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Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite Songs of 1999

I just read that light from the brightest star in the universe is only now arriving at Earth billions of years after first departing. Yet here we are celebrating the imminent arrival of the year 2000. Now that makes complete sense! Admittedly 2,000 years is still cool, but imagine the party we'd have if we counted from the very beginning and it was now the year 9,999,999 getting ready to flip to the year 10,000,000. I wonder if current computer code could handle such a monumental rollover? If not, the whole world could go up in smoke! Or maybe nothing would happen at all. Just in case, I'm digging a bunker under my house and transferring copies of my record collection accordingly. In the meantime, here are the songs we loved from 1999 ranked from lowest to highest in mixtape format, the only way we know to document our musical evolution over time. It's only taken 25 years to get here, too. Talk about efficiency.

What's in the box?! Ahhhh, what's in the fucking box!?


26 "Alphabet Aerobics (The Cut Chemist 2 1/2 Minute Workout)" | Blackalicious

All the credentials one needs to claim the title Gift of Gab can be found in the shotgun alliterative verse of “Alphabet Aerobics,” an astonishing achievement and an amazing, amusing assemblage of artfully accumulating audio attacks arranged alphabetically. Here, Gab runs through the whole fucking alphabet in less than two-minutes without stopping, so be prepared to be awed at his verbal dexterity. It took me forever to come up with enough words for “A” alone, let alone trying to parse out the whole goddamned alphabet, complete with the high scoring Scrabble letters like J, Q, X, and Z. This novelty spiel is a pretty good way to start a mixtape, too. Just fire this up, let it run wild for 26 letters (hence, the 26th song on this mix), drop the mic, and then get to the real meat of 1999. Here we go.

25 "Go Faster" | The Black Crowes

The whole appeal of the Black Crowes, at least for me, is they are one of those bands that could go off the rails at any second for myriad reasons. The brothers Robinson could clash (and do) at any time, alcohol or drugs could force an unexpected hiatus, band members could leave and be replaced, and most importantly, their music could crash and burn like a train carrying hazardous cargo through a residential area. And don’t expect only one factor to present itself at a time. Things don't run that way in the Crowes camp. But for better or worse that can also be a recipe for great rock & roll, too, and I’m selfish enough to encourage a little internal combustion in exchange for four-minutes of reckless Black Crowes mania. In any dysfunctional band, dubious decisions will pave the way for a head-on collision eventually, so if the roads are slippery and you're careening too close to a steep cliff, the only solution, in the minds of such a band, is to speed up. "Go Faster" is a song to soundtrack the whole, wild ride.

24 "Get Up" | Sleater-Kinney

If there was an Alternative Rock Hall of Fame, and may there never be one, Sleater-Kinney would be an obvious choice for enshrinement. As with any great long-running band, I've listened to them differently over the years, appreciating different aspects of their music as my curiosities shift. Lately, I've been focusing on their lyrics, which I sometimes overlooked inside of Corin's cyclonic wails or Carrie's interjected counterpoint-vocals. Revisiting "Get Up," from 1999's The Hot Rock, has been especially rewarding. I think I picked a good time to circle back to it because there's all kind of personal subtext to it now that I didn't have going on 25 years ago.

And when the body finally starts to let go

Let it all go at once

Not piece by piece

But like a whole bucket of stars

Dumped into the universe

As an aging decrepit man, this seems like sage advice. I may even have this verse posthumously tattooed on my lower back (a troubled spot) to ensure proper handling when the time comes.

23 "Let's Shack Up Together" | June & the Exit Wounds

I was charmed by this record back in 1999 and I’m equally charmed by it 25 years later. Don’t be fooled by the punk sounding band name, this is a sophisticated indie-pop record clearly indebted to the Beach Boys, but not in an annoyingly derivative way (plenty of falsetto vocals, though). Yep, that’s Brian Jones in the frame on the cover, in homage to the premiere one-man studiophile of all time. Todd Fletcher is no Brian Wilson, of course, but he is a self-contained apparatus, capable of playing and singing everything audible on A Little More Haven Hamilton, Please, the band’s debut record (title inspired by a character in Robert Altman’s 1972 cult classic film, Nashville). “Let’s Shack Up Together” is an indie-pop mini-symphony (but not to God) with just the right amount of Wilson-esque melancholy baked in. It’s a gorgeous little come-on, too, and it might just get you over with that girl or guy you’ve been sweet on since last summer.

