Posts Tagged ‘The Cure’

Doubleshot Tuesday: Lust For Life/Boys Don’t Cry

30 November 2010

[Today: Existentialism in rock...]


Without dipping too far into the philosophical soup, let’s just say that existentialism has come to be popularly understood as something that is quite the opposite of what it once meant. For 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, existentialism meant that in spite of many external and internal obstacles, life (existence!) should be lived passionately. Albert Camus’ 1942 novel The Stranger has come to be closely identified with this strain of philosophy, and as such, has helped to shape popular opinion about what existentialism means (and because Camus had intellectual cache, helped make it a breezy, easy concept to drop at dinner parties). The main character of the book is a strange fellow named Meursault, who can’t be concerned with petty moralities or bigger questions like the existence of God. For him, the death of his mother or killing a man on a beach are the same as so many grains of sand, and his tale is told in a chilling first person narrative that attempts to rationally negate the very tenets of life as we know it. It’s filled with cheery quotes like “Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.”

Camus didn’t consider himself an existentialist, and with good reason – his first novel was basically an inversion of Kierkegaard’s self-determined man. If it’s all up to me, Camus seemed to say, then I choose not to believe in anything. As Meursault sits in jail and denies the world, it’s easy to wonder if he’s crazy for not caring about his place in the universe, or if you’re nuts for caring about the same. At any rate, this book became the jumping off point for The Cure’s famously banned song ‘Killing An Arab’. Camus’ bleak, nihilistic world view synced up beautifully with the glass-half-empty, woe-is-me swoon of Goth. But it took Robert Smith to tie the two together with a song that flatly recounts gunning down a man on a beach, looking into his eyes, and… not caring a lick. This song has echoes of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, but where Johnny was at least interested in watching his victim die, Robert Smith can’t even stir up a little blood lust. This is something even less than murder for murder’s sake, and if the song is a fairly inelegant hash of what The Stranger is actually about, it certainly conveys the blank stare behind that smoking pistol.

Leave it to Iggy Pop to go deeper than Camus. With his 1977 song ‘The Passenger’, Mr. Osterberg created the perfect rock vehicle (pun intended) for Camus’ brand of existentialism. For Iggy, life is a journey by car, and he’s determined to enjoy the ride. If his hand isn’t on the wheel, it only means he’s more free to take in the views of the city and the ocean that flash by his window. See the stars come out at night – they are us and we are nothing…

Listen: The Passenger [Iggy Pop]

Listen: Killing An Arab [The Cure]

Doubleshot Tuesday: The La’s/Loveless

12 January 2010

[Today: Crazy perfectionists...]


Let’s start with the differences. The biggest, of course, is the sound. The La’s made nice Liverpudlian pop with a trace of regret and longing. Smart stuff that grows on you. My Bloody Valentine created droning guitar maelstroms of beautiful noise, vocals mixed deep within the jet roar of their twisted lullabies. The La’s formed in Liverpool in 1983. My Bloody Valentine formed in Dublin in 1984. The La’s released their only album in 1990. My Bloody Valentine dropped their last album in 1991. After that, things got weird for both bands.

The La’s fired producer Steve Lillywhite midway through sessions for their self-titled album. Its surprise success only seemed to turn chief songwriter Lee Mavers against it, and he’s spent the better part of the last 20 years railing about its inadequacies and re-recording its songs over and over again, lost in a mobius strip of musical stubbornness and endless dissatisfaction. Mavers: “I feel that the album is duller than it should be and our bad time in the studio shows. I mean parts of it are just crap.” Maybe, but other parts are lovely, especially the oft released and anthologized ‘There She Goes’. For many, this is as perfect as pop music got in the 90′s, but for some it’s not quite good enough.

And then there’s My Bloody Valentine. Loveless was recorded in 19 different studios by 18 different engineers and cost a quarter-million pounds. It took 3 & 1/2 years to record, and drove Creation Records founder Alan McGee to a nervous breakdown. Group mastermind Kevin Shields has sworn that he won’t release another album if it isn’t better than Loveless. So far he’s kept his promise, and the world still waits for the next MBV album. Robert Smith of The Cure thinks Loveless “[Is] the sound of someone who is so driven that they’re demented. And the fact that they spent so much time and money on it is so excellent.”

