Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#44: Nirvana-Heart-Shaped Box (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Heart-Shaped Box"
Artist: Nirvana
Release Date: August, 1993
From The Album: In Utero (1993)

Quick Take: According to Michael Azerrad's book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, shortly after Courtney Love first met Kurt Cobain, she made him a gift of a heart-shaped box, filled with tiny toys, seashells, and pine cones. While no one can say for sure if the song "Heart Shaped Box," from Nirvana's album In Utero, was intended to offer a glimpse inside Cobain and Love's sometimes stormy relationship (in the same book, Cobain told Azerrad his initial inspiration for the tune was a report about children with cancer), it certainly seems to be about two dysfunctional people torn between emotional need and deep-seated hatred. A woman is preying on a man's weakness as he's drawn into her "magnet tar pit trap," but he can't hide his own unwholesome attraction to her, declaring "I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black" and begging to climb up her "umbilical noose." The song makes clear the man is as much to blame as the woman for this state of affairs, and the chorus even parodies his weakness, declaring, "Hey/Wait/I've got a new complaint." The song married its often morbid images with a slow, deliberate melody that made inspired use of the then-standard Nirvana formula of quiet verse/loud chorus, and while Kurt Cobain's voice and guitar were the song's obvious focus, the intelligent support of bassist Krist Novoselic and percussionist Dave Grohl was especially evident in this performance, made all the more intense by Steve Albini's stark production.
Courtesy: Mark Deming (allmusic.com)

Monday, November 24, 2014

#45: The Replacements-Alex Cilton (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Alex Chilton"
Artist: The Replacements
Release Date: 1987
From The Album: Pleased To Meet Me (1987)

Quick Take: A homage to Paul Westerberg's underdog songwriting hero, "Alex Chilton" succinctly captures Big Star fans' feelings about that band's music with one simple line: "I'm in love with that song." For Jim Dickinson, the producer of the Replacements' album Pleased to Meet Me (1987) that features the tribute, the song must have felt like coming full circle. Though he had already put together an impressive resumé -- with gigs working with the Rolling Stones, among others -- Dickinson had also produced Big Star's shambolic, arty masterpiece Third/Sister Lovers in 1974 at Ardent Studios, where the Replacements made the pilgrimage to record their album. As if acknowledging that it would take an alternate world for a scenario where, "Children by the millions/Sing for Alex Chilton/When he comes 'round," Westerberg begins the song's imaginative lyric with: "If he was from Venus/Would he feed us with a spoon?/If he was from Mars, wouldn't that be cool?" But in Westerberg's mind, as with many other fans, the breathtaking indifference that greeted the classic Big Star records is simply astounding. As with Westerberg's other subjects and protagonists, Chilton serves as the ultimate outsider. In the view of Westerberg and other fans, Chilton's intelligent power pop anthems and gorgeous ballads should have resulted in rock stardom for him and his band, where those "millions" did flock to see him. The beauty of the writing is that the author can create such a wishful scenario, even if it is only imagined. Alas, the similarly influential Replacements also enjoyed precious little commercial success and, like Big Star, never really graduated beyond cult-band status, while those directly influenced by them reaped far more rewards. Obviously, this is one reason Westerberg identified with Chilton. "I never travel far/Without a little Big Star." Dickinson layers the track with multiple acoustic and electric guitar tracks with part-specific precision -- explosive, overdriven small-amp sounds and driving Keith Richards-esque riffs. Instead of guitars getting more huge on the chorus, Dickinson has the band singing a pad of harmony "ooh"s as Big Star themselves might have on their earlier, more Anglophile albums. Also included is a percussive cowbell and handclaps during the chorus. One annoying element of the production is sample-like '80s giant snare drum sound, which may have been right for the arena sound of Brian Adams, but not for bar band heroes the Replacements. Live versions of the song were usually performed closer to the band's well-known full-tilt abandon. While he retains the Replacements' edge, especially with the inherent raw vocals of Westerberg, Dickinson brought the band to the closest thing they had to a radio hit. And the catchy single surely influenced more than a few curious fans to investigate some Chilton/Big Star music.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top Songs Of The 90s (Division 13)

Welcome to our thirteenth division of the Top Songs Of The 90s where a panel narrows down the Top Songs until we get to the #1 song of the decade. Ballots were sent out to the station to station panel and I got 14 back. 6 Points were given to #1, 5 points to #2, etc. and 3.5 points were given to lists that were in NO ORDER. Below are the results!

You can follow along each Friday as another 9 songs catapult to the semi final stage. There will be 16 opening rounds, 12 semifinal rounds and then a tourney of head to head 64 songs in March-April. If you're interested in picking 6 songs a week, contact me! Thanks again!

