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All Hands on Deck at Dawn
An Extended Desert Island Packing List
This week's issue is my 100th, and while there are plenty of people who have been writing music reviews for a lot longer than just under two years, we carve our own milestones out of the boulders to hand, and so reaching 100 feels to me like a point in the journey when it is appropriate to pause for a moment, look back, contemplate one's cosmic insignificance, and maybe eat one of the nice cheese sandwiches one brought along. As timing will have it, issue 101 will be my 1996 year-in-review issue, so to commemorate 100 it seemed appropriate to look back a little further and write my entry in the grand tradition of Desert Island Disk lists. The standard DID list consists of ten albums, but if I'm going to spend any time at all marooned on a desert island, I'm going to need a lot more than ten records, and since TWAS 1-99 have been characterized by nothing so much as a persistently self-indulgent inability to shut up about things at anything like a reasonable point anyway, making my DID list 100 albums long seemed only fitting. And then, once you've resigned yourself to lugging along 100 CDs and LPs and a full stereo system to play them on, I figure smuggling a few homemade cassettes into the cases somewhere wouldn't prove too difficult, so I've added 100 individual songs.
All good obsessive list-makers make up rules for their lists, and so here are mine. First, no artist duplications. In reality it's hard enough for me to leave my apartment without at least three Big Country albums clutched to my heart, but restricting myself to one entry per artist (one album or one song) makes the list more interesting for both of us. Second, no ranking. If these are to be the boundaries of my musical world hereafter, favoritism within it is not a luxury I'll be able to afford. Instead, I've arranged both lists roughly by year, so that, within the strictures of the no-duplication rule, something approximating a chronology of my musical taste emerges. This ostentatious display of forthrightness may finish off what remains of my credibility, but I distrust anybody whose tastes don't seem demented. Those of you who are going to gasp at the monstrous historical obliviousness evident in the fact that my album list has nothing before 1971, and only seven entries before 1980, may direct your indignance to the usual address. Thirdly, I've set the eligibility cutoff at the end of 1994. Half of the reason for this is that I think you need some perspective on music to know whether your initial feelings are durable; the other half is that this way I'll avoid the most egregious reiterations of things I've said in this column already.
100 Albums
1971
Joni Mitchell: Blue
The primordial modern folk album. Whole shelves of my record collection can be traced back directly to this, and it's a rare ancestor that can keep up with her descendants as effortlessly.
1974
Richard and Linda Thompson: I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight
Bleak, raw and riveting. Richard's guitar is a knife held at your throat, and Linda sings like the most reluctant burglar ever to rob you of your own heart. And this was the happy period in their personal life.
1975
Big Star: Third/Sister Lovers
The most vivid portrayal I've ever heard of total emotional collapse in progress. A decade of music that hadn't even been invented yet is deconstructed here in advance.
1977
The Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks
The primordial punk album. Sloppy, noisy, abrasive, sneering and posed, but also infectious and in its own way endearing. The standard of a rebellion fomented by people who loved music too much to let it be taken away from them.
1978
Boston: Don't Look Back
The quintessential American mainstream rock album, and the greatest driving record ever made. Scholz made millions selling devices to make your guitar sound like this, and still nobody else's does.
1979
Gary Numan: Replicas / The Plan
An inspired omnibus reissue, pairing possibly the definitive mechano-synth-rock album with a disc of charged and eerily precise guitar-punk that shows that even robots can have misspent youths.
Skids: Days in Europa
Second albums quickly sorted out which punk bands were more punk than band. Ambitious, anthemic, intricate, vitriolic and oblique, this one finds the Skids halfway to New Wave before their blistering punk debut was even a year old.
1980
The Comsat Angels: Waiting for a Miracle
Breathtakingly spare and intense. My vote for the third greatest debut album of all time.
1981
The Psychedelic Furs: Talk Talk Talk
No album works more feverishly, and unsuccessfully, to deny its own soul-tearing capacity for empathy. "Pretty in Pink" before they defiled it.
