Sunday, September 24, 2006

OUT OF THE AS (231-321)

It's looking more and more like this will be the first round before the culling. So, we'll see how far above 2007 we get before something's gotta give. I skipped a few albums that I'll have to revisit (like the American Primitives recordings), but I'm finally out of the As. I'm trying to do as much as possible now, while I'm taking breaks from tweaking the digitals on "The Game", because I don't know how sustainable this will all be once I've started pencilling again.

Anyway, here are the next contestants in the 2007 GREATEST POP SONGS list:

231. Trimmed and Burning Built To Spill Ancient Melodies Of The Future

Melodies is a strange album, a real departure for Spill. I think the fact that I'm trying to make sense of it still, points out its inherent weakness. Still, I think this song is pretty strong, and best accomplishes what the others set out to do.

232. And Justice For All Metallica And Justice For All
233. Eye Of The Beholder Metallica And Justice For All
234. The Shortest Straw Metallica And Justice For All
235. Harvester Of Sorrow Metallica And Justice For All
236. The Frayed Ends Of Sanity Metallica And Justice For All
237. To Live Is To Die Metallica And Justice For All
238. Dyers Eve Metallica And Justice For All

Libertarian ideals. A decrying of hypocrisy. An overwhelming persecution complex. A code of morality that seems to exist in a vacuum. An obsessive focus on details. A possible slip into insanity. In literature, we find these tendancies in Ayn Rand. In politics, John McCain. In comics, it's in Steve Ditko, Dave Sim, Frank Miller. In music, it's Metallica. Now, these personality traits aren't so bad that they prevent people from doing good work — in fact, many of the above have done some great work (well, not Rand), but these tendencies can overwhelm an artist. Justice is a great album, each track is actually better than the last, but it was also the begining of the end. Talent and craziness is great when combined with youthful energy, but craziness has more staying power than talent.

239. Everyday Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out

Don't expect any more Tengo on this list, any Guided by Voices, either. These ears have little patience or interest in indie-rock's damp darlings of dull. It would take something remarkable to sway me otherwise. This wierd, haunting song is pretty remarkable.

240. Angel In The Dark Laura Nyro Angel In The Dark
241. Triple Goddess Twilight Laura Nyro Angel In The Dark
242. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow Laura Nyro Angel In The Dark

Recorded in 1995(!), Nyro pulled a Cash/Dylan with a haunting final statement. Her version of Carole King's 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow', is the best I've ever heard, because she really doesn't think you will. I will, though.

243. Olive and Gray The Residents Animal Lover
244. What Have My Chickens Done Now? The Residents Animal Lover
245. Mr. Bee's Bumble The Residents Animal Lover
246. Inner Space The Residents Animal Lover
247. The Whispering Boys The Residents Animal Lover

Some bands fear treading into conceptual experimentation, The Residents ARE conceptual experimentation. These songs may not have been done by the people previously called The Residents. Or, maybe they were. Only their hairdressers know for sure. The anonymous band actually comes as close as I can see to writing popular music for this album, with a pretty straight-forward concept — love of animals. The first two are hysterical, the next two are great DANCE tracks, and the last is nice and weird.

248. Scientific Remote Viewing Cephalic Carnage Anomalies
249. Inside Is Out Cephalic Carnage Anomalies
250. Sleeprace Cephalic Carnage Anomalies
251. Ontogeny of Behavior Cephalic Carnage Anomalies

The weakest of grind-core/thrash jazz experimentalists' albums, Anomalies gets lost in overwhelming sameyness too often. These four songs, though, either allow more space around the everything-at-once aesthetic to let you really appreciate all-out terror they're providing, or just go so far into the speed/scream assault that they bring a tear to my eye, "That's ma boys." 'Inside Is Out''s first minute and a half is so creepy, that you beg them to unleash the insanity.

252. All I Really Want To Do Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
253. Spanish Harlem Incident Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
254. Chimes Of Freedom Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
255. To Ramona Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
256. Motorpsycho Nitemare Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
257. My Back Pages Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan
258. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan

Picking the best Bob Dylan songs is like picking the best blades of grass in a virgin field. Sure, it's easy enough to point out the bad sections, but choosing the best? Luckily, history has done most of the job for us. I'll do the rest, thank you.

