My album is officially out NOW! Please download it on iTunes and share online. It debuted at #10 on the iTunes comedy chart and I want to get it to #1. Thanks everybody!
Happy New Year! Here’s my favorite albums of 2016. I’m kind of a freak for punk rock, so to avoid a list made up mostly of that I decided to make three lists: Top 20 (non-punk) albums of 2016, top 20 punk rock/punk adjacent albums of 2016 and Top 5 local Twin Cities albums of 2016.
20 Favorite (Non-Punk) Albums of 2016
20) Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan – “Take It, It’s Yours”
This is a side-project of Katy Goodman of La Sera and Greta Morgan of The Hush Sound. It’s all cover songs from bands like Bad Brains to The Replacements to Billy Idol. The arrangements are so sparse and nice that for many songs it’s the first time I actually understand the lyrics. It’s punk rock you can sleep to. (It’s not punk rock.)
19) Frankie Cosmos – “Next Thing”
Jangly indie rock with a song about a dog. Can’t go wrong with that.
18) The Men – “Devil Music”
The Men can’t make up their mind what they sound like. They’ve put out six albums in six years and at first they sounded like an SST band, then kind of like the good Foo Fighters, then Neil Young and now they sorta sound like the Stooges. It’s like having a friend with split personalities, but they’re all good dudes.
17) Saul Williams – “MartyrLoserKing”
This dude is kind of hard to peg into a genre. It’s kind of funk, rap, R&B, but mostly just weird and direct and poignant. Check out the video below if you want to hear Curtis Mayfield mixed with Pan’s Labyrinth.
16) A Tribe Called Quest – “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”
The dorky, bald, late-30s white guy hip-hop choice for album of the year! It’s not their fault I like them.
15) Nothing – “Tired Of Tomorrow”
I generally hate shoegaze because 95% of it sounds like Robert Smith falling asleep on the toilet. But these guys have enough spunk in their step to keep me awake on the john.
14) David Bowie – “Blackstar”
Most people have this one higher up in their list. I really, really appreciate the art and genius of how he released a death album days before he died and the symbolism and all that but a few of the songs sound a little too Weather Channel for me. “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” are two amazing album openers though. RIP David Bowie.
13) Dinosaur Jr. – “Get A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”
There are two things that Dinosaur Jr. and J. Mascis do well year in and year out: Putting out solid-ass albums and looking more and more like a member of the Malfoy family.
12) Death Grips – “Bottomless Pit”
Is this hip-hop? Hell, I don’t know. All I know is it sounds like the kind of music they play in a movie where the main character walks into a bar full of scary people doing scary things and that’s the best kind of music.
11) Drive-By Truckers – “American Band”
I would take a large wager that these guys are the only southern rock band from Alabama to ever write a pro-Trayvon Martin song.
10) Youth Code – “Commitment To Complications”
There are two bands that I’ve never minded if people rip-off, because it always sounds so good: The Ramones and Black Sabbath. I guess you can add Ministry to that list because holy shit this guy and girl sound like Ministry and it’s awesome.
9) James Hunter Six – “Hold On!”
No middle-aged white guy from England has any business playing 60s/70s style soul and sounding this good. Damn!
8) Lucinda Williams – “Ghosts Of Highway 20”
Lucinda Williams kind of sounds more and more like she has a gobstopper in her mouth as the years go by but man is she a beast. As legit as it comes.
7) Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love”
I’ll be honest, there’s some filler on this album. But the songs that are good are SO GOOD that it makes it so worth it. “Redbone” in particular is good enough to raise Prince from the dead out of anger that Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) put out a better song than the he had in 15 years.
6) Michael Kiwanuka – “Love & Hate”
Just a beautiful, beautiful album. The album opener “Cold Little Heart” sounds like Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” meets Bill Withers with a modern twist. And he can really play guitar too. This dude should be huge.
5) Weezer – “Weezer (The White Album)”
Listen, I’m just as surprised as you that Weezer put out an awesome album in 2016 after a decade and a half of total garbage. A cooler person would listen to it privately and refuse to admit it in public, but I’ve never been cool. Just ask all the girlfriends I didn’t have in high school.
4) Car Seat Headrest – “Teens Of Denial”
Matador’s Great Hope! Will Toledo is supposed to be the next big thing in 90s-style indie rock and so far it sounds like he is accomplishing it. Sounds like Archers Of Loaf fronted by Beck singing. I’m pretty sure Toledo was conceived at a Superchunk concert in 1993.
3) Charles Bradley – “Changes”
Charles Bradley has a cooler backstory than you. He made a living for decades as a James Brown impersonator named “Black Velvet” before he got discovered randomly and given his own band. He plays almost all originals now, except this amazing cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes”. Black Sabbath are legends, but he makes Ozzy Osbourne sound like Urkel in comparison on this song.
2) Leonard Cohen “You Want It Darker”
I’ve been hot or cold on Leonard Cohen for most of his catalogue. I love his 60s and 70s stuff. Then in the 80s/90s/00s he sounded like he was talking over a demo setting on a casio, but then he’d write “Hallelujah” in that period and it confused me. There is no confusion on this album. This is an album about him dying. It’s dark (duh), melodic and humbling.
1) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree”
2016 was the year of the death album. Nick Cave wrote parts of this album before his 15 year old son fell off a cliff and passed away, but his presence is all over it. There are coincidental, uncanny parallels in the lyrics “You fell from the sky and crash landed near the river Adur” and parts that he recorded after the death where he sounds like he barely has the ability to speak, much less sing. It’s a heart-wrenching album that I can only listen to alone and in the dark.
20 Favorite Punk Rock/Punk Adjacent Albums Of 2016
(When I first got into punk back in 1994, I caught the tail end of punk just being punk. Sure there were categories but it was all under the same umbrella. If you were a fan of one kind of punk you probably liked the other kinds of punk. Now everything is all fragmented into scenes that don’t mix. Screw that. I still consider punk a broad genre and thus the “punk adjacent” label. You’ll see emo, ska, hardcore, PUNK punk and more on this list. It’s all punk to me.)
20) Tacocat “Lost Time”
It’s the same word spelled both ways! This is like jangly indie rock if it were played at double speed.
19) Culture Shock “Attention Span”
Dick Lucas of Subhumans fame’s latest band. This is his second ska band and strangely I hated the first one, Citizen Fish, but love this one. Oh and this isn’t ska like those band geek bands. This is gutter punk skanking that you can smell a mile away.
18) Nancy – “With Child”
This duo sounds like Johnny Thunders meets Devo meets The Marked Men meets some kind of brain damage.
17) Hard Evidence – “Self-Titled”
Quality Oi! from St. Louis sounds about as likely as caviar from Burger King but here we are!
16) Frightnrs “Nothing More To Say”
The Frightnrs’ singer recently died of ALS, making theirs probably the darkest story in ska history. Luckily, he was able to put out this great record before he went. It’s classic style, 60s Jamaica era ska and Desmond Dekker would be proud.
15) Low Culture “Places To Hide”
I keep thinking I’m going to get sick of bands that sound like The Marked Men but just like cold Spaghetti O’s I can’t help myself!
14) Radkey – “Dark Black Makeup”
There’s a strong legacy of all-black punk bands blazed by Bad Brains, Fishbone and Death (even though if you say you heard of the latter when they were around you either lived on their street or were in the band or a liar) and Radkey is the current standard-bearer. The singer sounds like Danzig, which is bizarre and fabulous.
13) Personal & The Pizzas – “Self-Titled”
Straight up, Personal & The Pizzas flat-out take turns blatantly ripping off the Ramones and the Stooges. But it’s done without shame and most of the songs are about pizza so I like it.
12) Mean Jeans – “Tight New Dimensions”
This band is notable for having many catchy-ass albums and having one of only a handful of songs that my punk-loving wife hates so much that she officially banned when she’s in my presence (“Michael Jackson Was Tight”).
11) Sonic Avenues “Disconnector”
Shit, another band that sounds like The Marked Men. But they’re even better than Low Culture!
10) Right Shitty – “Bachelor Of Arts”
Right Shitty is kind of a hybrid grunge/punk mix from Canada. The grocery store album cover doesn’t have any Tim Horton’s or poutine in it so it must have been taken in the States.
9) Dog Party – “‘Til You’re Mine”
Two sisters who apparently are the current opener for Green Day and sound like the Ramones mixed with the Runaways. So they sound like the Donnas, but they don’t suck.
8) Descendents – “Hypercaffium Spazzinate”
If you’re reading a list of punk rock and you don’t know who the Descendents are then turn around right now and go back to your Good Charlotte album.
7) Coathangers – “Nosebleed Weekend”
The three members of The Coathangers all swap instruments and duties constantly, but my favorite singer is the one featured in the video before. Her voice sounds like she drinks a pack of Malboro’s every night and I love it.
6) Vanishing Life – “Surveillance”
Supergroups only seem to be worth a damn when most of the general public has no idea who they are. Case in point: Vanishing Life. It’s Walter from Quicksand/Gorilla Biscuits/Rival Schools, two guys from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and Zach Blair from Rise Against. You can keep Chickenfoot, I’ll take Vanishing Life.
5) The Steve Adamyk Band – “Graceland”
The FINAL band on the list that sounds like The Marked Men. Unless The Marked Men put out a reunion album I didn’t know about? This band, The Steve Adamyk Band to be specific, are actually good enough to give the good ol’ MM a run for their money.
4) Burn – “…From The Ashes” 7″
I gotta be honest, I didn’t expect a good release from a middle-aged hardcore band that hadn’t put out anything since 2001 and nothing good since 1990. But this 7″ is not only tremendous, but a step forward for them. They added a groove with the guitars that they never had before. Old guys unite!
3) Whores. – “Gold.”
Yes, I consider 90s-style AmRep noise rock to be punk rock. Go fuck yourself. If Pennywise gets to be called punk than this fucking furious beast gets to too.
2) The Tuts – “Update Your Brain”
While the previous band sounds like Androgel leaks out of their armpits, this next one is a total 180. They are an all-girl band but EQUALLY as bad ass. They are like the modern version of The Go-Go’s but punkier and way more political. They have very unapologetically feminist lyrics and they don’t give a shit about your boy band. The video below is one of my favorites, but I couldn’t find any videos of them for the real political songs so go search out their album. You won’t be sorry…unless you’re a Meninist.
