Category Archives: Essential Albums

Let It Be: Redux

let-it-be-album-cover copy

Author’s Note: In the Oscar nominated film Boyhood, Mason Senior, played by Ethan Hawke, gives his son a mix CD entitled The Black Album. On it, he explains, is a mix of all the best songs recorded by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in the decades that followed the band’s break-up. Hearing this explanation frustrated me because for over a year I’ve been planning to create a similar list (although much more specific), and I realized that my idea wasn’t quite as original as I had once thought. I decided I’d better write this post before Boyhood takes the “Best Film” award this weekend and everyone and their mother goes and sees the film.

Let’s make something clear form the outset – Let It Be is not a classic album. Heck, it’s not even a great album. Songs like “Across the Universe,” “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Let It Be” are certainly excellent songs that belong in the pantheon of the band’s biggest hits, but once you get beyond these classics, you’re left with an album of filler. The members of the band would probably have agreed with this assertion. Lennon himself described the recordings as “the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

Despite their reservations, the band, which happened to be on the verge of breaking up, were forced to gather leftover material from their botched documentary, Get Back, and piece together an album in order to relieve contractual obligations. As a result, you get two tracks that clock in under a minute and a handful of sloppy blues songs. Even the songs that live on in infamy are swathed in unnecessary orchestral swells as a result of Lennon asking Phil Spector to come in and try to rescue the shambolic tapes that remained.

The Get Back Sessions, or Lennon called them, "The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

The Get Back Sessions, or as Lennon called them, “The shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever.”

What bothers me more than the lackluster songs on Let It Be is the fact that John, Paul, George and Ringo all released solo albums that same year – 42 original songs that could have been used on Let It Be instead of their own projects (at this time, the members of the band had become very territorial with their songwriting, and the one-time collaborative spirit was all but dead).
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Video Taping Etiquette

About a month back I took a trip to Portland with my brother and his wife. After a week of hiking and visiting breweries, I decided I needed to take in the local music scene, and fortunately, none other than Beirut were in town performing at the legendary Crystal Ballroom (supposedly this is the venue where Little Richard fired Jimi Hendrix).  The show was as spectacular as you’d imagine, although the fact that the over 21 crowd was barricaded about 20 feet away from the stage so that the teeny-boppers could be up front annoyed me. I suppose I could have set down my beer and joined them, but what’s the fun in that?

At the show I realized I’d forgotten my Flip-Cam, which isn’t a big deal although I do enjoy posting show clips on here.  I figured someone else had to be capturing the performance and that I’d just post their clip. Wrong. A month later, a YouTube search for the show (that was sold-out) results in a list of a dozen videos, most of which are 45 second clips.

This leads to so many questions: why did they only film for 45 seconds? Or if they are fans of 45 second excerpts, why did they choose to post it online? Is there a big following for 45 second clips of performances? Is this the new hipster trend? It also made me think about video taping etiquette.  Someone needs to set down the ground rules since ever person now has a camera of some sort in their phone. Here are just a few rules I came up with.

1. Don’t ever raise your camera above your head

No one wants to see your video footage live; they want to see the band live. So quit obstructing my view you hipster douche! When I record a band, which is always self-consciously, I try to keep my camera close to my body/face so as not disturb those around me with the glare of the video screen. I’m blessed to be a taller gentleman, but I don’t know why anyone can’t simply keep their camera down while still capturing the show.

2. If you post a song online, it better be the entire song (or be a clip of the singer punching women in the crowd)

This goes back to the sea of 45 second clips for the Beirut show which floors me. And even if you are filming for your own viewing, what joy do you get out of a 45 second clip? It boggles the mind. I imagine them sitting at home, showing friends, “Look! This the first 45 seconds of Beirut performing that one prostitute song!'”

I stand corrected; it’s 52 seconds: 

3. Don’t film if your camera came out before 2007

A week after my trip to Portland I bought a flip phone that has to be over 10 years old (I went through four phones this summer, an entirely different story). It has a camera, but photos turn out like pixel images from a Nintendo game. I’ve seen video footage from phones like mine, and I don’t get what the videographer is trying to accomplish. Do they think they will later enjoy the garbled quality?  Or is it just a way of showing off to their friends that they did indeed get to see Def Leppard in person?

This video should be called “Pour Some Acid On Me”:

4. If you have to video tape the big screen to actually see the performer, you’re probably too far away

I don’t get what people enjoy about watching a concert in the upper deck (or lower deck for that matter) at an arena, yet the majority of Americans who say they love going to concerts are referring to the act of watching a video screen located almost a mile away as you listen to the performer lip sync (if you can’t see their lips, are they really lip syncing?).  But even worse than enjoying this experience is filming it and posting it on YouTube.

