Another Stupid List: Kurt Cobain Cares About Your Childhood

"Man like remember when the music was real and shit, right after those gaywads from hair metal ruined everything and right before those gaywads from indie ruined everything and like people could actually play their guitars and still did like fuckin' solos and shit even if they didn't do them that well but like that's the whole point that like it's all from the fuckin' soul, man, the fuckin' soul because straight up record companies didn't exist back in the early '90s and everything was real and nothing was terrible and you had your first beer, do you remember your first beer? Fuckin' A man, they don't make 'em like that anymore."

If this is a thing you've ever found yourself thinking, you probably still read Rolling Stone Magazine, and you're probably one of the people who voted in their dumbass reader poll of the best albums of the '90s. Congratulations! You're terrible. Your prize is that you're terrible.

So, yeah, you know the drill. Here are ten albums that I, personally, would substitute in place of this foolishness. Waste your time! Waste my time! Be excited!

The Lonesome Crowded West-Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse Fanboy Picks Modest Mouse Album First, Surprises Nobody. If you needed a headline for a newspaper about little-read music blogs that would be a damn fine one, but I won't hear that this album hasn't earned its place as one of the giants of indie-rock. This is without question Modest Mouse's most expansive effort, careening from guitar epic "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" to tinges of IDM in "Heart Cooks Brain", through the blistering hard rock attack of "Doin' the Cockroach" and over the southern-rock style jam "Trucker's Atlas" and (almost) ending up at melancholy folk number "Bankrupt on Selling", there's a song here for every mood and situation. If it isn't Modest Mouse's masterpiece, it's a close runner-up and arguably their most re-listenable effort.

The Low End Theory-A Tribe Called Quest

As a white person, I'm required by law to love this album. But these laws exist for a reason! It feels downright foolish to try and describe why what many have described as the best hip hop album of all time is phenomenal, but The Low End Theory has very likely the best beat production of any album ever made, letting a stand up bass and kick drum fuel the rhythms with mellow-yet-booming minimalism. When you add in Phife and Q-Tip's distinct wit and verbal agility you have a cocktail that proves relaxing, intense and thought-provoking aren't mutually exclusive concepts. The ethos behind Quest's masterpiece would go on to fuel the ambitions of hundreds of future artists.

f#a#(infinity)-Godspeed You Black Emperor!

"The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles." There's a reason their music was used in 28 Days Later: Godspeed You Black Emperor! is the soundtrack to a stroll through the barren wastes of Armageddon, and f#a#(infinity) is their most intense and challenging album. This is closer to classical music than rock in every respect-their commitment to majestic despair is so powerful as to require a small orchestra to convey as images of blotted landscapes and urban decay pass on the strings of violins and subtle guitar arrangements. Desolation never sounded so beautiful.

The Battle of Los Angeles-Rage Against the Machine

Where their self-titled debut ran on immensely captivating, if unfocused, fury, and Evil Empire was marred by bad production and poor songwriting, The Battle of Los Angeles emerges as Rage's magnum opus, a collection of battle-ready anthems that steamroll a thousand other comparably "heavy" bands. Tom Morello crafts electrifying riff after electrifying riff and Zach de la Rocha belts out the most piercing lyrics of his career as the rhythm section anchors the whole thing with grooves that would make you feel like dancing, if you weren't already throwing a Molotov cocktail through a store window. Prepackaged rebellion was huge in the music of the '90s, but for about half a second you could feel like breaking a cop's jaw might be a justifiable assault, and we have Rage Against the Machine to thank for that.

Slaughter of the Soul-At The Gates

Slaughter of the Soul forced heavy metal to up its game in a way that no album since Ride the Lightning had managed. It showed that you could be sad without being whiny, furious without being petulant, that your instrumentation could be brutal and bloodthirsty and technically magnificent without being dull and convoluted. Frankly, though, no explanation is necessary: All you need to do is crank up the title track to max volume and in the bat of an eye, you'll find the rest of your metal collection-shit, the rest of your music collection-hopelessly mundane. Slaughter of the Soul is a benchmark in extreme metal that has yet to be met or surpassed.

Angel Dust-Faith No More

Straddling the line between mainstream radio metal and avant-garde insanity, Angel Dust is one of the mos curiously inscrutable albums of the early '90s. It takes a few listens to notice everything about this album: the neurotic-bordering-on-depraved lyrics, Billy Gould's funk from hell basslines, the lush keyboards, the way in which an easy to spot hit can morph into a psychotic monster of a song almost without you noticing. In truth, even once you find yourself appreciating Angel Dust, its appeal will still be difficult to explain. Maybe that's the key, though. It's easy to dismiss, difficult to understand, yet with time it'll hold such mysterious power of you that you'll wonder how nobody else seems to recognize what a work of genius it is.