Rush: Moving Pictures
My defining album of adolescence, a record too earnestly intent on the eternal questions of humanity to perceive its own pretentiousness, and one of the truly virtuosic performances of the studio as instrument. The LP, with its shiny obsidian sleeves, is one of my most cherished artifacts.
1982
Joe Jackson: Night and Day
Chaos and sleaze, strangled within an inch of their lives, discover unexpected reserves of control and sophistication.
Missing Persons: Spring Session M
The definitive goofy New Wave trash-pop album. Squeaky and astonishing vocal acrobatics, transparent plastic clothes and kaleidoscope hair, and more musical technique than the rest of MTV's early playlist combined.
UFO: Mechanix
Midway between metal and melancholy, a record that invariably makes me think of summer nights, the low murmur of a sprawling city and dreams as big as the sky.
1983
Art in America: Art in America
The best rock band ever to have a full-time harp player, and the best album I ever bought solely because the cover looked cool.
Black Sabbath: Born Again
A footnote in Sabbath's career, historically, and even after remastering, one of the worst-produced albums I own, but still the most vicious, intense, electrifying metal album ever made.
The Jam: Snap!
Tracing the Jam's dramatic stylistic trajectory from "In the City" to "Beat Surrender", the original vinyl double-album was possibly the best career-overview compilation ever assembled. Butchered repeatedly in the translation to CD; bring a turntable.
Payola$: Hammer on a Drum
New Wave just as it started to turn into the mainstream.
REM: Murmur
One of the rare albums that both deserved to change the world and eventually did. But I liked Michael Stipe much better when you couldn't tell what he was saying.
The Three O'Clock: Sixteen Tambourines/Baroque Hoedown
Giddy, whirling pop songs that you can use for explaining drug hallucinations to Puritans.
Yes: 90125
The ultimate sleepy dinosaur progressive rock band wakes up and finds itself transformed into the high priests of Tech Pop.
1984
Big Country: Steeltown
Dense, dark and fierce. My single favorite record by my single favorite band. The recent reissue adds my single favorite song, my single favorite cover and my single favorite b-side as bonus tracks.
Thomas Dolby: The Flat Earth
A record with the second greatest use of incidental noise on a rock album, and the inspiring idea that Science and Romance do not have to be enemies.
Echo and the Bunnymen: Ocean Rain
An album for the moments just before dawn, when dew hangs suspended in the air and the night sky begins to glow faintly with anticipation.
Go-Go's: Talk Show
As close as anybody's ever come to perfect pop simplicity.
Let's Active: Cypress/Afoot
The short-lived EP era's six-song pinnacle of bouncy pop, merged on CD with the band's denser, lusher follow-up.
Parachute Club: At the Feet of the Moon
If I'm ever granted a djini's wish that could send me back in time and make me a member of any band in history for one album, look for my name on the credits to this one. No album sounds like it was more fun to make, and with the amount of stuff going on in these songs, an eighth player would faze no one.
Simple Minds: Sparkle in the Rain
Anthemic power before stadium food and the Centipede's Dilemma caught up to them. My favorite drum-sound album.
The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow
Misery and self-loathing's seminal evocation, but dignity lurks in these shadows as well.
Cat Stevens: Footsteps in the Dark
They never put out a soundtrack album for Harold and Maude, but this is close enough.
Ultravox: Lament
Too late to be the New Romantic manifesto, but otherwise well suited. The best opening triptych until The Joshua Tree, ending with the song I would play while waiting for the world to end.
The Waterboys: A Pagan Place
The Big Music. An album even the Tetris soundtrack couldn't ruin for me.
1985
The Alarm: Strength
For a while, the greatest anthem band in the universe.
Pat Benatar: Seven the Hard Way
I'm not otherwise a big Pat Benatar fan, but this album is so overproduced it comes out the other side of the mountain, dripping manna.
Billy Bragg: Back to Basics
Bad singing and a bad guitar. The best DIY punk folk album ever made.
