75 Percent Less Fat: No. 40

Some albums grab you right away. Others take a little while to marinate.

This album was released back in 2008. The band then went on tour with Eulogies to support the album. As part of their tour promotion, the two bands offered a giveway of their new albums in a woxy.com effort. I was the lucky listener, so I soon received copies of both discs in the mail.

I kind of liked Eulogies right away. It was a nifty little indie pop record, with a lead single that Vampire Weekend clearly enjoyed.

The Dears more densely packed album didn’t immediately resonate. But as time wore on, the more I listened to the beefy disc (58 minutes of music in just 10 tracks) from Murray Lightburn and co., the more I realized they were the headliner on that bill for a reason.

I still don’t hear the Morrissey comparisons that have beset Lightburn from the outset, other than the fact that both men are decidedly difficult to get along with. But Black Moz or not, he’s a pretty gifted musician. These aren’t little ditties, but complex works where the brilliance is revealed on multiple listens.

Highlights: Like Who’s Next, this is a disc that is good from the start, but truly shines on the back half. Crisis 1 & 2 , Demons, and the 11-minute, album-closer Savior are among the strongest tracks.

Important Information:

Name: Missiles

Released: 2008

Record Company: Dangerbird Records

Running Time: 58:16

Track Listing:

  1. Disclaimer
  2. Dream Job
  3. Money Babies
  4. Berlin Heart
  5. Lights Of
  6. Crisis 1 & 2
  7. Demons
  8. Missiles
  9. Meltdown in A Major
  10. Saviour

 

 

 

 

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 41

Since discovering the New Pornographers with the release of their second disc, this album, they’ve been one of my favorite bands of the new millennium. As a present from my lovely wife, I caught them on my 50th birthday last year, joining a lot of other old people at Metro in Chicago, where I discovered that standing in one place for 3-plus hours is a lot harder than it used to be.

The New Pos enjoy one of the longest stretches on my CD rack (yep, I’ve still got one of those). I’ve got their entire catalogue, save their last release, which I’m sure I’ll add to my collection in time (I’m rarely a new release guy – typically acquiring an album long after it hit the shelves. Well, back when there were shelves).

Just as I’m sure I’ll eventually purchase Whiteout Conditions, I’m equally certain I’ll enjoy some parts of it immensely*, while other parts don’t wow me. While the New Pos were certain to have a spot in this here countdown, the choice of album was up in the air. And, if I were to review this down the road, I could easily peg debut disc Mass Romantic, No. 3 Twin Cinema (which contains my No. 1 song of all-time), or some other entry in this slot. The New Pornographers have churned out consistently good albums in their 15-plus years of recording, but I think a true masterpiece has eluded them. At this point, I doubt they’ll deliver one. It’s still a testament to just how good the band is that an imperfect work could still crack my list.

The Laws Have Changed was my intro to the band, and it remains one of their best singles. The song is a perfect example of the group at its best, with changing tempos and Carl Newman and Neko sharing shifting vocal duties. Other highlights include All for Swinging You Around, The End of Medicine and The New Face of Zero and One.

*Given the absence of Dan Bejar from the disc, the first time the Destroyer frontman hasn’t appeared on an album from the band, it’s possible I’ll like it more than most. Though I think his presence is a net positive overall, given the change of pace he provides from the Newman-penned songs, I’ve never been a big fan of his work.

Important Information:

Name: Electric Version

Released: 2003

Record Company: Matador

Running Time: 46:41

Track Listing:

  1. The Electric Version
  2. From Blown Speakers
  3. The Laws Have Changed
  4. The End of Medicine
  5. Loose Translation
  6. Chump Change
  7. All for Swinging You Around
  8. The New Face of Zero and One
  9. Testament to Youth in Verse
  10. It’s Only Divine Right
  11. Ballad of a Comeback Kid
  12. July Jones
  13. Miss Teen Wordpower

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 42

I am not always the most consistent of music fans. For instance, I loathe Queen, finding most of their work utterly inane. And yet, I’ll listen to the occasional Muse tune, a band that clearly doesn’t loathe Queen.

