Thursday, September 11, 2008

Now With 5% More List: 55-51

This stretch of the list is packed to overflowing with mopey Brits and folksy middle-Americans, which, if you threw in a Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin record, is pretty damn indicative of my pop/rock collection. Here goes:

55. The Cure -- Disintegration (1989)

This week, I’m writing my own thoughts about these records, but this negative review on Amazon was too good not to share. It’s written by someone who goes by “Janitor X” and claims to live in “The Mountains,” so it has to be good. Take it away, Janitor:

Asking me to listen to the Cure or U2 is like asking me whether I would like to be shot in the gut or kneecaps. "Disintegration" is nothing but a 71 minute and 42 second pity party. Heavily laced with cheesy '80's synthesizers, the music and vocals are so fragile it's sure to induce nausea at least. ... It's not [sic] dark and gloomy album but rather a pathetic opus. Dark and gloomy is murder, suicide, and child molestation, not universal life experiences. Middle class anxieties and broken relationships are not heavy emotions; it's normal life experience. ... It’s [sic] surprised they don't whine about hangnails and bad parking spots. The cherry on top of this sunday [sic] is Robert Smith's voice. If his pathetic whining voice is not the most annoying thing recorded, I don't know what is. How anybody could stand it for more than five minutes is a mystery. There are not enough words to describe how awful the complete waste of time called "Disintegration" really is. Horrible, disgusting, nasty, wretched, and atrocious doesn't even to begin to describe the listening experience.

54. Wilco -- A.M. (1995)

I think that Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are fine albums, but I also think people go a little too nuts for Jeff Tweedy. He’s good at making a pastiche of his influences, and he’s a solid songwriter, but he also leaves me a little cold. Maybe it’s my problem. Or maybe I just don't feel like I love him as much as I should. After all, he’s on my list here and in other places (even later in this same post) -- between all of his bands and projects, he prominently contributed to four of my favorite 100 records. On Wilco’s debut, A.M., he hadn’t yet set his sights on being his generation’s Brian Wilson. He was still mining the alternative-country sound that he helped pioneer in Uncle Tupelo. The record is full of clever lines, like “I just can’t find the time to write my mind the way I want it to read,” and “we used to have a lot of things in common, but you know now we’re just the same.” Its music is more lilting and pastoral than the grinding sound that fellow songwriter Jay Farrar seemed to prefer in Uncle Tupelo. As much as I love Tweedy’s prior band, I’m not sure you would call their music “charming,” but it’s a word that fits A.M..

53. Billy Bragg & Wilco -- Mermaid Avenue (1998)

There aren’t enough good ideas like this one. Nora Guthrie took lyrics left unused by her father, Woody, and approached the British singer Billy Bragg, who has a long history of social conscience in his music. Bragg approached Wilco, and the rest is history. Including vocals from Natalie Merchant on a couple of tracks, these songs are rollicking (“Walt Whitman’s Niece”), gentle (“Ingrid Bergman”), and disappointed (“One By One”) by turns. It never feels like the gimmick it could have been. It sounds like Bragg and Wilco were making songs together in a basement somewhere for a long time and emerged with the best of the bunch. They released a sequel that wasn’t as consistent, but this first effort is both worthy and fun.

52. Morrissey -- Bona Drag (1990)

This solo album represents almost no drop-off from the best work of The Smiths, which is saying something. Here is Morrissey’s London, giddy London, with its hairdressers on fire, ouija boards, and interesting drugs. And of course, its desolate, soul-draining satellites:

Hide on the promenade,
etch a postcard:
"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here"
In the seaside town
that they forgot to bomb
come, come, come nuclear bomb

51. Jayhawks -- Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995)

Let me write this review in a way that a good friend of mine will understand and appreciate:

If you want to capture the feeling of this record, but you can’t find a copy, here’s what you do instead: Rent a car -- American-made, with some miles on it -- just south of Pittsburgh. Drive it down through West Virginia and into the Blue Ridge Mountains. While you’re down there, maybe in western Virginia or North Carolina, fall in love with a girl. Get back in the car (with the girl) and head for the midwest. Take in a few minor league baseball games. Settle down. Start a family. Maybe in Omaha, maybe Wichita. Wistfully watch your children as they fall asleep at night. Play catch with them in the yard. Go ahead and barbecue a little. Let the smell of smoke from the grill remind you of when you were a kid, bicycling through your Middle American neighborhood, filled with peace and promise and a premature nostalgia. When both you and your wife soon grow dissatisfied, take a road trip (alone) to California. Drive up and down the coast a few times. Start missing everyone, but keep driving until you really miss them. At this point, you might want to actually pick up a copy of the record. Pop it in the car stereo, and drive across breezy, sun-dappled highways back toward home, listening to “Blue” and “I’d Run Away” and “Over My Shoulder” and “Two Hearts,” and arrive on the porch around dinner time, crying and ready.



Blogger Dezmond said...

Love that Cure album. Wondering why you haven't seen it on my list? It's coming. That Wilco record is the only one of theirs that I really love (well, I also really like A GHOST IS BORN). I too have Treedy fatigue. The MERMAID AVE. record? Really? It is a pleasant diversion and a neat idea, but nothing more. Dig the Morrissey pick. I never got into the Jayhawks. They do what they do well, but it is just that I've heard others do it much better.

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

"Bona Drag"'s a singles compilation though, or is everything eligible?

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Kintel Williamson said...

That review of The Jayhawks album was pure gold -- especially because the album itself should only be listened to in a moving car, preferably with the windows open and not in the rain.

One fact about the Morrissey album that may be of interest to nobody else on earth: I think the title is in Polari, a language used by gay Britons in the mid-20th century. [That is not a joke: the fact may be wrong, but Polari existed.]

10:13 PM  

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