Kate Bush: Hounds of Love
My favorite album by the second of my five favorite artists. Lush, seductive, poised and awesome.
Jean Michel Jarre: Zoolook
The national anthem of the Tower of Babel, and the primordial ambient/techno sampler-collage album.
Marillion: Misplaced Childhood
My favorite album by the third of my five favorite artists. Neo-progressive rock's crowning masterpiece, and a story that could be told properly in no other art form.
Propaganda: A Secret Wish
An Expressionist synthesizer symphony. What the new soundtrack to Metropolis should have sounded like.
Jane Siberry: The Speckless Sky
Forty-four minutes inside the glittering, surreal, meticulous dreamworld of a living angel. The greatest attention-to-detail record ever made.
1986
Cactus World News: Urban Beaches
In an alternate universe where U2 never met Lanois and Eno, this is the album they made after War. Cactus World News' failure to make a second record is high on my list of musical tragedies.
The Call: Reconciled
Sweeping, spiritual and cinematic, an epic of America.
The Chameleons: Strange Times (+ bonus album)
As a great band falls apart, glimpses of stunning quiet and beauty sneak through gaps in their unraveling gale.
Eurythmics: Revenge
For one album, Dave and Annie let perfect pop songs hold sway.
Tommy Keene: Songs From the Film
Desperate sadness and melodic transcendence from one of America's greatest pop songwriters.
Magnum: Vigilante
Thumping, histrionic pub-rock ready for the day when the Valkyries tire of Wagner.
Queensryche: Rage for Order
The shrieking, ornately costumed and coifed harbinger of progressive metal.
1987
Jon Astley: Everyone Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew)
If Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed mind-melded. My favorite synth-bass record.
Clannad: Sirius
A bizarre and fleeting, but inspired, digression into ultra-glossy synth-heavy Celtic arena-rock bombast.
Game Theory: Lolita Nation
My favorite album by the fourth of my five favorite artists. The greatest sprawling, cryptic power-pop album ever made.
The Housemartins: Now That's What I Call Quite Good
One of the rare compilations that stands as an album in its own right. A slow motion replay that reveals details you couldn't have appreciated at full-speed.
The Icicle Works: If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song
Majestic and enthralling. Ian McNabb is one of my favorite singers in all of rock, and "Evangeline" and "Understanding Jane" are two of the greatest pop songs ever written.
Sinéad O'Connor: The Lion and the Cobra
Another album that in retrospect seems to have changed the course of music. The wail of a banshee fallen to earth.
Pop Art: Snap Crackle Pop Art
The best short-story collection ever set to jangly guitar pop.
Primitons: Happy All the Time
What you get when you let a North Carolina breeze tinged with the distant strains of bluegrass blow all the smog out of LA and Atlanta.
Patty Smyth: Never Enough
The album that every overproduced American radio hopeful wanted to sound like. Contains my second- and third-favorite covers.
T'Pau: T'Pau
There was a time when people still knew how to dance to songs that were also worth listening to. An album I don't know how to sit still through.
U2: The Joshua Tree
One of rock music's few true Masterpieces. The best-produced album ever, and one whose first three songs are as good as any ever written.
1988
Everything but the Girl: Idlewild
The perfect album for quiet pastel Sunday afternoons. A record that sounds like spring water tastes.
Hunters and Collectors: Fate
The national anthem of human potential and determination.
Living Colour: Vivid
Even this didn't tear down the walls between black music and white, so my guess is that nothing ever will.
Midnight Oil: Diesel and Dust
Songs from a different frontier, and a different fight, but frontiers and fights are universal.
Michael Nyman: Drowning by Numbers
My favorite soundtrack to my favorite movie. Music for the statistical impulse.
Pixies: Surfer Rosa
The album that augured punk's second coming. Music to gauge your frayed sanity against.
Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden
The quietest rock album ever made, the culmination of the most extraordinary stylistic transformation ever made by a single band, and my vote for the most astonishing piece of recorded music ever produced.
