MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: October 2014

oct 14

Side A: Chris’ Picks

Side B: Todd’s Picks

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From the MoSS? Pit: Riot Fest 2014

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

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

 

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

SAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mastodon makes everything betters.

Mastodon makes everything better.

 

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

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

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

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

Now the bad …

Hey, Riot Fest … fuck you!

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

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

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

No seriously, Riot Fest … fuck you!!

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

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

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

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

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

BEES!!!

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

OK, now the music …

After 15 years, the Dubs are finally off the hook

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

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

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

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

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

Banner says it all ...

Banner says it all …

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

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

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

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

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

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

Super happy to have caught this set by Superchunk.

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

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

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

NOFX? Yeah, those guys are dicks

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

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

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

The other white whale I caught? DESCENDENTS!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, we were on vacation!

CHRIS

FRIDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My top 5 of the weekend:

5. Die Antwoord

4. Mastodon

3. Slayer

2. The Cure

1. Descendents

Honorable mention to Buzzcocks and Patti Smith.

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

(Jump back up to Sam’s recap)

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: August 2014

aug 14

Side A: Chris’ Picks

Side B: Todd’s Picks

 

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Festivus: Sam’s Airing of Grievances

Editor’s note: Remember that guy who wrote about Kiss? Sam’s back with some Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musings. I think this guy is passing the audition. Mainly because he mentioned the Cure again, which keeps him in my good graces. Plus, he writes one fucking thing and sets a one-day high in Music or Space Shuttle? traffic! This tells me that Sam has awesome friends who click stuff he shares on Facebook, AND that Todd and I need better, more-likely-to-click-our-links Facebook friends. (By the way, you can find all MoSS? posts at our Facebook page. Click the “Like” button on the right side of the page.) –Chris


rock and roll hall of fame exterior

I’m obsessed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually, I’m obsessed with all Hall of Fames in general, I guess. I pissed and moaned for days a few months ago when my main Houston Astro, Craig Biggio, missed induction. You see, it takes 75 percent of the votes to earn induction. He got 74.8 percent. They don’t round up. So after the number of ballots cast was made public, it was determined that he missed the cut by two votes.

Two!

One Hall voter came out and said he left his ballot completely empty except for a vote for ’80s pitching ace Jack Morris, justifying his refusal to vote for anybody who played during the “steroid era.” Jack Morris, who pitched in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. In the American League. Which means he pitched, at some point in time, to Jose Canseco, the only guy proud to admit before Congress that he willingly took steroids. Take a bow, genius.

Even more insane, every fall, I spend a crazy amount of time obsessing over a thing called the Survivor Hall of Fame. Yes, a Hall of Fame for the CBS reality game show. For weeks, I solicit (they would probably say troll) the hell out of former players on Twitter. I argue about it on message boards. I’ve even had my own personal rules for induction criteria published. However, there’s no physical building or artifacts. No pilgrimage to see your favorite players enshrined. Really, the Survivor Hall of Fame is essentially just a blog, with a few photos and some online interviews. You know what? I don’t care. I love Survivor so I want it done right. I care. WAAAAYYYYY too much. Sorry, Gordon.

But there’s nothing that saps my time and energy like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by how much it matters to me. But it does. And it’s never mattered more to me than this year, because the first truly revolutionary band (Nirvana) of the generation that defines my age group (Generation X) came up for induction and got in on the first ballot. Even more significantly, after years of crying to my poor, poor friends and colleagues about the injustice of the snub, the band that helped shape my pop cultural existence (Kiss) finally got in after having to wait for 14 years. The ceremony was a couple of weeks ago now, and it’s still all I think about. I really need a life.

I engaged in plenty of back and forth on social media this season, and was fortunate to gain lots of insight from a few people much more informed than I am (check out Brian Ives, Tom Lane, and the endless resource that is Future Rock Legends, for starters). Plus, after the illuminating blog by Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, I feel like I understand better how much politics can ruin something that represents an entity that’s supposed to be about rebellion like rock and roll.

So, in the wake of all that, the following diatribe may read like a butthurt plea supporting some of my favorite bands that don’t have a chance in hell of ever being inducted (hell, even a few I don’t really care about at all but still appreciate their significance). But the time has come for the airing of grievances … and I got a lot of problems with all of you.

ONE:

MC5 shirtless

MC5, also known as T-Shirt Zero

For me, maybe the hardest thing to reconcile with that institution are the bands that get inducted because of how “important” or “influential” they are. It can become very hypocritical (and I admit, I love most of bands that qualify in this rant) to declare something “adored but never accepted by the masses.” The Sex Pistols had one album. One. Their entire existence is one album and a tour. They imploded within two years. So where is the MC5? They had THREE albums, they had the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and many knowledgeable people would say they’re amongst the godfathers of both punk AND metal.