Rust in Peace-Megadeth

"Holy Wars...The Punishment Due".

That is all.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea-Neutral Milk Hotel

To say that In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was ahead of its time would be an overstatement akin to saying that the Vietnam war was pretty lame, or that Keith Moon was a good drummer. Every indie, folk, and indie/folk album that came out in the past decade owes this album a debt that they can never possibly repay. Jeff Mangum's lyrics have a sinister, sexual, whimsical bent that would make William Butler Yeats nod in approval, and the melodies are so lush and heart wrenching that you might not have even noticed the words if Mangum's voice weren't impossible to ignore. It could be called psychedelic, but In the Aeroplane Over the Sea doesn't choose to explore the vastness of the cosmos; rather, it plucks out the strangeness of the soul. I have a feeling that even at this stage we're not through seeing the influence of this album spread, but if even one artist manages to capture weirdness and beauty of this masterpiece, that'll be one more artist than I was expecting to do so.


It's a shame that one of punk's defining albums would come at the tail end of the genre's widespread relevance. Still, Repeater is the album that should've redefined and carried punk forward in the wake of grunge. One thing that's immediately noticeable is that Fugazi doesn't sacrifice technicality for raw emotion: Every instrument is expertly played and, in particular, some of the basslines defy belief. That doesn't mean a single ounce of fury and frustration is left out, though, as Guy Piccioto blends noise and prog influences into his scathingly fast riffs and Ian MacKaye howls like a bus fell on his leg. Despite the quizzical lyrics and deft musicianship, Repeater is an album that's impossible to sit still to, combining everything amazing about punk and cutting the fat while blending outside influences with unmatched skill. An indispensable part of any music lover's discography.

Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star

This may be yet another entry in the "Rap White People Love" pantheon, but there's a solid reason that people of all walks of life are still pissed at Mos Def and Talbi Kweli for not making a Black Star 2, and that reason is that this album fucking rules. Def and Kweli spend the majority of the album mocking the rise of gangsta rap and attempting to both dispel stereotypes and defend their sovereignty as black men. It would be horribly condescending if any other group tried to pull it off, but luckily the pair has the chops to pull it off, spitting rhymes with unmatched flow and producing minimal beats in the A Tribe Called Quest tradition while adding a verve and youthful energy that's distinctly their own. Like Slaughter of the Soul did for metal, Black Star became, and remains, the alt. rap album to beat, leaving a wrecked trail of Digable Planets and Arrested Developments in their wake.

...Man, one of these days I'm going to have to do something other than shit out a list. I won't let you down, readers!



140bpm, 110hz

What does dubstep even mean? I guess that's the question. And really it's the question that makes me feel most like a douche bag. Why? Because in answering that question I must reveal my absolute hate for the ten thousand american college students that have become obsessed with the genre over the last year, even though I know they're just trying to have a good time. I have to declare that what they think it means and what it really means are two different things. I have to make the douchy declaration that there is such thing as "real" dubstep as opposed to what they're listening to, dubbed, dickishly enough, brostep. And so the masses hate me.

But it goes further. Those in the know have a full other reason to hate me. Because in discussing dubstep I show my colors as one of the douchiest music cliches of the last fifteen years - the american indie kid obsessed with british dance music. There it is. I am. I'm sorry.

So, fuck it. What is dubstep? Is it dirty dirty homogeneous mid rage worble music, played by frat kids and ironically by hipsters everywhere? no. Just....no. I mean...that is something that these days is called dubstep (in america at least), but lets just ignore that for now. Real dubstep takes it's roots back to the drum and bass music of the 90's, when UK ravers on a lot of drugs started to realize that if you scatter the beats it makes everything feel less solid, more psychedelic. They realized that with dance tracks there didn't need to even be a melody, that the snare hits and bass lines could carry everything. This soon got pulled down and warped into an even subtler, cooler, slightly more party-centric genre of UK garage, or 2-step. Flowing with bright textures, R&B vocals and dun-chick....dunchick beats thinks started getting sublime.

And then....slow it down to 140bpm, add heavy heavy sub bass lines, mix in the darkest most off-putting aspects of dub reggae, toss in a bit of absolutely any other genre you want, and you've got dubstep. Dance music that weights on you, listen to enough of it and it starts rearranging your brainwaves. Slows your pulse, steals your breath. And it keeps growing. What started with Digital Mystikz has moved through the tribal noise music of Shackleton, through the glitch and IDM territory of Mount Kimbie, the Techno influence of Scuba, the ambient rave of Joy Orbison. Blink and something incredible and new will have happened in the scene.

