One of my Auto-Playlists in my media player is labelled "True Believers." It consists of all the music of the twenty bands of whom I will pretty much listen to anything they release. It doesn't mean that they have never released crap, or that they haven't had a fall from grace. It simply means that the balance of their music has at one time or another in my life meant enough to me that I am willing to listen to everything they've ever done, just to keep it fresh.
In a very rough countdown from 20...
20) Van Halen
When I said "fall from grace" - Van Halen was foremost in my mind. When I was in grade 8, I was watching Friday Night Videos when they first aired Jump. My conversion into a lifelong Van Halen fan took a mere 4 minutes and 4 seconds. The unadulterated energy of the video and the unbridled joy of the song were irresistable. They were the first band to truly be 'my favourite band.' I bought all their albums within a few short months. Actually I think I might have shop-lifted Fair Warning - time has wiped my memory of the details, but for some reason I have a recollection of my aquisition of that album being somehow... shady. I'll assume I shop-lifted it, although that is a bit out of character. I was basically a good kid.
Then Dave blah blah Sammy blah blah - the tale is old and boring by now.
The first Sam Halen album, 5150, was still pretty cool. While it certainly lacked the outrageous party-animal hysteria of the first six albums it made up for it in a new advanced musicality. But it wasn't enough to maintain my love, the band in my number 3 position below would soon push the Van Halen brothers aside.
Twenty years on now I recently rediscovered those first Van Halen albums. My perhaps overzealous scorn for their later work had somehow diminished the value of the DLR years. I had never replaced the vinyl versions with CDs. But one day I was in a second hand CD store and there was Van Halen and Van Halen II on sale for a song. I figureed 'what the hell' and bought them. Man oh man. What great albums they are. Over the next few weeks I relived my teener VH buying spree - except that this time I actually paid for Fair Warning. And in the 18 months since then, I've gone so far as to P2P (technically, right back to stealing...sigh) my catalogue of Van Hagar tracks up to a near complete level - and ya'know... it ain't so bad. There really is no comparison, they are two different bands with the same name - I could probably justify not including the post David Lee Roth Van Halen tracks in my True Believer list, but that would require additional programming of Media Player and it would rob me of the truly excellent tracks on 5150 and scattered through the later VH discography.
Queen holds a special place in my personal music biography. Never quite attaining the level of "favourite band" - at the time of Freddie Mercury's death they were the band with the most immense catalogue that had been subjected to my completeist tendencies. What I had for Queen was respect. The scope of their musical prowress was awe inspiring.
While their earlier albums tended generally to be more dense sonically than I was interested in - more along the lines of early Genesis and practically any Yes - where they went from there was (ahem) a kind of magic.
Thanks to Wayne's World, I never need to hear Bohemian Rhapsody ever again and my least favourite part of the Stanley Cup final is that they always, ALWAYS play We are the Champions. And there are other Queen songs that have become obvious and hackneyed cliches - Bicycle Race, Fat Bottomed Girls, Another One Bites the Dust & We Will Rock You all spring to mind - but they wouldn't have become such if they were not great songs to begin with.
My Queen collection has yet to recover from the switch from analogue to digital, but I have total faith that in time I will have a complete Queen collection again, for the time being I have all the indispensible tracks and that I can live with.
18) The Who
While, like Queen, The Who were never quite a favourite band - and I never did quite complete my Who collection, and doubt I ever will - they were always close. I discovered Queen on my own; The Who were knit into the fabric of my being.
The day the Who broke up - or rather the night it was on the news - my Mother got me out of bed to watch the Pete Townshend press conference. (It still kind of boggles me that they were big enough to be news.) I didn't really appreciate who they were at the time. I didn't really understand or equate the man on the television to the music I'd been hearing all my (at that point, short) life.
I don't really know what happened. I guess The Who was played enough around my home that I was familiar with it as a kid, but not so much that I knew every song by heart - like I did with The Smothers Brothers or Buddy Holly (Yeah, an odd combination to be certain.)
When they reunited for their 25th Anniversary Reunion Tour in 1989, I was the right age to experience a full-scale Who re-discovery.
At the time I was getting into performing and writing music with a band myself. There was music in my head that I was trying to get out, 'cause I knew it was interesting music, but it was sitting back there just below the conscious. I just had to release it.
