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Monday, Jul 28, 2014
Nowhere else in their discography have the B-52's made such a blatant song about having sex (which is to say nothing of their use of the word "Herculaneum").

Turn on that lava lamp ... ‘cause things are gonna get a little sexy up in here.


An ongoing theme to this extensive Behind the Grooves series on one of the most perfect pop albums ever created, the B-52’s eponymous debut from 1979, is how with its raw production and performances that completely commit to the absurdism in the lyrics, there is an immediate, potent effect that is achieved with each and every one of these songs, as if the band somehow congealed out melted platform shoes and tacky lamps in order to become a perfect antithesis to disco’s self-serious sanctimony, favoring the gritty instead of the lush and wacky instead of the romantic. They were art-pop weirdos on the crest of the New Wave wave, and because they believed so wholeheartedly in their songs about rock lobsters and creatures coming from Planet Claire, they exuded a confidence that they were never able to recapture, as on this disc and this disc alone, they created a world that was inhabited only by the B-52’s and their lucky listeners. As an album, The B-52’s worked because it played its own internal logic that’s simultaneously indecipherable and also completely relatable in its own wacky way.


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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
I know that you’ll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favorite vegetable. In the meantime, this week’s Counterbalance looks at a 1967 classic, lost and found.

Klinger: So the story goes that in 1966, Beach Boys leader and pop music wunderkind Brian Wilson was on a mission. He was not only out to top himself, but he recognized that the entire pop game was changing. His friendly rivalry with the Beatles had escalated once again as the Fabs answered his Pet Sounds with the equally (more?) adventurous Revolver. Recruiting upstart lyricist Van Dyke Parks and very nearly every session musician in Los Angeles, Wilson started composing his “teenage symphonies to God”, the album that would be his magnum opus: SMiLE. What happened next became the stuff of pop lore for 40 years.


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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014
Ten years after the release of A Ghost Is Born, the songs still just aren't there.

Ultimately, Wilco‘s A Ghost Is Born is a disappointment.


I should clarify. A Ghost Is Born is a disappointment not because it’s worse than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was easily one of the best albums of 2002 and which was, for me (and for I imagine tons of others after Pitchfork gave it a perfect score) the entry point to the band. That line of thought definitely does not need to be pursued.


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Monday, Jul 21, 2014
"There goes a narwhal!" is one of the B-52's most memorable lines. It's also what got John Lennon back into songwriting.

Lots of trouble! Lots of bubble! This is the song that made John Lennon want to make music again.


No, really.


“Rock Lobster” is a landmark song on several fronts. For one, it was the B-52’s first-ever single, released in 1978, and the song that gained them a cult following prior to landing their record deal. Even more than that, “Rock Lobster” has endured the test of time better than more seriously-minded fare from the same era, getting somewhat of a revival during its use in a 2005 episode of Family Guy, and Yoko Ono has even joined the band onstage to make creature noises more than a few times. Between this and “Love Shack”, “Rock Lobster” is one of the B-52’s most iconic songs, bar none.


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Friday, Jul 18, 2014
We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. Our great computers fill the hallowed halls. And it's time to talk about Rush, and their 1976 concept piece. Also, attention all Planets of the Solar Federation: we have assumed control.

Mendelsohn: There are two types of people in this world, Klinger — people who love Rush and people who don’t. Rush was the band that introduced me to rock ‘n’ roll, specifically their 1976 dystopian concept album 2112, so when we started working our way through the Great List, the first thing I did was check to see how long it would be before we got to a Rush album. I was sorely disappointed to find Moving Pictures, the band’s highest-selling and most well-regarded album sitting at number 867. Even worse was finding 2112 at number 1005. It seems the critics were mostly made up of people who didn’t like Rush. I may be a little biased here, but where’s the critical love for Rush? There are only two bands who have more gold and platinum records than Rush, you may have heard of them — the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Rush has sold over 25 million records worldwide, putting them squarely in the top 100 in that category. But yet critical love seems to elude them. The reasons, I suppose, aren’t all that hard to ascertain. They do have a tendency to write complicated suites that regularly top ten minutes and eschew pop constructs for extended jams that are heavy on the riffs but light on the things that the critics love. Honestly, I wasn’t all that surprised to find them languishing on the Great List.


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