Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Last month I made myself a 700MB CD simply titled rock!. Here's a random ten.

Lou Reed, "The Original Wrapper": This and "I Love You Suzanne" were the first songs of Lou's I knew I knew (I may have heard "Walk on the Wild Side" by this time, '84, but can't be certain). Most consider the early-to-mid-'80s Lou's nadir, but I think that's an unfair summation. Some of the songs on Mistrial - and yes, this was the album he put out circa his Honda scooter ad - are as strong as much of his catalog. Their being cloaked in some of the most blatant pop production of Lou's career likely blinded more than a few folks to their solidity. This sure as hell wasn't VU. "Wrapper"'s an enjoyable trifle, Lou humorously rapping, no more, no less.

Korn, "Thoughtless": I stand by what I wrote of this in my '02 wrap, so I'll excerpt it here:
"Korn is a band I've always admired more than enjoyed; I understand what they're trying to do, and feel that they're honestly trying to push the parameters of the whole nu-rock school, but that they don't succeed as often as they think. "Thoughtless" certainly isn't some bold musical step forward; it's fairly standard Korn - but in this case, the music perfectly pairs up with its lyrics. And where this stands out is lyrically. While the whole Nickelback/Staind school sit and moan about how shitty their teen years were, Korn take a different tack on "Thoughtless," coming across almost more (Marilyn) Manson-like than anything else (think "The Fight Song"). ... When I was a teen, my soundtrack of alienation was the Smiths; were I a teen today, it might well be this. More valuable than the entire recorded output of the Strokes, this is a total triumph."

The Police, "Synchronicity II": Lest you forget, before der Stingle became the unctuous front-of-the-class teacher's pet/asshole we know him as today, he led one of the most downright vital bands of the past quarter-century. One of their best singles, the overlooked fourth single from Synchronicity reels around a fountain of dark memories and darker thoughts.

Whitesnake, "Still of the Night": Ridiculously over-the-top hair metal of the higest order which never fails to bring a smile. David Coverdale was the embodiment of David Lee Roth as a "mature" adult (which he's still never become, but that's another matter entirely), wearing suits yet still so, so deliciously smarmy (two words, actually only one's needed: Tawny).Two things about this track still get me: the 'Snake's use of atmospherics in the song's bridge, and the way they played their guitars with violin bows. Absurd, in a good way. And then at the 3:55 mark, it all goes triple-guitar-attack and sends you to rock'n'roll heaven. Or hell.

The Cult, "Love Removal Machine": Perhaps it's Darwin working in the way Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and company morphed from psych-rock merchants to a hard, hard rock band, equal parts Zep and Doors. And perhaps it's just unfortunate. This was midway through their transformation; you make the Beach MTV call.

Jane Child, "Don't Wanna Fall In Love": If Chuck Eddy can call Teena Marie "metal," I can call the girl with the metal nose ring (and accompanying chain connecting it to her earring) "rock." One of my favorite one-hit wonders of all time, Child worked heavy, heavy synths into popcraft arrangements with sometimes obtuse, sometimes all-too-sharp lyrics to fine effect. Her Welcome to the Real World debut was solid from start to finish, but this was always clearly the money shot. Where is she now, I wonder?

Skid Row, "Monkey Business": I vividly remember seeing the world premiere of this vid on Headbangers Ball and being stunned: When did Skid Row become a real metal band, I queried? Right here. Their soph effort, Slave to the Grind, stripped them of their pop fluff and left a surprisingly lean, muscular attack to back up Sebastian Bach's vocal histrionics and pomp. From a most unlikely source, one of the early '90s finest (shoulda-been) metal anthems.

Rush, "The Big Money": One of these days, I'm going to finish and post my essay and why I love '80s - not '70s - Rush. The ultimate Canuck power trio dropped some of the prog and added synths in the Reagan years, and pulled it off, drastically improving their songwriting in the process. I'll always love Grace Under Pressure, but '85's Power Windows (from which this is taken) might be their best full-length. The fact that much of it seems a showcase for drummer Neil Peart is, I think, unaccidental. [And on a barely-related note, I always thought the kid on the album cover looked like Anthony Michael Hall.]

Queen, "Hammer To Fall": Like with pizza or The Simpsons (as long as they weren't surrendering to Freddie's balladeering tendencies), even bad Queen was better than most other bands. This isn't bad, just unexceptional, but I'm a sucker for Brian May's slashing quitar licks here. So tasty.

Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar On Me": Fucking blinding, period. This is the "Video Version," the one with the chopped-and-spliced "love me like a bomb-b-bomb-b-bomb" intro, and is so easily the defining, crowning moment from the kings of Sheffield, from their white-hot peak with Hysteria. Everything gels here: the guitar attack, Joe Elliot's salacious vocals, Rick Allen's one-armed drumming (which actually sounds better than his two-armed drumming on Pyromania - that's a compliment, as his then-newly-fitted drum set sounded so great), and most of all, the lyrics, especially one of the decade finest couplets: "You've got the peaches/I've got the cream." Do you take sugar?

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