Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This Must Be The Night

I do love rock and roll. Every inch of it (except the part where songs stretch past the four minute mark – sorry Ed). Last night the love was mutual. The Hold Steady were in town for the annual coronation of “greatest band in the world”, spurred on by almost universal critical acclaim and the buzz of the most hotly anticipated club show in recent memory. They did not disappoint.

The Hold Steady have done the impossible – taking hoary classic rock conventions and making them feel fresh again. Why pay $200 to see The Who in a hockey rink - $12 gets you up close and personal with The Hold Steady at Philadelphia's North Star Bar. They may claim the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Bad Brains and The Descendents as influences, but I hear Thin Lizzy’s guitar attack, Jim Steinman’s pseudo-rock operatic lyrics, Graham Parker’s snarled vocals, Springsteen’s fervor and even echoes of Boston (I swear on “Banging Camp” there’s a short guitar break that could have come right off Boston’s first record). So that’s where they’re coming from… why should you care?

Because The Hold Steady believe and they make you believe you too. Last night’s show should be a primer for all the mopey indie and dour alt country bands whose performance evinces nothing but clock watching and beer runs. Hurtling out of the gate with Boys And Girls in America’s opener “Stuck Between Stations”, it was apparent – this must be the night. The set list was heavy on B&GIA tracks but they even reached back (all the way to 2004!) for “The Swish” and show closer “Killer Parties”. Highlights included… every single song! But I especially liked the bass player throwing one dollar bills into the audience, Tad Kubler’s full catalogue of drunken classic rock riffs (dude’s a monster), the pogoing and shit eating grin of keyboardist Rollie Fingers (he uses the ultra cool stage name of Franz Nicolay), and the expert mechanic / drummer Bobby Drake holding it all together.

Besides Tad K.’s wall of guitar, what really separates The Hold Steady from the pack is the sung-spoke stream of consciousness lyrics, Craig Finn’s dead on character sketches of the man/child teenage decadence we’ve all struggled through. Dropping literary and pop culture references throughout places these songs in a specific time and place – right now. His spastic dancing (you almost feel sorry for him) and unbridled enthusiasm make him more compelling than he’s got any right to be. He’s got Springsteen’s absolute commitment to the moment. But unlike Bruce, guys feel they could actually snatch the girl away from Craig Finn. It makes him seem even more accessible, even more likeable. He’s early Elvis Costello, except instead of being misanthropically angry, he’s almost inhumanly upbeat.

There’s a moment in “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” where Craig Finn sings “She’s got the black ink and it’s scratched into her lower back / It said: “damn right I’ll rise again” / Yeah damn right you’ll rise again”. For me, that was last night’s most euphoric moment as I pogoed like a teenager (vertical leap – one inch) but more importantly felt like one. And isn’t that what the best rock and roll does – makes you feel like you can conquer the world. Bringing the joy back to rock and roll… one bar at a time.

Can’t wait for the college years.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Alphabet Project

Dear friends, welcome to our newest recurring feature, as we work through the alphabet, one letter at a time. We begin, appropriately enough, with A, each selecting our favorite songs from artists that begin with that letter, and commenting on each tune. Only one song per artist, we must have the song in our collection, and all of the songs must fit on a single compact disc. The two proprietors of this joint will then exchange discs, and each will laugh uncontrollably about how the disc he made is far superior to the one he received.

Trip’s Picks:

1. Aerosmith – “Draw The Line” – From the time my brother and I saw them for 94 cents at the Tower Theatre in May 1974, I knew these guys were for me. Joe Perry’s a monster, but Steven Tyler’s high pitched screech on the last verse gives me laryngitis every time.

2. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long” – I recently heard this song for the one billionth time and I’m still amazed by its greatness, its brilliance undimmed by familiarity. The one song guaranteed to get me on the dance floor (course that’s not necessarily a good thing).

3. Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” – Great 1971 AM fodder… and a last day of school staple at my house for the last 18 years. Remember when Alice Copper was subversive?

