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Friday, May 20, 2011
Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger got into a fight so that the neighbors could dance in the police disco lights. But since disco is passé, no one showed up. This week in Counterbalance, the Arcade Fire's Funeral.

Mendelsohn: This is a special album, Klinger. Special. It’s in the top 50 on the Great List and it was released within the last ten years. Considering that most of the albums we’ve talked about thus far are pushing middle age, what kind of album could catapult an untested band of nobodies from Canada into the holy rock and roll canon? I’ll tell you what kind—the special kind.


Klinger:  Is it? Is it special? I’ve been kind of back and forth on this album ever since I first heard a track from it and decided it not only sounded like the Pixies, as was the style at the time, but I decided it specifically sounded like “Velouria” (as I listen to the album now, though, I have no idea which song that could have been). So grumpy old me put the record aside, assuming it was something I needn’t concern myself with.


Meanwhile, though, while I was doing other things, the Arcade Fire continued to grow slowly in stature, even as a lot of other bands from that more innocent time fell by the wayside. And along with that, apparently, the respect for Funeral has far outstripped my shortsighted 2004 expectations. Outstripped them embarrassingly, in fact. But you used the word “canon” up there, Mendelsohn, and even though this album is irrefutably ranked in the upper-upper reaches of the Great List, I’m still reluctant to call it canonical.


Tagged as: arcade fire
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Friday, May 13, 2011
In this edition of Counterbalance, Mendelsohn and Klinger play the tape machine, make the toast and tea, and enjoy a spirited debate about the Who’s 1971 tour de force. They’re all wasted!

Klinger: I hate to once again sound like a Midwestern rockist nerd, but I can’t help expressing my surprise that Who’s Next, the first Who album to make it to the Big List, clocks in at a relatively modest 33.


Mendelsohn: Why are you surprised? The Who are a second-rate British rock band. Before you can get to them you have to go through the Holy Trinity of British rock (in the name of the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and David Bowie, amen). No. 33 is a good place for them.


Klinger: Mendelsohn, you’re just lucky 15-year-old Klinger isn’t here—he’d be giving you an earful right now. He’d be telling you that the Who was the third best British group, just behind the Beatles and the Stones and just ahead of the Kinks. And then he’d let you know that Who’s Next was a huge transformation for the band as they made their way from Day-Glo mod singles to rock operas to arena rock superstars. It’s a pivotal album for them, and in many ways it’s a harbinger of what’s to come later in the 1970s (yes, I talked funny back then too).


Tagged as: the who
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Friday, May 6, 2011
For the 32nd edition of Counterbalance, Mendelsohn and Klinger sang about the sun and danced among the trees. As a result they very nearly missed their deadline. Nevertheless, their take on Massive Attack's 1991 trip-hop masterpiece is next.

Klinger: I must confess, Mendelsohn—like most Americans, Massive Attack’s Blue Lines completely passed me by in 1991, so this Counterbalance exercise has been my first real experience with an album that’s apparently had quite an impact. Mea culpa. Overall, I find this to be a very good album. Really, I have nothing against Blue Lines. That said, as I listen I can’t escape the feeling that I’m shopping at the Gap.


Mendelsohn: The Gap? You’re going to have to explain that one to me. Although if the Gap plays Massive Attack over the in-store speakers, I might have to work up the courage to go in there one day.


Klinger: I guess it’s those beats and the laid back vibe that just cause me to picture casually-yet-stylishly dressed young people folding shirts and asking me if need any help. Maybe it’s me.


Tagged as: massive attack
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Friday, Apr 29, 2011
The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant’s face is red, and Klinger and Mendelsohn are taking a look at the 1971 colossus Led Zeppelin IV. Does anyone remember laughter?

Mendelsohn: In the last installment of Counterbalance we talked at length about how some of the Rolling Stones’ music had been turned into classic rock radio staples while much of their lesser known—and perhaps better—material lay fallow in the wind’s times. Now we are on to Led Zeppelin IV, which is all killer and no filler where AOR playlists are concerned. I’m willing to bet that if you turn on your classic rock radio station you will hear the entirety of this album played over the course of the day. You will also hear a lot of music that will make you want to shove sharp objects into your ears (i.e. anything by Ted Nugent), but that is neither here nor there.


From “Black Dog” all the way to “When the Levee Breaks”, Led Zeppelin IV was the mold from which AOR playlist were made—and right there, smack dab in the middle, is the granddaddy of all classic rock radio songs, “Stairway to Heaven”. Tread lightly, Klinger.


Klinger: I am the soul of diplomacy, Mendelsohn—you know that. But you’re right; you and I grew up in the Midwest, and Zeppelin was so pervasive here that when I first clicked on the Acclaimed Music site, I half expected it to just yell “ZEP RULES!” and shove me into a locker. Frankly, I’m amazed that it’s taken us 31 albums to get to anything by this group.


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Friday, Apr 22, 2011
With a blood-curdling “tally-ho”, Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn charge into the ranks of The Big List. This time they hit upon No. 30 -- Beggars Banquet, the Rolling Stones’ 1968 escape from psychedelia.

Klinger: While it’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long to get to another LP by the Rolling Stones, it makes sense that the album in question is Beggars Banquet, the bookend to Exile on Main St and the starting point for one of the most incredible runs in rock history. In fact, part of me wants to say that what came to be known as “rock” in the 1970s starts right here. Bluesy without necessarily being the blues, lascivious, libidinous, and always about an arm’s length from both the advancements and the trappings of the ’60s—Beggars Banquet marks a decided shift in rock culture.


Mendelsohn: Beggars Banquet also has the best song about the devil—ever. I mean, by definition, most rock and roll is about His Most Evilness (some of it you have to play backwards to receive the satanic message), but nothing as wonderfully overt as “Sympathy for the Devil”, which by 1968 standards was way ahead of its time. Also, as you mentioned, Beggars Banquet also marks the Stones’ return to bluesier, rootsier tone. So it would make sense that they would pay homage to the guy who invented (or helped invent) the blues. If Lucifer hadn’t bought Robert Johnson’s soul all those years ago, where would we be?


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