295. Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Enter the 36 Chambers’

This is the part where I express regret because I feel like I have already burned through my feelings on the Wu-Tang Clan via writing about 4 Ghostface albums, and one GZA and one Raekwon album. I don’t really have anything new to say, but I am going to re-tell what I said during my post on Ironman: I discovered the Wu-Tang Clan in elementary school, and all of us thought that the stuff they rapped about on Enter the 36 Chambers was totally true. We thought they were samurais who spent all day murdering people, and that eventually their “gang” would overtake an entire city or something. They were basically a real version of an Axis of Evil to us.

And until I die, that is probably going to still be lingering around in my head. The Wu-Tang clan will always signify “realness” to me, even though I know now most, if not all, of that stuff was just them posturing. I will never be able to truly separate Raekwon from the idea that I thought he was the real chef of the Wu-Tang Clan, that they had him around to make paninis. 

I guess that’s what first impressions do to you though. Or maybe growing up with a bunch of impressionable dummies has messed me up more than I realized. 

224. Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’

Marquee Moon is a good bullshit detector record. Everyone who has ever bought it/downloaded it hasn’t heard a Television song, and all they know is that Television were, along with Talking Heads, Patti Smith and the Ramones, part of the first wave of NY Punk. And then you listen to the thing, and it turns out these guys are less the Ramones than they are the East Coast Grateful Dead, if the Dead’s music ever went anywhere and their guitar riffs locked into place like a subway on a track. Then you have to admit to yourself that this isn’t at all what you are looking for.

But then you realize that this is more tuneful than any Ramones album. And that what this lacks in the “authenticity” of someone like Richard Hell (who was in this band originally) it makes up for in actual musicianship. These guys could play the fuck out of guitars. Television are one of the best guitar bands of all time, and no one even realizes it. And sure, the Dictators had “fury” or whatever, but they never wrote one song that is as good as the title track off here.

So, for awhile, you live with the idea that this is an album that isn’t what you thought it’d be, then you realize that Television realized something before all the punks did. Anger and two-note riffs may get you the immediate respect of your peers, but 12 minute songs with 3 guitar solos live forever.  

222. Talking Heads’ ‘Speaking In Tongues’

I know it’s cliche now, because it’s been in every emotional movie trailer since 1993, and even people who generally don’t like the Talking Heads at least acknowledge its greatness, but it’s hard to not acknowledge “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” as the best Talking Heads song. It’s the Talking Heads song I’d want playing at my funeral, it’s the Talking Heads song I hear when I see a pretty girl, it’s the Talking Heads song I’d play to someone to tell them how it is on earth. And I know that seems so corny now, but that’s only because everyone realizes it’s great, and now it’s not unique to think that that song is the best Talking Heads song. 

Well, I’m not unique. I’m just a sad, cliched dude who once teared up when listening to this. 

199. Sleigh Bells’ ‘Treats’

Back when the A.V. Club Madison was a running concern, and I could turn a quick buck writing concert reviews and play previews, I got asked to write a “Favorite Shows of 2010” thing, and back in 2010, there was one show in particular I remember fondly even now, in 2013: I saw Sleigh Bells open for Yeasayer like 4 days before Treats came out, and in terms of having my balls rocked off by a band, it’s that Sleigh Bells show and everything that came afterwards. It was a transcendent show. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

"My first full year of seeing shows in Madison got off to a slow start, but once it got going in April, it seemed like there was at least one can’t miss band to see each week. But no show was better than the 35 minutes I spent having my chest cavity imploded at the Majestic while watching Sleigh Bells open for Yeasayer. The show was in the few days before the duo’s excellent Treats came out, and while I had heard deliriously loud singles “Kids” and “Crown On The Ground,” I didn’t expect to be quite so sonically assaulted. I spent the band’s set alternately smiling my face off and stepping backwards to try to relieve some of the pressure on my torso. Granted, Yeasayer was terrible—the group confirmed every snarky Rusted Root comparison—but I would gladly pay double to see Sleigh Bells again.”


