Monday, January 3, 2011


Paul Westerberg was born on the last day of the 1950's. So it is fitting that today the iPod repeatedly dips into the canon. And it is a canon, make no mistake, one that often adds the extra 'n' and blows just about anything out of the water.

235. Radiation - Apples In Stereo from 'New Magnetic Wonder'

This band crackles. They always sound fresh and in spite of the intricate production value, live. You can hear the sweat and the brain power at work. I never immediately say, "Oh, that's Apples In Stereo" which might be why they are not more well known but I also always immediately like what I hear.

236. Knock It Right Out - Paul Westerberg from 'Mono'

When Paul Westerberg re-emerged from a three year hiatus it was as if he'd pulled a Robert Johnson in reverse. He seemed to have gone down to that dark meeting of infinite highway stretching in four directions and demanded that Ol' Scratch return his soul intact. And when Paul Westerberg is on top of his game, the Devil does what he says.

237. Love You Til Friday - The Replacements from 'Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash'

So what does the iPod do? It immediately leaps back in time to the moment that The Replacements roared out of a collection of basements in Minnesota with their debut album. The title of this album seems like a direct rebuke to the bogus political stances that most young punk bands were taking. Platitudes and slogans ruled the day. The Replacements? They cut through all of that with a title that said they still had to do what their mothers asked. They were bored, hyper, horny, restless, and excited. Politics? That was for eggheads with pretension. These guys didn't want to be The Clash, they wanted to be The Rolling Stones. And they almost were. But they were also a helluva lot more.

238. Heroes - David & David from 'Boomtown'

This song is a bit of a stretch, like they had written some anthemic elegiac songs and they needed to keep the mood going. I know from personal experience that when you try to write an anthem, you usually sag under the weight of your ambition. This song sags.

239. A Face In The Crowd - Tom Petty from 'Full Moon Fever'

In keeping with the Westerberg theme, the infamous Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers amphitheater tour in which The Replacements opened for them is a crucial moment in Replacements history. A classic example of something that seemed like a good idea but just wound up alienating whoever was in the crowd. The Replacements were ambivalent about playing to their die-hard fans. Imagine a fifteen thousand seat outdoor arena filled with Rebel flag decal gun enthusiasts who were waiting to see their hero! The Replacements famously dove towards their darkest tendencies and actively antagonized the crowd. I saw this show and The Replacements turned in a killer 45 minute set. This was at the beginning of the tour and fatigue hadn't set in yet. By the end of the tour they had stolen clothing from Tom Petty's wife and worn her dresses on stage. Petty later lifted the line 'rebel without a clue' that Westerberg wrote in his song 'I'll Be You'. He never acknowledged the connection to the Westerberg song and the whole episode seems to have left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth.

240. Anyway's All Right - Paul Westerberg from 'Folker'

Innnnteresting! Once Westerberg cut himself loose from the weird constraints of the traditional music business that had failed to do him justice, his work began to explode all over the map in wonderful ways. He plays every note. But it isn't the polished one-man band type effort that Dave Grohl for the original Foo Fighters record or the eclectic musicianship of, this album is the equivalent of a diary entry. Things are scribbled out, misspelled, dates are all wrong, entries are missing, they jump from what he had for dinner to a memory of a long lost love. If the world were just Rolling Stone would have put a cartoon caricature of Paul on their cover and asked, "Is Our Greatest Living Songwriter Losing His Mind? And If He Is, How Can We Make Sure He Doesn't Get The Help He Needs?"

241. Tangled Up In Blue - Bob Dylan from 'Blood On The Tracks'

This is just weird now because Westerberg and Dylan come from the same neck of the woods. And Dylan is no stranger to completely reinventing his career and befuddling critics and fans alike, both of whom years later find themselves weeping over a long criticized album and saying, "I just didn't get it at the time. I'm SORRY!"

242. Nevada - John Linnell from 'State Songs'

I cannot wait for John Linnell to start working on this series again. I had the impression that he was going to do all fifty states. This one album is simply not enough. The last five minutes of this song sounds like a fairground with a marching band playing somewhere off in the distance. Brilliant. Plus They Might Be Giants once recorded a tribute to The Replacements called 'We're The Replacements'. Genius.

243. High Voltage - AC/DC from 'If You Want Blood You've Got It (Live)'

I think it is safe to say that The Replacements were listening to AC/DC down in the basement between takes.

244. Polyester Bride - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

There is very little connection between Liz Phair and Paul Westerberg except that if Paul Westerberg looked like Liz Phair I would like him a little bit more than I already do. And this is a killer song.

245. White And Lazy - The Replacements from 'Stink'

And Larry tries to tell me the iPod isn't alive. A harmonica blues stomp that promptly explodes into a hardcore freight train, all with Westerberg shouting, "I'm lazy! I'm white!" Light years ahead of everyone else. And no one was listening.

246. Drug Train - Social Distortion from 'Social Distortion'

Somehow Social Distortion have turned into this live juggernaut, playing New Year's Eve shows and festivals, simply honing their signature sound into something broader and catchier than the side of a barn. The Brian Setzer of punk bands.

