Thursday, April 28, 2011

myPod: Co-Cr

[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]

Collective Soul

After Nirvana blew up, a whole mess of so-called “alternative” bands flooded the market. One of them was Collective Soul, a group that has more in common with ’70s stadium rock than grunge. Still, Collective Soul’s output was superior to anything Aerosmith every wrote. 7even Year Itch: Greatest Hits 1994-2001 has a crappy title (And is inaccurate. One of the band’s biggest hits, “Shine,” is actually from 1993), but the tracklisting is a perfect collection of a road-ready anthems like “Next Homecoming” and “Energy.” My favorite song has always been the somber, string-laden “The World I Know,” even though I’m not entirely sure what the lyrics mean.

Verdict: Keep.


We can’t always pick the soundtracks to our most intimate moments. I entered into the Common portion of my collection with the impression that this would be my last time listening to the MC. I got into Common during my first brief flirtation with rap in 2005. Basically, I bought Common’s Be and Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below and thought that made me a hip-hop head. I haven’t listened to Be much since then, but today it soundtracked my engagement to my girlfriend. So now Common’s songs about fidelity mean something more to me. Well, and the overbearing courtroom drama of “Testify” and the infectious pop ghetto of “The Food,” featuring a stupid-awesome hook from Kanye West: “So I had to did / What I had to did / ’Cause I had the kid.”

Verdict: Keep.

Common Rider

I never saw Common Rider in concert, which I regret quite a bit. Part of that’s because they always came through on great bills, but also because, well, I used to really, really like Common Rider in high school. The belated sequel to Jesse Michaels’ beloved ska/punk act Operation Ivy, Common Rider seemed to dominate every punk compilation I bought between 2000 and 2003. I miss their Jamaican-tinged punk, although I hear Michaels’ new band, Classic of Love, is good too.

Verdict: Keep.

Concrete Blonde

Bloodletting is one of the best goth records by a non-goth band of all time.

Verdict: Keep.

Elvis Costello

I doubled up on My Aim is True because I need to have “Welcome to the Working Week” available at all times.

Verdict: Keep.

Counting Crows

Counting Crows have been with me, one way or another, since I was very young (August and Everything After came out when I was 7 years old). August has been in my dad’s collection since 1993, and it’s the Crows album I refer back to most frequently. The songs are timeless (“Mr. Jones,” “Omaha,” “Rain King,” “Round Here,” and so on), so much so that I own several live albums of the material. I’m not too big on concert albums, but the Crows adapt their material so freely that August opens itself up to different interpretations. The most essential Crows live record is Across a Wire, a two-disc set, one acoustic and one electric, of the band reimagining its first two albums. The deluxe edition of August comes with a live show from Paris, and it’s just so raw that it gives me goosebumps. Frontman Adam Duritz can sometimes be a little too mopey and nonsensical, but he’s one of my favorite lyricists/singers. He conveys so much mood, and his freestyling during live sets is amazing.

The Paris show is interesting partially because Duritz plays with lyrics that later ended up Recovering the Satellites. That album best captures the Crows’ two sides – the rocking and the reflective – best, even though I still kind of prefer August. Still, Satellites has some of my favorite Crows tunes, like “Angles of the Silences,” “Long December,” and “Walkaways.” This Desert Life is mellower by comparison. The songs are more midtempo and less anguished, but it’s still a solid mainstream folk/pop/rock record, even though some of the songs don’t make any sense.

Hard Candy is my least favorite album. It’s overproduced, lacks punch, and features a heinous cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” [which wasn’t even part of the original tracklisting]. Still, there are some interesting deviations from the Crows formula, like the pop rock leanings of “Hard Candy” and “American Girls” or the surprisingly synth-heavy “New Frontier.” The belated Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings is a welcome return to form. An attempt at recreating Satellites, it’s the best Crows release in a long time. Duritz takes a long time to write lyrics, which sucks, but since every Crows album is a good time, I guess I can’t complain. The songs are sensitive yet catchy, rocking yet delicate. I get just as much out of this band as I do from The Weakerthans or The Mountain Goats.

Verdict: Keep.

The Cranberries

The ’90s were a good decade for music, man [NOTE: I am not being ironic here]. The Cranberries somehow managed to drop heavy barnburners like “Zombie” and delicate ballads like “Linger” and the public embraced both sides. I’m not a superfan, limiting my collection Stars: The Best of 1992-2002, but it’s a solid collection of ambient alt-rock gold. Sometimes the lyrics get a little too trite (Dolores O’Riordan relies on this obnoxious AABB rhyme scheme on tracks like “Analyse”), which is to say nothing of O’Riordan’s Bono-lite politics, but overall it’s a nifty set.

Verdict: Keep.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Were you ever the last person to get into a band? Did you try expressing your passion to other people only to have them go, “Wait, you just got into ____?” That was me with Creedence Clearwater Revival in college. I bought both Chronicle collections (40 of their best songs) and fell in love. Then I started buying CCR on vinyl… I still go back to the Chronicle discs, though. One of the things I like about digging through old music is discovering all the connections between what happened then and now. I think I’d be OK with growing up in the ’70s. I mean, I’d still have David Bowie, Black Sabbath, and CCR. As my uncle’s own childhood attests, I wouldn’t need the Internet to discover punk thanks to The Clash. And I’d have a bitchin’ mustache.

That was a tangent. Sorry. CCR may be the cornerstone of “dad rock,” but they were arguably the best American rock band during a time when the best music was coming out of the U.K. They rocked hard but could still jam out into all sorts of ethereal realms. And they had bitchin’ mustaches.

Verdict: Keep.

Crime in Stereo

Around 2006, it seemed like a whole new crop of punk bands popped up in the tristate era that defined my life. They’re mostly gone now (The Ergs!, The Measure [SA], Nakatomi Plaza). They all hurt, but Crime in Stereo’s break-up was the most shocking, if only because it came shortly after they dropped the post-hardcore masterpiece I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone just prior. Watching the band’s transition from NYC hardcore (The Troubled Stateside) into something more dynamic and ethereal was amazing, but I can still listen to Stateside, Is Dead, and Describe back-to-back-to-back easily, as this exercise demonstrates. I’m sad CiS fell apart, but they left behind such a solid discography that I hope will one day afford them in the same legendary status as Minor Threat or Jawbreaker. I saw these guys in countless cramped venues and they always put on a great show with passion and humility. DRUGWOLF FOREVER.

Verdict: Keep.

The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

J. O’Barr’s The Crow has a troubled history. The original comics were inspired by his fiance’s death; Brandon Lee died while filming the adaptation. But the soundtrack, inspired by the comic’s homages to The Cure and Joy Division, picks up those goth foundations and updates them for the go-go grunge ’90s. The Crow is a perfect meeting point between the best underground acts of the ’80s (Violent Femmes, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure) and ’90s acts on the brink of breaking out (Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, and a pre-Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails). It’s a little spotty in places – Jane Siberry is too maudlin, Helmet is too indistinct – but overall it’s essential listening for anyone with even remotely goth tendencies.

Verdict: Keep. Go listen to “Burn.”

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