Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm an Evil Baby! Give Me Meat!

The Most Brian-Influential Albums of the Decade

I'm not that evil a baby. I'm a semi-benign adult and I enjoy a well rounded meal involving vegetables.
The title was suggested by my bat-shit crazy pseudo-nephew Joel. When confronted by the parental question WHAT PART OF "Be Quiet" DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?
He responded "I understand the QUI".
I think he may be a genius who'll end up in an asylum. It is rare to find a three-year-old who can master both absurdist and wry humour.
I will visit him in whatever home he ends up in.

That said ...

I've grown tired of Rock 'n' Roll criticism. People buy Bryan Adams records. Huh.
I'm not gonna be the one to tell them to buy Flaming Lips records instead.
I don't care anymore. Buy all the Bryan Adams CDs/Vinyl Re-Issues/Digital Downloads you want ...
Someone buys into Mariah Carey. It ain't me, but if you enjoy it, who am I to judge? Art is subjective. Not my fault y'all got bad taste.

So ... The albums of the decade that made me say "Holy Fuck."
Somewhat ironically, 2007's LP by Holy Fuck just missed the cut.

The Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creations Dark
I was originally struck by 2001's Southern Rock Opera but it was later in the decade the band hit it's creative stride. Southern Rock Opera could have been a single disc. Brighter Than Creation's Dark was the culmination of three great songwriters on a single disc. I love all of the DBT albums before ... I suspect I'll love all that come after. I doubt I'll love a song as much as Danko and Manuel.

Not-so-interesting side note:
The Band's Richard Manuel's brother was a Baptist Minister and he married my parents. This fact really impressed the late Jay Bennett from Wilco when I interviewed him while I was a snotty rock critic. That is neither here nor there nor anywhere.

Hold Steady - Stay Positive

If The Clash and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had a baby ... well that would be impossible. Eleven men can't have a baby without one woman involved.
Don't expect me to report the impossible - that said, I heard my first Orillia Opera House ghost tonight (he was a cliche).
What was I saying? Oh yeah ... several men can't have a collective baby.
If they did, they'd sound like The Hold Steady. The first song had me rewinding the first song just so I could sing along 'cuz our songs are sing-along songs..
Bonus points for the song Slapped Actress ... 'Some nights actresses get slapped ... Some nights it's just entertainment ... and some other nights it's work."

Green Day - American Idiot
For a band infamous for poop jokes (Dookie) named for 24 hours wasted getting high, American Idiot was a revelation and a remarkable reboot of the band.
2009's 21st Century Breakdown is arguably the better album and will undoubtedly hold up better over time but American Idiot captured the zeitgeist of liberals bewildered by the road down which the the world's final super-power was taking us.
It was a call to arms which - if all goes well - will seem very dated by the end of the next decade.
Which, sadly, it won't.

Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous (2004)
I rarely remember where I was when I first heard a band in such vivid detail. I was sitting in Neal's truck in the parking lot of an LCBO. I apparently owned enough liquor

... I will forgive you if you dismiss this story as improbable and return to your regularly scheduled lives at this point ...

and I heard such a beautiful voice telling me to "pull the rip chord" on my life because "you're sleeping again
alone 'cause nobody loves you."
I looked over at Neal's IPod, desperately wanting to find the name of this angel who advised me to take my own life. I never really considered it - as I said, I had plenty of booze.
It turns out Jenny Lewis was the singer. It took me a week to discover Rilo Kiley was a band, not some Country-Goth chick. I had to Google her. Brother, did I Google her. I Googled her so hard you can insert your own cheap joke here.
I immediately emailed everyone I ever mocked for thinking Lynerd Skynerd was one rockin' dude with an apology.
If my ITunes's memory is worth a damn, this is the album I listened to most from the year 2004 until the present.

Lambchop - How I Quit Smoking
I actually downloaded this album on The Pirate Bay as an attempt to better myself. Given the title, I thought it may offer some insight towards not paying $7.95 per day to give myself cancer. It's my own fault. I wasn't hood-winked by the tobacco industry into smoking these evil little death sticks. I knew what I was getting into - I just thought, at the age of 17, I was invincible.
The first track I listened to was "The Man Who Loved Beer". I used to love beer, but I found it was making me fat. I lost 20 pounds when I quit drinking beer. I originally settled on vodka and grapefruit juice ('cuz that has to be healthy) but eventually gravitated towards a classier whiskey. I'm a dignified guy, I deserve a dignified drink ... Right?
I think so to.
Bushmill's was what I eventually settled on as my signature drink. Scrappy Irish but with a hint of class.
So when I learned that ... Screw it ... I'll come clean.
The above was the worst shaggy dog story ever told. Some British magazine told me to listen to Lambchop. They called them an "unclassifiable hybrid of country, soul, jazz, and avant-garde noise." They gave me a compilation CD with their magazine to prove their point.
They were right. I have no story about How I Quit Smoking by Lambchop.
It was released in 1996 but re-fuckin'-extra-special-released in 2002. I'm counting it.
So I'm a liar and a cheat.
That is all.

