Sunday, November 18, 2007

Top 5 side a, track 1's

Having temporarily resuscitated the blog and doubled our production from last month, I figure I should up the ante once more before I leave the country for a week so I can finally buy the new Nine Black Alps album.

I had concocted my list a great deal of time ago, but never posted the homage, so here it is. My only preamble would be that I'm not going to snipe songs that I enjoy on an individual level because as great as "Gimme Some Lovin'" is, I don't know that it suits the album it introduces at I don't mention it in the list.

Rob’s Top 5:
1) “Janie Jones” by The Clash from the album The Clash [UK]
2) “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye from the album Let’s Get It On
3) “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana from the album Nevermind
4) “White light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground
5) “Radiation Ruling the Nation” by Massive Attack

Having lent out my copy of the novel ages ago and never having it returned unto me, I can't provide you whatever analysis Hornby would here.

Tim’s Top 5:
*The US version of The Clash led off with “Clash City Rockers”, not nearly the track Janie Jones is, hence, I have to leave it off my list because I’ve never heard the UK album in its pure unaltered form. So, although my list looks a fair amount like Rob's, it's not the same.

It is also not a coincidence that four of the five albums (the first four) would rank among the top 50 on my list if I were ever to venture into such a fool's errand.

1) “Tangled Up In Blue” by Bob Dylan from the album Blood on the Tracks - I have, throughout many periods in my life, been certain that this is my favorite song. I'm not entirely sure why or how it reached this status, but it is Dylan's finest hour. He'd moved away from his overtly political period, gone through his diversions into Nashville Skyline and a period of underwhelming material that history has essentially overlooked. All the lyrics are memorable, even though they never really add up into one coherent story and are essentially dispensable -- Dylan himself has continued to change the lyrics after the album was released -- but the song essentially captures the story of a man wandering, which seems to describe Dylan himself for most of the decade preceding the song, trying to find himself in folk music, electrified rock, Nashville country, only to find himself in a new place with no direction -- the only thing to do was to keep on keepin' on. And so he did, and this is the result.

2) “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye from the album What’s Going On - Edwin Starr's "War" might typify what the post-Reagan generations will typify as a protest song from the 1960s, but this is the perfect protest in my mind. While other protest songs might inspire anger or motivate you to lash out, this is a seductive plea for humanity, not the dispatching of violence with another kind of violence. Until you really listen to the lyrics, you could have just mistaken it for another Marvin Gaye track. The song itself is so richly layered, part orchestral, part celebration of life and friendship, and part pleading for hope. It's the song that saved and destroyed Motown, and a lead-in to an uneven, but fantastic album that no one should be without. Combine this song with "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "Mercy Mercy Me" and Marvin Gaye accomplishes more with those tracks than most great artists will in an entire career of singles.

3) “Rocks Off” by The Rolling Stones from the album Exile on Main Street - Exile is widely regarded as The Rolling Stones' finest album, and I'm not one to argue. It's certainly the only one I own, though a case could be made for Let It Bleed or Sticky Fingers. The song is almost the antithesis of What's Going On, while there's ostensible production, everything about the track sounds extremely raw and conveys a sense that you're actually in the same room with the band that just isn't present on any other song I can recall. It's pure energy, both frenetic and kinetic, with a half-dozen instruments and vocals taking the lead at some point. The rest of the Stones' work may only be rock 'n' roll and generally likeable, but this IS rock 'n' roll, defined. It is also worth mentioning that the producer of this track, Jimmy Miller, also was the producer on the aforementioned "Gimme Some Lovin'". Pure genius.

4) “London Calling” by The Clash from the album London Calling - While #1 and #5 on the album seem to convey a sense of unfettered optimism, London Calling is their polar opposite -- a near-suicidal screed -- that the world was facing impending disaster. It was not a subtle message, whether it was burning up in the sun, nuclear war, a new ice age, floods, or, yes, zombies. It has a screamed urgency that creates a perfect counterpoint to the fatalistic and apocalyptic inevitability. In a world certain to be wiped away in a nuclear explosion, perhaps the best you can hope for is to drown first. If you're ever facing nuclear annihilation, take the song with you to your bunker. You'll understand.

5) “Mother We Can’t Get Enough” by The New Radicals from the album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too - That's right I'm installing "new classic status" after a list of safe ones. The New Radicals' album was totally overlooked because the only reason people bought it (myself included) was "You Get What You Give", the ubiquitous song of 1999, ranking right up there with "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen". With the lead single and a price of $6.99 when I bought it at Best Buy, I had little to no intention of listening to the rest of the album. Thankfully, I did. From the Yoko Ono-ish voice saying "Make my nipples hard, let's go!", this song and most of the album is pop mastery that explains easily why Gregg Alexander (the primary member of The New Radicals, as well as the producer of the album) has since become a leading producer of other music. This track, however, ranks as the pinnacle of the album, despite its too-obvious attacks on consumer culture. The rest of the album fails to reach this point, although there are three or four other semi-essential tracks, including "Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You" and astoundingly "You Get What You Give".

Honorable mention: "Help!" by the Beatles from the album Help!; “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen from Born to Run; "The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon from Graceland

Ryan's Top Five
I'm a bit surprised, I didn't expect my Top 5 to turn out like it did...but I felt compelled to go with the new-one-among-some-old-safe-ones strategy, which led to me bumping some worthy contenders. But I digress.

