I’m going to preface this list by making an admittedly contentious assertion, and that is: The Replacements are the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll band to have ever existed. I’ve expressed this belief to friends of mine before and initially they rebuff it as exorbitant iconoclasm. But think about it a little bit, and I’m sure you’ll find that it’s absolutely feasible (as they eventually do)—bands like Nirvana and the Beach Boys are exempt obviously for falling slightly outside the “rock ‘n’ roll” genus. Tom Petty is whatever (sue me). You are lying to yourself if you believe anything R.E.M. has ever done in any sense of the word “rocks” (although this doesn’t necessarily make it a bad band). Big Star can’t qualify because it was arguably always more of a studio-generated enterprise than a real band, and (Alex) Chilton and (Chris) Bell would likely be the first people to acknowledge that fact.
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Last week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made its annual announcement of which 15 names are up for consideration to be voted into the institution. Of the many artists nominated this year, tradition dictates that only five will be honored at the induction ceremony scheduled to take place in April 2013. This year, voters will be spoiled for worthy choices, making the competition to enter the Hall unfortunately fierce for several acts that have been waiting an obscenely long time to be enshrined.
“Boys in the Trees”
“I used to listen to this song over and over, wishing I’d wrote it,” Amos once said of Carly Simon’s poignant reflection on adolescent desire and self-discovery. And Tori indeed assumes a sense of responsibility for this song as though it were own, performing it with great zeal, affection, and care. From the first lyric, all trace of vanity disappears; Ms. Simon would approve.
No matter what anyone else says, or where my personal musical evolution leads me or which directions this band embarks upon, I will always be a Green Day fan. Ever since the junior high-aged me first saw a tape-recorded airing of the “Hitchin’ a Ride” video on MTV back in 1997, I knew this band was for me. Even now, after I have grown up and devoured so many records in so many styles and flavors, and as I accept that Green Day has turned out material I have on more than one occasion found less than palatable (21st Century Breakdown, anyone?), I still consider Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool to be solid instrumentalists, hook-savvy songwriters, and hilarious personalities. The group’s first four albums for Reprise soundtracked my adolescence, and in my adulthood I find the brash, adrenalized music and Armstrong’s cheeky (and vastly underrated) lyrics still resonate with me. For those reasons, the California pop punk trio will forever be my second-favorite group.
Sniff all you want at my fannish rhapsodizing, but before you immediately post “What good Green Day songs?” or question the trio’s punk credentials in the comments section without a second thought, I would hope you would at least read some of what I’m about to write. Beyond punk’s holy trinity of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and the Clash, Green Day is probably the most influential group the genre has ever witnessed, and certainly is its most well-known and best-selling act. For purists and detractors, that was (and remains) Green Day’s cardinal sin. As punk’s horizons became more limited and its dogma ever more rigid during the DIY 1980s, it was possible to view being on a major label and having your songs heard on commercial radio as a (supposed) affront to what the genre and movement stood for. To this day, no matter how much one points out that first-wave punk actively sought out major label muscle, or how many respected scene veterans hold a decent opinion of the band (Jello Biafra is a fan, for chrissakes), or how its working-class-bred members thoroughly paid their dues by touring the United States in junky vans and sleeping on floors as self-sufficient, barely-educated teenagers, or—most basically—how fantastic the music made by Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool is, there’s bound to be someone murmuring about how the group is lightweight, inauthentic, “not punk”.
By now, it’s commonly accepted that the term shoegaze isn’t the most beloved genre description that NME ever invented. However, quibbles with the term aside, it is difficult to ignore the giant steps that the scene has made in the 20-odd years since My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything dropped. Indeed, shoegaze has left footprints all over contemporary pop music—from the mainstream to the aspirational to the progressive.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why this is the case. Shoegaze’s trademark sound—rippling sheets of guitar noise—is endlessly pliable, easily molded into sonic textures smooth and abrasive alike. Yet, what is often overlooked is how innovative the rhythm sections of many shoegaze bands were. Since the genre stood squarely at the crossroads of Madchester baggy and jangle pop, many shoegazers infused their Byrdsian chiming with the reverberations of dance music. In many ways, alternative/indie rock’s beat connection started here.
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