto ad posters, “Doors ’til You Drop!”). Basically, we had absolutely NO intention of playing anything resembling dance club music.

One night, Eads basically plugged his piece-of-shit Walmart stereo that he got in eighth grade into his guitar amp … and it worked. We put my CD player in one output and his into the other and practiced our cross-fading skills. We fancied ourselves Skrillex and Deadmau5 20 years ahead of the curve.

As we set up in the cavernous cafeteria, we were afraid it wasn’t gonna be loud enough. So we gave it a trial run when the room was still empty and it was just the two of us. Yep, seemed pretty loud.

An hour later, everyone started showing up, and whether it was because people wanted to actually hear our kind of music (doubtful), they were just bored on a Friday night (maybe), or (most likely) they wanted to see us fail spectacularly, we packed the house like we were Daft Punk at Perry’s.

Oh yeah … with a few hundred kids in the room? It wasn’t even close to be being loud enough.

I remember we played “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” We played “Can’t Truss It.” We played the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” (the bright side of having no volume? No teacher was going to be able to actually hear the words “Why can’t I get just one fuck?”). Achtung Baby had just come out, so we played “Mysterious Ways.” We even played “Raining Blood.” I remember our friend Rav, who was a Sikh, taking his turban off and headbanging with his magnificent mane of never-ever-been-cut hair. He looked like Cliff Burton. It was glorious.

At one point, a couple of freshman chicks came up to our table. “Are you guys going play ANY dance music?”

“No. Get the fuck outta here.”

Near the end of the night, our buddy Scott Macke (the other guy in charge of planning the dance with us) walked up to Mr. Bell, who was working the door.

“So how did we do tonight?”

Legend has it Mr. Bell just looked at Scotty with a sly shit-eating grin and basically flashed him the Johnny Manziel “time ta gets paid” hand gesture.

Mr. Bell in the form of Johnny Football

Mr. Football channeling Mr. Bell

 

Except it wasn’t “time ta gets paid.” Oh no. No matter how sucky our sound system was, there would be no refunds. Mr. Bell and the NHS had gotten paid more in full than Eric B. and Rakim. And with no overhead to cover on the backside, it was all profit.

At the end of the night, what was the DJs’ bounty? Mr. Bell gave us each five bucks to go to Taco John’s and an impressed “good job, men.” Our little endeavor had paid off for the school better than that time Newman and Kramer got the free postal truck to haul empty cans and bottles to Michigan.

Um, where was I?

Oh yeah … “Crush.” We totally played “Crush” that night. I remember that song used to make a couple of the Galloping Weez-Less a little weak in the knees. So, to the Weasles – Erin, Kara, Devon, Buda, Tomhave, JT, Liz, Kim, Kath, Stace, Mindy, J-Hud, Nikki, and Graw, this is for you. Love comes in colours I can’t deny, bitches.

***

In the end, Todd got a few songs I coveted – “Obscured.” “Mayonaise.” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans.” Same with Chris – “Starla.” “Soma.” Oh yeah, and “Suffer.” Sweet fucking “Suffer.” He knew it was my favorite since I had once chosen it to be used on a CD mix he compiled where mutual friends and co-workers each picked a single song to fill out the mix. It’s the one big one I feel I missed out on.

Dude, I never kicked your dog or puked in your car. There’s no need to get personal!

In all seriousness, the best part of this night was how, after it was all done and we were sipping on beers, we ended up sharing our “where were you were Kennedy was shot”-style stories with each other, except it was about a band. That entered our lives at the right time. That we all loved. Good stuff.

On my own personal long-running series of CD mixes (lovingly titled “Roof Music” after my college years of sitting on my friend Erin’s roof with a 12-pack, some smokes, and speakers hanging out the window), I’ve used something like 16 Pumpkins songs (I honestly can’t believe the total is that low). By my count, I got nine of them in this draft.

So yeah, I pretty much love this playlist. You will, too.

 

What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) should have made our lists? And is there a clear winner among the three playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: An introduction

 

Look who’s back in the news! All over it, in fact.

billy corgan holding cats

In the last couple of weeks, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has announced that he’s working on not one but two albums of new material, including one with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee laying down the drum tracks.

He’s supervising the remastering and re-releases of deluxe versions of the Pumpkins’ Adore and MACHINA/The Machines of God, the latter in its original intended form – remixed and resequenced along with the internet-only release MACHINA II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music to finally realize its destiny as a conceptual double album.

He’s had his AMC reality show about professional wrestling greenlit. Hopefully it will be as entertaining as his wrestling-themed furniture store commercial:

And then, in case you’ve already forgotten, there was this:

billy corgan holding cats

Any self-respecting MoSS? reader knows that the Smashing Pumpkins breathe rarified air around these parts. In their respective lists of the undisputed greatest albums of all time, the Pumpkins were everywhere, so there’s no reason for Todd or Chris to explain that again when they already did it here. And here and here. And here. Oh yeah, and here.

For the record, since my only role back then was as a loyal reader, my top 5 undisputed albums of all time include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Slayer’s Reign in Blood and I’d probably round out the top 5 with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. OK, that’s four.

