Pitchfork runs an occasional column called 5-10-15-20 which “features people talking about the music that made an impact on them throughout their lives, five years at a time.” Since I’m inching slowly towards 40 (yikes) this year, I decided to take a shot at tackling the list.
5 (1979): Dukes of Hazzard theme
I don’t know why, but this suburban New York kid loved Hee Haw and the Dukes of Hazzard. Pretty much all of my early musical appreciation came from television theme songs, like Welcome Back Kotter, Knight Rider and Silver Spoons. But the Dukes theme was the best, it told the story, but had humor and the General Lee, and that’s all a 4 year-old me needed.
10 (1984): Van Halen – 1984
I went to Catholic grade school, and a kid in my class brought in this album to show off. He got sent home from school because the cover features a smoking angel, but I doubt he got in trouble with his parents since they lets us watch R-rated Chuck Norris films when we hung out. All of the videos on newly discovered MTV were great, especially Hot for Teacher for a 10 year-old on the verge of puberty.
15 (1989): Aerosmith – Pump
I didn’t know the history of Aerosmith, the outstanding 70s output and the diminishing returns in the 80s, so when Pump came out, it was a clean slate with me. This was one of the first albums that, after hearing a single on the radio, and seeing a video on MTV, felt compelled to run out to a local music stores and buy the cassette. I was also mesmerized by the Janie’s Got a Gun video, and it wasn’t until this year did I discover David Fincher was the director, which makes sense since Fincher is now one of my favorite directors.
20 (1994): Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
While I liked Ten and vs., for some reason Vitalogy really connected me. It was weirder, harsher, more obtuse and less commercial (for Pearl Jam). It was the first time I ever went to a midnight sale (remember those?), and stood outside Finder’s Music in Bowling Green for an hour waiting to buy the cd. It sounded like Pearl Jam, but musically exploding and imploding at the same time. Even the packaging was different, forgoing the regular plastic jewel box for a booklet resembling an old medical textbook. I poured over that document like Nicholas Cage in a National Treasure movie, trying to find hidden text and meanings.
25 (1999): The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
I’ll admit that I didn’t take The Flaming Lips seriously up until this point. I thought of them as a fluke one-hit wonder, with ramshackle production and an annoying lead vocalist. And then they dropped this bomb of introspective and sophisticated psychedelia. I had heard the term “head phone album” before, and listened to those albums, but this was the first one that came out in my current timeline that really became a repeated head phone listen. The production, the songwriting, this was a peak the Lips never IMO returned to, though the tried admirably.
30 (2004): Annie – Anniemal
The ’00s were a weird time for music. Garage rock came back, a bunch of bands discovered Gang of Four, Coldplay replaced U2 as the biggest band on the planet, Muse took off while Radiohead disappeared up their own arse, and electronic music moved into the mainstream after bands like Prodigy and Chemical Brothers failed to destroy rock. Although gingerly, I dipped my toe in the electronic pop explosion, and without question my guiltiest of pleasures was Annie. Sugar sweet with tons of attitude, along with the 80s synth-plosions by Chromeo, Anniemal was a breath of fresh air in a dark decade. It’s not a surprise that, soon after, my Garageband creations started incorporating a lot of drum loops and synths.
35 (2009): Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers
Too many great bands from the UK and Australia have never caught on in the US. In a way, that’s worked out well for me, because when the Manic Street Preachers decided to become prolific in the back end of the decade, I was lucky enough to catch them at a 1,000 seat venue in Detroit, instead of a 100,000 stadium in Europe. After discovering them in the late 90s, the Manics quickly became a personal favorite, and this return to their darker side, thanks to lyrics penned by long missing guitarist Richey James Edwards, only kicked my fandom up another notch.
40(ish) (2014): The Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast
This isn’t a perfect record, but Greg Dulli has never made a perfect record. He’s also never made a bad record. When the Beast sizzles, it does so with bravado and confidence few artists in the modern era can match. Like a Pulp Fiction style shot of adrenaline to the ticker, this album reinvigorated my love of music in a way that had been dipping in recent years.