Thursday, March 09, 2006

Music Review: Top Five Review - "Rock"

I know, a lot of you are saying "But rock is metal, and metal is rock! What the hell is wrong with you, you beige-wearing retard?" Well, I'll tell you why... they're not the same. They're the same thing in the same way that orange is red. You can start with red, but you need to add other ingredients, and make fundamental changes to the structure, to get orange from red... and get metal from rock.

Rock is roots, and as such, it encompasses a much larger oevre of possibilities... thus, you're gonna see some wierd choices here. My advice to you: shut up, and let me do my thing here, ok? Ok. :)

Top Five Rock Albums

Not having many real "rock" albums myself growing up, these are fairly narrow choices. Most of you will be mad to not see Big Sugar on here, but the fact is, I didn't like any SINGLE album of theirs enough to pick just one. I like their entire CATALOGUE... spread out accross all their albums there is a ranbow of genius, but one color of a rainbow just isn't as impressive as the whole thing. So, lets begin!

Number Five --> The Presidents Of The United States Of America - Self Titled

That's right, all you metal-banging spike-wearers! PUSA! Chris Ballew, Mike Dederer, and Jason Finn... the peculiar trio with the two-string guitar, three-string bass, and a Junior Mini drum kit... put out my number five rock album of all time. With ten gallons of inspiration in a five gallon talent hat, this album attracted a cult following with a sound never really heard anywhere before. With some blues riffs, some heavy-metal riffs at the end, and the catchy, simple, but brilliant interplay between the bass and guitar, the music itself would be worthy of this award, but the true insane genius lies in the songs. Love songs about strippers, songs about dead frogs, car-enthusiast bugs, fruit, cats, nudity, candy, and geriatrics make this just about the most diverse, ludicrous, and satisfying records I've ever heard.

Number Four --> Clutch - Blast Tyrant

"Nuh uh, Mighty! Clutch is METAL!" Clutch is NOT! Clutch is ROCK! Some Clutch SONGS on some CLutch ALBUMS are metal, but these boys are rock... hard rock, grindy rock, stoner rock, but still rock, and this album, one of their more recent, is probably the best SINGLE album of theirs I have. Robot Hive / Exodus didn't really seem like Clutch to me... maybe Clutch Lite. Elephant Riders was a CLOSE second for this, followed by Transnational Speedway League... but Blast Tyrant takes it home. With their first two songs using acoustic guitar (heavy acoustic), as well as some randomly layered tracks with some guy speaking Polish, this was by far their most experimental album to date. Using a pipe organ to highlight some songs, Clutch lead Neil Fallon described this album as "a soundtrack to a movie that exists in my head". Indeed, the songs do seem to loosely follow some story about pirates, witches, death, life, and travelling wierdos... but who cares! With a huge, cohesive sound, I never get sick of this album, or any track on it.

Number Three --> Live - Throwing Copper

When the Great Scorer comes to write his definitive list of top albums of all time, this will be on there, guaranteed. One of the best things to come out of the entire alternative rock scene, Live's second album departed from the moody but upbeat theme of Mental Jewellery to create something totally different. Brilliant bass, a guitar permanently stuck in minor and flat chords, and songs ranging from dead bodies found in a creek to stalker-ish feelings of love and devotion, to death and birth, and other wonderfully depressing concepts. With amazing use of silence and noise, whispering and screaming, the whole album moves in waves from black to white, happy to sad, and drags the listener along with it. Loud enough to count as hard rock in places, but soft enough to still be alt, Live created this singular high point of the 90's.

Number Two --> Barenaked Ladies - Gordon

"Mighty, what the hell is WRONG with you? GORDON??" That's right, bitches... Gordon! BNL's debut album, which I got for Christmas when I was a kid, and listened to almost enough to wear out the tape before New Years. Seriously, on the 16 hour train-ride home, I listened to it the ENTIRE time, using up six batteries in my walkman, just flipping the tape over and over and over... Introducing me to lighter rock, as well as blues, jazz, and lyrics that weren't serious, BNL was the first real album to totally open me up to the world of music. With love songs that confused my 11-year-old hormones, funny songs that I didn't understand, and serious songs that sounded funny, it challenged me to develop and mature my musical aesthetic. All seriously talented musicians, singers, and songwriters, it was also the first album to make me think about drumming, and bass, and harmony... it was the first for a lot of things, and it's EARNED the number two spot. Which brings us to:

Number One --> Mayfield Four - Fallout

The number one rock album in my whole Universe by a huge long shot. I first heard this album when I was at college for the first time. I was playing Samurai Showdown IV, and I was doing pretty good, when Jon snuck up behind me and put headphones over my ears and ordered me to listen to this new album he'd just bought. Sure enough, the very first track had me completely hooked. I hade it through four songs, and the entire game, in a haze of heartfelt singing, lap steel, rock guitars and wizardly drumming. I had to wait a whole day to hear any more of it, but I listened to the album probably four times through, just laying on my bed with the speakers up, lost in a haze of genius. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is missing their show at UCC... Jon went, and sat at the bar with them after they were done their set. Myles, the lead singer, went on to form Alter Bridge with Creed after they kicked Scott "I'm Jesus" Stapp out, and thank God they did... Myles phenomenal natural singing talent blends very well with Creeds metal soul, but he'll always be the lead singer for the best god-damn band I've ever heard... Mayfield Four.

