Bill and Brian make the best of an odd situation in which a guest was supposed to come on to be our gritty Australian rock and roll connoisseur but ended up not joining us. So we tackle AC/DC's legendary Back in Black (1980, Atlantic). After years of working their way to the top of the Australian charts, the band, founded by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, broke through to an international audience with 1979's Highway to Hell. Tragically, after a night of heavy drinking, charismatic frontman Bon Scott passed away during the winter of 1980. Choosing to carry on, the band brought in singer Brian Johnson who helped them reach even greater heights of success and critical acclaim. Brian and Bill talk about AC/DC's presence in their younger days, Bill while listening to the radio and Brian while broadcasting on the radio. They also discuss the influence of producer Mutt Lange, Brian Johnson's back story, the band's unique ways of honoring Bon Scott, how the band made it's distinctive sound, Angus' killer leads, the chart topping-ness of the album and its singles, what Max Weinberg might think of Phil Rudd, a bit about if there is any misogyny on the album, and as always a track by track review!
On another very special episode, Bill and Brian take some time to fill in the big gap from back before we started the Bonus Song Thursday tradition. We play our way through songs from the Replacements, Miracle Legion, the Rentals, Billy Bragg and Wilco, Our Lady Peace, the Wrens, the Hold Steady, Oasis, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, the National, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Guster.
On a very special episode of the Great Albums, Bill and Brian take a break from our usual geeking out over the minutia of an album to geek out over the minutia of a film. We talk about the best fictional biopic of a 60s pop band That Thing You Do! Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film follows four small town musicians as they rise to fame on the strength of their danceable rock'n'roll tune (also called "That Thing You Do"). Brian and Bill talk about how they started watching the movie and how they've watched it too much. Also, we follow the plot, talking about what we loved and giving some insight into what made it cool. Also, Bill pulls out some lessons from his Literary Criticism classes from over a decade ago to deconstruct some of characters and plot devices!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill continue talk about Metallica, jumping 10 years ahead from 1986's Master of Puppets to "Hero of the Day" from 1996's Load. We discuss the evolution in the band's sound and image, how their alternative leaning contemporaries influenced their sound (maybe bringing in some Bowie influence?), and more about Lars' heavy kick drum. Also, we read a bunch of listener emails, first tackling some singers who reference a person/character in multiple songs, then we finally get an answer to what the heck dream pop is, and then blogger Jeff Fiedler finally clues us in to what the heck was going on with Queen and Elektra Records! Additionally, we read an open letter from one listener to all the others, that makes Jared my "Hero of the Day."
Bill and Brian are joined by educator and author Doug Robertson (aka the Weird Teacher, @theweirdteacher) to talk about what makes Metallica's Master of Puppets (1986, Elektra) great. Metallica, forebears of thrash metal and icons within the metal genre, spent a few years in the underground building a rabid fanbase before finally breaking through with their major label debut (which did so without the help of radio airplay or any music videos). Doug shares how listening to Metallica for the first time forced his body to experience puberty within a matter of seconds as a high school freshman. He then became a ravenous fan, taking in their back catalog and falling in love with each album in turn. Brian, Bill, and Doug discuss Nu metal, growing with fast and loud music, Metallica's musicality, Winger, Lars Ulrich's drumming skills (and maybe lack thereof), how Hetfield's lyrics are smarter than you may think, a whole bunch of really cool guitar things, Dave Mustaine, which song on the album is actually a sonata, a bunch about Cliff Burton's life (and death), and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill tackle Liz Phair's 2003 attempt at a mainstream breakthrough "Why Can't I." We discuss the sound curated by production team the Matrix, the early aughts sing-songwriter sound, and how this song alienated as many fans as it gained, basically not helping Phair's career the way the label had envisioned. Additionally, we read some listener emails and tweets. We got a lot of interaction from the Television episode, so we tackle the Elektra stable of artists, who the band influenced, and some great 10 minute songs!
Bill and Brian welcome the host of the podcasts Director's Club and Pop Culture Club (both part of the Now Playing Network, nowplayingnetwork.net) Jim Laczkowski to discuss Liz Phair's debut exile in Guyville (1993, Matador). Through talent and a little luck, Phair turned her demo project into being signed by Matador records. She took the $3000 given to her to record a single and instead did an entire album with producer Brad Wood. Hailed for its lo-fi charm and the brazen attitude of the the songwriter it showcased, the album, went on to find critical success and a devoted fanbase. Jim shares how he came across this album as a lucky 15 year old with cool friends. Bill, Brian, and Jim discuss Phair's career choices and her major label turn, how Guyville is supposedly tracked to respond to the Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, the difference between lo-fi and "hi-fi," Phair's low vocal tone, the acerbic Steve Albini, the atrociously 90s-styled video for "Never Said," how weird it is that some in the media have labeled Liz Phair a "sex kitten," Jim's favorite Chicago bands, and more as we make our way through the album track by track.