Thursday, April 17, 2003

I saw this week that MTV2 (how I wish that was on Cox Cable!) is continuing their “22 best” with an upcoming special on the 22 greatest bands of all time. I voted, and so should you; my choice was the Smiths. But most of the rest of my top 5 weren’t even listed as nominees (yet Blink-182 was?!). Herewith:

1. The Smiths. Their arrival caused a seismic shift in music (not that you’d know it – much like the Velvet Underground, the Pixies, and Sonic Youth [see below], they never sold a lot of records, but nearly everyone who bought one started a band. Plus, there’s the cult of Morrissey, a cult figure if ever there was). They recorded “How Soon Is Now?,” one of the greatest singles of all time, and backed it up. They flamed out rather than faded away, leaving at arguably the peak of their powers with Strangeways, Here We Come. They were honest. They were real. Morrissey’s one of the greatest lyrical geniuses of all time – damned right I’d put him up there with Lennon/McCartney. Musically, Johnny Marr’s to his generation as Pete Townshend was to his. And in Joyce/Rourke you get one of the finest rhythm sections of at least the ‘80s, and a surprisingly funky one at that, considering Morrissey’s disdain for black music and their indie roots. A whole defiantly greater than the sum of its parts, all cogs oiled and working at peak capacity, ladies and gentlemen, the Smiths.

2. Public Enemy. Not greater than the sum of their parts, but great because of three integral parts, those being of course comic relief Flavor Flav, voice of America (if rap, as he once posited, is the black CNN, he’s Wolf Blitzer, Aaron Brown, Larry King, and James Earl Jones rolled into one) Chuck D, and the pop-altering production of the Bomb Squad. I still defend It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as the greatest album ever recorded. Period.

3. Sonic Youth. The teenage riot Thurston, Kim, Lee, and Steve (and now Jim) have made for over 20 years has gotten a lot of people out of bed. Bending and manipulating guitars like no other band of their era, with Steve keeping the beat and Kim often playing bass against it, SY are true innovators, following their muse whether on a series of independent labels or as part of a major (as they have been for over a decade). Fiercely indie by nature and even more creative, they’re a raging wall of sound influenced as much by downtown NYC jazz as Television, and as New York as you can get. They’ll never go gold. They don’t care. That’s (part of) why you should.

4. New Order. You can blame them for Madchester, for bringing techno and house into pop songs, for the greatest World Cup single ever (‘90’s “World In Motion,” credited to englandneworder), and for enlarging and expanding upon the legacy from which they sprang, Joy Division. Joy Division were amazing, crafting atmospherics seemingly out of air, with the added asset of Ian Curtis’ prescence, which was even greater than his fine vocals. Bernard Sumner doesn’t have the same presence, but has something better-suited for New Order: he’s a great lyricist, and imbues his lyrics with believability. He’s all there, right there, right here, with you in your room, as he sings. Their comeback single of last year, “Here to Stay,” proves their point unquestionably, 20 years on from “Blue Monday.” Any questions? Track down a copy of their (now out of print) ’88 comp Substance, preferably the double-disc version with B-sides. And believe.

5. Chic. The greatest band to rise out of disco was, in fact, a band, not a studio creation. Sampled by thousands, loved by millions, and still the greatest band of the ‘70s: more influential than the Pistols, more elastic than Steely Dan, more soulful than Earth, Wind & Fire. Funkier than you think, better than you realize, and more talented than you are. They’d better fucking make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The next five (alphabetically):
Guns ‘N Roses
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Steely Dan
The Velvet Underground

Honorable mention:
N.W.A./Sex Pistols. Each made one breathtaking, earth-shattering album, and then ceased to be relevant (the fact that N.W.A. put out another pair of records should be ignored, as they’re awful). Even if you ignore their respective legacies (Dr. Dre, Inc. and Ice Cube, Hollywood mogul in the case of the former; Public Image Limited in the case of the latter), it’s not possible to ignore either Straight Outta Compton or Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. And why the fuck would you want to? They didn’t invent gangsta rap or punk, but they blew them up like no one before.

Prince and the Revolution/Prince and the New Power Generation. Not truly groups, these were Prince and his backing bands. But they’re backing bands par excellence, the genuine inheritors to the P-Funk legacy, elastic, fantastic, and orgasmic. Honorable honorable mention goes to the unnamed band Prince toured with in ’86, recorded on Sign “O” the Times’ “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night,” featuring the incomparable Sheila E. on percussion.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?