It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their conversation with Ed and Alice Magdziak from youdontknowjersey.com about the Beastie Boys debut album by cherry picking a huge hit from the middle of the band's career, "Intergalactic" from 1998's Hello Nasty. The gentlemen discuss why Brian isn't particularly a fan of the song, how the Beastie Boys no longer had to prove themselves, why John Fugelsang's VH1 Top 20 Countdown was better than Total Request Live, the song's cool video, and the difference between kaiju, hentai, and yaoi. Also, we read some listener emails in which we find out what song Hozier's "Take Me to Church" interpolated into the pre-chorus and Brian is once again called out for his Long Island bashing!
Bill and Brian welcome bloggers Ed and Alice Magdziak from youdontknowjersey.com to help us talk about what makes Beastie Boys' License to Ill great. Formed by 3 teenage New Yorkers who held the burgeoning rap scene of the early 80s in the same regard as the hardcore punk they grew up on, the band went on to release a huge cross over hit that was only a hint at the critically acclaimed and influential series of albums they would produce. Alice and Ed discuss their very different experiences discovering the band in middle-of-nowhere Ohio and as a college sophomore who had a chance meeting, respectively. Brian, Bill, Ed, and Alice discuss the Beastie Boys' party dude image, the mysoginistic and sexist content on the album, the influence of happenstance in meeting producer Rick Rubin and label head Russell Simmons, how broad the genre divide is in rap music, the importance of sequencing especially when navigating mediocre tracks, and of course a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Bill goes solo to share a little more about his experience with Biggie Smalls' music by covering his nerdy middle school years and (poorly) dancing to this track at his school's monthly dances. Additionally, Bill reads a couple of listener emails where we learn how Billboard incorporates streams into their metrics, what bros do at Dave Matthews Band concerts, and what bros do at Pearl Jam shows!
A few weeks ago, Adam from the Driving in the Dark podcast kindly sent us an intriguing and convincing email on the virtues of rap music, pointing to The Notorious BIG's Ready to Die (1994, Bad Boy) as a great example of a singular vision executed with precision that would definitely benefit from the Great Albums treatment. So we immediately invited him to join us in a discussion. Adam turned out to be a well of knowledge about rap artists and the history of the genre's development over the last 40 years. On this podcast, we chronicle Adam's first experiences with rap music and this album before recounting how Christopher Wallace (AKA Biggie Smalls) went from teenage hustler to one of rap's most respected icons. Adam spends a lot of time kindly explaining the art of rap to Bill as the latter challenges himself with an album from a genre he doesn't have much experience with. During our track by track review of Ready to Die, we also discuss the function of narrative in rap, the evolution of Biggie's deep, smooth flow, the glorification of violence, literal interpretations of what rappers do on their albums, Brian's taste in rap music, Biggie's humor, his development as a pop songwriter, the unique choice of shout outs, the hypocrisy and contradictions present on the lyrics all throughout the album, juvenile sex skits, Biggie meeting Michael Jackson, and make sure to listen the fatigue we all push through as we have one of our longest conversations ever!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill welcome back musician Matt Pischl to discuss more Dave Matthews Band, focusing on the group's 2001 release Everyday and the song "The Space Between." We talk about the change in DMB's sound, Glenn Ballard, using some of these songs to entice a lady friend into making out, and we read a listener email addressing why we play songs and THEN talk about them on the podcast!
Musician Matt Pischl stops by to help Bill and Brian talk about what makes Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded Streets (1998, RCA) great. Formed when a shy songwriter approached the local musicians he admired to collaborate, the band has gone on to become a popular concert attraction and bestselling group. Matt tells us how playing the saxophone all throughout elementary and high school led to his ear taking note of Leroi Moore's contributions to DMB's unique sound and eventually transitioning to guitar as his own main instrument. The guys talk about the band's image as a stoner jam band, the portion of their fanbase that is just bros, Steve Lillywhite's influence on the band's sound and development, the impressive musicianship throughout, cool guest contributions (Bela Fleck, Alanis Morissette, the Cronos Quartet), happy hippie music, cutting songs for the single version, Matthews' carpe diem lyrics, and a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian continue talking about the Violent Femmes and analyze their newest release, "Memory" from the forthcoming album We Can Do Anything. The gentlemen discuss how the music is a continuation of their early sound and contrast it with their mid-career sound. We also read a listener email that helps us address why we on't always cover hidden tracks at the end of some of the great albums we've covered. Imogen Poots.