And then I found The Who... I was generally familiar with a few tracks already - My Generation of course.
I began to listen to Tommy and Who's Next and a greatest hits package and discovered that I knew it all already... that the music that was itching to come out was in fact already written by Pete Townshend back in the 70's.
I had somehow, in the blue-collar city of Prince George, become a latent punk. I can't explain (Sorry.) But I expect that it must have had to do with my exposure to The Who - the best example of punk's predecessors - at a young age, an exposure that was not maintained and thus left a gap that needed filling... I guess.
I still have a great visceral love for The Who and I doubt that any CSI rooted over-exposure will ever ruin the majesty of Won't Get Fooled Again for me. I actually found that Summer of Sam was a palatable movie largely on the strength of the two sequences that were scored by that same track and Baba O'Reilly.
The Who are the only band originating in the 60's that makes this list. They are the only band on this list whose heyday was over before 1979.
I was very happy to have a chance to see them live when they re-grouped again to tour Quadrophenia. It was a sad and beautiful thing all at the same time, but that's fodder for another entry.
If there is a band on this list you haven't heard of, chances are this is it. It's also the band that most exemplifies the statement "one of these things is not like the others" when applied to this list.
If you are a fan of Paul Simon's Graceland album and haven't heard of Juluka, you are a bad bad person. While Ladysmith Black Mambazo got the glory, Juluka was truly the inspiriation of the sound. They are the original purveyors of the Rock/Mbaqanga sound. To his credit, Simon recognizes this in his liner notes.
I was introduced to them in University. I had to buy their only two North American releases on vinyl shortly before it quit being a relevant medium. That was also about the time they quit recording together. Front man Johnny Clegg went on to make music with the very similar Savuka - including covering a few Juluka songs, (Scatterlings of Africa appeared on the Rainman soundtrack.) but it was never quite the same.
I managed to find bits and pieces of Juluka on CDs over the years, but it wasn't until just a few weeks ago that an old friend - the same one who introduced me to the band in the first place - gave me copies of every Juluka and Savuka track, giving me a complete collection for the first time.
16) Green Day
Like I said before, I was a latent punk in a redneck world. I suspect I know a bit of what it must have been like to grow up gay in a homophobic society. I have no doubt that "growing up gay" was a situation more traumatic than mine, but parallels still exist. I was tangentially in touch with the music I really loved, but I didn't fully understand until I moved away to a bigger city where my preferences were accepted for what they were.
Generally speaking I was forced to live with the existing first-wave punk and post-punk bands to sate my musical tastes. Hardcore was never quite what I wanted to hear... although Black Flag was certainly deserving of notice in my world. Not that I didn't like what I was hearing, but little of it felt like it was relevant to me.
But then a disaffected, emotionally fragile and brilliant punk-rock kid from Aberdeen, but for that last detail, much like myself, broke it wide open. In the wave of popular punk - the second wave - that followed, there were a host of bands that seemed to be doing exactly what I needed. Green Day may not have been the best, but they've arguably been the most endurable. I can't imagine a band could possibly get as much out of three and four chords as Green Day. Billie Joe is a genius in his own right.
Their songs are remarkable in their consistency and their outrageous spareness.
Both Dookie and Warning are amongst the most listenable albums in my entire collection and when you add a seminal classic like Good Riddance (Time of Your Life for those who aren't familiar with the sarcastic actual title of the song.) to the oeuvre they rise to a level where I feel I can personally equate them to the Rolling Stones (who I personally despise, but their own canon has similar qualities of simplicity and indisputable popular appeal.)
15) Our Lady Peace
The first of just two Canadian entries (there would be around five if I extended the list to about 30, but that would mean redefining the parameters.)
One of a number of bands that I discovered on tour. (Others include Live, NIN, Crash Test Dummies, Alanis Morrissette - the latter of which I discovered concurrently with OLP, literally the length of one music video apart.) While only one other of those bands mentioned makes this list, they all hold a special place in my heart. There is something very special about driving across this great nation with the stereo up to eleven, the windows down and speedometer at least 20 klicks over the limit. Anthemic music pounding away - it's a freedom-like flight. OLP's first album in 1995 fulfilled that need for me and when I returned home after four months on the road, I discovered that my bosom-buddy roommates had been discovering the same music while surfing the porch. (I'll define that at another time.)