Also, bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges are in, some might say because their frontmen (Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, respectively) became rock legends later down the road. But both of those bands, when they were actually happening, never sold any records and never had any hits. But everyone who did like them started their own bands (I know, this is not an original thought, but it’s true).

runaways group photoOK, so by that rationale, who fits the bill? The Runaways. No one, and I do mean NO ONE, bought their records (except for Japanese teenagers), but …  a frontwoman who went on to greater fame solo (Joan Jett)? Check. (Not to mention Lita Ford, often considered the first lady of heavy metal). How many all-girl rock bands formed in their wake? How many of the ‘90s riot grrrl bands cite them as primary influences? Plus, “Cherry Bomb” is more recognizable than any song the Stooges ever put out (I love the Stooges, by the way). And OK, “Cherry Bomb” is one song. But my two-word rebuttal: Percy Sledge.

There’s been a lot of talk about Joan Jett going in solo (or with the Blackhearts) and the other night – fronting a reunited version of Nirvana at both the ceremony and the soon-to-be-legendary secret show they played afterward at an underground Brooklyn metal club – did a TON to help her cause. But like Linda Ronstadt, Jett’s biggest songs are cover tunes. I’d still rather see her go in with the Runaways. It will never happen, though. They’ll forever be seen as a gimmick and I don’t think they can ever get out from under that. But they belong in the argument.

And while we’re talking about influences … with all the Seattle bands coming up for induction, Motorhead should be considered. Black Flag should be considered. The Melvins should absolutely be considered. Watch some documentaries and listen to the words coming from the musicians themselves: Who introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic? The Melvins. Who invented that mud tone that became grunge? The Melvins. If some of these other bands get considered for trivial reasons, so should they. They’ve been around for over 30 years now. But will they get in? Absolutely not. I think the closest they’ll come is frontman Buzz Osbourne getting namedropped by Novoselic and drummer Dale Crover getting praised by Grohl during Nirvana’s induction (it must be noted that Crover played on enough songs that ended up on both Bleach and Incesticide to be considered one of the band’s pre-Grohl drummers, but he, like Chad Channing, gets left out in the cold. More on this later …)

go-go's on rolling stone coverTWO:

Women are shamefully underrepresented in the Hall. I was worried about a lot of the divas getting the shaft…that is, up until the induction of Donna Summer. Her induction opened the doors for Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey in a huge way (all three are ridiculously talented singers with mountains of No. 1 singles, but who write little and play nothing). But if those two DON’T get in, you can absolutely forget about the likes of, say, Britney Spears (hey, stop laughing…I’m just trying to think of big stars down the road). Will Mary J. Blige or Missy Elliott be there? Is Carly Simon worthy? Because she’s not in.

The Go-Go’s or the Bangles should get a fair look, but they won’t…either not enough big hits or they weren’t together long enough.

BenatarBut the Go-Go’s do have historical significance on their side—the first all-female band that wrote and performed their own material to have a No. 1 album. They deserve a shot, because without one, will other critically adored all-girl bands such as Sleater-Kinney have a chance?

And you know who should be in the talk, especially now that Ronstadt got in? Pat Benatar. People forget just how huge she was in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The hits, the massive exposure at the dawn of MTV, the multi-platinum records and Grammys…they speak for themselves.

THREE:

The bias against hard rock and metal drives me insane. Off the top of my head, the only bands identified as heavy rock or metal that are currently in are Black Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and now Kiss. OK, maybe Aerosmith and Alice Cooper, too (sorry, I don’t count Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or the Who).

Maybe I’m just annoyed that rap seems to get preferential treatment.­ To me growing up, rap and metal were truly kindred spirits—the extreme branches on the rock and roll tree, so much so that they merited their own specialty shows on MTV, metal being the extreme offshoot of rock, rap the extreme offshoot of R&B/soul. So why is one more important than the other? Look, I love Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy as much as the next guy. Love them. They absolutely deserve to be in. But why is it that the rap groups always get in on the first ballot, but a groundbreaking band like Sabbath—who invented an entire genre of music—had to wait 10 years? It’s disrespectful.

Paul Stanley really hit the nail on the head in his induction speech: fandom means nothing to these people. All that matters, it appears, is critical acclaim, something metal rarely gets.

The British godfathers of metal (Sabbath—in, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead) and the Big 4 of American thrash (Metallica—in , Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) deserve consideration. And I’ll say it again: Deep Purple on the outside looking in is a joke.

FOUR:

Speaking of Deep Purple, let’s pretend they get in next year. Who’s getting inducted? Will it only be the Mark II version of the band, the version behind “Smoke on the Water,” “Highway Star,” “Speed King,” Space Truckin’,” and “Woman From Tokyo”? (Seriously, how are the fuck are they NOT in already?) Because I think they’re up to at least Mark VIII or IX by now, right? That’s a lot of guys over 40+ years.