1. "Imagine" by John Lennon from the album Imagine - Well, this is one of the best songs ever written, so, you know. It gets downplayed (even by myself) because of its omnipresence and, as Jack Black would put it, it's obviousness. Oh well.

2. "Purple Haze" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience from the (US) album Are You Experienced? - Personally, I prefer songs 3-5 on my list, but you cannot underestimate the legendary sound of this song's opening guitar riff. Led off one kick-ass album, to be sure, and one of the best albums from one of the best decades of music (excluding, of course, the 1890s).

3. "London Calling" by The Clash from the album London Calling - What Tim said. No argument here--much like song #2 on my list, this song wastes absolutely no time in kicking ass.

4. "Hells Bells" by AC/DC from the album Back in Black - And this one too. I'd be lying if I said I was the biggest AC/DC fan in the world, but that's only because I know too many other fans who are obsessed. Surely this is one of the greatest classic rock albums of all-time. I'm a big fan of ominous openings, and frankly ominousness in general; the bells here achieve said goal. Bonus points for being a better sports intro song than Welcome To The Jungle (says I).

5. "The Crane Wife 3" by The Decemberists from the album The Crane Wife - Well, here's my new one, but this song really is awesome. "The Crane Wife" is definitely one of the best albums of this decade and a masterpiece of, as Colbert put it, "hyper-literate prog rock." This song adeptly sets the tone for the rest of the album, which gels quite well.

Honorable mentions (lots, and in no order, except for the first two): "Baba O'Riley" by The Who [Who's Next], "Back in the USSR," "Sgt. Pepper," and "Taxman" by the Beatles, "Who Loves the Sun?" by The Velvet Underground [Loaded], "Take a Bow" by Muse [Black Holes & Revelations], "My Name Is Jonas" by Weezer [Weezer], "The Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel [Sounds of Silence], "Gotta Get Up" by Harry Nilsson [Nilsson Schmilsson], "Space Oddity" by David Bowie [Space Oddity], "Five Years" by David Bowie [Ziggy], "Fight Test" by The Flaming Lips [Yoshimi], and "Go-Go Gadget Gospel" by Gnarls Barkley [St. Elsewhere]. Phew.

Dan's top 5:

I'm a bit unsatisfied with my list, since I feel like (a) I'm cleaning up after two pretty good lists by simply listing obvious omissions, and (b) there's not too much that's fresh or original about my list. I'm sure that I'll probably regret it once I stumble on something I missed on Wikipedia within the next few hours. I also maintain Tim's criterion of a decent-to-good album is also necessary for inclusion. That being said...

"Baba O'Riley" by The Who from the album Who's Next - I remember making a mix CD of the best tracks ever. The scheme was, I would pick the best track 1, the best track 2, et cetera until I ran out of room on the CD. So naturally, track one of that CD is my number one here. I remember looking through a lot of potential candidates before firmly deciding on this one the second I saw it. The "synthesizer" intro (actually just created using the arpeggio effects on a Lowrey home organ) is one of the best introductions to a song I've ever heard, and it blossoms into all-out rocking shortly thereafter.

"Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys from the album Pet Sounds - Barry would give me so much shit for this one, since it's such an obvious choice. I had to include it though, since none of you other jerks decided to give props to one of the best pop albums ever. Probably the album's most recognizable song, as well, and the epitome of chamber pop.

"Space Oddity" by David Bowie from the album Space Oddity - One of Bowie's masterpieces, I think it's a shame that it hasn't been mentioned yet. Even though it sounds dated, especially when compared to everything else Bowie has done, it's still a masterful bit of songwriting and performance. Loses just a few points because the song tends to overshadow most of the rest of the album (at least in my eyes. Yes, I do realize how much "Memory of a Free Festival" kicks ass.)

"Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" by the Killers from the album Hot Fuss - My new classic status is bumped up to #4 instead of the usual #5, simply because Hot Fuss was such a great album. This first kickass track was a sign that this band was fresh and new, sort of the same way Jacqueline was a great start to Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut. Of course, if I had chosen that one, it would have been way too obvious that I was sucking up to Tim. This way, it's a bit more subtle.

"Tom Sawyer" by Rush from the album Moving Pictures - I doubt anyone else from the Top 5 likes progressive rock at all, much less Rush. I figured I'd give credit to this album, and this song in particular, which is probably Rush's biggest hit. It was a major step forward in the 80's synthesizer era, as it was released in 1981. This album, along with Van Halen's 1984 album, would prove that synthesizers could be used in rock music and still kick ass.

Honorable Mention - "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel from the album Bridge Over Troubled Water, also most of Ryan's honorable mentions.


Roughly Speaking... said...

I didn't realize you were such a Trevor Hoffman fan.

I left Baba O'Riley off the honorable mention list because it's not Won't Get Fooled Again and I left R.E.M.'s "Leaving New York" off the list, because the rest of the album isn't really that great.

Vulpes Ryanis said...

Well, I used to live in San Diego, German for "a whale's vagina."

Vulpes Ryanis said...


Rather appropriate that this top 5 topic is the fiftieth we've done.

Ben said...

Stumbled across this. Remarkable list, but what about "My Name Is Jonas" of Weezer's Blue Album? I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard that song, it was like a punch in the chest...