I would say that both Lee Mavers and Kevin Shields are spiritual inheritors of Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson, but Wilson has pulled himself together to finish his long lost masterpiece Smile, create new music and tour. Even Axl Rose finally got around to releasing Chinese Democracy. Both Mavers and Shields have enough new songs recorded to fill several albums, but none of the material meets their own dizzying standards. And the clock ticks on…

Listen: There She Goes [The La's]

Listen: I Only Said [My Bloody Valentine]

Listen: I Can’t Sleep [The La's]

Listen: Only Shallow [My Bloody Valentine]

Doubleshot Tuesday: Cahoots/Fleet Foxes

3 November 2009

[Today: Falling into Fall...]

The Band | Cahoots
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes

We moved the clocks back an hour on Saturday night, always a sure sign that Autumn has us once again in its wooly grasp. The Bay Area enjoys an indian summer each year – October, not July, is the typical month for our sweltering, 100° days. But even here, around about the end of October, once Neil Young’s annual Bridge Benefit concert is in the books and the kids have come by for their Halloween candy, the air gets a nip to it and the trees start to do the color thing. Daylight Savings is when the boom really falls, and all of a sudden it’s F-A-L-L , or more truthfully, pre-Winter – a few weeks of falling leaves, then the rains set in until Spring. Wash, rinse, repeat…

This is the time of year I start reaching for any album by The Band, as well as Josh Ritter’s Golden Age Of Radio, Neil Young’s Harvest, Gary Higgins’ Red Hash, Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking, Skip Spence’s Oar, The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, The Peddlers’ Suite London and a handful of other albums that have come to epitomize the season for this old geezer.

After their first two LPs, The Band made a series of sturdy if unspectacular albums that each contributed a couple of songs to their subsequent Best Of compilations. Cahoots has ‘Life Is A Carnival’ and ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’, but it’s the stuff off the beaten path that makes this one worthwhile. ’4% Pantomime’ is allegedly the result of an all-night, drunken jam session (with a certain Celtic singer who’s barred from these premises) and, as the story goes, the song was a made-up-on-the-spot, one-take affair. ‘Smoke Signal’ sounds like something from the world’s best hoe-down. ‘Volcano’ features plenty of horns, and sharp, smart guitar solos courtesy of Robbie Robertson, and is one of their great unsung tunes. Recounting a summer picnic gone by, ‘The River Hymn’ sounds like Autumn itself. But for these ears, so do most of The Band’s songs…

I’ve spent the last year flogging Fleet Foxes like Billy Mays on crystal meth, so I’ll spare you additional exclamations. But here too is an album that sounds like it was hewn from virigin timbers, by the golden light of a harvest moon. Some people dress for the weather – I listen for it…

Listen: 4% Pantomime [The Band]

Listen: Blue Ridge Mountains [Fleet Foxes]

Listen: The River Hymn [The Band]

Listen: White Winter Hymnal [Fleet Foxes]

*****

QUESTION: What album reminds you of Autumn?

Weekend Playlist

31 August 2009

“I’ve had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars.” ~ Andres Segovia

ZZ Top | ZZ Top's First Album
ZZ Top | ZZ Top’s First Album

Little Feat | Hotcakes & Outtakes
Little Feat | Hotcakes & Outtakes (Box Set)

Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind
Bob Dylan | Time Out Of Mind

Outkast | Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Outkast | Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones
Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
Beastie Boys | Ill Communication

Parliament | Mothership Connection
Parliament | Mothership Connection

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

The Segovia Collection
Andres Segovia | The Segovia Collection

David Holmes | Let's Get Killed
David Holmes | Let’s Get Killed

Tropicalia | A Brazilian Revolution In Sound
Various Artists | Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound

Peanut Butter Wolf | My Vinyl Weighs A Ton
Peanut Butter Wolf | My Vinyl Weighs A Ton

