Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1989

1. LL Cool J - Going Back to Cali - Walking With a Panther
This shit was absolutely as cool as it got.

2. Pixies - Dead - Doolittle
I didn't come to the Pixies until college, a good eight years after this groundbreaking album was released, but it didn't sound the slightest bit dated. In fact, another 12 years later, it's still an incredibly powerful album. "Dead" has all the elements that make the Pixies great: two guitars sounding almost as if they're at odds until they come crashing together, that Frank Black yelp, and the tightest rhythm section of its day.

3. Neil Young - Don't Cry - Freedom
I sadly still haven't heard most of what I call Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" album. Like a lot of Neil Young songs, this is good-not-great, and becomes more or less forgettable when you stand it up next to his best songs, which, like "Rockin' In The Free World" are some of the best ever written.

4. Tom Petty - Yer So Bad - Full Moon Fever
One hell of a good rocker that easily rates high enough to be on a greatest hits collection, its absence on any such collection delayed my discovery for years. I love the juxtaposition in the lines "Yer so bad / Best thing I ever had" - it's pure Petty and in his hands it's utterly believable.

5. The B-52's - Love Shack - Cosmic Thing
Ubiquitous then and now, this is one of those songs that the universe just needed to exist, one of those songs that would've been written by somebody at some point if the B-52's hadn't gotten there first. It's the "Stayin' Alive" of it's day, and went into the stratosphere without even the benefit of a hit movie.

6. Bob Dylan - Where Teardrops Fall - Oh Mercy
One of Dylan's many Great Comeback Albums, Oh Mercy has the Daniel Lanois touch through and through, and is excellent from start to finish. Otherwise sounding slightly out of place, the saxophone that comes in at the end makes perfect sense in the context of New Orleans, where Dylan wrote and recorded the album. The lyrics are pure Dylan, seemingly biblical at times, deceptively simple throughout, full of dark and light imagery and lonely, longing thoughts.

7. Galaxie 500 - Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste - Peel Sessions
Technically a 2005 release, this Modern Lovers' cover was recorded in 1989, so we'll go with it. I've always been more on the Luna side of Dean Wareham's career, but then a Galaxie 500 song like this comes out of the blue and mesmerizes me completely. Tremendously influential, Galaxie 500 stands with the Pixies as unassailably cool inspirations for any band to cite today.

8. Superchunk - My Noise - Tossing Seeds
An early single, "My Noise" catches Superchunk just a bit before the band arrived at its signature sound. Here the band has more of a minimalist punk sound, a bit rougher and rawer than their later records. Neither a standout or a throwaway song, "My Noise" is great for what it shows: a band out in the world, with a bunch of musicians DIYing themselves into existence.

9. Fugazi - Give Me The Cure - 13 Songs
Fugazi is one of the closing chapters of Our Band Could Be Your Life, a tremendous book on the 1980s indie underground that I was reading as this shuffle project traced the same timeline. So it's fitting that Fugazi shows up here. A re-release of two EPs, 13 Songs closes the 1980s with as much promise and integrity as bands like Black Flag and the Minutemen opened the decade. I've talked a lot with Rolbot about the differences and similarities the indie, underground and DIY bands now have with those in the 1980s, and as technologically enabled as today's bands are, it's still on them to make good music. As for Fugazi and the like, not only are people still listening, but more and more of them are discovering how great the music is, of any era, once you step off the beaten path.

10. The Jayhawks - Dead End Angel - Blue Earth
This was one of those albums I couldn't find for the life of me, then I ended up picking up a used copy at a very inflated price, then ended up reissued like a year later. Lesson: out-of-print CDs will never be "collectibles" and should never command "collectible" pricing. In the end it's a minor album, interesting mostly because it captures the band just before inspiration really hit and they recorded the classic Hollywood Town Hall.

Pixies - Dead (live)
Fugazi - Give Me The Cure (live)

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