1) The Hotelier – “Goodness”
I was fortunate enough to be around for 90s emo. It was the best. Then the 2000s happened and ruined everything. I literally can’t talk about it, it makes me so mad. Then in the 2010s there was an emo revival where the bands used actually real, decent emo bands as source material, like Cap’n Jazz, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, etc. I appreciated the attempted authenticity, but it was kind of like hearing a really good Hank Williams Sr. copycat. Why not just go listen to Hank? That was, until the latest album by The Hotelier. This is the first emo album I’ve heard since the late 90s that actually got me excited. It’s retro and modern at the same time. They’ve done their homework but are also trying to push things ahead. It brings back memories of Texas Is The Reason, except I’m now 38 instead of 18. I can still get emotional without hair! Also, it’s hilarious that YouTube blurred out the naked people on the album cover.
Top 5 Favorite Twin Cities Albums Of 2016
I didn’t want to put any local bands in the top 20s, not out of spite, but because I’m afraid of homerism. That said, I truly believe these Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) bands are wonderful and either are (or should be) getting national attention.
5) Hyperslob – “Infectious Yarn”
Okay, so this came out in 2015, but I didn’t find out about it until a couple months ago. This album is so genius and weird and crazy…I can’t believe it was mad in Minneapolis. This is shit that gets made on Mars or in a bomb-shelter you got trapped in for 10 years.
4) (The Minneapolis) Uranium Club – “All Of Them Naturals”
Back to 2016. Another weird one. Who do I describe this one? It’s like Devo if they played their guitars like Television and sang like they were in 1950s propaganda films? Really original stuff.
3) Color TV – “Self-Titled” 7″
Oh shit, I said I did my last Marked Men sounding band. Well, this one is from Minneapolis! They were one of the opening bands for the First Ave Descendents show recently and I’m still kicking myself for missing them. I can’t wait for a full-length from them.
2) Naive Sense – “Body Trauma”
The only reason this isn’t #1 is because it’s eight minutes long and I felt like the top spot should go to something longer than the popcorn setting on the microwave. That said, it’s an EP so that’s okay. Naive Sense is a trans-fronted hardcore band with shoegaze leanings and they are not for the faint of heart. Their first album was an instant classic but this one really goes after the issues Natalie faces as a trans-woman. The lyrics of “Kerosene” in particular scorch the fucking earth:
I am scorn
I am disease
I am the weight
I am kerosene
Can you feel the fire
Crawling over your skin
This is retribution
We are the sum of all your fears
The flames of cis nightmares
We set society ablaze
1) Cactus Blossoms – “You’re Dreaming”
Holy Everly Brothers! Maybe I’m getting loopy from making such a long damn list or maybe I don’t think anybody has gotten this far so I don’t care but I often sing this song to myself and switch the chorus to “Dachshund Kisses” and kiss my dogs. Wanna fight about it?
I have a bad habit of liking albums a lot when I first hear them and then hating them two weeks later. I’m an excitable dude. I once thought I liked Lamb Of God for about 13 days before I came to my senses. It’s made some of my past top albums of the year posts have some cringe-worthy entries. So this year, I decided to only include albums that I’ve listened to and liked for at least a month.
1) Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” – On first glance, this would seem like one of those impulsive picks that I’d be embarrassed about later. I’ve hated the last few beep-bop-boop-boop “Kid A on hipster ecstasy” albums he’s made but this one really struck a chord with me. It’s a very quiet, mostly acoustic album about the death of his estranged mother. My best friend died this year and this album helped me through. This will probably be an album I listen to when I’m 80.
2) Violent Reaction “Marching On” – And now for something completely different. This is the best traditional hardcore album of the last fifteen years. It’s like Minor Threat meets Gorilla Biscuits meets Negative Approach meets Guy Ritchie punching you in the dick. It’s on fire with energy and somehow manages to sound fresh and new. If I was able to touch my toes I’d totally pick up change to this album.
3) Royal Headache “High” – Ever wondered what Rod Stewart would sound like fronting a garage band? Me neither, but now I know and it’s fucking glorious. The singer is bald as shit (note the hat in the video), so he doesn’t have Rod’s huge coif but he’s got the pipes. This album is so good that I think even my mom would like it. That’s not an insult (although my mom does like Manheim Steamroller). It’s a testament to how catchy and perfectly written this album is. A flawless and an instant classic.
4) Näive Sense “Art Failures” – It’s pretty awesome that a new local Minneapolis band has an album that I sincerely think should break nationally in the punk scene. They’re a trans-fronted hardcore/punk band and the singer puked on the floor when I saw them play at a coffee-shop. Not sure why I think that’s the coolest, but it is. They kind of sound like Refused mixed with Youth of Today mixed with sporadic shoegaze guitar while the singer screams like someone getting eaten by a bear. It’s pure energy, anger and passion and I can’t recommend it enough. Go check out their album on Bandcamp.
5) Skints “FM” – 2015 was the year I got back into ska. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about 90’s style ska-verse/punk-chorus/ska-verse type stuff. There are a lot of new ska bands that are either playing more traditional Jamaican style ska or even pushing it forward and creating new, original sounds. Skints are one of these. They’re a mashup of ska, reggae, dancehall, with punk influences. They even do a reggae cover of Black Flag’s “My War”. Want some ska without embarrassing hats, band geeks and songs about food? This is your band.
