Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Best of the Best (Part 2)

Okay, here is the second installment of recommendations for essential listening. See Part 1 for any introductory information.

Adolescents – The eponymous debut (often referred to as the Blue Album) from these OC punks is a masterpiece of the Southern California punk sound. Just enough pop, just enough punk, just enough anger and frustration. Of course after this it all went downhill with the exception of the Welcome To Reality single that followed this release.

Aerosmith – Buy Get Your Wings and Rocks. Two great albums, before the band got too messed up or too sober to accomplish anything worthwhile. Of course, their debut has a few great songs, and Toys In The Attic is pretty good, and Draw The Line has the title track, these two releases are flawless with classics songs such as "Seasons of Wither," "Lord of the Thighs," "Back In The Saddle," and "Home Tonight."

X – You cannot go wrong with the first three X albums: Los Angeles, Wild Gift and Under The Big Black Sun. Their fourth release, More Fun In The New World, is a good record, but not great. Ain’t Love Grand and See How We Are, with the exception of "Burning House of Love," "Fourth of July" and "See How We Are" are pretty awful records. And I'm not even going to mention Hey Zeus!

Lou ReedTransformer and New York are separated by a whole lot of dreck. And I cannot say enough good things about Reed’s collaboration with John Cale on Songs For Drella, a masterpiece by both men. Street Hassle is a pretty good effort as well. Otherwise, just stick with the Velvet Underground, all four albums are priceless.

Violent Femmes – Everyone knows "Kiss Off" and "Blister In The Sun," and while the eponymous debut by these guys is a great record, Hallowed Ground has a special place in my heart. Don’t know if it is the Southern gothic tone or the expanded musical palette, or maybe because it is often ignored by casual fans because it is too country, but I love this album. After Hallowed Ground, the Femmes released the just-okay The Blind Leading the Naked then just kind of became irrelevant.

Iggy Pop – Just heard "Cold Metal" by Iggy Pop which reminded me that all you really need from Iggy’s solo career is The Idiot and Lust For Life.

Part 3 coming soon.

And according to my iPod, here are ten of the best of the rest:
1. "Cold Metal" by Iggy Pop
2. "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" by Pink Floyd
3. "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash (at San Quentin)
4. "Late at Night" by Buffalo Tom
5. "Via Chicago" by Wilco (live from Kicking Television)
6. "Kundalini Express" by Love & Rockets
7. "Pink Pussycat" by Devo
8. "You Never Give Me Your Money" by the Beatles
9. "I’m Waiting For The Man" by the Velvet Underground
10. "Painbirds" by Sparklehorse

Monday, November 28, 2005

Never Mind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Just got back from a long Thanksgiving weekend. Had one of the best Thanksgivings in years. Saw just enough family, saw plenty of friends, and spent plenty of time loafing around with my wife.

The big news is the Sex Pistols are being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Don’t exactly know what to think of this, seems a bit silly. I bet they won’t show up and I’m sure they won’t play. But I could be wrong.

If you do not own the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bullocks, go out and buy it immediately. A great album that has not gotten stale after all these years.

But in the mean time, I’m going to listen to "Jonesy’s Jukebox" on Indie 103.1, featuring the hilarious Steve Jones of the aforementioned Sex Pistols. I think you can listen online. So do that too.

And, since it takes twenty-five years to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, I’m going to extend the iPod list to the last twenty-five songs. So there:

1. "Come Back D.A." by the Lemonheads
2. "Surprise Truck" by Camper Van Beethoven
3. "(What a) Wonderful World" by the Flaming Lips
4. "Casino Boogie" by the Rolling Stones
5. "Get On The Snake" by Soundgarden
6. "Lucy (Version #2)" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
7. "Closer You Are" by Guided By Voices
8. "The Crying of Lot G" by Yo La Tengo
9. "Zombie Dance" by the Cramps
10. "Ice Cold Ice" by Husker Du
11. "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan
12. "Lua" by Bright Eyes
13. "She Shook Me Cold" by David Bowie
14. "Call Me" by Blondie
15. "Christ for President" by Jeff Tweedy (Lounge Ax 12-20-99)
16. "The Headmaster Ritual" by the Smiths
17. "Press" by Superchunk
18. "Straight To The Top (Rhumba)" by Tom Waits
19. "Fan Club" by the Damned
20. "Range Life" by Pavement
21. "Chicago, Is Not Chicago" by Soul Coughing
22. "Hardly Getting Over It" by Husker Du
23. "Take Me To The River" by Talking Heads
24. "Black Star" by Radiohead
25. "Hollow Hills" by Bauhaus

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Best of the Best (Part 1)

I remember going into Tower Records when I was sixteen and purchasing a copy of The Soft Parade by the Doors. I was in the midst of a Jim Morrison fascination after reading "No One Here Gets Out Alive" and was slowly making my way through the bands collection. The clerk complimented me on my choice and said it was his favorite Doors album. To this day, I don’t know if he was putting me on.

