Beer and Pavement

Top 15 Albums/Beers

Posted in Rock vs. Beer by SM on September 20, 2010

Ah, the list. It’s the blogger’s best stand-by when he has nothing else about which to write[1]. Thankfully, Facebook provides a lot of ideas for lists.

Have you seen this one?:

The rules: Do this if it’s fun. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what albums you choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note — use the Tags box below the Body of the note.)

I have seen it over and over again. Of course, I didn’t want to do it in Facebook. I mean, I need blog ideas[1]. Screw Facebook and their notes. This is how I roll.

1. Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Some folks go for the album before[2] or the album after[3], but this is the quintessential Pavement album for me. I wore my dubbed copy out. I remember putting it in on a drive one summer afternoon to Columbus from my parents’ house and wishing the drive would never end. It’s such a perfect, perfect record. Makes me smile every time. “So drunk in the August sun/And you’re the kind of girl I like/Because you’re empty and I’m empty/And you can never quarantine the past…”

2. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
Cinematic and wretched from beginning to end, this was the one time the Whigs got everything absolutely right. It was the realization of a promise made on their early Sub Pop records that hinted at such greatness. However, the success of this one masterpiece caused the band to bloat with excess (particularly Greg Dulli). A highlight is Scrawl’s Marcy Mays on “My Curse” and the four minutes and twenty-one seconds of “Fountain at Fairfax.” God. I could scream to this record all night long.

3. Modest Mouse – This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Talk About
This record was so sad and depressing[4] that it was flat-out angry at that sadness. It described exactly where I was at that particular time in my life. Disillusion. Hopelessness. Sometimes we need art that makes us feel like we’re not the only one’s who feel the way we do. Modest Mouse was so fast, so immediate at this point in their history. There was an energy you could see in people’s eyes as we just talked about this band and the one or two times we were lucky enough to see them in-person. When I listen to folks near or just past the end of college discuss this unknown band or that one, I remember those days when I put this record on heavy rotation, dubbed it over and over for all my friends, and eventually bought the CD as well just so I could listen to it wherever I wanted. I feel sad that people don’t know this Modest Mouse[5], but that sadness also brings with it a sense of pride and ownership. 1996 Modest Mouse was my Modest Mouse.

4. Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle
This band was just so raw and punk-perfect in the mid-90’s and here’s the document to prove it. “Web in Front” is maybe the most cherished weed anthem never heard. I started throwing around the term “rawk” about this time as it was the only proper way to describe the sound coming out of my speakers. Eric Bachman has to be one of the top-5 or at least 10 frontmen to come out of this era of underground/college/indie rock[6]. He’s turned out to be a great songwriter, but those of us who played the shit out of Icky Mettle already knew that.

5. The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
That shit I wrote about it being OK to love sad music because it helps us feel not so alone, I stole that and badly paraphrased Wayne Coyne for that bit of philosophy. He said something to that effect when I saw the tour supporting this record. In fact, I hated The Soft Bulletin when I first heard it. I wanted the rock band version of the Flaming Lips back, but I listened to this record over and over, trying to understand what I was missing. Then, I saw them play it live with all those silly theatrics they’ve made old hat[7]. It was super low-tech in those days as well, but the imagery and Wayne’s incessant narratives helped make sense of it all. This record is so big and heartfelt, you can’t help but smile as it tells its sad, sad stories.

6. Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On
In 1997, Built to Spill released a record on a major label, something none of us thought we’d ever see. I bought Perfect from Now On anyway. Expecting their new corporate overlords to reap the benefits of short, catchy pop-punk euphoria captured on earlier releases, I was completely knocked on my ass as three six-minute songs of spralling guitar godsmanship opened  me into another world of hurt, loss, hope, pain, and possibility. What a fucking great record they pulled off and all on Warner’s dime. Instead of 17 poppy tween anthems, Bugs Bunny’s company received eight monstrous tracks they didn’t know what to do with. And they’re still paying for it to this day.

7. Yo La Tengo – Electro Pura
Admittedly, this record might be sandwiched by two superior efforts, but neither have the context in which this record grew with me. Each song for me has a story that corresponds with my life. One track even bookends years of heartbreak before some emotional breakthroughs. There’s the soft-loud-soft dynamic, Hammond organs galore, and some gut-wrenching moments that still get me.

8. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
“New Slang” was a great song before McDonald’s and Natalie Portman bastardized it. I don’t care what you say. Of course, the record is more than one track. The pop on this record is so rich and full, it had to be covered with some mystic production to make it all bearable to the indie elite. It’s short and to the point without being obvious. It’s a dancer and background music at the same time. It’s so many things to so many people and it should be in your collection.

