Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1990

1. Texas Tornados - Laredo Rose - Texas Tornados
Definitely a curveball addition to the League of SuperGroups, this project brought together Doug Sahm, Freddie Fender, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers for an accordion-heavy brand of Tex-Mex that sounds just about as perfect as it could be. Known mostly for "(Hey Baby) Que Paso?" it's a surprisingly strong album, and in my mind a one-of-a-kind treasure.

2. The Sundays - Can't Be Sure - Reading, Writing And Arithmetic
I had to backtrack on the Sundays, after getting mesmerized by the amazingly sunny Brit-pop of 1997's Static And Silence. And there was certainly a lot more to the band, as this debut album shows. With Harriet Wheeler on vocals, The Sundays come across more as a female-fronted U2 than anything else that was being recorded at the time. The Wikipedia entry simply calls Wheeler's voice "dreamy," and on this single its absolutely true.

3. Pixies - Havalina - Bossanova
The Pixies third album is almost as great as the band's second, which is in itself a remarkable achievement, but the band's strengths show up everywhere. I was never a fan of "Havalina," which closes the album, but hearing it on shuffle, stripped from the rest of the album, it's a fantastic, laid-back tune, once again catchy as hell, with Frank Blank repeating "Havalina" over and over. And hey, it's about Arizona...

4. Public Enemy - Meet The G That Killed Me - Fear Of A Black Planet
I never had any of the Public Enemy records when I was younger, so all I knew were the "hits." Even in 44 seconds, this is a band that sounds unstoppable.

5. Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus - Violator
Everybody I knew liked this album back when it came out. Violator was synthy, but definitely not techno, more like a lighter, pre-industrial sort of sound. It was catchy, just dark enough to seem really cool, and one of those powerhouse records that kept giving off singles, so that you couldn't escape it if you wanted for roughly a year. And "Personal Jesus" stands the test of time, without a doubt.

6. Operation Ivy - Artificial Life - Energy
This Lookout! Records album is a ska-punk breakthrough, and was one of those direct precursors to the type of Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords bands that I grew up knowing as punk. This song - like so many of the genre - goes by in barely two minutes, and it's up to the listener to grab it. Not much of this album really grabbed me, to be honest, but for my money "Big City" is one of the best punk songs ever.

7. The Replacements - Who Knows - All For Nothing/Nothing For All
I have the songs from 1997 compilation tagged by what year they were recorded, so this live version of "Who Knows" pops up in 1990. This is definitely Westerberg nearly all the way transformed into his solo style, with a saxophone-infused ballad. But I like Westerberg's solo stuff, by and large, because he can still turn out great lines all the time: "When the fire in his eyes has turned to ashes" alone makes this song worthwhile.

8. Tom Russell Band - Outbound Plane - Poor Man's Dream
I've never heard anyone talk about Tom Russell in anything less than glowing terms, but there are few people I've ever heard talk about Tom Russell. He may have a relatively small circle of fans, but from what I can gather, Tom Russell is as highly regarded as any songwriter there is. I just got this record, and it has a comfortable cowboy folk sound, with plenty of insightful lyrics. This album, and probably several more of Russell's, deserve a lot more of my attention.

9. They Might Be Giants - Minimum Wage - Flood
The second song on this shuffle to check in at under 50 seconds, I can't say much for this song. BUT, that doesn't mean that I don't love the quirky brilliance of Flood. True uniqueness is tough to find in any music, but They Might Be Giants have always gone their own way, bless 'em.

10. Mazzy Star - Halah - She Hangs Brightly
Like I did with The Sundays, I backtracked through the Mazzy Star albums after discovering them through the somewhat uncharacteristic "big hit." All three albums are filled with great songs, and what a sound. Dreamy is again the first word to use with Mazzy Star, and "Halah" is the perfect example of the band - part psychedelic, part folk, great melody and Hope Sandoval's aching and sexy vocals.

The Sundays - Can't Be Sure (live)

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