So...where to start? Since it's realease Burial's Untrue has been the rock kid's ticket to ride. Beautiful and entrancing in every way, it takes a significant number of listens to get used to but then there's no turning back. Then theres the whole new guard of more indie leaning step - Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Darkstar, Joy Orbison - would be the next step, they're more immediately interesting, and often stunningly incredible, though they lack the subliminal elements that make the more ambient club tracks feel like god. And after that, just keep digging down, around every corner I seem to find something else incredible. Or don't, you may just end up feeling like a douche bag.

can't take my eyes off you

The 2nd Annual Valentine's Day Playlist: This Time It's Happy!

Well, not happy, exactly, but not what I'd call bitter. Enjoy.

Damn. I would be so psyched for some serious makeouts either after or during that playlist. What say you, Bootsy?


Happy Valentines Day, everyone. Go kiss a man or a woman.



1. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica

The date is December 17, 2004. I am 13 years old. During a period where I was bedridden due to debilitating back pain, I have reached my trembling, nervous hands into the world of music. One of the first things they grasped was Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News (an album that deservedly earned a place on this list as well). I fell in love immediately: Traditional verse-chorus-verse structures abandoned? Catchy guitar playing? And…trumpets? What brazen oddity! Naturally, I wanted more, and debated using my limited funds to purchase another Modest Mouse album that seemed promising, the one that rests on the top space of this list.

At this point, 2004 had been the hardest year of my life. It was about to get much harder.

My parents were divorced, and the arrangement was that we saw my father Tuesdays and Thursdays and on alternate weekends. Due to the car accident which rendered me crippled, he had been unable to see me and my brother for smaller and smaller increments of time and on fewer days. For many years he had been trapped in a whirlpool of prescription drugs and alcoholism, and this was the day we all found that he had finally been pulled under, once and for all. My mother answers the phone at 10 PM. Uneasy horror spreads across her face as the call continues and when she hangs up, she turns to my brother and me and says, “Boys, this is the hardest thing I will ever have to tell you. Your father is dead.”

At this point-I don’t even really know why-I felt the need to buy The Moon and Antarctica. Maybe I could control this one thing. Maybe this one thing could bring peace, halt the deafening silence bursting from the front of my head to the back. That night, it did not. But in the weeks, months and years to come, I found it to be necessary and significant in a way that no piece of art had or ever will be able to match again.

I tell you this background not to illicit sympathy, or to say that my personal connection to this album is the reason that it is deemed album of the past ten years and my personal favorite album of all time. Quite the contrary.

The extraordinary thing here is that The Moon and Antarctica would still be #1 even if none of this had ever happened to me.

This is an album crafted by man and infused with the blood of specters. One does not consider the instruments or the songwriting while listening to this album. Those thoughts occur afterwords. When listening to The Moon and Antarctica, the experience is that of oneness, of every plucked string and enunciation forming a perfect whole that sweeps over the listener as a wave of moondust. Breaking the album down into a song-by-song basis is impossible even as each song stands on its own and makes its mark in a way that completes the listening experience. Each note is a fiber made to create a blanket that covers the earth yet warms you as though you were the only living thing in existence.

The Moon and Antarctica, in the end, is a treatise on the hypocrisy, greed, malice and sloth of the living man, and how all of these things cease to matter once the vaguest hint of perspective comes into play. We travel from assertions of good and of higher power that renders human worries irrelevant (“3rd Planet” and “Gravity Rides Everything”), wander through confused philosophizing (“The Stars are Projectors”) and end, curiously enough, with bitterness and rage (“Life Like Weeds”, “What People are Made Of”). The message couldn’t be clearer: Isaac Brock leaves the album knowing less than he did when he started it, and the listener is implicated in this crime of obfuscation. Yet the listener cannot help but agree with the songs, whether they espouse bitter common truths (“Well it took a lot of work to be the ass I am/And I’m real damn sure that anyone can equally, easily, fuck you over”) or ruminations on the banality of typical communication (“All this talking all the time and the air fills up, up, up until there’s nothing left to breathe, up until there’s nothing left to speak, up until the data parts in space”). We are all to blame, and if realizing that won’t solve everything, it’ll certainly be a step in the right direction.

