Thursday, August 05, 2010

The jwalkernet Musical Canon: Part Seven (77-74)

Consider this my invisible post. We'll see if anyone sees it. (I'm posting this because it almost completely written anyway.)

77. Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the DeafThis album's loose concept is that it's the songs picked up on the radio of a car headed from Los Angeles to Mexico in the middle of the night. Fitting, then, that most of the tracks barrel forward with single-minded drive and focus. Josh Fromme lives and dies by his robotic, pounding riffs, and he's wise enough to hire drum master Dave Grohl to handle percussion duties. The songs hum and drone with an incessant urgency: "No One Knows," "Go with the Flow" and "First It Giveth" are must-haves for any soundtrack for an endless late-night drive. But they save their best gag for last -- the gorgeous and terrifying "Mosquito Song," parked at the end of the album, the only moment of delicate beauty.

76. The New Pornographers, Electric Version
The New Pornographers - Electric VersionThere are other members of this band -- it's a "supergroup," apparently made of Canadian stars -- but it's really all about Niko Case. Feeling down? Listen to "All for Swinging You Around," and let her voice blast that sadness from every dark corner of your soul. "The Laws Have Changed" is a great song, until Niko comes in and makes it amazing. That's short-changing the rest of the group, obviously, and the fact is that everyone brings their A-game to this, creating a power-pop masterpiece on basically every track. But -- just between you and me -- it's all about Niko.

75. The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute
The Mars Volta - Frances the MuteI guess in addition to being an obsessive completist, I also have an unwavering respect for artists that do exactly what they want to do, no matter what anyone else thinks. Take the Mars Volta -- a group of rational people might try to make their lyrics less obtuse than "She was a mink handjob in sarcophagus heels." Or at least pick just one language to sing those lyrics in. But clearly the Mars Volta are anything other than rational. Their song cycle not only begins in the middle of a song, its title track -- and "key" song -- isn't even on the damn album at all. But the music that is here, songs with impenetrable titles like "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" and "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore," is flat-out jaw-dropping. They call this "progressive rock," but Pink Floyd was progressive rock, and there's no way the Floyd could have kept up with this schizophrenic lunacy. Frances the Mute is gargantuan -- the final piece, "Cassandra Gemini," clocks in at over 32 minutes, and features more melodies and themes than most other albums get through in twelve songs. If every band was as fearless as the Mars Volta, the world might be a lot better for it.

74. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
Fleetwood Mac - RumoursThere's a time in one's life when your only cultural knowledge comes from your parents. And then there comes the time when you reject it and find your own way. And then there comes the time when you look back and realize that maybe your parents got it right once in a while. Rumours is an album I loved as a kid, hated as a teenager, and have now fallen back in love with again as an adult. Because, really, there's no denying these songs. "Gold Dust Woman" sounds as fresh and amazing as it did when I was nine, and as it must have sounded when it was released over twenty years ago. "The Chain" is one of the perfect rock songs, starting so sparse and quiet and building to an amazing finish. I don't care who you are or what genre of music you prefer -- everyone can love Rumours. It's okay. Trust me: your mom was right on this one.

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