So Elizabeth told me about this thing: you gather up the twenty-five most important albums of your life and turn this list over to your peers. I guess so they can see what it is you listened to when you didn’t know them.
I’m going to try and do that here, if only because I’m bored and feel like making a list. I think the result will be rather strange. I entirely dropped the person that I was when I went away to school. It was a reinvention but because I went away with four good friends who I hung out with all the time and who call me on my bullshit it didn’t quite work as completely as one might have expected. There are also some truly embarrassing moments here. Please remember that I went through most of my early musical development in a white-breed cultural wasteland.
Anway… here is the list in chronological order as best I can remember (autobiographic not release date):
1.) Genesis – The Best of Genesis
I can remember dancing around to this while my parents cleaned the house in the summer. I was maybe five. I would make them play it over and over again until I was too tired to move anymore. Phil Collins is a genius.
2.) Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
This was the other CD I thought worth busting a move to while they cleaned up. I can still vogue with the best of them.
3.) Elton John – Mad Man Across the Water
“Indian Summer” was the first song that I actually listened to for lyrical content. The music had been around for a while but I think I was seven and suddenly realized that there was a story to the song. I believe this is why I love “Dances with Wolves” as much as I do. And you can’t beat the line: “The New York Times said God was dead, and the war’s begun, Alvin Tosteg has a son today!”
4.) Moody Blues – Moody Blues Greatest Hits
My mom was a huge fan and I really like the sound of violin mixed with pop music. Why she never played me more Beatles when I was little I’ll never understand but this was my first foray into “classic rock.”
5.) Enya – In Memory of Trees
My mom bought this CD for my dad thinking that it had the radio hit “Sail Away” on it. When it turned out that it didn’t contain the single I started playing it. The first three songs still make me feel like I’m eight.
6.) Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I got my first CD player for Christmas in 3rd grade. I had begged my parents for it since October (when my cousin Terri got her Walkman). The huge 3 CD boom box was awesome but I had no CDs of my own to play. I had recently been allowed to start listening to DC101 (though not in to morning since my mom objected to Elliot’s crude humor) and “Bullets with Butterfly Wings” was everywhere. I thought I sounded awesome and heavy so I asked to go to Tower Records and a sales clerk helped me find the CD. Two discs of mind blowing music later I was sold on the whole grunge thing. I must admit that I also bought the Lisa Loeb debut album and Weird Al Yankovic at the same time but still I think I get points for liking the Pumpkins at age eight.
7.) Green Day - Insomniac
“Basketcase” from Dookie was all over my school in 5th grade so on another trip to Tower (man, I miss that place) I looked for it. All they had was the new release, “Insomniac” so instead of leaving empty handed I went for it. I couldn’t believe how weird it was but I thought it was awesome anyway. “Babs Uvula Who” is a great name for a song… Still one of my favorite punk records.
8.) A Perfect Circle – Mer De Noms
A Perfect Circle was the first band I was truly obsessed with. I bought this CD because I liked “Judith” in (I think) 7th grade. I listened to it non stop. “3 Libras,” “Sleeping Beauty,” all of them. For a kid who thought he was never going to kiss a girl APC was full of the longing and lonely anger that I craved. I still think it has some great orchestration.
9.) Lincoln Park – Hybrid Theory
There is no accounting for this radical shift from grunge to rap-metal, I can only say that it was on the radio a lot and I thought it sounded angry, which at 13, seemed a prerequisite for my music—the longing sadness having turned to being pissed off at the world.
10.) Bush – Sixteenstone
I had, without my knowledge, been listening to Bush for a long while on the radio. When I finally figured out how many singles this CD had on it that I loved I bought it sophomore year. I could not stop listening to it, on road trips that summer, on my new portable CD player, everywhere. “Glycerin” is such an amazing song.
11.) Jimmy Eat World – Bleed America
My first “discovery.” I was watching MTV late one night and an ad came on for the Real World or something and I liked the song that played in the background. Well the ad kept on popping up and the song had this catchy guitar and plaintive vocals. I finally looked up what it was on the internet and bought this the next day. I’m still in love with this album.
12.) Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
My friends in high school listened mostly to techno. I didn’t put any of that on here because it was all via mixes one of them made. Drew (the mixologist) also burned me a copy of this since I was Irish and he thought I would like it. I did… a lot! These guys are still the only band I’ve seen more than twice.
13.) Brand New – Deja Entrendue
While I could try and play this one off like I did Lincoln Park (damn you Shinoda!!!) I stand by this. I bought it my junior year and I credit it and Jimmy Eat World for my love of emo. Without “I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” I’m not sure if I would have been ready for Braid or the Get Up Kids… “Sic Transit Gloria” is also the encapsulation of how I left about girls. I can still remember singing it at the top of my lungs with John Hogan after we had taken over the music one night at a party in St. Mary’s. Good times.
14.) International Noise Conspiracy – A New Morning
Jimmy Streeter threw this at me while we were looking in a record store one afternoon and said: “Hey bitch, this looks like something you would like.” He was very right. Lyrics about philosophy, Guy Debord and breaking the system… I hearted anarchy.