Similarly, I’ve always dug Echo and the Bunnymen, one of the many UK-based, Ian-fronted bands of the 1980s I enjoyed (Joy Division and Ian Curtis, Lightning Seeds and Ian Broudie, Icicle Works and Ian McNabb, among others). But while Ian McCullough clearly took his cues from this band, The Doors are among my least-favorite acts of ever.  And one of the reasons I so despise the Doors is because of just how full of himself Jim Morrison was.

All of this brings us to No. 42. A few years before Oasis proclaimed themselves bigger than the Beatles, Ian Brown and co. were lauding themselves as the new messiah. And if you didn’t get that message on the band’s self-titled debut, then “Second Coming,” made sure you caught on the second time.

While the follow-up certainly called into question their claim to higher powerness, the band’s debut disc at least kept open the possibility. From the slow building opener, I Wanna Be Adored through to the clublike nearly 10-minute Fool’s Gold*, the album is just chock full of great sons. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to name another album from the college/modern/indie rock library that produced as many “classic” songs as this one.

Highlights include: Elephant Stone, where screeching guitar work gives way to a pop gem; the fuzzy She Bangs the Drums; the beautifully gory Made of Stone; and the messianic I Am the Resurrection.

Important Information:

Name: The Stone Roses s/t

Released: 1989

Record Company: Silvertone

Running Time: 49:02

Track Listing:

  1. I Wanna Be Adored
  2. She Bangs the Drums
  3. Elephant Stone
  4. Waterfall
  5. Don’t Stop
  6. Bye Bye Badman
  7. Elizabeth My Dear
  8. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
  9. Made of Stone
  10. Shoot You Down
  11. This is the One
  12. I Am the Resurrection
  13. Fool’s Gold

*Only on the U.S. version. The original UK release excluded both Fool’s Gold and Elephant Stone.

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 43

There is, and always has been, something about the first album. In most cases, that’s seen as a band’s introduction to the world, the debut record. In a lot of cases, it’s hard to ever match that special something from the first effort. REM’s Murmur, Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True, the Ramones’ self-titled debut, or, already on this list, Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp, are these types of records. It’s not that you never deliver something as artistically great; just that you can never duplicate the feat of delivering a sound never heard before.

 

But there’s another way that this concept is in place, at least for the listener. The first time you hear a band you go onto love. Many of the highest-ranking albums on this list will fit that description for me, including No. 43, Guided by Voices’ Isolation Drills.

 

I had heard of GBV before the band’s 12th album and had undoubtedly heard more than a few tracks on 97x during my years of listening to the station whenever I could. But the first time I put a sound to the name was on this disc. Thus, it remains a place in my firmament that it almost certainly doesn’t* with other Guided by Voices fans.

 

Isolation Drills strays a little from the typical GBV brew as only three of the 16 songs clock in at under 2:30, definitely on the low side for frontman Bob Pollard. And two of the best, the back-to-back tracks Glad Girls and Run Wild, nearly hit four minutes. And the song titles aren’t as random as the kind found on most of the band’s discs. All of this might actually be a good thing, as it’s also got fewer wink leaks and unfinished ideas that are a hallmark of Pollard, rock’s foremost believer in never discarding any song idea.

 

Highlights here are first single Chasing Heather Crazy, Twilight Campfighter, the stoner ditty Glad Girls and the best track, the slow burner Run Wild.

 

*Interestingly, while researching this, I saw that Isolation Drills actually has the highest Metacritic score of any GBV album, at 83/100. I didn’t realize my view was shared by so many others.

 

Important Information:

Name: Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills

Released: 2001

Record Company: TVT Records

Running Time: 47:12

Track Listing:

  1. Fair Touching
  2. Skills Like This
  3. Chasing Heather Crazy
  4. Frostma
  5. Twilight Campfighter
  6. Sister, I Need Wine
  7. Want One
  8. The Enemy
  9. Unspirited
  10. Glad Girls
  11. Run Wild
  12. Pivotal Film
  13. How’s My Drinki
  14. The Brides Have Hit Glass
  15. Fine to See You
  16. Privately

 

 

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: No. 44

There will be no more Catholic album than No. 44, the Hold Steady’s sophomore disc, Separation Sunday.

The band is fronted by Twin Cities native Craig Finn, previously of the band Liftr Pullr. Finn’s sing-speak method of delivering his vocals is unmistakable. Just as his habit of telling stories that run through not just entire albums, but leap from disc to disc.