6) The Bluebeaters “Everybody Knows” – The second ska band of the list. These guys are from Italy and only play cover songs, but they make them their own. They pull from artists all across the board, like Neil Young, Britney Spears (see video below), The Undertones, Delroy Wilson, The Smiths and a killer cut of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”. These guys blast the notion that ska bands can’t play right out of the water. And like the Skints, NO SONGS ABOUT FOOD. Good job, ska!
7) Coneheads “14 Year Old High School PC-Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $$$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P.” – They are Devo on meth with no money.
8) Built To Spill “Untethered Moon” – People with dad bods can still rock. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Built To Spill. Yeah, they’ve kind of meandered and put out some boring albums, but half the band quit a couple years ago and it revitalized them. This is hands down their best album since the powerhouse days of the 90s. Catchy and to the point. These guys always get compared to Modest Mouse but unlike them there are no awful disco rock songs on this album. Seriously, Modest Mouse…who are you, KISS?
9) The Duppies “Broken Ogran” – Straight up Jamaican ska/Two Tone worship from Florida. Lots of songs about dancing and fighting. For fans of The Slackers. All this ska is making me feel like I’m in high school again, which sucks because I never got laid. This is the happiest soundtrack to virginity ever!
10) Night Birds “Mutiny At Muscle Beach” – These guys sound like a more surf Dead Kennedys. Do I need to say more?
11) High On Fire “Luminiferous” – I am listening to significantly less metal than last year. I like to sleep with music on my headphones at night and honestly all that stuff was making me have dreams about corpses eating my toes at night. NOT COOL. This is one of the few metal albums I really got into this year. Apparently, a lot of the songs are about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati but I can’t understand most of what he’s saying anyway so I just imagine it’s about beating up people who run puppy mills.
12) Radioactivity “Silent Kill” – Every band these guys are in (Radioactivity, Marked Men, High Tension Wires, Potential Johns, etc) all kind of sound the same. But it’s a wonderful kind of all sounds the same. Sometimes you just want a sausage pizza with no surprises and you get a wad of Tofurkey instead. These guys are tasty pizza in the form of glossy garage rock with Screeching Weasel level pop hooks.
13) Bully “Feels Like” – Not to sound old, but Millenials almost always get the 90s wrong. They seem to focus so much on irony and reverb that they forget that people actually cared about energy back then. Bully is one of the handful of bands (along with Cloud Nothings and Japandroids) that gets 90s worship right. I actually feel like this could have been big in 1995. Granted, Ace Of Base was big in 1995 so maybe that’s not such a badge of honor.
14) The Rocket Beats “Human Tornado” – I started to really get into psychobilly in December but because of my time rule, a lot of it couldn’t make the list. These guys did and they’re amazing. They’re from Russia and sound like The Cramps if they were fronted by Yakov Smirnoff. “In Russia, stand-up bass plays YOU!”
15) Beaten To Death “Unplugged” – Full disclosure: This is definitely not “unplugged”. This is super loud grindcore from Norway. It is, however, strangely melodic. Like Ted Bundy whistling a tune to you while he strangles you.
PEARS “Go To Prison” – Technically a reissue from 2014 so it couldn’t make the list. Ryan from Off With Their Heads described them as “Angry Lagwagon”.
Arre! Arre! “A.T.T.A.C.K.” – Riot grrl/surfpunk from Sweden.
Razika “Ut Til De Andre” – All-girl indie/ska band from Norway.
Expanders “Hustling Culture” – Reggae from LA.
Leftover Crack “Constructs Of the State” – Punk ska from NY.
Let’s face it, America is known for individualism. Most of our musical juggernauts are solo artists like Elvis Presley, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, etc. Meanwhile, the Mt. Rushmore of great rock groups are filled with British monsters like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin and The Who. We’re selfish Americans. Sharing groupies is for those Commie Brits! In the spirit of American unity this Fourth of July, here’s a list of the top ten American groups that made a mainstream splash on the Billboard charts. Don’t get cocky though, England. Other than Elton John and David Bowie, your next best solo artist is Aveda Hair Salon trainee Rod Stewart.
The Beach Boys – With 80 charting singles worldwide and 36 #1 singles in America alone, the Beach Boys are the only American powerhouse that can rank up there with the British bands. And they absolutely deserve to be in the conversation with the Beatles and Stones. Even then, they are possibly the dorkiest rock stars in the history of the world. They look like the most successful wedding party band ever. Although they did just as many drugs as Keith Richards, hung out with Charles Manson and had all kinds of crazy mental rock & roll freakouts, they still wore those damn pin-striped shirts, tried to rap with the Fat Boys and unleashed Kokomo on the world. Even in their 20s, the Beach Boys looked like somebody’s narc dad. “The kids dress like candy canes, right?” Nothing but love and respect for the Boys, but let’s face it: Our #1 band are freaking dweebs.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence was so damn good. They kicked out classics faster than a White Castle Slider propelling itself out of your body, including three stellar albums in ONE YEAR. But still, is Creedence in the conversation for greatest band of all time? Unfortunately, no. If the Beatles and Stones are Jaguars and Rolls Royces, then Creedence is a really strong, reliable Ford F150. It’ll get you where you need to go, and for a long time, but you don’t take it on dates and it might have deer urine in it. Also, Creedence Clearwater REVISITED is really embarrassing. That’s like if Radiohead broke-up and reformed without Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and called themselves Radionoggin.
Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick were the American Beatles. They wrote pop gems with an edge that stick in your head for weeks. But whereas the Beatles had four clearly defined personalities, Cheap Trick only had three out of four. They had a dork/punk, a dork/accountant and two pretty boys. Maybe if Tom Petersson had dressed like a genie or gotten a face tattoo he would have stood out more. Instead, he came off just like Rock & Roll Guy #2. Regardless of this small complaint, they had some huge hits and even had a big comeback in the late 80s with “The Flame”, but anybody claiming that Cheap Trick deserves to be on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time great rock bands probably also thinks that “Bleach” is Nirvana’s best album.
The Doors – The Doors were and remain extremely popular, as well as wildly divisive. It seems that almost no one has a neutral opinion on them. They’re either the greatest band the world has ever seen or a complete joke lead by an underwear model and three guys you’d find working at the post office. The truth is that they’re somewhere in between. Songs like “Break On Through”, “The End” and “Light My Fire” are undeniable. But man, their bad songs are atrocious. Towards the end they sounded like a very white blues band lead by a fat open mic poet reading Mad Libs. You can make a really killer 12 song compilation of Doors hits, but a band can’t be considered one of the very best if their filler is comparable to being stuck at an Old Country Buffett with an 8th grade poetry teacher.
Metallica – Here’s where the list really starts to take a dive. Metallica were great. They changed the face of metal. But if you list the greatest British bands, you could go about 15 deep before you start having to make apologies. Metallica has aged like the Picture of Dorian Grey, if the picture was displayed on Itunes and not hidden away in an attic. Metallica put out three undisputed metal classics, one half-classic, one insanely popular & controversial breakthrough and then a parade of embarrassments that would make Weezer blush. They put out an album that sounds like Lars Ulrich is playing a popcorn tin and then collaborated with Lou Reed on a project so bad that people talk about it in hushed tones. Kids are picking the Youtube “Light yourself on fire” challenge before having to listen to “Lulu”. Yeah, the Stones petered out too. But at least they picked a formula to suck with. Metallica seems to be throwing a dart against wall of ideas. “Okay, now let’s do a Bob Seeger cover, now let’s pretend to be a band with only $30 to record, now let’s make guitars out of circus carousel horses and record in Atlantis.”
Aerosmith – If you have to put scarves on your mic-stand to appear more interesting, you’re not a very great band. 55 year old women will take great exception to this, but Aerosmith should have stopped about 35 years ago. They are the American Led Zeppelin, if Led Zeppelin dressed like an Avon Lady and refused to leave your door. Their only #1 hit was from a Ben Affleck movie and wasn’t even written by them. Still, if you’re listing American bands, you have to mention them. Like how in American history you have to mention Japanese internment camps.
KISS – See what I’m getting at? Freaking KISS made the list! England’s killing us here. KISS accidentally wrote a couple good songs, but mostly they just paved the way for the Insane Clown Posse. Their collected STD count outnumbers their classic song contribution. “Beth” is the song that plays on the elevator to Hell. They’re the only people in the world who have taken off their Cirque du Soleil make-up and everybody collectively went “Oh Jesus! Put it back on!”
Nirvana – Nirvana deserves to be on this list. Not since the British Invasion had a band changed the face of music so completely overnight. It’s not hard to imagine copycat bands like Candlebox about to go into the studio covered from head to toe in spandex and Maybelline freaking out once they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. “Oh crap! It’s over! Quick, gimme that flannel! Does anybody know how to shave a soul-patch!? Put those boas in the garbage before Pearl Jam sees them! Let’s get moody!”
Lynyrd Skynard – Skynard is your drunk, racist uncle at the family reunion. You can’t really kick him out but you really try to avoid him if at all possible. Some people would put Skynard at #1 for American bands. Those people also think Barack Obama is the Ayatollah of Iran and make moonshine in their pig trough.
Guns ‘N Roses – “Appetite For Destruction” may be the greatest debut album of all-time. It gets a little sketchy after that. “Use Your Illusion I & II” is hard rock’s “White Album”, but it’s never a good sign when listening to “Revolution #9” is preferable over Axl doing a rap-rock industrial song about whatever it is that damn song is about. They were truly rock stars, though. They caused riots and wore lots of biker shorts. Unfortunately, fans keep waiting for an original line-up return that isn’t going to happen, like a Harold Camping rapture party that keeps getting moved back.
Honorable mention – Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Allman Brothers, Byrds, ZZ Top, The Partridge Family, The Village People, Warrant.
Somehow as I get older my musical tastes are getting more and more aggressive. I blame male-pattern baldness. A lot of this list is metal and hardcore, but there’s some weird Japanese psychedelic pop, “indie” and other things too. U2 did not make the list.