I suppose that’s the most impressive thing about The Moon and Antarctica. Modest Mouse, throughout their career, have had a tendency to make you acknowledge parts of yourself you didn’t know were there, acknowledge truths that you didn’t know were real. Therefore, unlike many other masterpieces, The Moon and Antarctica is not exceptional for its introspection. Rather than take pieces of from inside itself and display them, it removes them from the listener, gently but firmly, and tells you, “See here. This is what you think, even if you didn’t think it. This is what you feel, even if you didn’t feel it. And this is what you know, even if you don’t know it.”

In other words, Isaac Brock writes, sings and plays his guitar. Jeremiah Green drums. Eric Judy plays his bass. And somewhere, during all of this, you learned. You discovered.

Art can do no greater.



A Token of My Extreme: Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.- Electric Heavyland (2002)

Alien8 Recordings; October 6, 2002

With our decade end list more or less finished I'd like to announce that no, this column has not permanently disappeared into the ether. As a matter of fact assuming that life doesn't proceed to kick me in the posterior further I intend to release a batch of another twenty reviews like I did last year (maybe more), and this time space them out a bit more prudently so you, good reader, get fewer stretches of zero activity. I've enjoyed being a contributor to this here blog and hope that my reviews inspire more long-term readership in the year to come.

So now that I've dispensed with the fucking Oxbridge pleasantries, let's have at this one shall we?

Acid Mothers Temple are continuing evidence that Japan produces way more crazed, prolific noisemakers per capita than anywhere else on Earth. And when I say prolific, I fucking mean it--since the inception of the band (which has grown to more of a loose collective, really) in 1995 the Acid Mothers have recorded a catalog of approximately one hundred releases, in various formats both limited edition and still in print, live and studio, under a series of different guises and with various lineups and collaborations and most of it released under their own label. That's a pretty serious work ethic.

Founding member and guitarist Kawabata Makoto remains the single Fripp-like constant in all the outfit's projects, and Electric Heavyland like most of the other records he's played on adheres very strongly to his general formula and vision. That is, don't expect a "song-oriented" AMT album, ever. No, the name of the game here is boundary-pushing (soundwise, lengthwise, etc.) free-form improvisation and experimentation that would make even the wildest of '70s prog acts look pretty limpdick. The volume level varies, but usually only by marginal degrees, and even AMT at their most accessible won't be getting radio play any time soon.

And this album is one of their loudest. Take the craziest space rock freakouts of Hawkwind in their Space Ritual prime, combine with the giant amp stacks of Blue Cheer, throw in the guitar musings of Tony Iommi, Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore, add a totally wigged-out acid casualty on vocals (this one goes by the name "Cotton Casino") and put Akita Merzbow behind the boards and you have a general idea of what Electric Heavyland entails. This is some goddamn weapons-grade psychedelia right here and by no means the grooooovy, twee Donovan/Byrds/Zombies/Syd Barrett variety, oh no, but a thick swirling miasma of gritty distortion-pedal frenzy, spastic drumming, synth squigglies, wordless screams and a continuous low end rumble that suggests volcanic activity more than anything played by humans. There are only three tracks on the album, and none are less than fifteen minutes long. Get the picture?

This is just about the last thing you want to listen to while high. Try playing this album for an aging Deadhead and he'll probably hide under the furniture convinced that the aliens have returned to abduct him.

And yet--there is a psychotic beauty in what this band does. These jams do have a finite beginning and a finite end, and there is definite chemistry and phenomenally tight playing between those points even as the whole album feels like an endless cacophony. Take for example the lead guitar break seven minutes into the chaotic assault of "Atomic Rotary Grinding God" that is a prelude to about a minute of eerie ambient synth doodling, which then careens into a roaring Motorhead pummel. Then there's the lumbering, deranged riff that kickstarts "Loved and Confused" which is steadily deconstructed over the seventeen-minute track length. The closer "Phantom of Galactic Magnum" (Top 3 Most Badass Song Title, ever) finally blasts off into full freak-flag brainmelter mode, displaying some downright free jazzy inclinations while still being loud enough to obliterate entire solar systems. Sun Ra would be proud.

As of this date, I've heard only three of Acid Mothers Temple's recordings, but Electric Heavyland definitely makes me want to check out more of their oeuvre. This is the ultimate in space/psychedelic/stoner/whatever while still possessing the stones to thoroughly slaughter most any death metal band extant. Lovers of six-string mayhem need look no further.


If you love Hawkwind and other '70s mainstays from the harder end of the stoner rock spectrum along with more modern bands like Monster Magnet, there's a fair chance you can survive this. Fans of drone like Earth, SunnO))) and the like also seem to get into Electric Heavyland, despite being nearly their total sonic opposites other than track length and volume level. Everyone else is going to wonder what astral plane their brain left to after 51 minutes. This album does not fuck around, so caveat emptor.