4. Asexuals – “World On Your Shoulders” – “Contemplating suicide / Don’t you know you’re gonna die”… thus opens this pop-punk anthem with gang vocals that I first heard on WXPN in the early 90’s. I’ve not heard of the band since.

5. The Animals – “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” – Teen angst never sounded good – especially with Eric Burdon’s freakishly great soulful vocals.

6. The Alarm – “The Stand” – Back when big hair was good, this song inspired my brother’s band name. Would you think less of me if I told you I preferred the Alarm to U2? That’s cool – I can take it.

7. The A’s - “Words” – Local pop punk heroes actually had 2 major label (Arista) releases. While the production sounds dated now, I loved them then, especially live.

8. Art Brut – “Good Weekend” – A current fave, it’s inclusion is owed to the giggles it elicits from my son and his pals every time this little couplet is sung – “I’ve seen her naked… twice / I’ve seen her naked…TWICE!!

9. Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” – Just so you don’t think I’m a total geezer… this song is one my favorites this year. Don’t write these guys with the horrible name off – I think they might be the real deal.

10. Alley Cats – “Puddin ‘N’ Tain” – One of Phil Spector’s earliest productions, this doo wop classic literally has it all. Music this joyous should never go out of style.

11. Abba – “Waterloo” – Yeah it’s obvious. And yeah, throw me in with all the other pseudo-hipsters that dig Abba. Ear candy and eye candy… yum.

12. The Archies – “Sugar Sugar” – The first 45 I ever bought (the second was “A Boy Named Sue”) – this song has held me in its sway for 37 years. I was crushed when I found out The Archies were not a real group.

13. Murray Attaway – “No Tears Tonight” – Lead song on Guadalcanal Diary frontman’s only solo record. Great pop songwriting – and “Under Jets” and “Walpurgis Night” are no slouches either.

14. Ryan Adams – “New York, New York” – From the uneven Gold, this song is a sweet, rollicking, lovelorn paean to a lost love and city.

15. Eric Ambel – “Forever Came Today” – Roots rock jack of all trades, Ambel’s Roscoe’s Gang is a great Saturday night record. This country pop pleaser shows his sweet twang off to maximum effect.

16. Gregg Allman – “I’m No Angel” – This shiny little pop gem is hardly the best example of Gregg Allman’s world weary soulfulness, but damn I love this song.

17. Allman Brothers – “Blue Sky” – Yeah I know I’m missing the point with the Allmans, but this Dicky Betts tune is gorgeous and at over 5 minutes, my attention doesn’t even wander.

18. Terry Allen – “Amarillo Highway” – I’ve never been to the West Texas panhandle, but after one listen to this song I felt like I had been. Part of the whole Joe Ely / Butch Hancock / Jimmie Dale Gilmore conclave, his 1979 album Lubbock (On Everything) is a buried treasure.

19. Dave Alvin – “Border Radio” – Mixing the love of radio and the pain of immigration separation, Dave Alvin’s ache could be understood in any language.

20. Arthur Alexander – “Every Day I Have To Cry” – Rooted as much in country as R&B, this song’s solemn lament will break your heart every time. Classic.

21. Aztec Camera – “The Birth of the True” – From the underappreciated Knife, this acoustic folk-pop is Roddy Frame’s best. For five years, I found a way to include this song on just about every mix tape I made.

22. Louis Armstrong – “When The Saints Go Marching In” – A sentimental choice, as my beloved Saint Joseph’s Hawks fight song is “When the Hawks Go Flying In”, sung to this tune. GO HAWKS!!

Michael’s Picks:

Let me preface this by saying that this was Trip’s idea, and it’s hard. And I’m sure I’m going to make some terrible omissions, especially songs by acts that show up on various artists compilations, thus defying the quick alphabetical scan of the CD shelves. With all the normal disclaimers, here’s my list, in alphabetical order.

