Latest Blog Posts

Mendelsohn: I’m not going to lie, Klinger. Of all the Velvet Underground records, I like Loaded the most. I know its not the hip choice. It isn’t the groundbreaking, Warholian debut with Nico, it isn’t the well-regarded self-titled change of pace, it isn’t even the dirty fuzz box of White Light/White Heat. But Loaded excels where all those other albums failed — it brings the hits. They could have called it The Velvet Underground Sells Out. I would still buy a copy. Why? Because Lou Reed was one of the finest rock songwriters of his generation. He had the ability to marry the warm sensibility of pop music — the hooks, the undeniable beat — with an undercurrent of seediness, the vague, foul odor of rock and roll. Loaded is at once happy and subversive. It’s the album I would expect Reed to write when pressed by the record label to bring the hits, which is what they did. Whenever I drop the needle on this record, I’m greeted by “Who Loves the Sun”, and the mental image of the Velvet Underground banging out this pretty little ditty while Lou Reed just stands on stage, scowling at the audience and flipping the bird.

Klinger: A few weeks ago, when we were talking about the Violent Femmes, I mentioned my admiration for the dB’s, a group that is, both figuratively and literally, the missing link between the proto-power pop of Big Star and the college rock of R.E.M. I did a little checking over at the Acclaimed Music site, the wellspring of the Great List and our statistical overlord these past four years, and lo and behold their first album, 1981’s Stands for Decibels, is still hanging in there at No. 2355. In the next few years, I suspect it will drop off, as newer, shinier objects capture the critical imagination and these relatively obscure pioneers drop even further off the cultural radar, so I’d like to take a moment to sing the praises of an eminently worthy album (and band) while I have the chance.

Mendelsohn: Let’s talk about Kanye West. First order of business — yes, he is complete tabloid fodder. The tantrum-throwing, mic-snatching, Kardashian-marrying Kanye West is a freak of nature. The man went on TV and called out a sitting president for not being a compassionate conservative. Then, a few years later, Kanye gets called out by another sitting president for acting up on national TV. Kanye is some sort of a spacial anomaly that sucks up public attention — a black hole (or just an asshole).

Klinger: The Great List, that mathemagical compendium of the critical hive mind that has served as our Counterbalance launch pad, offers a number of challenges to those who dare traverse its terrain, but I’d wager that no album is as fraught with peril as Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica. Even those who now love the album often say that they found its off-key, off-beat, off-kilter ramblings to be completely impenetrable. And you and I certainly had our share of trouble wrapping our heads around it. Even so, it still sits solidly within the canon — statistically speaking, it’s the 59th most acclaimed album of all time. And maybe it’s my own inability to enjoy Trout Mask Replica that sent me digging into some of the Captain’s other works, and what led me to his debut album, 1967’s Safe As Milk. And call me a philistine, but Safe As Milk is, to my ears, vastly preferable.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

21 Nov 2014

Press photo by
Francis Ford (1993).

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?

//Blogs

Adventure Games As Theater and 'the Charnel House Trilogy'

// Moving Pixels

"The Charnel House Trilogy casts the player as an actor in a performance where the script is uncovered as performed. In doing so, it's throwing off an older design paradigm and creating a better work for it.

READ the article