259. Dancing With Myself Generation X Anthology (Disc 1)
260. Ready, Steady Go Generation X Anthology (Disc 1)
261. Day By Day Generation X Anthology (Disc 1)
262. Prime Of Kenny Silvers (Pt. 1 & 2) Generation X Anthology (Disc 1)

For GenX songs might be a bit generous, but 'Dancing' is one of my favorite tunes, the next are two of the songs I think of when I think of early punk and the fourth is the best Elvis Costello song he never penned.

263. Love Me Do The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 1)
264. Please Please Me The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 1)
265. I Saw Her Standing There The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 1)
266. She Loves You The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
267. Can't Buy Me Love The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
268. And I Love Her The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
269. A Hard Day's Night The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
270. I Wanna Be Your Man The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
271. I'll Be Back (Complete) The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)
272. Eight Days A Week The Beatles Anthology 1 (Disc 2)

I only have the Anthology versions of these songs, but early Beatles wasn't bad, was it?

273. Evil Interpol Antics

This is the third Interpol song on the list. I'll be surprised if anything but that couch song makes the final cut, but I've given in the the Interpol and their catchy stylings. And I'm almost ashamed. Almost.

274. Second Bad Vilbel Autechre Anvil Varpe
275. Second Peng Autechre Anvil Varpe
276. Second Scepe Autechre Anvil Varpe

To younger ears, Autechre's music might just sound like unrealised Radiohead songs from the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions. To older ears, they may sound like an even more mechanical Kraftwerk. It's hard to express the fundamental shift in my thought Autechre brought about in the mid/late 90s. All I had was an audio cassette Kenny had made for me containing some of the most textured electronic music I'd ever heard. Listening, as each song builds layer upon layer of deconstructed pop motifs, is an immersive and revealing experience.

277. By The Time I Get To Arizona Public Enemy Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black
278. Shut Em Down Public Enemy Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black
279. Bring Tha Noize (With Anthrax) Public Enemy Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black

It's nearly empirical, the degree to which A91 represents a downturn in quality for P.E. from their previous albums. And yet, 'Arizona' might be my favorite of their songs. A hiphop 'Southern Man', Chuck D has lyrical focus and a tight track to ride. "Shut Em Down' has a fantastic chorus and the Anthrax tagteam on 'Noise' is the stroke of genious.

280. I Palindrome I They Might Be Giants Apollo 18
281. She's Actual Size They Might Be Giants Apollo 18
282. My Evil Twin They Might Be Giants Apollo 18
283. Hypnotist of Ladies They Might Be Giants Apollo 18
284. Fingertips They Might Be Giants Apollo 18

Apollo 18 is TMBG's most commercially successful album, and possibly their best. The brilliantly wierd first four tracks are perfect pop tunes. How many songs are in 'Fingertips'? I don't know. It's a tribute to The Residents, and contains some of the best, shortest songs on wax.

285. Welcome To The Jungle Guns N' Roses Appetite For Destruction
286. Paradise City Guns N' Roses Appetite For Destruction
287. Sweet Child O' Mine Guns N' Roses Appetite For Destruction

Three of GNR's best songs were also the big singles and perfect pop-metal tunes.

288. Aqualung Jethro Tull Aqualung

The 'Lord of the Rings' of songs about creepy homeless men. Let that thought slither around your head for a while.

289. My Writes De La Soul Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
290. Ooooh De La Soul Feat. Redman Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump

The best songs De la's done since their peak, 'Writes' is solid while 'Ooooh' might be their best ever. Thanks, Redman!

291. Pull Up the People M.I.A. Arular
292. Galang M.I.A. Arular

Ok. I first wrote M.I.A. off as a Cibo Mato ripoff, but I've enjoyed these tunes more and more every time I've heard them. There's a lot more there than I once thought. I'm still unclear about the point of making unpopular songs about populism, or using political songs to sell iPods, but these sound like the revolutionary songs of the future, and I'll enjoy them long after that revolution never happens.

