Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (1972)
Jordy: The history of the writing, recording, and mixing of this album is so convoluted as to render it fairly moot to the modern listener. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter one fig who was having tax, drug, or lady trouble or who wasn’t getting along with whom or who was bored with rock and roll. What matters on Exile on Main St. are the songs and there are a lot of them here so let’s get to it.
Rancid – …And Out Come the Wolves (1995)
Jeff: What, you might ask, is the prestigious and well-esteemed SWR blog doing reviewing a derivative 90’s pop-punk-revival album? The answer is multifaceted but the first component of it is that it’s an amazing album. Another part of that answer is that I for one first began coming of age in musically the mid-’90s–the major labels were well into their signing spree of “alternative” bands, and MTV was playing music that was like nothing else I’d ever heard (it’s not Debbie Gibson, it’s not Guns ‘n’ Roses, it’s something else entirely). Weezer, Green Day, the Offspring, and Hole seemed like a breath of fresh air to a kid who wouldn’t hear indie music for another four years. It was an exciting time to be a 7th grader.
Filed under 1990s, Pop, Punk, Rock, Ska
Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)
Glenn: There’s a spot on I-77 between Fancy Gap, Virginia, and Lambsburg, just north of the North Carolina border, where the road rises sharply to summit the Blue Ridge. The interstate clings to the hills and winds along steep edges and narrow passes for 10 miles. The air gets wet up there — fog seems to rise out of the rock — and if you are lucky enough to be heading south and riding shotgun you can look southeast from the hills, out over the flatlands of Carrol County, Virgina and Surry County, North Carolina. It’s farms and gas stations and exurb subdivisions — very few lights — but at night, just after dusk, from the height of I-77, the long stretch of dark land sometimes looks like Los Angeles, as viewed from Mulholland Drive. A sparsely populated L.A., an L.A. without smog or skyline, without superhighways. You’ll have to trust me here. Because even though the rural counties of the N.C. Piedmont are nothing like L.A., this stunning view kindles something in the collective memory to remind you of the L.A. you know from movies, from books, from hints, from mid-’70s rock albums maybe most of all. The sheen and glamor, the nightclubs and stubble, the cocaine, the hazy smoggy dawns and the never-night of streetlamps. The stars holed away in the hills. This is what I think of when I descend from I-77 headed south toward home.
Tonight’s the Night captures all that.
The Kinks – Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround: Part One (1970)
Adam: The Kinks’ early career closely resembled that of most of the other British Invasion bands. They were singing blues-based songs about girls (e.g. “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and all of the Night”). In the late 1960’s, as the themes that rock music addressed became ever darker, the Kinks went the opposite way with the Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which focused on nostalgia for simpler times. By the time The Kinks released Lola in November 1970, The Beatles were history, the Rolling Stones were a few months away from releasing Sticky Fingers, and most other British Invasion bands had faded into obscurity. Continue reading
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
Jordy: Of all the great musical leaps forward in the 1960s, none is as beautiful or as much fun to listen to as Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys certainly did not have the sustained and focused creativity of Bob Dylan or the Beatles, but they were superior vocalists and more aggressive in exploring contemporary studio possibilities. Consequently, Pet Sounds stands above any other album of that era, both technically and melodically.
Filed under 1960s, Pop, Rock
Beck – Odelay (1996)
Glenn: Odelay‘s stylistic diversity, junkyard-dada sampling aesthetic, and anticipation of the mash-up have been justly praised. However, what strikes me 14 years out is the sheer range of moods Beck’s masterwork strikes. Is there any other record with this much emotional variety? From the goofball hick-hop of “Sissyneck” to the monster-movie drone of “Derelict” to the melancholy sigh of “Jack-ass” (a personal favorite) to the sheer fun of “Hotwax,” Odelay makes you feel joy, fear, sadness, confusion, and flashdance-ass-pants dance lunacy all in equal measure, sometimes in the same song.
Can – Tago Mago (1971)
Glenn: Deep funk you’d feel weird shaking your butt to. Crisp production, with oddly EQ’d drums — muted. Like what you hear with a head cold or a fever. Two long sound collages — one of which contains my all-time favorite 2 minutes of Can (that’d be the opening of “Aumgn”), and the other of which is made up of shouting, carnival blee-boop organ licks, and delay pedal fuckery. A distanced feeling throughout. So is this emotionless post-rock jamming more to be admired than to be enjoyed? Or is there blood in these grooves?
Jordy: There is vibrant life in these grooves. As my liner notes quotes keyboardist Irmin Schmidt: Can was like a “mighty, pulsing organism.” Similarly, I would define the “life” of Tago Mago more in biological terms. It has a regular heartbeat and bowel movements, for instance. (Excuse me while I abandon this analogy…) Continue reading