Monday, September 19, 2005

After all this, won't you give me a smile?

A popular personality litmus test is to ask someone what his or her favorite thing is. Their favorite book, movie, record, or band. I’ve always kind of shrugged off these kinds of questions since most of the time it depends on mood and time of day.

Favorite group has always been somewhat easy since I’ve obsessed over certain bands for years. Basically, in order, my favorite bands have included Kiss, Black Flag, U2, The Cure, Husker Du, Nirvana, and finally Guided By Voices. Now that GBV are kaput, I should qualify GBV as "Robert Pollard and all associated projects."

But like favorite movie or book, favorite album can be a very difficult question. You can wake up everyday with a different favorite album. But in response to this very question by my stepdaughter, I have thought long and hard and have come up with a very real answer: London Calling by the Clash.

Now the Clash has never been my favorite band. Top ten probably, but never my favorite band, but this album may be my all time favorite record.

And my reasons follow.

I had heard the Clash’s debut album sometime in the early ‘80’s and when Combat Rock came out in 1982, they were everywhere, but the band still hadn’t completely click. However, the summer before my junior year in high school, 1983, I spent almost everyday driving around in my friend Chris’ Chevy Chevette listening to London Calling. The album was the soundtrack to that summer simply because it was stuck in the tape player. I remember that there was no air conditioning in the car since our other friend Tony had cut the power when installing Chris’ tape deck, but we had London Calling.

And the album has stuck. I love the Clash but their first album hasn’t quite aged that well. Give ‘Em Enough Rope still rocks but is flawed. Sandinista is just too bloated and unfocused. And Combat Rock, while really damn good, isn’t a great conclusion to a great band. London Calling is really the only album that matters by what has been called the only band that matters.

From the lock-step guitars at the beginning on "London Calling" to the jubilant pop of "Train in Vain" a better album has not been made. Other stand out cuts include the ragged "Brand New Cadillac," the wistful "Lost in the Supermarket," and Paul Simonon’s defiant "Guns of Brixton."

Ultimately, I decided this was my favorite album simply because over the past 20 plus years, a month has not gone by where I haven’t listened to this album either partially or totally. It still sounds as fresh as it did when I first listened to it all the way through in 1983. So maybe that is what it takes: name an album that after 20 years of regular listening, you still look forward to hearing again.

But before we go, here is what the iPod is thinking today:

1. "Faulty Times" by Black Mountain
2. "Come Back to Camden" by Morrissey
3. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" by Radiohead
4. "Tropicalia" by Beck
5. "Junk Bonds" by Sebadoh
6. "Unreflected" by Mazzy Star
7. "Exploding Anthills" by Guided By Voices
8. "Fun Time" by Peter Murphy
9. "Kingpin" by Wilco
10. "Dreams Told By Mofo" by the Minutemen


Blogger buddy clear eyes said...

I have yet to really classify to the extent you're trying to here, but, yeah, this album is really up there. I'd cut some more rope on "Give 'Em Enough..." though, as I think it is that record that makes a lot of what came afterward possible, the liminal one.

5:33 PM  

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