Brian and Bill welcome DJ Wendy Rollins (radio1045.com) and musician Paul Nance (theloudcompany1.bandcamp.com) from the Alter Natives podcast to help us discuss the Violent Femmes' self titled debut album (1983, Slash). Working as an acoustic trio, the band was discovered while busking outside a Pretenders concert. After playing a short set at that show, the band began work on this album, mostly written while primary singer/songwriter Gordon Gano was still in high school. Wendy and Paul share their experiences discovering the band in college (Wendy) and, surprisingly, at an earlier age (Paul) and how it helped shape their lives. Bill, Brian, Paul, and Wendy discuss receiving their copy of this album at college freshman orientation, the band's success in their later years, their dorky image and id-driven rock, the inter-band conflict over selling a song to Wendy's Old Fashioned Burgers, what genre the Femmes fit in and their timeless sound, songs with involuntary physical reactions, Brian and Wikipedia being in agreement, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, any perceived misogyny or sexism on the album, the music literally saving Wendy's life, Beatle-esque harmonies, Jeb!, xylophone vs. marimba, what the heck a tranceaphone is, and the ubiquitous track by track review!
Bill and Brian welcome substitute guest (Ryan Carey unfortunately had to go have Valentine's dinner) Matt Pischl (who you'll be hearing talk about a group with the initials DMB in a couple weeks) to talk about "Dream of the Wild Horses" by Gary Lucas, a song which would have been worked into a collaboration between Jeff Buckley and Lucas if it weren't for the singer's untimely death halting progress on the follow up to Buckley's Grace. Brian, Bill, and Matt discuss how this song would have worked in Buckley's catalog and how they can hear Buckley in the song. We also read a listener email that gives great insight into poetic lyrics, Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, and Kurt Cobain's lyrics.
Bill and Brian welcome journalist and blogger (The Inappropriate Thesaurus) Ryan Carey to talk about Jeff Buckley's landmark but only album Grace (1994, Columbia). Although critically revered, the album never became a commercial success within his lifetime (he tragically died in a drowning accident in 1997 at the age of 30), but has since gone on to become one of the most respected and well known albums from the 90s. Buckley was the son of folk singer Tim Buckley, who gained attention in the 70s before his own untimely death. Although he tried to distance himself from his father, Buckley ended up following in his footsteps as a skilled musician and uncanny singer. (After a slight detour into a discussion about politics) Bill, Brian, and Ryan talk about how Ryan discovered Buckley's music a little later than others, the epic nature of each song on this complex album, Buckley's start in a New York City coffee house, his perfect hair, Buckley's legacy as an artist with a single album, Gary Lucas' influence, how perfect "Hallelujah" really is, cowrites and covers, William Wordsworth, and as always a track by track review.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill discuss Alanis Morissette's as a continuation of the conversations from our episode on Jagged Little Pill by listening to and reviewing "Thank You" from Alanis' 1998 follow up Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. We talk about how Alanis addressed criticisms about her image by releasing an overtly positive song with a video that featured her singing in the nude. Additionally, we read some listener emails about Jens Lekman, how British bands are received in the US, William Shatner, and what it's like to walk next to Sir Paul McCartney on the streets of NYC.
Singer, songwriter, ukulele player Devon Moore from folk/pop/reggae band Fun While You Wait (fwywmusic.com) joins Bill And Brian to discuss Alanis Morissette's landmark international debut Jagged Little Pill (1995, Maverick). Alanis started her career as a Canadian teen pop idol, but shed that image, incorporating rock, grunge, and folk song styles into the confessional and starkly honest music on this album. Thanks to the success of several hit singles, the album sold over 16 million copies in the US. Devon relates how she discovered the album amidst her elder siblings' CD collection when she entered her early teen years, while Bill and Brian compare and contrast their own experiences hearing Alanis Morissette as a ubiquitous radio presence during their time in middle school. Brian, Bill, and Devon also discuss novice harmonica playing, grunge pop, supposed image-making, Flea being in his own world, Dave Coulier, a bit of a lesson on gating and comp'ing vocals, how Bill doesn't understand references to masturbation, the origins of Buddhism, why Brian's 7th grade was the worst, what irony really is, and a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian welcome back singer, songwriter, and musician Renee Maskin (lowlightnj.bandcamp.com) to continue talking about that guy/historical figure/musical genius Bob Dylan. Because it's Bonus Song Thursday, we focus on a single song, and this time it's "Pay in Blood" off Dylan's 2012 album Tempest. Brian, Bill, and Renee talk about the lyrics, the Christ and war imagery, how the song evokes a little bit of Tom Waits, songs about the Titanic that references the 1997 film, and how that reference is similar to songs about Westerns or political activism of the 60s.