On this one, story focuses on Holly, short for Hallelujah. Like many of his characters, she’s a troubled young adult living on the fringes, turning tricks and taking drugs. Along the way we meet an equally sordid cast of characters. Her story culminates with a visit to Mass, where she crashes into the congregation on the album’s strongest track.

Highlights: Your Little Hoodrat Friend, Charlemagne in Sweatpants, a story of a pimp that references Springsteen, Jane’s Addiction and, of course, Lionel Richie; Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night; and How a Resurrection Really Feels, on my shortlist of best album closers, along with The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, White Trash Heroes and Vapor Trails.

 

Important Information:

Name: The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday

Released: 2005

Record Company: Frenchkills Records

Running Time: 42:11

Track Listing:

  1. Hornets! Hornets!
  2. Cattle and Creeping Things
  3. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
  4. Banging Camp
  5. Charlemagne in Sweatpants
  6. Steve Nix
  7. Multitude of Casualties
  8. Don’t Let Me Explode
  9. Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
  10. Crucifixion Cruise
  11. How a Resurrection Really Feels

 

 

75 Percent Less Fat: 45

On a blog that’s devoted mostly to baseball, a Joe Jackson mention is typically going to be a reference to the sport’s tragic anti-hero, the Say it Ain’t So guy who was given a permanent ban for conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series.

But this isn’t Shoeless Joe we’re talking about. Rather, it’s a Joe Jackson with some dandy footwear on Look Sharp! The exclamation point knew what it was talking about.

The debut album from the Englishman was a revelation from the first single, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” even if it made little wave upon its initial release. A subsequent pressing caught on, however, and was viewed, then and now, as a classic. Jackson’s debut disc was a magical blend of punk zip and pop sensibilities, with a healthy dollop of humor.

Though he followed this one up with the similar, I’m the Man, Jackson’s career was marked more for its chameleon nature, with the pianist dabbling in various styles over the years. And though he would argue strongly against it, he never surpassed his maiden effort.

Highlights include the lead track, One More Time; a slam on media infantilism 30 years before it became a regular thing in Sunday Papers; the delightful Happy Loving Couples, and the speedy closer, Got the Time.

 

Important Information:

Name: Joe Jackson, Look Sharp!

Released: 1979

Record Company: A&M

Running Time: 36.28

Track Listing:

  1. One More Time
  2. Sunday Papers
  3. Is She Really Going Out with Him
  4. Happy Loving Couples
  5. Throw it Away
  6. Baby Stick Around
  7. Look Sharp!
  8. Fools in Love
  9. (Do the) Instant Mash
  10. Pretty Girls
  11. Got the Time

 

75 Percent Less Fat: 46

A very significant change of pace from our last entry, though an LP released at relatively the same time.  It’s The Connells’ Fun & Games.

I can remember one of the first times I heard something from the album. And it came in a most unexpected place. I was working at my first job, in a small newspaper in rural Indiana. Back in the press room, Something to Say was coming off the tiny boom box, and I asked who the hell was playing “that?” It seems one of the layout staff was a fan of modern/alternative/indie. I quickly made a tape of her tape, and a Top 50 entry album was found.

The Raleigh, N.C., band put out eight studio albums over the course of 16 years, many of them near-equals with Fun & Games. The run from Boylan Heights in 1987 through Ring in 1993 was about as good a stretch of jangle rock recorded this side of Athens.

Frankly, it always surprised me that Ring didn’t deliver the band a much larger audience, given it was released as radio stations were seeking out modern rock tracks following the rise of Nirvana and the glorious, long overdue demise of hair metal. Perhaps if Fun & Games had enjoyed such timing, it could have brought the band the wider acclaim they truly warranted.

Highlights here are opening song Something to Say, the guitar work grabbing the ear from the very first note; the title track, which begins whispery before breaking into classic jangle; and the uptempo Upside Down.

 

Important Information:

Name: The Connells, Fun & Games

Released: 1989

Record Company: TVT

Running Time: 45:20

Track Listing:

  1. Something to Say
  2. Fun & Games
  3. Sal
  4. Upside Down
  5. Fine Tuning*
  6. Motel
  7. Hey Wow
  8. Ten Pins
  9. Inside My Head
  10. Uninspired
  11. Sat Night (USA)
  12. Lay Me Down

*CD-only track, so not on my original version.