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by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

25 May 2012


Klinger: It’s certainly no surprise to me why critics would be so taken with the Stooges, and Fun House in particular. As the decade changed hands from the 1960s to the ‘70s, rock still felt like it was very much in a state of flux. And it may well have seemed that one of the casualties of that changeover was the concept of the rock band as a bunch of blue collar buddies loading up on beer and using guitars and drumsticks as cudgels to pound their hormonal angst into crude representations of music. The initial wave of “garage rock” had given way to considerably more noodly blues experimentation, and the likes of James Taylor and Elton John were looming large on the horizon. Even if that first wave of rock writers were longing for a time that never technically existed, Iggy Pop, the Asheton brothers, and Dave Alexander were more than able to fill the Kingsmen-shaped hole in those critics’ hearts.

It’s also not too surprising that this second album nosed out the others in the mathematical race to the top of the Great List. Although it’s in a virtual tie with 1973’s Raw Power, Fun House certainly has the edge over their debut LP. Tipping the balance away from the Stooges’ primal basheriffics (and trading in the 10-minute psychedelic dreamery of “We Will Fall” for the freaked out babble-jazz of “L.A. Blues”—which only sounds like it’s 10 minutes long), Fun House presents a group that’s doing something quite nearly inimitable—not that loads of bands haven’t tried in the ensuing decades. Your thoughts, Mendelsohn?

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

18 May 2012


Mendelsohn: And we’re back to U2, this time it’s with Achtung Baby. The last time we talked about Dublin’s favorite sons, we found them on the musical warpath as foot soldiers for earnest rock, making the Grand Statement with 1987’s The Joshua Tree. Fast forward four years, and we are looking at a considerably different band. Well, musically, anyway. Bono and the Edge are still there along with the other two, whose names I never can remember. Is it Adam and Bill? Don’t tell me, I won’t commit it to memory. I don’t care enough, which also sums up the way I feel about U2. But you know that; we’ve been here before.

The thing that I find the most troubling about Achtung Baby is how dated is sounds to me. Right off the bat, in “Zoo Station”, with the Edge’s distorted guitar-riffs, swirling effects, and that nearly machine-like drum beat, it just screams early ’90s. But then, it may have been U2 that gave birth to the sound of the early ’90s, so I can’t really hold that against them, can I?

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

11 May 2012


Klinger: I can only imagine what a mind-messer Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” must have been when it first hit the airwaves back in 1967. Even if you had heard Otis Redding’s version a couple years before, this rendition still must have sounded like it came from another planet. That punch-in-the-face intro, the brassy first blast of vocals, those backing vocals that zig every time you think they’re going to zag—it must have been one of the most thrilling experiences pop music had offered up in quite some time.


A shame, then, that it’s been worn down to such a nub in the intervening years. Every time I hear this song I end up thinking of Murphy Brown for some reason, and I’m not even entirely sure why. Did Candace Bergen sing it a lot on the show, Mendelsohn? I don’t remember, but here we are. Anyway, the song has become such a cliché, such a lazy Hollywood way of expressing empowerment, that it’s practically lost all meaning. If you really concentrate, though, you can still hear that first spark that made “Respect” so great. And luckily, the album it came from, Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, is full of plenty more moments that haven’t been chewed into mush by the Big Chill generation. I’ll let you point out a few now.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

4 May 2012


Mendelsohn: There is something great about the Band’s Music from Big Pink, sort of an undeniable energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm that really makes some of these songs pop off the wax. But then there are a couple of numbers that just don’t have it all together and that makes the overall cohesiveness of this record suffer. I’m going to blame Bob Dylan. You OK with that, Klinger? That’s about the only thing I have against this album, other than the fact that I like their self-titled sophomore effort more. That record has it all going on—expect for having an awesomely great sing-along song like “The Weight”. I suppose you could make a case for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, but “The Weight” is much more fun to listen to people butcher. What song would you rather listen to people butcher with off-key caterwauling?

Klinger: I oppose caterwauling in all its forms, Mendelsohn—you know that. I’m more concerned with your off-handed comment that Bob Dylan is somehow to blame for you not enjoying Music from Big Pink as much as The Band. Yes, Bob wrote or co-wrote three of the songs here (guitarist Robbie Robertson had not yet positioned himself as chief songwriter), but I’d still say that this is very much the Band’s album. You’re starting to sound like a kid who decides he doesn’t like pickles, but then the burger shows up with pickles on it by accident and you tell him he can just scrape the pickles off. But he decides he can still taste the pickles on the burger and he makes a boo-boo face the entire time and only takes two bites. Well guess what? That just means more burger for me, Mendelsohn.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

27 Apr 2012


Mendelsohn: I don’t have any history with Elvis Costello, Klinger. I’m not going to ply you with excuses—what it comes down to is I’m lazy and unless I have a reason to listen to a certain artist, I normally do my best to ignore them. Well, thanks to our foray into the Great List, I now have a reason to listen to Costello. And I’ve been listening to This Year’s Model, over and over and over again, mostly because that’s what is required of me. But I’ve also left it on repeat because all of those sweet, sweet 35 minutes of pop-driven blasts of rock and roll are now running in a non-stop loop through my grey matter. This entire album is just one big hook, which is impressive. But I also think that this record is hitting me right because after the last few records we’ve talked about, This Year’s Model is simple, refreshing, and still surprisingly modern. I imagine you are going to tell me that you’ve been a Costello fan since before he was an Elvis, so tell me, does it still hold up?

Klinger: Oh, good lord does it ever hold up. You know, I knew we’d hit an Elvis Costello album at some point in the top 100 (although I’m surprised it took us this long), but I think This Year’s Model came in first for the same reason Rick Santorum somehow ended up a Republican presidential front-runner for a while there—luck of the draw. One could make a case for just about any of Costello’s first five LPs: the more traditional-sounding My Aim Is True, the lusher Armed Forces, the soul-derived Get Happy, or Trust, which to my ears boils the others down into one overarching statement of purpose. It’s absolutely astonishing to me that Costello was able to achieve this sustained level of output in the span of just three and a half years.

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