Singer, songwriter, and musician Renee Maskin (lowlightnj.bandcamp.com) joins Bill and Brian to discuss Bob Dylan's country-tinged Nashville Skyline (1969, Columbia). After becoming a historical icon in the progressive folk movement of the 60s, Dylan broke huge after "going electric" and embracing rock and other popular music. Tired of the spotlight, Dylan took some time off after a motorcycle accident sidelined him a while. He took that opportunity to revamp his sound too, culminating in this classic that eschews his usual rambling lyrics and froggy voice in favor of simple melodies and a lilting vocal tone. Renee, Brian, and Bill discuss Dylan's arrangements, his role as a historical figure, the sound of contentment on this record, arranging in the studio, George Harrison's influence and vice versa, the cult of personality around Dylan and how he interacts with fans, how Dylan maintained his fame without radio hits, and (as always) a track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill welcome back singer songwriter and musician Jeff Linden (jefflinden.bandcamp.com) to talk a little more about Queen and their collaboration with David Bowie, "Under Pressure." We talk about which Queen song we're sending to the aliens in outer space, legendary bass lines, "Ice Ice Baby" (briefly), the opening bass line to "Walk on the Wild Side," what the heck the song is about, and who came up with this bass line. Additionally, we have a little bit of a surprise at the beginning of the episode that you can listen to at soundcloud.com/thegreatalbums!
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Linden (jefflinden.bandcamp.com) of Rose Boulevard and his own solo work (backed by the Black Spot Society) joins Bill and Brian to discuss Queen's A Night at the Opera (1975, EMI/Parlophone/Elektra). Probably the definitive album in the band's career, it was a great leap forward both sonically and in composition. With all four members contributing songs, it was an eclectic mix of progressive, hard rock, folk, and vaudeville all anchored by the band's signature harmonies. Jeff talks about discovering Queen at a young age and later coming under their influence again after making his way through a period of listening to serious big songwriters rooted in cars and summer. Along the way, we also discuss how Queen evolved out of a band called Smile, Freddie Mercury's consistent voice, John Deacon's motivations for writing songs, gender roles and sexual identity in songwriting, what a canon is, theremin, Bohemian Rhapsody (of course), and what kind of show we think Roger Taylor and Brian May should be doing curating at Radio City Music Hall.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up our episode on the Strokes' Is This It by talking about "Juicebox," off the band's third album First Impressions of Earth (2006, RCA). Representative of the turning point in the band's sound, the song is muscular and driving, a stark contrast to their earlier work. Brian and Bill discuss David Kahne's production and career, how the Strokes and the Gaslight Anthem have had the same problem, the Strokes side projects, Brian's discovery of the band, and a tweet that (thankfully) corrected who the characters are in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
From the Jabber and the Drone podcast (jabberandthedrone.podbean.com), Cassidy Robinson joins Bill and Brian to discuss the final installment of Debut Album January, the Strokes' Is This It (2001, RCA). Coming together in New York City and first gaining a following in the UK, the Strokes were a breath of fresh air during a period of nu metal, boy bands, and emo. We talk about when Cassidy first discovered the band, listening to them while riding the bus to school, and how it changed his outlook on the aural landscape available to him as a fan of music. Before we get to our track by track review, we discuss the lasting impact the band made even though they were unable to maintain the level of quality on their first few releases. Additionally, we cover the possible reasons for starting an album with a low key song, which song sounds the most like a Velvet Underground song, stabby guitars, the unique production style of Gordon Raphael, which song sounds like the best song Weezer didn't write, the "conversation" between musicians when a song is being arranged, and more!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill welcome Patrick from the Almost Education and Make Dad Read Comics podcasts to continue talking about Warren Zevon. This time we eschew the long conversation about a whole album to talk a Zevon's biggest and most memorable song "Werewolves pf London" off of the album Excitable Boy (1978, Asylum). We discuss how to rationalize this song as part of Zevon's whole career, whether or not this is a novelty, Kid Rock sampling the song, what happens when you put two Lynyrd Skynyrd live CDs on shuffle, and when Zevon drifted away from the mellow mafia. We also read some listener emails and share their music, podcasts, and trivia about Dennis Wilson and SNL!