See, I can do that because my No. 1 album of all time is Gish AND Siamese Dream. I can’t separate them. One day it’s Gish, the next day it’s Dream. But they are interchangeable to the point I stopped interchanging them years ago and count them as a single entity. But if Chris and Todd would have forced me to choose at gunpoint, I would have put them at 1 and 2 and bumped Zeppelin. That’s right … I’d bump Zeppelin. That’s how much I love those Pumpkins records.

Now, in all honesty, all three of us, at one point or another, have fallen in and out of love with this band. I remember the day I bought Adore and loaned it to Chris before I even had a chance to hear it myself. An hour later, I asked him what he thought and he looked at me like I’d just cupped a fart in my hand and stuck it in his face. And I’m sure I probably made that face myself after I first heard MACHINA.

Years later, the strength of the post-breakup lineup (and their fine 2012 album Oceania) has me excited for what’s on the horizon. But no matter what the future brings us, the strength of the Smashing Pumpkins’ early catalog – starting with 1991’s Gish through their 1995 magnum-opus double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – can always suck us back in.

Look at the finite catalog of, say, Zeppelin. Those first five records – I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy – are followed by a double album, Physical Graffiti. After Graffiti, the remaining catalog is really hit or miss. Some great tracks sprinkled around but the complete albums were not as strong. But those first albums and the double album? Near perfection (even with the liberal “borrowing” from the blues legends of the past).

Now … take Gish and Siamese Dream, the excellent rarities compilation Pisces Iscariot, the myriad remaining non-album tracks and B-sides from that era, and follow it with Mellon Collie … in the humble opinion of this Gen-X writer, you have a fair comparison. The later records have some excellent songs, for sure, but the complete albums don’t hold up like the first ones do.

Pumpkins 1993Let’s pretend the Pumpkins had died in a plane crash in mid-1995 (with Mellon Collie in the can but before it was released … hopefully, they’d have an Eddie Kramer-style overseer saying, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just release this as a kickass single disc instead,” which would have meant a second disc of material was still out there along with what would later become The Aeroplane Flies High box set of outtakes, ensuring years of Hendrix/Tupac-type posthumous releases). Leaving behind that above-mentioned songbook and recordings as their legacy, they might have been the greatest band of all time. At least in my book.

#####

So, with the Pumpkins on the brain, the three of us decided to have a little fantasy draft, with each guy trying to compile the ultimate playlist.

Fifteen songs each. But certain criteria had to be met. Each guy had to pick nine songs fulfilling these requirements:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song that is at least 8 minutes long
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girls’ name in the title
  • A Pisces Iscariot song
  • At least one Adore or MACHINA song
  • At least one song released after the original lineup’s breakup in 2000

Then, after those requirements were met, there were six wild-card slots. Fill them however you like.

We all missed out on songs we coveted. Then again, there were a few songs that weren’t even on the other guys’ radars when they were picked. But even so, if I had gotten the five or so songs I missed out on, I don’t know what I would have bumped to fit them in.

In the end, it was astonishing that all three of us walked away thinking we’d won the draft. And when we looked at what was left on the board, we agreed that had there been a fourth person, it would have gotten a little dicier since, guaranteed, there was no way we would’ve have ended up with the picks that we did.

So once we were done, we did an impromptu pick’em with the remaining songs for a hypothetical fourth man at the table. Here’s how that ended up:

  1. “1979”
  2. “Today”
  3. “Slunk”
  4. “Disarm”
  5. “Galapagos”
  6. “Blue”
  7. “Muzzle”
  8. “Geek U.S.A.”
  9. “Zero”
  10. “Thirty-Three”
  11. “Bodies”
  12. “For Martha”
  13. “Plume”
  14. “Tristessa”
  15. “By Starlight”

Notice something? Almost every single big radio and MTV staple the band put out was NOT chosen in the draft. And a few – such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Perfect” – didn’t even make this “best of the rest” top 15 list. A stronger, deeper catalog than one might remember, eh?

All three of our drafts are tip-top. You can’t lose.

But still, I don’t think there’s any question that when you get a chance to analyze the results, you’ll agree that I won. Handily. And I’ll take the fuckin’ Pepsi Challenge with either of these clowns to prove it. Bring it on.

Come back to Music or Space Shuttle? on Monday, June 2, for the playlists and self-analysis of the draft. What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) in the “best of the rest” list above should have made one of our playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

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, #1

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

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

(Next week, we’ll unveil our favorite music from 2012.)

Here we go, the #1 picks…

Chris’ #1: The Cure, Disintegration

(click play button below to sample this album)

disintegration coverNot sure I can sum up my thoughts on Disintegration much better than the little dude toward the end of this video right here.

And I’m guessing most people saw this pick coming a mile away. (Those of you who asked me in person if it would be Disintegration, I always answered you honestly with a “yes,” and you all pretty much shrugged.)

But despite the lack of drama, I’m going to write about the album, and see if I can’t surprise myself with my reflections.

