Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cribbing from the best...again.

Inspiration has been in short supply lately, as evidenced by the sorry state of this blog. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's my general state of early April torpor*, but I just haven't felt like writing a damn thing or sharing my feeble thoughts in general.

(* you always remember the SAT words that screw you over)

I was going to post another bitchfest lamenting the state of news reporting, specifically targeting the inclusion of a news item in this morning's AIM Today entitled "The Cutest Baby Fart," in which the reader is treated to a short video clip of a baby farting baby powder, but I just can't muster up enough energy to deal with it.

So again, I'm going to steal a blog idea from someone else. This dude Marco, who I had possibly the most awkward conversation in my life with on sticky night on a parking deck in North Carolina back in 1995 (the NC crew is familiar with this story) has a habit of coming up with these brilliant lists of something or other. His latest creation is a list of his top ten highschool albums. Jenny had her own take on it, and I figure it couldn't hurt to hijack the idea myself.

Please remember that I attended highschool 1988-1992. And please understand that I'm shocked, shocked to actually write that down. Kids born in 1988 are now in their sophomore year of college...Christ almighty, no way that's true.


10. B-52s: Cosmic Thing

I remember the day I bought this tape. Note: everything in this list was bought on cassette tape. I'll join the chorus of the purists who believe that the physical act of having to get up and flip a record or a tape to side two is an essential part of being involved in the listening experience. Anyway, the B-52s. If you can't get off your ass to this album, you're dead. You're officially dead. You have no pulse, and you certainly could never gyrate it til you've had your fill, just like a pneumatic drill.

9. XTC: Oranges & Lemons
This came out in '89 or thereabouts, and it established my longstanding, ceaseless, passionate devotion to everything that is XTC. God damn, do I love XTC. It's funky, it's brainy, it's funny, it's spasmodically melodic, and it's criminally underrated. Spent hours upon precious highschool hours in my bedroom with this one on the boombox. I miss my Toshiba boombox.

The first song, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," welcomes newborns to the world and serves as a sort of instruction manual for getting around this nutty planet in one piece. Perfect also for highschoolers. The first line is "Kid, stay and snip your cord off! Talk and let your mind loose, can't all think like Chekov, but you'll be okay!" Awesome.

7. David Byrne: Rei Momo
His latin album. Each song in a different latin style, each one listing that style in parentheses after the song title. All I cared about was that it was good, and it was. An asskicker, in fact. If you don't salsa, by god, this album will teach you how. My Toshiba boombox had this feature (light years ahead of its time) that allowed you to set the tape to start playing whenever you programmed it as a sort of alarm clock. This was my wakeup tape for 2 years during highschool. The first song on side one is called "Independence Day." Oh, the irony.

6. The Cure: Disintegration, The Smiths: Strangeways Here We Come, Depeche Mode: Violator
I lump these together because they're of a piece. They're very British, very lonely, and they share an unparalleled knack of reminding you that they are way more miserable than you'll ever be. Except for Depeche Mode -- Violator has a way of making you want to have really intense sex while staying as far away from intravenous narcotics as possible. Still, three of the best albums ever made. Especially suited for highschool.

5. Lou Reed: New York
I remember skipping volleyball practice on a regular basis and walking around downtown Rochester listening to the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now, which is basically the dialogue and music from the entire movie over two tapes. In one of my stranger highschool moments, my friends somehow convinced me to get up on one of the tables in the Common and recite Marlon Brando's last speech to Martin Sheen, in its entirety, in front of the entire lunch room. If you know me, you know how preposterous that is.

Anyway, when I wasn't listening to Apocalypse Now during my walkabouts, I'd pop in New York and compare Lou's descriptions of his city to my observations of my own. There wasn't much of a comparison, obviously, but we both loved and hated our cities in equal measure. Given his thesis statement that New York was a dirty, crime-ridden, bigoted, steaming pus hole, I vowed never to move there. Haha.

4. INXS: Kick
Don't laugh, it still holds up. It's dated as hell, but it still holds up, kinda...

Okay, it doesn't really hold up. I remember writing out the lyrics to "Mystify" on the outside of my math folder during a typically painful 7th period session circa late '90, and Eric Mayer (who had thick cokebottle glasses and a mohawk) saw it, yanked it off my desk, and read it aloud to the class. I deserved it. But, being a skater, I could relate to the guy flying through the album cover on his Vision Psycho Stick, even though if you look very closely you can see the black duct tape over the lettering, presumably to minimize the risk of copyright infringement. Punk as f*ck.

Whatever, "New Sensations" is dope!

3. Talking Heads: Naked
Given my pathetic excuse for a memory, it's quite amazing that I can remember all of the words to this album. Not even Doolittle or London Calling can claim that. If I had a nickel for every hour I spent listening to this on the Toshiba, I'd have a shitload of nickels. "(Nothing But) Flowers" may be the best song ever written, no joke.

2. Nirvana: Nevermind
I came into school one day in September of my senior year clutching Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine after seeing their video for "Head Like a Hole" on 120 Minutes. Whilst trying to convince everyone how psychotically brilliant it was, my buddy Tom waved his new copy of Nevermind at me.

The cover was ridiculous, and I thought the music was probably just as stupid. I spent the next hour convincing him that Pretty Hate Machine was the future and that joke punk bands like the Circle Jerks and Nirvana had their day in the 80s. Went over to Mac's house at the end of the day and saw the premiere of the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I felt like the world's biggest shitheel.

1. Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual
Nevermind was a revelation, but this one tempered its impact quite a bit. There is nothing in the world that sounds like Perry Farrell in mid-scream. This album was THE soundtrack to the second half of my highschool experience. Each song is better than the last. I'm still in awe. There is nothing on earth like the anticipation that builds during the Spanish introduction of "Stop!" followed by Perry yelping "Here we go!" to kick it off. It all gets better and better, and ends with "Classic Girl." Dare you to find a better closing than that.

I might not be alive today if I'd gotten my license before the age of 20, because rocking out to this album undoubtedly would've caused me to veer off the road into telephone poles on a regular basis. Thanks, fear of driving!


Anonymous said...

Mike, I always knew you were somehow cooler than the rest of us, but I wasn't quite sure how I knew.

Now I know. :)


That Obscure Object said...

Oh Michael,
This reminds me of how old we are. Except for the INXS who undoubtedly suck caboodle-hole (to quote Sara Chalke from the underrated Scrubs) I can get down with all of these choices and remember my own (slightly younger) first impressions of them. That moment wtih Marco on the parking deck was so painful not just for the two of you but for anyone in a twenty foot radius, ugh, I don't even want to think about it.

That Obscure Object said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toothpaste Jones said...

Hey Michael, I'm continuing the chain on my blog. If I get five people to write their top ten, I get a thousand virgins in heaven, right?