22 "Chasing the Day" | Cast

I'm in the minority here I know, but I personally listen to my Cast playlist more than my Blur, Oasis, and Radiohead playlists combined. In fact, I haven't even made a Blur, Oasis, or Radiohead playlist yet. But I've been a Cast fan since their fantastic debut album, All Change, premiered in 1995 all the way to this year's comeback LP, Love is the Call. It doesn't matter if you think I'm overrating them or not (I am!), I can't help that I have an intangible response to the band's power-pop sound, whirlwind songwriting, and distinct vocals. Band frontman John Power (also a former member of the La's of "There She Goes" fame) consistently gives me just what I want from a pop record—about three or four killer new singles from every album. Magic Hour delivered my prescribed dose with thrilling playlist additions like "Beat Mama" and "Chasing the Day," the latter sounding like the best parts of about four songs combined into one. And for God's sake, give more Power-pop to the people.

21 "(We're Not) The Jet Set | John Prine & Iris DeMent

Covering a duet originally made famous by none other than country royalty, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, would be considered superfluous in most cases, but in the hands of John Prine and Iris DeMent, the song becomes something more, which is the mark of a successful new version of an old classic. The song, written by the legendary Bobby Braddock (who wrote what is often regarded as the greatest country song of all-time, George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and eleven other #1 hits over a span of 40 years) combines humor and heart in one endearing package. And if you’re looking for another songwriter who consistently marries those same two elements, look no further than national treasure John Prine. So theoretically, this song was a strong candidate when endeavored to make a duets record in 1999 titled In Spite of Ourselves. The only question remaining, then, was who could adequately fill Tammy’s shoes? Not an easy task for anybody, but Iris Dement was an inspired choice as she possesses one of the most instantly identifiable voices in modern American music, but doesn’t act like she's aware of that fact. Content to bide her long breaks between albums in the simple comfort of her rural Iowa home, there aren’t many people who embody the opposite of the “jet set” lifestyle more than her. With these two wholly distinct voices pairing up on this clever ode to the "Pack up the car, we're going on vacation!" school of getting away, it becomes less of a country-styled duet and more of a charming folk song sung by a real couple (though they weren't). The two really sell the concept, though. And any song that successfully rhymes “jet set” with “Chevro-let set” gets extra credit for the effort. In the end, a fun ride, even better than the original.

20 "Coquette" | Paul McCartney

This past month, I’ve been catching up on the great podcast McCartney: A Life in Lyrics and one thing that comes through loud and clear is Macca’s knowledge of and love for early rock & roll singles. Yes, we knew this already, but hearing him talk about the songs that bonded the early Beatles never gets old for me. McCartney revisited some of these songs in 1999* on his Run Devil Run album and it's no surprise he seemed energized by the process, bringing another gear with him into the studio when they were cut live with band. I rank it with his best-ever solo records. Perhaps some credit is due to wife Linda, who died one year prior. It acts as a tribute of sorts and I assume it felt good to let it rip after a year of grieving. The record has three originals, including the killer “What It Is,” but I’m drawn to “Coquette,” originally a jazz standard first recorded in 1928, but revived with a rock & roll swagger in 1958 by Fats Domino. Predictably, Domino's was the version McCartney fell in love with as a kid. Admittedly, I’m drawn to the song because it revives the generally dormant term for a woman who flirts to get what she wants. You little coquette! Ever since, I’ve spliced the word into my working vocabulary whenever possible. It’s one of those words that just works for me. And so does the choppy swing of the song. You can thank its jazz origins for that, even when Fats re-worked it the original’s halting tones came through with some added barroom panache thrown in to make it contemporary. Add in an inspired, playful McCartney vocal, cut live in the studio (with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar) and you’ve got a magic little biscuit that doesn’t last long, but will last forever.


*Paul also did an album of covers twelve years earlier on “The Russian Album” that was originally meant for release in Russia only, but eventually found its way to the rest of the world.