15) Body Count “Manslaughter” – This is the dumbest album ever made, but I can’t stop listing to it. Ice T seems like someone’s angry, scary dad on this one. One minute he’s yelling that he’s going to shoot you and the next he’s telling you to get a job and go to rehab. The cover/re-working of Suicidal Tendencies’ 1983 classic hardcore/thrash crossover classic is legitimately funny, even if Ice’s equivalent to being forced into a loony bin by his parents is forgetting his email password.
14) Kikagaku Moyo “Forest Of Lost Children” – I don’t know anything about these guys other than that they’re from Japan and they sound like the Beach Boys meets Simon & Garfunkel meets Sabbath. And it’s fucking great. Turn on your black light, duuude.
13) Bitch Witch “Too Old Too Punk” – Sometimes you just know you’re going to like a band based on their obvious influences. They got the name “Bitch Witch” from an old Venom song, they use the Black Flag bars on their first EP and have a song subtitled “Darkthrone’s Punks”. It’s like crusty hardcore from Spain with female black metal vocals who think they’re in the Manson Family. Weird shit.
12) Enabler “La Fin Absolue Du Monde” – Enabler was going to be #11, because I thought they were from Minneapolis. They’re actually from Milwaukee, so #12 for them! (It’s great thrash/hardcore.)
11) Lord Mantis “Death Mask” – DO watch this video if you love weird, scary, stoner black/metal doom made by people who are not fooling around. DO NOT watch this video if you afraid of seeing uncircumcised zombie penis.
10) Protestant “In Thy Name” – Absolutely crushing, brutal album from a hardcore band (from MILWAUKEE!) that suddenly decided to be black metal. Maybe I’m dumb, but I never saw this coming, even though they’re connected in ways. It’d be like your grandma dropping Christmas and suddenly celebrating pagan Yuletide.
9) Panopticon “Roads To The North” – Okay, this sounds like a totally stupid gimmick, but these guys mix bluegrass and black metal. It sounds horrible on paper, but it actually found a way to make American black metal authentic. Nobody from Kentucky should dress up like Immortal and/or pretend they’re Odin, but they can grab a banjo and scream a bunch. Some of the songs are just straight up bluegrass too. Look out Trampled By Turtles, Euronymous wants to hoedown!
8) Alcest “Shelter” – They used to be black metal and now they’re pretty much just shoegaze. I hate shoegaze, but this album is just so damn catchy I can’t not love it. I don’t know what this album is about, but his last one was about a little magical elf world that he believes he went to in France when he was a kid. So I believe this one’s possibly about hippogriffs. Here’s their video of two people doing a color run in Iceland for some reason:
7) Trap Them “Blissfucker” – Super dark hardcore. If you don’t like the breakdown after 2:25 on this video then I guess we can’t be friends.
6) Sólstafir “Ótta” – Another former black metal band that got all spacey and sensitive. They’re from Iceland and they sound like Sigur Ros if they were a bit angrier and didn’t make noises like whales having sex. This is a really great album.
5) Sick Of It All “Last Act Of Defiance” – I’m gonna say it: Sick Of It All is the greatest hardcore band of all time. Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags…these guys might all have better albums, but nobody has done it more consistently (and without stopping) as Sick Of It All. They’re like that old mechanic that’s been running a shop since 1953 and still fixes your shit for $20.
4) Budos Band “Burnt Offering” – They’re an afro-beat band, which means they’re probably ex-ska dorks that listen to Fela Kuti and James Brown. On this album, they’re playing (sorta) doom metal, which means they’ve been listening to Sabbath and Saint Vitus. I don’t know if it’s really doom or really afro-beat. It’s somehow both. But screw it, they’re not from Milwaukee and it sounds really great and original.
3) J Mascis “Tied To Star” – I LOVE DINOSAUR JR!!!! J Mascis could record himself pooping and I’d buy it. However, his two solo albums have been legitimately great. And why wouldn’t they be? He writes 98% of Dinosaur’s music anyway. J is older than Moses, but he is still putting out music as good as he did in the 80s. He does look like Dumbledore now, though.
2) Ringworm “Hammer Of The Witch” – Ringworm is tied with Integrity for my favorite hardcore band that metal guys like. They’re so angry and unrelenting. I recently saw them play for the first time and was shocked and amazed to find out that their singer, “The Human Furnace”, is approximately two feet tall. Prince would be freaked out. Oh well, I still wouldn’t fuck with him. Keep putting out songs like this one, Papa Smurf:
1) Cloud Nothings “Here And Nowhere Else” – This is the third Cloud Nothings album (in four years!) that has instantly become my hands-down favorite. They have that 90s feeling of Archers of Loaf, Pixies and Superchunk with the energy of punk rock and the awkwardness of the Violent Femmes. And no perceivable irony! They just rock and that’s that. If you aren’t familiar with the Cloud Nothings, do yourself a favor and check them out. If you haven’t hear of the Archers of Loaf, Pixies, Superchunk or Violent Femmes then get a fucking time-machine and start your life over.
Guns ‘N Roses’ “Appetite For Destruction” is unquestionably one of the greatest debut albums of all time. I was in fourth grade when that beast came out and I’d blast “It’s So Easy” and NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police” in the park on a boombox (when nobody was around) and think I was Bruce Willis. (Bruce Willis was the baddest person 4th grade Mike Brody could think of.) I didn’t have a clue what “turn around bitch I got a use for you” meant and I really identified more with Weird Al Yankovic’s extended polka parody jams, but screw it. CLASSIC ALBUM.