1989
The Blue Nile: Hats
Rock's most poised, elegant, crystalline album, diamond-hard behind its sparkle.
Del Amitri: Waking Hours
The best relationship album ever made. Melancholy pop was never more uplifting.
Fiona: Heart Like a Gun
The photo on the cover of Beyond the Pale remains Fiona's greatest moment, but this album has the better songs. Only one of rock's greatest voices could make me willing to spend eternity on a desert island with an album that has Kip Winger singing a duet called "Everything You Do (You're Sexing Me)".
IQ: Are You Sitting Comfortably?
A compelling argument that all neo-progressive bands should have at least one shiny, if ultimately fruitless, commercial-pop phase.
New Model Army: Thunder and Consolation
One of punk's pillars of cynicism discovers empathy and atmosphere at the same time.
The Posies: Failure
The most charming harmony-drenched living-room-studio pop album ever made.
1990
Beth Nielsen Chapman: Beth Nielsen Chapman
The only album I ever bought after hearing it in an elevator. Shamelessly sentimental and middle-of-the-road, but honest, heart-warming and beautiful.
The Connells: One Simple Word
The album I mean when I say "pure American guitar pop".
Fugazi: Repeater + 3 Songs
The best modern punk album, and a musical system all to itself. My favorite record by the most honorable band in the world.
Grace Pool: Where We Live
Shimmering, lonely and breathless with wonder.
Sisters of Mercy: Vision Thing
The soundtrack for pale introverts' gothic revenge fantasies.
1991
Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes
My favorite album by the fifth of my five favorite artists. The greatest debut album ever made.
Mark Eitzel: Songs of Love Live
One of the greatest living songwriters careens unsteadily through songs almost too intense to be performed.
School of Fish: School of Fish
A wistful, eloquent and flawless studio-pop record. Evidently LA is still good for something.
Thin White Rope: The Ruby Sea
Hank Williams after zombie reanimation. Possibly the most frightening record I own.
Too Much Joy: Cereal Killers
The anti-Beastie-Boys: overeducated suburban white kids who don't try to sound like something else. Goofy, but glorious.
The Wonder Stuff: Never Loved Elvis
Open-air folk-pop for turning city traffic-jams into village dances.
1992
Buffalo Tom: Let Me Come Over
Emotional claustrophobia, and elusive salvation always just out of reach.
Celtic Frost: Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying
A short history of a macabre metal band who started a movement nobody joined.
Dream Theater: Images and Words
Somebody has to make music that virtually nobody else can play. The progressive-metal torch is passed.
Think Tree: Like the Idea
Music escaped from the mad inventor's laboratory, and too amused by the outside world to let itself be recaptured.
1993
Black 47: Fire of Freedom
The greatest Irish-expatriate-in-New-York album ever made.
The Bobs: Shut Up and Sing!
The greatest a cappella pop album ever made.
Melissa Ferrick: Massive Blur
Like Sinéad O'Connor filtered through Melissa Etheridge and Lone Justice. I still can't believe this is a first album.
Cyndi Lauper: Hat Full of Stars
A riot of styles that only a master chef could reconcile. This album gets her into my siren's canon with Kate, Tori, Jane and Sarah.
The Magnetic Fields: The Charm of the Highway Strip
The ghosts of Bach and Handel, marooned in limbo with only some Casio keyboards, amuse themselves by filling in a color-by-numbers country album.
Manic Street Preachers: Gold Against the Soul
The greatest second-wave British punk band makes an album of unapologetically magnificent rock songs. If the Sex Pistols had survived, they probably still wouldn't be this good by now.
Aimee Mann: Whatever
In which Aimee discovers that voices can carry farther still when you no longer have a band or a bank of processors to hide behind.
Sarah McLachlan: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
The album on which Sarah's craftsmanship becomes indistinguishable from magic.
Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville
The shock-value of the lyrics wears off eventually, but the assured pace and effortless songwriting charm do not.
