Friday, April 19, 2013

Sound'a'Roundus: Sally Zybert's Top 13 Albums

Sally Zybert of Mordant Airhead has been a big boon to this blog since it was started, and was able to help me out by sending me several copies of Tom Strong and find me a trade of Swamp Thing Book IV when it was going for an obscene amount of money elsewhere. Check her blog out for thoughts on horror movies and children's programming, which is sort of the thematic equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter. She's written a pretty vicious novel, as well!

The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Gorilla (1967)

I grew up listening to the Bonzo Dogs and don’t really have anything to say about this album other than that I have vivid memories of listening to it when I was a child and, listening to it as an adult, it’s not only still fantastic, but I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for it.

Wall Of Voodoo – Dark Continent (1981)

This was one where I had to debate which album to include, though not as painstakingly as others on my list. Dark Continent and Call Of The West are pretty much neck and neck in terms of quality and, in fact, they were re-released together on one CD, which is what I have (and I highly recommend it because then you don’t have to choose) but I’ve noticed that I always seem to be paying more attention to the music during the first half of the CD than the second half, which means Dark Continent wins (although there are some brilliant songs on Call Of The West. Seriously, that two-album CD is the way to go).

Faith No More - Angel Dust (1992)

When I was a kid most of my taste in music came from my mom and my older brother. He and I spent hours every weekend watching music videos (ahh, memories) and we jumped onto the Faith No More bandwagon when everybody else did. I have a very vivid memory of my brother sitting by the VCR with his finger on the “record” button, waiting for MTV to premiere the video for Midlife Crisis when Angel Dust came out. All of Faith No More’s albums still hold up really well (I always scoff at The Real Thing because of the way Mike Patton sang on it but the songs on it are still really fucking good regardless of the iffy vocals) but Angel Dust was, I think, the one album that hit a perfect balance.

Nirvana - In Utero (1994) 

Fifteen years ago this album would have been my favorite on this list. Sadly, I don’t listen to nearly as much Nirvana as I used to but when I do, more often than not I’m putting on In Utero. It came out when I was at an impressionable age (young and naïve enough to be convinced that Kurt Cobain would totally marry me when I grew up) and the songs (Heart Shaped Box in particular) appeal to both of the largest dueling sides in my taste in music: the side that loves big, crunchy noise and the side that loves beautiful melodies. Sometimes I think Kurt Cobain had those same dueling music tastes, which is probably why I loved Nirvana as much as I did.

They Might Be Giants – John Henry (1994)

Choosing just one They Might Be Giants album was one of the tougher moments of making this list but I finally settled on John Henry because there isn’t a single song on it that I’m iffy about. John Henry is also the beginning of an era, The New They Might Be Giants, featuring a full band as opposed to Classic They Might Be Giants, featuring two Johns and a drum machine. When I was a kid, that was pretty exciting stuff. Of all the bands I’ve loved, TMBG is probably the one I’ve unwaveringly loved for the longest amount of time (about twenty three years) and almost every single one of their albums was in the running for this list. I think it came down to John Henry and Lincoln; this one won by virtue of having two more songs on it than Lincoln (and also the fact that one of those songs was Stomp Box).

Mr. Bungle - California (1999)

Choosing between Disco Volante and California was another month-long internal debate for me. I love their self-titled album, certainly (I carry a cassette of it in my purse), but I was torn between their last two albums because, while I consider Disco Volante their best work, California is the one I listen to the most. I hadn’t heard either album in quite some time, though, so I listened to them back to back and as soon as Retrovertigo began, I knew California had to be my winner. Sometimes there are songs that, even if you don’t fully understand what they’re supposed to be about they still affect you and speak to you in such a way that you understand what it’s about to you, and that it means a lot to you. That is what Retrovertigo is for me. I put that song on every mix tape I made for everybody I knew for at least a year; I wanted everyone to hear it because it meant so much to me. Also, California is another album that came out at just the right time to make a huge impression on me and it really sealed the deal on my being a lifelong Mr. Bungle fan instead of having it be a passing fancy.