Guns ‘N Roses’ next official album(s), “Use Your Illusion I & II” is a whole ‘nother story. What in the good god was happening here? This behemoth brings up memories of previous double and triple albums that really should have been one, like the Beatles’ self-titled (better known as the “White Album”) and The Clash’s so-you-thought-we-were-good “Sandinista”. The major difference is you could actually cut those two into a real album. Try doing it with Use Your Illusion. It’s impossible! There’s two many ten minute long epic ballads squished with rockers that should have been three minutes long but ended up being six just so Axl could go “Eye-eee-eye-ee-eye-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” or “YOWZA!” at the end of all of them. WTF, Axl? There’s a 100% zero chance I would like this if it came out today, but the fact is it came out in 1991 and I was wearing a lot of denim. My judgment wasn’t exactly razor sharp.
So screw Frankensteining this bitch into one album. It can’t be done. Instead I’m going to listen to all 30 songs from both parts and rank them from “best” to “affront to humankind”. The links on a song mean there’s a video for it, which I strongly suggest watching.
1) “You Could Be Mine” – I used to blast this (and Soul Asylum’s “Somebody To Shove”) in my room while getting ready for B-team basketball practice in 9th grade. Let me tell you, nothing gets you pumped for not getting playing time, even in practice, like the lines “With your bitch-slap rappin’ and your cocaine tongue…” This is also from that wonderful time when bands would just splice in clips of a movie into the video with no continuity whatsoever so they could be on a soundtrack. Axl’s crotch! Eddie Furlong! Axl’s crotch! Arnold givin’ a thumbs up! Arnold’s computer-eye zoomin’ in on Axl’s crotch!
2) “Don’t Cry” – I loved the video back in the day, but watching it today brings up many, many questions. 1) If you’re going to go walking through a freezing tundra-land, why are you wearing a daisy-duke pirate costume? 2) How did Slash manage to drive a car off a cliff but jump out in time to grab his guitar and take his shirt off? 3) How is he getting home? 4) Why is Axl super stoked to see his hands shaking at the psychiatrists like it’s a fancy card trick? 5) Why does he look like a tiny, naked, muscle-less Incredible Hulk making shadow-birds in the afterlife? 6) How are any of these scenes even remotely connected? 7) Where’s Izzy?
3) “November Rain” – Axl gets married and then she dies without explanation. It takes ten fucking minutes to tell that story.
4) “Coma” – This is far and away the best non-single on the album and is a pure delight on the psychosis scale. Axl’s in a coma and astral projects to some ice-beach (did he bring the pirate suit?!) and at the same time, some weird demon/devil voice is telling the doctors to “zap the son-of-a-bitch again” with the electric paddles. But wait, Axl doesn’t want to come back because his girlfriend’s complaining that all he wants is sex, sex, sex, all the time! Ya know?!
5) “Estranged” – This was my emo jam as a 7th grader. “When you’re talkin to yourself. And nobody’s home. ALONE!” Yeah, that never happened, because I was 13 and living with my parents. This video is important for being coo-coo even by Axl’s standards. There’s not a shrink alive who could make heads or tails of this mess. It starts with an actual text definition of the word “illusion”. Then Axl showers with his clothes on and has the SWAT team called on him for some reason. The SWAT team doesn’t actually do anything to him and then he’s on stage at a concert. Then people in all white take him (also wearing all white, but with the word “DEEP” on his chest) into a limo to go to a jet literally filled with water and dolphins. You know, as you do! Then he goes to a bar where the jet dolphins follow him through billboards (I’M NOT FUCKING MAKING THIS SHIT UP! CLICK THE VIDEO ON THE LINK!), then he jumps off a battleship that he somehow got on and some roadie tries really half-assedly to save him from a nearby but not-too-close dingie. MORE DOLPHINS! When did Axl become a frumpy-dumpy Ren Fest girl? Then MOTHERFUCKING SLASH RISES FROM THE WATER LIKE AN ABE LINCOLN JESUS (which is pretty bad-ass, actually). Cut to the next day when a helicopter saves a not-actually-drowned Axl who’s still in the water (fuck you, roadie!) and then Axl looks wistfully into the bleachers while a solitary white signature Axl shoe sinks to the bottom of the ocean and a text definition for “disillusion” flashes on the screen. And if you don’t believe me about this next part, fucking watch the goddamn video: IT ENDS WITH AXL ON HIS COUCH GRINNING WHILE A MOTHERFUCKING DOLPHIN WEARING EITHER A PLAID TOWEL OR AXL’S SHIRT CLICKS HAPPILY NEXT TO HIM. WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK JUST HAPPENED!!!
6) “Civil War” – Christ, how do we follow that one? It took me roughly twenty years to figure out that the opening audio monologue was a part from “Cool Hand Luke” and not just a typical Looney Tunes soliloquy of Axl’s. “What we got here…is a FAILURE…to COMMUNICATE”. Extra points to Axl for ruining an otherwise poignant song about war and class division by randomly bleeting out “Ain’t that fresh!”
