Friday, June 15, 2018

#471: Run-DMC - Raising Hell (1986)

Zack: I’m pretty well versed in hip-hop history, so I know the incredible role that Run-DMC played in its development, popularization, and commercialization. And yet while I can recognize the significance, I also have trouble appreciating the music. It’s just so one-note and dated. I feel bad saying that because Run-DMC have a very similar sound to the Beastie Boys, whom I love, but I just don’t feel the same energy that radiates off Licensed to Ill (the Beastie Boys debut album that came out 6 months after Raising Hell, Run-DMC’s third). I feel like I should probably be more laudatory to the band that influenced the Beastie Boys (and who were more….authentic to hip-hop at the time), but I just have a hard time getting excited for songs like Perfection and Dumb Girl. For me, listening to Raising Hell is a strictly academic enterprise. I wish I liked the music more, but it just doesn’t hit me with enough force.
Favorite Tracks: Raising Hell; It’s Tricky; Walk This Way

Emily: Run-DMC helped to both create modern hip-hop and to bring it into the mainstream with this album. This is particularly true for the Aerosmith collaboration Walk This Way (which has been preserved by the Library of Congress!), which I think is the song that best holds up after 30+ years. They may not have been the first to merge rap with rock, and they certainly weren't the last, but they may have done it best. Something about the thumping beat, the rhythmic rhymes, and Steven Tyler's signature screech-singing just harmoniously works together. Though Run-DMC's popularity waned by the '90s until their breakup, after which Run became a pastor and had a slew of reality shows about his family and DMC appeared on a bunch of Vh1 nostalgia shows with his trademark wide-brimmed hat (yes, of course this is how I best know both of them), their influence lives on in any rock verse on a rap song and every pair of Stan Smiths on a hip-hop artist's feet. 
Favorite Tracks: Walk This Way; It's Tricky; You Be Illin'

#470: The Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat (1981)

Zack: Emily kept insisting that this album would actually be good, and I am shocked to announce that she was right. I was dubious because, while I do know the song We Got the Beat and think it’s catchy, we’ve been burned a lot by New Wave albums that we picked because that one song is good (see: Cell, Soft). But the entire album is just poppy songs with great hooks. It kind of sounds like the feeling of jumping on a trampoline. It’s an album made almost entirely of songs to set movie montages to. As a result, while this certainly will not go down as my favorite album from this batch of 100, it definitely won’t be making the least favorite list, and for a New Wave album that’s about all that you can ask.
Favorite Tracks: Our Lips Are Sealed; We Got the Beat; How Much More

Emily: After a long hiatus (and two months of nearly non-stop work on one case), I'm back on my album-listening grind. And what a lovely way to jump back in with The Go-Go's. It's a super fun, positive jaunt that, as Zack described, feels like it would fit perfectly in any prom-night-getting-ready or windows-down-car-singalong montage in a teen movie from 1981 to today. That's particularly true for the iconic singles We Got the Beat, featured on the Jimmy Neutron soundtrack, the staple of my childhood that I've mentioned here many times before, and Our Lips Are Sealed, which for my '90s-'00s generation had both an eponymous Mary-Kate and Ashley movie and a Hilary and Haylie Duff cover. I'm pretty sure anyone alive since 1981 knows both of those songs, and most of them probably know the words well enough to bust them out at karaoke. Sometimes you just need a burst of fun from your music, and Beauty and the Beat certainly has delivered that for almost 40 years and counting.
Favorite Tracks: Our Lips Are Sealed; We Got the Beat; Tonite

Sunday, March 25, 2018

#469: Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet (1986)

Zack: As a New Jerseyian, I am supposed to like Bon Jovi. I do not. Bon Jovi is trash. Slippery When Wet is the most famous bag of trash this trash band has ever dumped out. It has trash songs like Livin’ on a Prayer and You Give Love a Bad Name. These trash songs are almost all the same type of trash: loud and cheesy, like moldy Stilton. Occasionally, there is a slower, still cheesy, ballad piece of trash, more like fresh mozzarella that’s sat in the fridge a little too long and has dried out, but isn’t necessarily poisonous. I am losing the thread of this metaphor. Point is, this band and this album are trash, I do not like it, and that is it.
Favorite Tracks: Wanted Dead or Alive; Never Say Goodbye; Livin’ on a Prayer

Emily: There is definitely a time and place for Bon Jovi. Karaoke? Bust out that Wanted Dead or Alive. Last song at a wedding/bar mitzvah/prom? Perfect time for Livin' on a Prayer. Small children doing a lip-sync dance wearing denim jackets and bandannas? Gotta do It's My Life (Note: this is a thing that actually happened. My brother, age 7, was one of those adorable children wearing a bandanna in a summer camp performance many years ago.). In any of those scenarios, I'm on board with a small dose of Bon Jovi - I'll sing off-key and jump/dance around with the best of them. But a whole album of Bon Jovi at 10 AM on a Sunday? Eh, not quite the right vibe. The cheese and sleaze is amplified when it's all you hear for 45 minutes, and the fun of the singles gets drained out by the filler surrounding them. So I think I'll stick with small doses of Bon Jovi from here on out - but, based on Zack's comments above, almost definitely not at my own wedding.
Favorite Tracks: Livin' on a Prayer; Wanted Dead or Alive; You Give Love a Bad Name