That seems to be the big controversy (and rightfully so). Who decides who’s getting in? Why did Parliament-Funkadelic get all 957 of its members inducted, but Kiss had to settle for the four original members, even though they had at least four other guys with decade-plus stints consisting of multiple gold albums and world tours? Both bands were garish theatrical groups on the Casablanca label in the ‘70s. Is it because Parliament got sampled on lots of g-funk rap albums in the ’90s? Who knows?

But there needs to be some consistency. Sammy Hagar gets inducted for his stint fronting Van Halen, but Ronnie James Dio can’t get the same for his time reinventing Black Sabbath? (I think this stinks of Sharon Osbourne, but that’s just a hunch.) Rob Trujillo (one album in a five-year stint at the time) gets to go in with Metallica, and 32-year-old Josh Klinghoffer, who had been in the band for about two-plus years and had played on exactly one album, gets to go in with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But a guy like Gilby Clarke, who made significant contributions to Guns N’ Roses, gets left out? (After reading the Frantz blog, it’s much more clear: where the Talking Heads had Seymour Stein, Metallica and the Chili Peppers had Cliff Burnstein (he manages both AND sits on the nominating committee).

Chad Channing played drums on Nirvana’s debut album, as well as several other b-sides and live cuts. He did the early gigs and tours. He participated in the early sessions for Nevermind and wrote several drum parts that Dave Grohl willingly admitted that he just copied in the final product (kudos to Grohl for saying this during his actual Hall induction speech, by the way). Oh, and he actually IS on Nevermind, albeit in a minor role (and especially now that the early demo sessions recorded by Butch Vig have been released on the album’s anniversary deluxe edition). He didn’t get in. Yet every drummer who ever played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers got in (obviously, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke the Hall of Fame). I can’t wait to see how they handle the Pearl Jam drummer situation. Jesus…

FIVE:

Finally a few passing thoughts: Woefully missing are the alt-rock and new wave bands of the early ’80s. To name but a few … The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Cars, Duran Duran, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Husker Du. As for rap, I don’t really care…and I’ll tell you why: Eventually that’s the stuff that gonna take over this thing. Eminem. Kanye. Jay-Z. It’s coming. They’re the biggest rock stars of the post-Napster era when the record companies started losing a little bit of their influence (I mean, we’ve got a LONG time before the White Stripes and bands like Arcade Fire become eligible). With that in mind, just give me NWA, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, 2Pac, and Biggie. Those were the rappers and crews that shaped my era. After they get in, I don’t care.

As far as my best guess for the bands of my generation…I personally don’t think a band like, say, Motley Crue has a prayer. Even with solid membership, lots of legitimate hits, a strong touring history, and the greatest story ever told, I think they’re immune even if believers in poptimism gain more influence in the nominating committee.

motley crue all glammed out

A lot of girls from Chris’ hometown looked a lot like Vince Neil does in this photo.

But you know what…says who? Motley Crue doesn’t have a shot because Rolling Stone doesn’t like them? A band shouldn’t base their legacy solely on a handful of critics with too much influence and power telling them how awesome they were. Isn’t that kind of what killed Kurt Cobain? Pretty sure he hated what that did to his band. I’m not advocating their enshrinement, but one thing everybody should respect about a band like Motley Crue—even if you think their music is either awesome or shit—is that they have no fucks to give when it comes to what anyone says about them on a critical level. It hasn’t stopped them from their decades of sold-out shows and platinum records.

(I’m well aware that someone somewhere will say the same thing about Nickelback in 20 years, but that becomes a question of eras…you know what: I’ll deal with that when it happens …)

But a band from that era that should get considered is Def Leppard, the rare band from the ‘80s glam metal period that garnered critical acclaim on top of massive commercial success.

Nick Drake holding guitar

Nick Drake, true artist. Way more acclaim after death.

As for the ’90s, come on. Pearl Jam is a mortal lock (I can’t believe they haven’t had their eligibility period waved). Radiohead is a lock. Beck is a lock. Green Day is a lock (eligible next year, actually, and I’ll be stunned if they have to wait). I have a hunch Rage Against the Machine is a lock. Eventually, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Smashing Pumpkins are all major contenders and all will be there over time. And I think Oasis has the most obvious shot of representing Britpop. And I keep reading about people saying bands like Blur and Pavement, for example, are shoo-ins, but I don’t know, I gotta see it first before I believe it.

And finally, my own personal snubs…well, now that Kiss is FINALLY in, I’m going with Deep Purple (too many anthems to ignore), Chicago (Jann Wenner reportedly is to them what Dave Marsh was to Kiss), Nick Drake (maybe the most perfect discography of all time) and the MC5 (seriously, the Stooges are in and they are NOT? Come on. “Kick Out The Jams” is bigger and certainly more iconic than ANYTHING the Stooges did. They are the first band associated with the sound that is considered punk rock) …

Sheesh, I feel like a battered wife after that. Why do you hate me, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when I want to love you so much?

