November 11, 2007

21-30: Blood Sugar Sex Magic to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

21. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magic

This is for Fred, wherever he is.

Fred was artistic, zany, and fun. We’d sit around or drive around and talk about nothing – which, at the time, meant everything to us – playing this album over and over, rapping along to even the B-sides: raunchy tunes like “Sir Psycho Sexy,” whose every obscenity I still know by heart. If any two people can truly have a song, this whole album belonged to us.

But after graduation, we drifted apart. He’s married now, with a couple of stepkids. His sister says he’s found religion.

I wonder if he still knows the words.

22. Weezer - The Blue Album

After the death of Kurt Cobain, I turned to Weezer for songs I could sing. Nerds like me had a new favorite band. After my arrival at Truman State University, I couldn’t turn a corner without hearing Weezer. Liberal arts kids loved that shit. Was it the jokes? The glasses? The sweaters? The fact that the singer was going to Harvard? Throughout my life, I’ve envied Rivers Cuomo: his effortless way with a powerful chorus, his unironic love of a blistering solo, his total domination of a three-minute form. Today, I remain a student of songcraft. Weezer continues giving advice.

23. Hole - Live Through This

Hate the singer. Love the songs. I crave them more than almost any others. Unless you were born around 1979 – plus or minus, what, two years? – and you couldn’t care less about the idea of “authenticity,” you’re probably like, “Really? You like this piece of shit?” and I’m like, “Yes, goddammit, I do.” It reminds me of the years when women used to scare me, as Courtney Love screamed her version of the truth. In fact, it reminds me of the last time I played it – way the hell back in 2007 – when women still scared the bejesus out of me.

24. Pink Floyd - The Wall

Pop Quiz


9) I like double albums, including ones with films.

10) If the music’s good, I only want more.

11) I don’t believe in downloading singles.

12) Basically, I’m a musical dinosaur.

Choose Your Own Adventure

You are an intern for Spin magazine. Your boss is the hippest person you’ve ever met. Her two favorite genres are indie rock and techno. Unfortunately, a Pink Floyd tribute band is the only band you’ve seen so far in New York.

Do you write a review and reveal that you’re a poser – or not write anything for at all?

25. Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Another double album! Yes!!

Perhaps this album is overindulgent. Perhaps Billy Corgan’s voice is too shrill. Perhaps these lyrics suggest a troubled mind – yes, for the writer, but also for the listener. Still, I’d defend this album as a masterpiece: one whose messiness keeps it cohesive, one whose obtuseness makes it understandable. The biggest CD by my peer group’s biggest band. Song for song, the grandest statement. Track for track, the greatest value. So many singles, dazzling in their difference. So much emotion, all of it dark. Even the font enhances the spookiness. Basically, no, I wouldn’t change a thing.

26. R.E.M. - Automatic for the People

I wouldn’t say I love R.E.M. Although I like them, very, very much, I usually forget to list them as a favorite. I don’t obsess over Michael Stipe’s lyrics. I probably own less than half of their albums. When I think of R.E.M., I think of other people: former band mates (for just one summer), former co-editors (for one whole year), who worshiped this band and cherished this album, who played it so often I missed it when they stopped. “Sweetness Follows?” It surely did. The sweetest and saddest reminder of friends, of nostalgia they probably don’t know they inspired.

27. Metallica - The Black Album

Some of my favorite Metallica moments: Hearing this album for the first time in middle school, at a party in the basement of a girl I had a crush on. Learning the notes to “Nothing Else Matters,” as taught by exchange students from Spain and Brazil. Cruising through St. Louis with my friend from Vietnam, rocking out to Metallica, Megadeth, and Beethoven. Seeing a roadie on fire at a show. Discussing the album’s production in grad school, all of us agreeing, “It’s pretty much perfect.” Hearing “Enter Sandman” at a piano bar this year. Sharing Pat Boone’s version with everyone.

28. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers L.P.

The Marshall Mathers Poem

Marshall Mathers poses problems
“Stan” (with Dido!) can’t resolve ‘em
Killing Kim and Chris Kirkpatrick
Wack? Offensive? Stupid? Classic?

Baffling critics, gaffling gays
Mothers sued and mothers slayed
Truthfulness or total fiction?
Damn, the dude has crazy diction

Marshall Mathers, entertainer
Kept a lawyer on retainer

I cannot defend myself
Keeping Marshall on the shelf
In between the best CDs
Of Missy E. And Eric B.

Even though we rap along
Put another record on
Put another rapper on
Who won’t pretend to rape his mom

Marshall Mathers made a million
Making music for the children?

29. The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die

It took several years of (my) life after (his) death, but I finally understand why other rappers worship him. (I hate myself for dismissing him earlier.) It took several spins, but I worship him, too. (I hate the world for dismissing him early.) Believe the hype: Biggie Smalls is the illest, spitting with charm, charisma, and courage; spinning stories of shock and awww; mythologizing murder, mayhem, and Mom. I listen to Biggie like I watch Scorsese: savoring the stories, feeling the fiction, and disregarding my disbelief. Enter gangsta. Exit suburbia. (I’m Michael Bolton in Office Space, yo.) Vicarious villainy entertains everyone.

30. Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

This album features everything I want: Minds expanding. Boundaries breaking. Rhythm. Melody. Wordplay. Humor. Politics. Religion. Friendship. Family. Love. Loss. Life. Pain. Joy. Bitterness. Art. Creation. Pop songs. Love songs. Battles. Jokes. Truth. Realness. Honesty. Fantasy. Stanky funk to shake your booty. Bangin’ beats to bob your head. Dre and Big Boi, still together, pushing, pulling, challenging, changing, daring, dreaming, enlightening, embracing... Hip-hop’s Beatles, hip-hop’s White Album, hip-hop for haters, hip-hop for all... Songs about vampires, Valentines, roosters... Church and war and boom! Amen. This album features everything I need.

– Best Beatles Albums: No. 5
– Best Prince Albums: No. 1