INXS | Stay Young (1979-1982)
INXS | Stay Young (1979-1982)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | The JImi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)
Jimi Hendrix Experience | Jimi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)

The Coup | Genocide & Juice
The Coup | Genocide & Juice

T. Rex | Electric Warrior
T. Rex | Electric Warrior

Danger Mouse | The Grey Album
Danger Mouse | The Grey Album

Neil Young | Chrome Dreams
Neil Young | Chrome Dreams

Various Artists | Music From The Coffee Lands (Putumayo)
Various Artists | Music From The Coffee Lands (Putumayo)

The Black Keys | Magic Potion
The Black Keys | Magic Potion

The Rolling Stones | Tattoo You
The Rolling Stones | Tattoo You

Yo La Tengo | And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
Yo La Tengo | And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

Dave Alvin | King Of California
Dave Alvin | King Of California

The Replacements | Pleased To Meet Me
The Replacements | Pleased To Meet Me

The Undertones | The Undertones
The Undertones | The Undertones

M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent
M. Ward | Transfiguration Of Vincent

Songs For A Tree

27 May 2009

Tree rings

As a certified tree-hugging, environmentalist hippie, I’m always sad to see a brand new tree stump. So I was quadruply disappointed during last night’s stroll with The P when we discovered four fresh stumps in our sprawling local rose garden. The biggest of the four sits on a hill overlooking the garden, and the tree it represented was big enough to produce a void that now reveals the entire side of a not-too-pretty apartment complex. The rabble-rousing commie third-grader in me had to count the tree rings to see approximately how old this tree was, so I climbed up on the massive stump, blew away the fresh sawdust, and counted, and counted, and counted… to 121. Which means that this tree was planted around 1888, when Grover Cleveland was president of the United States and George Eastman was patenting the name Kodak.

Here are ten songs dedicated to trees – or one song for every dozen years our old friend sat on that hill in the rose garden and watched the world go by…

Listen: One Tree Hill [U2]

Listen: Tree Green [John & Beverly Martyn]

Listen: Trees [Wayne & Wanda - The Muppet Show]

Listen: Stumptown [Nickel Creek]

Listen: The Family Tree [Steve Goodman]

Listen: Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree [Tony Orlando & Dawn]

Listen: Garden Of Four Trees [The Explosions]

Listen: A Forest [The Cure]

Listen: Cut Down That Old Pine Tree [Cootie Stark]

Listen: Trees [Snooks Eaglin]

Weekend Playlist

26 May 2009

Long weekend, short playlist…

Lee Perry And Friends | Give Me Power
Lee Perry And Friends | Give Me Power

Lee 'Scratch' Perry | The Upsetter Box Set
Lee Perry | The Upsetter Box Set

Tosca | No Hassle
Tosca | No Hassle

Balkan Beat Box | Balkan Beat Box
Balkan Beat Box | Balkan Beat Box

Blue Mitchell | Blue's Moods
Blue Mitchell | Blue’s Moods

Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago
Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago

XTC | Drums And Wires
XTC | Drums And Wires

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings | Naturally
Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings | Naturally

The Temptations | Anthology
The Temptations | Anthology

The Meters | Rejuvenation
The Meters | Rejuvenation

Calexico | The Black Light
Calexico | The Black Light

Stereo MC's | Connected
Stereo MC’s | Connected

Fela Kuti | Up Side Down
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Africa 70 | Up Side Down
[Album cover not pictured]

Dire Straits | Dire Straits
Dire Straits | Dire Straits

J.J. Cale | #8
J.J. Cale | #8

Talking Heads | Fear Of Music
Talking Heads | Fear Of Music

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

Melvin Jackson | Funky Skull
Melvin Jackson | Funky Skull

Tim Buckley | Greetings From L.A.
Tim Buckley | Greetings From L.A.

