Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Best Albums of the 90s: 20-16

20. The Beastie Boys - Check Your Head

Man, I listened to a whole bunch of Beastie Boys in high school. It reached full fruition after Hello Nasty. And then began the steady decline. First dropped off their annoying debut, and then Ill Communication (has anyone ever listened to the last 10 songs of that album?). And as much as I loved Paul's Boutique, it seems juvenile at this point. I'd probably need to give it another listen. But this album. It seems as wildly experiemiental as the first head scratching time I listened to it.

19. Bjork - Homogenic
Good god that bass. The first time I heard the Hunter, I didn't really know how to react. What was that? There had been nothing in my Midwest upbringing that could have prepared me for that assault. Something so unique, mysterious, and deliberately weird was the exact opposite of what I was listening to at the time. And it still, more or less, feels the same way. I don't know where Bjork came from or what she hopes to accomplish, but I still have dreams about the collapsing set in the "Bachelorette" video. Maybe that's because they played it on MTV. Really. I guess that's what youtube is for no adays.

18. Blur - 13
I was once attacked by an angry Irish waitress when I admitted I liked Blur's albums. Great singles, maybe, she said, but all their albums are crap. I then countered that my favorite album was 13, and she said "oh that's different." Yes, it is different. Nothing by them really sounds like this album, one that can happily be described as an absolute mess. While all the rock bands in the late nineties were making electronic albums, trying to shift up their beats, Blur used tape hiss and amplication to dramatically change the clean tones of their previous albums. It's an atricious mess, with not a few unlistenable moments. But it's always exciting, always ready to shift under your feat.
17. Radiohead - The Bends
After OK Computer imprinted itself in my head, it was only a matter of time before I moved back to The Bends. And much to my surprise, it's as much of a statement as its big brother. Sure the songs are great-it probably has better singles than OK Computer-but the reason I return to this album is because of those guitars. They are everywhere. I doubt there is a powerchord on this whole album, but each distorted burst seems to land with as much force as a Pete Townsend whirl wind. I konw it doesn't sound intellectual to pass off a moody, somewhat depressing album as having great guitars, but whatever.

16. R.E.M. - New Adventures in Hi-Fi
My favorite 80s R.E.M. album is probably Reckoning, a rambling, loose collection of songs that they had largely written during the tour for their debut album Murmur. It's quick, passionate, and largely devoid of studio trickery that had peppered Murmur. My favorite 90s album by R.E.M. is probably New Adventures in Hi-Fi, a long, rambling collection of largely rock songs written and recorded during the Monster tour. It almost entirely devoid of the warped wall of guitars of its predecessor, and somehow rocks even harder. While it's fun hearing R.E.M. record what is essentially a live album, there are moments of great fidelity that help break the album up. The best is "E-Bow", with it's refrain about "aluminum tastes like fear", that sounds menancing and beautiful at the same time. I like all of R.E.M.'s 90s albums, it wasn't until Around the Sun that they blew it. And I probably should have more on here. From here it probably would go Out of Time, Monster (grossly underrated), Automatic for the People, and finally Up--a cheerful little record that is just a tad too long. But it's New Adventures that I play the most.

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