This girl can’t even see the big screens at this Lady GaGa show. For all they know it could be Madonna performing “Express Yourself”:

5. Only film one song

It’s okay to film one song as a keepsake. Filming more than one song makes your video into a movie. Put the camera down and enjoy the show.

6. Quit zooming; you aren’t Coppola

And I will end on a guilty note; I am the KING of zooming. The day after a show I’ll watch my video clip only to find that I’ve zoomed in and out throughout a song, making the video more about me being a drunken cameraman and less about the band actually doing the performance. Despite this mistake, I continue to make it. No matter how much you want to add your Spielberg touch to the show, resist the voices in your head and just hold the cam steady. Let the band do the work.

Here’s one of my biggest zoom-fests offenses:

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Sunny Day Real Estate “Diary”

Sunny Day Real Estate

Rating: 9.5

“Music is the soundtrack to our lives.” This quote is attributed to Dick Clark, but I guarantee some writer is still receiving residuals for selling its rights to him. Of course, there is some truth to the little saying.  Certain songs bring back memories, whether it be that summer you were forced to listen to Barenaked Ladies “One Week” endlessly at work (you poor sap) or the Homecoming dance where you danced with your crush to Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” (worst song ever, right?).  But never before have I had an album bring back emotions like Sunny Day Real Estate’s “Diary” recently did for me.  I’m not talking emotions that are associated with a sad memory – simply emotions.  Let me explain…

I first heard Sunny Day Real Estate’s “Diary” back in 1994, when i was an insecure 15 year old kid.  My brother, who ignited my love of indie music long ago, brought home a copy of “Diary”.  Often I discover new CDs in Nick’s room, which I’d listen to while playing “Madden 95” on the Sega Genesis (I discovered some of my favorite bands of all time during those Madden Marathons including Dinosaur Jr, Fugazi, and The Afghan Whigs).  Of course, “Diary” ended up being one of those discoveries, a CD I soon played so much that it eventually earned battle scars in the form of scratches and fingerprints.

I would go on to buy every CD that Sunny Day Real Estate released or were remotely associated with including their side project The Fire Theft and Jeremy Enigk’s solo albums (I originally discovered Foo Fighters first album before the Mento’s craze, not due to Dave Grohl, but the involvement of Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith). But I never bought “Diary”, for reasons I can’t explain. I’m guessing I figured I could just listen to my brother’s copy, but even when he moved out, I never made the move to buy the actual CD that helped me through my high school years.

Yes, that CD helped me, in a strange way I suppose.  As a teen, and even into my early 20s, I was a pretty morose mother fucker.  I lacked confidence, and often connected to music that matched that helpless mood (let’s just say Nine Inch Nail’s “Fragile” was on an endless loop during the fall of 1999).  In high school, the music that toked my insecurities was Sunny Day Real Estate’s “Diary”.  The music seemed so purely plagued, within the raw guitar licks, the earnest lyrics, and of course Enigk’s piercing vocal assault.  I sat in the dark listening to “Diary” on many occasions; yes folks, I was emo before emo was cool. Even though the music helped build upon my sadness, in a way it helped me face my anxieties.

For Christmas this year, my brother Nick bought me the re-mastered version of “Diary”, which is really a gem when you add in the huge book of background information on the creation of the album, not to mention how much clearer the music sounds. Driving back to Texas after my two weeks in blizzard country, I put “Diary” in and was instantly sent into depression.  I had no reason to be sad. I’d just been with my family, an act that always rejuvenated me.  Yet, Jeremy Enigk was back to his old tricks, stirring up the bits of adolescent sediment that still lingered inside of me.  It was probably the first time I had listened to the album in ten years, and as a result, all those emotions of that lonely kid came rushing back. All in all, life had been good to me as of late, but the power of the music wouldn’t let me get off that easy.

In some strange way, I enjoyed that sinking feeling in my gut.  Why would I enjoy such a masochistic act? I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was a purging of built up frustrations, or maybe it was just nice to revisit the feelings I struggled with as a teen.  Whatever the case, this album plays as a reminder of where I’ve been.  If you’ve never experienced “Diary”, don’t be frightened. Whether you are an emotional mess like I once was, or a stone-cold automaton, you’ll find pleasure in this band’s early offering.  Sunny Day Real Estate went on to release some great albums, but none of them ever compared to “Diary”.

