Ah, Top Ten Lists: is anything more a part of Pop Music? Ever since the first Top Forty Countdown was initiated, pop fans have been conditioned – whether by Your Hit Parade or Casey Kasem – into quantifying their likes and dislikes in list format. Like the gang at Championship Vinyl, we all love to catalog.
I’m no different. Prodded by Eric to come up with a Best o’ Ten, I was ready to do so. So here’s This Season’s Most Played Pop-Rock List. I am not including those new releases I’ve been overplaying because of unfamiliarity; these are all older releases that have stood my personal test of time. (Caution: this list is subject to change as soon as I look at my shelves again):
The Best of Blur: No wacky/pointless instrumental experiments, no forays into dubland, just eighteen primo examples of guitar-based Britpop from the smartest of the nineties practitioners. If “Tender” isn’t the sweetest use of acoustic strumming since “My Sweet Lord,” then I’m tendering my resignation in the Village Green Preservation Society;
John Cale, Fear: In a solo career marked by inconsistent releases, this is the one I wanna keep with me: the former Velvet Undergrounder collaborating with members of Roxy Music to produce some of the fiercest music of his career (and that’s including the 2nd VU album). Beware: pissed-off intellectual with a gun;
Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model: And speakin’ of pissed, how about ol’ Elvis back when he was a skinny bespectacled nerd with bad teeth & the Attractions for back-up? And, considering the climate, isn’t “Night Rally” more than a little scarily prescient? “Oh I know that I’m ungrateful; I’ve got it lying on a plate;”
Go-Betweens, 16 Lovers Lane: I’ve recently raved about this album on my own blog, but I’m still caught under its autumnal sway, so here I go, mentioning it again. Proof that grown-up pop-rock is not only possible, it’s desirable;
Nick Lowe, Labour of Lust: And then there’s Nick, unrepentantly half-a-boy-and-half-a-man, with his greatest set of Rockpile collaborations ever. Alterna-country band The Meat Purveyors recently covered “Without Love” from this set; in a just cosmos, every one of these songs would’ve been a covered pop hit years ago: even the one about the girl with a “pair of tits that just won’t quit;”
Kirsty MacColl, Tropical Brainstorm: Could be I’m still indulging in wistful what-might’ve-beens with this ‘un, but to this day it remains my favorite album of 2001. Sexy, funny, inventive in a way so many Anglo attempts at appropriating Latin rhythms have not been, it’s a grace note to a career that was criminally ignored in this country;
The Modern Lovers: Can I explain how much this pre-punk classic speaks to me, years after every note and idea has been plundered by the punks and alt-rockers it inspired? Probably not. If you don’t know the glory of listening to the power of the rockin’ AM sound at nite (something that’s all but vanished), then you don’t really know what Jonathan Richman’s singing about in “Roadrunner;”
Old ’97’s, Fight Songs: Screw the No Depression purists – this is a great fuckin’ album. And “Jagged” (“I would give anything/Not to feel so jagged”) describes at least two decades of my life;
The Rattlers: There were several groups and artists I decided not to include in this list (in part because I’ve devoted whole pages to ’em elsewhere: for the record they’re Kinks, Ramones, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Harry Nilsson & Graham Parker). Which made it easier to add the Rattlers to this list: a more garage-pop-friendly Ramones that included Joey Ramone’s kid bro’ Mickey in the lineup. Added bonus: a Lester Bangs song that’s a glue-sniffer’s update to Brian Wilson’s “In My Room;”
Linda and Richard Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights: Is there a better album about marital dissolution than this? Listening to Linda’s clear and unsentimental vocals on “Did She Jump,” I sure can’t think of one.
Damn, I’m at ten already.