Sunday, February 21, 2010

Everything's Wrong But It's Alright

#4 Hold Me Up: Goo Goo Dolls. I lived in Buffalo from 1988 to 1992 and there was no bigger band than the Goo Goo Dolls. At this time they were a bunch of local guys who had managed a little bit of national press by having a few minor college radio hits. They were known for their punk sensibilities, drawing from the Stooges, Ramones, Husker Du, and (especially) The Replacements. They were loud, they screamed, they broke stuff, they slept in their car, and they sang angry anthems with titles like "Up Yours".

Six years later they would be on top of the world, with huge megahits and every 14 year old begging their mom for a few bucks to go to the mall to get the latest CD with a weepy song from the latest weepy movie and a Johnny Rzeznik poster.

However, in the midst of their transformation from wrong side of the tracks dirtbags to makeup wearing lightweights, they created some fantastic music combining punk sensibilities and insanely good melodies worthy of - if not surpassing - Paul Westerberg at his best.

In 1990, they dropped Hold Me Up, and it was the soundtrack to my life for about two years. It was a perfect mix of garage noise mixed in with beautifully crafted songs.
The concerts I went to with all my friends are some of my finest memories of some of my finest times. Even listening to it now, it brings back those good feelings. Maybe this isnt really the fourth best CD of all time, but I cannot separate the goodness of the feelings from the goodness of the music. (why should I?) But, I do think the music is damn good. Listen to Just the Way you Are (not a billy joel cover!), You Know What I Mean, or the great renditions of Million Miles Away or Never Take the Place of Your Man.

But the song that makes it is Two Days in February, a beautiful, understated ballad, that hints toward the megahits to come (like Name and Iris). The Goos always made pretty melodies, but they were at their best here when they wrapped 'em in punk, instead of later, when they chose synth and violins.

Many of the early fans felt betrayed by the ultimate mega-stardom. I dont fault them for selling out, hell, who wouldnt want to be a real rock star? But the unfortunate thing is that those who judge them for syrupy stuff of the last decade are missing out on the brilliance of their early career.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strap Your Hands Cross My Engines

#5 Born To Run: Bruce Springsteen. This is one of the bedrock albums of rock n roll, an epic describing the trials and tribulations of life "somewhere in the swamps of Jersey". Springsteen is a master of painting vibrant portraits of characters just trying to get by and have a little fun. This was a culmination of a maturing of Springsteen's sound, which was a little raw and meandering on his first two CDs - this one tightens it all up. Everyone knows about the classic rock staples on here, , but what makes this great is the power packed intensity of songs like Night and She's The One (probably his most underrated song). Very few not named Dylan can bring to life characters (Born to Run) or scenes (Jungleland) like the Boss does here. Still a thrill to listen to.