I’ve been doing this project for a while now, starting in early 2009, listening to my earbuds as I wandered around the streets of London. When we started the Critical Masses, I started the project over with the idea to flesh out what I had already done, and learn even more about the music in my collection. Of course, I’m coming across some records that I don’t necessarily want or need to delve super deep into. So here I present five records that I’m skipping over for feature status, in Quick Take form.
I had a friend in college whose friend’s band tried to sound like Adorable, so of course I had to have Against Perfection, Adorable’s first record, to see what the fuss was about. (In fact I credit him more than anyone else with getting me into the UK shoegaze scene, as he pushed Catherine Wheel, Curve, Pale Saints, Slowdive, Lush, and the like on unsuspecting chumps like me.) In those days, I was just becoming the full-blown shoegaze enthusiast I am today. Gotta love the touchstones: heavily affected guitar, feedback, mic hiss, swirls of colorful noise – what’s not to love? Adorable don’t disappoint, although they skew poppier than their guitar-abusing brethren – not that there aren’t incendiary instants on the record. “Sunshine Smile,” “Homeboy,” and “Sistine Chapel Ceiling” are all good songs (“Homeboy” made the cut on a lot of college mixtapes), but this isn’t an album I come back to terribly often. I think part of it is that the singer sounds a bit like a watered-down Andy Falkous of Mclusky and Future of the Left fame – and anytime I’m listening to Adorable, I’d much rather be listening to Mclusky Do Dallas. Make sense?
This one’s an easy one – it’s crap. You know how the Beasties used to be a hardcore punk band in the early 80s? You know how they’ll toss off super-fast punk songs like “Tough Guy” (from Ill Communication)? Apparently in 1995 they had a hankering for those roots. It wasn’t a good hankering. I used to see this in the used bins quite a bit in the late 90s.
Has anyone else noticed how much filler there is on Beastie Boys records? Usually about half of an album is good, and the rest is filled with experiments, instrumentals, and punk blasts like the Aglio E Olio tracks. It kind of annoys me. They can be so good one minute, and awful the next. It’s a shame. But I guess the adage is true, old dogs, new tricks, etc. I don’t expect anything to change, so I will not raise any expectations to be let down.
“Airbag” is one of the best songs Radiohead has ever written, the way the disparate instruments coalesce together into an experimental pop gem is nothing short of genius songwriting. The snaky guitar leads throughout creep and crawl and then soar. It’s absolute magic. In fact, I’d argue it’s one of the best side 1/track 1 songs ever, an album opener unmatched. [Anybody agree/disagree? Hit the comments, suckas.] I also first purchased this when it initially came out, and at one point it even went out of print. I was psyched, actually, when that happened because I thought I’d have something fairly rare. It was not to be, as Airbag / How Am I Driving? has since been re-pressed. Anyway, it’s got some really good B-sides too, “Polyethyline Pts. 1 & 2” and “Palo Alto” being the highlights, the latter of which could easily have fit smack in the middle of an actual album. The quality of what Radiohead left on the OK Computer cutting room floor speaks to their ingenuity and creativity, but you already knew all that, didn’t you?
This is a live bootleg from the OK Computer tour. (It may even be before OK Computer came out, as there are only four songs from it featured: “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” “Climbing Up the Walls,” and “No Surprises.”) It sounds like it was recorded off the soundboard though, it’s really crisp and clear. The songs hew really closely to their album versions, so there’s not much variation. It’s interesting to hear the tracks out of sequence, in a good way for sure, as they feel just a bit different when juxtaposed against songs in an unfamiliar way. This was also recorded before Radiohead stopped playing “Creep” live as well, and the equally execrable “The Vegetable” from not-at-all-representative first album Pablo Honey also makes an appearance. A treat, though, as we get an excellent rendition of B-side “Talk Show Host” halfway through the set. The sound quality sets this recording apart, but it’s pretty unnecessary otherwise.
Every once in a (great) while I get on a little Nirvana kick because, let’s face it, they’ve released some real quality material. In the 1990s, Nirvana got super played out on radio and MTV, so much so that it became difficult to appreciate the deft songcraft and stellar noise freakouts. But you should really listen to them every once in a while. “All Apologies” is still a powerful song, and for those of you more familiar with the unplugged version, the original still rocks pretty hard, and that guitar melody is simple but incredibly catchy. “Rape Me,” not about what you think, is the barest blueprint for the quiet verse / LOUD CHORUS / quiet verse template (a characteristic that Kurt Cobain admittedly ripped from the Pixies – good thing he’s a master at it). And non-album track “Moist Vagina” (ugh) is still a pretty decent creeper, rhyming the title with “marijuana” by the end of the song. Gee, why did Geffen leave it off In Utero? K-Mart already wasn’t carrying it, who else were they going to alienate? Ah, who am I kidding – it’s a song better left on side B of this single.