Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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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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Friday, Nov 7, 2014
Another suburban family morning here at Counterbalance. We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies — and the 272nd most acclaimed album of all time. Many miles away, something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish lake.

Mendelsohn: The one thing I miss about working through the Great List in numerical order was the weekly marching orders. Don’t like the album? Too bad. Don’t know anything about? Better learn. I kind of miss the adventure of exploring music I wasn’t familiar with. So, while perusing the Great List, trying to make sense of albums that came out in the early 1980s, I noticed the Police’s Synchronicity sitting at no. 272 overall and holding down the no. 3 spot for the year 1983 (R.E.M.’s Mumur is no. 1, Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones is no. 2 and the Violent Femmes self-titled debut is no. 4, which — spoiler alert, we are going to be talking about in a couple of weeks). I don’t know anything about the Police, at least anything I wasn’t taught by their singles, and my first experience with Sting was seeing him play the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the critical wasteland that is the 1984 science fiction bomb, Dune.

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Friday, Oct 31, 2014
We were dreaming when we wrote this, so sue us if it goes astray. The Purple One’s 1982 breakthrough is the 199th most acclaimed album of all time, and it’s the subject of this week’s Counterbalance. All the hippies sing together.

Klinger: I can’t remember where I parked my car, but I think I’ll always remember the first time I saw Prince on MTV. It was the “Little Red Corvette” video, and I was watching it on a black and white portable TV in my room. (I want to say I was drawn in by all the glimpses of scantily clad ladies, but now I’m thinking that was the “1999” video. Also I have no idea how my dad got a portable black and white TV hooked up to cable.) I would have been about 14, I guess, and I immediately realized that this guy was a rock star, and he was what was going to be next. I didn’t exactly get on board as a fan — in fact, I was probably a little alarmed by what I perceived as a non-white, not-conventionally-masculine threat to the rock hegemony — but when Prince pulled off that astonishing dance move about halfway through the video, I knew that things were about to change.

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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
And if you leave here, you leave me broken, shattered, I lie. I'm just a crosshair. I'm just a shot, then we can listen to the 192nd most acclaimed album of all time. Franz Ferdinand’s 2004 debut is this week’s Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: If there was ever a band that seemingly had it all together and then never really capitalized on their new found fame, I think it might be Franz Ferdinand. You know, that band that released “Take Me Out”, last decade. Everybody loved it. They got a bunch of awards. And then the follow-ups sort of fizzled. Either as a consequence of the times or diminishing returns, I’m not sure which, however I would wager it would be both as the general listening public moved away from the art rock and jangly guitars and the members of Franz Ferdinand struggled to recapture lightning in a bottle.

Tagged as: franz ferdinand
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