19 "Western Star" | Frank Black & the Catholics

I still stand behind Frank’s 1999 LP, Pistolero, although for most it made only a vague impression. I’m not sure why. As I run through the track list, I really dig the majority of the songs, and it feels to me that the creative restlessness that fueled Pixies was still alive when he cut it. That said, it is definitely a more conventional rock album compared to the legendary early discography of Pixies, so I can see why some might've been hoping for something different. Even in this format, Black is one of the more unpredictable and innovative songwriters to ever hit the alternative rock genre. “Western Star” fits thematically inside the Mexican Western film genre inferred by the album’s title and here Frank seems to see himself in the starring role of just such a movie—I mean, “How hard can it be / To be a Western star?” Don’t expect ambling tumbleweed ballads and slow-strolling horses from Frank, though, his Western is going to be something completely different, starting with this adrenalin rush of a rock song.

18 "Meteorite" | Cherry Twister

I’ve always been into power-pop, but I was especially addicted during its 1990s resurgence (which I align with the release of Material Issue’s International Pop Overthrow in 1991 and onward, but the genre never really stopped if you knew where to look). I subsequently fell into a David Koresh-esque sub-culture of quasi-brainwashed melody enthusiasts with a genetic predisposition for Beatle-esque pop, Beach Boys harmonies, and crunchy Big Star power chords. I even dedicated an issue of my nascent zine (Madcap) to my favorite power-pop records (see image below). While I managed to get my addiction under control somewhat around the turn of the century, tracks like Cherry Twister’s bouncy “Meteorite” didn’t make it easy to stay off the sauce, so to speak. A home demo made to sound like a live concert, the song starts out as a mild little ditty but then shifts into a second gear about 20 seconds into the song and I love how the "crowd" gets a jolt of energy at that very same moment. Totally charming, candy sweet, and executed with power-pop precision, this is one of my secret stash of songs that perks me up every time it pops up on a playlist. The rest of the album, At Home With Cherry Twister, is similarly habit-forming for the so inclined, and you know who you are.  

Madcap, issue #7

17 "Hide" | Matthew Sweet

For most, Sweet peaked with Girlfriend in 1991 and never topped it. While that is an accurate assessment, and his audience did recede steadily throughout the 90s, true fans can point you to numerous examples from the rest of the decade (and as recently as 2021) that prove his power-pop credentials never left him. While I wasn’t as in love with 93’s Altered Beast, 95’s 100% Fun, or 97’s Blue Sky on Mars, I do consider 1999’s In Reverse to be the second best Matthew Sweet album ever and possibly my most-played mainly because it is positively loaded with great songs that aren't the default choices for commercial radio. On top of that, some of Sweet's best ballads can be found on the record. The gorgeous “Hide” is a knee-buckling heartbreaker with a killer chorus, “Before I knew I had you / You were gone” that absolutely busts me up every time I hear it. You can hear the ache in Matthew’s slightly worn vocal, like this one was personal (and maybe still stings to this day). Identifying with this feeling is like getting a fresh punch in the stomach no matter how long it has been since you last felt this way. Cue awkwardly long session of staring out your bedroom window.

16 "Debra" | Beck

Even at the time, I casually wondered about the staying power of the songs on Beck’s fabulously preposterous Midnite Vultures, a loving pastiche of several different R&B styles and eras. In the short-term, I didn’t much care about that for Beck had delivered me a seemingly bespoke record centered around my twin proclivities—R&B music and madcap humor. What more could I ask for? I was delighted, having an absolute blast navigating through the funky corners of Beck’s always surprising creative mental library. In the long-term, history has proven that musical humor can weaken over time, either becoming outdated or just plain stale with repetition. Over the years, I’ve observed two things about for musical humor: 1) All humorous songs don’t necessarily have a short shelf-life, and 2) It’s almost impossible to predict which humorous songs will lose their impact and which ones will retain it. For me, Beck’s “Debra” hasn’t lost its impact and I can only speculate as to why. First, people have lots of nostalgia for funky songs that remind them of the 70s and 80s. Funk has proven to transcend time, even funk made by skinny white dudes. Second, guys will always fantasize about getting themselves into a threesome. “Debra” is a classic pickup line times-two and the ambition, to land a hot girl and her sister, while misguided, is at the very least comically rendered. I mean, while you’re at it, why not try to parlay a smaller bet into a giant three-way payday? Finally, Prince has proven to be a timeless artist for both men and women, so by mimicking his creepy hyper-sexuality, this song was able to ride on his purple coattails all the way to the bank.

