About 10 years ago when I first discovered Neko Case and Blacklisted, I was obsessed with this song. I used to play it constantly in the early morning hours on my way to a dead end job. Somehow, Case’s soaring vocals – which seemed to come somewhere unexplainable; maybe the center of the earth? – made me feel better about my own situation in a way that’s hard to pinpoint. I’ve been lucky enough to see her three times (twice with the New Pornographers and once solo) and live her vocals are even more magnificent.
“Personality Crisis” sets the tone for the rest of the New York Dolls’ eponymous first album: crunching guitars, outrageous vocals and pure sleaze. Allmusic describes the song “as a turbo-charged Phil Spector a sound that both the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen would emulate within a few years.”
But more than anything else, “Personality Crisis” would help bring back some of the more fun aspects of rock and roll that seemed to have been forgotten in the early ’70s as many artists grew to be more and more pretentious. “Personality Crisis” is the kind of song that demands you to crank up the stereo and for three glorious minutes bask in the power that only good rock and roll can provide.
I’m pretty sure The Cabin Fever listened very closely to rock hits in the mid-90’s. Their debut single, “Agoraphobic” sounds like it could have been released to alternative radio circa 93-94 with its distorted guitars, mid-tempo drums and melancholic vocal delivery. Lyrically, the song fits in with that angsty era too: its narrator is trying to grapple with his fears of isolation and relationships.
“Agoraphobic” can be found the Los Angeles band’s forthcoming album, Enjoy Yourself, which set to released in the spring. Take a listen to the song below.
When Arcade Fire’s Funeral came out at the end of 2004, I remember reading glowing reviews of the album and wondering if it would actually live up to the hype. As I would later find out, it more than did. Funeral is probably still the best thing the band has ever done, in part because it seemed so out of left field in 2004 with its mix of indie rock sensibilities and sweeping anthems. It was art-rock infused with U2-style anthems. Coldplay may have asked David Bowie to perform on a track with them, but it was Arcade Fire who ended up sharing the stage with the famed rocker, in what would be one of his last public performances.
At the center of it all, is the majestic “Wake Up”. The song – and the band itself for that matter – was given a huge exposure by U2, who used the song as their entrance song on their 2005 Vertigo Tour. I remember scrolling through U2 fan forums where posters went nuts over the song and wondering who the hell it was.
It’s funny, because the song starts out in a very conventional way: a big and yet very basic guitar riff. But it immediately pulls you in. By the time the band hits the second chorus with every band member singing in unison, the song is an instant classic. But then something strange happens. You’re expecting a big crescendo. But the band doesn’t do that and instead opts for a slightly jazzy breakdown at the pivotal moment. Things start to build back up again after a minute, but just when you think they’re about to explode, Win Butler shouts, “You better look out below!” and the whole thing is over.
Even if Arcade Fire never recorded another album, Funeral would still be remembered as one of the best albums of the early 2000’s.
For the longest time, I thought that “96 Tears” was actually recorded by The Animals. That famous organ in the song does sound a lot like The Animals, so forgive my ignorance on that one.
“96 Tears” rightfully deserves its place as a certified garage-rock classic. Even 50 years later, the song still sounds just as fresh and cool as I’m sure it did back in 1966. Due to its raw sound, the song had a profound influence on what would later become punk. There’s no doubt that fellow Michigan resident Iggy Pop had this song on his mind when he formed the Stooges a few years later.
Brooklyn rock act Libel recently released their newest single, the glam-rock/grunge influenced “Hats Off”. The song contains plenty of dirty guitar heroics covered in distortion and frantic drums. At times, you can clearly hear Bowie’s vocal influence on lead singer Gavin Dunaway.
“Hats Off” will be included on the band’s forthcoming album, Comfort in the Noise. Check it out below.
The River has never really resonated with me as much as some of Bruce Springsteen’s other albums. I know tons of people really love it, but to me it always felt like a transitional record between the adult themes of Darkness on the Edge of Town and the dark, twisted tales of Nebraska. So when the announcement was made for the new River-based boxed set, The Ties That Bind, I was not particularly excited.
The songs that I do like on The River are the more bar-band/soul influenced rockers like “Out in the Street” or “Sherry Darling.” I still think that if The River had been a single collection of those songs, it could easily be one of the best pop-best based rock and roll albums.
The outtake “Meet Me in the City” perfectly fits that bill, with its thumping drums, a saxophone solo straight out of a ’60s Motown record and infectious call and response shouts of “alright!” near the end. Springsteen wisely has chosen this song as the opening song for his current River Tour and it perfectly captures the comradery between the band members at this point in time.
Check out the original version below, followed by a live version from Saturday Night Live in December.
When “Take On Me” was released in 1984, I was two years old. If I have any memories of that age, they’re mostly fuzzy images of the moon and my parents’ house. So, I was too young for “Take On Me” to have an impact upon its initial release. But because that song was on constant rotation on MTV during the ’80s, it has now become part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
As such, it’s hard for me to be completely objective of this song. On one hand, I think it’s a fantastic piece of pop and contains one of the most memorable instrumental breaks in all of popular music. It makes me happy when I hear it and memories of my childhood come flooding back.
But on the other hand, I have to wonder if that nostalgia is what makes me think it’s great. Do I just like it because of that? Do my older siblings like the song just as much as me? Is there a similar song released in the ’90s that Millennials have a certain nostalgia for, but I’ve dismissed?
When Bloc Party’s debut Silent Alarm came out in 2005, I played the record constantly. At the time, Bloc Party’s mix of post-punk aesthetics with an aggressive rhythm section seemed like a breath of fresh air. The first half of the album is pretty much flawless. The second half, while still really good, doesn’t quite measure up to the intensity of the first six songs.
“She’s Hearing Voices” might be the most bat-shit crazy song on the album a thunderous hip-hop inspired drum-beat, spiky guitars and a tour-de-force vocal performance from lead singer Kele Okereke. His repeated shout of “hey, hey!” in between the verses is as frightening as it is hypnotic. There’s also a spoken word section, which adds to the song’s paranoid vibe. The whole thing ends up with a brief and violet scratching guitar solo.
I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Pink Floyd. There are things by them I absolutely love – Piper at the Gates of Dawn, most of Dark Side of the Moon and a few tracks off of Wish You Were Here for instance – but a lot of their catalogue, I find to be pretentious drivel that goes nowhere.
“One of These Days” falls into the category of songs I absolutely love, in part because of its menacing sound. Interestingly, it’s on Meddle, an album I put into the “pretentious” category, since it contains one song that clocks in at over 23 minutes.
It’s doubtful I would have ever heard the track, if I wasn’t a somewhat regular listener of Sirius XM’s Pearl Jam Radio. Every few songs, they play a song by an artist that has directly inspired the band. It’s well-known that Pearl Jam has a huge love for Pink Floyd, as they’ve covered several of their songs in concert with quite a bit of frequency.
The first time I caught “One of These Days”, I was completely caught off guard due to its menacing and unrelenting sound. With its double-tracked bass, the song sounds and feel like a nightmare and is all the better for it. If you’ve never heard the song, check it out below.