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Friday, Oct 21, 2011
I hear my needle hit the groove and spiral through another day -- only this time, we're listening to the 55th most acclaimed album of all time. The Stone Roses on Counterbalance -- this is the one.

Klinger: “The Greatest British Album Ever.” That’s what the New Musical Express famously called the Stone Roses’ debut LP in 2006. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

The Greatest British Album Ever. This from a nation that has produced the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, the Clash, and Showaddywaddy. Mendelsohn, I am puzzled. Does the British critical community undergo periodic memory wipes?

I mean, let me state clearly—this is a pretty good record. Not being British (nor the kind of American who tries to work “bloody” into casual conversation), I have had only a vague awareness of the Stone Roses over the past 22 years. It turns out they’re not the group with Bez. But now, after really forcing myself to settle in with this album, I can say that it’s a well-crafted mix of psychedelia, pop, and I guess elements of dance (Mani and Reni are a solid rhythm section, but I wouldn’t exactly hail them as the Rodgers and Edwards of the 1980s). Well-developed melodies, some fine instrumental craftsmanship, and lyrics that don’t embarrass anyone. But am I missing something here, Mendelsohn?

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Friday, Oct 14, 2011
Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica is like a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag—it’s fast and bulbous and bound to end badly. Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn try to clean up the ensuing mess in this week's Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: Klinger, this album gives me a headache. And before we go any further, I know, all right, I know—this album is important, it’s groundbreaking and its avant garde obtuseness opened the door for the entire world to think differently about music. I get it. But you want to know what I think? I think it’s terrible and I’m sick of people telling me they like it. This has been happening to me since I was a teenager when a friend of mine first introduced me to His Beefiness. I was taken aback because this friend of mine had really good taste in music and here he was, pushing this unintelligible pile of noise excrement at my ears. Now, later in life, when I get into conversations with people about music and they tick off Captain Beefheart as a favorite artist, all I can think is, “You really listen to this record? Really?” I’m sick of people trying to foist this record upon me and the public in general like it’s some great, misunderstood piece of art-rock that only high-minded music lovers can truly understand. You know what I think? Those people are jerkholes.

Klinger: Whoa there, Mendelsohn. I understand that Trout Mask Replica is a huge matzo ball to have to swallow, and I’ll begin to go through my own highly conflicted issues in a moment, but is it fair to say that people are only claiming to like this album—or overstating their enjoyment of this album to appear superior to the masses?

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Friday, Oct 7, 2011
For this week's Counterbalance, Klinger and Mendelsohn discuss Acclaimed Music's 53rd Greatest Album of All Time. Grab some beans or black-eyed peas, some Nescafe on ice, and join them.

Klinger: R.E.M.‘s recent split has generated a lot of discussion and reminiscences, so the appearance of Automatic for the People on the Great List is coming along at the right time. Even so, I find this album’s placement a little odd. But in order to explain, I’m afraid I’m going to have to play one of the few cool cards I have in my deck: I was a pretty early adopter of R.E.M. When I was 14 or 15, I managed to pull away from my British Invasion fetish long enough to pay attention to what was actually happening during my own decade, and as a result I bought Murmur not too awfully long after it came out. Of course I heard echoes of earlier music in their sound, and that was likely a big part of their appeal. Plus, for a high school kid who was eager to get on with things, R.E.M. just sounded like college to me. It felt like a first step into a larger world.

I stayed in touch with them throughout the 1980s, and by the time I actually got to college in ‘86, R.E.M. was indeed something of a lingua franca for the college-radio types that I found myself hanging around with. Not everyone was a fan, of course, but everyone seemed aware of their steady rise into major label standard bearers. As each album started to sound a little less jangly and Michael Stipe’s lyrics came to be more clearly enunciated (and as they became more popular in the mainstream), people’s concerns started to get louder. The singles got sillier (“Stand”, “Shiny Happy People”), too, and that didn’t help matters much. By the time Automatic for the People came out, I had pretty much moved on. I had nothing against R.E.M., but I also wasn’t buying their albums anymore. Even though I realize that I had lost touch with them at about the same that most people were picking up on them, I’m still a little surprised that this is the first R.E.M. album we’re covering for Counterbalance.

Tagged as: r.e.m.
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Friday, Sep 30, 2011
Radiohead’s 2000 LP is the 52nd most acclaimed album of all time. Everything in its right place. Counterbalanced, if you will.

Mendelsohn: Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer made them bona fide superstars, and it’s no secret they were not entirely comfortable at that level of fame. So, in an effort to tamper some of the overflowing enthusiasm (as much as a response to it) and, more likely, as a bid at unbridled creativity, Radiohead released Kid A—almost a 180-degree turn away from the sad-sack rock of OK Computer toward a more austere electronic sound. But instead of dampening the spirits of the listening public, Kid A served to only make the band even bigger, effectively creating the post-post-Radiohead world we are now living in.

That’s about as objective as I’m going to get with this record, Klinger. And I’m using the term loosely. I love this record. Those first notes of “Everything in Its Right Place” still make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. The run up to the release of this record was a magical time—rumors were flying about Radiohead’s new direction, and this crazy little program called Napster was all the rage. Rough demos from Kid A would pop up sporadically, but nothing prepared me for what I heard on the bright blue October morning when I bought this record and popped it into my CD player.

But what about you, Klinger? During our last discussion of Radiohead, you let slip that they were not high on your list, so I’m curious about your reaction to their new direction on Kid A.

Tagged as: radiohead
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Friday, Sep 23, 2011
Just any old player, you know he needs a rating, and Sly and the Family Stone's 1971 landmark is rated the 51st Greatest Album of All Time by Acclaimed Music. Counterbalance has a listen.

Klinger: Where would pop music be without drugs? Ever since Louis Armstrong and his jazz ilk started “Kickin’ the Gong Around” sometime during the Hoover Administration, Schedule 1s have been a part of the culture and mythology of popular music. And so many albums are inextricably tied to the pharmaceuticals that fueled them, including many that we’ve covered in the past year. Rubber Soul‘s hazy mellowness and slap-happy humor totally smell like Otto’s jacket. The Velvet Underground and Nico of course leaps to mind when you’re looking for the noddishness and lugubriosity of Sweet Lady H. And Sticky Fingers is the audio equivalent of ingesting an entire pharmacy, including the baby powder and foot spray.

Now we come to There’s a Riot Goin’ On, a record so steeped in Bolivian marching powder that I half expected a little spoon to fall out of the sleeve as I was listening. And say what you will about it as a listening experience (critic Greil Marcus famously said that the record was “no fun”), it still manages to sound like a powerful statement. So say what you will, Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn: It is certainly hard to look past the white powder that fueled the recording of this album. And I think Greil had it right, this album is no fun, but that has more to do with the fact that it was recorded by a bunch of cokeheads and in listening to this record, it feels like you are hanging out with a bunch of cokeheads. And if you’ve ever hung out with cokeheads, you’d know it’s no fun—all they do is snort coke or talk about snorting coke or try and figure out how to score more coke to snort. But, if you can look beyond all of that, put the white powder out of your mind, dig through the rambling, uneven tracks, you’ll find snatches of pure genius. I particularly like the title track. I think they found the winning formula with that track and should have stuck with that.

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