Are you Out of Time?

Day Four of the Ten All-Time Favorites Challenge:

R.E.M.’s Out of Time

This was an album that my brother asked for on cassette the year it came out; neither of us were even ten years old.  I wanted a copy, too, and so it was.  From the time it begins to the time it ends, this album is a pleasurable joyride for the ear drums–starting with the raucous “Radio Song,” and flowing into the big radio hit, “Losing My Religion.”  But consider this:  there are tracks on here, as with most albums, that are complete gems gleaming out of time and sync with the music of it’s era.  “Near Wild Heaven” never got airplay, unless some totally amazing college kid played it on his or her radio DJ slot on public radio somewhere.

Sandwiched between that fourth track of musical jubilance is “End Game,” a mellow tune, perfectly placed between the seemingly happy break-up song, “Near Wild Heaven” and the very well-known “Shiny Happy People.”  Though an overplayed radio hit–this song, much like Chinese leftovers–never gets old.  It was once deemed a song that can inspire happiness on any worst day.  I believe it.  I always close my eyes as I twirl around the living room, imagining I’m in a sunny field of flowers–a field akin to the scenery of the “No Rain” video by Blind Melon.

There is too much to say about the entirety of this album, dark and driving tunes like “Texarkana” and introspective/spoken poetry pieces like “Belong,” keep the record riveting your soul to the very end–and to the rewind you know you’ll partake in.

R.E.M. is still on my “must-see” bucket list of concerts, despite their retirement.  I still have hope that I’m not out of time.

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S.  If you’re wondering, yes, R.E.M. stands for “rapid-eye movement,” that deep state of sleep where one dreams.  The band allegedly chose this blindly by pointing at a random dictionary page!

 

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In the…Flesh (and Blood)

Day Three of the Challenge:  Poison’s Flesh and Blood

All-Time/ DAY THREE

Day three of the challenge: Poison’s Flesh and Blood. No, not literally. That would be creepy. It’s hard to define the ten most “favorite,” so sometimes this list verges on “most memorable.” I was 12. Yes, 12, when Mom took me for yet another CD purchase with explicit lyrics. Well, maybe there wasn’t a warning sticker yet, but there certainly was “adult” content. And yet, “Unskinny Bop” was a radio cut, fraught with sexual innuendos, so whatever. I had this adorable African-American friend named Nakesha (does anyone know what happened to her? I miss her laugh), and she was crushing hard on Bret Michaels. Me? Not so much. While I LOVED hair rock, my crushes were all Seattle—brooding, dark and hairy. We were listening to this album in my room, and I remember her loud and hysterical laughter at my analysis of “Unskinny Bop.”

Me: What the hell does that mean, anyway? If you were unskinny, that would mean you were fat, and to bop is to jiggle, and so, does that mean he likes full-figured women?

Nakesha: (Squeal, hand around abdomen, collapsing in theatrical laughter)

Me: (Pretending to jiggle around the room in an awkward, pseudo-sexy dance)

But really. That whole album. I used to put it in my CD Walkman. The opening track always felt like a supernatural night, like you could see UFOs or something. I was heavy into The X-Files and my friend, Susan, and I swore we saw UFOs from time to time.

There’s an untamed badassness to Bret and the Boys that just brings even the nicest of girls to a puddle of purgatory. There’s something about powdered faces and power chords that awakens the soul; and yet, so many people count this “hair-rock” as a “guilty pleasure.” Well, what an appropriate phrase. Men, almost in drag, yet effacing any negative sexual stereotype as the testosterone tickles the synapses.

This is the kind of music your soul just jumps up and down to. It’s no wonder that women sacrifice sweaty tees, spiraling them overhead at overcrowded concert venues…

But I digress. Sometime in my teenhood, I got my wish. I always said it would be amazing to wake up to “Let it Play,” waking to the chorus of a capella voices proclaiming that music must have its place, and entreating those in control of it to “let it play.” Mom got me a stereo with a wake timer that could be programmed to any track of any of the three discs loaded in the dock. I know, it seems archaic now, and I still miss that stereo that my moldy, college basement apartment murdered—but it was a luxury then, for music lovers like me.

