Ten-ish Albums

Credit: Unsplash  License: CC0
Credit: Unsplash
License: CC0
The rant against social media will happen, but until then, a meme challenge of the sort that used to be blogging’s bread and butter:

List 10 (or so) albums that made a lasting impression on you as a TEENAGER, but only one per band/artist. Not in any particular order. FYI- it can be an “old” record you discovered in your teens.

My teen years were ’88-’94. In no particular order, I came up with:

Dramarama — Vinyl

I’m actually writing a weird monograph using this album as a lens on the early ’90s, popular culture, the fickleness of popularity versus the staying power of true quality, and possibly whatever other random thoughts enter my head.

Dramarama, and this album in particular, are important in my life. I “discovered” them myself, and they were the first band I got quite annoying about trying to get other people interested in. Their sound, especially here, ran almost precisely contrary to the just-about-to-explode grunge sound from Seattle, which was a typical circumstance in the underappreciated band’s career. People who love them, love them. People who don’t get weirded out by the passion of fans, because their sound is deceptive.

And, unless you’re a very devoted Rolling Stones fan, you’ll probably miss the fact that one of the songs is a Stones cover — Dramarama nearly always did a cover song, and it was nearly always a very obscure song from a well-known act.

Mary’s Danish — American Standard

Another unjustly obscure band, this album was Mary’s Danish’s closest brush with hitting it big — they played the Letterman show, got at least some press coverage, and even got a cover song onto the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack. Why that didn’t translate into their becoming a big name act is beyond me.

American Standard was the album where the whole band began to work together, instead of in two or three subgroups, and it delivers fully and completely on the promise of their two earlier studio LPs. There’s not a bad song, not one moment out of place, unless you really want to get nitpicky and include the cover of “I fought the law” (a good, energetic cover, but which just doesn’t fit the mood of everything that went before), which wasn’t even listed on the album art. Several songs here are on my permanent Life Soundtrack, and a few I quote frequently, without anyone ever catching on.

Social Distortion — Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell

Seriously, who can say “no” to rockabilly punk?

Cowboy Junkies — black-eyed man

Not only is it haunting and sad and hopeful and perfect, this is where I first encountered the genius of Townes van Zandt’s songwriting. “To Live Is To Fly” is one of my favorite songs, and the Junkies’ cover of it is the definitive version, to my mind.

Lou Reed — Magic & Loss

I vaguely knew Lou Reed prior to this album, being familiar with “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Dirty Boulevard” and probably a few other songs. But this was the first time I ran face-first into the sheer emotional power he could infuse into his words.

And a good thing, too. A year or two after absorbing all the thoughts and feelings of this meditation on losing two friends to cancer in the space of a year, I myself lost a high school friend to cancer. This album helped me cope with that.

3rd Bass — Derelicts of Dialect

I generally don’t care for rap. I still freaking love this album, juvenile diss tracks and all.

Nirvana — Nevermind

I was a teenager in ’91. Duh.

REM — Automatic For The People

“I will try not to burden you
I can hold these inside
I will hold my breath
Until all these shivers subside
Just look in my eyes”

It spoke to me then, it speaks to me still.

They Might Be Giants — Apollo 18

What’s that blue thing doing here?

Frank Allison & The Odd Sox — Hokey Smoke

The most obscure album here, since the Odd Sox were a regional band that, despite getting a positive record review in the New York Times, never got a record deal with a major label.

I saw Frank Allison perform live many times, sometimes solo in very small rooms, other times at the Blind Pig with his full band. His tunes were unique, his lyrics were bracingly smart and weird, and his view of life was amiably downtrodden and funny.

And if that doesn’t sell you, well, it seems to be a well-known fact that Frank Appreciation is a “you had to be there” sort of a thing:

Cracker — Kerosene Hat

“I know the whiskey, it won’t soothe my soul
And the morphine won’t heal my heart
But if you take me down to the infirmary
Oh yeah
I won’t have to sleep
Or drink alone.”

Jesus Jones — Liquidizer

Not even going to lie: I am still disappointed that this isn’t what Future Music sounds like. I’ll take this album over almost any techno.

Yeah, yeah, that’s twelve. Be happy I didn’t list thirty.