Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles
This album is such a deserving classic. Singer Ian McCullogh's Hinderberg ego had yet to crash on the Jersey shore of near-pop-stardom. It contains two of their three greatest songs, "Do It Clean" and "Rescue", and the overall mood of this record, the sparse thud of it, supports the romantic melancholia of the early eighties with an efficacy their more dour contemporaries could never muster.
Like with Joy Division, you could tell Ian Curtis was really falling apart at the seams, but unless you were yourself, you couldn't truly relate, as you couldn't to the Freudian collapse of Jim Morrison a decade earlier. You admire these figures for the bare nerve endings poking out the sides of their highly charged music, but ultimately, they were clowns in gloomy Mancunian/blistering Aneglino opera buffa of their own staging.
Echo & The Bunnymen, at least in the early years, were Everymen pushed to that brink, a cliff overlooking a choppy river of failing economies and The Cold War. Instead of milking Nazi imagery and Oedip0-narcissism, E&TB swooned wanting you to come on down to my rescue. They make paranoia and existential schism all teenagery and sexy, like flipping your asymetric haircut off your eyes as you nervously look over your shoulder.
The National - Alligator
A classic of equal stature to Crocodiles. A concert by The National spurred me to start writing about music for local magazines, because it made me angry that the place wasn't packed to see the best band of the year performing the best album of the year. Alligator shimmers like sunlight on the waves of a lake. So sad. When I saw them, one of the women around me said, "I think that guy really needs a hug" and damn he did. You thought he was going to break into tears or throw down the mike and dart out. I caught him to tell him Alligator was at the top of my list for the year, and he just shuddered, "Yeah, we get that a lot," not in a cocky asshole way, but in a way that expresses the futility of accolade in a life of suffering.
"Lit Up" is the finest portrait of being gloriously drunk, when you rise on a tide of your growing intoxication -
Cuz you're the low life of the party, bad blood
Bad blood for everybody
I'm in control and I believe
But the song that kills me every single time is "Baby, We'll Be Fine" whose whole first half is worth looking at
All night I lay on my pillow and pray
For my boss to stop me in the hallway
Lay my head on his shoulder and say
Son, I've been hearing good things
I wake up without warning and go flying around the house
In my sauvignon fierce, freaking out
Take a forty-five minute shower and kiss the mirror
And say, look at me
Baby, we'll be fine
All we gotta do is be brave and be kind
I put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile
I don't know how to do this
I'm so sorry for everything
Anyone who has entered the fluorescent lit purgatory of white-collar industry feels these button-down Beckett words like a jab to the ribcage. If they don't, I'm tempted to say their souls were already dead when they arrived and they will thrive in that polluted soil, or that their souls are hermetically sealed behind so many layers of plastic that it smothers in its own juices.
Otis Redding - Otis Blue
Man, crippling anxiety and existential crisis is fun! But, sometimes you need a slow swing that doesn't have a wrecking ball or a balled-up fist on the end. Happy Sunday, motherfuckers. Try to unwind a little and not kill anyone, OK?