Saturday, March 10, 2018

#468: Supergrass - I Should Coco (1995)

Zack: As we’ve said many times before, there are way too many Britpop albums on this damn list. I Should Coco is yet another one, but it is one that I actually enjoyed. It actually bounced around in terms of tempo and sound. Some songs were almost punkish while others were all jingly and kind of modernized Kinks-esque. Many of the other Britpop bands just kind of made the same song over and over again, so it was great to get something that took the best parts of that genre and incorporated them into a broader array of sounds.
Favorite Tracks: Strange Ones; I’d Like to Know; Sofa (Of My Lethargy)

Emily: As I was listening to this album, I figured it would be another Britpop album that never made its way over the States. Perfectly pleasant, an opening act you'd be happy to see but not a band you'd ever go out of your way to hear. But then, a few songs in, a familiar tune started playing - the song Alright, which I instantly recognized from a commercial (though I couldn't remember which one - turns out it was for Frosted Mini-Wheats). It's a bouncy track, seemingly tailor-made for selling cereal. So it turns out that Supergrass is a fairly anonymous, pretty good '90s Britpop band getting that Kellogg's money. Good for them.
Favorite Tracks: I'd Like to Know; Strange Ones; Sofa (Of My Lethargy)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

#467: The Band - The Band (1969)

Zack: Once again, I really need to re-listen to this album. It’s for the opposite reason that I applied for The Undertones, though. While for that album I was worried that I didn’t get it, here I’m worried I got it too much. I listened to this album from about 12:45-1:30 a.m. while drunk and watching an Ali-Frasier fight on YouTube (The Rumble in The Jungle to be specific). It was such a particular environment, but I’m worried that it’s the reason that I loved this album so much. Seriously, I adored The Band from start to finish. But hold back my affection out of fear that part of my adoration is really owed to the strategic beauty of the rope-a-dope. In the event that my feelings are not misplaced, however, what jumped out to me on this album was the cohesiveness of the music and lyrics. It was all one. That may sound simple, but I’ve encountered plenty of songs that disconnect the atmospheric mood of the song from the lyrics of the song. Here, it all flowed as one. Each song felt absolutely complete. And it’s just a bonus how well they matched up against the first 4 rounds.
Favorite Tracks: Whispering Pines; The Unfaithful Servant; The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Emily: I'm not sure if calling your band The Band is incredibly stupid or incredibly audacious. It's probably a little bit of both. You make your claim that your band is not just A band, but THE band, the band of bands as it were. But also when you tell people that your band is called The Band they'll just say "Yeah, I know that it's a band, but what's it called?" I think I'm on the side of stupid for this one. This self-titled album is perfectly fine - it didn't really grab me, probably because it was a bit too country for my tastes. But as far as band names go, The Band might be one of the all-time worst.
Favorite Tracks: Whispering Pines; Across the Great Divide; The Unfaithful Servant

Sunday, January 28, 2018

#466: The Undertones - The Undertones (1979)

Zack: I think I need to listen to this album again. On a first listen, I thought it was pretty good. It sounded like an early progenitor of pop punk, which was kind of interesting given the year it came out. But musically, I thought it was pretty good. Yet this album has garnered a not insignificant number of awards and accolades, and this isn’t one of those cases where I’m just flabbergasted to hear that. I’m just, like, wait really? I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe this album grows on you, but I’ll have to report back in to let you know if that’s the case.
Favorite Tracks: She’s a Run Around; Jump Boys; Jimmy Jimmy

Emily: This album sounded like so much music I listened to in high school. Local bands of other pimply-faced high-schoolers trying their hand at punk rock, random no-name bands on Myspace trying to be the next Fall Out Boy - somehow The Undertones sounded like all of that, except British. They have the snottiness down, and the everyman young person lyrics. Overall it worked, but definitely didn't seem too special. But then you have to consider that it's from 1979 - maybe they were just innovators, bringing forth several decades of amateurish three-chord punk to come.
Favorite Tracks: Jump Boys; She's a Run Around; I Gotta Getta

#465: Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)

Zack: Black Sabbath are just as iconic now as they were when we last listened to an album by them back in 2011. But the interceding 7 years have not made me a convert. I have nothing against Black Sabbath, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a craving for Paranoid, and I’ll go on the record now as saying the odds I replay Black Sabbath (the album) from here on are low. The album was good, and the way that bass line just jumps out at you in impressive. Plus there is just a thrilling authenticity to it. Apparently the whole album was recorded in one day, and I believe it. It just sounds like it was all thrown together in the best way possible. But it’s just not a sound that I would seek out if not prompted.
Favorite Tracks: N.I.B.; Warning; Black Sabbath

Emily: As far as metal goes, I'll pick Black Sabbath over most other bands every day of the week. Since they're pioneers of the genre, their sound still has roots in the heavy rock and blues of the '60s without the screaming and squeaking and other antics that malign the genre in later decades. This eponymous album is Black Sabbath's debut, so therefore it's even more rooted in metal's forefathers than Paranoid (which only came a few months later). They're still figuring out their sound here, but there are certainly shades of classics to come.
Favorite Tracks: N.I.B.; Evil Woman; Sleeping Village