Since then their stock has been bolstered by generally solid song-writing on album after album plus a number of perfect examples of songs that spoke to me the right way at the right time, such as Waited and Innocent.
The other on tour discovery. In 1992, one of my tour mates, Brian, bought Mental Jewelry early in the tour. We listened to it daily - often multiple times - all tour, and when the tour was done we all went out and bought a copy.
Two tours later we were all listening to Throwing Copper - months before Lightning Crashes broke Live to the masses.
I've ALWAYS hated their name. Anytime I mention them it seems I need to explain myself as to what band I am referring to. But they have always risen above that small token of distaste. Their third and fourth albums generally failed to make an impression upon the world and their fifth only made waves as being the album that the song that accompainied most of the initial tributes (I.E. the first 72 hours or so) to the dead in the 9/11 disaster... Overcome.
But as a true believer, I have always loved their music, even when the rest of the world didn't care - both before they were huge and after. I think a lot of it has to do with the thought that if I were to have continued to make music, Live is the closest to what I think I would have made.
Of all the punk-revival bands, Offspring has the best combination of relevance and humour. Blah blah - sold-out - blah blah. Yeah, well they're laughing all the way to the bank. I respect that they were the first punk band I knew to just relax into who they were. No posing. Just being comfortable with who they were. They were the first to be cool with being un-cool - which was pretty fucking cool.
On top of all that, through the past decade they have exhibited an excellent ability to play with various ethnic styles in the context of their music - Arabic, Calypso, Hawaiian.
It's hard for me not to relate to Dexter Holland - from Self-Esteem onwards - it seems that we've had the misfortune to date all the same women. I just hope he's been fortunate enough to find one as awesome as the one I finally lucked into... or maybe it would be better for their music if he didn't.
If there is one thing I have to fault them for... the pop-punk that has followed in their footsteps has a filthy-bad tendency to be cloyingly dumb.
Here's an entry that most certainly would have ranked higher had they broken up a decade ago. Document, Green, Out of Time and Automatic for the People represent some of the best music from my University years.
R.E.M. as a whole represents a significant point in the evolution of music in the dying years of the 20th century. R.E.M. was the band that took 'alternative rock' into the mainstream... or if you prefer, that marked the beginning of the era where 'alternative' became a meaningless phrase.
Their earlier albums all stand up with the four more popular ones above; and the later ones each have a track or two which demonstrate the same musical acumen (a word I learned listening to them [Exhuming McCarthy]) but generally they each remind me of the musical habits of Prince and Lenny Kravitz - a single track of brilliance and the rest being absolute filler. But as they are in the rarified air of the 'True Believers' I'll listen to the drivel as an (ahem) alternative to wearing out the welcome of the genius tracks of their middle years.
In my days playing music, R.E.M. was one of the bands we most often covered. A fact that is a testament to how much we revered them as artists. They were popular but they had integrity. I believe they still have integrity - they have to in order to stay the course when their sound is losing it's relevance by degrees.
11) Midnight Oil
A band that bears much in common with R.E.M. in it's place in my musical world. A bunch of albums before they hit it big. A handful (Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mining, Earth and Sun and Moon) of pure brilliance. Like R.E.M., my compatriots and I played a lot of Midnight Oil. (Oil songs are much harder to cover than R.E.M.) The biggest difference lies in that Midnight Oil pretty much closed up shop for the Clinton Years. They had less to rail against then.
They lost a lot of momentum in doing so and when they did come out with new music it was largely ignored.
I had the pleasure of seeing them on the tour before Peter Garrett left the band. They were amazing. One of the best live concerts I've ever seen - and most of that was that crazy bald-surfer himself. But now he's gone... or is he? They played a benefit concert with him as frontman for Tsunami relief. I guess the answer there is that Peter Garrett would not be Peter Garrett if he weren't doing something to help the cause. It's not like he left the band 'cause he hated them - it was about doing something new, so a reunion after short order isn't such an odd thing, and under the circumstances it's in character; a measure of that character even.