In 1989, I was wrapping up the late stages of my heavy metal phase, one that had morphed from stuff like Poison and Motley Crue to Def Leppard and Whitesnake to Slayer and Stryper (odd pair, I know) to Metallica and, um, Metallica. But I was starting to collect albums that were “college rock” or “alternative”: I had R.E.M.’s Green and a live Descendents album and an Echo and the Bunnymen album (Heaven Up Here, I believe it was) and U2’s The Joshua Tree and Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses and the Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. I had grown to love the various tunes on that Cure album, but not enough to send me exploring the back catalog.

But the new stuff in 1989, that’s what sent me down the path to Cure fanaticism.

When Disintegration first came out in late spring of 1989, I wasn’t in line to buy it or anything. It wasn’t until that summer that I realized that the band had a new album, in fact. I remember my family had gone on some big camping trip in the mountains, cut off from the modern world. After a few days of rain and rugged living in the Rockies, we returned to society, and one of the first things I did was pick up the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. I flipped to the back of the magazine to look at the charts, and saw Disintegration by the Cure at a rather lofty position, adjacent to the Cult’s Sonic Temple, as it happens. (The random shit I remember is equal parts amazing and dumbfounding, and almost always useless.) But I simply made a mental note that the Cure had a new album, and perhaps I could hit up my cousin Josh for a copy of it next time I saw him.

HOWEVER, the first time I heard “Lovesong” on Rock 108 (a station not typically known for playing bands like the Cure), I was absolutely floored.

I loved the sharp keyboard sound. I loved the active bass line bouncing around underneath the keys. And Robert Smith was singing very simple lines that, in his earnest voice, carried so much weight, so much sincerity. (Appropriate, seeing as he wrote the song for his wife, Mary, as a wedding present.) It felt like the first time I heard someone saying “I love you” and speaking on my behalf, you know? It seemed like the perfect song…and it was damn catchy too, riding the U.S. singles chart up to #2! I would call the radio station during request hours and chat the DJs ear off about how awesome “Lovesong” was. And I realized that I absolutely had to go buy this album.

The funny thing is, next time I was in the music section of a retail store, I didn’t buy it.

Why not?

Because of this cool looking chick in the WalMart tape section.

She looked pretty “goth,” at least as far as Newton, Iowa, goes. She was browsing the cassettes when I rolled up. After a couple of minutes of surveying the situation, I started thumbing through the few Cure tapes on hand. The girl took this as an invitation to strike up a conversation…

Goth Girl: You like the Cure?

Chris: Yeah.

Goth Girl: Yeah, me too.

OK, common ground. Where do I go from here? We both kind of stared at our feet for a while, not saying anything. Before I could think of anything clever, Goth Girl spoke up again.

Goth Girl: What do you think of the new one? You have it, right?

Fuck. Play it cool…

Chris: Oh yeah, I got it. (LIAR!)

Goth Girl: Yeah, me too. It’s not my favorite of theirs, but “Fascination Street” is pretty cool.

Chris: Um, yeah, that’s a good one.

The conversation never got any deeper than that. But now I had painted myself in a corner. I couldn’t buy the tape now…I already owned it. And I didn’t think quickly enough to come up with some excuse like “I think I am going to buy it for my friend for his birthday” or something like that; I was too focused on not blushing and acting all cool. It was nice to talk to this cute stranger, but goddamn it, leave already so I can buy this tape!

But, of course, my parents showed up to tell me they and my grandmother were done shopping and it was time to go. So not only did I walk away empty-handed on the Disintegration front, my mom managed to say (before we were out of earshot of Goth Girl) “Who was that girl? Were you talking to her? Do you guys like the same music?” And the non-blushing effort was all for naught.

I eventually went to a retail store without my parents and got the tape, and I did not encounter any goth chicks that day, so no posturing. It was D-Day, as in Disintegration Day. A day that lives in infamy for me. (I couldn’t tell you the exact date, though.)

Once the tape had been opened (trying to remember if it had one of those awkward plastic covers on it or not) and inserted into the stereo, I was introduced to the song that to this day remains my favorite Cure song, “Plainsong.” It’s a song that sets the tone for the entire album, with icy grandeur, extended instrumental opening, and winning lyrics. “Sometimes you make me feel like I’m living at the edge of the world / like I’m living at the edge of the world / ‘it’s just the way I smile’ you said,” the final lyrics of the song, melt me every time. And the song absolutely made the coronation scene in Marie Antoinette one of the best shots in the whole movie.

(“Sometimes,” a song from my #2 album of all time, Loveless, had a similar effect in another one of Sofia Coppola’s films, Lost in Translation. Cab ride home from the karaoke night, for those of you who don’t recall.)

The album showcased varying strengths of the Cure’s lineup at its strongest. Bassist Simon Gallup owns “Fascination Street” with the driving bass line he lays down; it’s the absolute backbone of the song, and the first thing I taught myself how to play on the bass. Drummer Boris Williams is no slouch on that song, either, and he shows an interesting touch on “Closedown” and more propulsive drive on “Disintegration.” Porl Thompson guitar work isn’t as flashy as it was on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me but he works his talents within the soundscape set forth by Smith. His work on “Lovesong” often goes overlooked, and he shines on “Pictures of You,” another top achievement in the Cure’s entire songbook. I think I might be as fond of the video as I am the song, because at the end, it reveals the band to be a bunch of regular dudes having a blast on the set.