Well, now we're down to the songs... place your bets now!

Number Five --> Spacehog - In The Meantime

I don't remember where or how I heard this song first, but it's always stuck with me... the driving bass, the lilting guitar intro, the soaring voice singing heartfelt lyrics about something I still don't understand... I'm never sure what I feel about this song, or what it's about, or why it sounds like it was recorded through a wall of styrofoam, but it moves me to this day no matter how often I hear it. I have every Spacehog album, and although uniformly awesome, this song rises WAY above any other track... that rare stroke of godly awesome that strikes some bands struck them hard, and I'm glad it did.

Number Four --> Big Sugar - Dear Mr Fantasy

Sure, it's a cover song, but I didn't know that until a few months ago, so lick me. Gordie at his guitar-playing and emotionally-singing best. A wonderful blues song played on hard-rocking double-necked Gibsons, with the fluid bass, omnipresent harmonica / saxophone solos, this is music the way Canada intended it to be... toe-tapping, head-nodding, and all-around better than everyone elses. There's not much I can say about this song, really... it's awesome. Just awesome. Really awesome. I miss Gordie. :(

Number Three --> The Smalls - There's No Question

"Why do you like this song? It's not like the others on the CD..." My wife said this after I fell in love with this tract, the final track on To Each A Zone, and she was right. The Smalls were without a doubt the hardest thing to come out of Taber, ALberta since the mine closed, but I just didn't love all their stuff. Corby's hypnotic bass, playing lead as was intended by nature, completely makes this song. Starting off mournful with a bare minimum of drumming, and the meandering bass tune, you really, REALLY hear what the Smalls singer can do when he puts his mind to it. Always clear, sometimes not an asset for a hard-rocker, he totally does his best work on this song. Singing about how one can't give in to depression and despair, the song takes off near the end when the guitar comes in with a vengeance. For no single reason, this song makes it to my Number Three very easily, and it gives me hope that somewhere, someday, bass might be respected as an instrument by more than just hard-core annoying afficionados such as myself.

Number Two --> Tin Star - Head

Yup, this is unique. Making it all the way to number two, I first heard this song... on a television ad for the bands album. They only played about thirty seconds of the track, and most of it was muted to the announcer could babble on about them, but it gripped me. It was six years before I had the means to download this song, but SOMEHOW, the name of the song, the band, and that thirty-second tune stayed with me, and the first time I listened to it, in the computer lab at college with my headphones on, just sort of made everything else melt away. Progressive experimental electronica-rock, the guitars were so distorted as to almost sound like some sort of synchroniser. The drum beats were a mix of drum-machine and real-life, but the bass and guitar were all real people. Superb singing, strange lyrics about insanity and studying, this song was used in 'The Sixth Sense', and a few other movies, as well as a couple car commercials. Tin Star's biggest claim to fame was this song, and boy, they deserve it for this track. Although the rest of their stuff is a little too esoteric and experimental for my tastes, this song totally bridges the gap between electronica and rock for me. Kudos.

To anyone who knows me, or has a good sense of premonition from my list of albums, the number one song will not be a surprise.

Number One --> Mayfield Four - Overflow

A huge song, with three distinctly different parts, this track near the end of the album knocked me on my ASS the first time I heard it. Myles' voice soars to amazing heights with lyrics that still make me a little misty-eyed. With imaginative and deceptively simple guitar licks, and a surprisingly complex bass line, it starts off with Myles singing as deep and breathy as he can (the guy's got just inhuman singing range). At seven minutes, it's their longest song, and they just poured everything they had into it. I was told that this song got two full minutes of standing, screaming ovation at the live show... bastards. I must have listened to it a thousand times, and it was the first song I ever heard to inspire me to write... I still remember the exact scene from the exact story, and exactly how it goes, everytime I hear this track, when I'm not moved to reflection about how the song used to make me feel. I had to take it out of my mix-tapes, though, because it tended to make me absent-minded and overly-emotional when I was driving. Godly in all respects, this song shall likely remain my favorite song of all time, second to none, and possibly ever.


Anonymous lostdwarf said...

I didn't realize I was so rock stupid. I only recognized 2 albums and none of those songs.

And hopefully, you're not categorizing 90s grunge under rock music. Otherwise, Nirvana, SoundGarden and Pearl Jam are kind of missing.

Sigh, I miss grunge.

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