Wednesday, February 18, 2009

15 rock albums that shaped my taste over the years (part II)

See also: Part I (Nos. 1-5)

6. Pink FloydAnimals
Around the same time I was experimenting with illegal internet downloading, I also started experimenting with mind-altering substances. And what better way to appreciate those substances than to rock out to some Pink Floyd at their trippiest. It's not like I hadn't heard Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall by this point. I liked them, too. But Animals was the one that made me love Pink Floyd and psychedelic music in general. It's a concept album with five songs, including two short versions of the same song, "Pigs on the Wing" as the album's bookends, and three epic (10 min. plus) tracks, "Dogs" (my favorite Floyd song of all time), "Pigs", and "Sheep" in between. The songs have many parts, and many weird sounds, but they flow incredibly well, especially after a few hits off our dorm room's trusty apparatus, Sub-Zero, in the glow of a fiber-optic Christmas tree in April.

7. King CrimsonRed
Here's where my tastes started getting kinda weird. My sophomore year of college, my roommate Andrew introduced me to King Crimson, based on my positive feelings for Yes and Dream Theater, two of prog-rock's giants. I liked those bands, but there was always something inherently nerdy about them that kept me from total adoration. KC, and specifically Red represented an unnerdy prog-rock band that I could fully get behind. Now, don't get me wrong, the members of Crimson are definitely nerds. But a few times in their nearly 40-year existence, they've put together the right formula for a technically brilliant album that has soul. Kurt Cobain said Red was one of his major influences, and is quoted in various places on the interweb as saying it is the best album ever made. The closing track, "Starless," is 12 minutes of brooding, blues-prog-jazz-rock mastery. It remains one of my favorite songs of all time. 

8. Radiohead - OK Computer
Duh! What list of significant albums would be complete without Radiohead's OK Computer? After all, it's their OK Computer! Ahh how I amuse myself. I got on the Radiohead bandwagon about a decade late. I'd heard "Creep" and "Fake Plastic Trees" and even "Karma Police" when they were first on the radio, but never bothered to get any of their albums until just before Hail to the Thief came out. Then I kicked myself for having missed all the bandwagony goodness of Radiohead's prime. Better late than never, though, right? Actually, I think they're still in their prime, and that In Rainbows is their greatest success, and the The Bends is a better album than OK Computer, but for the purposes of this list, this is the one that started it all for me. It opened the doors of "indie" music to my prog-rock-obsessed ears, and I have never turned back. An oversized poster of the album artwork is prominently displayed in my bedroom, but it keeps falling down onto my bed because it's too heavy for the many layers of poster tape I have used to secure it. Yes, OK Computer is so good, it even haunts me while I sleep.

9. System of a Down - Toxicity
I never thought I'd like metal. I was wrong. System of a Down proved me wrong. In a dimly lit dorm room in Ellicott Hall, when I should've been doing homework for that class I failed that cost me my scholarship, I first heard "Chop Suey" on MTV2. Yes, MTV2 used to show music videos, late, late at night. SOAD made metal very hip in my mind. Metallica are douchebags as far as I'm concerned. They can suck it. They killed Napster, after all. Also, their music never appealed to me beyond their technical proficiency. Other metal groups with the screaming and the hair ... not for me either. But SOAD brought a little extra something, with that Middle-Eastern vibe and Serj's crazy vocals. Their songs are exciting and fresh. Also, seeing them live was one of the greatest musical moments of my life. They bring the energy like a metal band should, but they don't take themselves so seriously like a lot of metal bands do, unfortunately.

10. The Strokes - Is This It?
Those late-night MTV2 videos introduced me to the Strokes too (as well as this obscure English group called Coldplay). "Is this from now or the 70s?" I asked my roommate as I watched Julian Casablancas wail away on "Last Nite." Turns out it was "now." Or 2002 anyway. There was definitely something vintage about the sound, but I couldn't buy the simplistic explanations of, "Oh, they just sound like the Velvet Underground." Uhh, no they don't. If anything, a closer approximation might be Television, but even that comparison is missing something. I thought long and hard about it, and decided that, despite a sound reminiscent in instrumentation and production quality, these were very modern types of rock songs, more similar to early Weezer and Nirvana in their effortless expression of the language of pop.

Stay tuned for Part III in the coming days.


brainlair said...

Glad to you see you've got your nose to the blog-stone and aren't keeping us waiting on the follow-ups! Animals has a special place in my heart as well. I'm also on board with ok computer, and am proud of the fact that it was the first album that I bought. However, it also reveals the fact that I didn't listen to music until 1997, but I feel as though i've made up for lost time.


Andrew B. Watson said...

Having been/lived with you for most of 'fun' and 'experimentation' surrounding these albums, I concur with your reasons for choosing them. I still remember those late nights (somehow...) in the greatest dorm room of all time. But I challenge you to think long and hard about albums 11-15. As you stated, this is not a list of 'favorite rock albums' but of those that changed your perception ... and you know what album I'm hoping to see on your list. It'd be a 'fatal tragedy' for it not to be included ... j/k!

You are inspiring me to make some lists of my own, if only for my own recollection than other's interests in reading. This is a fascinating retrospective indeed.

"You gotta be crazy, you gotta have a real need. You gotta sleep on your toes, when you're on the street. You've got to be able to pick out the easy meat. With your eyes closed. They're moving in silence and downwind and out of sight, you've got to strike when the moment is right. Without thinking..."
[Pink Floyd, Dogs, Animals]

Cheers my friend!!!!