7) “Dead Horse” – Honestly, this was the dark horse (no pun intended) song of the album. Really catchy. The video is pretty straight-forward concert footage but the song is notable for having what 13-year-old Mike Brody thought was the most profound line of all time: “I’m a son-of-a-gun and a gun-of-a-son.” MIND. BLOWN.
8) “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – I didn’t know who Bob Dylan was when I first heard this song. And when I finally did, I was shocked to find out that the original version was over three minutes shorter, didn’t have background singers or a segment in the middle where a guy calls someone and leaves a message that says “You just better start sniffin’ your own rank subjugation jack, ’cause it’s just you against your tattered libido, the bank and the mortician forever man and it wouldn’t be luck if you got out of life alive.” You taking notes, Zimmerman!? THAT’S poetry!
9) “Get In The Ring” – I don’t know if this even qualifies as a song so much as angry liner notes with guitars and yelling over it. You think music doesn’t influence kids? I had a kid throw a basketball at my head in 7th grade and scream the lyrics of this song at me: “What are you pissed off cuz your dad gets more pussy than you? Fuck you. Suck my fuckin’ dick!” “Yeah, I’m in 7th grade. EVERYBODY gets more pussy than me. Inanimate objects get more pussy than me and they will for years. I know because I’m telling this story from the future.”
10) “Live And Let Die” – Why not cover a Wings song, Axl? Why not.
11) “Don’t Damn Me” – This song literally starts with Mr. Rose making the sound that Wile E Coyote makes when he gets hit on the head with a frying pan. I can’t decide if that loses it points or gains it.
12) “You Ain’t The First” – Nobody taught more hairless pre-pubescent kids how to be misogynistic than Axl Rose. He’s the Michael Jordan of future trashy Indianans.
13) “Shotgun Blues” – “Ooooh, you want a confrontation. I’ll give you every fuckin’ chance. With your verbal masturbation. Me…I just like to dance!” Did Axl just challenge someone to a dance-off? CHA-LLENGE!
14) “Right Next Door To Hell” – This is the cut-off point. This is where the songs go from pretty okay to pretty bland, soon to be followed by “Did a drunk manatee make this?” This particular song is alright, but was a lousy choice to lead-off UYI #1. Like starting a wedding proposal with a fart. Probably for the better, considering how those end up for Axl. (The marriages, not the farts. I don’t know how his farts go but I’m guessing they’re over ten minutes long.)
15) “Yesterdays” – This one has a video too, but they were getting pretty lazy by this point. It was like their 12th single and not a DOLPHIN TO BE FOUND!
16) “Perfect Crime” – A TWO MINUTE SONG!!! Did Axl huff too much paint in his Hakeem Olajuwon K-Mart specials and forget to finish it?
17) “Garden Of Eden” – “Garden Of Eden” is like “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” if Michael Stipe was more like Charles Manson and kept getting forced to make videos. I think the “Blair Witch Project” cost more to make than this one.
18) “Locomotive” – This fucking lizard-turd of a song is 8:42 long.
19) “Bad Apples” – Jesus fucking Christ this is getting hard to stomach. Who in the hell was letting Axl do all of this? I have 11 more to go! I’m actually listening to all these! Not one person was like “Hey Axl, we don’t have to put ALL 30 songs we wrote on. I think ten or twelve is fine.” No, all of Axl’s songs are like soccer mom kids. Everybody gets a trophy! No losers!
20) “So Fine” – This sounds like “Don’t Cry” if it had diarrhea.
21) “Pretty Tied Up” – I’m fairly certain this song is about kidnapping and torture. YAWN.
22) “Back Off Bitch” – I will cough up $100 to anyone that can prove they’ve listened to this song on purpose between the dates 1993 and June 28, 2014.
23) “The Garden” – It’s like “The Garden Of Eden” without a video and less of a point. I will say it is mildly fun to hear Axl groan “BYE-BYE” like a sad ten-year-old to a pony he didn’t get to ride.
24) “Double Talking Jive” – Axl, nobody’s going to believe you’re a gansta if you wear cut-off jean shorts, okay?
25) “Bad Obsession” – “I called my mother, she’s just a cunt now.” That’s a line that Axl Rose wrote on purpose and put into a song.
26) “Breakdown” I’m not even sure if I listened to this song when it was new.
27) “Dust N Bones” Yeah, great idea. Make the second song on the first disc a five-minute IZZY song.
28) “14 Years” Yeah, great idea. Make the second song on the second disc a four-and-a-half-minute IZZY song.
29) “Don’t Cry” (Alt. Lyrics) “You know, I really didn’t understand life until that second, alternate-lyrics version of ‘Don’t Cry’ where he said ‘Eh’ instead of ‘Uh’.” You pompous, ginger-headed, biker-shorts wearing idiot.
30) “My World” – Do you know how bad a song has to be to be the worst song on Use Your Illusion? THE WORST FUCKING SONG EVER WRITTEN! Where to start? The opening line is literally written in the lyrics as “You wan’da step into my world”. It sounds like Weird Al doing a parody of Nine Inch Nails trying to rap, as written by Vanilla Ice. If that’s not bad enough, throw in some super awkward chants “Do it! Do it! Do it!” by Axl that sounds like he’s either killing himself, masturbating or both. I think I’d rather listen to Limp Bizkit fronted by Shaquille O’Neal after he ate a whole Thanksgiving dinner.