From the MoSS? Pit: Sunday at Lollapalooza (but pretty much the Cure)

Seems fitting that on the day when musical perfection headlined Lollapalooza, the weather would be perfect too.

Seriously, one of my greatest fears about going to Lollapalooza, something I hadn’t done since the traveling circus days (1994, to be exact), was being among thousands and thousands of people on a 100-degree, high-dew-point kind of day. But when the Cure was named as the headliner for Sunday, I knew that I needed to brave the masses and the potential mugginess to see Robert Smith and Co. one more time.

So it was in 75-degree sunshine (with a slight breeze to boot) that I took in Lolla 2013’s closing day, making the trek with my boy (and devoted MoSS? reader/commenter) Sam and his good friend Tony, whom I met back in my Marshalltown days. We met up with friends who were there all three days (two with ties to my hometown, Waukon, bringing the grand total of people with Waukon ties at Lollapalooza to, um, three, I’m guessing?) and had a hell of a time.

Before I get to the Cure, I should at least mention the other stuff I saw…

palma violets

Palma Violets

Palma Violets: Love the album. Love the energy they brought to the stage. They were having a blast and sounded great. Only thing: they seemed a bit dwarfed by the stage they were on, that being one of the two main stages (Bud Light, bro) in the park. Had they performed in The Grove or even the secondary stage not far from the Bud Light behemoth, I’m thinking it would have been a perfect fit. All the same, good way to start the day, even if I was by myself for this one (let’s just say the post-arrival Park and Ride experience was a stressful one and leave it at that).

Wild Nothing: By this point, I had met up with the friends who had been there for the entire festival, so I spent a good amount of time catching up with them while Wild Nothing played. Sounded great. Jack Tatum mentioned how cool it was to perform on a stage that would be graced by his favorite band of all time, the Cure. He’s worthy of sharing those planks.

MS MR: OK, so I thought I was heading to the stage where Baroness would be playing, but when the huge block letter “MS MR” appeared on the backdrop, um, well, I guess not. But it was the Grove, a smaller space lined with trees (hence the name), so I decided to stay put with my friend Denise and enjoy a little shade and synth. While it wasn’t the “rock your face off” show that Baroness put on (a point hammered home by Sam, Travis, Tony, and Annie a few times throughout the evening), it was a good showing from a band that put out a killer EP. (Not a big fan of the debut album consisting of the same four songs from the EP plus a few more new ones, but whatever.)

Two Door Cinema Club: Between MS MR and this point, a friend of Denise’s joined up with us and we tried to reconnect with the Baroness crew. Text messaging at this point was lagging; while we waited for messages to go through, we caught a couple of songs by TDCC. A lot of people were pretty excited about it; I was not one of them. Soon we decided it was time to head to the other end of the park where the Cure would be playing, a decision made partly to rescue Denise’s friend, who found herself on radar-lock by a drunk dude who made me look young and hip. We’re good people.

Alt-J: When we reached the south end of the park, we decided it was beer time. Sam and Tony magically appeared at the beer tent. It was a glorious reunion, and at least 18 times we heard about how great Baroness was. The girls left to go to 2 Chainz; the boys decided it was wise to go claim real estate near the Red Bull Stage for the Cure, even though Grizzly Bear still had to go on before them. While this was happening, Alt-J was playing in the background. Meh.

Grizzly Bear: So with the sole intention of making sure we had decent spots for the Cure, we headed over to the Red Bull stage. We were able to get a good spot on the left side of the crowd, probably 15-20 human rows back from the front gate. This would be closer than I was when I saw the Cure in 2000, and closer than the first time I saw them, in 1996.

So I’m looking at the following wait for the Cure:

  • 5:30-6:00: Stand around and wait for Grizzly Bear
  • 6:00-7:00: Grizzly Bear plays on Red Bull Stage
  • 7:00-8:00: Stand around and wait for the Cure to go on

Here’s how long these portions felt:

  • 5:30-6:00: 30 minutes (we were happy about our position, so time moved forward)
  • 6:00-7:00: FOR-FUCKING-EVER
  • 7:00-8:00: An hour (it helped that we could hear Beach House on the secondary stage behind us, and Cure fans, despite our reputation for being mopey, can make small talk amongst ourselves)

I don’t get the love for Grizzly Bear. At all. I’ve never liked their recordings. And hearing them live added nothing for me. I get the same vibe from them that I get from Wilco: “Dockers Rock.”