The Soft Parade is my least favorite Doors album. It was critically reviled in its day and has not redeemed itself in over thirty years. It has a few moments such as Morrison proclaiming lustily, "You cannot petition the Lord with prayer," and a few songs such as "Touch Me" and "Wild Child." And I like the cover shot of the band. But overall, if I had to throw out one Doors album, I would not hesitate to jettison this release.

But was that record clerk kidding me or was this really his favorite Doors album? I know for a fact, the more you get into a band, the more appealing the deep catalog becomes as the hits become too familiar, boring and, often times, annoying. If you love a band, your favorite song is often the song on the album no casual fan has ever paid attention to or even heard.

Once I became a recordjerk (get it? I worked in a record store?), I was always confronted with the dilemma of being asked to recommend music. Do you go with the most easily digestible or the best release by an artist? Part of the thinking was "Anyone can like a hit. But if you don’t like this record, you are missing the whole point." Maybe it is elitist, but it could be simple honesty. It kind of requires a delicate balance and an ability to read the customer.

Record store employees used to spend hours discussing the merits of certain albums over other albums, and artist’s creative arcs, and how much crap populated the Top 40. I don’t know how much time is spent discussing music anymore since most current record store employees don’t know any more about music than your average fast food worker. I dare you, go into a record store and ask for Pink Floyd. After the initial blank stare, see how many record store employees lead you to the "F" section. (See, I can still be a jerk.)

So long story short, I am going to start detailing my recommendations for music. What albums do I recommend. Simple enough. And, I admit, some of the stuff will be my personal favorites. I’m not going to sugar coat these suggestions. I’m not trying to sell you anything, but, as far as I am concerned, these are the albums by these artists that matter. If you are curious, these would be the places to start.

Guided By Voices – Start with Bee Thousand, and then pick up Alien Lanes and Under The Bushes, Under The Stars. The bulk of GBV material can be daunting but the majority of it is very enjoyable, however you cannot go wrong with these three releases. If you enjoy these, try Mag Earwhig! and Do The Collapse.

The Beatles – Okay, the Beatles are a bit complicated because where you start can only be rewarding. I came to the Beatles in my early-mid twenties. Maybe it was the punk in me, but I thought they were trite and boring. And even once I got it, had an epiphany, I still avoided what I called their "Yeah, yeah" period. But over the years I have come to embrace all they have done. But where to start? I would recommend Rubber Soul and Beatles For Sale. I know, I know, Beatles For Sale was kind of a rushed effort bloated with covers, but it has the triple threat of "No Reply," "I’m a Loser" and "Baby’s In Black." The best thing about For Sale is that the band was exhausted, cranky and irritable. Look at those sunken eyes on the cover. And Rubber Soul is just a wonderful album full of great songs. Of course, like I said, no matter where you start, you cannot really go wrong.

The Clash – As I’ve said before, London Calling is my all-time favorite album, so that is a given. I would then also throw in Give ‘Em Enough Rope, often over looked and under appreciated. But for all of it’s flaws it is the second best Clash release.

The Cure – God, the Cure. They are one of those bands where I feel a couple of key releases determine whether you get the band or not. Basically, if you don’t like Pornography and The Top, I can’t help you. Dementia, depression and drugs. Additionally, I would recommend the singles collection Japanese Whispers and the overplayed Head on the Door. Do we ever need to hear "Close To Me" again? According to my fifteen-year-old stepdaughter: yes. After Head on the Door, the Cure have really become increasingly irrelevant, despite their continued success, releasing bad album after bad album. Kiss Me could have been pared down to a solid single album (maybe).

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin produced five really solid albums, one good album, one mediocre album and two almost unlistenable albums. But I would recommend their third album and Physical Graffitti. Obviously, everyone wants "Stairway to Heaven" so I would grudgingly support their fourth album, but then I wouldn’t be challenging you and how will you grow? But please, avoid In Through The Outdoor and Coda. Coda’s not a real album anyway, and In Through The Out Door sucks.

There is more where this came from, but I think we all need to come up for air.