Happy Rhodes: RhodeSongs
A golden thread teased out of the tapestry of Happy's career. There are other good threads in the weaving, too, but this one gleams particularly brightly in soft candlelight.
Runrig: Amazing Things
The most life-affirming album ever made. Maybe the most life-affirming art work ever made.
1994
Luka Bloom: Turf
One man, one guitar, one room, lots of microphones. The second-best-produced album ever made.
Crowded House: Together Alone
A dark, swirling swansong. You can almost hear the roar from the ends of the earth.
Roxette: Crash! Boom! Bang!
The best shiny dance-pop album ever made. No record makes me happier than this.
Richard Shindell: Blue Divide
From an INS interrogation to Mary Magdalene to the Civil War to love's hope. New Folk's best storyteller.
100 Songs
1965
Simon and Garfunkel: "Sounds of Silence"
The primordial folk-rock song.
1967
Bee Gees: "New York Mining Disaster 1941"
Long before "Stayin' Alive".
1976
Blue Öyster Cult: "Don't Fear the Reaper"
High school, the BOC inverted-question-mark logo worked subtlely into every book cover.
Gordon Lightfoot: "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
The only epic I ever bothered to memorize, and the only post-Merrimac-and-Monitor nautical history I know.
1978
ABBA: "Take a Chance on Me"
Like some tawdry, wheezing, bellows-operated fairground apparatus you can't stop feeding tickets into.
1979
Bad Company: "Rock and Roll Fantasy"
Just about nobody but me likes my a cappella version.
Buzzcocks: "I Believe"
The masters of two-note guitar solos.
The Clash: "Lost in the Supermarket"
In high school some of my friends had a band, and this was my guest song, and the only quiet thing in their repertoire.
The Knack: "Good Girls Don't"
Teenage frustration is ugly, but it's made some great songs.
Penetration: "Shout Above the Noise"
You can never have too many generic anthems.
1980
Dead Kennedys: "Holiday in Cambodia"
What a splendid mess punk was.
Peter Gabriel: "Biko"
I think Giants Stadium sang the fadeout to this for half an hour.
Split Enz: "I Got You"
This was New Wave.
Squeeze: "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"
The sun-bleached entanglements of foreplay and wordplay.
1981
Devo: "Through Being Cool"
I wouldn't have wanted to grow up in any other decade.
The Human League: "Don't You Want Me?"
Not exactly "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" or West Side Story, but my generation's dialog song nonetheless.
Mission of Burma: "That's When I Reach for My Revolver"
Boston before my time.
Juice Newton: "Queen of Hearts"
Any mix tape is better if you sneak Juice Newton in somewhere.
Rick Springfield: "Jessie's Girl"
"She's lovin' him with that body, I just know it."
Triumph: "Magic Power"
The other Canadian power-trio's one great self-descriptive moment.
1982
Laurie Anderson: "O Superman"
The first song I ever bought because of something I read.
Berlin: "Masquerade"/"The Metro"
A dreadful band; I never did find out who they stole these two inseparable songs from.
The Church: "The Unguarded Moment"
The song that led me to buy my first "alternative" record.
The Clocks: "She Looks a Lot Like You"
My favorite from the alarmingly long line of songs to ex-girlfriends after seeing someone who looked like them in a pornographic magazine.
Josie Cotton: "Johnny Are You Queer?"
Gender relations used to seem a lot simpler.
The dB's: "Amplifier"
The Zen koan of betrayal, if Zen koans are allowed to have twang.
Peter Godwin: "Images of Heaven"
No, I take it back. This was New Wave.
Modern English: "I Melt With You"
The greatest pop love song ever written.
XTC: "No Thugs in Our House"
The sleeve of the single had cutout people and a little puppet stage where you could re-enact the song while it played. I think of it every time someone tells me that conventional music will be replaced by something more interactive.
Yaz: "In My Room"
The only reason I know the Lord's Prayer.
1983
Joan Armatrading: "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names"
One of rock's few great husband-beating anthems.