And Roger O’Donnell’s keyboard work is second to none. The atmosphere he creates on “Plainsong,” “Homesick,” and the majestic “The Same Deep Water As You” has that same overwhelming, emotional punch that shoegazers deliver with their tremulous guitars. He took the one-fingered keyboarding repertoire of Lol Tolhurst and upped the game a hundredfold. Keyboards weren’t always part of the Cure’s sound, but Roger O’Donnell made it so the band’s sound felt bare without them (even if O’Donnell found himself expendable a time or two over the years).

The songs still resonate with me to this day, after thousands of listens. Perhaps it’s because this album came out at the right time, coinciding with my 15-year-old self’s complete emotional dysfunctionality, and was able to get its hooks in me permanently. Also consider that I grew up in a small town that didn’t have MTV, before the Internet age, and I wasn’t overexposed to music (and certainly not the Cure), so there might have been a quality to this album that seemed a bit exotic. Some of it might have had to do with starting high school, and hanging out with some of the older kids and cool foreign exchange students (Nacho! Jacqueline! Hiro! Raymond!), demographics that tended to like the Cure and other music along those lines.

Or maybe it’s as simple as this: Disintegration spends 71 minutes projecting a singular message of longing and hope over 12 songs that are tightly constructed and magically performed. Robert’s voice is at its peak: strong but not overdone, and singing words that paint beautiful pictures without sounding cliché. The band had its best-ever guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer all in place. The perfect storm.

In the liner notes, there is a line toward the end that says, “THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP.” Seems almost silly coming from a band like the Cure, but never has better advice been given. The best music should always be played loud.

Todd’s #1: Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream

(click play button below to sample this album)

siamese dream coverSiamese Dream, the album that started a nearly 3 year obsession with all things Smashing Pumpkins. As you will recall from previous posts, I loved The Pumpkins previous release Gish and was all pumped up for a new record. Little did I know the effect it would have on me and my musical tastes. Actually, obsession isn’t quite the correct word, there needs to be something stronger.  I’ve never listened to an album more or over a longer period of time than Siamese Dream. My listening habits became a bit compulsive and at times I was like one of those freaky Beatles fans that thought their records were made specifically for them. The music on Siamese Dream effected me like no other music I’d heard before so in many ways it really did feel like it was made for me.

Within a few months of purchasing Siamese Dream everything about me was Smashing Pumpkins. My wardrobe was a rotation of five Smashing Pumpkins t-shirts. The Devils one, The Angels one, The heart one, The Siamese Dream album cover one, and some weird purple one with cartoon aliens on it. My reading material consisted of guitar magazines with SP leader Billy Corgan on the cover. I spent most of my extra income on every CD single with a B-side that I could find. The guys at Co-Op Tape and Records could probably set their clocks by my frequent visits. Todd’s here… must be Friday.

Record store Dude: “You get paid today Todd?”

Me: “Yep”

Record store Dude: “Well let me show you what we have in the import section this week. We have a nice Japanese import of the “Today” single.”

Today Single

The “Today” single and the Japanese import “Today” single.

Me: “I have that already.”

Record store Dude: “I know but the Japanese version has and EXTRA unreleased song on it.”

Me: “Sold.”

Record store Dude: “Don’t you want to know title of the song?”

Me: “Don’t care, have to have it.”

Record store Dude: “Don’t you want to know the price?”

Me: “I said sold. Give it to me now. Don’t make me hurt you.”

Then I would run to my car and put the CD in the player and bliss out. The closest comparison would be a heroin junkie getting a fresh injection. Once the glory of hearing the new song was over, I needed more though. It was a serious habit.

Remember that dude Roberto from my post about The Pixies Trompe le Monde? He hosted an alternative radio show I was into for awhile. Well, he also worked at one of the local record stores. Occasionally, I would go in there and chit chat about music with him. When there were no new Pumpkins oddities to buy, he could always get me to buy something else. He was very good at not letting me out of the store without buying something. In his defense, he never steered me wrong. He turned me on to The Sugarcubes, Medicine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and many others. He totally had my number…literally. More than once I came home and there would be a message on the machine from Roberto.

“Hey Todd, we just got in some new Smashing Pumpkins bootlegs. Thought you might be interested.”

I’d be out the door and driving to the store before the message was done playing. I ended up with quite the collection…

 Pumpkins Collection

Not as impressive as it used to be. This is what I still have left. I know I sold a bunch of my bootleg concert performances and I had a few more concert VHS tapes too. Notice that there is not an actual proper Smashing Pumpkins release in there. That’s just the rarities. One thing I could add to that collection is the concert audio from the smashing Pumpkins concert I went to in Spring ’94. They came to Palmer Auditorium in Davenport, Iowa. Chris was actually at that same concert, not surprising since he had a similar love affair with them. Anyway, a few months back I searched the internet to find the setlist from that concert and ran across a website that had archived audio from that show. You could download it for free! It actually contains the first live performance of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, a huge hit from their follow up album Mellon Collie. I didn’t remember that happening so it was a pretty cool discovery.