That is certainly the most indelible feature of Midnight Oils' character as a band - the activism. Not to diminish the music - the music is the vehicle for the activism - but no other band on this list was as consistenly attached to the politics behind their music - and with bands such as R.E.M., U2, The Clash, Pearl Jam, Live and Juluka in the mix that is saying something. And that is something that meant a lot to me when I first started listening to them, and it is something I still respect to this day.
Art Alexakis has one of the more one-track minds in rock, it seems. Art Alexakis can't stop singing about his lousy upbringing... and his daughter... and his failed marriage... and how he doesn't want to repeat history in terms of the above three susbjects. That pretty much sums up the content of at least 75% of Everclear's music. I had a pretty good childhood. I am not a parent. I've never been married - engaged, not married. But somehow I manage to relate to SO much of what he says. I think that his naked honesty must have an element of universality to it that appeals to me on a level I don't quite fully understand. Of all things, it was their Gap commercial that first interested me in Everclear, but in short order I found myself relating to Father of Mine. (For the record, my father is great. I love him. I always have. But somewhere under all the goodwill there are indeterminate father issues - they've come up time and again in my writing.) And then singing along to One Hit Wonder... and then So Much for the Afterglow. After I bought the album it barely left the CD player for the next year... by which point the first volume of Songs from an American Movie was coming out. Volvo Driving Soccer Mom reminded me of the woman who gave me a severe cougaring during that first year of my Everclear phase. But generally I felt they were losing my attention. So Much for the Afterglow bought Everclear a lot of leeway. They expended none of it on the first half of the American Movie series, or when I started on the back-catalogue with Sparkle and Fade. I didn't hold it against them that I was less interested in earlier works like World of Noise and White Trash Hell, but if the new album (and essentially new band, as only Art A. remains) doesn't improve on Slow Motion Day-dream, they may find themsleves falling off this list. One GREAT album does not a great band make... not unless the remaining work is at least journeyman level.
What hasn't already been said about Kurt Cobain's soul-baring? The painful honesty of the music - more obscurely poeticized than Art Alexakis's - was all the more heart-shearing thanks to the viscerally urgent voice behind it. The moment I heard of his death, I knew that he would be the mythic lost-voice for my generation. Our Jim Morrison or John Lennon.
The first day I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit I was living on a friend's couch before going on tour. I heard it in the afternoon on Much Music and was immediately affected by the song although I expected that I would never hear it again. It was too different. Too unique. That seems so strange now as I've heard it a million times since - either directly or in the innumerable songs that have taken their cues from it. That night I went to a dance club. I had only ever heard mainstream pop and hair metal there before. They played Smells Like Teen Spirit. The dance floor was packed... and it stayed packed. That was a moment of change. I could sense it on some level, but I would be a liar if I claimed I could tell the degree. I chalked SLTS up to a novelty and was glad to know that I could expect that that song that had intrigued me earlier was apparently going to be around for a bit. Two weeks later we were on tour and one of the pieces in the show was a parody of SLTS. That song... it hit the world like a wrecking ball.
A lot of Nirvana's lingering appeal is nostalgic. It still speaks to me, but more, it speaks to my past. I expect it always will.
8) Pearl Jam
Shortly after Nirvana turned everything I understood about music upside down, Pearl Jam came along, carrying the same banner. But never were two similar bands less alike. The musical prowress of Pearl Jam put them in a category so much apart from Nirvana's raw-elements that it seemed unfair to classify them under the same geographically rooted connection of the 'Seattle Sound.'
Ten was a revelation in it's own right. Vs. proved that they were capable of a repeat performance. Certainly most will have to declare that starting with Vitalogy that they became increasingly more experimental - and while 'increasingly' is misleading in it's implication of progression, that is essentially true. For me, Pearl Jam's eternal earnestness and commitment to the music made even the more loguey tracks worthy of respect. Certainly Yield and No Code each only offered up a few tracks that were 'vintage' Pearl Jam, but that's much of what I appreciated about them. Songs like Who You Are demonstrated their ability to continue pleasing their core fan base, while the remainder of the album explored increasingly diverse edges of their canon. What's the difference between that and R.E.M's filler? I can't say I can answer that concisely. I suspect that the difference lay in the work to follow. Binaural floored me. It will never be one of my favourite albums, but it presented a uniform vision that married the old Pearl Jam with the more experimental Pearl Jam. Riot Act managed to serve as a reasonable follow up.
