The Songs of Rocktober 60-51

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Monday is here again. You don’t want to be at work. And you shouldn’t be reading this from your desk. I mean, look at all the work you have, piled up around your computer right now. But I won’t rat you out to the boss. He’s probably looking at porn in his office (according to this little study anyway). So why not take a break from putting the new cover sheets on the TPS reports and see what the middle of the countdown has to offer you?

60. Elvis Costello – “What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” Armed Forces marked the third straight game-winning grand slam for Elvis Costello, and it ended on this particularly inspired tune written by Costello’s pal Nick Lowe. The drumming (courtesy of Pete Thomas) on Costello’s early albums is outstanding, and this song is no exception. Costello’s vocals are haggard and passionate. I don’t know where the sweet harmony is, Elvis, but I sure as hell wish you’d get back to making songs like this one.

59. The Foo Fighters – “Monkeywrench” – Before every douchebag who thought they were heavy (*points finger at Creed and Korn*) started using Drop D tuning on every fucking song (it enables you to play the stupidly named “power” chords with one finger, making it a great tuning for complete pussies), Dave Grohl concocted this tune on a Drop D riff and married radio-friendly alt-rock to thunderous badassitude. “Monkeywrench” is but one of the treasures to be found on The Colour and the Shape and the sooner you listen to that album again, the sooner you’ll understand why I pretend the Foo Fighters broke up after making it.

58. Black Flag – “Rise Above” – I didn’t listen to Black Flag until earlier this year, so I’m no old-school diehard fan. But I know kickass tunes when I hear them and Damaged is packed with ’em, not least of which is this lovely little opening number. The descending guitar line at the beginning kicks you down the stairs into a basement filled with pounding drums and Rollins telling you he’s tired of your abuse. When Henry Rollins is sick of your shit, you’d do well to look out. Rollins is out on the spoken-word circuit these days and if you get a chance to see him, you really must do it. The man is funny, passionate, and fiercely intelligent. If he comes to your Rocktoberfest, shower him in praise and whatever else he wants.

57. Nirvana – “Molly’s Lips” – It’s a cover of a Vaselines song and, as with their cover of “Son of a Gun” (also a Vaselines tune – they just reissued their entire recorded output this year and you should really check it out. It’s twisted pop), Nirvana adeptly turns “Molly’s Lips” up to 11 and makes it their own awesome thing. I include it here not only because it rocks out fully, but because it exemplifies Kurt Cobain’s keen pop sensibilities. Underneath all the distortion and misery, Nirvana was a kickass pop band.

56. LCD Soundsystem – “No Love Lost” – The second Joy Division cover on the list. This one comes via a split 7-inch LCD Soundsystem did with the Arcade Fire when they were on tour in 2007. Like Trent Reznor, James Murphy should be one of the only people allowed to cover Joy Division. In fact, judging by his mad musical skills, Murphy should be allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants. He takes you into the tune on an insistent beat and and guitar lines that don’t seem to know where they’re going before pausing, taking a breath, and kicking into the verse with the chugging guitars and sneering vocals. It’s kind of an under-the-radar song for a Rocktoberfest, but that’s all the more reason to include it.

55. Soundgarden – “Superunknown” – Another great Soundgarden tune introduced by another great Kim Thayil guitar riff. This song (and album!) is so awesome it makes me think that perhaps Chris Cornell was the victim of a bodysnatcher some time in the late 90s and the alien that controls him secretly hates music and is trying to destroy Chris Cornell’s formerly untarnished legacy. If you combine Scream and the Audioslave albums (and Carry On, his other bad solo album), Cornell has now matched his good output with bad output and that’s a lose-lose situation for everybody.

54. Dead Kennedys – “Too Drunk to Fuck” – A punk rock public service announcement about the worst thing (short of people dying) that can happen to a person at a party. Rock to this song at your ‘fest, but let it also stand as a reminder not to be That Guy.

53. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid” – Heavy Metal is  a genre I tend to find all too cheesy, but Black Sabbath, in their day (okay, for their first couple albums), was pretty awesome. “Paranoid” starts with an iconic guitar riff and features Ozzy Osbourne when he was still coherent (and known more for his music than… whatever it is he does now). My personal favorite part of this song is when Ozzy asks the strange, probably difficult to answer question, “Aren’t you for my brain?”

52. David Bowie – “Hang On to Yourself” – This is a great song from Ziggy Stardust, but the version you want for your play list is the one from the recently released Live in Santa Monica ’72 disc. It brings the guitar riff to the forefront and is a pretty punked out take on this tune. Either way, you need a little 70s Bowie to classy up your Rocktoberfest – although, if you wanna slow things down a bit, you could also toss “Life On Mars?” into the mix. That song is perfect for all occasions.

51. Presidents of the United States of America – “Kick Out the Jams” – A killer cover of the classic MC5 tune. The Presidents were incredible at choosing covers – they rocked “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and “Cleveland Rocks” and their take on “Kick Out the Jams” is pitch-perfect. If you put any slow songs in your play list (just for variety), follow one with this song. It’ll wake people up right quickly.

We’ve reached the half way point of our countdown. What comes next? The most offensive (and probably misunderstood) punk song I can think of, some awesome hardcore, and a song by the guy who was, at one time, shocking enough to be blamed for Columbine but who now has to get the fucking swine flu just to stay relevant.

Playing catch up? Songs 100-91. 90-81. 80-71. 70-61.

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