But again, remember the primary objective here: a good spot for the Cure. Mission accomplished. Just deal with this, just like you dealt with Red Red Meat opening for Smashing Pumpkins in 1994, and Elite Gymnastics opening for Sleigh Bells, and Oneohtrix Point Never for Sigur Ros, and that guy who exerted most of his talent trying to hang a tapestry at the Ducktails show in Iowa City. You’re a survivor, I told myself!

I will credit “Adrien Brody” for one thing: as Grizzly Bear’s set was wrapping up, he encouraged everyone to go over and check out Beach House. Yes, I thought, make room up front for me! Of course, hardly anyone took his advice. And almost everyone was thinking the same thing as me: “I hope all these people in front of me are huge Phoenix fans.” (Phoenix was headlining on the other side of the park.)

So while Beach House chilled out across the way, we all pressed forward until we became rather well acquainted with one another. And we waited. Thankfully I was surrounded by three cool dudes from Austin, Texas, and a woman presumably a little north of my age who was seeing the Cure for the first time. And a woman of Latin American descent who, although not the talkative sort, was drop-dead gorgeous. (shrug) And a dude in a Washington Nationals ballcap who was the leader of our platoon, fighting the good fight against people who tried to push past us when there was absolutely no room to be had. He handled all the talking, but he expected us all to stand our ground. And we did, despite the pleas of “but my friend/husband/little brother is up there!” And the ones who kept pushing got ushered the fuck out by the security along the gated central walkway…or they turned around.

While I waited, I caught myself bouncing. I was so excited to see this band, even if they weren’t my “white whale” as they were for everyone in my small circle (except for Sam, who accompanied me to the St. Louis show in 2000). The set list might not be filled with a vast selection of deep cuts, but it’s not like I don’t enjoy the Cure’s singles and poppy side, too. (“Friday I’m In Love” is a bit trying for me, I’ll admit.)

As the clock struck 8, the chimes started. After two concerts without it, I was going to get to experience “Plainsong,” the leadoff track from Disintegration, my favorite Cure song. It was as majestic as it had ever sounded.

How nice it was to hear four Disintegration songs within the first six titles. “Pictures of You” led into “Lullaby”; after “High” (the most underrated of their singles, I might argue) and “The End of the World,” we got “Lovesong.” At this point, Robert mentioned to the crowd that the evening’s proceedings had a bit of a poppy feel, and the band launched two staples of the live sets over the years, “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven.” After the final keyboard note of “JLH” ceased, I could hear someone behind me exclaim, “Holy shit! I’m fucking spent, only a half-hour in!”

We got a song from the post-Pornography pop set (“The Walk”), four more songs from Wish (“Friday,” “Doing the Unstuck,” “Trust,” and the powerhouse “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”), the fourth of the Disintegration singles (“Fascination Street”) and that album’s title track, and the song from 1997, “Wrong Number,” the studio recording of which featured Reeves Gabrels, the band’s new fifth member. There was even a song from 4:13 Dream, because, well, I don’t know. Seems like it would have been a perfect time to go with “Play for Today,” and let the rabid fans sing the keyboard line a la the version that appeared on the live album Paris. (I mention this as I wanted to prove to myself that I could find fault with the show.)

The band took a short break before coming out for the all-out pop hurricane encore. Robert mentioned that the “very precise” festival had 21 minutes left, so, augh! We better get crackin’! So out came “The Lovecats,” “The Caterpillar” (!), “Close to Me,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” “Why Can’t I Be You?,” and “Boys Don’t Cry” (“If they pull the plug on us, you’ll need to keep singing”). And then the music stopped, Robert walked to each side of the stage to nod and smile to the adoring fans, and that was that.

Specifics to note:

  • Simon Gallup is the coolest person in music, and plays a hell of a bass. And he appears to be ageless. What a stud.
  • Nice to see Roger O’Donnell once again in the fold. I love that “Trust” was part of the set, which gave him a true spotlight moment, and he was obviously enjoying the proceedings. I think he feeds off Simon’s unending energy, too; he was really getting into his playing at times.
  • Robert is known to alter the original lyric from “Let’s Go to Bed” (which goes “You think you’re tired now / well wait until 3”) to fit the occasion. Usually he refers to an hour even later; he used this line to comment on the “this ends at 10 p.m.” attitude of Lollapalooza. On this night it went: “You think you’re tired now / well, wait until [shrug] 11, I guess.”
  • After “The Walk” finished, someone tapped me and asked me what that song was called. I told him, and then I heard him relaying the answer to another dude. The original inquiring mind yelled, “The what?” So I turned around, yelled, “‘The Walk’!,” and did the old Yellow Pages “let your fingers do the walking” gesture. I got a smile and a thumbs-up in return. I love helping people!
  • I knew I was actually among real people and not in an Internet chat room because I didn’t hear a single person whine about Boris Williams not being the drummer anymore. (It’s been 20 years, and some fans online still won’t let it go.)
  • “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” “One Hundred Years,” and “Disintegration” are played practically every single time the Cure performs a concert, and I think because of that, many diehard fans groan about their inclusion anymore. But for people like me who haven’t been able to see them very often, I absolutely love the fact that I know I’m going to get to hear these three intense numbers. “Deep Green Sea” in particular was searing on this particular night.

