Truthfully, it was a friend of mine on Facebook. We’ll just call him Wink Martindale.
Wink and I worked together as teenagers and recently got back in touch via the miracle of this whole internet fad. And it turns out that I had a rather large impact on the musical aspect of his life. Two of his top 10 rock albums of all time were attributed to me (i.e. I played them for him first). And part of the deal is that I am now supposed to compose my own list.
Wink was challenged with 25 albums, but said it was supposed to be 15, and then he narrowed it down to 10. Me? I’m going with 25, in two separate entries. And I am also copping out by including some “best of” discs. This entry is very link intensive. I strongly encourage you to free your mind and follow them.
10. The Smiths “Louder Than Bombs”. It pains me to choose a Smiths album that does not include “How Soon Is Now?”, but I had to. The playlist dictates it. “Shoplifters of the World”, “Panic”, “Asleep”, “Ask”, “Golden Lights”, “Hand in Glove”, “Sheila Take a Bow”… wow. Twenty-four songs on this disc. The quantity plus quality make it irresistible.
9. The Cure “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me”. “Why Can’t I Be You?” Good question, but a great song, especially the acoustic version (which I could not find a link to). “Catch” is as poignant of a song as one could hope to write, and “Just Like Heaven” was an instant classic. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” was not so bad, either. I really wanted to cower and choose “Staring At the Sea: the Singles” or even “Galore” as my Cure choice, but I am really trying to avoid greatest hit compilations. (Except for #2, with good reason.)
8. Echo & the Bunnymen “Songs to Learn and Sing”. Tunes from this one were often found on the soundtracks of those classic 80’s movies, notably “Pretty In Pink” and “The Lost Boys” (doing a Doors cover), as well as an episode of “Miami Vice”. But don’t let any of that scare you. “Rescue” is as cool of a song as you will ever hear while “The Killing Moon” and “Bring On the Dancing Horses” are equally enthralling. This CD changed my music taste forever. Ian McCullough is still my favorite singer of all time.
7. Buffalo Tom “Big Red Letter Day”. This one is a dark horse, as many of you probably have no idea who this band is. Sad, really, as they are as polished and professional as any other band out there. Plus, they have talent. I wore out this CD, too. Particularly, “Sodajerk” and “Anything That Way”. “I’m Allowed”, “Would Not Be Denied”, and “My Responsibility” also got heavy hits from me. Damn them for not having a better web presence!
6. Pearl Jam “Vs”. They shed their one-hit, Seattle flash-in-the-pan, grunge is the only way to go persona with this release. While “10” was deeper than many give it credit for, they were still shackled by Nirvana’s success. Not after this one. Right from the word “Go”, they changed the grunge image. They were better, craftier musicians than the boys in Nirvana, though they probably owe their discovery to that trio. Highlights for me are the beautiful “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, “Rats”, and – of course – “Daughter”. But “Rearviewmirror” will always be my favorite song of theirs.
5. Radiohead “The Bends”. Start with “High and Dry” and all of its luster. Add a dash of “Fake Plastic Trees” and its commentary on boob jobs, among other things. (Oddly, I can sing that song. I have a tape around here that proves it.) And don’t we all have a yen for a “Nice Dream”? Finish off this masterpiece with one of their greatest songs: “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”. Still, in my opinion, the best song they have ever recorded.
4. R.E.M. “Life’s Rich Pageant”. Every time I feel myself fluctuating about what my favorite R.E.M. disc is, I always find myself gravitating back to this one. It has everything: jangly guitar jamming on “I Believe” and “Just a Touch”, enviro-friendly ranting on “Fall On Me” and “Cuyahoga”, a lesson of our country’s brutal history in “Swan Swan H”, and one of my all-time favorite R.E.M. songs “Begin the Begin” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”.)
3. The Weakerthans “Left & Leaving”. This one would make it on the title track alone, one of the most poetic songs I have ever heard – a true eulogy for saying goodbye. “Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave me. This blanket, some matches, this pain in my chest. The best parts of lonely.” The addition of “My Favorite Chords” only makes this CD more memorable.
2. Teenage Fanclub “Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds”. I first heard them in their early, grungy stage. Songs like “Star Sign” and “The Concept” were cool. Melodic, distortion guitar, a few riffs here and there. But this CD showed their progression from emotional jamming to some of the most beautiful rock songs you will ever hear. “Mellow Doubt” and “Planets” in particular.
1. U2 “The Joshua Tree”. This one ekes by The Unforgettable Fire for me, probably to the chagrin of die-hard U2 fans. I know that the 3 major hits from this album got played to death on radio (even though “Where the Streets Have No Name” still gives me goosebumps), but it is the ancillary songs on this release that really make it for me. Start with “Bullet the Blue Sky”, written while Bono was in Central America, and go through some absolute brilliance with “One Tree Hill”, “Red Hill Mining Town”, “Trip Through Your Wires”, and the haunting “Exit”. Every song on this disc will stand the test of time. (Red Hill is still one of my Top 5 U2 songs and the video linked to “Exit” was done by a film student while in college. Not the official video, but it should be. It is stunning.) Crap! I completely forgot the greatness of “Running To Stand Still”. Like the over-played “With Or Without You”, this one is also about the dangers of drug addiction. Think about the titles of both songs… Oh, and “In God’s Country”. Jeez. We’ll never see another album like this one. Mark my words.
Now I ask a few things. First, critique my choices. Especially if you took the time to sample some of the links. Second, post your list in your blog and then include the link in the comments. Or, if you do not have a blog, feel free to use the comments to publish your list. Consider me curious.