Wynton Marsalis | Baroque Music For Trumpets
Wynton Marsalis | Baroque Music For Trumpets

George Brigman | Jungle Rot
George Brigman | Jungle Rot

Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti
Led Zeppelin | Physical Graffiti

The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera
The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera

Rushmore | Soundtrack
Rushmore | Soundtrack

The Beatles | Rubber Soul
The Beatles | Rubber Soul

Ike Turner | A Black Man's Soul
Ike Turner | A Black Man’s Soul

Steely Dan | Can't Buy A Thrill
Steely Dan | Can’t Buy A Thrill

Clarence Carter | Testifyin'
Clarence Carter | Testifyin’

Masterpiece: Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

24 May 2009

[Today: The Cure set some moods...]

The Cure | Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

I didn’t like The Cure one bit when I was in high school. Their music seemed like the soundtrack for all those overly-dramatic, woe-is-me poseurs who clustered just across school lines to smoke cloves and pout about life. But in 1987, two things happened that changed my outlook on this group: 1) I graduated from high school, and 2) they released Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. By spring term of my freshman year of college, I was toting around a cassette copy of the album in my Walkman™ and singing a completely different tune.

This is the album where The Cure synthesized all the best parts of their sound, and took that sound into several new directions at once. Kiss Me contains two of their best-loved songs – ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ but the record is a start-to-finish marvel that signaled they had reached musical maturity. Robert Smith could still spit his lyrics like a petulant child (“I hate these people staring/Make them go away from me”) but the music here often provides an upbeat counterpoint to his gloom and doom. Kiss Me also contains several winding instrumentals that meander and weave like songs for an elegant opium den, while stitching together the violent mood swings at the heart of the album. But above all else, what distinguishes Kiss Me is that it’s a great guitar album, with a complex, layered sound that matches the emotional depth of the lyrics.

During my freshman year of college I took a class called The History Of Film, and during spring term the professor showed Salvador Dali’s absurd/surreal movie Un Chien Andalou (“An Andalusian Dog”). The film is basically a string of beautiful nonsense, repetitive film loops, and disturbing imagery, such as a man towing a dead moose on a rope and a woman slicing a man’s eyeball with a straight razor. Because it’s a silent film, I chose to watch it with Kiss Me playing on the Walkman™, and the album provided a first-rate soundtrack for Dali’s lunacy. The next day the prof told us that he had been showing the film for 25 years and we were the first class that hadn’t walked out early en masse. He was convinced it was because our brains had been trained by MTV to deal with Dali’s quick-cut nonsense. A nice theory, but I know that I stuck that film out – and actually enjoyed it – because I had The Cure in my ears.

Listen: Icing Sugar

Listen: If Only Tonight We Could Sleep

Listen: The Kiss

Doubleshot Tuesday: Raising Hell/Swass

28 April 2009

[Today: Getting hip before the internet...]

Run-DMC | Raising Hell
Sir Mix-A-Lot | Swass

Back in the olden days of the 1980s, information about bands didn’t travel the straight line of internet wires – instead it took the winding back roads of word of mouth and personal recommendation. Cool new music was often cloaked in secrecy and enjoyed by a select group of those ‘in the know’. Now anyone with a DSL hookup and sufficient determination can be ‘in the know’ about anything, especially a new band or album. Distribution channels being what they are today, the ideas of ‘alternative’ and ‘indie’ are almost oxymoronic, and life in a small town probably isn’t quite as boring as it used to be.

But before the internet, the idea of alternative music was very real. Around my high school (Springfield High – Go Millers!) fans of groups like The Cure and Depeche Mode were sequestered away in secret societies, where membership was hard-earned and meant being a virtual outcast from the rest of the student body (it also meant buying and using copious amounts of eye-liner, regardless of gender). But in truth, discovering anything that wasn’t on the FM dial or MTV was akin to getting into a speakeasy with a secret knock and password. Metal, punk, hip-hop, and other non-mainstream genres were years away from anything approaching national marketing, and finding out even basic information about underground bands required a level of proactive effort that would stun anyone who takes AllMusic.com for granted.

