Rocktoberfest Acht

So yeah, my friends and I, in a bout of total unoriginality, started this annual party called Rocktoberfest back in 2002. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of beer and friendship and meat and rocking until you break yourself. If that sounds childish and/or unimportant to you, maybe you should attend Rocktoberfest before you go judging things you don’t understand. Or maybe you’re humorless California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who doesn’t seem to like anything at all, especially if it has ever a) been in a union or b) been poor. But I digress.

This year was the 8th annual Rocktoberfest (Rocktoberfest Acht in German. So Achtoberfest, as my pal Jom pointed out while quite drunk) and we held it at my friend Badier’s mostly former house in Menlo Park, which is dangerously close to Stanford University. Having a massive party in a house that is mostly empty is definitely the way to go. Less shit to break.

I’d like to think that everyone who attends  our Rocktoberfest recognizes that, like Hold Steady albums and good beers, the most recent one is always the best one ever. This year was no exception.

Somewhere in the haze of music, drunk, and smoke, I realized why Rocktoberfest feels like a holiday to those who attend it and, as a sort of bonus realization, why rock ‘n’ roll is not a terrible substitute for a religion (when it doesn’t suck, of course). Let’s deal with the last thing first: at its best, rock ‘n’ roll creates community. When you go to see your favorite band, you share in the pure joy of music with a roomful of strangers. The audience and the band are all plugged in to something much bigger than the sum of its parts. The potential exists in that moment to meet new people and make new friends. You don’t have to do that, of course, but you totally can. And maybe you should. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of an ever-expanding community that started with five guys in a house. Those five guys didn’t always get along by any means, but Rocktoberfest creates a unique present in which the past is mostly obliterated while people sing along to songs like “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand (modified by us so that the chorus is now, “This beer is out of control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer”) and “Holy Diver” by Dio (we poured one out for Ronnie James Dio this year). Sure, it’s silly. But what’s wrong with being silly?

What happened at Rocktoberfest this year was what I  imagine happened around Joe Strummer’s famous campfires at Glastonbury. Old friends met new friends, some of us had wives to bring, others had kids to leave at home. But for several hours of a Saturday, everyone was cool with everyone. For my part, I was deliriously happy. You can do this anytime you want, and you should. Gather your friends and some drinks and some great music, and celebrate your personal community. Rocktoberfest Acht was a reminder of why I love music and – more important – why I literally love a majority of the people I know. It’s not prayer and it won’t save you from much besides boredom, but it could provide you with one helluva a great night.

So, in the great words of Mr. Craig Finn, “Let this be my annual reminder/ that we can all be something bigger.” Go forward, kids, be awesome to each other, and rock the fuck on.

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High Hopes for Coachella

Once again, I am heading to the desert to camp out with my friend Tim and take in the sights and sounds of Coachella. I’ll have a full recap sometime next week, but for now, I wanna talk about the stuff that I hope happens this weekend.

I hope Jay-Z is replaced at the last minute by Atmosphere. This is not going to happen, but a boy can dream.

I know LCD Soundsystem will play a lot of stuff from their forthcoming This is Happening (it’s streaming at their website right now and you should probably be listening to it – I am), but I really hope James Murphy and company bust out their highly excellent cover of Joy Division’s “No Love Lost.” That song makes me want to jump around like a goon.

I still hope the Coachella people will book Band of Horses at the last second. I hope that with all my heart. I’ve heard two songs off of Infinite Arms (which is coming out next month – giggidy) and they instantly reminded me why I dearly love Band of Horses. So if you’re in Band of Horses, why not come to Coachella this weekend and gate-crash the thing? You can sleep in my car and busk outside my tent. I will give you beer. I am totally not kidding.

I hope Doom and Danger Mouse are part of the Gorillaz set. That would make me happy. I also hope the songs from Plastic Beach grow on me after hearing them live. We’ll see.

(Update on the new LCD Soundsystem record: “All I Want” is a badass song among badass songs. James Murphy wins at life.)

I will give Vampire Weekend a dollar if they just have done with it and play a cover of Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al.” Give in to the inevitable, guys.

I hope Pavement plays Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in its entirety. I’m not that interested in their other albums, though I haven’t heard all of them.

I’m looking forward to seeing Dave Grohl play the drums live, but I hope Them Crooked Vultures are better live than they are on record. I nod off about halfway through that album.