And finally as promised, The link to the Top Songs Of The 90s OVERALL LEADER BOARD as well after 9 rounds. Have a wonderful weekend!!!
(# Points And Votes)
1. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.) 39.5 (9)
2. Drain You (Nirvana) 27 (5)
3. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots) 26.5 (7)
4. Polly (Nirvana) 23.5 (6)
5. Devil's Haircut (Beck) 21 (6)
6. One Headlight (The Wallflowers) 20.5 (7)
7. Zombie (The Cranberries) 19.5 (6)
8. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette) 16.5 (7)
9. Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz) 16.5 (5)
Songs that missed the cut  (#Points and Votes) 
Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen) 15.5 (6)
It Must Have Been Love (Roxette) 10.5 (3) 
Tennessee (Arrested Development) 10 (3) 
Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks) 7.5 (3)
Got Your Money (Ol' Dirty Bastard feat. Kelis) 7 (2)
Missing (Everything But The Girl) 7 (2)
The Freshman (The Verve Pipe) 6 (2)
Venus As A Boy (Bjork) 5 (1)
Cut Your Hair (Pavement) 7.5 (2)
Holland, 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel) 3.5 (1)  
Show Me Love (Robin S) 2 (1)
Sorted For E's And Wizz (Pulp) 1 (1)

90s songs that got NO LOVE on Division 13 ballot:
Beetlebum (Blur)
Caught By The Fuzz (Supergrass)
Holland, 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel)
Inner City Life/Timeless (Goldie)
Kowalski (Primal Scream)
Lazy Line Painter Jane (Belle & Sebastian)
Shit, Damn, Motherfucker (D'Angelo)
Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass (I-F)
Where Are You Baby? (Betty Boo)
7 Seconds (Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry)

Individual Ballots:
Ballot 1
1. Got Your Money (Ol' Dirty Bastard feat. Kelis)
2. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
3. Devil's Haircut (Beck)
4. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
5. Zombie (The Cranberries)
6. Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)

Ballot 2
1. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
2. Tennessee (Arrested Development)
3. Zombie (The Cranberries)
4. Devil's Haircut (Beck)
5. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
6. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)

Ballot 3
1. Polly (Nirvana)
2. Venus As A Boy (Bjork)
3. Drain You (Nirvana)
4. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)
5. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
6. Sorted For E's And Wizz (Pulp)

Ballot 4
1. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
2. It Must Have Been Love (Roxette)
3. Missing (Everything But The Girl)
4. Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
5. Show Me Love (Robin S)
6. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)

Ballot 5
1. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
2. Devil's Haircut (Beck)
3. Are You Gonna GO My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
4. Tennessee (Arrested Development)
5. Polly (Nirvana)
6. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)

Ballot 6
1. Drain You (Nirvana)
2. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
3. Polly (Nirvana)
4. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
5. Devil's Haircut (Beck)
6. Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks)

Ballot 7
1. Drain You (Nirvana)
2. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
3. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
4. Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
5. Zombie (The Cranberries)
6. The Freshman (The Verve Pipe)

Ballot 8 
1. Devil's Haircut (Beck)
2. Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
3. Cut Your Hair (Pavement)
4. Missing (Everything But The Girl)
5. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
6. Got Your Money (Ol' Dirty Bastard feat. Kelis)

Ballot 9
Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks)
It Must Have Been Love (Roxette)
Streets Of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)

Ballot 10
1. Polly (Nirvana)
2. The Freshman (The Verve Pipe)
3. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
4. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)
5. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
6. Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)

Ballot 11
1. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
2. Zombie (The Cranberries)
3. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette)
4. One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
5. It Must Have Been Love (Roxette)
6. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)

Ballot 12
1. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots)
2. Drain You (Nirvana)
3. Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
4. Friends In Low Places (Garth Brooks)
5. Polly (Nirvana)
6. Devil's Haircut (Beck) 

Ballot 13
1. Drain You (Nirvana)
2. Are You Gona Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
3. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
4. Zombie (The Cranberries)
5. Tennessee (Arrested Development)
6. You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette) 

Ballot 14
Cut Your Hair (Pavement)
Holland, 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel)
Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)
One Headlight (The Wallflowers)
Polly (Nirvana)
Zombie (The Cranberries)

#46: The Cure-Boys Don't Cry (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Boys Don't Cry"
Artist: The Cure
Release Date: June, 1979
From The Album: Boys Don't Cry (1979)

Quick Take: Unlike later Cure songs that tended to be densely layered swirls of sound, early songs like "Boys Don't Cry" -- from the compilation-of-sorts album Boys Don't Cry (1980) -- are pared-down affairs: sparse and austere, with crystalline guitars, prominent lead vocals, and minimal production. A delectable pop burst, "Boys Don't Cry" has more to do with early-'80s American popsters like the dB's than the goth rock contemporaries with which the Cure found themselves lumped. And while the ire production ethos changed over the years, with increasing depth and rich texture, the pop sense that the band showed on "Boys Don't Cry" continued to set the band apart as sterling songwriters with an incomparable ear for melody. 