Until next time, these are the recommendations from my iPod:

1. "Problem Child" by AC/DC
2. "1970" by the Stooges
3. "Forever For Her" by the White Stripes
4. "Peaceful Valley" by Ryan Adams
5. "I Drove a Tank" by Robert Pollard
6. "Saturday Sun" by Nick Drake
7. "Higher Hell" by Echo & the Bunnymen
8. "Our Way" by the Germs
9. "Kind of Madness" by Jay Farrar
10. "Into Your Arms" by the Lemonheads

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jesus Is Magic

Last Friday (Nov. 11) my wife and I went to see the first showing of Sarah Silverman’s film Jesus Is Magic. I have to admit, one of the main reasons we wanted to go was the fact that we’d been to the live performance used in the movie and were hoping to get a glimpse of ourselves in the audience (more on that later).

And, as one can expect from all the advance press, the movie was great. The only problem I had was, I knew all the material so it wasn’t fresh. That, I guess, is the problem with any great joke. It doesn’t stay funny forever. Of course, most people won’t have that problem when seeing this movie.

And you should see this movie unless you are easily offended or so politically correct that you have had all the joy and happiness sucked out of your soul.

Sure, she is rude and crude and offensive and insensitive. But she is also a comedian and she is making jokes. Like she says, "I don’t care if you think I’m a racist. I just want you to think I am thin." Yes, her humor can make you squirm and can be shocking and border on offensive, but so what? It’s a joke, you idiot, and when it comes to Sarah Silverman no one is spared and no one is innocent, including herself.

So go see Jesus Is Magic. Laugh and think about what she is really saying.

And, if you notice a chubby guy with a goatee sitting next to a beautiful woman laughing their asses off, that’s me and my wife.

And not wanting to offend anyone, here are the last 10 songs played on my iPod:

1. "Mississippi" by Bob Dylan
2. "Cazzo di Ferro" by Lemonheads
3. "Fader Rules" by Superchunk
4. "Big Day Coming" by Yo La Tengo
5. "Mystery Hours" by the New Pornographers
6. "You Bet We've Got Something Against You" by Black Flag
7. "F.U.K." by Bad Brains
8. "Folks Like Me" by the Geraldine Fibbers
9. "High Roller" by Cheap Trick
10. "Louder Than A Bomb" by Public Enemy

Monday, November 14, 2005

Good Music For Good People: New Music Saturday

Went record shopping on Saturday at my favorite record store: Amoeba on Sunset in Hollywood. Picked up the new Sinead O’Connor release Throw Down Your Arms, the Propeller vinyl reissue from GBV, Superchunk’s No Pocky For Kitty, The Cramps’ Bad Music For Bad People and Songs The Lord Taught Us, Black Flag’s Everything Went Black, and the documentary Paradise Lost, about the horrible tragedy of the "West Memphis Three."

(If you aren’t familiar with the case of three falsely accused young men, imprisoned for life for a crime they didn’t commit, visit

But, I was really surprised by how good the new Sinead album is. I’m not a huge reggae fan and most of her output has been spotty. I like her first two albums and Faith & Courage. Otherwise, I find her boring. But this album is sincere and is a perfect showcase for one of the greatest voices in modern music.

The other purchases were splurges.

I have Propeller on vinyl and CD already, but wanted the new reissue.

I haven’t listened to the Cramps in years, but suddenly had a craving and didn’t have anything on the shelf. And, dammit, if they don’t sound as good as ever.

The Superchunk purchase was just a case of filling in the blanks on CD. I love Superchunk when they are good, which is about half the time. With this purchase, I think I have all of their albums worth owning.

And the Black Flag CD was something I used to listen to on vinyl, but my stepdaughter got an Everything Went Black t-shirt for her birthday (I bought it for her), and I wanted to here the album again. Didn’t have the lp, so had to buy the disc.

I’ve listened to the two Cramps discs about four times already, the Sinead twice, the Superchunk and Black Flag once each, filed away the Propeller vinyl, and watched the Paradise Lost DVD with my wife on Saturday night. So, all in all, a great day at the record store.

And here are the last ten songs my iPod played:

1. "This Place Is a Prison" by Postal Service
2. "So Sad About Us" by the Breeders
3. "Merchandise" by Fugazi
4. "Hair" by PJ Harvey
5. "A Stroke of Luck" by Garbage
6. "You Trip Me Up" by the Jesus & Mary Chain
7. "Thirteen" by Big Star
8. "Nothing Was Delivered" by The Byrds
9. "Thumb" by Dinosaur Jr.
10. "Welfare Mothers" by Neil Young

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tomorrow's Future Today (Can't Wait)

Just read a very nice article about Robert Pollard's future plans on Looking forward to plenty of new material in 2006.

Plus, the Guided By Voices Electrifying Conclusion DVD comes out next week. Can't wait. Missed the final New Year's show in Chicago. Saw GBV in their final Los Angeles appearance (with Brian Jonestown Massacre) in November 2004. Great show. Fifteen shows in fifteen years, nice symmetry.

