[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
Bear vs. Shark
I didn’t get into BvS until after they broke up, regrettably. They only put out two albums, but they’re charged with so much intensity and emotion that two will have to do. Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands gets me energized every time I put it on, with songs like “Ma Jolie” and “Buses/No Buses” rocking so dang hard. I’m not as keen on Terrorhawk, which I know a lot of people would disagree with me on, but I still love it anyway. The band perfected a crushing sound that should qualify as hardcore, but incorporates so many odd time signatures and keyboard lines that it feels like something beyond hXc. There are only a handful of bands I feel comfortable dubbing post-hardcore (Fugazi, Thursday), and Bear vs. Shark is one of them.
Oddly enough, the only Beastie Boys album I own on CD is The Mix-Up, an all-instrumental rock/R&B record they put out back in 2007 for the hell of it. It’s not exactly The Meters, but it’s still pretty good. I have a tape of License to Ill in my closet somewhere, but honestly, I find the group’s vocals grating after a while. Still, between this and my SNL compilation that features a live version of “Sabotage,” I think I have all the Beastie Boys I’ll ever need.
My interest in The Beatles constantly changes. At one point in high school I went through a really strong anti- phase, but I soon came back around. It’s impossible to adequately rate the band, but the truth is they produced an insane amount of good music in a small period of time that only a handful of other artists (John Darnielle, Robert Smith) have matched. I love (and have consistently loved) the mid-period stuff the most – Rubber Soul and Revolver, and later on the “White Album.” The Beatles sometimes take flak for writing simple songs, but I can’t fault them for following John Lennon’s rules of songwriting: Say what you mean, give it a good backbeat, and make it rhyme. For all the more technical music I listen to, those three rules still generally guide my life. Shit, Lennon basically predicted my love of pop-punk. No wonder Joe Strummer said he was OK. I know, I know, I’m probably the billionth person to write about The Beatles (maybe not even that), but I love these simple love songs.
Verdict: Keep, although I’m gonna have to trim my copy of This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.
Not to start shit with any hip cats out there, but I’ve never been an avid Beck fan. Every so often I’ll pick up another album in an effort to like him more, and it never goes anywhere. At this point, I’m down to his 2005 effort Guero, which gives a decent overview of his discography – sometimes it’s funky (“E-Pro”), sometimes it’s contemplative (“Broken Drum”), and sometimes it’s silly but fun (“Hell Yes”). I’m good. But then again, I’m all about his soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, so…
Verdict: Keep what’s left.
The Bens were a side project for tour mates Ben Folds/Kweller/Lee. I own their complete discography, which amounts to five songs between a self-titled EP and a track for the Hedwig and The Angry Inch soundtrack. The group sounds exactly like the music from its individual members – catchy pop rock abounds. My only regrets are: 1) I wish they did a full-length and 2) I kinda wish Lee was replaced with Ben Gibbard, but whatevs.
Few rock bands sounded better in the ’80s (maybe The Clash), but Berlin is among them. Then again, they were barely a rock group before segueing into new wave. On the guilty pleasure-ridden Best of Berlin 1979-1988, opener “Blowin’ Sky High” is the only reminder that the band used to rock. It’s an atypical Heart rip. The band vastly improved once they embraced their inner freak, turning out sexy dance floor hits like “Sex (I’m a…),” “No More Words,” and the supremely awesome “The Metro.” Oh, and there’s this other song called “Take My Breath Away”…
I respect Chuck Berry as a rock ‘n’ roll innovator. It all springs forth from him. But I can only take so much Berry at a time. I think it’s just as important to remember that he recycled a shit ton of chords, and all of his songs are either about cars or women troubles or both. That guitar intro to “Johnny B. Goode” is pretty great… until you realize he used that part a lot. I’m certainly not anti-Berry – no self-described rock fan can dismiss him outright – but I appreciate him more than I necessarily love him. That said, “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven” are so infectiously simple that it makes me hate prog-rock all the more. John Lennon said it best: “Don’t give me any sophisticated crap, just give me Chuck Berry.”
Best Thing in Town
Doylestown pop-punk band in the vein of Anti-Flag. My friend Rory was in a terrible/awesome punk band called Fight to Live that put out a split with them. I played it for my girlfriend tonight and she actually made me promise to hold on to it forever.
Verdict: DON’T FORGET YOUR ROOTS.
Underrated twee band formed by a bunch of punks. The Besties were in a weird place – their melodies were way too pretty for the hardcore set, but their hearts belonged to a tattooed-mindset that Belle & Sebastian fans could never appreciated. The only reason I even know who they are is because I was sent their promo for review on punknews.org. That reminds me; I should follow up on what the members are doing now…
I like The B-52s more in theory than in application, to the point that I probably could have gotten by with just a greatest hits package, although I am quite fond of Cosmic Thing. I get that their early material was profoundly influential in the post-punk and indie genres (Without the B-52s, you don’t get R.E.M., and without R.E.M….), but those songs have a rambling, nonsensical quality to me that gets boring after a while. Sometimes the band went so far looking for something kitschy that they ended up coming off offensive, like on “Quiche Lorraine.” The joke is that it’s a break-up song about a dog, but in doing so it becomes a song about animal abuse (and, uh, bestiality). Boo on that. Still, though, Cosmic Thing catches the band at a perfect point, where their absurdity and catchiness meet. Everybody knows “Love Shack” and “Roam,” but tunes like “Cosmic Thing” and “Junebug” are just as great.
And, OK, I love “Rock Lobster.”
Verdict: I’m gonna sell back Wild Planet. Self-titled can stay… for now. And I’ll always cherish Cosmic Thing for what it is, but I’m just not that keen on bands that are weird/kitschy just because they can be.
I love Big Black. I love the tinny, proto-industrial beats. I love the distorted, shrieking guitar. And I sure love frontman Steve Albini’s bating, angry vocals. Hammer Party and Songs About Fucking are ideal records for when I’m feeling petulant.
Head For the Shallow came my way when I was a freshman in college. I gave the promo a good review at the time, but listening to it now makes me realize just much more in tune with it I am. This two-piece bass/drums combo plays Sabbath-indebted sludge that’s not as removed from Baroness, Kylesa and Black Tusk as one might think, with a healthy dose of Melvins. I’m gonna check out what these guys have been up to since Shallow came out in 2005.
Verdict: Keep/Expand upon.
The Big Chill: Music From and Inspired By [Deluxe Edition]
Despite my life-long distrust of baby boomers, I’ve maintained a steady love of The Big Chill, a dramedy about trying to hold on to one’s values, only to find out that they left anyway. Music plays a big part in the film – Kevin Kline’s character listens to a lot of R&B – and to that end, each song on the original soundtrack lifts a scene or two. I can’t quite say that about the soundtrack’s sequel, More Songs From The Big Chill, but the song selection is still solid (Anything with The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” wins). The second disc is songs that could’ve been the movie, but weren’t, which seems like a stretch, but it also means I get more songs from Marvin Gaye, so I suppose it’s give and take sort of thing.
NEXT TIME: B is for... bein' strictly rude, into feminism, and Mike Bahowski.