The classic lineup features just two guitar parts (from Robert Smith), Michael Dempsey on bass, Laurence Tolhurst on drums, and Smith's vocals. "Boys Don't Cry" chugs along at the sort of jaunty tempo that would become more rare as the band continued. The guitars strum rather than churn. There is a memorable single-note guitar line appearing on the chorus that brings to mind pop-punk bands like the Buzzcocks and such offspring as Superchunk. 

Smith's lyric also sets a bit of a template for his later recurring themes, albeit this one is devoid of much of his existential alienation; "Boys Don't Cry" is a more straightforward teen love-and-loss song: "I would say I'm sorry/If I thought that it would change your mind/But I know that this time/I've said too much/Been too unkind/I try to laugh about it/Cover it all up with lies/I try and laugh about it/Hiding the tears in my eyes/'Cause boys don't cry/Boys don't cry." It is really just a classic pop song (it even features a well-conceived middle-eight bridge), sung with Smith's singular style and just a little bit of sneer thrown in for effect. The singer sounds simultaneously snotty, sad-sack, flip, and regretful. In other words, Smith manages to capture much of the self-loathing and aggressive disregard for other's feelings that teenagers can sometimes practice.
Courtesy: Bill Janovitz (allmusic.com)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#47: Beastie Boys-Sabotage (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Sabotage"
Artist: Beastie Boys
Release Date: January, 1994
From The Album: Ill Communication (1994)

Quick Take: "Sabotage" is a 1994 song by American hip-hop group Beastie Boys, released as the first single from their fourth studio album Ill Communication. The song's style is characterized as rapcore, featuring traditional rock instrumentation (Ad-Rock on guitar, MCA on bass, and Mike D on drums), turntable scratches and heavily distorted bass guitar riffs. A moderate commercial success, the song was notable as well for its video, directed by Spike Jonze and nominated in five categories at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Sabotage" #480 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at #46 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and was ranked #19 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s list. Pitchfork Media included the song at #39 on their Top 200 Tracks of the 90s list.
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#48: Breeders-Cannonball (Top 500 Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)

(Top Modern Rock Songs Of All Time)
Song: "Cannonball"
Artist: The Breeders
Release Date: August, 1993
From The Album: Last Splash (1993)

Quick Take: This euphonious rocker would become the Breeders' biggest commercial success as the first single from the group's sophomore LP, Last Splash. "Cannonball" would be picked by both English music weeklies Melody Maker and NME as song of the year and would help propel the album (along with the subsequent release of "Divine Hammer") to eventual platinum status. An infectious blend of indie pop and grunge rock, the song conveys an effusive energy, balancing quirky hooks with a gushing power, supporting playful, goofball lyrics that perfectly deliver the song's sense of unhinged, freewheeling fun. The song's odd beginning manages to instantly grab the listener's attention and foreshadows the "anything goes," feel-good energy to follow. The track opens with singer and main songwriting force Kim Deal testing the mic in distorted voice, "Check, check, one, two," against beeping feedback, overlaid by a similarly distorted vocal harmonizing: "Wah-ooh ooh/Wah-ooh ooh." Drummer Jim Macpherson then taps out the rhythm with metallic clicking on snare rim and cymbal stand, signaling the start of the song's trademark bubbling and slithering bass line. Tension surmounts expertly, drums and bass hooking up in the song's bounding, rhythmic romp, while a woozy, slithering guitar lick saunters above with coy inebriation until the low crunch of down-and-dirty guitars takes over. Squealing, high guitar feedback sounds before the introduction of the vocal melody at almost a full minute into the tune, Kim Deal cooing the song's slyly humorous lyrics, "Spitting in a wishing well/Blown to hell...crash," with the band pulling to a short stop for Deal to invoke the album's title, "I'm the last splash." The quirky arrangement contains frequent dynamic pauses somehow without dampening the song's relentless, rollicking momentum. Deal delivers the tune's repetitive verses with a seductive, peek-a-boo shyness that aims to please: "I know you, little libertine/I know you're a cannonball/I'll be your whatever you want/The bong in this reggae song." The band powers to the next level for a jubilant chorus, signaled by pelting snare rolls from Macpherson, unleashing new layers of guitar distortion, with Deal's distorted telephone vocal shouting: "Hey now, hey now/I want you Koo Koo, Cannonball." The stuttering, start-and-stop transition then evens out into an infectious melodic hook of sweetly layered vocal harmonies, with Deal and company repeating the line: "In the shade/In the shade." The song effectively employs a false ending, pausing for a full measure then slamming into the chorus and slipping in another full verse/chorus go-round before screeching to a halt.