Thursday, September 1, 2011

Twenty Other Great Albums That Aren't Nevermind, 20 years later [Part II]

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 11:09 AM

SoundDinoGarthMagik.jpg
In yesterday’s installment, I found myself getting more caught up in records that seemed more “important” than “great,” inadvertently creating a diversion from my reason for writing this. I don’t think I did that much better on its follow-up, considering the additional research I did turned up about 20 more records I could easily praise to no end, and probably would if I had the time. Hence the extensive honorable mention at the end.

Soundgarden , Badmotorfinger
Pearl Jam may have been better musicians than Nirvana, but it didn’t make them a better band. Soundgarden were probably better musicians than both of those bands, and while they’re not quite Nirvana, they’re way better than Pearl Jam. What is my point? Get really stoned and listen to the last minute-and-a-half of “Rusty Cage.”

Dinosaur Jr., Green Mind
They were slinging grunge before it had a name. They were aping on Neil Young long before Pearl Jam, and they were crooning sweetly from behind walls of feedback before My Bloody Valentine. By 1991, this veteran trio had bested '91’s competitors years in advance. Technically a solo album, given J Mascis played nearly every instrument here, Green Mind is, from start to finish, a whimsical, squealing, fuzzy journey of pop hooks, contagious choruses and signature-series face-melting guitar solos. And I think the title is a weed reference. Yay weed.

Melvins, Bullhead
Believe it or not, Melvins used to play pretty short songs. It was Bullhead where they first implemented the sprawling epic stoner sludge for which they're famous. Stretchin' these slimy dirges out a few minutes longer, they take plenty of time to grow large enough to swallow your ache-y brain with a black and deafening haze.

Sebadoh, III
If nothing else, this record is the strongest case for the preservation of analog cassettes ever. There’s no digital plug-in or iPhone app alive that could provide the warm hiss or fuzzy overdrive that are each as prominent an instrument as any other on this record. This tri-polar songwriter collaboration pitted Lou Barlow’s introspective folk confessionals against Eric Gaffney’s schizo-rage blackouts leaving Jason Lowenstein left to mediate between the two, rendering III as more a three-headed solo snake than a cohesive Sebadoh release, shifting often from humbly melodic to violently psychotic without warning. Plus, it’s already gotten the double-disc-reissue treatment

Garth Brooks, Ropin’ the Wind
Growing up punk in rural Alabama meant enduring many unwanted hours of Garth Brooks. Hence, it wasn’t until after a few suggestions from my colleagues that I even considered putting this on the list. I gotta say, Garth gets way closer to classic rock on Ropin’ the Wind than he did to alternative rock with his alter ego Chris Gaines. “Rodeo” actually makes the idea of a rodeo sound pretty badass. And there’s also a Bill Joel cover, and I suspect the title is some weird masturbation reference?

Violent Femmes, Why Do Birds Sing?
Did you know Violent Femmes have more than one album, and a zillion more songs aside from “Blister in the Sun”? It’s true. Most of them are even just as good. This record, for example, has epic faves like “American Music,” “Out the Window” and a killer cover of Culture Club’s “Do U Really Want to Hurt Me?” You should really throw out your copy of Violent Femmes and stick to their later catalog.

Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Who’s the black sheep? What’s a black sheep? I feel like Black Sheep may have been the first hip-hop act to embrace the concept of “irony.” Irreverent, often hilarious, sometimes self-deprecating (still a rarity in such an ego-fueled genre) and entirely self-produced, Black Sheep’s debut is a curiously strong one that gives its audience two choices: You can get with this, or you can get with that.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Rather than debate the triumphs and failures of unholy punk/funk alliances from the past 40 years or the fact that this band may be responsible for inspiring just as many pop-culture atrocities as Sublime, I ask you simply to listen to this record. John Frusciante’s sleek, razor-sharp and emotionally charged guitar tones are enough to inspire me to spin this once every couple years. Flea’s previously slap-a-minute bassy clusterfucks streamline into rock-solid grooves you can bounce a quarter off of. And while Anthony Keidis’ greaseball raps are pretty groan-worthy and his overly sharp croon hadn’t yet been Auto-Tuned to perfection, I’m willing to sacrifice some street cred by recognizing this as a masterfully assembled slab of pop perfection.

Mudhoney, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
This is essentially the Pet Sounds of grunge records. Recorded on an-even-then-primitive 8-track reel-to-reel, Mudhoney dialed back the superfuzz and Big Muff just enough to cram some organs, harmonica and acoustic guitar into this gently reckless, down and dirty amalgamation of tweaker adrenaline and reefer anesthesia.

Honorable Mentions:
Primus, Sailing the Seas of Cheese
A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory
Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend
Orbital, Yellow
Primal Scream, Screamedelica
Fishbone, The Reality of My Surroundings
KLF, The White Room
Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonwesque
Pixies, Trompe le Monde
Neil Young, Arc
Ice Cube, Death Certificate
Daniel Johnston, Artistic Vice
Jesus Jones, Doubt
EMF, Schubert Dip

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