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)
I 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.
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)
I 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.