For this very special edition of Heavy Rotation, I’ve decided to run down my top 5 all-time favorite bands. These are the bands that soundtracked my second childhood, which started as soon as I exited my first childhood/family home.
I was a little behind the times, musically speaking. My parents were very religious which meant that rock (denoted as “secular”) was forbidden and so any music I heard was piped in by a Walkman under my pillow. I did get to listen to Christian rock, which is… well, it’s just fucking terrible stuff. Hank Hill said it best (referring to Christian rockers): “You’re not making music better. You’re just making Christianity worse.”
Consequently, I stumbled onto my favorite bands often after they had already broken up. (Never mind the bittersweet feeling of having lived long enough to see many of them reform, but at the time it seemed a little unfair.)
First listened to the Pixies in 1993. Their last album was released in 1991. The Cure? 1992. Their last album? Well, they’ve had many “last” albums, but for all intents and purposes, Disintegration (1989) was their last great one. The JAMC? 1993. Their next album, Stoned and Dethroned, had me swear off any purchases of their future albums. Love & Rockets? 1993. At that point they were four years removed from the success of So Alive and on permanent hiatus. Skinny Puppy? 1993. Last Rights was one year old and the band had broken up following the heroin implosion that was their modus operandi.
So, of course, they’ve all gotten back together for albums or tours by this point, but during my belated teen angsting it just seemed that God (or somebody) hated me by taunting me with a finite supply of music from my favorite bands.
Previous, less special, versions here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives
Pixies – No. 13 Baby
My favorite band ever with my favorite song ever, if my maths is right. First stumbled across them on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack with their song Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf). Rushed right out and bought Bossanova, which I discovered sounded nothing like that song, but also like nothing else I’d heard before (keep in mind, Nirvana hadn’t fully taken off yet).
Taken from 1989’s Doolittle album, this song features two odd features:
1. It runs nearly 4 minutes long when most of their catalog barely clears the 2.5 minute mark
2. It fades out over an extended (for them) wordless groove.
It’s about strange women and tattoos. More importantly, as you’ll find in the chorus, it’s about tattoo placement.
And then there’s this:
I want brown eyes la loma
You can take that shit to the bank.
I had this shirt and I wore it all the fucking time.
Recommended listening: Well, you really can’t go wrong with any of the Pixies albums, but considering that their last two (Bossanova, Trompe Le Monde) tended to reflect Black Francis’ alien fetish, your best bet is to pick up Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. Both are loaded with darkness and dynamic shifts as well as the occasional profanity.
The Cure – All Cats Are Grey
Lumped in with the goth scene for no apparent reason, the Cure spent the greater part of a decade releasing some of the finest albums on the planet (1979-1989). This comes from 1981’s Faith, which is a joyride all the way through, following up on the synth additions of Seventeen Seconds and working as a prelude for the suicidal nihilism of 1984’s Pornography.
“Haunting” does the job to describe this track, as does “funereal,” but don’t let that scare you away. Eerie and atmospheric, the way the Cure was always meant to be.
Recommended listening: I can wholeheartedly recommend any album up to (and including) 1989’s Disintegration (my personal favorite). After that, things tend to get a bit spotty as Robert Smith seemed to be more focused on possible mainstream breakthroughs/possible full band breakups.
Love & Rockets – Haunted (When the Minutes Drag)
The best thing that ever happened to Bauhaus, Love & Rockets saw three of the founding members form their own psych-pop monster while still retaining their original haircuts.
Best known for their inescapable So Alive single, L&R released several albums that covered ground from goth-pop to Beatles-esque psychedelia to underground electronica. This track comes from their debut album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. Originally two separate tracks written by Daniel Ash and David J, respectively, Haunted… is nowhere near the soundclash it should be. Instead it’s an aching song of desire and near-obsession that morphs into a kiss-off/dedication to the unnamed object all packed into the ambiguous but pointed phrase: “And this is for when you feel nothing.”
I have this logo tattooed on my arm, done by perhaps the worst tattooist in the Greater Midwest. So, no, I won't be showing it off.
Recommended listening: Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, Express and Sweet F.A. are the strongest. The rest of their albums all have something to recommend but until you’ve decided that this is the band for you, you might find their genre-hopping to be a bit frustrating and definitely uneven.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Who Do You Love
Another soundtrack band. Heard them on the Encino Man soundtrack of all places with an awesomely fucked up love song called Why’d You Want Me. Tracked down their debut album first and fell head over heels for the sustained feedback, dark lyrics and towering hair.
This is by no means my favorite track by the Scottish brothers (that would be Upside Down which is 2:34 of someone shoving a cheap guitar through an amplifier) but it was the best I could find on the youtubes.
A truly wicked deconstruction of the song popularized by George Thorogood. Slowed down to half-speed, alternately drawled and howled and punctuated by the siren call of feedback.
Recommended listening: Their first four albums, with Psychocandy and Darklands being the standouts. As they went on, they got more satisfied with their very competent drum machine and tended to dial back the feedback. Beware of Stoned and Dethroned, which ditches their sound completely and much of their lyrical bite. Also worth buying: their first two b-sides collections (Barbed Wire Kisses and The Sound of Speed) which include some of the finest music never to grace a proper album.
Skinny Puppy – Icebreaker
Here’s the point where most of you will say, “Those are all pretty well-known altrock touchstones and etc., but where’s the ringer?”
Skinny Puppy, Canada’s foremost noise terrorists. Fronted by Nivek Ogre, Skinny Puppy laid the groundwork for industrial dancefloors with their sonic nightmares. Of course, this ground was somewhat paved already by the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, but Skinny Puppy took the ball and ran with it.
This track comes from Bites, an album that sounded like nothing else in 1983. Full of twisted electronics coughing up damaged chords and distortion, all swirling around Nivek’s bark and several menacing samples.
Recommended listening: Other than their album The Process, everything else is runs the gamut from good-outstanding (although I am unfamiliar with their reformed output). I’m partial to Bites, Remission, Back & Forth Series 1, Too Dark Park and Last Rights. Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate and Rabies can be put on the back burner until the other albums have been given a good rinse.
Here’s a taste of their understated live work:
All tunes in one nostalgic zip file of way-backness.
Heavy Rotation Vol. 19 (link will open in a new window)
[All music posted on Fancy Plans… is kick ass and too awesome to be contained. All music is also posted temporarily and, due to its high level of ass-kicking, should not be distributed without a prescription and care should be taken while operating heavy equipment or dancing around the living room (clothing optional, but do remember that the blinds are open/kids are still awake).
Should you wish to have your brilliant artistic statement forced back into confinement, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to leave a comment, as that will probably be noticed sooner.
By all means, if you like what you hear (and you will), please support the totally rocking artist(s) by purchasing some music or heading out to see them live.]