I had to take a road trip to Indy. Chicago to Indy is about 400 miles round trip. 7 or so hours in a car. I needed music, lots and lots of music. I grabbed a bunch of cds (remember those old spinning silver discs?), some I haven't played in forever, piled them in a paper bag. Loaded up on soy lattes and hit the road. Perfect road day, blue sky, a long flat road trip into "subliminal mind-fuck amerika."
Somewhere on 65 there's a big billboard, white block letters on a black background: HELL IS REAL. I'm thinking, "yes it is," and it's probably located somewhere near Gary (the only town on the route that still makes stuff - see the belching smoke stacks!) or it's hidden in the cellar of some desolate farmhouse amidst the fields of corn and soy.
Anyway here's the discs (with a little contemporary commentary) that I played at maximum volume, the windows down, car flying like a magic carpet across the land.
1. Chris Whitley - Din of Ecstasy - not sure why I grabbed this one and popped it in first. A great expressive guitar player, in love with heroin. Every song seems to be an ode to "H." I switched it off about half-way through. Whitley ended up dead - overdosed on his love.
2. MC5 - Kick out the Jams - White Panthers, the "high society," in the heat of police riots and Vietnam protests. Great garage band from Detroit recorded live. Wayne Kramer guitar pyrotechnics. The last song on the disc (Starship) is unlistenable.
3. Led Zeppelin III - one of my favorites. Jimmy Page on electric Les Paul and acoustic twelve string. No one plays better. Robert Plant sings on Hats Off to Roy Harper - "ain't no monkey, can't climb no tree." Robert you are lying! This band did not make a bad album. Sounds even better today?!
4. Smashing Pumpkins - Gish - what a great debut album!
5. Neil Young - Tonight's the Night - I always play this one. Over and over. Neil Young in a very dark period. Live, raw in the studio. Killer band of musicians. Exhilarating!
6. The White Stripes - Elephant - if somehow Robert Plant and Jimmy Page could have a boy child it would be Jack White. "Be like the squirrel."
7. Nirvana - Nevermind - Still sounds like a world changing album. Kurt Cobain - r&r genius. He found the formula and perfected it. Plus what balls out charisma. He brought his pain over with pure sonic energy. Still stunning!
8. Radiohead - Amnesiac - maybe the best band today. Not sure if you can call it rock and roll. Beautifully realized, complex soundscapes. Not one hummable tune or memorable chorus. Great, profound. I envy these guys - they have a following, with no compromises, and they seem to just follow their own artistic impulses.
9. Green Day - American Idiot - really hard power pop perfectly realized. Maybe Billie Joe Amstrong's finest creation? Some great lyrics. Holds together as a complete piece. Surprise!
10. The Who - Who's Next - they kind of opened the door on this kind of power pop. Maximum Rock and Roll. This is definitely their best studio album. But I think their live albums are even more impressive - Live at Leeds, Live at Isle of Wight - listen to them rip through their catalog at the height of their power. Take your breath away!
11. Pearl Jam - No Code - I think these guys might be the best rock and roll band in America. Eddie Vedder is a charismatic vocalist. Superb musicianship. No compromise. I don't play this often but it is exquisitely realized music. I need to get more Pearl Jam!