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Megadeth “Rust in Peace”

“Rust in Peace”
(Capitol Records)

Although I wasn’t old enough to realize it at the time, the 80’s were an oasis, an everlasting cultural paradise. Album after album of classic rip roaring metal coming out, seemingly on a daily basis. Bands that were okay in the 70’s became unstoppable monoliths in the 80’s; promising 70’s metal bands fulfilled their potential and then some. Even bands thought DOA by the end of the 70’s were given new life by the fertile atmosphere of ensuing decade.

All bands had to do was grow their hair long and wear leather in order to release a classic album. Was their something in the water? Was it do with some clandestine CIA operation? Did Reagan know or have anything to do with it? Whatever it was, it worked; the 80’s were and will always remain metal’s peak.

Of course, all the great metal got God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost’s attention. Satan had ruled the 80’s and they could not let it happen again. So on December 31, 1989, they set up a wall of angels in order to shield the people of earth from metal. Every would-be classic metal album was seen coming way ahead of time by the winged sentinels and crushed by the mighty angels. No high quality metal could penetrate this wall, the angels were there to fuck metal’s shit up and that is exactly what they did. Jesus had instructed the Satan pounding angels to especially look out for thrash metal albums. He was worried that the genre was getting too big and that the unholy thrash coming from bands like Exodus, Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, Testament, and Kreator was becoming too much of an influence on potential converts. Plus, the Holy Trinity had decided nothing that technically and compositionally sick could be made without some assistance from Satan. “Their axe wielding and song writing skills, along with their sacrilegious and irreverent lyrics clearly have Satan’s fingerprints all over them,” the Holy Ghost was overheard telling Jesus. “No decent thrash may pass” became a slogan of the holy haloed warriors.

And the 90’s would have stayed a thrash free zone if it were not for a man named Dave Mustaine. Mustaine was the leader of a band called Megadeth whose second album, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, had particularly pissed Jesus off, cos everyone knows that Jesus owns the biggest peace dealership in the galaxy. But the Trinity were not too worried about Megadeth, as their third album, 1988’s So Far, So Good… So What!, was loaded with filler and 1990 had found Mustaine in a drug rehab facility. Thus, Megadeth was not on the Ass Rapers of All Things Satanic (ARATS)’s watch list. But obviously, this was all part of Satan’s plan. It was Satan that had seen to it that Mustaine suffered from writer’s block during the making of the third album, and it was Satan that convinced Mustaine to fire the guitarist Chris Poland after Peace Sells and replace him with a far less talented axe wielder. Satan knew if he could just get one good thrash album through into the 90’s it would open the floodgates. (His first plan involved Metallica, but they were high up on ARAT’s watchlist and the white army had already made sure they were reduced to whiny babies and pussy sell outs who loved money more than making good music, so Satan hatched another plan). And Mustaine was his chosen man. Mustaine kicked the heroin habit, found a badass second guitarist in Marty Friedman, wrote & recorded nine killer songs in less than a year; all while flying low enough under the radar to sneak up and find a crack in the angels’ wall (now seriously think about it, could that be done without Satan’s help?).

The angels in heaven still to this day kick themselves in the ass for letting Rust in Peace through, cos what an album it is. Not only is it Megadeth’s best album, it is one of the best thrash albums of all time. There is absolutely no filler and every song has some badassed guitar duels between Mustaine and Friedman. These aren’t even songs, they are thrash suites executed with awesome skill. This is one technical mother fucker, with riffs to die for. And for those who say Mustaine’s voice sucks (of which I am not one), should just drown out his voice by singing along with these politically and socially aware anthems. “Brother will kill brother/Spilling blood across the land/Killing for religion/Something I don’t understand.” Or my personal favorite to sing along to: “Take no prisoners, take no shit!” But seriously, “Poison Was the Cure” has the best anti-drug lyrics ever put to music.

This album is seriously underrated, it is a classic that should be in every metal, nay, music lovers library. And it should be heralded for the fact that it was the album that put a crack in the thrash hating angels’ wall, (although the crack was only there for two weeks, just long enough for Slayer to get Seasons in the Abyss through, after which it was discovered and sealed shut. Another decent thrash album was not let through until the 00’s, when the angels realized that listening to metal did not make one murder others or sacrifice goats) but it is hardly ever recognized as such, mostly due to ignorance. (and Jesus’ successful campaign to turn everyone’s attention to Metallica’s Black Album as it obviously sucked and lacked the power of Satan). So we here at BDWPS do what should have been done almost 20 years ago, proclaim it a masterpiece and bestow upon it its deserved status of being an all time Classic album.


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