Just how loud and angry can an album be, without devolving into noise? With Broken Nine Inch Nails tells us, pretty fucking loud and angry.
The follow up to Pretty Hate Machine, Broken is an EP that barely clocks in over 30 minutes. Less, if you don't count the "bonus" songs that shipped on a 3-inch mini-CD with the first pressings of Broken. The proper EP is only six songs, two of which are short-ish instrumentals. You can see clearly where the rest of Trent Reznor's career is going from Broken.
The days of "a slightly harder Depeche Mode" are over. Reznor's found out about guitars, and has decided they're a good thing.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #16 ("Broken")"
True to their name, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy were one and done. They left behind one album, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury, a damning cultural critique of U.S. culture over a unique synthesis of hip hop, industrial, jazz poetry, and punk.
My only beef with the Heroes is that they only stuck around for one album1. Michael Franti has gone on to do Spearhead and solo albums, Charlie Hunter went on to do jazz, and Rono Tse seems to have disappeared entirely. Perhaps they said all they needed to say on Hypocrisy.
They said a lot on this album. They cover censorship, compromises of fame, the Gulf War (the first one), television, immigration, and much more. And Franti doesn't just turn the critical gaze outward, he also looks at some of his own flaws as well.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #17 ("Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury")"
A word of caution before listening to Aimee Mann's Whatever – it may very well cause you to recalibrate your standards for songwriting. If you're setting your standards by this album, it's almost unfair to most other bands. Almost.
Released in 1993, Whatever was Mann's first solo album – but certainly not her first time to take a hand at songwriting. Mann recorded three studio LPs with 'Til Tuesday, and an EP with her first band The Young Snakes.
Whatever is a damned fine work, with 13 songs that are all a-side material. (Technically, it's a 14-track album if you count a nine-second piece of fluff at the end.)
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #18 ("Whatever")"
For Document R.E.M. picked up a much harder edge than previous albums. Sure, Life's Rich Pageant dabbled a bit with more aggressive guitar, but Document has a much harsher sound throughout. And it sounds so, so good.
Document practically kicks you in the face with the opening track, "Finest Worksong." A whip-crack snare and then Peter Buck is off to the races with an almost metal guitar intro that sets the rhythm. There's more than a little The Who influence here. And Michael Stipe's voice, once again, is crisp and clear at the forefront. This is, by the way, true to its title. If "Finest Worksong" doesn't motivate you to get shit done, seek medical care.
R.E.M. has taken on some political overtones with Document. "Welcome to the Occupation," and "Exhuming McCarthy" in particular. "Exhuming McCarthy" is also the first R.E.M. song I can recall with "found" sounds or samples, starting with the typewriter setting the tempo at the beginning, and then audio of Joseph Welch chastising Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings. There's some heavy keyboard on this one, and I seem to recall it was Peter Holsapple on this track but I can't find anything today that confirms this.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #19 ("Document")"
Most of The Cure's albums are outstanding, but Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is simply magical. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me shows The Cure delivering perfect, joyful pop right alongside languid and extended jams that don't give a damn about radio play.
I have to be honest, I was a bit put off by Robert Smith's voice at first. Almost despite myself, I loved some of the singles off this album, but I initially found his delivery just a little off-putting. It eventually grew on me, but that's a story for later.
Even so, I couldn't deny the strength of the singles from Kiss Me.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #20 ("Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me")"
Watching "alternative" bands like The Cure, R.E.M., and U2 punch through to mainstream success, I had high hopes that Robyn Hitchcock would break through with Queen Elvis.
Released in March 1989, Hitchcock was opening for R.E.M. on the Green tour. Queen Elvis, by Robyn Hitchcock 'n the Egyptians, was on a major label and they were putting money into videos for MTV. It seemed to me that the rest of the world would surely notice what they'd been missing so far.
By rights, Queen Elvis should have garnered more attention than it did. Musically, it's phenomenal, and it's one of Hitchcock's most accessible (read: there are no songs about "furry green atom bowls," or men with lightbulb heads) albums.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #21 ("Queen Elvis")"
The Who's Tommy pioneered the "rock opera." Pink Floyd perfected it with The Wall.
Like Tommy, The Wall is a sprawling two-album work. Running more than 80 minutes, The Wall covers a lot of musical ground – ballads, pseudo-opera, rock, and even dabbles in disco. The Wall is Pink Floyd's, or at least Roger Waters', magnum opus.
Since The Wall came out when I was nine years old, it's hard to remember a world before it existed. It's just always been part of the classic rock canon, right? Even though it was ever-present on the radio, at least snippets of it, it wasn't until I was well into high school that I got a copy of the full album. And then I listened to The Wall over and over again.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #22 ("The Wall")"
It's a little daunting to try to find something original to say about an album like The Joshua Tree. Released in 1987, The Joshua Tree sold something like 25 million copies, While it's no Rumors or Thriller, The Joshua Tree has been rather thoroughly reviewed many times over.
I was aware of U2 before The Joshua Tree, but I couldn't say that I was a major fan of the band. But when The Joshua Tree came out in '87, it really couldn't be ignored. It was all over the radio, MTV, and appealed to kids my age as well as aging boomers trying to keep up with current music. (Boomers who were probably younger than I am today, I might add. Sigh.)
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #23 ("The Joshua Tree")"
Queen's The Game will probably be best remembered for two things, "Another One Bites the Dust," and the first album from the band that featured the use of a synthesizer. I remember it best because my family had the album on 8-Track and I played it incessantly.
I'm not sure when we got a copy of The Game or whether it was my mother or father who brought it into the house. But I loved "Another One Bites the Dust" from the radio, and absorbed the entire album once I could play it at will. The "nice" thing about 8-Tracks compared to records was that they would play forever until you hit "stop." My parents might not have viewed this as a feature.
It was also a musical clue that I didn't quite understand at the time. On the cover of the tape it had a one-liner about this being Queen's first use of a synthesizer. I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the importance of this, but given that the band had used some of the very limited real estate on the cover to proclaim (or disclaim) this, it must have been important.
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #24 ("The Game")"
The End of Silence is the kind of music that would make construction crews call about noise violations. If Spinal Tap turns it up to 11, then the Rollins Band takes it to 13. It's an abattoir for eardrums. What I'm saying, kids, is this is a loud one and in no way subtle.
Weight shows the Rollins Band as accessible as they get. The End of Silence is every bit as well-produced as Weight, but there are no compromises to a wide audience. You're in, or you're out. I'm in.
The End of Silence was my introduction to Henry Rollins and the Rollins Band. I might have run into Black Flag at some point before, but I don't specifically remember when. I first caught up with the Rollins Band with the video for "Low Self Opinion."
Continue reading "My favorite 100 albums of all time: #25 ("The End of Silence")"