Well those two years kind of zipped by, didn’t they? Go figure, you’re in a global pandemic, raising a kid and dealing with both major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder during a time of great turmoil; I guess everything just becomes a blur.
Anyway, the good news is I think I’m back for a little while again.
Let’s talk about albums that changed our lives, shall we? I picked five last night. They aren’t ranked, but rather chronological. These are sort of the big ones and while they aren’t as musically challenging as music I discovered following these records, they were big turning points for me that changed my trajectory in some way.
BAD RELIGION – SUFFER
This was the first punk album I heard and bought. I guess you could argue that some of the records I convinced my mom to buy for me as a kid could have been somehow loosely considered “punk.” I mean, New Yorkers love to talk about how punk started at CBGB’s and will with a serious face call The Talking Heads an Blondie punk bands (both of which were in my small, childhood record collection) and act like The Stooges didn’t happen six years before anyone knew a Ramone. But for the sake of my time and yours, let’s just say this was the first actual Punk Rock album I heard. It was the left turn I needed to get me away from mainstream pop music and hair metal. This was thee album.
I’ve long since worn out the original cassette, scratched the shit out of the CD I had in the mid 90s and have since replaced it with the LP. The album is a ripper, but I rarely listen to it anymore. When those songs come up when I’m shuffling my MP3s, I still sing along, but they absolutely don’t cut the way they used to and that’s entirely because of my age. I appreciate the musicianship much more than the content of the lyrical themes. I worded that sentence carefully, because while the songs speak to a much younger person, Greg Graffin never talks down to the listener and doesn’t cut corners with the vocabulary. That’s the strength of a Young Adult writer though — you don’t assume your audience is made up of rubes. You talk to them and with them, but not at them or down to them. Graffin nails it.
GISH – SMASHINGPUMPKINS
This came out in May of my sophomore year of high school and I was an early adopter. I was burnt out on hardcore and thrash metal. The Cure and The Smiths were good and I loved their music, but they weren’t my generation of bands. They were the music of kids older than me. GISH was the right amount of angst, the right amount of technical musicianship and just enough experimentation to wake up my ears and point me in a new direction.
Some people say NIRVANA was their left turn, but for me it was GISH.
BRAINIAC – BONSAI SUPERSTAR
I was already a fan of BRAINIAC when this album came out, but the jump from SMACK BUNNY BABY to BONSAI SUPERSTAR didn’t feel like they went from one step to the next — not even like they skipped a couple stairs. It felt like they leapt from one landing to the next like god damned superheroes.
There was a moment while listening to this for the first time where my best friend and I looked at one another and realized that all of those goofy experimentations we were doing late at night with a boom box, toys and the radio dial could be music. That was the moment when I realized all those rules I learned from my guitar teacher weren’t rules at all. Nothing mattered other than sound. Sound and how our ears perceive it was all that mattered. This album drove us to be different musicians and it ultimately drove me to become an engineer. That’s basically it. This is the best BRAINIAC album.
RADIOHEAD – OK COMPUTER
When OK COMPUTER came out, I was bored out of my skull with music. There wasn’t much coming out that got me excited, except SPIRITUALIZED. Honestly, it was kind of a coin flip here — I could have just as easily plugged LADIES AND GENTLEMAN WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE here, but while that is one of my favorite albums, it didn’t quite impact my taste the way OK COMPUTER did.
Right around the same time, one of my favorite bands, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN put out their MUNKI album, BECK put out MUTATIONS, JON SPENCER put out ACME and a lot of other bands I liked put out less adventurous, mostly disappointing records (like SONIC YOUTH, which was heart breaking because THOUSAND LEAVES isn’t a good record.)
OK COMPUTER signaled a bit of a sea change for me, much like GISH did when I was sixteen. The songs were catchy, weird and explored all of the sad emotions I was feeling at the time. It pulled some of the shoegaze sounds I loved, but it also featured a lot of new, broken sounds that gave my ears the warm fuzzies. This was the first in a chain of albums that caught my attention (I’ll add a bunch in mix tape section at the end of the post) and really woke up the sleeping bear so to speak. I feel like my band got a lot better pretty quickly after hearing this record.
THE APPLESEED CAST – MARE VITALIS
In 2000, a friend of mine made a mix CD featuring mostly emo bands of the time. BRAID, BOY SETS FIRE, BRANDSTON and a couple more bands that start with the letter B. Also on there was a DEFTONES song and a TYPE O NEGATIVE song. We’d talked about how I didn’t quite “get” those two bands, so he tossed on a song each that he though I might dig. They still didn’t grab me, but the band that did grab me was the lead off track on the mix, Fishing The Sky by THE APPLESEED CAST. That singular song blew my mind. They had elements of emo without the sappiness or hyperbole. They were post rock without any of the pretension. They had elements of post-shoegaze bands like RADIOHEAD and a singer who had notes of Perry Farrell hidden in his unique voice. All of the elements were there for them to become a favorite band of mine.
The next day I made a trip over to Clubhouse Records and managed to find a copy of this album. I played it for my bandmates and it was a huge source of inspiration. It absolutely had a positive affect on us, pointing us in a direction after searching for a missing piece. I even accidentally lifted a couple riffs from these songs only to change them after realizing what I did.
Mix Tape Recs:
– Bad Religion – No Control
– Goo Goo Dolls – Jed
– Gorilla Biscuits – Start Today
– Nomeansno – Wrong
– Naked Raygun – Understand
– My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
– Dinosaur Jr – Green Mind
– Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque
– Slint – Spiderland
– A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
– De La Soul – Is Dead
– Massive Attack – Mezzanine
– Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty
– Mercury Rev – Deserter Songs
– Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
– Mogwai – Kicking a Dead Pig
– Swans – Swans Are Dead
– Grandaddy – Sophtware Slump
– Clinic – Internal Wrangler
– Badly Drawn Boy – Hour of the Bewilderbeast
– At The Drive In – Relationship of Command
– Cursive – Domestica
– Elliot – False Cathedrals
– Orchid – Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!