The thing I think about now, is how irrelevant Sleigh Bells made Yeasayer seem. I was so-so on Yeasayer before that show, and then seeing them after being carpet-bombed by Sleigh Bells just made them seem out of touch, and worst, impossibly lame. Like, how horrible of a opening band for them; they have to follow up “Crown on the Ground” with a bunch of boring ass shit from Odd Blood. They didn’t even try to top them; they just rolled over. I haven’t listened to them at all since. 

                                                 ***

The only problem with seeing a lot of the songs on Treats live before hearing them on wax is that they never, ever seem loud enough. I’ve listened to this album probably 100 times, and it never can pack enough oomph. I blew out a speaker in my old Saturn listening to this, and even then, rattling windows and blowing up stereo components, it didn’t feel like it did live. This record doesn’t come close. The only time their music felt like it did when I saw them live is when I saw them alive, again, in 2012. I guess that’s probably not good for Sleigh Bells’ record product, but I guess this is an endorsement: see these guys live. Your chest cavity will never be the same.  

197. Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’

Graceland is, without question, Paul Simon’s best solo album. But a series of things have happened since that make it seem less great.:

1. Vampire Weekend stole the sound and taught a new generation about Gap-friendly African music (I don’t mean this as a pejorative, I love Vampire Weekend)

2. We’ve become uneasy with the fact that a little, white nerdy guy co-opted African music for an album that was sort of like a mid-life crisis. 

3. Seriously, however much Ladysmith Black Mambazo made, it wasn’t enough.

4. The video from “You Can Call Me Al” stars Chevy Chase, and we all know Chevrolet Chase is an asshole.*

5. This is an album that is so totally uncool by modern standards—and not ironically uncool like Hall & Oates—that people underrate it in retrospect. It came out in the era when ’80s indie was blowing up. It doesn’t have the cache of the later Talking Heads albums. It’s corny. It’s not worthy of magazine cover retrospectives. 

All of this is a shame, because this might be the album I’d pull out if I wanted to explain what music was like in the ’80s. Or at least what dorks listened to in the ’80s

*—This one is mostly because I wanted to make that Chevrolet Chase joke. 

196. Shabazz Palaces’ ‘Live On KEXP’

I’ve seen Shabazz Palaces live twice since Black Up came out, and both times, it was an intriguing, bewitching experience. The first time, I saw them in Milwaukee, and their bass was so intense that I felt like I had vertigo. I turned to walk, and I almost fell down. 

The last time was a week ago, and I got paid to see it. This is what it was like. This album is a live session the group did on Seattle radio, and it’s pretty close to capturing the live sound of the group; the bass is heavy, the sound is sprawling and everything is percussive and awesome.

194. Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band’s ‘Night Moves’

1. If you were to try to soundtrack a movie about America in the 1970’s, you would use a song by Thin Lizzy, probably from Jailbreak. But if you were going to try to make a movie about America in the ’70s, and you wanted to use music from the American band that most sounded like the 1970s, you’d pick something from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Night Moves. Seriously; this thing actually comes with a feathered haircut, a pair of bell bottoms, and a 12-pack of Budweiser. It’s flawless. It’s an album as a history lesson about the mood of a country. It’s an album that makes the Eagles entirely unnecessary.

2. The year after I graduated college, I lived in St. Cloud, Minn., and spent a bunch of weekends down in Minneapolis hanging out with my friend who lived there and his roommate. These weekends always ended with us going out and drinking ourselves into oblivion. Part of this routine was listening to the song “Night Moves” as the last song we’d listen to before we went out the door. It was a ritual my friend’s roommate had, and it never made much sense. I mean, it’s a song about making out with a childhood girlfriend.

But now I hear that song and I remember the time I got woken up at 5 am by this roommate, who got home an hour after us and was throwing a fit because he blew it with a woman he was trying to lay some night moves on. I think about the time we ate McDonalds at 3 AM, and I threw a street cone like 50 yards into an alley. I remember sitting in a shitty Dinkytown apartment, trying to extend my childhood for a little bit longer.