The set, both in song choice and performance, shows how multifaceted and multitalented the Cure really is. There are numerous kinds of Cure fans in my opinion (opposed to one person’s opinion that you’re either an “In Between Days” fan or a “Just Like Heaven” fan—what the hell does that even mean?), and I’m guessing that they all left the park very satisfied.

Lolla 2013: Can Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear switch stages? Please?!

lollapalooza logoWhen I made that impulse buy, the Sunday ticket for Lollapalooza 2013, I was swayed by a couple of factors. One, my friend Travis Who Isn’t the Beast was going; the morning the one-day tickets went on sale, we were both waking in Chicago the day after the Sigur Ros show. He egged me on, and I was still riding the live-music high provided by the Icelandic trio. So without checking with the missus, I bought a ticket via smartphone. I’m a pushover. (As a result, I’m also probably taking the family to Chicago for the weekend, as it happens.)

Second, the killer roster, headlined by the Cure, my all-time favorites. I haven’t seen them in 13 years…it’s time. Vampire Weekend, Beach House, and Tegan & Sara also jumped off the poster. Looking at the artists and paying no mind to the logistics of stage placement and prominence, I envisioned a dream day as follows:

  • Palma Violets
  • Wild Belle
  • MS MR
  • Lianne La Havas
  • Wild Nothing
  • DIIV
  • Tegan & Sara
  • Beach House
  • Vampire Weekend
  • The Cure

Now that the schedule is out and logistics come into play, here’s what I’m looking at:

  • Guards
  • Wild Belle
  • Wild Nothing
  • Lianne La Havas
  • Tegan & Sara
  • Alt-J
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Beach House
  • The Cure

VW is the huge omission, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it unless I want to sacrifice Cure position. VW will play before Phoenix on the other side of the park; Grizzly Bear precedes the Cure. That’s a bit of a nut-punch (I don’t get the Grizzly Bear love), but I am seeing VW in October, so I can live with this.

(However, I am considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to see if I can bribe Grizzly Bear to switch stages with Vampire Weekend. I might even match every dollar pledged to the cause. Check MoSS? regularly for updates.)

DIIV also falls off the list, which is a bummer, but they are playing much later in the day than I would have anticipated, so I don’t want to move too much at this point. I might be able to sneak off to Palma Violets between Guards (whom I’ve seen up close and personal, opening for Cults back in 2011) and Wild Belle.

All in all, I’m happy. I must admit, my Vampire Weekend tickets for the Kansas City show make this a much easier pill to swallow. But I’ve been getting a kick out of all the people whining on social media about the various conflicts. Like how in the world could you put Nine Inch Nails against the Killers? Or why are Mumford and Sons going up against The Postal Service?

It should come as no surprise that the day’s two headliners would be pitted on opposite ends of the park. And really, is there much debate as to which band you should see, assuming you can maneuver around the park as you wish?

If you need help making a choice, you’re in luck: I’m here to help. I’ll address some of the conflicts I’ve seen discussed on Facebook…

FRIDAY

First off, why is Jessie Ware playing so early? 1:00 is the best she could pull?

Band of Horses vs. Crystal Castles (4:15): A bunch of wusses who make decent tunes against the manic energy of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass. Even though I fear their sound doesn’t translate well live, I’m still going with Crystal Castles.

New Order vs. Queens of the Stone Age (6:15): “Blue Monday” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Age of Consent” and on and on and on vs. the guy whose best work (to my ear) is the stuff he did with John Paul Jones. New Order

Nine Inch Nails vs. the Killers (vs. Lana Del Rey?) (headliners): The worst tracks on The Downward Spiral would easily make the cut against the Killers. And LOLa Del Rey…come on. Nine Inch Nails

SATURDAY (a.k.a. “Bro Day”)

Heartless Bastards (6:00)/Death Grips (7:15) vs. The National (6:00) vs. Kendrick Lamar (6:45) vs. the Lumineers (7:15): Duh. The National

Mumford and Sons vs. the Postal Service vs. Azealia Banks vs. Steve Aoki (headliners): Duh. Get some sleep at the hotel

SUNDAY

Palma Violets (1:00) vs. the Orwells (1:00) vs. Wild Belle (1:30): I like what I’ve heard of Palma Violets, but not quite as much as Wild Belle. Orwells are third, but not meant as an insult. Wild Belle