I really don’t have the words to properly describe the awesomeness of this record but I’ll try. The drum roll at the start of the opening track, “Cherub Rock”, gives you the feel of being at some boardwalk sideshow. You half expect a carnival barker to start yelling,

”Step right up folks! Get ready for the greatest thing you have or will ever hear!”

Then there’s the slow build until shit just fucking explodes. The guitars are thunderous and almost force your arms into the air guitar position “You will bow down to the awesome and air guitar or I will destroy you!”

I have no clue how Billy gets this guitar effect. Call it filthy, call it crunchy, call it fuzzed out, call it any adjective that applies. All I know is you can’t duplicate it in your living room with a shitty amp and distortion pedal. I’ve tried. It ends up sounding, as you might expect, like some dude that can sort of play guitar trying to sound like The Pumpkins with a shitty amp and distortion pedal. There are stories about marathon studio sessions where Billy overdubbed and layered dozens of guitar tracks over top of each other to get it to sound that way. So my pathetic attempts at playing at guitar god were laughable. Anyway, “Cherub Rock” is one satisfying lead track. It’s maybe the most similar to the songs on Gish so it is the perfect handoff from one album to the next.

The Pixies get a lot of credit for creating the loudQUIETloud music style of the early ‘90s. If they invented it, then the Pumpkins perfected it with Siamese Dream. They use the technique on many songs like “Today”, (which I can never listen to without thinking of that damn ice cream truck video), “Geek U.S.A.,” and “Silverfuck.” But I didn’t just obsess over those more in your face songs. There are a few more laid back tunes like “Spaceboy,” “Sweet Sweet,” and “Luna” that all spent time with the title “My Favorite Song From Siamese Dream.” Actually, every song on Siamese Dream at one point was my favorite song from Siamese Dream. I’m sure I annoyed my girlfriend, my friends and basically anyone that road in my car with my frequent declarations of love for a different song from the album. Unlike Chris I am not going to apologize. No I am going to say… you’re welcome.

“You’re welcome” to my former girlfriend, for every time I pulled up to your parents’ house blasting a different song from Siamese Dream as loud as my stereo would go.

“You’re welcome” to my best friend who rode to work with me, for getting to hear me sing the quiet part of “Silverfuck” every day for two weeks.

“You’re welcome” to Co-Op Tapes and Records, for the day I paid $35 for a bootleg concert VHS tape worth $2.

And most of all, “you’re welcome” to you dedicated MoSS? readers. For getting to read all of the moronic things that pop in my head and end up on your computer screen.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

#15-11

#10

#9

#8

#7

#6

#5

#4

#3

#2

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #7

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

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

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

Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #7: Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream

(click play button below to sample this album)

siamese dream coverI geeked out over Gish, as I documented 10 spots ago in this countdown. As a result, some dangerous expectations were set for the sophomore record, which came out two years later, in 1993. Would I be cringing upon first listen?

The opening drum roll of “Cherub Rock” hooked me. The addition of each instrument a little bit at a time built the suspense. By the time we got to the guitar solo, I was celebrating. And by song’s end, I was screaming “LET ME OUT” right along with Billy.

As much as I liked Gish, Siamese Dream took Smashing Pumpkins to a new level. Like “Hey, The Cure, you’re losing your spot on the perch of my favorite bands list” level of devotion.

Because of my fanaticism, I feel I should pen the following letter.

Dear College Roommate of 1993-94:

I’m sorry I killed such an awesome album. Seriously. Toward the end of our cohabitation period, I’m pretty sure you wanted to “Disarm” our stereo, because all I ever listened to that year was Siamese Dream. You would wake up, thinking maybe, possibly I would be listening to something else, but no, “Today” was like every other day. I’m sure you thought I was a loser, a real “Geek U.S.A.” of sorts. Can’t our speakers enjoy some peace and “Quiet,” or at least some Mr. Bungle, you probably wondered.

At one point, I’m sure you shared my opinion that these songs were the musical equivalent to a “Hummer,” but after 1,000 listens, you probably wanted to put me on a “Rocket” that was heading straight for the “Luna,” turning me into a “Spaceboy” of sorts. And those times when I actually went to class, thereby relenting control of the stereo, I’m sure those moments were “Sweet Sweet” relief.

I hope you have been able to enjoy this album in the years since we shared a dorm room. I also hope I didn’t ruin “Mayonaise” [sic] for you when you made trips to your local deli for a bite to eat.

Sincerely,

Chris

P.S.: Since I couldn’t work these song titles into the letter, “Cherub Rock,” “Soma,” and “Silverfuck.”

cc: Most everyone else I knew during this time

I know I should say great things about this album—there is plenty to say—but I am sure somebody you know (ahem) will handle that at some point between now and the end of time. Just know that in the wake of Siamese Dream, the following actions and thoughts took place:

  • I thought it would be cool to name my firstborn son William Corgan Clair. (My son’s middle name is NOT Corgan, in case you were wondering.)
  • The lone time I adorned my car with a bumper sticker, the sticker was a “Smashing Pumpkins/Siamese Dream” promo.
  • The one time I thought about getting a tattoo, I was going to get the “SP” heart logo (which would have been easier to justify if I had fallen in love with Hart to Hart actress Stephanie Powers or something).