Guided By Voices - Live From Austin TX
The chances are good, if you've watched television in the past decade, you've heard a Guided By Voices song. Not just on Austin City Limits, where the short version of this first aired. People who pick songs to underscore particular moments on TV seem to be huge indie rock nerds.

Watching Bob Pollard and his lo-fi company

... yes, watching. I own the DVD. There is a CD available but I've already established I'm not above cheating on this list ...

get progressively more loaded via two wash tubs of beer and tequila shots over 97 minutes is a treat for fans of watching happy drunks get happier. Artists getting drunk on stage rarely ends well. I once saw Van Morrison fall off a stage. I doubt that was his artistic vision for the evening.
The look of utter joy on the face of the band at being on ACL (almost as required viewing as Hockey Night In Canada 'round these parts) sells the happy libertine act.
Throw in a few bizarre non sequiturs, an invitation for fans to join them on stage, mockery of Velvet Revolver, a couple of achingly beautiful ballads and the most get-to-the-point guitar rock since The Ramones and you have, not just a run-on sentence, but a true believer.
GBV were not the most talented band on the planet. But as they said in the intro to Sad If I Lost It "Hey kids, let me tell ya something that Guided By Voices taught the world. That you can suck ... and still rule," They knew their limits, they played within it.
Oh yeah, and Gold Star For Robot Boy and Everyone thinks I'm A Raincloud (When I'm Not Looking) are as excellent a song as they are a song title.
Throw in the fact I have made a very nice friend of the producer of ACL by drunkenly Tweeting about this DVD? Twenty dollars well spent. Hi @TheOtherLeslie (which is a funny name if you have followed my romantic misadventures).

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky both have their charms but for sheer fuck-youery to record companies, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot takes the medal this decade.

* For lack of a hit single, Wilco was let go from it's contract by AOL Time Warner subsidiary Reprise, scuttling YHF's planned September 11, 2001 release. They streamed the album on-line until web traffic proved it commercially viable. It was picked up by Nonesuch, a subsidiary of, yes, AOL Time Warner.

Alternately lush and dissonant, YHF makes good on the promise of Summerteeth, Wilco's 1999 break with traditional alt-country.
I would play this album for my staff when I managed a thrift store. They would have much rather listened to Shania Twain or Avril Lavigne, but I was, and remain, both the boss and a giant music fascist.
They could tolerate the orchestral opening track I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. They almost liked the skewed pop of Heavy Metal Drummer. It was Reservations, the final song, with it's dissonant noise coda that really bugged them.
"This is just ... creepy," one of my underlings finally remarked.
"Yeah." I smiled. "It really is, isn't it?"

* (like everything I write, a gross oversimplification)

Radiohead - Kid A
I believe it was a Sunday night. I had to work in the morning. Being a responsible sort, I decided to smoke a joint rather than get drunk.
I also had a home-made roast beef sandwich (lettuce, mustard, a tiny bit of horseradish on rye) ready to go for my lunch the next day.
"What the hell," I thought to myself. "I'll buy lunch tomorrow." On my way to the fridge, I popped Kid A into the stereo.
I had listened to that Radiohead CD roughly 10 times previous. I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it well enough.
Suddenly, the heavens opened up and sounds I never could have imagined started bouncing around the room. I asked myself the hard questions. I gave myself the right answers. It was all so simple. My path lay before me.
Then I started in on that sandwich. Best sandwich I have EVER eaten. I still dream about that sandwich.
I've since listened to Kid A, trying to recreate that experience. I liked it well enough but I didn't love it. It's no OK Computer. I think it must have been the sandwich.

The Weakerthans. - Reconstruction Site
The biggest criticism I've heard of The Weakerthans is, boiled down - "They're a bunch of smarty-pants -- too smart for for their own good."
Well excuse me, all of you Ms. Sarah Palin wanabees.
Extra credit should be given to independent learning. The Bible and Ronald Reagan - A Presidential Biography for Kids are not the only books ever written.
Sometimes I like my power-pop bands to be literate.
I like my stupid rock bands to be stupid (Hello Electric by The Cult.)
But I like my literate power pop to be, well, literate and to know stuff. I'm not so threatened by my own smarty-pantsness that I can't admit I don't know stuff. That's what Wikipedia is for:

Did you know Boxcar Willie is one of the lizard people who secretly rule the earth?