But, as the Beatles proclaimed decades before, “Life Goes On.” This is a track that makes you feel just like you’re sitting next to a broken Bret on a colorful Ferris wheel, untouched by the lights and sounds below. Anyone with an aching heart can agree.

Though it was a radio hit, the best track on here is “Something to Believe In.” There’s a beauty in the diversity of hair-rock. When all the power chords take a smoke break, the serious nature slips in. I still can’t hear this song without getting chills or tears, or both. I have always adored church-choir backgrounds—the power behind the front man/woman, especially in a genre that somehow is deliciously “unholy.”

The music is so uplifting, the lyrics so abysmal. They whack you with the truth of Vietnam, homelessness, the imbalance in America’s class system—all with a gorgeous, tinkling piano, and a rising, hair-rock guitar solo. (Shiver.)

I think I could probably talk about this album all day, but it would be better if you’d go and check it out.

Thanks, as always, for listening to my musical musings…after all,It gives me something to believe in…

Rock On,

Rachael

Pay me my U.S. Royalty

For real. Just before it really began, it’s over. U.S. Royalty broke up, but not before they put out a sophomore album of brilliance. When I heard their debut album, Mirrors, I thought, “There’s got to be more where this came from!” About two days before I was presented with Blue Sunshine, I discovered it on Spotify Premium (the only way to go, and very much worth the small cost). Mind you, my music-loving husband also understands these things—and pays attention—and has free two-day shipping with AmazonPrime.

You’ll want to get it. You’ll want to listen to it on a thoughtful car ride. Both Mirrors and Blue Sunshine are good for this. The album begins with “Into the Thicket” which has a glorious, uplifting ending. “Blue Sunshine” is melancholy meets a hard rock guitar. It is a love song, not like the Cure’s, but doused in a refrain about having to “go on alone” after the verses hail the trying and trying and trying one does in a relationship, and yet they are still turned away. Again, like I mentioned in my previous blog about Mirrors, the track “Breathless” pulses with a Fleetwood Mac vibe. A perfect mix of celebratory riffs and melancholy movements, this unique album is a must-have. It is an album upon its end, I always let circle back for another round or two.

The Core of Things in the Countdown

Stone Temple Pilot’s Core

STP’s debut album Core is an incredible-dance-in-your-living-room-fest album filled with contemplative lyrics, oddities and a lot of incredible music.  It is a must have.  I cannot speak for “new” STP from whence Scott Weiland was ousted from his own band (and maybe rightly so, but again, we don’t know the real story).  Either way, do yourself a favor and revisit this gem.

The opener, “Dead and Bloated” starts with a raspy lyric that explodes into crawling full-blown rock with definitive drum taps and driving bass.  This is perhaps one of their most dynamic tracks, going into a lilting chorus with “whooooa yeah-eh-yeahs.”  What exactly does Weiland mean?  Well, this is one time where I let the music take over.  This particular track has incited a dialogue with my husband and me.  We always speak to one another in lyrics anyway, and I always get these particular lyrics wrong.

Some of my favorites:

“Plush”

and

“Wicked Garden”

In a little under one hour, this album drives a consistent beat throughout.  I recommend it for a road trip album more than definitely so.

Opening the lid on Jar of Flies

Alice in Chains Jar of Flies

Weighing in at only 30 m 52 s, this cup of instrumental genius is filled to the brim with…no, not with flies…but with dark and melodic nuances, and Staley’s unique voice.  The lyrics at times are melancholy but never lack the authenticity with which you will always find in this band.  “We chase misprinted lies…we face the path of time…”  “if I can’t be my own, I’d be better dead.”  A haunting sentiment from a singer who battled with addiction until it overtook him–into a different beyond.

As usual, Cantrell’s pointed and clean guitar playing and harmonic background vocals give this four-piece set a mellow and haunting feel.  It’s not a minor thing, though…when the band explodes into this uplifting, hopeful chords, it can bring tears to a listener’s eyes.  After two solemn openers, we are greeted with a lilting, uplifting howl from Staley that emits hope from the deep recesses of depression in which we have retreated to to be with this album.

