The best records

September 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Recently, a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook on one of those “make a list” memes. It was to name the 15 albums most important to you, or most influential to you, or something like that. I remember that the instructions said not to think to hard about it… which is of course impossible for me.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer, a social worker, or a rock journalist. I only came to art later in high school – it certainly was not what I was dreaming about when I was 13 or 14. But as a weird result, I have always taken writing about rock music way too seriously. In general, I take music, period, way too seriously. I always wanted to be in a band or perform in some way, but I just think too much about it. I don’t think I could lose myself in the way that you really have to in order to be a great musician.

Anyway. With that as a bit of a tortured introduction, here are my albums. I’m trying not to think too much about it, but I am. In no particular order:

Peter Gabriel: Security and his third album (aka “Melt“). I can’t remember what brought me to buy this in the first place, but I got them when I was around 15 and listened to it so many times I wore both  cassettes all the way through. It was a true experience for me. I couldn’t get through it in the first, second, or even twentieth time; it was just too frightening and mind-blowing. I mean, I was a teenager, and all the world is drenched in pop and everyone seems happy but you. So what to make of The Family and the Fishing Net? Even as an adult with an ear to weird music, it’s tough to find a piece written by a Western songwriter in the 1980s quite as strange as that one. Peter Gabriel seems old and lame now, like just another bloated, aging, rich musician. But when I was a teenager, he was sort of the anti-rock star. He wasn’t trying to be sexy or marketable; he was just this super weird guy writing songs that were almost impossible to pick apart and understand without further information, which he only sometimes provided. And yet, each song was incredibly complete and had its own logic. Listening to his music, I really learned how a work of art can exist on its own terms, without necessarily referencing things in the outside world. Even though he was a total “insider,” he introduced to me this way of working that is more akin to the way that outsider artists work. I can never overstate how much of an impact this made on me and on my future thinking about art and music.

Sleater-Kinney: Dig Me Out and Hole: Live Through This. Do I really have to explain these? I mean, come on. It’s obvious.

A Tribe Called Quest: The Low-End Theory. I got this during a particularly wonderful summer, the first summer I think of myself as being “free” in any sense of the word. This was a great soundtrack.

Foetus: Sink and Hole. Sink = first Foetus album I ever bought; Hole = my favorite for a number of years.

The Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People

Nomeansno: Wrong

The Notwist: Shrink. Ok, this makes the list probably more because it’s what I listened to on the train back and forth between my first real teaching job, right after I had my first solo show. The memories associated with this are just too intense for it not to make the list.

Public Image Ltd: Second Edition. I can’t say what one album I would take with me if stranded on a desert island, but if I got to bring two, this would definitely make the list.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Your Funeral, My Trial. Jack’s Shadow can go to hell, but otherwise this album is perfect. Stranger Than Kindness? Brilliant.

I’m three albums short, but out of ideas. Hmm. I will no doubt wake up in the middle of the night, kicking myself for the ones I’ve forgotten.

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1 Comment

  1. siouxsielaw said,

    This is a great post. I’m going to try to track down Peter Gabriel’s album now. I don’t think I have ever listened to that one. And I’m happy to know that Sleater-Kinney is on your list. I saw them at a free Central Park concert in the summer of ’97. Were you there too?

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