Use as many Foucault, Gump Worsley, Niels Bohr or Virtue The Cat references as you like. I'll revel in what I know and be happy to learn the rest.
Plus The Weakerthans play insanely catchy pop-music and I'm tired of hearing 'Are They Punk Enough' just because John Samson used to play bass in Propighandi.
As the old saying goes ... You can draw more flies with honey than you can with obnoxious, dissonant noise.

Bruce Sprigsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
It isn't the most fun band I've heard this decade, but most definately the band having the most fun. Bruce, most of the E Street Band and friends rip through folk legend Pete Seeger's songs.
It's laughable to think of millionaire The Boss rip through Pay Me My Money Down, a song about bein' ripped off by the man. But I'll be damned if they aren't having so much fun that I always sing along.

Honourable Mention/Discs I Couldn't Find an Appropriate Story For:

The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound - Kinda like The Hold Steady, but slightly less awesome

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood/Furnace Room Lullaby

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty

The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic Because Neko Case + A.C. Newman = Awesome.

The Arcade Fire - Funeral Even though I was told to like it by all hipster media everywhere ... I still did

The Rheostatics - 2067
I have a soft spot for the Rheostatics. It wasn't Greatest Hits or Whale Music but ...

Sarah Harmer - I'm A Mountain This album reminds me of cutting stuff up and setting it on fire. Not sure that's the spirit of the music, but...

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga "The Underdog" may be my favourite song of the decade.

Magnetic Fields - Distortion - I chose this because 69 Love Songs came out in 1999 and that would be cheating a bit too much. However, Too Drunk To Dream is an excellent summary of my romantic misadventures.

Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy I normally don't like hippie collectives, but in this case, I'll overlook the fact they smell bad and likely smoke pot.

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins - I heard a song on the excellent TV show Chuck and Googled it ... it would have displaced Kid A had I a better story.

Old 97's - Satellite Rides - See The previous entry. Except replace Chuck with Ed. Fuck you ... I liked that show. It was whimsical.

Danny Michel - Feather, Fur & Fin The artist I enjoyed most at work this year. I actually parted with cash to buy a CD just 'cuz I wanted him to keep making music.

The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon Revolutionary party hip/hop - how can you argue with the lyric "I'm here to laugh, love fuck and drink liquor ... and make the revolution come quicker"?

Ron Sexsmith - Cobblestone Runway God Loves EVERYONE, fuckers!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer OST - Once More With Feeling - What do you want from me? I'm a huge nerd who works in a theatre. You thought this wouldn't be here?

Steve Earle - Transcendental Blues I'm sick of coming up with reasons I like things. That's kinda the point of my opening anti-criticism statement.


Mark said...

ahh Hipster you're dream lives... forget not that while they may not be the most memorable, or even photogenic, members of the E Street Band, there are women aboard... Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell...

Who could forget that night when a young Patti Scialfa's water broke on stage in Bowling Green KY, and a distraught Clarence Clemons was heard to exclaim "Little Steven, I don't know nothing about birthing no babies!"

Aging Hipster said...

My apologies to the ladies in question.

Fallstaff said...

My thought on describing the Hold Steady:
Infectiously optimistic dystopians.

Barb said...

Not that it makes much of a difference, but Joely is 4, not 3.

Anonymous said...

Where's sea change by beck?

Aging Hipster said...

Lost Cause was one one my favourite songs of the decade but the rest of Sea Change left me indifferent. Sorry, dude who didn't leave his name.

Anonymous said...

Hipster, shouldn't there be a post in memory of Paul Quarrington? I've been looking for one.

オテモヤン said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fallstaff said...

Might want to clear the japanese porno spam out of here…

Anonymous said...

No Gary Coleman memories?

Aging Hipster said...

I am a firm believer in individualism.
That said ... I'm pretty sure The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand killed Gary Coleman. He was too deeply immersed in her philosophy and it did him no good.

In the same vein, Dana Plato should not have followed the teachings of Neitzche and Todd Bridges should eschew the writings of the Marquis de Sade.

I would, in fact, explain this in greater detail but I am recently obsessed by the fact that the need for a clean, quiet and undisturbed bowel movement will become the currency of the 21st century .

Anonymous said...

3 years man... 3 years...