293. Ascension - Edition II John Coltrane Ascension
294. Little Rock Sonny Sharrock Ask the Ages
295. As We Used To Sing Sonny Sharrock Ask the Ages

I am no music expert. I can't talk about modality or the science of jazz, but I can appreciate something as stunning as Ascension. In a world populated by Monk, Davis and Coleman, Coltrane stands shoulder-to-shoulder in experimental free jazz. Ascension is like a map of several spiritual journeys that routinely dive into a confusing miasma of different alternative paths, each squeeking and squelching in a congestion of conflicting noise. I prefer the second version over the first, just because it seems like the musicians were ready to explore their solos a little more deeply. Sharrock has been called the Coltrane of the guitar, and the best moments of these songs capture his willingness to make music out of noise. The weakest moments come when he turns into Santana.

296. Folsom Prison Blues Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
297. I Still Miss Someone Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
298. Cocaine Blues Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
299. 25 Minutes To Go Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
300. The Long Black Veil Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
301. The Wall Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
302. Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
303. Jackson (With June Carter) Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
304. I Got Stripes Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
305. I Walk The Line Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
306. Starkville City Jail Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
307. San Quentin Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin
308. A Boy Named Sue Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison / San Quentin

Lacking an obsession with labyrinths, Johnny Cash is still probably the Jorge Luis Borges of popular music. His best songs are perfect short-story distillations of the outlaw lifestyle. When he sung them in prisons, in front of a prison audience, he recorded the definitive versions. Forget that lousy movie, the only stories you need to know about the Man in Black are the ones he carved out of myth and put to that single-mindedly driven music.

309. At The Speed Of Life Xzibit At The Speed of Life
310. Light Your Ass on Fire (feat. Pharrel) Busta Rhymes Attack of the Clones
311. Frontin' (feat. Jay-Z) Pharrel Attack of the Clones

Xzibit is at his best when he's introducing himself. He's almost always tight, but he soars when he emcees himself. Busta always shines when the music gets weird, and makes hits where others would be confused by the bat. 'Frontin' finds Jay-Z in fine form, excelling as he does over laid-back tracks. I like Pharrel on this, but he he really should have stopped once the joke was played out.

312. Pretty In Pink Automatic 7 Automatic 7

For some reason, I have New Brunswick's own Automatic 7 covering the Psychedlic Furs classic. I think it's because I like their stripped-down approach to the early Alt. hit. Do I like it better than the original? I honestly don't know. Huh.

313. Drive R.E.M. Automatic For The People
314. Try Not To Breathe R.E.M. Automatic For The People
315. Everybody Hurts R.E.M. Automatic For The People
316. Nightswimming R.E.M. Automatic For The People

I'm not sure this album aged as well as I thought it would have. And I wonder how colored my thoughts are due to over-play of the singles. 'Breathe' and 'Swimming' are like the non-singles versions of 'Drive' and 'Hurts' and I think the four of them are the strongest. I might feel different after more time has passed, but 'Man on the Moon' strikes me as a little too 'We Didn't Start the Fire' right now.

317. More Than This Roxy Music Avalon

Should I have gone with the Bill$ Murray version from the Year of Weird Covers? That wouldn't have held up. THIS does. What a great tune.

318. Back In Black AC/DC Back In Black
319. Ain't No Other Man Christina Aguilera Back To Basics [Disc 1]
320. Stop And Check Myself Al Green Back Up Train
321. Whats Yo Fantasy Ludacris Back 4 The First Time

The OTHER great AC/DC song. I think I'll leave 'Big Balls' for others to ponder. Xtina gives us the most recent song on the list. Is it TOO new? It's worth thinking about. It's pretty great. Why isn't 'Stop' on any of the Al Green greatest hits compilations I looked at? It's really good, and good advice to boots. 'Fantasy' is THE definitive Ludacris song: funny, sexual, limber and all about lick-lick-licking you from your head to your toes. THAT's his fantasy. Licking you. And it's my fantasy too.

And that takes us out of the A albums. Whew! What a RIDE. Luckily, the number of albums that start with either a number or the letter 'A' constitute about a ninth of the Fox library. We should move through the rest of the alphabet pretty quickly — probably until we get to 'T'.

So far, one recomendation for Blackstreet. 'No Diggity', I imagine. Of course, that one pre-dates the RULES. Also a recomendation of 'The Twist' by Chubby Checker, which seems like a given (actually, it was for Chuck Berry's 'The Twist', but I don't know that version).





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