Saturday, May 05, 2007

Lyrad's Top 10 Rock Albums

Well, here's my list. There's at least one metal hater on this blog who will likely scoff at half my choices, but so be it:

1. T. Rex: The Slider—Although I’ve already discussed The Slider in my Unsung Giants series, I will say again that this is the best album from one of rock’s greatest bands. Their pinnacle financially and creatively, it features some of the most playfully absurd lyrics I’ve ever heard. The album is a ton of fun from beginning to end, all the way to Bolan’s love song to Bolan: “Main Man.”

2. Tom Waits: Rain Dogs—Before Rain Dogs, I’d never have called a Tom Waits album “rock”, but this album completed the change that started with Swordfishtrombones which he’d seldom look back from since. Not a lot of piano blues here, but a lot of minimally orchestrated hard traveling songs featuring the great Marc Ribot and was, in fact, the first album in which I realized that man’s greatness. If there’s a downside to this album, it’s Downtown Train, but that’s Rod Stewart’s fault…fuck you Rod Stewart.

3. The Clash: London Calling—The Clash broke the mold of punk music. There is no band in the genre before or since with the wealth of influences and the ability to meld all of them into their own style. My personal favorite is “Lost in the Supermarket,” which starts with some very fast drumming to go into an extremely airy vocal line that is a satire in the same vein as George Romero’s great Dawn of the Dead.

4. The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St—If the Stones sounded like this every album, I’d own them all. But they don’t, and it’s pretty much this and Sticky Fingers for me. I love, once again, the variation in style that all still sounds like the Stones. Mick Jagger is at his most restrained, and he’d reach this kind of strength again. “Sweet Virginia” to “Torn and Frayed” is maybe the best one-two punch for me in the history of rock.

5. Sepultura: Roots—Simply put, this is the best hardcore album ever produced. But it’s a lot more than. It is the strongest evidence that metal is a rhythmic form rather than a melodic one. The ultra down-tuned guitars become a drone that underlies the complex beats of Max Cavalera on the kit, Carlinhos Brown on various percussion, and field recordings of the Xavantes tribe.

6. Neurosis: Enemy of the Sun—Where much of metal wallows in the gloom and doom of death, Neurosis instead celebrates the power and fury of the universe. The visceral power of the album is offset at the end by “Cleanse,” a thirty minute, trance-inducing combination of percussion, didgeridoo, and field recordings is an amazingly chilling finish to an amazing album.

7. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation—If anybody wants to make me feel like I’m 16 again, play me the first few bars of “Teenage Riot” and I’m on my way to Icky’s Teahouse on 5th and Blair to see Bikini Kill with 300 other people in a venue that, legally, should only hold 50. This is the pinnacle of a great band’s great career.

8. Faith No More: Angel Dust—Faith No More is maybe my favorite rock band of all time, and I am still in love with what singer Mike Patton does today. This album is the reason. Upbeat, bizarre, and hilarious all the way to the cover of John Barry’s theme to Midnight Cowboy. At the point this came out, I had no idea that the ideas of rock music could be stretched so broad.

9. Guns ‘n’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction—There is no argument that this is the best hard rock album released in the 1980s and, exactly 20 years now since its release, there is still no album that more makes me want to jump on the table and rock out to some air guitar. Appetite single-handedly destroyed Glam Rock.2 Although it took a few years for it to completely fizzle, Axl deserves all our thanks.

10. The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat—Finally, the album that has defined my rock n’ roll esthetic. In 1967, the Beatles were experimenting with acid and sitars, which is cute and all, but Lou Reed, et al, were full blown junkies playing the dirtiest, loudest music ever produced. This is the New York underground on a sheet of vinyl, highly intelligent but highly screwed up at the same time.