But what really makes Pearl Jam special is their live material. The fifty plus 'live bootlegs' that they personally released, while being one of the supporting pillars of the band's demonstration of it's integrity - their battle with TicketMaster being another - showcase a band that gives the most when they're performing live. While I enjoy their studio albums - particularly the first three and Binaural - if I had to pick three Pearl Jam albums to listen to for the rest of my life, they'd all be live.
7) The Pixies
I have an admission to make. One which I regularly make when speaking of the Pixies.
Back in the late 80s I was writing record reviews for a college newspapaer - the CNC Free Press. A local music store would give me copies of albums to preview and I'd write the reviews. The Pixies first non-indie release, Surfer Rosa, was one of those albums. I listened to it (grudgingly) three times, and then gave it one of the two worst reviews I ever gave an album. (The other went to The Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions - another album I eventually came to love. I quit writing reviews before that year was over.) I can't recall what I said exactly - and by now the paper it was written on has turned to acidy dust. But it was not complimentary.
About three years - maybe four - passed.
I was on tour for the first time. I was watching another company's show. Actually it was pre-show, and they had music playing before the show started. I was totally enjoying it. Every song was obviously by the same band. ...and then... on came a song I recognized - the same band, again... and I realized all at once that I was listening to the Pixies album that I had run down so completely in the Free Press.
I owned all available Pixies albums within the next three months. I bought the new - and last - one as soon as it came out.
I went to see them open for U2 on the opening leg of the ZooTV tour. They were awful. Which was a bit of a let down. The next night, they broke up... although they didn't tell the world for another few months. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that their terrible live performance was a result of the fact that as a band they were hardly speaking to each other.
Over the years I picked up the bits and scraps of releases that have come out - the Purple album being the most significant. I diligently listened to The Breeders and Frank Black and Frank Black and The Catholics. I even went to see Frank Black and the Catholics with every guy I know named 'Ray'. (For those who aren't on the 'in' - Frank Black's third solo album was called Cult of Ray.) That was kind of funny. That concert was excellent. Too bad he didn't play any old Pixies songs... but can you blame him?
When they reformed last year, at first I was excited. But then... I kind of felt like hell had frozen over, Christmas came too soon and I lost my virginity all in one day and every single part was disappointing. It was the thing that wasn't supposed to happen at all... and the fact that it had seemed wrong - as exciting as it was. A myth had been destroyed.
I didn't go see them either time they went through town. I don't know how I could.
6) Soul Coughing
Okay. I was late on this bandwagon. Really late. They'd already broken up. They also only ever had three albums and a handful of one-off releases (significantly on both the X-Files soundtracks.) Really. Soul Coughing has the combined distinction of being the first band that I really discovered due to P2P sharing; and being the last band that I ever went out and bought all their back-catalogue of. I doubt I'll ever do that again... unless the world of copyright makes a sudden and unexpected shift back in favour of the music companies, but as I mentioned in a previous posting, I don't think that's likely.)
I have no idea what Mike Doughty is going on about in any of their songs. None. This band is simply very cool and very listenable. I find that anytime I play them for virtually anyone who has modern music tastes, they like Soul Coughing. Why they were never bigger than Jesus, I don't know.
If you aren't familar - for god's sake, become familiar. Chances are you'll thank yourself for it.
I've already spent an entire posting talking about Cake at length. I'm not going to rehash here.
4) The Clash
At the end of the 80's, Rolling Stone named London Calling the best album of the 80's. Now, considering the large amount of shear audio-pap that came from that decade that may not seem like a particularly tough position to hold. But if you look at the cream of the crop of the 80s (Including such masterworks as Synchronicity, The Joshua Tree, and Graceland [Which despite being mentioned twice in this post is not really a favourite of mine - I've never owned it, but it IS a widely recognized excellent album. My point being that 'masterwork' extends past my own tastes.] to name but a few.) it IS quite an accomplishment.
If the Rolling Stone declared that London Calling was the greatest album of all time I wouldn't personally feel the need to scoff - but instead they proved how un-hip they have been for the past 20 years by naming Sgt. Pepper's blah blah easy choice Club Band as their number one. Ya-fucking-awn.
