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Friday, Dec 2, 2011
You know where you are? You’re in Counterbalance, baby! And Guns N’ Roses 1987 debut is the 60th most acclaimed album of all time -- take that one to heart!

Klinger: I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we are finally getting to Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction. After all, according to Acclaimed Music’s rankings, once we get through this week’s Counterbalance, it will be 13 blissful years before I’m once again required to listen to Axl Rose on purpose.

As I’ve listened to Appetite for Destruction these past few weeks, one thought has occurred to me over and over: “Shut up, Axl Rose. Stop screeching in that upper register that sounds like a dentist drill. Stop burbling in that lower range that makes you sound like that dancing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoons. And for the love of God, if you insist on singing your eighth-grader lyrics, please stop punctuating them with pointless inanities like ‘Take that one to heart!’ It doesn’t make you edgy, Axl. It just makes you sound silly. In the name of all that is holy, please, Axl Rose, please shut up.”

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Friday, Nov 18, 2011
If man is five, then the devil is six. And if the devil is six, then the Pixies' Doolittle is 59. The 59th most acclaimed album in music history, that is.

Mendelsohn: This is the first time we get to talk about the Pixies? That strikes me as crazy—mostly because almost every rock band to form after 1990 did so with the intent of ripping off the Pixies. I mean, if you want to talk about influential, this quartet wrote the book in the late ’80s and early ’90s and they did it with perfect form: they released a couple of highly acclaimed albums, hit some moderate success, and then imploded before the big time came calling, only to return a decade later to reclaim their throne as elder statesmen (and woman) of alternative rock. I feel like I’m gushing like a teenage girl talking about an older boy she likes, but it’s hard not to gush about a record this good, especially since it just seems to get better and better. Am I gushing, Klinger? Should I just stop now?

Klinger: I am going to ask to you to stop gushing, Mendelsohn, but only so I can start. I honestly don’t know where to begin talking about this album, so I’ll start with this: the Pixies’ Doolittle is quite possibly the finest album of the 1980s. It’s certainly a cut above every other ‘80s album we’ve discussed so far (although I’ll count the votes for Remain in Light).

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Friday, Nov 11, 2011
This week Counterbalance lays Fleetwood Mac's 1977 megahit down in the tall grass and lets it do its stuff. Rumours is the 58th most acclaimed album of all time, and it's next.

Klinger: We’ve covered several albums from 1977—and we’ll hit a couple more before the Great List’s top 100 is under our belts, but Rumours is the only one that’s an actual unqualified worldwide hit record.  To hear the critics tell it, 1977 was the year of punk rock. But as someone who lived through it, I can tell you that here in Middle America punk was a dot on the landscape. Fleetwood Mac was everywhere. In fact, in listening to this album lately, I realized just how thoroughly Rumours had seeped into my consciousness over the last 34 years.

That seems to underscore an interesting point about the difference between critical acclaim and commercial success. For all the importance that’s placed on the punk and New Wave movements (and with good reason, as we see the influence that music had on the generations that came afterward), we can’t really talk about 1977 without talking about Rumours. So, Mendelsohn, what do you make of this tastefully appointed living room of an album?

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Friday, Nov 4, 2011
Rocking the plastic like a man from the Catskills, Beck holds down the Number 57 place on Acclaimed Music’s Great List. Let me hear you say “Ooh, la la, Sasson”.

Mendelsohn: Klinger, there isn’t much wrong with Beck’s Odelay. But, man, I’d be hard pressed if I had to describe it to someone who had never heard it before. One minute it’s a breakbeat dance party, the next it sounds like golden-era Rolling Stones blues interspersed with what I can only assume is a 14.4K-band modem looking for a viable connection. Punk, pop, and hip-hop rub shoulders from start to finish, and it all sounds like a cohesive whole.

For me, Odelay will always summon images of the mid-‘90s but listening to it again, I am really surprised by how well this album has aged. It still sounds fresh. How has it struck your ear bones over the last week?

Klinger: Revisiting Odelay has been like finding a bunch of old shirts that I used to wear 15 years ago. They’re not that far removed from what I wear these days, and I can certainly see why I liked them so much, but at the same time there’s something about them that just places them in my past. I remember them fondly, but they’re not coming back into the rotation.

Tagged as: beck, dust brothers
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Friday, Oct 28, 2011
This week, Counterbalance moves the town to the Clash City Rockers, so if you need a little jump of electrical shockers, this punk debut is the 56th most acclaimed album of all time.

Klinger: Now here’s an odd one for the Great List, Mendelsohn. The Clash’s debut album was released in the UK in 1977, but CBS decided that it could prove too harsh for the delicate sensibilities of the US audience. So it wasn’t released in the United States until 1979, after the group had put out their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope. But here’s the really weird part—the album that we Yanks got is vastly superior to the UK version. Relatively fillerish tracks like “Protex Blue” and “Deny” were replaced with singles that had been released around the same time as the LP. So when the album finally hit our shores, we got classics like “Clash City Rockers” and “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” (note for note, quite possibly their finest moment). For once a big dumb record label made an actual good decision, and we’re the better for it.

It turns out, that may have been a necessary move in 1979. By then, that kind of straight-ahead punk already seemed passé. The Sex Pistols had split up and post-punk was already on the scene. The US record industry was already figuring out how to package these groups under the more palatable New Wave brand instead of the dried spit-encrusted punk label. So a touch more reggae here, a well-chosen cover of “I Fought the Law” there, and voila—a record that’s in keeping with the times. Even “Clash City Rockers” has a piano on it. But it’s been a while since we’ve talked about the punk rock music, Mendelsohn, and I’m curious as to how this somewhat more jaggedy version of the Clash hits you.

Tagged as: punk rock, the clash
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