Abba, “Does Your Mother Know.” This is not actually my favorite Abba tune (that would be “Knowing Me, Knowing You”), but it provides the best opportunity for me to humiliate myself for your pleasure. In 1979, at age eleven, I was blissfully unaware that disco was approaching a hazy, hedonistic death, or that it had become painfully uncool. And so, I would faithfully trek to my small college town’s discotheque on Sundays for Teen Night (technically, I was too young, but none of us were old enough to have IDs), in my white poly pants to sample the finest in non-alcoholic beverages and get down with some of central Illlinois’s finest pre-pubescents. And this song – a cautionary tale of an underage girl who hangs with older men at discos – knocked me out week after week and catapulted me on to the dance floor.

ABC, “Poison Arrow.” If the Monkees had been made to mimic Roxy Music and not the Beatles, they would have been this band, who made their mark at the point where bubblegum meets glam.

AC/DC, “Back in Black.” A masterpiece of flat-out funky heavy metal, with the underappreciated Malcolm Young taking his star turn on some of the crunchiest rhythm guitar ever captured on tape.

Action Figure Party, “Clock Radio.” I go for this sort of slick pop-jazz-funk-groove music, and I think this is one of the best examples of the form.

Ryan Adams, “Harder Now That It’s Over.” From Gold, the album that pairs Adams’s trademark ambition with some welcome restraint, this heartbreaker showcases his best as a writer and a singer, leaving me wanting more, where he often leaves me wanting less.

Aerosmith, “Back in the Saddle.” I love how this song revs up and then explodes. Pure adrenaline rush.

Afghan Whigs, “Debonair.” From the devastating Gentlemen album, this song is the perfect mesh of Greg Dulli’s punk rock and Motown fetishes (the opening vamp and handclaps are pure Temptatons), rendered from a disturbingly dark point of view.

Arthur Alexander, “Solider of Love.” Alexander is a nearly forgotten giant of early rock and roll, and Marshall Crenshaw covered this song virtually note for note, tacitly acknowledging that it couldn’t be improved upon.

The Allman Brothers Band, “Hot ‘Lanta.” A rockin’ Allman Brothers original from the epic Fillmore East live disc, it distills the band’s essence down to five minutes and twenty seconds, a length ideal for this exercise.

Amadou & Mariam, “Les Temps Ont Change.” Insistent, percolating West African pop, with jumping polyrhythm and Amadou Bagayoko’s razor sharp vocals and guitar.

American Music Club, “Apology for an Accident.” The first band to be my band after the demise of the Replacements, this sad-sack group of melancholy rockers ultimately proved to be profoundly depressing to comprise the center of my listening habits for long, but Mark Eitzel’s senses of melody, humor and futility fit me to a T during the early 1990s. I could have picked a half-dozen songs off the Mercury album, but this one – with the immortal line, “I’ve been praying a lot lately because I no longer have a TV” – seems to capture the essence of the band better than any of them.

Trey Anastasio, “Cayman Review.” A funky strut deeply rooted in the Little Feat school of jam rock, it is far and away my favorite thing that he has ever done, with or without his more famous band.

The Apples in Stereo, “The Bird that You Can’t See.” Sing-along, clap-along modern power pop capable of providing a sustained sugar high, I can’t hear it without thinking of the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

Archers of Loaf, “Web in Front.” The only song I particularly care for from this Chapel Hill, NC collective also happens to be one of my favorite tunes ever, all insanely catchy melody braced by punk-fuzz guitar and topped with surrealist lyrics. It also features one of my all-time favorite lines: “You’re not the one who let me down, but thanks for offering.”

Arctic Monkeys, “Riot Van.” The least rocking tune on the year’s most heavily hyped album, it’s also the one that establishes, without doubt, that these guys have the goods, as they make idly shuffling drunkenness sound positively poignant.

Arrested Development, “People Everyday (Metamorphosis Mix).” This is a bonus track on the debut album that was showered with praise upon its release, but which seems not to have held up so well over time. A loose-limbed funky reworking of one of Sly Stone’s biggest hits, “People Everyday” sets my head to bobbin’ every time.

Art Brut, “Formed a Band.” OK, I confess, I snuck a peek at Trip’s picks and changed my selection of “Good Weekend” to this tune, the irony-heavy lead track on Art Brut’s debut, an irony-heavy album that rocks the Cockney at full throttle. “We’re going to be the band to write the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along.” If only it were that easy. In this song, at least, it is.

The Avalanches, “Frontier Psychiatrist.” A delightfully loopy piece of aural collage, these guys take dozens (or hundreds, or thousands) of found sounds and turn them into something that may or may not be hip hop (think DJ Shadow) with snippets of film dialog that tell the sordid tale of a boy who may or may not be losing his mind.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Some days it pays to get off your ass.

Thursday was a gray day… from the darkened skies and pouring rain to dealing with yet another layoff at my company. So I was on the fence for Thursday night’s Plimsouls’ show at the North Star (9 pm start, 4 bands, late night) but hoping to rally some support from a group of five that a few weeks earlier all said they’d be going. First… Jon bails, then Frank (wife away), then Pat’s sick and Angelo’s usual excuses. So I tried a boardie but to no avail. No takers. I get home at a decent time (a treat in itself), have dinner with the family, do homework with my son, then we read a half hour together (him Matt Christopher, me the Daily), then we watch Ugly Betty, put my son to bed, watch Grey’s Anatomy, chat with my wife about the day and upcoming weekend plans, put my wife to bed and by now it’s 11:00. Go or no go? I’m going – it’s the Plimsouls! They never play Philly.

Quick trip in the city and I get to the North Star just in time to snag a spot in the parking lot right behind the club (I don’t think I’ve ever timed it right to actually get a spot in this lot before – good omen # 1). I asked the guy if he was leaving and then asked if he knew what band was up. He says his band just played and that the third band (of four) will start soon. Sorry for missing your set, Nixon’s Head dude.

As I enter the club, there’s no doorman. So it’s a free show from now on, people (good omen # 2). The third band turned out to be the Parallax Project, a nifty little Yellow Pills-ish combo from Harrisburg that wore the mid-60 Kinks and Elvis Costello influence proudly on their sleeves (good omen # 3). Highlights included “Whole Different Mary”, set closer “To The Moon” plus cool covers of the Faces “Glad and Sorry” and the Kinks “Situation Vacant”. Cool stuff.

The Plimsouls came on at 12:20 (yeah I was clock watching at this point) and tore into Everywhere At Once' s “How Long Will It Take” (good omen # 4) at break neck speed. Two guitars, bass and drums can make quite a glorious racket, can’t they? From there they did just about everything you wanted to hear – including “Great Big World”, “Zero Hour” “Oldest Story in the World”, “Everywhere At Once”, “Everyday Things” and the timeless “A Million Miles Away”. They also threw in the Kinks’ “Come On Now” and the Easybeats “Good Times”. My only beef – no “When You Find Out”… but that’s a small quibble and not really a Plimsouls song. The band sounded 1983-ish great as guitarist Eddie Munoz tossed off power chords, tough as nails bassist Dave Pahoa (who looked like he could take you out back and beat your ass) added rough harmonies and Peter Case drove the whole thing forward with the enthusiasm of someone half his age. As the set wore on, the years and extra pounds seemed to melt away… and by 1:30 it was over. Sometimes you can go home again.

But where was everybody? Including members of opening bands members, merch girl ("the lovely Sue"), sound guy and bartender - there were 34 people in the crowd during the fourth song "Everyday Things" as I went to the bar to get another beer. How can that be? Next time you’re thinking of going to a show…GO!

Some times it pays to get off your ass.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Trip saw these guys last night and says they were the best band playing anywhere in America. So where's the review of the show?

Friday, November 10, 2006

An artist who just missed the cut

Meet the Average Homeboy, who I like to think of as artist 886. Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Artist number 758

Teenage Kicks' house band: The Hold Steady

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Artist number 387 (sort of)

Davy Jones takes his solo turn on the Brady Bunch. For the Monkees in their full glory, click here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Artist number 1


Sunday, November 05, 2006


As those who have been reading Teenage Kicks over the past few weeks may have noticed, we, ahem, disagreed with some of the selections on the XPN list of 885 All-Time Greatest Artists. And we were mortified at some of the exclusions. Note to world: Anyone who thinks that Jason Mraz is better than Solomon Burke should burn his or her CD collection and start over. In an effort to correct the historical record, each of us will now present his own list of the Ten Most Obscene Omissions from the countdown. Feel free to add your own list in the comments.

Trip’s Picks:

10. Jesse Malin – Once I get through converting everyone I know to Hold Steady fans, Jesse Malin is next. He gets at least one thumb up, waaaaay up, from Teenage Kicks. If you never saw Springsteen in a club or theater show, relax, you’ve got a chance to make up for it. Jesse Malin is the best club show going, delivering rock fervor mixed with radio ready mini-classics. He believes and you should too. Next time he plays in your town… ya gotta be there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

9. Mink DeVille / Willy DeVille – Rising out of the CBGB punk scene, Willy DeVille’s heart belonged to Ben E King’s Spanish Harlem and New York’s doo wop street corners. Taking punk’s energy and mixing it with classic soul songwriting, Mink DeVille were cooler than cool. And who doesn’t swoon for “Storybook Love”, the title track from greatest movie ever The Princess Bride?

8. Peter Case – From the raucous power pop of the Plimsouls to the hobo folk of his first two solo classics, on to folk blues and now storied troubadour, Peter Case makes my heart ache – for the beauty of his songwriting and for the criminal neglect of his career. Let’s all meet at the North Star 11/16 and pay tribute.

7. Slade – Rock so simple, mindless and brilliant as to make Kiss seem like Gnosis Project favorites. Play It Loud.

6. The Rave Ups – Are they one of the greatest 885 artists of all time? Maybe, maybe not. But three sterling records of alt country rock made them one of my absolute favorites. Jimmer Podrasky is the best songwriter nobody knows. Small tales of losers and fraying relationships sung in a smart ass drawl will suck you in and until you realize the phenomenal hooks have been permanently imbedded. If memory serves, their masterpiece The Book of Your Regrets was, at the time, Epic Records all time worst seller. Leave a note here and I’ll gladly send you a copy of my Rave Ups burn… it’s killer.

5. Jackson Five – Seeing a 10 year old Michael Jackson sing “I Want You Back” on the Ed Sullivan show in 1969 was one of the pivotal moments of my musical life. The opening burst of that song says more about rock and roll than anything I could write. Listen to the Jackson Five’s Greatest Hits today… you deserve it.

4. Jason & The Scorchers – Like Joe Ely, it’s the live shows that leave their mark. The first song I heard was the scorching cover of Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” that they played like their hair was on fire. Country punk Gomers that rocked harder than 1,000 Wilcos.

3. Joe Ely – He’s so good he taught the Clash how to rock a bit. He deserves inclusion list not only for a series of excellent rock country records (his self titled debut and Honky Tonk Masquerade are classics), but for his blistering live shows. City Gardens 1986 – my buddy (to remain anonymous since he disappeared into the parking lot for most of the show) not only adds a last minute date to our scheduled trip but adds a date for me too. There’s only 30 people in attendance and since I’m not driving, I’m loose. I keep screaming requests, Joe Ely keeps playing them. I feel like I’m the only one there and I’m making quite the spectacle… one of my favorite shows ever. Apologies to anyone else that may have been there that night.

2. The Persuasions – Formed in Brooklyn over 40 years ago, the Persuasions have carried the a cappella torch with their breathtaking, thrilling vocal arrangements. Lead singer Jerry Lawson is an R&B blues shouter in the great tradition of Otis Redding… you owe it to yourself to check out his singing at least once. (Personal note: When my wife and I got engaged, we went to see the Persuasions a few weeks later in a small club. We scrawled a request on a napkin noting our recent engagement. The band brought us up on stage, sat us on chairs and promptly serenaded us with an astonishing version of the Dreamlovers’ 1961 hit “When We Get Married”. Pretty cool.)

1. David Johansen – Referred to by one wag as a “fun junkie”, David Johansen was the linchpin of the mythically brilliant and influential New York Dolls. While sometimes tagged as a second rate Mick Jagger, David Jo is Mick’s equal as rock showman. His first solo cd alone would merit his inclusion on any top artist list, with unfathomably great songwriting including the great Dolls breakup song “Donna”, the celebration of music that is “Frenchette” plus the blistering side openers “Funky But Chic” and “Cool Metro”. Essential.

Michael’s Picks:

I limited myself to artists in the rock and roll and rhythm and blues traditions from the 1950s forward. Otherwise, I could just rip down a list of jazz giants (Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, etc.) and be done with it. Initially, the idea was to rank these omissions from least obscene to most obscene, but that task proved too great. Justice Potter Stewart gave time-honored wisdom at spotting obscenity (“I know it when I see it,” he said), but he offered no instructions on ranking it. Anyway, here are ten artists who should have made the cut.

The Undertones. Yeah, they gave the world the song that gave this blog its name, and that alone qualifies them for inclusion. But they did so much more, cranking out irresistible singles like a punk rock jukebox. “Get Over You.” “Here Comes the Summer.” “You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It?).” They were either the Irish Ramones or the Irish Temptations, and they’re the reason that my son would have been named “Feargal” but for my meddlesome spouse.

Booker T. & the MG’s. This is, without doubt, one of the great bands ever assembled. Booker T. Jones. Steve Cropper. Donald “Duck” Dunn. Al Jackson. Each a legend in his own right, and collectively, the very sound of southern soul in the 1960’s. Their own hits – “Green Onions,” “Hip-Hug Her” – guaranteed a certain fame. But the fact that they were the house band for Stax Records and cooked up dozens of smoking tracks for Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Wilson Pickett (among others) guarantees nothing less than rock and roll immortality. And add in that Cropper wrote or co-wrote classics like “In the Midnight Hour” and “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” and it’s clear that the MG’s were one of the most potent forces in the history of 20th Century music.

Sam & Dave. Motown had the smooth, urbane vocal groups that connected with the masses. Stax had Sam & Dave, the gritty, gutbucket Southerners who went straight to the souls of the kids who wanted to bust loose of the chains that bound them. My dissertation on Stax’s house band is above, and while the MG’s went to the darkest, loneliest places with Otis Redding, they scaled the highest, hottest, most spectacular heights with Sam & Dave, who made some of the most joyful noises of the 1960’s. “Hold On! I’m Comin’.” “Soul Man..” “I Thank You.” These polls seem to undervalue soul. But how they can miss out on acts like this is a mystery.

Phil Spector. The auteur of the teenage experience, Phil Spector was the rare producer who transcended his performers, who was every bit as important to his records as a film director is to a movie. For Spector, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and the Crystals served the same purpose that Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci serve for Martin Scorsese, the hand-picked vessels through which his vision came to life. Spector co-wrote the songs and created the trademark Wall of Sound that gave his singles a unique punch and sophistication. A true titan.

The Drifters. The sides these guys cut from 1953 to 1964 are nothing short of magical, and they belie that old canard about how there was no good music between Elvis’s induction and the British Invasion. Slick and soulful, the Drifters actually got better after Clyde McPhatter went solo, and they provided the perfect vehicle for the era’s best songwriters, teams like Pomus/Shuman and Goffin/King. “Up on the Roof,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “On Broadway.” If a prepositional phrase became a great song, you can bet it was done by the Drifters.

