This month in musical history – the sounds of 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 or 60 years ago.
Yes, this is a bit belated…I spent less than half of January in my own bed. Here’s to me getting February done before March rolls around…
10 Years Ago This Month:
Spoon – Transference
My favorite record from one of the most underappreciated bands in contemporary rock is an absolute classic. Straight-ahead rockers like “Written in Reverse”, “I Saw the Light”, and “Trouble Comes Running” lead the charge and drip with swagger, but the groovy numbers also resonate (see “Who Makes Your Money”, “The Mystery Zone”, “Nobody Gets Me But You”).
Britt Daniel and company have made so much good music over the last 20+ years, but this thing takes the cake (with all due respect to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Kill the Moonlight). “Got Nuffin” is one of their best jams, and celebrates having a strong crew you can party with and rely on. If you don’t know this album, or worse yet, this band, it’s long past time to get with it.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3LFkPaVdKot8Fkp2gjoasH?si=jISj1Tp_Qrmo0xRFaq-jbQ
20 Years Ago This Month:
Warren Zevon – Life’ll Kill Ya
Written just a couple short years before he would receive his terminal Mesothelioma diagnosis, some of this work is downright haunting in hindsight (see the title track or “My Shit’s Fucked Up”). However, he always was as funny as he was musically talented, as evidenced throughout this gem of a record. Tracks like “For My Next Trick, I’ll Need a Volunteer” and “Hostage-O” show off that subtle humor while existing as wonderful works of music.
The blend of acoustic guitar, drums, and harmonica on “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down” is sublime, and Warren’s vocal delivery delves between self-assured and a strained, high pitched warble during the pre-chorus lines: “I saw the bride in a wedding gooooooowwwn”. On the dark yet somewhat flippant title track Warren opines over a piano groove on the cold hard truth that nobody makes it out of here alive: “from the president of the United States to the lowliest rock and roll star, the doctor is in, and he’ll see you now, he don’t care who you are.”
Perhaps the finest (and sadly prescient) writing here is found on “My Shit’s Fucked Up”, in which the protagonist confronts aging and imminent mortality head-on. Fans of Warren or this song should go check out Kinky Friedman’s excellent cover of the song. Another highlight is his take on Steve Winwood’s “Back in the High Life Again”, which he gives a different vibe and breathes more life into it.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6NCsenzhK19PXq0UYmQWsF?si=1Z1_2_n5TNOPhWRFSRC6Tg
30 Years Ago This Month:
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining
“Blue Sky Mine” is one of my favorite songs in the “90s rock, non-grunge” category, and that harmonica warble gets me every time. Simultaneously lamenting the folly of mining (“nothing is as precious as a hole in the ground”) and the necessity of the industry for some much rural employment (if I work all day on the blue sky mine, there’ll be food on the table tonight”), this is ultra-political without being preachy.
Readers of this blog are well aware of my deep, deep love and respect for this band, and Blue Sky Mining is one of the three best works of their career. The songs here are consistently catchy and well-written, but the second half of the album is truly all killer, no filler. There are a few gems that rank among the best in their impressive catalogue: “King of the Mountain”, “River Runs Red”, and “One Country” top that list.
This album serves as a great starting point for newbies (followed by the seminal Diesel and Dust and 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1) and is deserving of a listen for longtime fans as a reminder of how great these Aussies were in their prime.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/4C3raKL0dzfTitM3YtqN1S?si=ERUmRX3PQUi-p9pzdIfvxw
50 Years Ago This Month:
Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
A classic that really needs no introduction or explanation – somehow now fifty years old. Even non-fans know half of this album just by osmosis: the title track, “El Condor Pasa”, “Cecilia”, and “The Boxer” are all ubiquitous in pop culture.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0JwHz5SSvpYWuuCNbtYZoV?si=MJNgkJlpSLGw1CgAWtalvw