And Wilco's Kicking Television comes out next week as well. Can't wait.

Just been sitting at work listening to my iPod and working on an event website that needs to launch on Monday. So naturally, these are the last ten songs by iPod played:

1. "Captial Radio Two" by the Clash
2. "My Life Is Right" by Big Star
3. "Can't Hear the Revolution" by Guided By Voices
4. "Smash It Up (Part 2) by the Damned
5. "Makeout Bench" by Superchunk
6. "Divide & Conquer" by Husker Du
7. "Sons of the Silent Age" by David Bowie
8. "Hollow Log" by Beck
9. "Hampstead" demo by Adam & the Ants
10. "Ant Farm" by the Eels

Where are those guilty pleasures?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock & Roll

It’s Monday and I’m a bit bored. I read the GBV biography A Brief History : Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll over the weekend and would recommend it to anyone with any affection for the band. It is at times laugh-out-loud funny and also wistfully nostalgic for the passing of a great live band.

Of course I could have used a bit more details about the creation of each album and less info on the dissolution of Pollard’s marriage. Plus, the book is really short considering it covers a band that existed for twenty-one years. Also, it completely ignores the existence of Tim Tobias, who was the bass player for a few years, but apparently had such an acrimonious expulsion from the band that he has been purged from the official record. The only mention is in the "family tree" at the back of the book.

But all of that being said, it is a great read and had plenty of interesting and amusing anecdotes. So buy it.

Also, go to iTunes and get the White Stripes performing Tegan & Sara’s "Walking With A Ghost."

And get the new Portastatic ep (on iTunes).

And the new edition of Office Space on DVD.

And the new Augusten Burroughs paperback, Magical Thinking.

And watch Boondocks on Adult Swim.

And do what your iPod tells you to do:

1. "Devil Town" by Bright Eyes
2. "Angel" by PJ Harvey
3. "My Brain is Hanging Upside Down" by the Ramones
4. "Damn Shame" by Jay Farrar
5. "More Than Rain" by Tom Waits
6. "Bad Things" by Tricky
7. "Junk Bonds" by Sebadoh
8. "Can’t Exist" by the Flaming Lips
9. "Water" by Dinosaur Jr.
10. "Donna & Blitzon" by Badly Drawn Boy

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Modern Day Robin Hood & His Merry Thieves

I don’t understand the debate about illegal downloading. Simply because it is illegal. People who say "music should be free" are full of shit (or stupid hippies). If someone creates a product (and, yes, music and art are products) they should be able to profit from it. Why is that so hard to understand? Downloading is simply stealing. Metallica weren’t assholes, they were just protecting their business interests.

I’m not against fair use. If I buy a CD, I should be able to load it onto any number of devices, computers or car stereos. I own it and under fair use I should be able to use it all I want for personal use. And I even think I should be able to make a copy for a friend or two, in the hopes that they may become fans and eventually purchase the music.

However, peer-to-peer networks are sharing with millions of your "closest friends" with no intention of ever buying the actual product. How anyone can justify this is beyond me. I know the cat is out of the bag or the milk has been spilt or whatever, but that doesn’t make it right.

Now, on the other hand, I have no problem with trading live recordings or outtakes. If the artist hasn’t released the product as a legitimate release, then they are up for grabs. Of course, many artists support this opinion and often encourage live taping. But that being said, despite my extensive collection of Nirvana "bootlegs" I had no problem forking over the cash to buy the legitimate With The Lights Out boxset (even though I could have compiled a much better set).

In fact, this is a list of some of my favorite "bootlegs" from my collection:

1. Nirvana – Paramount Theatre (10-31-91)
2. Jeff Tweedy - Lounge Ax Chicago, IL (2/28/99)
3. Tom Waits – Alice (original recordings)
4. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos
5. GBV - Lounge Ax, Chicago, IL (4/5/95)
6. Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin Companion Disc
7. Beach Boys – Smile
8. The Clash – Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg
9. Nirvana – Outcesticide series
10. Liz Phair – Complete Girlysound Demos

My point is steal if you want to but don’t act like you are Robin Hood.

Now, here are the ten latest songs my iPod has played trying to steal my attention:

1. "A Box for Black Paul" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
2. "Fawn" by Tom Waits
3. "Viva Las Vegas" by Dead Kennedys
4. "Swear" by Tim Scott
5. "We Will Become Silhouettes" by Postal Service
6. "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" by Talking Heads
7. "Three or Four" by the New Pornographers
8. "There You Are" by the Flaming Lips
9. "Wishful Thinking" by Wilco
10. "Take a Look at the Guy" by Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds