The List, 2006, #90-81

Arright. The first ten are done. Now we move into the eighties. As promised, we’ll visit Chapel Hill, NC. But we’ll also make stops in Boston, The Isle of Whight, LA, and other exotic locales.


90. Belly : Star (1993)


A classic early 90’s alt-rock hit. It’s bursting with great hooks and great songs. In a just world, Tanya Donnely would be a superstar and Madonna would be teaching aerobics at a retirement home. One of my bands worked hard to write a song that ended up sounding almost exactly like a song from this album. We played it anyway.

89. Yes : The Yes Album (1971)


Yeah, it’s over the top in complexity and technicality – totally square. But, it’s also the stuff I grew up listening to. My mother and her brothers were teenagers when this came out (yeah, I was around then), and they played it all the time. These are like old family photos, to me.

88. Son Volt : Trace (1995)


Straightforward, uncluttered, unaffected roots-rock songs, capped by the great Ron Wood song, Mystifies Me.

87. Grandaddy : The Sophtware Slump (2000)


It’s futuristic and spacey, but with a warm gentle core. With the high, fragile vocals and grand orchestration of simple melodies, it has the same feel as a modern-era Flaming Lips record; and the electronic beeps and whistles remind me of the Apples In Stereo’s spacey power-pop. But, it’s done so well that it doesn’t suffer from the comparison; they took the style and did something great with it. It’s a shame I can’t get into any of their other records, at all.

86. The Police : Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)


Andy Summers was one of my first guitar heros; Stewart Copeland was the first drummer that made any impression at all on me; Sting was a terrific songwriter; and this album gives great examples of all that. There are a couple of weak songs, but the playing is great all around, and the best of the songs are fantastic. A dorm favorite.

85. Violent Femmes : Violent Femmes (1983)


I can’t imagine a better album to listen to when you’re 18 and away from home for the first time. The singer sounds more nervous than you are and he’s not getting the girl either; everyone in the room can sing along; you get to say “fuck”; you get to count to ten.

84. Superchunk : No Pocky For Kitty (1991)


Our first Chapel Hill stop. It’s punk rock with a smile. It blazes through anthem after anthem: Skip Steps 1 & 3, Punch Me Harder, Seed Toss, Tie A Rope…, Throwing Things, etc. and makes you wanna sing along with all of them. My wife and I discovered Spoon at a Superchunk show – more about Spoon later.

83. Rolling Stones : Let It Bleed (1969)


Get rid of the threadbare You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Country Honk (the silly sloppy acoustic version of Honky Tonk Woman), and you’ve got a really good 7-song EP of classic-era Stones, including one of my fav’s, Midnight Rambler.

82. Robyn Hitchcock : Eye (1990)


This, the second R.H. album I ever bought, is an album of songs on acoustic guitar and piano. While solo acoustic guitar is pretty much his default (the five times I’ve seen him live, it’s been just him and a guitar), this album is swimming in reverb and backing tracks, so it comes across dreamy and atmospheric, not just unplugged. The lyrics are pretty tough to decipher, as usual, but they seem to be a little more personal than previous records. I could be imagining that, though. He did a similar atmospheric-acoustic thing on “I Often Dream Of Trains”, but the songs on “Eye” are a bit more intimate and less kooky than the earlier record.

81. Polvo : Cor-Crane Secret (1992)


Returning to Chapel Hill for one more stop. Swirling, buzzing guitars, complicated songs, a silght Middle Eastern tinge, and lyrics about… well, I don’t really know what they’re about – that’s not the point of Polvo anyway. The important parts of Polvo are the math-rock song structures and the amazing way the two guitar players’ distinct styles mesh throughout those structures. I was lucky enough to catch their last show ever, at the Cat’s Cradle – the place was packed. In fact it was so packed that they did another show the next night and ruined my story.

Thus concludes part two, 90-81. Tune in again next time (Wednesday) when we’ll visit sunny Cuba! El yay!

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