And yet the stodgy old coot in me misses the days when it was harder than a couple of mouse clicks to find out everything about a band. Hip-hop started filtering into my circle of friends around 1986, a full two years before Yo MTV Raps! hit the airwaves, so any clues about rap were relegated to word-of-mouth, “listen to this” experiences. There’s no question that, because it was exotic music that lived on the fringe of the mainstream, hip-hop had extra appeal for teenagers in a slow-paced small town, and by my senior year (1987) it was definitely in the mix at every clandestine keg party. In particular, Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Swass, LL Cool J’s Bigger And Deffer, Run-DMC’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill served us and served us well.

How far is the South Bronx from Springfield, OR? It’s a distance that can’t accurately be measured in miles alone, but the gap is significantly smaller than it used to be.

Listen: Raising Hell [Run-DMC]

Listen: Posse On Broadway [Sir Mix-A-Lot]

Listen: The New Style [Beastie Boys]

Listen: Get Down [LL Cool J]

1987: The Year In Music

11 July 2007

1987 was a big year for me personally. It was the year I graduated from high school, lost my virginity, enrolled in college, and did some other awesomely unmentionable stuff. 1987 was also huge for music, as a half dozen of the very best albums of the entire decade were released during this year. Additionally, a handful of bands created music that foreshadowed the sounds of the 90′s.

Here are the 20 best albums from a truly unforgettable year:

Prince - album
Sign O’ The Times * Prince

#1 Prince had already garnered critical and popular acclaim for 1999 and Purple Rain, so he didn’t have much to lose by the time he started to work on Sign O’ The Times. Those drawn to the album by the hit single (and its weakest track) ‘U Got The Look’ were surprised to discover a musician pushing the outer boundaries of his art form. Like a Funk and Soul version of the White Album, Sign O’ The Times is a glorious hodge-podge of sounds that run the gamut from jubilation (‘Play In The Sunshine’ and ‘Housequake’) to sexual innuendo (‘It’ and ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’) to dour fatalism (the title track and ‘The Cross’).

Nearly every facet of Prince’s eclectically exciting and frustrating career can be found on this double album set. And while it didn’t sell in blockbuster numbers, it did manage three Top 10 hits. In hindsight it’s easy to see that this is Prince’s masterwork – an achievement that he hasn’t approached during the last 20 turbulent and uneven years. Fortunately, Sign O’ The Times is an album that can still take you places, nearly two decades on.

GnR - album
Guns N Roses * Appetite For Destruction

#2 Guns N Roses’ debut put nasty back in Rock music for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s an album filled with jug wine, cheap thrills, and unapologetic debauchery. Not surprisingly, it took a while to catch on, but once it did, it changed the face of hard rock, and set the stage for the grunge and alternative rock that ruled the 90’s. ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ are epic slices of the everyday lives of people who have fallen through the cracks, but more importantly, they’re first rate, ripping tunes of an ilk that hadn’t been in play since the early Stones and Faces. With all the melodrama and shenanigans that followed, it’s easy to forget what a powerful influence Appetite For Destruction had on those who heard it in the late 80’s. Fortunately, one listen quickly brings back every bit of its swagger and bile.

U2 - album
U2 * The Joshua Tree

#3 By trading hard line politics for a softer, more searching, philosophical side, U2 made the quantum leap from recording artists to superstars. A great deal of The Joshua Tree (including its name and cover art) owes a debt of influence to America and its sights and sounds. It’s an album about promise and potential, comfort and confusion, and if the overall sound is more hook-laden and laid back than previous efforts, the songs themselves retain an unsettled undercurrent. From the hits to lesser lights like ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ and ‘Trip Through Your Wires’, there isn’t a bum note here, and it’s an album as expansive, conflicted, and lovely as the country that inspired it.

Paid In Full - album
Eric B & Rakim * Paid In Full

#4 Perhaps the finest hip-hop album of all-time, Eric B & Rakim’s debut sounds as funky fresh today as the minute it dropped. Rakim’s style on the microphone became the standard by which all subsequent MCs were judged, and Eric B’s mixing and sampling were also hugely influential – ‘I Know You Got Soul’ is one of the first Hip-Hop tracks to sample James Brown. Paid In Full is so good, so revolutionary, and so unexpected that it is the natural dividing line between the Old and New School.

