Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music Lists Here, There and Everywhere: Part 1

I mentioned Eli Roth's article on 'Best Horror Films You've Never Seen' in a previous post and I promise I'll be getting to a similarly-themed music article soon.

In the meantime, music lists are starting to pop up all over the place and I found two that I'm sure most of us can pick apart and argue about all day and all night.

First up is the Guardian's ambitious list of 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die. I haven't gone through the whole list that's been posted so far but for every inclusion that makes me smile ('Kings of the Wild Frontier', 'Damned Damned Damned', 'The Harder They Come' soundtrack, 'New Day Rising', 'Let it Be') I scratch my head and wonder how you can leave off, say, the Dead Kennedys (as important to American hardcore as the Pistols were to the rest of the world), Hoodoo Gurus and Generation X but you include the 'Grease' soundtrack?

While I'm willing to cut a bit of slack to a list of 1000 records that includes punk, rock, blues, soul, jazz, and hip-hop, I'm less forgiving of Blender's '100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums Ever.' This one seems wildly random given the limited scope. The Misfits, DKs, Flipper and Big Black are regarded as afterthoughts in the sub-80s and there's no Naked Raygun or Jawbreaker anywhere that I could see.

Not to get all "I was there" high and mighty, but I started listening to "indie" rock in high school during the early 80s and have spent the last 20+ years listening to, seeing, reading and writing about the topic. And Pavement's 'Slanted and Enchanted' is the greatest indie rock album? Ever? Really? Frankly, I always filed them in the "Overrated/Nothing Special" category.

Well, I can bitch all I want right? As long as I post my own list. And I encourage you to do the same. Somebody at a power pop discussion group I belong to suggested coming up with a list of 25 Records to Hear Before You Die and I struggled to get to that point. My initial list had about 75 titles and I quickly realized how many records – and bands – I really cherish, not just for their music but for the times and memories they represent in my life.

My criteria was based upon one record per band or artist, no best ofs or compilations, and double albums count as a single release. Here's the first five from my list (in no particular order)...

Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything (1972)
A sprawling double LP major label debut that defies categorization and quickly established Rundgren as one of the great pop tunesmiths of our time.

Too Much Joy - Cereal Killers (1991)
TMJ all but invented snarky pop-rock but never got the credit or commercial success they deserved. The songs are witty and funny without being one-note jokes (ala The Dead Milkmen) and the bandmembers were among the smartest, nicest musicians I ever encountered.

Urge Overkill - Saturation (1993)
I don't like to throw around the phrase "masterpiece" but the major label debut from this narcissistic Chicago power rock trio comes as close as anything on this list. Unfairly lumped in with the exploding "grunge" movement, UO deftly delivers solid 70s-influenced guitar rock. Nothing they did before or after this album suggested this kind of brilliance and I'm still stunned it didn't spawn a half-dozen major hits.

Clash - London Calling (1979)
Like the Ramones and Replacements, selecting just one Clash release was a tough choice, but this double album features an absolutely stunning array of tracks that for most bands would constitute an entire career. Sounds as great now as it did almost 30 years ago.

Sweet Baby - It's a Girl! (1989)
This album came out right around the time I was graduating from college and wrapping up my regular (irregular?) radio show. The blueprint for the pop-punk sound of Mr. T Experience and Green Day, this unheralded masterpiece flopped as Ruby/Slash pulled the plug on the band's tour before they ever reached Philly. Simply magnificent, high-energy rock... sort of like the Beatles catalog filtered through the Ramones.


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