The Assembly: "Never Never"
A song that never fails to set me dreaming of what Erasure might have been with Feargal Sharkey singing.
Martin Briley: "The Salt in My Tears"
Every six months or so I find myself singing lines from this for no reason, and it takes me the other six months to remember where they came from.
Ronnie James Dio: "Rainbow in the Dark"
The best singer in rock. Also the worst video in rock.
Europeans: "Kingdom Come"
An ethereal dirge I loved long before I realized that future Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth is the one singing it.
Heart: "Allies"
The theme song to my first serious relationship.
Michael Stanley Band: "My Town"
The version I grew up with had them yelling "Dallas!" in the middle somewhere; did they make custom versions for every city?
Gary Myrick: "Message Is You"
The king of cheesy synth-drums.
The Plimsouls: "A Million Miles Away"
For years I thought this was a Byrds cover.
Pretenders: "2000 Miles"
My favorite Christmas song, and another from the same long-distance relationship as "Allies".
The Suburbs: "Love Is the Law"
Like the Red Rockers' "China" with horns.
Time U.K.: "The Cabaret"
The best thing any ex-Jam member did afterwards.
Tracey Ullman: "They Don't Know About Us"
I met Tracey once, instantly fell madly in love with her, and could think of absolutely nothing to say. Next time I'll at least have that anecdote.
1984
Animotion: "Obsession"
I recently bought an album called The Best of Animotion. I assume the fact that it has more than one song on it is a manufacturing error.
Band Aid: "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Comparing this to "We Are the World" is enough to make you want to emigrate on the spot.
Bruce Cockburn: "Lovers in a Dangerous Time"
Poetic self-consciousness temporarily set aside.
Eurogliders: "Another Day in the Big World"
A Parachute Club from the opposite corner of the Earth.
Juluka: "December African Rain"
Anglo-African pop from long before Gabriel, Byrne and Simon even had their shots.
Kansas: "Carry On Wayward Son"
The steering wheels of teenagers' cars hate this song with all their hearts.
Raise the Dragon: "Raise the Dragon"
A good argument for buying songs because you like the title. Not that there aren't also bad ones.
John Waite: "Missing You"
The second-greatest pop love song ever written.
1985
Bangles: "Manic Monday"
A better way to start the week than the Boomtown Rats'.
The Dream Academy: "Life in a Northern Town"
When in doubt, try a spurious pop-culture reference.
Map of the World: "Natural Disasters"
One summer this kept me sane.
Prefab Sprout: "Appetite"
A song almost good enough to make up for the albums Thomas Dolby didn't make while he was producing it.
Shriekback: "Faded Flowers"
I always seem to like loud bands' quiet songs.
1986
David and David: "Boomtown"
The definitive song of the mid-80's, unless you've decided to forgive Don Henley.
Nanci Griffith: "Ford Econoline"
All country songs should be about infidelity and cars.
The Neighborhoods: "W.U.S.A."
I nearly lost a freshman-year roommate from playing this song too loudly, too many times.
Rubber Rodeo: "Heartbreak Highway"
A song from the summer when I also wrote a painfully autobiographical novel. The song brings back almost as many memories.
The Swimming Pool Q's: "Now I'm Talking About Now"
Half of the Swimming Pool Q's' songs were garish and inane, but the other half were so sublime that I always assumed something Faustian was involved. They never should have let Anne Richmond Boston leave the band.
Winter Hours: "Wait Till the Morning"
A dawn song.
1987
The Bears: "Fear Is Never Boring"
The girl this always made me think of became a philosophy professor.
Shona Laing: "Soviet Snow"
A haunting Cold-War synth-pop ballad that nearly compensates for Sting's revelation about Russians loving their children.
The Lucy Show: "New Message"
The first song I ever heard, liked, went to buy, and discovered I already owned.
Meat Puppets: "Paradise"
A song I'll always associate with Adams House A-21, some friends' room my junior year, and a monstrous black couch so filthy that they kept the lights in the room off so people wouldn't freak out and refuse to sit on it.