My particular favorites from this album are “Whale & Wasp” and “No Excuses.”  “Whale…” is an instrumental piece with strings that might make you feel like Vivaldi married an acoustic electric guitar.  “No Excuses” is a power-packed, snare drum heavy celebration of music.

All in all, Jar of Flies is a must-have for those of us, especially those, who are authentic Alternative rock fans.  Open the lid.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Counting Down in Sunny Day…Real Estate

Sunny Day Real Estate Diary

Yes, they’re a band from Seattle at a time when “grunge” and “alternative” were terms as widely spread as the flannel shirts in your closet…well, maybe not your closet, but most people’s.  Sunny Day Real Estate, however, doesn’t seem to adhere to any genre of music I’ve heard of other than AMAZING.  I understand that I write this, knowing that they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea–but if you drink of the same mug as me then you should give them a listen.

One time, an eleven-year-old aspiring musician said to her mother, “I’m a musician without a band.  I’m just a poet.  How is this ever going to work?”

This girl’s mom replied, “Isn’t a song poetry put to music?”

This is exactly how I feel about Diary.  This album reads like a chapbook in your favorite advanced poetry class in high school.  But I don’t understand what he’s saying when I just listen.  That’s fine.  My mom often teases me about Eddie’s lack of annunciation in his singing…and, truth be told, Enigk’s melodic professions aren’t always that clear–but if you understand the words below the vocal emissions, you will get goosebumps, guaranteed.

To this day, “In Circles” is one of my favorite tracks, musically…especially when driving, “Well I go in circles…RUNNING DOWN!”  or in “Seven”‘s “You’ll taste it!  You’ll taste it!  In time…”  you will find me parked at a railroad stoplight, pounding on the steering wheel to the bassist’s beat.  I know, I don’t do it justice.  You’re going to have to listen to the entire album.  And after that, listen to The Rising Tide.  Both of these selections were listened to as I walked to my advanced poetry class in 2005–mind you, listened to in my 1985 cassette Walkman.

Both were enigk-matic.  So, if you aren’t friends with SDRE yet, you’ll thank me for the introduction later.

Rock and roll on,

Rachael

“Today” it’s the 7th of the Top Ten Albums from 90s Alternative Rock

Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

Contary to the Halloween prank, the band chose their name in a more F. Scott Fitzgerald way:

adjective
1.

impressive or wonderful:

a smashing display.
Many people think this was their debut, but they forget about Gish and Lull, which are equally brilliant in their own ways.  “Today” is what broke them into the mainline of 90s Alternative Rock.  For people like me, this means “really amazing, meaningful music.”  Many mistake the happy guitar tones and seemingly cheerful lyrics for a tribute to joy–yet Billy admitted he was sampling thoughts of suicide and that the song was supposed to be a paradoxical play, with biting, sardonic sentiments below.

While I like to keep songs and videos as separate art forms, I can’t help but adore the marriage of musical, artistic concepts that this video brings.  Billy acts as a frustrated, youthful ice cream truck driver who abadons his route to find—what?  Freedom?  Escape?  What he finds is wayward artists in a field which grows into an artistic painting fest outside a barn on a gorgeously sunny day.  Though the song is about jaded thoughts of suicide, the viewer/listener cannot help but feel the warm sun and light from the artistic expression this track brings.

I could write all day about the gems on Dream but I will tell you that, if for some reason your ears have never been graced with the following bits of genius, grace them today:
“Hummer”
“Mayonaise”
“Sweet, Sweet.”
I profess being an “old skool” Pumpkins fan.  I did buy all the albums after Machina but I wasn’t so crazy about any newer Pumpkins until lately.  I just picked up their latest Monuments to an Elegy and I’ll have to report back on my thoughts and feelings on it.  There were gems on the over-the-top double disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness but my heart remains in a Lull for Dream.
Be well and rock on,
Rachael