Tuesday, October 17, 2006

399 to 350

399. Cocteau Twins

T: Call me a philistine, but the whole 4AD / dream pop aesthetic never connected with me. Liz Fraser does have a lovely voice though.

M: A brave combo in their time, when no one else was doing their sort of abstract ambience. Brought a crystalline beauty to the underground.

398. Marshall Crenshaw

T: I’d crawl over broken glass to hear his debut one more time… it’s that good. If you could marry Buddy Holly and the Beatles and top it off with a new wave sheen, you’d have the essence of Marshall Crenshaw.

M: Some people write good songs. Marshall Crenshaw writes perfect ones, and then he makes them into perfect recordings. If you bought his debut album and thought that was all you needed to know, do yourself a favor and pick up his sublime single-disc Best of, This is Easy. You will not regret it.

397. K.T. Tunstall

T: She symbolizes the anathema of the bland singer-songwriter that has dominated this countdown. This spot is awarded in absentia to Kelly Willis.

M: I saw a clip of her covering “Teenage Kicks” on youtube and developed a newfound respect, but if there’s ever been an example of the effect of recency on the countdown, this is it. I know it’s not her fault that people voted her ahead of Television, the Faces, the Modern Lovers, Gladys Knight, Devo and Neko Case, but it’s my job to point it out, because the Philly Inquirer says so.

396. Iggy Pop

T: While his seismic impact was with the Stooges, Iggy has never failed to be less than interesting and oftentimes thrilling – the turbo charged twin engine blast of 1977’s Lust For Life and The Idiot and the buoyant duet "Candy" with the B-52’s Kate Pierson, for example.

M: All hard ripped sinew and bad intentions, Iggy graduated from smack-addled goofball to godfather of an entire movement. “Lust for Life” isn’t just a song, it’s a manifesto.

395. Procol Harum

T: Love “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador”… Gary Brooker’s warm soulful vocals always hooked me… can anyone tell me which album showcases his vocals to maximum effect?

M: I’m hardly a PH scholar, but I’ve really grown to like them. Gary Brooker has the critical mass of soul to pull off a kind of music that would otherwise seem fussy to me.

394. Donovan

T: Full of fairies, mystics and flower power, Donovan’s template sounds like a recipe for disaster. But he amazingly pulled it off with a string of influential, massive late 60’s singles.

M: As far as hippie folk goes, he’s pretty entertaining, I suppose, but hippie folk only goes so far.

393. Blondie

T: The first punk band to court huge mainstream success, Blondie was just a good old fashioned rock group mixing r&b, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and punk’s burning intensity. Debbie Harry and her fishnets sealed the deal.

M: Pure, explosive fun, with massive pop sensibilities, and Chris Stein gave hope to geeks worldwide by getting the girl. Fred Smith quit this band to join Television, much to his broker’s discontent.

392. Levert

T: I know the name and that they’re scions of the O’Jay’s dynasty, but quite honestly their whole career escaped my notice. My bad.

M: I was so deep into the indies during Levert’s heyday that I all but missed it. But if Gerald’s work was half as good as his daddy’s, this spot is well-deserved.

391. George Clinton

T: Is there anyone that doesn’t love George Clinton? Sampling was invented for this guy. An American original… the Atomic Dog.

M: Imagine me, small-town Midwestern white boy encountering George Clinton for the first time. And LOVING it. It was like I found the chief of my tribe.

390. Dead Can Dance

T: Big deal… Trip Can Type.

M: Honestly, I’ve known their name forever, but do I know a single tune?

389. Paul Weller

T: The modfather who deserves all kudos sure to come for the Jam. But his solo work has been erratic… there are gems, but not enough to propel him onto this list.

M: I assume a lot of his votes were for lifetime achievement and not solo output, but from the elegant “You Do Something to Me” to the full-throttle rock of “From the Floorboards Up,” Weller has done little but add to his considerable legacy.

388. Amos Lee

T: C’mon… it’s an all time list. Love his cookies though.

M: Get back to me in ten years.

387. The Monkees

T: Most definitely. Didn’t write their stuff… didn’t stop Motown and the King. Made for TV… so what?. What matters is the songs… and these guys made plenty of great ones. The Monkees and More of the Monkees are essential listening.

M: I can hear the outcry from here, but really, when you hear a song, do you care who wrote it? Or who played on it? It makes no difference to me that the Kingsmen didn’t write “Louie, Louie” or that Aretha didn’t write “Respect,” and I don’t mind a bit that the Monkees didn’t write “I’m a Believer.” All I know is that there’s a string of crazy-catchy 45s out there with “The Monkees” printed prominently on the label.

386. Bryan Ferry

T: While Roxy was art rock camp, Ferry solo was mostly camp. Mannered, brooding vocals could only carry tepid interpretations so far.

M: Dear Mr. Ferry, thanks for helping guys like me get girls like that.

385. The Cranberries

T: A Crannberry raspberry.

M: They let it linger a little long for me, but like the sauce at Thanksgiving, I’m up for enjoying them once a year or so.