9. Cursive – Domestica
I never thought I’d hear another album with as much hurt as Gentlemen until I heard this one. Cursive are largely overlooked as a great indie band at the end of the century, but this was a masterpiece. The hurt and pain one feels in a break-up, no matter the circumstances, is rarely realized. Tim Kasher wrote the absolute perfect break-up album…That is, if you hate your ex.

10. The Thermals – The Body, the Blood, the Machine
Nazis and the Bible. That’s the subject matter this great rock record covers. As far as the music, it’s easily the most awe-inspiring and complete record the Thremals have recorded to date. I like everything else they’ve done, but I LOVE THIS FUCKING RECORD TO SHREDS. And it only helps the imagery and energy in the music that it was written and recorded at the end of the Bush debacle[8]. I saw The Thermals support this record and danced my angry, liberal ass off with a bunch of teen-agers and didn’t feel weird about it at all.

11. Chavez – Ride the Fader
Ride the Fader is by far the biggest and best headphones record ever recorded. Period. I mean, it opens with a roller coaster’s roar leading into the opening guitar licks. The only thing that equals the power of this album is the musicianship which accompanies. I’m bobbing my head right now just remembering how this record feels.

12. Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand
I remember slipping this cassette tape into my parent’s van’s tape deck to only be blown away by what must have been a long lost Beetles demo. Of course, it was not the Beetles, nor the Who. Guided By Voices were such a huge part of growing up indie in Ohio circa 1994. I have too many Bob Pollard stories to tell that wouldn’t fit this space[9]. Just know that this record is what started an obsession with GBV, lo-fi, and indie rock forever.

13. Liz Phair – Exhile in Guyville
I became a feminist on this record. Somehow, Liz Phair’s ability to say what only men had said before her made it all very clear to me. Sure, this record was pure titillation for a young man discovering his sexuality, but it was so much more. Liz Phair answered the mother-fucking-Rolling Stones with her first record. That takes balls…er…ovaries the size of basketballs. I understood that she had a right to take whatever stance she wanted. I understood that despite her male counterparts doing the exact same thing, she would be judged differently. I understood that this record would always mean something to me. It transformed me like few other records have.

14. The Breeders – Last Splash
As far as I’m concerned, this record blew away any and all Pixies efforts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pixies. It’s just that the Deal sisters made this album work at the perfect moment. It was a perfect storm of sorts. It’s simple, a shambles, and it rocks.

15. The Walkmen – You & Me
I don’t really know why this record hits me so hard or why I always turn to it when I need something good to listen to. It just works. I think it has something to do with the Walkmen finally recording the album we all knew they were capable of or putting together a group of songs that represent all the band’s promise. I don’t know what it is. i just know that it’s good.

Eventually, someone decided to list 15 Beers…

1. Stone Ruination
This beer was my gateway into craft beers. Those 22-ouncers with their imposing gargoyle painted directly on the glass dared me to try this beer. Then it dared me to ever taste beer the same way again. I relented and began my search for the hoppiest beers money can buy. Truly, this beer ruined me forever.

2. Columbus Pale Ale
This was the only beer I drank in Columbus, OH. It used to seem so heavy to me, but it’s always been a good stand-by. Pints and pints were consumed at Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Brainiac, Archers of Loaf…The list goes on and on. This beer’s residual effect has to be considered within this context.

3. Bell’s Hopslam
This beer helped me understand what a “big beer” was. God. Honey, Simcoe, grapefruit, malt, booze, etc. And it only comes out once a year, causing a frenzy in middle Missouri.

4. Bell’s Expedition Stout
This is absolutely the tastiest of the tasty imperial stouts. Sweet, boozy, hoppy, syrupy, thick. If this beer was an album, it would be a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion record. I’m thinking Mo Width or Orange.

5. Russian River Supplication
The dude who bought this for me said it was maybe his favorite. It certainly sets the standard for barrel-aged, cherry-soaked sours. Man, I want another one of these right now.

6. Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster
I feel like I discovered this beer. No one talks about it, but I know it’s greatness. It’s malty, hoppy, and so balanced for a big DIPA. And it’s from Ohio to boot.

7. New Belgium La Folie
This was my first sour. And while it’s not as good in the 22-ounce bottles as it was in the big 750-mL beasts, it’s still a palate-cleanser of the highest order.

8. Dogfish Head India Brown Ale
While I am not a huge brown ale guy, this beer goes perfectly with any dish. The sweet maltiness and balance provided by the enormous amount of hops works with nearly any food you can conjure, especially Booche’s burgers.

9. Three Floyds Alpha King
What a glorious stand-by this is. If you can get your hands on some Alpha King, do it yesterday. It’s certainly no pale ale as the label might suggest and it’s definitely more than your average APA (whatever that is). If you want hops, balance, drinkability, this is the beer you must have.