Lianne La Havas (3:00) vs. MS MR (3:30) vs. Baroness (3:30): Baroness might provide some much-needed testosterone, and MS MR is cool as shit. I’m going with La Havas just to stay in one area, but if everything were equal…MS MR

Grizzly Bear (6:00) vs. Vampire Weekend (6:30): Overrated vs. Hypeworthy. Modern Vampires of the City came out today; I’ve listened to it at least six times all the way through since waking this morning. The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. Seriously need to consider that Kickstarter/stage swap idea. Vampire Weekend

The Cure vs. Phoenix (headliners): Of course I’m going to say the Cure. How Phoenix headlines over Vampire Weekend baffles me, so I’m not even going to consider recommending the former against Robert Smith & Co. The Cure is sounding fantastic live with former Bowie guitar man Reeves Gabrels in the fold, and Simon Gallup is still the coolest guy in music.

If you’re going to Lolla, or even if you’re not, I’d like to hear the tough choices you’d make.

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, #10

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’ #10: The Cure, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

(click play button below to sample this album)

kiss me kiss me kiss me coverThis is when it all started for me. No, this isn’t my highest-ranked Cure album (not a spoiler for anyone who’s known me for a long time) but had I not heard this wide-ranging double album, I might not have subsequently bought Standing on a Beach and pounced on the release of Disintegration and I might be pining for a Skid Row reunion or something like that. (Or I would have heard “Fascination Street” or “Lovesong” in 1989 and gone down the Cure path anyway…who’s to say.) But the album with the lips on the front cover and the eyeball on the back cover got this all started.

Again, I must give my cousin Josh credit; he’s the one who hooked me up with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me all those years ago. Not only did he have Cure albums aplenty in his music collection, his room was adorned with some really cool black-and-white posters featuring the wild-haired singer, Robert Smith. So in addition to the other stuff he provided me (Slayer, Beastie Boys, etc.), I asked him for a copy of the latest Cure album.

I remember putting it on the stereo when we got back to Waukon, and being a little bit confused. I had this preconceived notion that this band was basically some sort of keyboard-heavy new wave kind of thing. So when the opening track, “The Kiss,” with its blistering guitar work by Smith and Porl Thompson, came screaming out of my speakers, I had to wonder if Josh had recorded the right band. Of course, when Robert starting singing, I realized the band was right and my preconceived notions were wrong.

This is definitely an album where Porl Thompson, who departed the Cure in 1994 to play in the Page/Plant band that performed on MTV Unplugged and later tour in support of the reunited Led Zep greats, was allowed to showcase his skills. And after an album where Robert wrote everything (The Head on the Door), all five members of the band were asked for input. Robert stated that the tapes he got from the others ranged from your typical guitar and guide vocal stuff to drummer Boris Williams submitting a demo that Robert described as “vampire drumming.”

And even though the resulting 18 songs are over the map stylistically, the quality level never dips. After “The Kiss” and its guitar showmanship (and lyrics that conclude with “I wish you were dead”), we hear bits of strings (“Catch”), some Eastern accents amid what I would consider to be “vampire drumming” (“If Only Tonight We Could Sleep,” awesomely covered by Deftones, by the way), the brassy compliment song “Why Can’t I Be You?”, a song with so many simple layers that when assembled come across as a song that is one of the most beautiful songs the band has penned (“How Beautiful You Are”), a dark, somewhat hypnotic tale about being “a mile under the ground and thinking that it’s Christmas” and being “out in car and it’s full of stupid girls and I try to speak and I just can’t remember a word” (“The Snakepit”), and more blasts of brass (“Hey You!”, “Hot Hot Hot!!!”, “Icing Sugar”) and an electric, up-tempo blast (“Shiver and Shake”) and one of those songs that I guess I always presumed the Cure did (“The Perfect Girl,” with its toy piano accents and no shortage of “doo-doo-doo” lyrics).

The album also has one of the greatest songs ever recorded, the song that even non-Cure fans probably are familiar with: “Just Like Heaven.” The song structure is similar to the aforementioned “How Beautiful You Are” in that it’s not a complicated song by any stretch of the imagination, but each little element comes together to create an amazing whole. It’s a song I’ve heard so many times and not once have I been “sick of it.” And the lyrics aren’t sappy but they’re not overly abstract, either. It’s a wonderful love song about how special an embrace can be and how dancing can be like “spinning on that dizzy edge” and how being with that special someone is just like heaven. And the video, set atop an oceanside cliff, is pretty cool, too.

The album also has “Like Cockatoos,” a song that features some really cool percussive effects around a slinky bass line, cool keyboard work, and an amazing way of describing the ending of a relationship. The whole song has a novel’s worth of emotion in about 100 words. The lyrical work on this song (throughout the album, really) is nothing short of stunning. It’s a skill of Robert’s that made the Cure so incredible during the band’s peak.