I hope I have an excuse to sneak into the Hot Chip set. They’re not usually my kind of music, but I just listened to One Life Stand on a friend’s recommendation and it’s full of dancey goodness. If they’re on when I have nothing else to do, I’m gonna drop in and see how they are live. I’m imagining glow sticks galore.

I hope Arrested Development reforms and joins Sly Stone to do a live mashup of “Everyday People” with their “People Everyday.” That would be about the coolest thing ever. Odds: 900 to 1 against.

I hope Thom Yorke just plays a solo acoustic set of Radiohead songs. I didn’t care much for the laptop lust of The Eraser and I really want to hear “True Love Waits.” I’m sure Mr. Yorke will be loathe to grant me this indulgence, but he should take it under consideration. The ball’s in your court, Thom Yorke.

I hope the Specials are good. I didn’t even know they were still a band, and I haven’t heard anything of theirs that was released after 1982. But I love their Elvis Costello-produced debut album, and I’m really hoping they’ve still got that kinda energy live. Odds: 7 to 1 against.

I have no real hopes about the Yo La Tengo set – I’m just super extra happy that I’ll get to see them. I guess, if anything, I hope they play “Mr. Tough.” That song is not afraid of you and it will beat your ass.

I hope Lucero brings the horns with them. 1372 Overton Park is an amazing record and I want to hear some of that sexy Memphis brass when I see them at Coachella.

I’ve heard Spoon is kind of dull live, so I’m hoping that is not the case. Odds: ???

If the Cribs don’t open their set with “We Were Aborted,” I’m gonna be very very sad. Do they care? Probably not. But that song is awesome.

I hope the good people at Ninkasi Brewery in Eugene, Oregon, sneak in and swap all the Heineken kegs with their own Total Domination IPA. For two reasons: 1) beer monopolies are bullshit; and 2) Ninkasi beer kicks ass.

So I’m gonna go groom myself up a nice adventure beard, pack some stuff, fill some coolers, and haul ass out to Indio. Forecast calls for awesome.

Pretty Fly for a Dead Guy

Whenever a dead guy releases a “new” album, I think people have a moral duty to heap upon it every ounce of skepticism they can muster. Honestly, for me, posthumous releases are met with immediate scorn and derision and they have to work their way past that before I can enjoy them. Why? Because, even if a posthumous release contains “Never before heard” material, you may not be hearing the songs exactly how the artist wanted to present them. Maybe their surviving family and friends have a fair idea what the artist was going for, but you can’t be 100% sure. Now, only getting 85ish percent of an artist’s vision isn’t going to keep me from checking out a posthumous release, but it’s a strike against them. The biggest concern I have with the postmortem album is  that, by purchasing an album after the artist is dead, I am basically tossing money into the yacht fund for unscrupulous family members, former bandmates, or both.

On the other hand, who doesn’t want more music from their favorite dead artist? I mean, I’ll be honest with you, if you release tapes of Joe Strummer singing folk songs in his living room, I’ll snap them up like they cure impotence. Which they probably will.

Which brings us, more or less, to the “new” Jimi Hendrix album, Valleys of Neptune, which has been meticulously packaged by his little sister Janie, with help from John McDermott (who wrote extensive liner notes) and Eddie Kramer. To her credit, Janie Hendrix has done an admirable job over the years removing hackneyed posthumous Jimi Hendrix albums from the marketplace. On the day Valleys of Neptune dropped, her Experience Hendrix company reissued the four studio albums Hendrix authorized during his brief life. So Valleys comes from a reasonably solid place of credibility and, while it contains songs you’ve heard before, they are versions that have never been released and are, mostly, taken from sessions that Hendrix was using to retool and improve some of his older songs (although the version of “Red House” that appears on Valleys of Neptune is, to my ears, vastly inferior to the version that appears on Are You Experienced?).

In fact, Valleys of Neptune does a really excellent job of shining light on Jimi Hendrix as a creative studio musician. Towards the end of his life, Hendrix booked studio time in many of the cities in which he was playing and used that time both to develop new songs and tweak old ones more to his liking. This, of course, means there may be reels and reels of stuff yet to come from Experience Hendrix and that, of course, may have diminishing returns.

