[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]
It’s amazing what a few years’ distance can do for one’s clarity. I heard Broadway Calls’ self-titled debut back when I interned for Wonka Vision Magazine back in the summer of 2007. At the time, I thought of them as more of a pop group than a punk band. I was listening to a lot of Paint It Black and Propagandhi at the time, and BC isn’t nearly as hard. Now, though, I realize how indebted this record is to Dookie. This is classic ’90s pop-punk. I have no idea why I didn’t pick up their breakthrough follow-up. Anyway, their cover of The Smiths’ “A Rush and A Push and the Land is Ours” remains ballsy, but the Green Day harmonies on “Bad Intentions” are killer.
Proto-Lawrence Arms band from Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan. Basically, they were TLA without choruses or Neil “Tennessee” Hennessey. Still pretty good, though, and way more political than TLA.
There are three James Brown albums everyone needs to own: Live at the Apollo is the best live album of all time. Live records tend to be for hardcore fans only, but Apollo improbably improves all of Brown’s songs. It contains arguably the best version of “Please, Please, Please,” and it’s actually only part of a medley. It’s that good. Brown was a prolific composer, but his live show is where he reached his full potential, and Apollo reflects that: The 30-minute set is a tightly wound machine, running through hits at a fierce clip while boosting the ballads’ desperation and desire ten-fold. Still, it’s important to cover Brown’s studio output, and Gold, a two-disc, 40-track collection, covers a great amount of work from the “hardest working man in show business.” The first disc takes a while to truly get great – Brown needed a few years to invent funk, the only genre that could suit a voice so gruff yet so polychromatic. Gold’s curse, though, is that it reveals Brown’s shortcomings. After a while, you realize that most of his songs consist of him screaming nonsense, albeit over some of the best beats ever conceived.
That’s why I tend to spin In the Jungle Groove, a collection of studio outtakes that coheres into a perfectly funky record. As far as I’m concerned, it carries the definitive versions of “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing” and “Soul Power.” And it’s got “Funky Drummer,” which has been sampled by every rap group ever (TRUE STORY!). Between these three releases, you get a solid view of Brown. Sometimes he could be political (“King Heroin,” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”), but he mostly just turned out tight party starters with the best band available.
Verdict: Keep, although I’m going to sell Sex Machine, a faked live record that just doesn’t compared to Apollo. The 11-minute version of the title track is sooooo repetitive.
Too hard for the yacht-rock crowd but still too sensitive for the Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty set, Jackson Browne occupies a weird space in rock ‘n’ roll. Or, he would, if his songs weren’t so effortless appealing and poetic. “Running on Empty” and “Doctor My Eyes” get me stoked on life. “These Days” and “The Next Voice You Hear” get me mellow. Sometimes Browne was a little too in love with his lyrics – FIVE VERSES FOR “Empty?!” – but overall he was one of the better songwriters in the ’70s and ’80s, wedding evocative imagery about love and loss to his gorgeous voice and guitar. AND he’s handsome. Lucky bastard.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album
It really bums me out to say I’m not that into the Buffy soundtrack anymore; the same good be said for the TV show itself. This disc got me into Face to Face, The Sundays, and Garbage. And it’s got “Teenage FBI” by Guided By Voices! That song rules! But the bulk of the album consists of female-fronted singer/songwriter late ’90s post-Alanis Morissette drivel. This shit is mind-numbingly mid-tempo. But I love how petulant Superfine’s break-up anthem “Already Met You” gets. Also, Bif Naked’s “Lucky” is a guilty pleasure – the chorus is so perfect, but the verses are so terrible (“Remember when we made love in the roses / And you took my picture in all sorts of poses?” That would hurt).
Built to Spill
If my favorite Built to Spill song is the “Preview,” from There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, where the band plays a bunch of joke songs in rapid succession, does that make me less of a BtS fan, or more? I think more. I’m all about indie rock bands that actually know how to play guitar.
Steve from Blue’s Clues got obsessed with The Flaming Lips a little while ago and tried recreating The Soft Bulletin. What’s weird is that he succeeded a couple of times (“Mighty Little Man,” “>1”), but overall, Songs For Dustmites is a little too obsessed with quiet melancholy for my tastes. After “Mighty Little Man,” it’s kind of disappointing hearing anything else.
On the one hand, Bush was an underrated grunge band. They consistently wrote pretty catchy songs, made some cool videos, and they put on one heck of a live show. I saw the band in concert just two months after 9/11 and Gavin Rossdale gave this amazing speech about strength through unity. Sure, I guess it was kind of a vague argument, but he was electric all the same. Sometimes I think critics ripped on Bush because Rossdale is a handsome dude who showed up late to the party. On the other hand, dude stole from the best – “Everything Zen” cribs from Bowie, “Glycerine” from The Beatles. So maybe they’re rated perfectly – pretty good, but they’ll never be Nirvana.
The Button Mashers
You Can Never Have Enough Ninjas was a gift to me from Mike Zakrewski in high school. They are/were a video game cover band, and they love the shit out of Mega Man. Good times.
Singles Going Steady is required listening for fans of punk and pop alike. Buzzcocks had such an insane knack for hooks, as evidenced by songs like “Orgasm Addict,” “Harmony in My Head,” and the mega-popular “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?.” They had punk energy alright, but members were much more adept at their instruments than the average Sex Pistols clone. The result is a stunning series of songs filled with pent-up sexual frustration and furious drum beats. At their best, Buzzcocks outmaneuver even Elvis Costello. This record puts most contemporary music to shame.
NEXT TIME: C is for... country gals 'n' Counting Cows.