INXS - kick
INXS * Kick

#5 The zenith of these Australian rockers’ career, Kick was the last in a string of great albums (including Shabooh Shoobah, The Swing, and Listen Like Thieves) before they faded into irrelevance. Overflowing with great songs known (‘Need You Tonight’, ‘Devil Inside’) and less so (‘Mediate’, ‘Wild Life’), this is clearly one of the finest albums of the 80’s. A decade later, lead singer Michael Hutchence would accidentally hang himself, and INXS would belatedly be recognized as one of the best groups of their time (before finally becoming the punch line to a reality television program).

Cure - album
The Cure * Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

#6 The Cure’s finest hour (and eleven minutes) on tape, this sprawling double album gem brings guitars to the forefront and horns into the mix. It’s at once delicate and immense, and contains two of the group’s most enduring songs – ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me will leave you exhilarated, exhausted, and possibly frustrated, but it never bores.

Yello - album
Yello * One Second

#7 A glimpse into the electronica-filled future, One Second is a kaleidoscopic whirligig of styles, voices and sounds. Album opener ‘La Habanera’ paints a vivid picture of a spy double-crossed in Cuba, while the beats slip into a dark rhumba. It’s the kind of moment that Yello pulls off effortlessly, time and again, employing a montage of guests that includes diva Shirley Bassey. It’s an album that wasn’t hyped much in its day, but One Second has withstood the test of time.

PE - album
Public Enemy * Yo Bum Rush The Show

#8 Public Enemy’s debut put America on full alert that the revolutionary spirit of the Black Panthers was now a force within rap music. Chuck D barked his rhymes and left no doubt about his veracity or sincerity, and Flavor Flav provided much needed comic relief. Much more raw than the Bomb Squad production that would eventually make Fear Of A Black Planet and …Nation Of Millions… so sonically compelling, Yo Bum Rush The Show nonetheless has its share of great tracks, including ‘Public Enemy No 1’ ‘Raise The Roof’ and ‘You’re Gonna Get Yours’. An overlooked rap classic.

Faith - album
George Michael * Faith

#9 Faith parallels Thriller as the 80’s album you love to hate and hate to love. Like Michael Jackson’s epic, it contained a bounty of Top 10 hits, and signaled the multi-platinum highpoint of an artist who would produce increasingly minimal returns while staying within the public eye for exceedingly dubious reasons. But Faith is a pop masterpiece and uses every 80’s production cliché to best effect. It’s a reward for those brave (or dumb) enough to go out on a limb and have a good time.

Robbie Robertson - album
Robbie Robertson * Robbie Robertson

#10 More than 10 years after he broke up The Band to go solo, Robbie Robertson finally delivered an album to rival those of his former group. Laid out in big, vivid strokes, it’s infused with a dreamlike splendor that stretches the farthest corners of each song. Robertson wistfully pines for times past, lying in the back of an abandoned 59 Chevy with a girl, listening to Little Willie John, while the sounds of night settle in. Good times.

Tom Waits - album
Tom Waits * Franks Wild Years

#11 Franks Wild Years was a pivotal album for Tom Waits and the direction his music would take. Where he’d dabbled in madness on previous albums, here he jumped headlong into the void, reveling in pure insanity like a fat kid in a chocolate factory. The title track (which actually appears on 1983’s Swordfishtrombones, but sets the tone and provides the backstory for this album) is a spoken word monologue that is creepy not least for the sheer glee that shines through in Waits’ voice as he describes driving a nail through his wife’s forehead. This latent schizophrenia would never be far from his music again.

Pixies - album
Pixies * Come On Pilgrim

Jane's Addiction - album
Jane’s Addiction * Jane’s Addiction

#12 & #13 Pixies and Jane’s Addiction blasted two completely different and utterly original tunnels to alternative rock greatness. It’s not much of a stretch to say that (for better or worse) the music that dominated much of the 90’s has root in these two albums.

In hindsight, the Pixies’ loud-soft-loud song structure seems like Manifest Destiny of Rock. To be fair, they hardly invented the formula, but it was out of step with the prevailing music of the day. Their influence on Nirvana has been exaggerated out of convenience, but there’s no doubt that Pixies have had a massive influence on the sound of popular music.