London Calling is one of those albums that is SO good that had The Clash never released another decent album in their career (like say the SexPistols did with Never Mind the Bullocks and... nothing) they would still be recognized as music pioneers. Their subsequent albums would have sold well anyways. Hey, it worked for the Crash Test Dummies for two or three albums.
The Clash was the epitome of what was right about the original punk ethic, and they still had two excellent albums - Sandanista! and Combat Rock - and one okay one - Cut the Crap - left in them.
3) The Police
I don't think it's possible to have grown up in the Neo-Western world in the 80s and not be a fan of The Police. They were punk, post-punk, pop, reggae, rock, and even jazz all in one tight package. And the real magic was that they didn't let all those influences muddy their style - which by all right is exactly what should have happened.
If I were to make a list of my top albums of all time, Synchronicity would be in the top ten. Actually, I'm pretty confident it would be in the top five. Probably top THREE, I'm just holding out on committing to that in case I'm having a brian fart and missing a seminal work that changed my life.
A few years back I had an epiphanic exchange with the friend who, when we were teens, I discovered the Police with. I had just watched some old concert film of them - probably the widely distributed Atlanta concert - and had noted that the percieved talent balance in the band, was not as I had seen it as a teenager.
Sting naturally got most of the attention. He wrote the lion's share of the music and he sang almost all of the songs. His bass-lines ranged from admirable to excellent and he was a good-looking guy who women wanted to be with and guys wanted to be. But post-Police his output has become more and more turgid. Thankfully, it appears that there was a limit to how dull it could get and every now and then he writes a song that recalls that he was practically an autistic-savant-genius in his song-writing. Dream of the Blue Turtles his only solo album that was ever uniformly excellent, although I kept hoping, right through the Soul Cages. (All this Time from that album does rank as one of his best ever.) It makes one wonder just how much of his talent was his and how much was buoyed up by the fact that he was with two other brilliant musicians.
Andy Summers was an amazing guitarist. He was also significantly older than the other two - to the degree that they virtually idolized him and when he agreed to be in their band, it was a watershed moment for them. Haven't really heard much from Andy since the Police split, have we? Brilliant as he was, his musicianship was of the sort best not showcased. His embellishements on pre-existing structure were his true strength. Supporting and building upon and enriching someone else's work. I don't think anyone ever really had any illusions about that - his place in the band.
But then there was Stewart Copeland. Not only was the sonic conception of the group his, but his percussion work served as the anchor throughout the group's career. I don't know why I never noticed until I was watching that concert, but the Police wouldn't have been half the band without Stewart Copeland. Unfortunately I don't have the vocabulary to sufficiently express my feelings and observations on the subject of Stewart's percussion - I don't want to call it 'drumming,' that would be too limiting a term. When I mentioned the thought to Demetri - a more accomplished musician than I (not that either of us would call ourselves musicians before anything else) - he agreed whole heartedly. Sting was both the face and the structure, Andy was the flourish and decor, but Stewart was the backbone and the blueprint.
Of all the bands on this list that were making music back when I was first discovering it, the Police are the one I've neither ever have to remind myself about how great they were, and that I never find myself thinking 'oh, THAT has become quaint.'
2) The Tragically Hip
A good friend of mine once said "I used to think of the Hip as one of my favoruite Canadian bands, now I don't use the national qualifier." I don't know when I quit using the qualifier.
I do recall the first time I ever heard them. They had an immediate impact on me. I was driving in my car, on my way to a friend's house. I was about a block away when the DJ announced that he was going to play the first single from a new band from Kingston Ontario. This sort of thing of course happens all the time. The song was Small Town Bringdown and I was intrigued by it enough that even though I was parked before the chorus was over, I listened through until the end before getting out of my car. I didn't buy the album... then. I heard the song a few more times on the radio, and same with their second single, Last American Exit.
That was it, for quite a long time - practically three years. By this time I was playing in a band. The bassist (Incidentally the same fellow who I quoted in the first sentence of this section.) arrived at rehearsal with a cassette one day - Up to Here - and played it for us, demanding that we had to learn one of their songs (he had a few suggestions as to which). When we asked what the band was, he said "they're new - the Tragically Hip." I got to say "they're not as new as you think."