But the key question with any album by any artist, living or dead, is “Is it a compelling listen?” Well, if you never liked Jimi Hendrix before, Valleys of Neptune won’t win you over. And if you did like Jimi Hendrix before, like I did, Valleys of Neptune will prove a fairly enjoyable listen (although I get antsy by the time “Red House” rolls around) and, if nothing else, it will make you want to hit John Mayer in the face with a shovel (as if any thinking person needs another reason to want to hit John Mayer in the face with a shovel). Why? Because Valleys of Neptune will remind you just how amazing a guitar player Jimi Hendrix was – it even casts a shadow on my enjoyment of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music (only a little) because it illustrates the large debt Vaughan owed to Hendrix. And if you connect the dots, you see that Mayer is a watered down imitator of Stevie Ray, who was something of a Hendrix impersonator (though a fairly superb one. And, before SRV fans send the hate mail, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the debt that both Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan owe to slide guitarist Elmore James). This is not to cast derision on Stevie Ray Vaughan, but to cast it on John Mayer. In light of Jimi Hendrix’s recorded output, one should see Mayer on the level of a bad Elvis impersonator – he is to music what Kirsten Dunst is to acting (and if you think Kirsten Dunst is a great actress, I want whatever drugs you’re taking).

Among the Hendrix songs I’ve never heard before, my two favorites on Valleys of Neptune are the title track and the scorching “Hear My Train A-Comin'”, which is a stunning, visceral blues number on a par with the version of “Red House” that doesn’t appear on this album.

I have, really, only two complaints about Valleys of Neptune, neither one of which could be addressed by Janie Hendrix, unless she has a time machine that I don’t know about. The first is, as I believe I’ve mentioned, the inferior version of “Red House” and the second is that Hendrix recorded Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” as an instrumental track. It is evident that Jimi Hendrix was probably the best guitar player ever (your Satrianis and Vais and whatnot are not even in the same league, shredders. Henrdrix had soul. “Here My Train A-Comin'” blows every Joe Satriani track ever straight out of the water. Period.), but I have long lobbied to have him remembered as a really great singer. Listen to “Little Wing,” which is – again, obviously – a stellar guitar track, but his vocal performance on that song is really beautiful. No one is going to say that Hendrix doesn’t hit “Sunshine of Your Love” out of the park musically, but I would have loved to hear a recording of him singing the song as well.

In the end, you may be helping Janie Hendrix send her kids to college by purchasing Valleys of Neptune, but it remains a posthumous release that actually manages a lot of dignity and lacks any whiff of cynical exploitation. The woman seems genuinely concerned about preserving her brother’s legacy as a musician, and I’m saying that as a guy who derided the existence of this album from the first moment I heard about it.

Unknown and Beautiful (The Virtues of Broken-Ass Music)

There’s a kind of music that I love, that is sometimes rock and sometimes blues and sometimes both. I call it Broken-Ass Music. Tom Waits is probably the current reigning king of Broken-Ass Music, but it has its roots in stuff like “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” by Robert Johnson. Johnny Cash was also a master of Broken-Assness, and you can hear a more rock ‘n’ roll side of Broken-Ass Music on the first Hold Steady album and tracks like “Lord, I’m Discouraged” from 2008’s best album, Stay Positive. I heard a band called the Gaslight Anthem that I think deals in diet Broken-Ass Music, for kids who want to ache a little but don’t want to get any dirt on their new H&M shirts (I just made up that stereotype, so let’s not read too much into it. Also, I have purchased at least two shirts from H&M in my life. But I got them dirty).

And then there’s Lucero.

There is no better phrase I can think of to describe Lucero’s music: if any music is Broken-Ass Music, Lucero’s music is Broken-Ass Music. Their 2005 album, Nobody’s Darlings, was a nearly perfect slice of Broken-Assitude and last year, they reached new heights with 1372 Overton Park, an album that occurs at the collision point of southern rock, Memphis soul, and incredibly Broken-Ass Music. Lucero wanted to pay tribute to the Memphis music scene (a scene which just lost Jay Reatard, whose music I didn’t really enjoy, but the dude died at 29 and, having just turned 30, that shit freaks me right out) including the titular loft where, at one time or another, all of the band lived. Singer Ben Nichols was the last band member to occupy the space, which he vacated upon finding out it was slated for the wrecking ball. Such is the life of a Broken-Ass musician – if they can’t break your heart anymore, I guess they tear down your house.