384. Little Richard

T: None of the rock and roll elders, not Elvis, not Chuck, not Fats, not Jerry Lee, ever got my heart pumping like those early Little Richard sides. The exuberance of those performances is peerless… what’s he doing way down here behind the Doobies?

M: The most wildly entertaining figure of rock and roll’s first decade, his hyper-kinetic songs still pack a wallop.

383. The Doobie Brothers

T: Ya know, if it wasn’t for the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald would have probably remained an in-demand session player. Damn you Doobie Brothers!

M: Remember when they appeared on a special episode of What’s Happening to teach Rerun a valuable lesson about the evils of surreptitiously recording performances by insufferably middle-of-the-road 1970s rock bands?

382. Stan Rogers

T: Love his thesaurus.

M: I know Fred Rogers, Paul Rodgers, Jimmie Rodgers and Rogers Daltrey and Waters, but I’m not acquainted with Stan.

381. Robert Cray

T: I’m not familiar with most of his work, but Strong Persuader was a turntable staple back in the mid-80’s.

M: Tasteful and economical where I like my blues vulgar and rowdy, but Strong Persuader is a classic no matter my biases.

380. Loreena McKennitt

T: Please tell me her and Enya didn’t both make this list.

M: A touch icy and distant for me.

379. Southern Culture on the Skids

T: Along with Mojo Nixon, Cowboy Mouth and other southern fried party boys, I like these guys in theory more than practice. A worthwhile night out though.

M: Barrel-of-monkeys fun, but a little too jokey to bear repeated listening.

378. Warren Haynes

T: Probably on this list for his work with the Allmans and Govt. Mule, his version of U2’s “One” is a stunner.

M: I assume he’s here for reasons other than that mangled version of the U2 song; if not, wait till they hear me tackle “An Cat Dubh.”

377. The Tragically Hip

T: Did Michael and I really make the list? Huzzah!

M: The Canadian Beatles, they reinforce my theory that one in three men from north of the border is named “Gord.”

376. Greg Brown

T: OK… well done Greg Brown fans. Did Gene Shay organize the write-in campaign?

M: Barring a miracle appearance by Slipknot, Brown should represent Iowa’s top place on the countdown.

375. Primus

T: You can’t fathom how much I hope never to hear Primus again.

M: Has a certain surface appeal in a live setting, but the showy playing and one-dimensional jokes wear fast on record.

374. Peter Himmelman

T: Himmelman stands apart from the many faceless singer-songwriters that dot this countdown with his burning passion and bittersweet odes. As goofy and entertaining as they come in concert.

M: It sucks for Himmelman that goofs like me are more aware that he’s Bob Dylan’s son-in-law than we are of any of his music. But obviously, there are plenty of people who dig his work for him to rate this high.

373. Billie Holiday

T: Do you need any more evidence than “God Bless The Child” and the haunting “Strange Fruit”? She’s like a genre to herself.

M: Her beauty comes from a strange, dark place, and her intensity – always understated – can be almost too much to bear. Though she may be oft-imitated, nobody else sounds like Billie Holiday.

372. Bette Midler

T: How many times have I told you – Midler has it all over Holiday? Sheesh.

M: I like her shtick as much as the next straight, Midwestern man, and I’ll always appreciate that she helped Marshall Crenshaw earn a nice paycheck, but I’m not much for cabaret, and that’s where the best of her musical artistry lies.

371. Buzzcocks

T: Great name, amazing band… they were able to combine gigantic melodic hooks with buzzsaw guitars and that distant oh-oh background harmony. A perfect pop band. I love ‘em.

M: The number of stone-classic singles they produced in their initial three-year run is staggering. Pete Shelley was a punk rock Cole Porter.

370. Toad the Wet Sprocket

T: They had their moments… but what are they doing here? As George’s old girlfriend says to Jerry about his standup “It’s just so much fluff”.

M: If you’re going to name your band after a Monty Python bit, shouldn’t you do your best not to be a bore?

369. Blink 182

T: Laugh if you want… but they’re not half bad. On the other hand, just laugh.

M: If you voted for the band at 369 and have never heard the band at 371, buy Singles Going Steady, listen, and laugh at yourself hysterically.

368. Alice Cooper

T: I love it when scourges of our culture turn out to be golfers. There’s no denying the menace and brilliance of the early stuff though.

M: Everyone remembers the show, but when Alice was a band and not just a man, they had songs to burn.

367. Matthew Sweet

T: Girlfriend. Yeah… it’s that good. The songs are there but the twin guitar attack of Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd made it sizzle.

M: Sweet’s album Girlfriend is like Brady Anderson’s 50 home run season. He never approached such staggering heights before or after, and everyone wonders whether some kind of artistic steroids were in play.

366. John Gorka

T: A sturdy craftsman whose warm baritone is a personal favorite… I Know is a new-folk classic. He’s from New Jersey.

M: Another of your local heroes, I know (and like) the “New Jersey” song.

