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by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

6 Mar 2015


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.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

27 Feb 2015


Klinger: In 1984 I was this close. I had discovered R.E.M. and Elvis Costello, and I was aware enough to know that there was a whole world out there beyond my heartland classic rock. Theoretically, with one quick turn to the left, I could have immersed myself in this whole underground scene, typified in my mind by albums like the Replacements’ Let It Be and the album I’ve chosen for this week’s Counterbalance, Hüsker Dü s double-LP conceptual magnum opus Zen Arcade. That’s not without regret.

I can only imagine how differently I might have turned out if I had spent more time cracking the code of Zen Arcade instead of trying to figure out the Who’s Quadrophenia. There’s certainly enough going on with this album to have kept my adolescent brain occupied, and I’m pretty sure that if this had been the expression of my teen angst I might have gone into my adulthood with a much different outlook. As it stands, I’m left to ponder this massive monolith of an album from a decidedly more analytical point of view. There’s of course so much to take in, and much of it is buried under that low-fi wall of noise. Lyrics are buried, guitars are muddled, and yet the whole thing still feels to me like a portal into some place that I very much want to be. Is this making sense, Mendelsohn?

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

20 Feb 2015


Mendelsohn: Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll just scroll through the Great List, looking for names I don’t recognize. That’s why this week we will be talking about Scott Walker’s Scott 4. Sitting at numbr 499 on the Great List, Scott 4 is not exactly canonical but it was high enough on the list to make me wonder about the record. Top 500? Might as well check it out. Turns out I stumbled into one of the weirder music careers on record.

Scott Walker (real name Noel Scott Engel) got his start in the ‘60s with the band the Walker Brothers (composed of a couple of guys whose real last names weren’t Walker either). The Walker Brothers were huge in England, where their middle of the road sound went down like warm milk—a sort of antithesis to the Beatles’ effervescent reimagining of rock music. Scott then went solo, found even more success recording standards, before fizzling out toward the end of the decade. Interestingly, Scott 4—released in 1969—was a commercial flop. The album is comprised of material written entirely by Walker but was released under his real name. All subsequent re-releases have been rebranded with the Walker moniker. After a short and mildly successful reunion with the Walker Brothers in the ‘70s, Scott departed on a solo path that would see him become one of the world’s foremost avant-garde composers. These days he makes some weird, weird music, often accompanied by weird, weird videos. His signature baritone is still there, though, which is nice.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

13 Feb 2015


Klinger: How in the hell has it taken us this long to talk about the Kinks? Ray Davies is (and this can’t just be me) one of the finest songwriters in rock history. Sure, he might not have the incisive fogginess of Dylan or the cantankerous anthemry of Lennon, but he can usually be counted on to bring a certain dignity — something very close to wisdom — to the proceedings that you just don’t often hear. I suppose the rap on the Kinks is that they never made their masterpiece. For whatever reason, they never delivered a career-defining statement of purpose that would match a Sgt. Pepper or a Blonde on Blonde or an Exile on Main St. Over the years, though, critics have come around to this week’s record, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, which currently sits at No. 183 on the Great List. Which, if you buy into the rap on the Kinks, pretty much makes sense.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

6 Feb 2015


Mendelsohn: If there was one album that could concisely sum up my musical taste as a teenager, it would be Nine Inch Nail’s The Downward Spiral. In 1994, I was wandering around the rock and roll wilderness, trying to find my way with nothing more than a couple of Rush records and a mixtape of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits. Then the video for “Closer” hit MTV and my world changed. A path opened up in the woods and I was shown the way into my rock and roll. I spent the next couple of years listening to The Downward Spiral record, along with the rest of the NIN archive, plus a myriad of less talented bands who were proffering the industrial rock that was fighting for ears in the mid ‘90s. None of it was as well thought out as Trent Reznor’s vision. Some of it was downright terrible (obligatory finger pointing at Marilyn Manson—not the worst, but a frequent and repeat offender). By the end of high school I had cut my long hair, boxed up the black t-shirts and acquired a marginally better taste in music. I would check in with Nine Inch Nails from time to time over the last decade but it seemed that aside from the ardent following Reznor had built for himself, there was little cultural currency left in the newer albums, as he drifted into an atmospheric approach that lent itself better to movie scores than rock albums.

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