Bottom line: even with the alt-rock revolution of the early ’90s long in the rear view mirror, Siamese Dream remains an album that delivers amazing, heartfelt RAWK time and time again.

Todd’s #7: The Clash, London Calling

(click play button below to sample this album)

london calling coverI was first exposed to The Clash, like a lot of people my age who just missed out on the early punk era, with the song “Rock the Casbah.” I saw the video on an HBO show called Video Jukebox. They played a few choice videos in between showings of Chariots of Fire and The Nude Bomb, the only movies that ever seemed to be on HBO when I was a kid. On this particular episode, they played the videos for Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s “Come On Eileen”, Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, and The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”. Quite a collection of early ‘80s gems there. The thing that I noticed most about The Clash video (other than Mick’s weird camouflage facemask thingy) was the lead singer’s voice*. It was unlike anything I’d heard before, he had a real gravely sound and seemed like he really needed to clear his throat. Every line delivered was a struggle and he seemed so full of anger. I won’t say that I liked The Clash from the start, but they definitely stuck in my head.

[*I have this ongoing debate about which singer’s voice I would most like to have if I could somehow magically steal it. My decision usually comes down to Joe Strummer of The Clash or Peter Gabriel (another unique voice, rough like Joe Strummers but his seems more effortless). It’s always a toss up. Gabriel wins every time I hear the song “Solisbury Hill.” Strummer wins the debate every time I listen to the song “Clampdown”off of London Calling. Once in my life I’d like to sing like he does on the post-bridge chorus of that song. I’ve driven my wife crazy with frequent spins of “Clampdown.” It’s one of my favorites of all time (seems like I write those words a lot, there’s just a lot of great tunes in the world) and I listen to music a bit obsessively. She always complains when it first comes on but she almost always says “Yeah, that’s a pretty f’ing good song” once it’s finished. I must have her properly brainwashed by now.]

I was later re-introduced to The Clash when a borrowed the greatest hits album, Story of the Clash from a friend. I was already familiar with songs like “Should I Stay, or Should I Go” and the aforementioned “Rock the Casbah” but I really enjoyed most of the other tunes on it too. So, I went to the record store to by a copy for myself. While perusing The Clash CDs,  I noticed most of my favorite songs from Story where on London Calling so I bought that instead. It turned out to be the right move.

The Clash are considered punk rock royalty but London Calling is far from a punk record. When listening now, I don’t really hear much of the punk sound from their earlier releases at all. There are hints of reggae, ska, ‘60s pop, rock-a-billy (Normally that last one would turn me off, but The Clash make it sound good, not like the fucking Stray Cats or something) and regular old rock. The more rock heavy songs actually seem more on par with what Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello were doing in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s than Sex Pistols or Ramones type punk. Their live show may have been a different story, I’ve seen footage from their shows and the London Calling songs aren’t nearly as polished as they are on the album.

London Calling was originally a double album so there are quite a few songs on it, but I rarely skip any of them. I think it’s the variety of genres that makes it interesting for me. Sometimes a record can drag and you just skip to the A+ material instead of hang around for the whole thing. Today’s technology makes it even easier to weed out bullshit album filler songs so I appreciate an album like London Calling even more. There’s nothing like pressing play and losing yourself in the music for an hour or so. The best part of my day at work today was listening to all 18 songs with my crappy ear buds turned up to 11. It took all of my will power not to sing along to “Train in Vain.” The people in the cubicles around probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that too much. Much like unleashing potent flatulence, that kind of thing is generally frowned upon in the office.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

#15-11

#10

#9

#8

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, #20-16

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’ #20-16

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

20. PortisheadThird

19. Depeche ModeViolator

18. Nick DrakePink Moon

17. Smashing PumpkinsGish

16. Sigur Ros( )

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#17: Smashing Pumpkins, Gish

cover for gishWe said we’d keep our “closer looks” to two artists per entry until the top 10; as a result, I’m basically ignoring the album (Violator) that defined a big part of my junior year of high school, right around the time that I ended a relationship that by all accounts was perfect and entered into another that was short-sighted yet valuable all the same. And if you ever wanted an album to soundtrack the mixed emotions of a confused teenager, you can’t go wrong with the extremes found on Violator.

Yet I’m opting to talk at length about one of two albums that defined my senior year of high school, when I wised up and stopped taking science courses (I took physics, but that’s math) and dropped Advanced Composition to take Parenting and started dating girls two grades below me. And yes, listened to Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish hundreds of times.

Thanks to Spin, which wrote a feature about a handful of bands to watch, I made a mental note to check out this oddly named band. It wasn’t hard to remember the name, probably because it’s a terrible name for a band. Most people laughed at the name when I told them they had to check out Smashing Pumpkins. Often times they would snicker or roll their eyes or whatever and never listen to the blank tape I carried with me at all times. Then again, a lot of people I knew back then had no interest in anything other than Zeppelin or Garth or Poison (but rarely all three).