Eels - Souljacker (2001) 

Eels is another band that would have been much higher on the list about a decade ago. Souljacker is probably the first impersonal album they ever recorded so it’s kind of sad that it’s my favorite but, honestly, E’s personal life might just be too much of a bummer for me. Electro-Shock Blues is a brilliant album that I almost never listen to because it’s just so sad. Daisies Of The Galaxy is what got me into Eels in the first place (and I almost chose it for this list), and Souljacker is just a fun, rockin’ collection of songs. This is the Eels just letting loose. There are a few missteps (what the hell is Jungle Telegraph doing here?) but the winners outweigh them so heavily they may as well not even be there. And after Souljacker it was kind of all downhill for me (Shootenanny was fun but forgettable, Blinking Lights was forgettable and not very fun and I just didn’t keep up after that, though my younger brother loves End Times a lot). Souljacker holds another interesting distinction: it was the album they were promoting at the show where I met the proprietor of this blog, Mssr. Ivan T. So without it, I wouldn’t be here talking about it right now.

Lovage - Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By (2001)

Sexy music by sexy people. There’s not a lot else I can say about it. It’s all there in the title.

Sparks - Lil' Beethoven (2002)

More than once in my life I’ve heard a song playing overhead in a store and immediately gone to an employee to find out what the hell it is so I can go buy it. More often than not I get the album home and it’s a dud apart from the one song that sucked me in but Lil’ Beethoven is one of my two success stories. I’m not a huge Sparks fan. I always felt obligated to claim that I like them because I always liked the music video for Cool Places (and Faith No More did a couple songs on Sparks’ Plagiarism album) but for the most part they fall into the same category as Radiohead: I understand that they’re talented but I just don’t care (though I’d probably always choose Sparks over Radiohead). Lil’ Beethoven, though, is such a large, beautiful, bombastic album that may or may not have been recorded with a full orchestra (it sounds that way, but I think that can be faked) that I can’t help but completely love it. As far as I’m concerned a lot of rock music could benefit from a full orchestra. 

Tomahawk – Mit Gas (2003)

The fourth and final Mike Patton album to make the list, Mit Gas is pretty much a straight up rock record with a few bizarre touches (the electronic voicebox gimmick in Aktion 13F14, all of Harlem Clowns) but, like most of the other albums on this list, it was the right one at the right time. It was exactly the music I needed when it came out and it fills me with good feelings when I listen to it.

Gogol BordelloSuper Taranta (2007) 

The other album I bought because I heard a great song overhead in a store. I don’t even know what to say about it. Super Taranta is an album I bought, listened to, loved, got rid of for dumb reasons (I had a hard time singing along with it), saw the band live and turned into the diehard Gogol Bordello fan I am now. I chose Super Taranta because it was my first taste of Gogol Bordello, my gateway drug. It’s an album I can put on anytime, regardless of my mood, and within moments I am happy, enthusiastic and, funnily enough considering the reason I sold my first copy, singing along at the top of my voice.

Local H -  Twelve Angry Months (2008)

Local H is a band that I was always aware of (another one I listened to because my brother listened to them) but my interest never went beyond their singles (Bound For The Floor, Eddie Vedder, All The Kids Are Right) until I heard their twenty-five minute masterpiece What Would You Have Me Do (which is on Here Comes The Zoo, another great album). When I saw them live recently, it converted me from a casual fan to an ardent one. Twelve Angry Months is a bit of a concept album, a perfect (in my opinion) collection of breakup songs. Most of them are angry, heavy and sad. A couple of them are slower and pretty (and still sad) and lyrically it’s some of the best Local H stuff I’ve heard (even when I was only a casual fan, I related to their lyrics). The only downside is, because it is an album about a bitter breakup, it can leave you feeling really down.

Madness - The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (2009) 

So now that we’ve covered a couple bands I listen to thanks to my brother, here’s one I’m a fan of thanks to my mom. Much like Faith No More, Madness had broken up and recently (well, in 2000, I think) reunited but, unlike Faith No More, Madness are recording albums again. Norton Folgate is as good as if not better than anything they ever did back in the 1980s. A testament to how great it is: there is one song on the album (Sugar And Spice) that I’m physically incapable of listening to without crying, even if I’m not really paying attention to it. Later in the album another song (On The Town) covers essentially the same material (a marriage disintegrating) but it feels like a happy, boppy sing along. I love that duality. The Liberty Of Norton Folgate also contains my two absolute favorite Madness songs and is probably the best album by any broken-up-then-reunited band (though I really have no way of proving such a claim).

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