Patrick from the Almost Educational and Make Dad Read Comics podcasts joins Bill and Brian as we continue Debut Albums January to discuss Warren Zevon's self titled album (1976, Asylum). Often a misunderstood artist, the eclectic singer songwriter found success after falling in with like minded individuals in the mid-70s LA scene, including the producer for this album Jackson Browne. We talk about how Warren Zevon helped teenage Patrick expand his musical palette, why some people view him as kind of a hokey songwriter, and as always a track by track review. Along the way, we discuss Zevon's storytelling balladry, the reliability of oral histories, if Warren Zevon fits in with the mellow mafia, what brunch with Warren would be like, what podcasting in hell would be like (hint: Satan is an Eagles fan), what it takes to be the world's most successful jug player, and the secret to Brian's listening habits!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Singer, songwriter, musician Jesse Elliot (jesseelliot.com) joins Brian and Bill once again to discuss Elvis Costello. We jump a couple albums into the artist's discography to discuss his single "Oliver's Army" from Armed Forces (1979, Radar/Columbia), the second album to feature backing band the Attractions. We discuss the polish and improved production on this album, Costello's move into New Wave, what the song's lyrics refer to, irony, the use of controversial lyrics, and when Costello recently addressed that topic.
Brian has recorded a special episode to honor the passing of David Bowie. In it, he explains how a simple soda ad brought the man into his life. It was during this time that Bowie's career was on the wane, coloring Brian's earliest memories toward the negative. But Brian speculates that--during Bowie's self-imposed hiatus--he was able to achieve icon status by staying out of his own way and instead becoming all things to all people.
Singer, songwriter, and musician Jesse Elliot (jesseelliot.com) joins Brian and Bill to discuss Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True (1977, Stiff/Columbia) as we continue to highlight debut albums in January's First Month of First Albums! Incorporating an innumerable score of influences, Declan Patrick McManus (aka Elvis Costello) burst out of the British pub rock scene with some spiky music and a brash attitude. We discuss how Jesse first came to know the music through a mix tape, inherited from his brother and played in his crappy old car, before trying to delineate between punk, post-punk, and new wave. Along the way, we talk about what genre each album track belongs in, Nick Lowe's contributions as a producer, whether Clover was up to the task of backing Costello or if the Attractions would have done a better job, what causes the clipping we hear in the recording, Irish folk music, if Less Than Zero is actually a subpar tune, which songs are totally about sex, and as always a track by track review! Additionally, it's the new year, and we've got a new segment where our guest plays an Elvis Costello tune for us!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their episode on Big Star's seminal #1 Record by taking a listen to Those Pretty Wrongs' "Lucky Guy." A teaming of Big Star's Jody Stephens and LA-based singer songwriter Luther Russell, the song was released as a 7" single in June 2015. Brian and Bill use the context of Jody Stephens emergence as a songwriter within Big Star to talk about and frame the band's career over the intervening years that led up to this release. We talk about how the song's production is a little reminiscent of Stephens' former band, the great bass tones that come out of Ardent Studios, and how happy Brian is that Jody is stepping out on his own as a songwriter. Additionally, we read a very special email that had us floored and will lend a little insight to a few of the things we discussed on the #1 Record episode.
Brian and Bill ring in the new year and kick off the First Month of First Albums with one that has the number "one" in the title: Big Star's #1 Record (1972, Ardent/Stax). Having grown tired of "the biz" after he helped bring his teen rock group, the Box Tops, to the top of the charts with his smokey vocals, Alex Chilton wanted to make his own original music and found a kindred spirit in fellow Memphis native Chris Bell. Thanks to the close relationship Bell had with Ardent Studios founder John Fry, the band had a home in the studio and on their label, distributed by Stax Records. After solid promotion and stellar reviews across the board, the album somehow only found its way onto a small number of record store shelves, relegating it to cult status for many years. Brian and Bill talk about how the album found its way out of that hole and into a place in our hearts. Along the way we discuss why we we weren't immediately blown away by the album, how the music influenced what we all got used to hearing from our favorite bands over the years, the secret weapon that is Andy Hummel, Chris Bell's guitar solos and expert production, That 70s Show, Chilton's smooth delivery vs. Bell's broken tones, if the Bell-less albums stack up against this one, and as always a track by track review!