We did eventually learn Blow at High Dough, and in the years since I've learned dozens of Hip songs.
Why the Hip have never broken south of the border will always be a mystery, but it has been written about many times before.
One thing that seems to NOT have been written about is Gord Downie's fascination with shipwrecks. I may go in depth about it at a later time, but off the top of my head... New Orleans is Sinking; Fiddler's Green; Nautical Disaster; Scared; Titanic Terrarium; The Dire Wolf, as well as Pascal's Submarine from his second solo album all are either about shipwrecks or have imagry and/or references to them. (Not to mention any number of arguably similar themes - planes crashing, going over Niagra in a barrel.) What's that about, Gord?
Of the five best concerts I've ever been to, two of them would be the Hip - they're good on disc, but live is the real ticket. If I extended the list to ten, then probably all five Hip concerts I've been to would make the cut. They are THAT good.
Since Road Apples, I've bought (or had bought for me) every Hip album the day it was first available - except for Between Evolution which somehow slipped through the cracks for me until it was already released. The fact that I bought Between Evolution, when I have spiritually committed myself to P2P piracy, is testament to how much I respect the Hip.
Day for Night (which ranks with Synchronicity in my top 5, probable top 3) went into my CD player the night I bought it and didn't just not come out, but didn't quit playing for over a month. Honestly. I put it in and hit play and while I adjusted the volume a bit, it never stopped. I was living in an attic at the time and sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities on the floor below. I would get up in the morning and listen to it while getting dressed and as I went down stairs. I'd leave the door open and listen to it as I did my morning routine. Then when I headed off to class, I would simply close the door, rather than climb the stairs again. When I'd come home, it would welcome me in the door and back upstairs. Part of that was the time of my life, but if the album didn't resonate with me that well, it would not have happened.
I'm almost ashamed to have such an obvious choice at number one. But I can claim to be a fan from WAY back. Pre-Joshua Tree. By now, being someone who jumped on the band-wagon at the Joshua Tree means you are practically a fan from the beginning, and most fans from pre-Joshua Tree long since gave up on the band. My type is truly rare.
I wasn't a big U2 fan until the Joshua Tree, but they were on the radar. War was a kick-ass post-punk album on my planet.
God knows there have been lows - almost all of Pop and in retrospect most of Rattle and Ho-Hum, but when they manage to put out an album like All that You Can't Leave Behind and follow it up with the solid How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, twenty five years into their career and still with the original line-up. I start to scoff at anyone who tries to claim that the Rolling Stones are the best, most long-lived rock act in the world. Give me a fucking break.
The Stones quit being relevant back when I was in high-school. By the time they were doing their 25-year Steel Wheelchairs tour, had they evolved? Nope, they were still playing the same pentatonic blues rip-off that they'd played when they first released Satisfaction in 1965. Snoozers for losers. Not that my complete lack of respect for their musical style makes them a bad band. Their lack of development makes them a bad band.
Meanwhile U2 took the chance and went off the rails a few times, but they also took chances and found themselves on entirely new tracks that led to new and interesting places. And when they made new albums that were 'returning to their roots' they found that instead they were actually melding all that had come before in familiar, yet new ways.
Live they had it all. Joshua Tree was like a religious gathering. Easily the best concert of my life. Simple yet spectaular. And when it was all done, we - the audience - sang 40 for at least that many minutes... not uncommon at U2 shows in those days. ZooTV was completely in the other direction - 100% high-tech extravaganza. That phase got out of hand two albums later. But in it's earliest portion - and it was the very earliest portion, I saw them when the ZooTV tour was still the Achtung Baby tour - it was a treat of amazing sensory overload.
And through it all they've stuck to their guns. Bono as head of the world bank, while silly, made more sense than Paul Wolfowitz. The tip of the hat that he would even be considered it testament to the sort of person he has been.
I feel proud that a band I liked before they were huge lived up to my faith in them. Not just once, but over and over again. For that reason, I doubt that they will ever be dethroned from the top place. I won't be ashamed for having such a huge pop-success as my favourite band. I thought they were good, and in time so did many many others.