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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
They say the 235th most acclaimed album of all time gets off on frustration, but I know you've got an explanation. The 1981 debut from a power-pop legend is this week's Counterbalance. Bad reputation? Not hardly.

Klinger: A few weeks ago, when we were talking about the Violent Femmes, I mentioned my admiration for the dB’s, a group that is, both figuratively and literally, the missing link between the proto-power pop of Big Star and the college rock of R.E.M. I did a little checking over at the Acclaimed Music site, the wellspring of the Great List and our statistical overlord these past four years, and lo and behold their first album, 1981’s Stands for Decibels, is still hanging in there at No. 2355. In the next few years, I suspect it will drop off, as newer, shinier objects capture the critical imagination and these relatively obscure pioneers drop even further off the cultural radar, so I’d like to take a moment to sing the praises of an eminently worthy album (and band) while I have the chance.


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Friday, Dec 12, 2014
No one man should have all that power. The 97th most acclaimed album of all time is living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it. Counterbalance has a listen.

Mendelsohn: Let’s talk about Kanye West. First order of business — yes, he is complete tabloid fodder. The tantrum-throwing, mic-snatching, Kardashian-marrying Kanye West is a freak of nature. The man went on TV and called out a sitting president for not being a compassionate conservative. Then, a few years later, Kanye gets called out by another sitting president for acting up on national TV. Kanye is some sort of a spacial anomaly that sucks up public attention — a black hole (or just an asshole).


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Friday, Dec 5, 2014
The 498th most acclaimed album of all time was born in the desert, came on up from New Orleans. Captain Beefheart's startling 1967 debut album is this week's Counterbalance.

Klinger: The Great List, that mathemagical compendium of the critical hive mind that has served as our Counterbalance launch pad, offers a number of challenges to those who dare traverse its terrain, but I’d wager that no album is as fraught with peril as Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica. Even those who now love the album often say that they found its off-key, off-beat, off-kilter ramblings to be completely impenetrable. And you and I certainly had our share of trouble wrapping our heads around it. Even so, it still sits solidly within the canon — statistically speaking, it’s the 59th most acclaimed album of all time. And maybe it’s my own inability to enjoy Trout Mask Replica that sent me digging into some of the Captain’s other works, and what led me to his debut album, 1967’s Safe As Milk. And call me a philistine, but Safe As Milk is, to my ears, vastly preferable.


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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
When I'm a-walkin' I strut my stuff and I'm so strung out. I'm high as a kite and I just might stop to check out the 304th most acclaimed album of all time. A 1983 acoustopunk bellwether is this week's Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: I couldn’t tell you when I got a copy of the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut. I don’t even know where I bought it or why (it probably had something to do with “Blister in the Sun”). I don’t even recall listening to this album all that much. But going back to it for this week’s edition of Counterbalance, I realized that I had done an adequate job of internalizing the record. And then I had something of an epiphany as it dawned on me that the Violent Femmes may have very quietly been one of the most important rock bands of the 1980s, if not the past quarter century. Not so much for the band’s surprisingly varied catalog of material but for their legacy and the idea that a three-piece acoustic punk band is a viable vehicle for rock music. They are one rock band in a long line of rock bands who celebrated the simplicity of pop music from the fringes, attacking convention with a mix of humor and violence.


What’s your take, Klinger? Is the Violent Femmes’ debut worthy of its No. 304 ranking on the Great List?


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Friday, Nov 14, 2014
This week's Counterbalance serenades the weekend squire who just came out to mow his lawn. A pop-psych delight, or the only choo-choo train that was left out in the rain the day after Santa came? Let's find out.

Klinger: I’m just going to come right out and say it: The Monkees’ fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.. is a great album. I realize that the Monkees have never gotten their due as one of the all-time great pop acts. I get that the fact that they were formed to star in a TV comedy will forever be held against them. I even understand that when they do receive grudging praise from “serious” rock snobs, it’s more likely to be for their previous album Headquarters (mainly because they played most of the instruments themselves). I don’t care. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.. is a great album, and one that I listen to with surprising regularity.


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