THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
This entry is about as schizophrenic as any I’ve ever done, at least to me, since it’s taken me about two weeks to cobble it together. Usually I do a 10 song chunk of the countdown in one sitting, but I started this one weeks ago and was unable to finish. I’ve added a couple entries to it since then, but found I wasn’t in the mood to continue and tabled it. This morning I polished off the last few and now here it is.
It’s pretty hard to refer to anything Anthrax does as a “ballad”, this being no exception, although the term has been bastardized enough over the years that this is as close to qualifying as anything they’ve ever done. Slow, moody, stripped of the ferocious energy that usually accompanies their sound, it is to their catalogue much like “Fade To Black” or “One” were to Metallica. I’m not sure they could have pulled this off in the days of Joey Belladonna, but new vocalist John Bush brought a different vibe to their material and opened them up to be able to be a little more traditional. Dig the twisted video featuring a pre-Dharma And Greg Jenna Elfman.
Picking up the mantle from Abba, this Swedish pop act came out of nowhere to land a bunch of hits in America in the early 90’s, most notable being “The Sign”. I always found that one kind of grating (much like Abba), but for some reason this more laid back track got stuck in my head back in the day. Sometimes that just happens with this kind of mechanical dance pop and I always find it’s just best not to think too deeply about it and enjoy it for the change of pace that it is. The less said the better.
Local guys from Boston who squeezed out a lone mini-album on Relativity Records before shuffling back to obscurity. Damn shame too, because I really love the sound they found, being built around a very traditional metal base but with very thoughtful, almost prog-like playing. This song in particular finds this really groovy pocket and just sits in it, the drummer bringing some really interesting fills to the mix. The vocalist also reminds a bit of the aforementioned John Bush (Anthrax), although a little less ragged. Killer guitar solo rips off at about the 2:30 mark. (They get a bit of a skatepunk vibe going on the album’s single/video “Larry”, which also features a cool solo.)
Poison’s one album dalliance with guitarist Ritchie Kotzen was an excellent record that unfortunately came out at the wrong time. The lead single “Stand” got some decent airplay, but the album disappeared soon after. It didn’t help that the Kotzen was ousted for having an affair with the drummer’s fiancé (allegedly), but in truth grunge killed this record more than anything. Pity, because Kotzen’s playing is phenomenal on the album, replacing C.C. DeVille’s candy-coated pop metal riffing with some tasty solos and just generally upping the musicianship throughout. Kotzen’s gritty vocal style also provided a nice contrast to Bret Michaels, giving the songs an added dimension when he added backing vox. This song was never pushed as a single, but remains my favorite track off the album, finding a nice groove and really showcasing all the stuff I mentioned above.
I’ve struggled over the years to find a true appreciation for Robert Plant’s solo material because it is just so desperately not-Zeppelin that my brain can’t process it. I’ve loved a number of his bigger hits (“Big Log”, “Tall Cool One”, “Ship Of Fools”, to name a few) but I have never given his albums the attention they were due. Fate Of Nations was no different, laying to rot in my CD collection for years before I started working on this project. I threw a bunch of tracks onto my iPod and was constantly surprised when they popped up by how much I enjoyed them. It shouldn’t really have been a surprise, I mean its Robert Fucking Plant after all, but in my head I had long ago dismissed the album as not worth my time. Anyway, I really love the twangy riff on this one, so it gets the nod here, although I could easily make a case for “I Believe” or even “Calling To You” in its place. Either way the album is chock full of great songs and given another couple of years might rate better on this list than one measly entry.
The first cover of the proper countdown, hip-hop act P.M. Dawn takes (what else?) a Beatles tune and makes it their own. They’ve always crossed back and forth between traditional rap and more RNB and this track is much more the latter. I’ve always found their soft harmonies to be really appealing and the little twig of guitar squeal they thread throughout this song is cool.
The apology in this instance should probably go from me to all the Nirvana crazies in my circle for putting this – the only track from the band’s final album to make the countdown – so low. Or maybe the apology should be from Curt Cobain to me, for making me listen to this horrible collection of noise. Seriously, I’m not sure there’s a more over-rated album in history given the number of people who consider In Utero a masterpiece. This is the only tune from the whole mess I could ever really appreciate, what with its bopping rhythm and Curt’s half-assed vocal delivery that somehow manages to charm. Yeah, we should probably just move on.
This oddball side project from Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard and some low-level Seattle luminaries kind of surprised me back in the day, delivering a quirky, moody record that I kept going back to against my base instincts for reasons I’m still not sure I can articulate. This tune, with its incessant guitar strumming underneath and thwomping bassline just dares you to ignore it. You can’t. That beat is infectious without beating you over the head. This is the kind of song we would put on at Tower just to see how many people browsing the store would start unknowingly bopping their head along to it. Good times.
First off, Juliana Hatfield is adorable. Just need to get that out of the way. As is this song, just a breezy little piece of indie pop that doesn’t try to tackle the world’s problems but rather just takes you back to moments of teenage silliness that seemed like a bigger deal than they wound up being. The instrumentation here is so sparse and yet the song still manages to somehow sound full, if that makes sense (which it really doesn’t). I struggle to sit through full albums of acts like this as I get a little itchy for something more forceful before the whole thing is done, but the individual songs usually rate high with me. Such is music.
If you’re a fan of southern style rock along the lines of the Allman Brothers then you owe it to yourself to give the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies a listen. In addition to having a totally awesome name, they pump out a rockin’, grooovin’, swingin’ style of rock that never really goes out of style. This one’s very much in the same vein as Blues Traveler, the guitars more jangly than riffy, the beat a bit more skip-n-play than rock-n-pound (though they can do both), and yeah, they kinda rip off the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” “woo-hoo” bit, but who cares. This is a killer summer tune (and album) that just makes me feel good whenever I listen to it. Just doing so now has me looking forward to warmer weather so I can dust off this album for the next great road trip.
So there we are, after two-and-a-half weeks of inactivity I’m back on the trail. I wish I could promise to be back with a vengeance and really start pumping these babies out with more consistency, but with one show a day away from opening and another five days away from auditions, the theater geek in me is winning out over the music geek. C’est la vie.