Mendelsohn: Over the past couple of years, we have had some in-depth conversations about music from the 1990s. It usually goes something like this; Me: “Hey, Klinger, remember this band?” You: “I hate the 1990s.” If you throw that little dialogue into a Boggle shaker you could possibly come up with my opinion about most bands from the 1960s. And yet, knowing what we know about each other, we still persist in testing the other’s limits. This week, I dug a little deeper, found something a little different. A power trio from the 1990s made up of a bassist, a saxophonist and a drummer—if you guessed Morphine and their 1993 record Cure for Pain, you would be right.
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Klinger: Over the last four-plus years, we’ve talked about the Who twice, back when we were taking on the Great List in numerical order—two albums that are highly iconic, yet markedly different both from one another and from the Who’s earliest work. And no matter what relationship I’ve had with the Who over the years (and I’m on record as being back and forth with the group to degrees that alarm even me), I will always be a champion of their pre-Tommy work. That’s especially true of The Who Sell Out, which is currently the 312th most acclaimed album of all time and one that I return to fairly regularly. Released in late 1967, The Who Sell Out is an ingenious concept album that came out at a time before concept albums were de rigeur for artistes of a certain temperament.
Mendelsohn: There are two things I find odd about the Great List. One, the lack of hip-hop. I’m not going to get into it—the rockist nature of the Canon is what it is and will change slowly over time. I get that. Two, I’m a dumb Yankee and finding the odd record that only made it in the UK sitting near the top of the Great List always catches me off guard. It was weird and exhilarating to find Massive Attack and Portishead in the Top 100. On the flip side, there are also two Oasis records in the Top 100. Sometimes the UK giveth. Sometimes the UK shouldn’t have.
What’s the point? How about a hip hop record from the UK, sitting at no. 189—The Streets’ Original Pirate Material This is weird and exhilarating, Klinger. A hip-hop record, from the UK that got almost no play in America, camped out in the Top 200. I’m ecstatic. Back in my younger days I was a bit of an obscurest wanker and snapped this record up when it hit stateside in the fall of 2002. I was impressed by the East Coast hip-hop filtered through the driving garage beats. Mike Skinner, the man behind the moniker, had a way with words, painting vignettes of violence and humor from across the pond, offering a quick link to a world nearly identical to mine. I still enjoy the record. It doesn’t have nearly the same pull it did a decade ago, but then neither do I. What do you think? Are you going to be a stand up geezer or are we going to get paralytic and fight?
Klinger: It’s hard to imagine now, what with the thick tie-dye blanket of sameness that’s been cast over everything to come from the 1960s (or as it’s more frequently known, The Sixties, man…), but there used to be a fairly bitter rivalry between the San Francisco music scene and their counterparts in Los Angeles. San Francisco viewed the L.A. as opportunistic dilettantes, co-opting and commercializing their far-out hippie dream. L.A. on the other hand, really didn’t care one way or the other, because L.A. Come to think of it, that’s not really much of a rivalry at all.
Either way, now that the dust has settled it seems that history has been marginally kinder to the SoCal scene. After all, the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow marks the first appearance of a 1960s San Francisco band on the Great List — it clocks in at a respectable No. 179 but still lags well behind L.A. groups like the Doors and Love (but still ahead of the Byrds, which I think is the silliest part of this whole discussion).
Mendelsohn: For your consideration, Klinger, I present to you Daft Punk, the Parisian duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, who pretend to be robots in order to create funky, beat-driven snippets of reimagined 1970s disco funk and 1980s synth pop. On the docket this week is their 2001 career-making album Discovery. Daft Punk has three albums lodged in the 200s of the Great List. Discovery sits at #202, 1997’s Homework is #241, and 2013’s Random Access Memory is #261.
Normally I would have made you listen to Homework, because that is my favorite Daft Punk album, but I’m trying to be a little more open-minded about music and for many years I looked down upon Discovery as Daft Punk’s apparent cash grab since it helped transform them from darlings of the underground to world-wide superstars. In that vein, I owe my friend Josh a heart-felt apology. I repeatedly told him that Discovery was a terrible record and not worth the listen, especially considering that Homework was by far the superior record. If you are out there Josh, I am sorry. You were right, Discovery is the better album. Although the professional football team you root for is still terrible and I will never feel sorry about holding that over your head.