365. Violent Femmes

T: I’m a sucker for Gordon Gano’s adenoidal whine and those first three records are chock-a-block full of manic, minimal teen angst.

M: Back in my college days, “Add it Up” gave us an excuse (like we needed one) to shout obscenities in public, and “Blister in the Sun” (“I’m high as a kite . . .”) gave the Thetas an excuse (like they needed one) to have a party.

364. Marillion

T: Prog rockers of the world unite! Bad omen of things to come.

M: Most of my exposure to Marillion (and to lentils) came through Neil, the sad hippie on the great Brit-com The Young Ones.

363. Delbert McClinton

T: Nice and greasy, it’s always a treat to hear Delbert on the radio.

M: Pure comfort boogie.

362. Tears for Fears

T: I didn’t pay them much mind when they were happening, but their sophisticated, lush pop sounded good on the radio.

M: I don’t think the music has worn that well, but still a pleasant diversion.

361. Harry Chapin

T: I hate to speak ill of such a great humanitarian, but what I’ve heard from Harry Chapin was overwrought and didactic.

M: Always seemed a bit ham-fisted to me, but “Cats in the Cradle” makes me want to give Teek’s dad a big hug.

360. Nick Lowe

T: Pure Pop For Now People. Jesus of Cool. One album, two titles… take your pick, they both fit.

M: He wrote “So it Goes,” “Cruel to be Kind,” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” which qualifies him for the songwriters hall of fame, and he named an album Bowi in response to David Bowie’s Low, which qualifies him for his Jesus of Cool status.

359. Deep Purple

T: In retrospect, possibly the template for Spinal Tap. And who needs to hear “Smoke on the Water” again? But in the midst of it, Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head rocked me like a hurricane.

M: I admire any band brave enough to name itself after a Donny Osmond tune.

358. Moe

T: Curly. Whattya lookin’ at, porcupine?

M: Poor dude falls for the “I need Amanda Kissenhug” gag every time.

357. The Subdudes

T: A nice R&B stew, splintered with a little funk and some N'awlins home cooking, the boys are a winning combination.

M: The band named themselves the way the play their brand of Louisiana soul. Goes down easy.

356. Curtis Mayfield

T: Soul man extraordinaire whose socially conscious songs seem to resonate in any era. “People Get Ready” indeed.

M: Absolute, pure genius who expedited the evolution of soul music. If you need a place to jump into the catalog, try Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions, The Anthology, 1961-1977. Move on up!

355. Husker Du

T: An unexpected blast from the heartlands, Husker Du were indie rock pioneers. Mixing a hardcore attack with undeniable pop smarts, they paved the way for numerous pale imitators.

M: A total minority opinion here, but I’ve long thought that Bob Mould’s talent often overwhelmed the other two guys; still, this was a glorious band.

354. X

T: The gloriously ragged yin/yang and teetering on the edge of collapse harmonies of John Doe and Exene, the pulverizing staccato riffs of Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake’s big beat combined to make X the quintessential American band of the 1980s.

M: The kind of punk rock that could only have been made in the west, drawing on the wide open spaces rather than NYC’s claustrophobia. It’s no surprise that after emerging as LA’s great punk band, they became Americana pioneers. And what guy didn’t want to be Billy Zoom, just for a minute?

353. Bee Gees

T: I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the Bee Gees. I love their sweet, lush 60’s pop hits (“Words”, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message to You”, “To Love Somebody”) and loathe their Saturday Night Fever hits.

M: Saturday Night Fever made them a fortune, but also skewed the perception of a band that cranked out a staggering number of first-rate pop songs. Luckily, it also suppressed the memory of the Sgt. Pepper’s disaster.

352. Brandi Carlile

T: From Kobe’s prom date to 352nd on the all-time list… quite a ride, young lady.

M: Brandi, you’re a fine girl, what a good act you could be, but your place on this list’s a tra-ves-ty.

351. Soundgarden

T: The new Led Zep? Nirvana was the real deal, but they wrought bands like this. No thanks.

M: So out of step with the times, they helped usher in a new era. The first time I heard them I thought “why would anyone try to bring back Black Sabbath?” Of course, now the answer is obvious: Why wouldn’t they?

350. Peter, Paul and Mary

T: These guys make Belle and Sebastian sound like Metallica. Time has not been kind to their catalogue.

M: Staples of the PBS fund drive, they have the sort of non-threatening appeal that allows parents to mistakenly believe they seem cool to their children. But cool or not, I’m rarely sad to hear “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.”


jrobs7777 said...

That is "Amanda Hugandkiss" -- but close enough.

Basia said...

Soo.... Which Doobie you be?

Becky Boydston said...

Brandy Norwood was Kobe's prom date not Brandi Carlile

blue_94_trooper said...

Becky, are you sure?

Becky Boydston said...

Look at Brandy's Wikipedia entry in the trivia section
"Kobe Bryant went with her to the high-school prom, right before Kobe entered the draft."
Here is Brandi Carlile's website
I saw her perform at XPNs All About the Music Festival this past summer and she was quite good. Not a travesty.