1372 Overton Park is lyrically not that different from other Lucero albums – there’s drinking, gambling, women, and all of the above in random order (“Sixes and Sevens” features the line, “Drinking women/ chasing whiskey”, showing that even Nichols can’t keep it all straight sometimes). But the album is helped – nay, it is elevated – by the sumptuous horn arrangements of Memphis legend (and saxophone ninja) Jim Spake, who has played with a wide range of awesome people, including Levon Helm, Toots Hibbert, and Buddy Guy. The horns infuse every song with a soulful warmth that perfectly contrasts Ben Nichols’s shredded vocals.

About that voice: having a gravelly voice does not necessarily mean you are capable of performing Broken-Ass Music, but, if you do have a facility for BAM, a mangled voice doesn’t really hurt either. Ben Nichols can still carry a tune, but his voice has the sound of years on the road, drinking too much, smoking too much, and sleeping too little. But it fits Lucero’s songs like a velvet glove wrapped in barbed wire. He clearly pushes himself to the limit on album opener “Smoke”, but the rewards are well worth it. Even at it’s crooniest (“Hey Darlin, Do You Gamble?”), Nichols’s voice is still somewhere between Rolf the dog and Tom Waits. If you read that sentence and thought, “Awesome!”, you will probably love Lucero (or you probably already do). If you read that sentence and thought, “Who would want to hear that?,” you are probably someone’s girlfriend/wife/mother and possibly my fiancee, my stepmother, or pretty much every other woman I know. That’s not a sexist thing, it just happens to be true. I will bet you every dime I make from writing this blog that more women own albums by Coldplay, Norah Jones, and the Dave Matthews Band (admit it, folks – you know at least one girl who refers to Dave Matthews on a first-name basis, despite the fact that they’ve never met him). I’ll bet you the same amount that more guys own albums by the Clash, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Lucero (and if you know a guy who refers to Tom Waits as simply “Tom” despite having never met the man, you are legally allowed to kick him in the balls until his eyes change color).

Getting back to 1372 Overton Park, Jim Spake certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on musicianship here. Keyboardist Rick Steff (who co-arranged the horn parts with Spake and Marc Franklin, who is credited with trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn duties) contributes some badass organ work and more than his share of honky-tonk piano (see the afore-mentioned “Sixes and Sevens”) and Brian Venable supplies some literally gnarly guitar work. Overall, Lucero sounds tighter as a band than they’ve ever sounded (no mean feat, as they’ve always struck me as a somehow simultaneously shambolic and tightly wound group) and I can only hope Spake and Franklin come out on the road with them for some live hornage (also, I can hope they come to Los Angeles. Please?)

Earlier in 2009, I discussed Franz Ferdinand’s Tonight album as having the mood of a night on the town: starting with all the promise that brings and ending with drunken half-disaster. If that’s the case for Franz Ferdinand’s Tonight, Lucero’s 1372 Overton Park is the feeling of several nights on the road, in clubs with no dress code (look at the cover of the Franz Ferdinand album – those guys are going to much better clubs than you and I are), starting with waking up in a strange town sometime after noon, and ending after a raucous rock ‘n’ roll show and a night of drinking with a band that, though vastly underrated in this reporter’s opinion, is one of America’s finest.

The Ego’s Last Stand

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If you have read other reviews of the new Flaming Lips record, Embryonic, you might be worried. You might have read about how “experimental” Embryonic is and you might have thought, “Hey, wait a minute – isn’t ‘experimental’ the term critics use to try to praise something that is bad, but bad in a perversely interesting way?” And you’d be right to think that. But Embryonic is really not that big of a leap for the Flaming Lips to have made from At War with the Mystics. In fact, if you look at their entire 20-something year career, it’s kinda hard to pin down their sound anyway. But I’m speaking as a guy who actually owns their awesomely underrated early albums like In a Priest-Driven Ambulance and Hit to Death in the Future Head.

The Pitchfork kids like Embryonic, which shows some rare good taste on their part, but they try to praise the album by damning the Lips’ other recent works, as if Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin aren’t skull-crackingly magnificent listens in their own right (or in anyone’s own right, for that matter. Who out there has listened to both of those albums and found them lacking in melodious mind-blowing beauty?). The P-forkers even try to scare off the non-hipster-douchebag crowd by comparing Embryonic favorably to the Lips’ real experimental album, Zaireeka. While Embryonic does some sonic stuff that you haven’t heard from the Lips before, I’ve always understood the Flaming Lips as the best band ever at trying stuff they’ve never tried before. They’re willing to fail in a way almost no other band is, and I think that’s why they fail so rarely (or never, really, by my count). Am I about to say that Embryonic is a noble failure? No. It’s actually an incredibly compelling, noisy, psychedelic rock record that gets more splendid with each listen. I literally hear something new every single time I listen to Embryonic. I’m listening to it on headphones as I write this and am having a very good time indeed.

