1) The Bends/Radiohead
I bought a cassingle of Creep/Radiohead in 1992. I knew they had a different sound. They were my bright spot in the era of grunge. But when Radiohead exploded, the sound of the hype turned me away. I wanted to go back to when no one knew who they were. I resisted, but came back to them later after everyone stopped telling me that I “had” to like them. I heard the Gillian Welch cover of Black Star before I heard the original. I started crying halfway through and realized that Radiohead had more than just”something”. I bought the Bends this summer but didn’t really hear it until November. I felt like it was the right time for me to listen to the band that I knew had a right time. No one was ready for Radiohead in 1992. Their brilliance was buried under Nirvana and Pearl Jam. But years later they emerged from a bomb shelter in an era that would become their shining hour. What I heard in the Bends was a quiet desperation, a pleading to be understood that mirrored my own. And a realization that this may never happen. That some of us are the real thing in a world full of fake plastic trees.
Sometimes you wait for a band to ignite you because it hasn’t happened since 1986 when you heard the Cure. The first time I heard Interpol I was driving, then I was driving fast,then I wasn’t in my car at all anymore. They removed me from myself and took me someplace else. I listened to Antics this year almost in ritual. It reminded me of the things that I keep to myself because remembering where I was when I heard any song off of this album, is like melting my cellophane heart and watching it shrink. I’ve heard Interpol compared to Joy Division so many times, but to me, they have a more complete sound. Maybe what Joy Division would have become if Ian would have kept the train on the rails. And I wouldn’t mind hearing them cover “She’s Lost Control”. Antics has a coveted spot in my “no skip” albums. Which means every song on this album is great. You cannot listen to Antics without wanting to do something dangerous. Without wanting to burn.
3) Tim/The Replacements
The Replacements have been my favorite band since the day I heard Paul Westerberg concealing genius behind impulsivity and antics. Like that kid in school who doesn’t want anyone to know that’s he’s smart because then he can’t smoke in the bathroom. When I heard about the Replacements reuniting for Riot Fest, I knew it was going to be a great year for music. I thought maybe this would be the year that some fifteen year old kid would hear “Bastards of Young” and realize what music was missing. Because afterall that is the anthem for every kid who feels alone in the world because his parents are never home… even when they are home. When I first saw the pictures coming out of Denver, (Westerberg and Stinson in skirts and cowboy hats), I knew that they were still the Replacements– still relevant in an era that has resurrected the one hit wonder and regurgitated legends. My favorite tracks are still Swinging Party and Little Mascara because that is my Replacements. Still hiding brilliance for the ones who can hear it. Still hiding sadness in the corner of a party.
4) Nick Cave/The Lyre of Orpheus
I have to be in the mood for Nick Cave. His music strips me of everything and leaves me alone in the middle of winter. There is no artist who has ever done that to me. I’ve thought about putting his albums on the shelf until years from now, when I’m more bulletproof but he is a Greek siren. I cannot stay away. The Lyre of Orpheus is simultaneously carnal and spiritual, beginning and end, mysterious and materialized. It is the church choir singing behind a man of God who is wrestling with the devil. It is Nick Cave wrestling with the devil the way we have all wrestled with the devil. The Lyre of Orpheus is so beautifully orchestrated that it feels out of place in this century. My repeat tracks are Spell, Breathless, Babe, You Turn Me On, and Carry Me. You don’t have to choose between music or words with Nick Cave, he has them both. He is a poet and a classical musician but still just a man singing about love and death and how they both feel the same.
5) The Clash/The Story of the Clash Volume 1
I needed something straight this year. Something with no connection to anything but my youth and I found it when I played the Clash/ Story of the Clash Volume1. Punk with a message other than…”F the machine”. More like look at the machine first and recognize if you are part of it. Then say F it! So much early punk was just angst against authority with no real cause for anger. Then the Clash took us Straight to Hell to show us something hard to visualize. That song is a poem. Period. The lyrics are a succession of photographs from an old LIFE magazine. And the music is a fusion of punk, regaee, and caribbean rock. It is Cambodia dropped into the middle of America. Yes, this is a greatest hits collection but there is a reason why these are hits. Every great band is a collection of people creating something that cannot be plagiarized or duplicated. Who’s songs can be recognized after one note. The Clash was a different kind of punk rock, their music was saying something without screaming. They peaked and stayed there. Everyone who heard the Clash knew that they weren’t going away, that they weren’t a fad, and that they would become part of musical history even before they were gone.