Big Country. This one’s personal. There are few albums I love from beginning to end quite as much as The Crossing, which has been a constant companion now for close to a quarter century. With the brilliant, explosive, underappreciated rhythm section of Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler providing the foundation, Bruce Watson and bandleader Stuart Adamson supplied the band’s signature twin bagpipe-guitar sound that elevated good songs into grand anthems. Their second album, Steeltown, was merely very good, and their third, The Seer, something less than that. But for a brief moment, Big Country was one of the best bands going, far better than their undeserved “one hit wonder” reputation could begin to suggest.

Public Image Ltd. This is where post-punk – or even post-rock – begins, with the iconic figure of punk’s most iconic band rejecting his past and reshaping the future. By retaining the Sex Pistols’ penchant for thunderous guitar noise, and embracing space, abstraction and reggae/dub rhythms, John Lydon (no longer Johnny Rotten), along with compatriots Keith Levene, Jah Wobble and Jim Walker, led a sharp turn into a new world, culminating with their mind-exploding second album (Second Edition to most of us; Metal Box to the lucky few who own the original audacious packaging and format). The moody, atmospheric record sounded like a culture falling apart, and the original lineup did just that, disintegrating before later incarnations of the band became little more than the Johnny Rotten Experience.

Pere Ubu. Rarely has a band that sold so few records cast such a large shadow, but Cleveland’s “avant garage” pioneers were rare, indeed. Often hard to digest even for the converted, Pere Ubu took industrial noises and absurdist points of view and made music possessed of a certain grotesque beauty, especially on The Modern Dance and Dub Housing, two great monuments of the early punk era (the subsequent albums are so deliberately stand-offish that only the most rigorous avant rockers need apply). But even before those two albums came a string of independently released singles that cemented Pere Ubu’s legacy, including the powerhouse “Final Solution,” which distills the band’s fury into four minutes and fifty-seven seconds of almost unbearable intensity.

The Jackson Five. You know, there really aren’t that many great Jackson Five songs. But the best of them – “I Want You Back,” “The Love You Save,” “ABC” – are so dynamic, so explosive, so inexplicably brilliant, that the J5’s inclusion is a no-brainer (and if you include The Jacksons – and I can’t think of a principled reason not to – the catalog of timeless tunes only grows). The bass line from “I Want You Back” alone is enough to put them here. But what everyone remembers, what no one can forget, is the sheer magnetic force of the young Michael Jackson. One of my very first musical memories was watching this kid and being completely transfixed. He went beyond precocious, straight to prodigious. In a world of pre-fabbed, meticulously-managed pop stars, I can’t imagine seeing another twelve-year-old like that again.

Dionne Warwick. Like Audrey Hepburn in the movies, Dionne Warwick projected an unassailable elegance, while demonstrating a disarming vulnerability. And she was the perfect vehicle for Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s songs. When, in her most famous tune, she sings “If you see me walking down the street/And I start to cry/Each time we meet/Walk on by,” the effect is devastating. Her voice has a character that serves the songs, elevating them without overwhelming them, and allows the melodies to shine through. And her take on “I Say a Little Prayer” is so flawless that even Aretha Franklin’s later version of the song pales by comparison, and there aren’t many singers about whom you can say such a thing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Artist number 878

Sir Bob and the Boomtown Rats stay up all night.
Artist number 21

Radiohead. "Bones." Live.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Artist number 39

His Royal Badness. The Purple Potentate. Be patient with this clip and it will reward your wait. As a bonus, watch him play guitar here.
Artist number 509

T. Rex, "20th Century Boy"
Artist number 468

Fela Kuti, "Teachers Don't Teach Me Nonsense"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Artist number 482

The Stooges wanna be your dog. For the infamous 1970 Cincinnati performance, click here.
Artist number 31

The name of this band is Talking Heads. The name of this song is "Crosseyed and Painless."
Artist number 23

Elvis Costello and the Attractions bite the hand that feeds them.
Artist number 73

Jeff Buckley stops time.
Artist number 641

The Faces in their boozy, rockin' prime.
Artist number 4 (again)

Bruce and the band take their time with "Kitty's Back" on Conan.
Artist number 4

Springsteen proves it.