Before I get too much into the nuts and bolts of why Embryonic is arguably the best rock album of the year, I want to take a second to discuss the Pitchfork modus operandi for a second. If you’re blessed enough to inhabit a universe wherein you don’t know what the hell Pitchfork is, I suggest you pop on over to http://pitchfork.com, read a couple of their reviews, and see for yourself the kind of pretentious douchebaggery that is their bread and butter. See, they can’t stand the idea that other people might like the music they like, so they find the most unlistenable shit on earth and sing its praises, practically daring us lowly peasants to like it. For instance, they love Wavves, a band rational people would like to stuff into the business end of a wood-chipper. But that’s the whole Pitchfork shtick. If a band becomes too well-known, they can kiss the Pitchfork-love goodbye (see My Morning Jacket for examples of this). Of course, every once in a while, Pitchfork can’t help but honestly love something that is unassailably awesome, like the Hold Steady. Or the Flaming Lips. But with Embryonic, the P-forkers seem to think they’ve found a Flaming Lips album that only an internet hipster can love. And they’re wrong. My fiance, known to those who know her as the absolute antithesis of the internet hipster, likes Embryonic. Because it’s weird. Point is, Pitchfork is always wrong – even when they’re right, they say it in a wrong sort of way. Except this one time, when they created what may actually be my favorite album review of all time. I never get tired of posting that link.

Anyway, let’s talk Embryonic. Thematically, it’s the same as every Flaming Lips album ever: good, evil, life, love, and death. The Lips like to talk about the big stuff and they do it better than most bands (sorry, 8th grade girls, but “Your Body Is a Wonderland” is not deep, big picture stuff. Nor is, I dunno, anything by Green Day), but there’s a new philosophical wrinkle running throughout Embryonic that I happen to like very much: it deals a lot with annihilating the ego, which is a subject I think is very worthy indeed. Perhaps that’s (partly) because I have a pretty huge, exceedingly healthy ego, and it gets me into mostly avoidable trouble. So a soundtrack for its demise is literally music to my ears.

Embryonic, then, is kind of an existential/psychological freak-out (on the moon? I don’t know why I wrote that, but it fits, dammit, and I’m keeping it), starting with “Convinced of the Hex,” a song whose female subject says, “‘You think there’s a system/ that controls and affects/ You see, I believe in nothing/ and you’re convinced of the hex'”, setting up another strong through-line for the album: there’s no reason we’re here except the reasons we make (“no one is ever really powerless,” Coyne sings on – naturally – “Powerless”), and the good or ill we do in the world is a matter of choice (the beautiful and sparse “If” turns on this point, that humans are evil but can be gentle “if they decide”). That might sound kinda depressing, but the Lips don’t squander their opportunity to point out how freeing it is to live in a universe governed by chaos, chemistry, and luck. “Powerless” could be said to be half of the centerpiece of the album, the other half being the splendiferous “The Ego’s Last Stand,” which explicitly addresses the shattering effect that honest perspective can have on your assumptions, set to the tune of a sinister bass lick and a sparse vocal that builds to an awesome, drum-propelled (props to the Lips for drafting drummer Kliph Scurlock as an official fourth Flaming Lip) noise orgy which must be the sound your ego makes when it’s being crushed under the weight of unfiltered awesomeness.

Does that sound new-agey and weird? Does it sound like spaced-out hippie bullshit? Or the bummingest bummer of all time? However my description of Embryonic strikes you, it says more about you and I than it ever could about the album (and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we should admit that criticism always tells you more about the critic than what they’re critiquing). The truth is, I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out what to say about the new Flaming Lips album and, in the mean time, I’ve listened to it obsessively. I still can’t say anything that will make you like this album, but I’ll make a bet with you (and the goodish people at Pitchfork): I’m betting that, as weird as it may seem on the surface, if everyone who reads Bollocks! (that’s between 15 and 30 people, on average – this has increased from an average of 6 to 9 readers about  a year ago and I thank all of you, whoever you are, for that) listens to Embryonic all the way through at least one time, more people will like than not. And, if you’re like me (you poor bastard), you’ll find yourself wanting to listen to it with an almost alarming frequency.

 

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.