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by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

20 Mar 2015

Mendelsohn: There are two things I find odd about the Great List. One, the lack of hip-hop. I’m not going to get into it—the rockist nature of the Canon is what it is and will change slowly over time. I get that. Two, I’m a dumb Yankee and finding the odd record that only made it in the UK sitting near the top of the Great List always catches me off guard. It was weird and exhilarating to find Massive Attack and Portishead in the Top 100. On the flip side, there are also two Oasis records in the Top 100. Sometimes the UK giveth. Sometimes the UK shouldn’t have.

What’s the point? How about a hip hop record from the UK, sitting at no. 189—The StreetsOriginal Pirate Material This is weird and exhilarating, Klinger. A hip-hop record, from the UK that got almost no play in America, camped out in the Top 200. I’m ecstatic. Back in my younger days I was a bit of an obscurest wanker and snapped this record up when it hit stateside in the fall of 2002. I was impressed by the East Coast hip-hop filtered through the driving garage beats. Mike Skinner, the man behind the moniker, had a way with words, painting vignettes of violence and humor from across the pond, offering a quick link to a world nearly identical to mine. I still enjoy the record. It doesn’t have nearly the same pull it did a decade ago, but then neither do I. What do you think? Are you going to be a stand up geezer or are we going to get paralytic and fight?

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

13 Mar 2015

Klinger: It’s hard to imagine now, what with the thick tie-dye blanket of sameness that’s been cast over everything to come from the 1960s (or as it’s more frequently known, The Sixties, man…), but there used to be a fairly bitter rivalry between the San Francisco music scene and their counterparts in Los Angeles. San Francisco viewed the L.A. as opportunistic dilettantes, co-opting and commercializing their far-out hippie dream. L.A. on the other hand, really didn’t care one way or the other, because L.A. Come to think of it, that’s not really much of a rivalry at all.

Either way, now that the dust has settled it seems that history has been marginally kinder to the SoCal scene. After all, the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow marks the first appearance of a 1960s San Francisco band on the Great List — it clocks in at a respectable No. 179 but still lags well behind L.A. groups like the Doors and Love (but still ahead of the Byrds, which I think is the silliest part of this whole discussion).

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.

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