10. Mikkeller 1,000 IBU
This beer should be undrinkable. After the brewers added more hops than once thought possible, they added more. Then, they added hop oils when there was no more room for anymore hops. For a beer that bitter, you’d think the brewers would have to add so much malt and sugar that the beer would be approaching hard liquor territory. Somehow, they made it work. It’s a brilliant example of modern ingenuity for sure.

11. Avery Maharaja
Citrus and malty sweetness in this huge beer that changes with each edition. We go ape-shit for this beer in middle Missouri every time a new series is brewed. Then we spend hours debating which version is best. It’s like arguing which Pavement record is the greatest. There are no right answers. It’s variation from series to series is basically as close to a beer holiday as we ever get in these parts.

12. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
One would think that the quirky brewery from Delaware couldn’t brew a big, beautiful DIPA. One would be wrong. Much in the same way that Russian River defies its tradition of sour ales with its epic lineup of IPA’s and DIPA’s, Dogfish Head sets the standard for the hophead’s typical drink du jour. 90 Minute is a near perfect example of the style. It may very well be the standard to which others are held.

13. Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
Most lists like this one have chosen Goose Island’s more popular and more abundantly available Bourbon County Stout, but this one nearly made me fall over upon the first sip. Normally, I am lukewarm  to coffee stouts, but this syrupy mess of a beer overwhelms the senses so much that I can still taste it months later.

14. The Bruery Saison Rue
I’m just getting to know The Bruery and haven’t even come close to trying all their beers. Their take on the saison is by far my favorite. It’s actually rich instead of just light or bombarded with brettanomyces. Balanced and thoroughly enjoyable, this beer just makes me want to try more from The Bruery.

15. #2 Brewing’s Wowee Zowee
Aside from a barley wine I brewed, this was my first foray into imperial beers. I put a pound of hops, including the citrusy goodness of Simcoe and Citri, in this bad-boy and it turned out great. It was just a sticky, bitter mess and I enjoyed every last drop, plus it was dedicated to the Pavement album by the same name.

1No, I have plenty to say. Of course, my sudden 3-4 week break suggests otherwise. I’ve just been busy.
2Slanted and Enchanted is a freaking great album. It may have defined nineties indie rock in my humble opinion. That said, it is more of a lead-in for Crooked Rain than a strong debut. It is somewhat incomplete and lacking refinement. It’s a far cry from their lo-fi beginnings, but it doesn’t attain the sophistication and craft exhibited in its follow-up.
3Wowee Zowee is an album very near and dear to my heart. It might be described as “difficult” or “unapproachable” or “for stoners” by some, but it’s still a great, great record. I just feel Crooked Rain is a more complete, coherent record. That’s all.
4Yes, this is a theme. It’s for good reason. Sad and depressing music is just more interesting.
5Instead, you most of you know “Float On” era Modest Mouse. It just isn’t the same. Sure, I’ve enjoyed some of their recent records, but really is not the same.
6If not, he was at least the most imposing. Imagine a cross between Glenn Danzig and Thurston Moore. Bachman is like 6’5″ or something. He obviously liked to work out and was just a big dude.
7Well, sans giant, neon vaginas.
8Which I am sure was not an accident. The parallels of the Bush presidency’s abuse of religious zealotry closely resembles that of the Holocaust. Sure, Bush was no Hitler, but one can see similarities in both their approaches in using fervent nationalism as means to their destructive ends.
9And I’m not even going to use the footnotes to tell you stories either.
At this point, I’ll quit footnoting so that I can publish this post and move on.

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4 Responses

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  1. Jeff said, on September 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I like how we’re almost polar opposites music-wise while at the same time being almost identical twins beer-wise.

    And yes, the Lake Erie Monster is a great find!

  2. Steve said, on September 21, 2010 at 3:32 am

    Nice idea. I might just have to copy it. As soon as I read the premise, I thought of Gentlemen, so I may have to pick that one too. Such a great, great record, and glad you highlighted ‘My Curse’ – I think that is the record’s pivot. Such a genius idea to have a ‘right to reply’ on a record.

  3. doublewordscore said, on October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    You should cut Warner some slack. They sign a few good bands, and seem to give them relative artistic freedom. Besides Built to Spill, they’ve also had the Flaming Lips since forever and recently signed indie heartthrobs Surfer Blood. They also have Mastadon (who I like), REM (who I used to like), the Films (who make the kind of music that should be top 40), and Jenny Lewis (who I’ve never understood). Granted, they’ve merged with Reprise, who were kind of dicks about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

    The real reason I’m posting this is what’s up with the Tumblr? You’re quitting?

  4. Benjamin said, on October 6, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Granted, I still like almost everything Modest Mouse has released since Good News… but I discovered The Moon and Antarctica in 2003 and couldn’t help but feel like something had been given to me, then quickly snatched away. Classic bait and switch.

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