The Songs of Rocktober 80-71

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The good times continue. I can’t remember the last time I posted something on a Saturday. If you’re just joining us, you can recap the first ten songs here and the next ten songs here. To keep the ball rolling:

80. Kaiser Chiefs – “I Predict a Riot” – This was a beguiling lead single from the first Kaiser Chiefs record, Employment. Why “beguiling”? Because, judging from this song, I expected that album to be awesome on a level no Brit had achieved since Pulp’s This is Hardcore album. Turns out “I Predict a Riot” was the Kaiser Chiefs’ one good tune. But it’s damn good, and should make a welcome addition to your Rocktoberfest play list.

79. Uncle Tupelo – “Nothing” – Back in the early 1990s, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were so good at welding country, rock, and folk together that someone named a magazine (No Depression, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about) after their first album as Uncle Tupelo. “Nothing” comes from their second album, Still Feel Gone, which is also awesome. This song is a broken-ass tune ostensibly about breaking up with a girl. It centers on the line, “Don’t/ call it nothin’/ this might be all/ we’ll ever have.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

78. Manic Street Preachers – “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time” – Okay, the title is a bit pretentious, but this song is the finest that Journal for Plague Lovers has to offer. Melodic and sacrilegious, this song is exactly what any good Rocktoberfest needs. If I ever have kids, I’m gonna get them little t-shirts that say, “Oh, Mommy, what’ s a Sex Pistol?”

77. Los Campesinos! – “My Year in Lists” – Sweet Zombie Jesus, I love this band. Every second of this not-quite-two-minute song is excellent: “Nothing says I miss you quite like war poetry carved in your door with a Stanley knife” leading up to “I cherish with fondness the day before I met you.” Few bands more capably prove that brevity is the soul of wit. If you haven’t heard Hold On Now, Youngster, we’ll hold up the rest of the countdown while you grab a copy and give it a listen.

Good shit, right?

76. The Hives – “Dead Quote Olympics” – This song could just be its chorus and I’d probably still love it. I knew what it was about just from the title, and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist (that is possibly one of the most apt rock singer nicknames I’ve ever come across. Except for Fall Out Boy’s Crappy Pete Wentz, but I’m the only one who calls him that) and friends did not disappoint me, singing about being “showered in books and berets.” If you’ve ever met someone at a party who talks to you just to prove how smart or cool they are, this song is the perfect soundtrack for the moment when they tell you about something awesome they did and you point out that their story is eerily, sue-ably, close to the plot of some esoteric web comic.

75. Smashing Pumpkins – “Bury Me” – Remember when Billy Corgan wasn’t (as much of) a douchebag? You have to go back a ways, but there was a time when he made really amazing music and had one of the best guitar sounds of the 1990s. This track comes from Gish and features face-melting guitar work and the semi-pretentious (apparently, Corgan also had restraint back then) outro lyric “She will/ bury me.” But the guitar alone is worth it on this song. It’s really fucking great, hitting its peak right around three and a half minutes. Goddamn. That is beautiful.

74. Nine Inch Nails – “Dead Souls” – Since Trent Reznor is more or less retiring the Nine Inch Nails thing, I think now is a good time for him to release a covers album, for free or near-free, via the interwub. I’ll give him ten bucks for it. And some beers. So far, he’s the only person I can think of who should not be legally banned from covering Joy Division. This song comes to us courtesy of the soundtrack for The Crow. It builds all slow and broody, just the way Ian Curtis would want it to, and Reznor makes the most of the chorus, shrieking about how they keep calling him. Presumably, this song was written about those assholes who robo-call you and tell you your car warranty is about to expire and then try to sell you their bullshit. That’s what I heard, anyway.

73. My Morning Jacket – “Dancefloors” – If you can see the photo up there, you might surmise (as I have) that Jim James gets all his power from looking a like a fucking bear wrestling a guitar. Perhaps this is because Jim James’s father was a bear and his mother was awesome, ergo: bear + awesome = Jim James of My Morning Jacket. “Dancefloors” comes from their third album, It Still Moves (the cover of which features a giant fucking bear – possibly James’s father), and it does that whole Southern rock thing without waving any Confederate flags, dissing Neil Young, or banging Cher (your dad will get that joke). This is to be largely attributed to the awesome keyboard part and the even more awesome horn parts that take the song for a spin ’round the (ahem) dance floor for its final minute. When I’m an old man, this is what the classic rock stations will play and the world will be better for it.

72. The Who – “Baba O’Riley” – It’s important to know where you came from and the Who are a big reason for a lot of bands I really like now. They were, apparently, a huge influence on the Flaming Lips, for instance. I know a lot of people like “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” but that synth break is too long and boring for my taste (it’s still a great song, it just needs to be shorter). That’s why “Baba O’Riley” is awesome – the synthy intro gives way to a crisp, three-chord piano part which is carried on the (admittedly spastic) shoulders of Keith Moon’s insane drumming. And Roger Daltrey was one of the few singers of the so-called classic rock era who 1) had any balls and 2) could actually sing.

71. R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” – Rumor has it that this song was written after Michael Stipe witnessed the caffeine-fueled spectacle that is cross-examination debate (“CX” debate, if you’re nasty). It sounds plausible. This song is so packed with verbiage, it could literally be about anything. We know it starts with an earthquake and ends somewhere after Leonard Bernstein (I actually know all the words to this song. Or I did at one time. I’d be quite keen to see if I can remember them again). In between, we feel fine. Drinking helps.

Whew. Ten more gone. The closer we get to number one, the closer we get to Rocktoberfest. The excitement continues tomorrow with the reason for all of your pop records, singing in German, and a handy party trick to impress and inebriate your friends.

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