The Replacements: "Alex Chilton"
Tribute albums would be a thousand times cooler if everybody had to write their own tribute songs.
1988
The Adventures: "Drowning in the Sea of Love"
Once, in the heady early days of a relationship, when the girl had just left my room, I leapt to the stereo and put this on, spinning the volume knob so the title refrain that begins it soared down the hall after her. You get so few chances in life for a gesture that cloying. My roommates ridiculed me for a month, but the relationship lasted two years.
Big Dipper: "Ron Klaus Wrecked His House"
I once knew who Ron Klaus was.
Tracy Chapman: "Fast Car"
Exacto knives, spray adhesive, gallons of Dr. Pepper, boxes of bad chocolate donuts and the radio alternating between this and 10,000 Maniacs. No wonder the Lampoon came out so infrequently.
Lita Ford: "Kiss Me Deadly"
Remember when even bad music was at least dramatic?
The Proclaimers: "I'm Gonna Be"
Why wasn't this a hit the first time?
They Might Be Giants: "Ana Ng"
Perhaps the greatest pop song of all time.
Tirez Tirez: "Against All Flags"
Like a cross between Michael Penn and Steve Reich.
1989
Blake Babies: "Cesspool"
Harrowing frailty. I saw them play in a dining hall to an audience of eight.
Camper van Beethoven: "(I Was Born in a) Laundromat"
Every once in a while, CvB would drop the masques and just rock.
The Graces: "Lay Down Your Arms"
For one song it looked like maybe Charlotte Caffey didn't need the rest of the Go-Go's after all.
Guadalcanal Diary: "Always Saturday"
The systemic irrationality of American dreams.
Billy Joel: "We Didn't Start the Fire"
Go ahead, you try and make forty-one years of world history scan this well.
Bob Mould: "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton"
One of those songs I wish would keep going forever.
1990
Hex: "March"
Aerial maneuvers for flying buttresses.
Mecca Normal: "Don't Shoot"
The shifting-emphasis trick from "Sleeping Snakes", put to a much more seditious use.
Salem 66: "Cinderella"
More songs should just keep the rhythm with ticking.
1991
Anthrax/Public Enemy: "Bring the Noise"
In retrospect, this was probably the blow that killed heavy metal.
Baby Animals: "Painless"
Sometimes just being a rock song is enough.
The Bags: "L. Frank Baum"
A shrieking, galloping, roaring Boston epic.
Sally Fingerett: "Home Is Where the Heart Is"
A song I literally cannot listen to without sobbing uncontrollably.
Fishbone: "Sunless Saturday"
A funk-metal band fleetingly impersonates Rush.
Jesus Jones: "Right Here Right Now"
The theme song for the world changing.
Law and Order: "Plague of Ignorance"
Not enough bands rail at the establishment this indiscriminately any more.
1992
Aragon: "The Meeting"
The masters of sequenced synthetic mallet instruments and theatrical excess.
Melissa Etheridge: "2001"
For one song I thought Melissa Etheridge had something unexpected in mind.
Loreena McKennitt: "The Lady of Shalott"
Story time for the children of the court.
Sloan: "Underwhelmed"
Like Ozzy Osbourne singing a They Might Be Giants song.
Soul Asylum: "Black Gold"
Only a few brush strokes, but enough that you can see America in it.
1993
Darden Smith: "Little Victories"
A song so beautiful it begs to be a new Christmas carol or a Coke commercial.
Tribe: "Supercollider"
A love song to a particle accelerator.
Vai: "Deep Down Into the Pain"
I'm convinced that Steve Vai has no musical taste at all, but sometimes he gets very lucky.
1994
Paula Cole: "Bethlehem"
What the city becomes when the wise men stop coming.
Echobelly: "Insomniac"
This column could ask for no better theme song.
So now, if the next desert island over from yours is keeping you up at night with its music, at least you'll know if it's me.
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