15.) The Clash – London Calling
Senior year saw some pretty big changes in my listening. The ground work had been laid by INC, Brand New, Flogging Molly and Jimmy Eat World in the preceding two years but it wasn’t until someone, and I can’t remember who, told me I might like The Clash that it really happened for me. I bought London Calling and was converted. Everything from “Lost in the Supermarket” to “Hateful” to “Spanish Bombs” blew my mind. I went on to The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Stiff Fingers, all of it but The Clash was my first true punk rock love (despite loving Flogging Molly they can’t qualify as my first since punk died in 1981).
16.) The Mars Volta – De-Loused In The Comatorium
Watching music videos on Yahoo one day this band came up as a suggestion based on what I was watching before. The song was strange, the singer’s voice was too high-pitched and I couldn’t figure out if the lyrics were awesome or too pretentious even for me. Having listened to the album probably a gazzilion times since that fateful day the music is strange, the singer is too whiny and the lyrics border on un-listenable. But I learned of At The Drive-In because of it and when I told Mike Musser that I liked them a lot he told me of the wonderful world of GSL (which the band members had partial stake in). For that I’m eternally indebted.
17.) Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Here we being the story of my collegiate music experience. It was just another night at St. Mary’s and had climbed up to the third floor of Caroline dormitory to partake in 40s Forties night, in which we dressed up like we were from the 1940s and drank Old English forties. I met Mike that night as he hit on my then girlfriend’s roommate. He made an off hand joke about Joy Division I went back to my room and found it on the network of shared music and have never been the same since. I later claimed that I knew about Ian Curtis and Martin Hannet’s production and all of it before I had come to college but that was me trying to be cool. I sat and listened to Unknown Pleasures all the way through that night and cried my eyes out while the world seemed to crumble around me. (Side note: that was not the first or last time that forties made me emotionally unstable… its worse than red wine)
18.) Party of Helicopters – Please Believe It
As Mike took me under his musical wing the first thing I picked up and really liked was this band. “Good Punk” really spoke to me. I wanted to be all the things I thought a punk should be but couldn’t get behind the fashion. “They’ve got a unicorn on the album over, but I think I’ve been a good punk” was how I made peace with myself.
19.) Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles
That scream in “I Luv the Valley, OH!” haunts my dreams still. “Brian the Vampire” still makes me shake uncontrollably when I hear it sometimes. Xiu Xiu was the most out-there thing I had ever heard but when Mike played it for me and Ricardo at 3am one morning after long bouts of drinking and talking I just got quiet. It reminds me more than anything else of St. Mary’s.
20.) Her Space Holiday – Manic Expressive
When I left St. Mary’s I had fully expected never to see any of my friends ever again but Mike called me up one day and we hung out and he played this for me. I credit “Ringing in My Ears” for getting me through the depression that went along with getting kicked out of school, even though Manic Expressive is maybe one of the most depressing albums ever.
21.) Indian Summer – Science: 1994
I had enjoyed “Angry Son” when it was shown to me freshman year but it took until the Autumn of 2005 for me to figure out that this was among my top 5 all time favorite albums. The blues sample, the crescendo, Indian Summer is why I’m an emo kid.
22.) The Locust – Plague Soundscapes
They are Mike’s favorite band but it wasn’t until I was making fun of them with Shah one night out on the town in 2006 that I really gave them a chance. I went home and played the 23 minute cluster-fuck of an album twice. My head spun, my ears hurt but I liked it. I got, at long last, what Mike saw in them. It isn’t for everyday listening but I love the Locust!
23.) Braid – Frame & Canvas
I can’t really describe how it was that this came into my life. It took me a while but when it happened I was not the same after. It is my favorite album.
24.) My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
See the very first blog post I made on this site for my introduction to My Bloody Valentine. I am fairly sure this is number 2 on the list of all time favorites.
25.) Orchid – Gatefold
Number three. Every song should be a radio single. This is bar rock for kids with white belts. I have never heard lyrics like these. I’ve never wanted to start a band more than when I first heard this record. “Sex sells more records than rock / So let’s fuck and forget / The background hum.” “Buy a book / Read up / I’m on every page.” “And in 1999 all the kids stood in line / And our party’s a bore / And we don’t care / We’ll take Brooklyn over Manhattan any day of the week / Our party’s mystique will be our capability to think.” I get weak in the knees.
So that took too long. I told way too many stories. I had fun though. There is something deeply satisfying about taking stock of your life. For me, my life since turning 16 has been about music. Making this list and listening to all these records again (yes, even Lincoln Park… and I still can’t figure that one out) was like seeing the spot on the wall where your parents would measure how tall you were getting. I’m not saying it was a linear journey but at almost 23 these songs are my lines on the wall—there for all to see how I’ve changed.
The post title is from The Violent Femmes off Viva Wisconsin (Live), and you should feel free to talk about my music... I just thought it worked well as a title.