November 11, 2007

91-99: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

91. Oasis - (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

If a band wants to pick a band to rip off, The Beatles are a better choice than most. You don’t have to be a virtuoso on your instrument, you don’t have to be a genius with your lyrics, and you don’t even have to enjoy your band mates’ company. All you need is love – and tunes. (Numerous Beatle references probably can’t hurt.) No band has ripped off The Beatles more blatantly than Oasis, so few have come as close to the early Beatles’ tunefulness. (Others are much more original about it.) Mind-sticking melodies + universal platitudes = this collection of cocksure classics.

92. Dave Matthews Band - Crash

I finally saw this band in concert, which means I saw them years too late. I really should’ve seen them in college or earlier, when I would’ve appreciated their jamming much more, instead of checking my watch on a work night. But at least I’m not sick of their songs anymore. In college, you see, their music was everywhere: every dorm room, every lawn, every open mic night in every campus coffeehouse... I never needed to play my copies, hearing everyone else’s every day. Now I can miss this band’s best work and hear it with fondness instead of dread.

93. Neil Young - Harvest

Reading reviews of Neil Young today, I’m struck by the claim that he almost sold out. What, because this album’s accessible, Young can’t be an iconoclast anymore? For someone who’s made a career out of changing, why wouldn’t this change also be acceptable? I don’t know, and I don’t care. It wouldn’t be the first time a "sellout" album spoke to me. I know I love the lyrics and melodies. I know I love how American it sounds, despite or because the artist is Canadian. I know I’d love to make such a statement, capturing the world in three-minute tunes.

94. The Who - Who’s Next

The best drum solo in all recorded history. The least cheesy use of a synthesizer ever. One of rock’s most famous screams. A cover with rock gods peeing on an obelisk. Yes, this album truly has it all. Despite or because it’s not a concept album, Who’s Next is more cohesive – and better – than Tommy. (Of course, at sixteen, I disagreed, vehemently.) Credit is due to Pete Townsend’s songcraft, which reaches its zenith on "Baba O’Riley," which pointedly articulates a strange "teenage wasteland." Exhibit A that words are overrated, but playing your heart out never, ever is. Play it loudly.

95. Hole - Celebrity Skin

"God, this guy has horrible taste. This shitty band appears on here twice? What about my favorite band? Or anyone more important than this? I’m sick of him praising this copycat crap. His stupid, indefensible, subjective beliefs... doesn’t he know how objectively they suck? I bet he’s gonna say he heard this in college, and its ‘bittersweet sound’ reminds him of something – emotions and feelings and homework and shit – or else he just likes it, you know? He likes it! I bet he’s not being contrarian either. He actually likes this shit unironically. This is something we have to debate."

96. Smashing Pumpkins - Adore

"Dude, we get it. You love the ‘90s. Since Billy’s the decade’s quintessential rock star, at least among those who didn’t die, you like him more than you can explain. Despite and because your moment has passed, you bought his comeback album, didn’t you? You claim to like it, but do you? Really? Isn’t it just a reclamation project, for Billy and you and everyone else, now that we’ve all moved on to other people – which, in your case, are quiet singer/songwriters? Thus, despite Adore’s techno touches, doesn’t it preview the stuff you like now? Quiet? Melodic? Wussy? It’s you!"

97. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication

"What, no Foo Fighters? Green Day? Sponge? Didn’t you mention The Toadies earlier? Weren’t you into Spacehog in college? I know you like to sing along – you’re probably a dork who likes to try to harmonize – so I guess this album is ‘perfect’ for that. I guess it’s loaded with ‘hummable tunes.’ I’m sure it reminds of you of people and places, since that’s what you seem to value in music, as well as its, I don’t know, ‘fiery fretwork,’ ‘lecherous grooves,’ and ‘lyrical gangsterdom.’

"You gave your game away too early. I’d write a poem, but you’d get surly."

98. Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On

Finally, an album that’s actually important, not just to me, but also to the world, as Marvin’s questions remain unanswered. What’s going on? Well, that one’s easy. War, greed, poverty, racism... the sorts of ills a pop song can’t cure. And that’s why Marvin’s asking why. If everyone knows what’s going on, why don’t we try to better this world? Why don’t we stop to listen to each other? If nothing else, we should listen to Marvin. Spreading love and soothing pain, Marvin’s voice comes close to breaking – all the hearts of everyone listening. Even his sighs convey the truth.

99. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

The newest and Dylan-est of all the "new Dylans," Conor Oberst transcends this lame shorthand. Sure, his band’s music is pure Americana, a mix of country, folk, and rock. Sure, he wields his pen like a sword, which actually makes his liner notes readable, to see if he really said what you heard. Dylan’s the best, but Conor’s just Conor, an artist who’ll inspire "new Conors" in the future. In a world of computers, he’s bringing wordplay back; you other troubadours don’t know how to act.

I still want someone to be the new me. Take that to the bridge.