247. Dawn Can't Decide - The Lemonheads from 'Come On Feel The Lemonheads'

Why does Evan Dando make me feel so sad? He reminds me of those body switching movies that Hollywood seems to love, only in this one, some little nerdy insecure songwriter gets his soul shoved into a cross between a pro quarterback and an Abercrombie & Fitch model. And all of a sudden no one is listening to his songs anymore, they're too busy looking at him.

248. All Because Of You - U2 from 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb'

I admit it. U2 is a great band. But I cannot connect emotionally to them anymore. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I never really did.

249. Sofa King - Dangerdoom from 'The Mouse & The Mask'

This is what you get when you cross technology, talent, and casual drug use. And that is not a dig.

250. Remember The Time - Michael Jackson from 'HIStory (Disc 1)'

I don't want to, Michael. You remember.

251. Trumpet Clip - Paul Westerberg from 'Eventually'

This song is TERRIBLE. There is always a thread of humor in his music, from 'Gary's Got A Boner' to 'Right To Arm Bears'. The super serious nature of most of modern rock is boring and not at all indicative of what real life is like. Unfortunately, real life occasionally means someone you respect and love tells a five minute joke that is merely annoying and you cringe every time you remember them insisting that you listen.

252. I Get Ideas - Louis Armstrong from 'All-Time Greatest Hits'

What can you say about Louis Armstrong? He's Louis Fucking Armstrong. The worst moment on this whole album of twenty some odd songs comes when Bing Crosby sings. So that should tell you something right there.

253. Bennie And The Jets - Elton John from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'

In college I went through a phase where all I listened to was Elton John live with the Sydney Orchestra. I thought it was the best singing he'd ever done by far. Turns out he needed surgery for throat polyps. He doesn't like his singing on it but I do. And on this supposed classic song I get annoyed almost immediately. I don't care about Bennie. I don't care about The Jets. Who the fuck are these people?

254. Better Things - The Kinks from 'The Ultimate Collection (Disc 1)'

Pure gold.

255. Everything To Me - Liz Phair from 'Somebody's Miracle'

She breaks my heart EVERY SINGLE TIME.

256. Tonight I Will Retire - Damien Jurado from 'Ghost Of David'

Haunting and disturbing. I came across Jurado via my friend Jon Leahy (I think) and I was blown away by his prolific catalog, his deep lyrical content, and his unforgettable melodies. He is an original and cannot be compared to anyone. And virtually unknown.

257. Apple Tree - Erykah Badu from 'Baduizm'

Bitch is crazy. But awesome. So awesome. The fact that Erykah Badu is out there trying to decipher all the secret codes that the powers that be are using to try and knock her off her pedestal is a reassuring one, even though she is so crazy that she makes me start to believe that the powers that be are using secret codes to try and knock her off her pedestal.

258. God (Interlude) - Outkast from 'The Love Below'

Andre talks to God who turns out to be female and she agrees with him that 'head' isn't cheating. Hilarious.

259. P.S. I Love You - The Beatles from 'Please Please Me'

Um, P.S. you guys are about to take over the fucking world. So get ready.

260. Frenesi (live) - Ray Charles from 'Ray Charles Live'

I don't know what it means but I like to dance to it.

261. Doc & Dawg - Doc Watson & David Grisman from 'Doc & Dawg'

Virtuosity on such a grand scale that it stops feeling like music and feels more like watching Michelangelo dangling from a scaffold on his back with a paint brush between his teeth.

262. Lotta Love - Dinosaur Jr from 'The Bridge - A Tribute To Neil Young'

I love Dinosaur Jr but this juvenile take on a classic is obnoxious. It reminds me of the smart ass kid who is assigned 'Catcher In The Rye' to write a book report about and all they notice is the swear words when it's obvious that they are exactly like Holden Caulfield.

263. Only Son - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

Oh Liz, you smelled so nice when you hugged me. And your songs kill me.

264. Velvet Snow - Kings Of Leon from 'Aha Shake Heartbreak'

I know these guys have become the sonic equivalent of an overplayed Super Bowl commercial but I refuse to allow myself to get all jaded about them. They are a sick rock and roll band. Unlike a slew of their competitors, I can actually imagine them playing a small club to a bunch of folks who have no idea who they are and IMMEDIATELY winning the crowd over.

265. They Hung Him On A Cross (Demo) - Nirvana from 'With The Lights Out (Disc 1)

Clearly Kurt had a Leadbelly obsession and I think Leadbelly would have been confused about why Kurt wanted to off himself. I mean, Leadbelly killed like three people and was so racked with guilt that he merely became rich and famous at a time when a black man with a guitar was more punk than punk ever was is or will ever be. He'd say, "Put that shotgun down, fool. Pick up your guitar. Or if you're gonna pick up the shotgun, at least shoot somebody else."

266. You Can't Take It With You - Paul Kelly & The Messengers from 'So Much Water So Close To Home'

A perfect album. A perfect song.

267. War & Peace - Ice Cube from 'War & Peace Volume 1 (The War Disc)'

There is not a bad song on this entire two disc album. Unheard of in rap circles, where every third song seems like an afterthought.

Happy Birthday Paul Westerberg, from me and the iPod!

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