Despite this reaction, perhaps the name is genius. I certainly remembered it in the period between reading that Spin article and buying the CD. And if you’re as good as the Pumpkins were on their debut disc, you can make a ballsy move like naming your band Smashing Pumpkins. Because once you hear them, you’re not going to give a fuck what the band name is, aside from the fact that you need the name so you can tell your friends they have to listen to this band now.

The clean snaps from Jimmy Chamberlin’s snare drum immediately call the listener to attention. The rumble of the bass comes next, and then the Billy Corgan Experience comes at you with guitars a-blazin’. You do a double-take when the thin Corgan voice fills the air, but you’re still rolling with the groove, so you shrug a little bit. Soon enough, Corgan is assailing your ears with layers of solo guitar work before the bass’s rumble is isolated again and the song hits its final chorus and it comes to a halt and you’re all like “dude! What the fuck!” And then “Siva” starts and you’re air-guitaring the shit out of your bedroom/basement/car’s driver seat/back room at Pizza Hut/wherever.

These aren’t the 1980s guitar licks, processed and played only in the higher ranges. This shit was grungy (aha!), tuned down and dirty as fuck. “Siva” plays up the LOUDquietLOUD aspect of late ’80s/early ’90s alt-rock at least twice, the second time again isolating the bass guitar, which isn’t playing anything complicated (although D’Arcy might disagree) but propels the song forward while the guitars chill the fuck out for a few seconds and Billy whisper-sings about wanting to know what you’re after because he just wants to get there faster and then the SONG JUST FUCKING EXPLODES and you’re punching the air along with every hit of Chamberlin’s drums and you are like “holy shit this is so so so so goddamn good and I hope this puts a fucking ice pick in the eye socket of ‘heavy metal’ and all that hair metal shit because holy fuck this is awesome.”

And then “Rhinoceros” takes everything down a notch, to let you know that Billy doesn’t need layers of guitar running through Big Muff pedals to do his thing.

And then “Bury Me” brings the guitar heroics back. And then “Crush” slows it all down again. Songs like “Crush” and the next song, “Suffer,” are the songs that best exemplify what Spin said about these guys (I’m paraphrasing): an album you put on as you relax and get all reflective while watching the specks floating in the beam of sunlight coming through your bedroom window. There’s something romantic to that description, and I always enjoyed approaching parts of this album through that lens.

The album throttles forward again with “Snail” and “Tristessa,” then concludes with the two most eccentric tracks on the album: the ominous, slow build of “Window Paine” (punctuated with trademark blasts of controlled feedback at song’s end) and “Daydream,” an acoustic tune that features D’Arcy on vocals and a perfect sense of weariness. (And when you think the album is over, a strange reprise of sorts kicks in, with Billy back on vocals and a simple electric guitar line that adds just a touch of sinister to the album’s conclusion).

Many people thought the Pumpkins were from Seattle, because that’s where all the good music like this was coming from, courtesy of Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. No, they were from Chicago; yes, they were as good as (if not better than) the folks from the Pacific Northwest.

#16: Sigur Ros, ( )

cover for ( )The challenge: express my love for an album that had no title, no song titles (at least upon initial release), lyrics that weren’t English or any other established language…essentially guide vocals that served more instrumental value than vocal message.

The thing is, as pretentious as the whole thing sounds, the eight songs that make up this untitled album are absolutely gorgeous. I might as well be writing in the nonsense language sung by Jonsi to adequately get across my points…but if nothing else, the bottom line is that these songs create an environment that, to my ears and to my “the afterlife is bullshit” mind, is as close to heaven as I think any of us is going to get.

Much like with Explosions in the Sky, this music sounds like the perfect ingredients for a motion picture score. And the music is varying enough (even if the “lyrics” aren’t) that it works for a number of moods and settings. And the fact that the lyrics aren’t real words is not a hindrance: much like the music behind them, the words can mean whatever you want them to mean. And be honest…a lot of you don’t get the words right when you sing along to songs in English.

(To my ears, the primary “lyric” to the first song is “You sat along the fire/you saw the light/you saw/you suffered alone/you sat alone/your soul”; again, there is no definitive lyric, but that’s what I hear, and it plays into my interpretation of the artistic vision of the music.)

Soaring, atmospheric, conjuring up scenes of natural beauty, fast, loud, slow, quiet, pianos, guitars, percussion, strings, organ, Jonsi…all of these elements add up to bliss. I should take a cue from the album’s lack of words and stop now, and let the music speak for itself. Please listen to the last two songs in my sampler found just above my #20-16 list, and interpret the space between the album title’s parentheses as you will. As someone who will finally see the band in concert in April 2013, I’m sure my interpretations will change again after the live experience. That’s one, if not the primary, beautiful aspect of ( ): there’s always room for your ever-changing view of this wonderful art.

Todd’s #20-16

(click play button below to sample these five albums)

20. Beatles, Revolver

19. The Strokes, Room On Fire

18.The Cure, Disintegration

17. Radiohead, Kid A

16. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#18: The Cure, Disintegration

I’ll keep this brief because I’m pretty certain my main MoSS? man Chris is going to be waxing poetic about this record at some point down the road. No surprise to all you Chris fans out there I’m sure.

