The Songs of Rocktober 40-31

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Congratulations on surviving to Wednesday. By the end of today it will be officially “almost the weekend” which, for some of us, means “almost Rocktoberfest.” You know where I’m going with this. Ten more songs of Rocktober below:

40. The National – “Abel” – People who are more familiar with the National’s Boxer album are probably thinking “Lol, wut?” right about now, but I assure you that “Abel,” from 2005’s excellent Alligator, is deserving of your Rocktoberfest attention. One of Matt Berninger’s best vocal offerings (and that is saying something), “Abel” starts with him screaming the chorus (“My mind’s not right”) over and over again. “Abel” has a great guitar lick, awesome drums, and a great line about how “everything has all gone down wrong.” Easily one of my favorite National songs.

39. The Hives – “B” is for “Brutus” – You need some Hives for your Rocktoberfest. You just do. Vying hard with “Dead Quote Olympics” for the best Hives song ever is this lovely little nugget, “B is for ‘Brutus.'” This is the kind of rock song you can break shit to ( “shit” could also mean “yourself” in this context) if you’re not careful. Or if you are careful, depending on how you feel about whatever shit you’re breaking. It’s good to have some space cleared out at your ‘Fest for songs like this, because people are well within their rights to jump around like goons while it is playing.

38. Radiohead – “Just” – This song is possibly the best artifact of what we can call Radiohead’s Guitar Rock phase. It features one of the top five gnarliest guitar solos I’ve ever heard and it’s hard for me to dislike a chorus that says “You do it to yourself/ you do/ and that’s why it really hurts”. If you can show videos at your Rocktoberfest, the video for this song is also unassailably awesome.

37. Rancid – “Ruby Soho” – I’m not a huge Rancid fan, but I know this much is true: “Ruby Soho” could turn Oscar the Grouch into Polly-fucking-Anna (these pop culture references are brought to you by the Betamax videos of my childhood). You will find, while listening to “Ruby Soho”, that you physically cannot be unhappy (unless you’re Ohio’s 8th District Representative John A. Boehner, whose name – I’m told – is pronounced “John, a Boner”). I really don’t know what this song is all about. Something about a destination unknown. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can still sing along with this quintessentially indelible chorus  while slowly (or quickly) descending into alcoholism (at which point you will be unable to coherently utter phrases like “quintessentially indelible”).

36. The Black Lips – “Bad Kids” – I love the Black Lips and not just because they hate Wavves (although that does earn them bonus points). I love them because they are exactly what I think would happen if some Muppets started a punk band. “Bad Kids” should be their unofficial anthem, and it might be one of the catchiest songs of the decade (although, to my knowledge, Pitchfork didn’t think so). This is another song that has a very worth-screening video, featuring a bouncing ball over the lyrics and everything. That’s just how the Black Lips roll.

35. LCD Soundsytem – “Movement” – I only just recently realized how amazing this song is. James Murphy is one of a very small number of people who can simultaneously be a scene and give a scene the finger, and nothing shows it better than “Movement” (as in, “it’s like a movement without the bother of all of the meaning”), a three minute ride that builds from a slight bass/drum beat up to roaring guitars and Murphy screaming about how “you’re history/ and I’m tapped.” When I saw LCD Soundsystem live, they closed their set with this song and it kinda blew everyone’s face off. This song also features a very punk-rock guitar solo, which I won’t try to describe in words. Just listen to it.

34. Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland, 1945” – You probably won’t be sitting at a biker bar with AC/DC blasting on the jukebox, talking about how great Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is with a burly, fat biker named Thor (why is it that 99% of the guys on Harleys and similar motorcycles are always disproportionately large?). I mean, you could try it some time, but I’m guessing it’ll get mixed results at best. In any case, “Holland, 1945” is frantic right out of the gate (distorted acoustic guitar!), features some of the most kickass drumming I’ve ever heard (no, really. Listen to that dude all going crazy on this song), and – as if that’s not enough – it also has a daffy mariachi horn line. Jeff Mangum (whose nasally wailing you’ll either love or hate) yells about the only girl he’s ever loved and how she’s now a little boy in Spain playing pianos filled with flames. This may or may not have something to do with Anne Frank. It doesn’t matter, though. Why? Well,  to recap, this song features: thrashing drums, distorted acoustic guitars, mariachi horns, and fucking fire. “Pianos filled with flames.” If Billy Joel could do that… no, I’d still hate him. As for “Holland, 1945”, the only thing it’s missing is ninjas; otherwise, it pretty much hits all my sweet spots.

33. The Ramones  – “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” – This may be my favorite Ramones song because of just how…well, Ramones it is. There is only one verse, repeated to look like two verses. Your dog could play the drum part. This doesn’t sound complimentary, but how can you not love the Ramones? (Of course, John-a-Boner could not love the Ramones, but you’re not him, are you? Are you?) The hand claps are a nice little textural addition that doesn’t appear in every other Ramones song and this one is about how a nice girl named Sheena just couldn’t go out disco dancing with her friends. And how New York City really has it all. Do you need to know more? I mean, it needs no further explanation.  Look: if you don’t know that the Ramones kick ass, you probably don’t know that the earth orbits the sun.

32. The Thermals – “An Ear for Baby” – Why are the Ramones so great? Because we wouldn’t have a lot of great bands without them (of course, we might not have some shitty bands without them, but I’m gonna go ahead and ignore that fact for now). Portland’s Thermals aren’t really musically close to the Ramones, but they do traffic in the same sort of meat-and-potatoes punk that owes Joey & co. a not-insignificant debt (meaning they’re not not musically close. I guess). This song comes from 2007’s amazing The Body, the Blood, the Machine and has a catchy drum part (those exist) and one of singer/guitarist Hutch Harris’s most melodic guitar solos. Also, it gives the finger to fundamentalist religion, which is always a plus in my book.

31. The White Stripes – “You’re Pretty Good Looking” – I like the specificity of this song. You’re pretty good looking for a girl, but you might make an ugly lamppost. Or hamster. You could be downright beautiful for a bran muffin, but we’ll  never know. For a girl, however, you’re merely pretty good looking. Bully for you. These days, we’ve reached a point of saturation with Jack White and his many bands, but there was a time when he was just a dude with a guitar who so capably synthesized his influences that he could blow your fucking mind in a minute and forty-nine seconds – like he does on this here song.

In thirty more songs, it will be Rocktoberfest. Tomorrow’s set will feature no fewer than two songs that my (sadly now-defunct) band covered at our only gig, one of the coolest motherfuckers of the 1970s, and…um… Shakespeare(?).

Numbers:100-91 90-81 80-71 70-61 60-51 50-41

Damn. That’s a lot of rocking.

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