Klinger: Sometimes sitting down to talk about an album is a daunting task. Sometimes that’s because an album just isn’t sparking a conversation in your head. But sometimes it’s because you quite simply have no idea where to begin talking. That’s the case for me with this week’s album, XTC’s 1986 masterpiece Skylarking. Arising from a series of difficult sessions with Todd Rundgren (“As if there were any other kind of sessions with Todd,” say the New York Dolls), Skylarking polishes up the group’s sometimes thorny pop and creates a shimmering, technicolor gem that I’m pretty sure every critic everywhere has called “pastoral”—and for good reason. Not only does it sound wholly organic with its lush strings and instrumentation, but it also conveys an almost spiritual quality in its underlying wisdom, “Dear God” notwithstanding. Skylarking is so nearly perfect to my way of thinking that it’s hard to actually pull it apart and turn it into words.
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Mendelsohn: Like most people, I tend to romanticize the music of my youth a little. There are groups from the 1980s that loom large in the back of psyche because they managed to enter my brain and then stick there for a couple of decades before surfacing like some unwelcome repressed memory. I never really got to live through the cultural impact of some of these groups. I was far too young to understand the zeitgeist. My music consumption as a kid was pretty much limited to whatever my parents were listening to at the time, which wasn’t all bad, but they weren’t always following the trends. Inevitably, though, some of the current music seeped in and stuck around.
Klinger: My disdain for the music of the 1990s is well-documented, but in my defense I feel like I came by it honestly. My post-collegiate years were, for the most part, a time adrift, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Which does tend to conjure up memories of cheap beer hangovers and overdue utility bills. So you’ll have to forgive me when I can’t muster up much nostalgia for that time. Still and all, there were bright spots in that time, and one of them was Uncle Tupelo. The group might be best known as the well-spring from which we received Wilco and Son Volt, but for me they were an entity unto themselves, both with No Depression, the album we’re talking about today, and its follow-up, 1991’s Still Feel Gone.
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.
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.