I’d like to say that I was in on this album from the beginning but that wasn’t the case. When Disintegration came out, I was still exploring classic rock and Livin’, Lovin’ my way through the Led Zeppelin catalog. I’d probably heard a few songs from The Cure by then but they were definitely not on my radar at that point. I do remember seeing the video for “Lovesong” and thinking, “What’s that dude whining about?”

So what made me change my mind? Well, a girl of course. Around that time, my dopey friends and I went over to a classmate’s house to hang out with her and her friend from another school. Yes, a new girl from an exotic unknown land. Well, two towns away to be exact. She was cool, cute, and brunette. I was smitten. I have a weakness for brunettes, this is well documented. The TV was tuned to 120 Minutes, an MTV show that played alternative music videos. At some point the video for the song “Fascination Street” was on and new girl said she loved The Cure. What do you think I told her in response? You guessed it…“I love them too. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time.”

She must have sensed I was full of shit. Maybe it was my hair. I was still rocking the mullet. You know. Business in the front…party in the back. See photo on the left. It was an obvious sign of a hard or classic rock lover. Not too long after that I started to wear my hair in the exact opposite way, with my hair long in front and short in back which was more in line with the alternative music that I was getting into. See photo on the right of the band The Ocean Blue. They made the list back at #69 with their self titled debut album. I dressed and wore my hair just like the those guys.

Anyways, exotic-two-towns-away girl didn’t fall for my lie and I, of course, got nowhere with her. It wasn’t a total strikeout though because the experience got me interested in The Cure. Today I wouldn’t be lying if I told her that The Cure is one of my favorite bands of all time. Plus, I can always console myself in the fact that I met and married a way cooler, way hotter brunette that loves The Cure too.

I wonder what happened to two-towns-away girl? I like to think that she married some dude that got her into country music and right now she is listening to Rascal Flatts or something equally as horrid. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.

#17: Radiohead, Kid A

This is my highest rated Radiohead album. You won’t be seeing the over hyped OK Computer on any of my lists (unless we make a list of the 100 Most Overrated Albums Ever…mental note) No, Kid A is the Radiohead album for me. I feel the same way about this record as Chris does about Sigur Ros ( ) which he so eloquently wrote about above. The music, while eerily off-putting at times, is beautiful. Though, unlike Jonsi from Sigur Ros, Thom Yorke is singing in English and you can understand most of his lyrics.

In my crazy head, the album Kid A will always be connected to the movie Almost Famous. They really have nothing to do with each other, but I can’t think of one without eventually thinking of the other. They came out around the same time. Almost Famous in September 2000 and Kid A a few weeks later. A week or so after that, Saturday Night Live had Radiohead as the musical guest and the host was, new Hollywood “It Girl” and star of Almost Famous, Kate Hudson.  She really blew up after that movie came out. They threw her in a ton of crap movies and you couldn’t go to a newsstand without seeing her on several magazine covers. Like this Rolling Stone cover from late October 2000.

Not too shabby in the looks department but not really my type. I always liked the actress that played the sister in Almost Famous better, Zooey Deschanel. She’s been involved in much better projects than Kate since then and is in the indie band, She and Him, which gets her astronomically more cool points. I guess Kate did marry the dude from the Black Crowes but that doesn’t really help her cause in my book. And again, I have a weakness for brunettes.

Anyways, I bought that Rolling Stone magazine at the O’hare International Airport before a business flight to Tampa Bay. The two main articles in it are about… you guessed it… Radiohead’s Kid A and the movie Almost Famous.

The last 45 minutes of the flight were pretty bumpy as we came through some bad weather. At times it felt like we were riding a roller coaster as we suddenly gained and lost altitude. I’m not scared of flying but like most people, I find rocketing through the air in a tin can a bit less fun when the tin can is being thrown around by turbulence. I put on my headphones and queued up the first song on Kid A to try and relax. “Everything in It’s Right Place” came over my headphones and did nothing to soothe my nerves. It has a pretty ominous sound to it and made me feel even more like we might not make it safely to the ground. We hit a very bumpy stretch a bit later and when I looked out the window I could see lightning and huge storm clouds ahead.

There is a great part in the movie Almost Famous were the central characters are in a small airplane that has engine troubles and they believe they are going to die as they plummet to the earth. Everyone on board takes the opportunity to make major announcements about there sexuality and/or air out long held grievances. The plane eventually rights itself and they realize that they aren’t going to die. Awkward!

I definitely wasn’t going to be sharing any major revelations with the chatty 300 lb. dude wedged into the seat next to me. So, I just closed my eyes and tried to appear as though I was calmly sleeping through the worst plane flight of my life. At that point, the song “How to Disappear Completely” came over the headphones.  This time the music and lyrics actually made me feel better.

Strobe lights and blown speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
I’m not here
This isn’t happening
I’m not here
I’m not here
I’m not here

I just kept on listening and by the time the album was over so was the storm. I opened my eyes and there was nothing but clear skies ahead. The rest of the flight went smoothly and we touched down in sunny Florida with our lives and our dignity intact. Although, the dude next to me did reveal that he had been a bed wetter until the age of 15.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

 

#80-71

 

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

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

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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/