Jane’s Addiction’s live debut is a remarkable blueprint of the sound that would make them Alternative darlings. Many of the songs that would show up on 1989’s landmark Nothing’s Shocking premiered here, along with excellent covers of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Rock & Roll’ and the Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.

BAD - album
LL Cool J * Bigger And Deffer

#14 In 1984, LL Cool J’s single ‘I Need A Beat’ became the first release on Def Jam records. He was 16 years old. By 1987 he’d earned a gold album and was a veteran rapper. Bigger and Deffer finds Cool J exploring (with admittedly mixed results) the boundaries of his genre. ‘I Need Love’ was pure ballad, ‘Go Cut Creator’ rocks, and ‘The Do Wop’ is pretty self-explanatory. BAD sold triple platinum, but is a good-not-great example of 80’s hip-hop.

Depeche Mode - album
Depeche Mode * Music For The Masses

#15 An album of dour synth pop that channels the spirit of Ian Curtis, Music For The Masses was a major step in Depeche Mode’s conquest of America. The songs are enveloped in gothic darkness, but a few (most notably ‘Behind The Wheel’) pick up the pace and shake up the mood enough that it doesn’t descend into a spiral of self-pity. Still, this music was for teenage girls what heavy metal was to teenage boys – black celebrations of the tenuous nature of life.

Replacements - album
The Replacements * Pleased To Meet Me

#16 “Children by the millions wait for Alex Chilton when he comes ‘round” sang Paul Westerberg, and on Pleased To Meet Me, he and his bandmates made a calculated effort to jump into the mainstream. The horns are a nice touch, but the ‘Mats were a group that thrived on chaos, and this tight, highly produced group of songs spelled the beginning of the end. Within three years, Westerberg would go solo (anyone care?) and they’d be history.

Peppers - album
Red Hot Chili Peppers * The Uplift Mofo Party Plan

#17 The Peppers’ third album was where they moved beyond novelty band status and realized the sound that would make them superstars. ‘Fight Like A Brave’ is a punk-funk anthem, ‘Behind The Sun’ is a shimmering ballad, and ‘Skinny Sweaty Man’ is manic fun. Lead guitarist Hillel Slovak would be dead within a year from a heroin overdose but the Peppers soldiered on, and by the early 90’s would find themselves selling out arenas all over the world.

BDP - album
Boogie Down Productions * Criminal Minded

#18 BDP’s debut album was an early hardcore rap classic that split the difference between political manifesto and tales of the street. Either way, this was one serious rap group on a self-appointed mission to bring learning to the game. DJ Scott LaRock would be murdered within the year while trying to break up a fight, but KRS-One carried on with the group’s agenda, and has become one of the most well-known ambassadors of education within the genre.

Poetic Champions - album
Van Morrison * Poetic Champions Compose

#19 After a dreadful run of early 80’s albums, this was the first glimmer that Van The Man had some juice left in his creative orange. Like many of his best albums, Poetic Champions Compose borders on Jazz, and contains many traditional Irish flourishes. This might not be his best-known record, but it’s certainly his best of the 80’s.

Hysteria - album
Def Leppard * Hysteria

#20 Can you smell the hair spray? Hysteria vividly evokes an age gone by: one of metal ballads, smoke machines, and leather pants. ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ ‘Armageddon It’ and ‘Animal’ aren’t artful, but they still rock. Three years in the making, it has been purchased more than 22 million times. From a decade that brought you plenty of guilty pleasures, this is one of the best.

************

10 More That Are Worth A Spin…

Pink Floyd * A Momentary Lapse Of Reason
Ice T * Rhyme Pays
The Smiths * Strangeways Here We Come
Slayer * Reign In Blood
Branford Marsalis * Random Abstract
Los Lobos * By The Light Of The Moon
Lee Perry * Time Boom X De Devil Dead
Terence Trent D’Arby * Introducing The Hardline, According To…
Front 242 * Official Version
Sting * Nothing Like The Sun


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