One funny thing about this album, a story that seems like a nice way to close this entry: my dad was listening to this album with me when we were driving somewhere. The song “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” came on, and my dad remarks, “They ripped this off from the Eagles.”

Let’s get one thing straight: much like The Dude, I hate the fucking Eagles, so you can imagine how well that statement went over with me, especially teenage version of me. I’m sure I insulted him in some way, to which he said, “Listen to ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ and then tell me I’m wrong.” He had One of These Nights on LP, so when we got home, I gave it a listen. To call them similar is a stretch; to say one ripped off the other is flat-out wrong.

But to my dad’s credit, he wasn’t completely off-base. In an interview, Robert talked about recording some of the stuff in Southern California, and as a result, he felt at times they sorta sounded like…you guessed it, THE EAGLES.

I guess I should give my dad props for recognizing it, even if he won’t acknowledge the Cure is 1,000,000 times better than the Eagles.

Todd’s #10: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

(click play button below to sample this album)

FMacRumoursWhat do you get when you take a band with two broken long term relationships, throw in an affair with another band member, and mix with lots of drugs and alcohol? The 10th best album of all time of course.

Like everyone else their age in the ‘70s my parents had this Fleetwood Mac Rumours album. For a long time this was the soundtrack to our weekends. My parents would be doing one of their typical projects around the house and when I wasn’t busy getting in the way or snagging my Dad a fresh beer, I would listen to Rumours and stare at the album cover.

When I hear the song “Dreams”, I’m always reminded of those lazy weekends and the brief time when you are very young that your life revolves around your parents. You go about your business secure in the fact that they have everything under control and nothing bad is ever going to happen. Of course, as you grow older you lose that feeling and realize they were winging it just like everyone else.

Anyways, I must have looked at the album cover a million times. Specifically this picture.

rumors

Quite an odd collection of people there. Singer and lead guitar player Lindsey Buckingham had the biggest hair I’d ever seen. He doesn’t look too happy to be next to his ex-girlfriend Stevie Nicks in the middle there. The McVies are nowhere near each other and Christine won’t look in John’s direction, which sort of tells you everything about the status of their relationship at the time. And what to say about Mick Fleetwood standing behind Stevie? Apparently they were banging around that time so maybe the look on his face makes sense in that respect.

Rumours has to be the most emotionally charged album in history. I can’t imagine being in the studio for the recording of some of these songs. Especially the songs like “Go Your Own Way.” I imagine Lindsey came in and said “Hey everyone, I have this great song. Stevie, It’s about how you broke up with me and started banging Mick. No hard feelings though Mick. Here’s how it goes.”

Loving you
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I
Ever change things that I feel?
If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me?

That’s maybe my favorite lyric in music history.

If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me?

It always gets me going. Just ask my wife. When that part of the song comes on I always go crazy. “You see! He’s trying to give her everything but that bitch won’t take it from him!” She just laughs but I think she gets my outrage. The dude put it all out there but Stevie still fucked the drummer instead. The guitar solo at the end of the song is awesome too. Side note there: When I was at music school, the faculty put on a concert and I ran sound. One of the songs they played was “Go Your Own Way.” When that guitar solo came up, I raised the levels on the lead guitar and started rocking out pretty hard. Afterwards, I noticed that most everyone around me was watching me instead of the guitarist. I guess they didn’t think it was as cool as I did.

Rumours has a ton of amazing guitar work though. Take “Never Going Back Again” for example. Sometimes it sounds like three guitars instead of one. Once and awhile I listen to it and think “Hey, that’s really awesome. I could probably play that“. Then I remember I can’t. I have this Fleetwood Mac guitar book and when I look at the tablature on the page my head spins. It’s like doing musical calculus. Guess I’ll just stick to the Ramones songs where I just bang out 4 chords as loud as I can.

maddenThe Lindsey and Stevie songs usually get most of the airplay from this record but I like them all, even the Christine McVie tunes. I went through a period in college when I would listen to Rumours every afternoon. Guys used to come in and out of my room and I would usually end up playing someone in Madden 96’. They would complain when the Christine songs would come on. I thought it was great. Just when Christine lulled my opponents to sleep with “Songbird” or “Oh, Daddy”, Mike Alstott would blast through their defensive line for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers touchdown. All kidding aside, I really do like the Christine songs a lot. Well, sometimes I skip the Clinton/Gore fightsong “Don’t Stop”, but who doesn’t?

I guess we should give thanks to Slick Willie. He’s the reason for the Fleetwood Mac reunion in the ’90s. I actually bought my wife the Fleetwood Mac reunion concert album The Dance on our first date. I knew that I was going to marry her for two reasons after that date.

  1. She said she loved Fleetwood Mac.
  2. We ended up at a record store on our first date.

Yep, I’m a simple man.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

#20-16

#15-11

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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