15 "The Big Three Killed My Baby" | The White Stripes

Woman on train: So, do you work for one of the big brokerage houses?

George Costanza: They wish. I hate the big brokerage houses. Hate them with a passion.

Big brokerage houses killed my father.


A little politics from Jack White during the early days of the White Stripes, something he generally steered clear of throughout his time in the band. This raw cut finds the White Stripes in hungry, feral mode, not yet aware of their destiny, but laying it all out on a slab nonetheless because what other options were there really? Upholstery shop owner? Maybe, but that was never the long-term plan. If it was, Jack wouldn't have slipped lyric snippets inside his finished furniture. He knew his calling was elsewhere and this song proves it. Amazingly, all the key ingredients of the band's recipe are already present on this early single (which was later added to their self-titled debut). It's pummeling, supercharged, and nasty—no wonder Jack has such love for this album. Nothing else the White Stripes released sounds quite as thrillingly threadbare and unvarnished.

14 "Tony Adams" | Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

There's sporadic reggae throughout the Clash catalog, so it's not surprising some island beats, and other worldly influences, surface on Joe Strummer's solo albums, with his final LP even titled Global a Go-Go—that should tell you where his head was at post-Clash. His 1999 album, his first with new band the Mescaleros, was titled Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, and was moderately forgettable with the exception of a few choice cuts like the laid-back reggae groover, "Tony Adams." Tony Adams was a football player for Arsenal back in the 80s who had a high-profile battle with alcoholism complete with a very public recovery. While the song doesn't capture his story in linear fashion, the promise of a new day is palpable in its inspirational chorus. I hope Tony appreciated the positive vibrations.


13 "All the Small Things" | Blink-182

Ubiquity isn’t a crime, thankfully, or this indefatigable ditty would be doing life in song jail by now. Luckily for these one-time skater-boys, some songs just never seem to wear out and they made one of them. They may hate playing it these days, but I recommend they take Tony Bennett’s approach when asked if he hates singing his trademark song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” after all this time: “I love singing that song. It gave me the keys to the world.” So love what it gave you, not what you have to give to it. It’s no exaggeration to call this one of catchiest pop-punk songs of all-time and I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t go fucking nuts when it's injected into their daily lives, be it running errands, a backyard party, or a wedding reception. Carry me home.

12 "Wise Up" | Aimee Mann

On normal days, Aimee Mann (whose ankle I once caressed from the front row of a Til Tuesday concert) has a prevailing dour haze surrounding her. If you’re in an Aimee Mann mood, chances are the weather is cold, rainy, or foggy. It comes with her territory. That’s a little unfair of me, but one listen to “Wise Up” proves my point. There’s a reason Paul Thomas Anderson built the whole distressing movie, Magnolia, around her music. She fit the film's emotional weather report (to quote Tom Waits) perfectly. (Anderson has said that Aimee Mann is to Magnolia what Simon & Garfunkel were to The Graduate.) “Wise Up” is a de facto mantra for the stuck, the lost, and the purposeless. Not only was it on the soundtrack for Magnolia, a whole scene was dedicated to the main characters singing the song as if it was a music video grafted onto the movie after the fact. It clearly was the consistent bellwether for the entire complicated, interwoven storylines and characters in the film. Very similar in concept to the guy hitting himself in the head with a 2x4 when a passerby asks “Why are you doing that?” and the man responds “Because it feels so good when I stop,” “Wise Up” has similar advice, but more practical in nature: “It ain’t going to stop / Till you wise up.” This song runs through my head on the regular, unfortunately, as I struggle to break counterproductive and destructive personal habits. To have a song this simple be this wise, yet somehow not feel judgmental, brings me a sense of calm within the storm of life. This can be done. This can be done.

11 "Liquid Indian" | Guided By Voices

I contest that the bigger sounding, more fleshed-out, Rik Ocasek-produced, Do the Collapse, often maligned by fans and critics alike, actually isn’t bad at all. In fact, there are some really great songs throughout that have held up long after the shock of a hi-fi record from indie-rock’s lo-fi ambassadors has long since dissipated. Magnet magazine (full disclosure: once a contributor), to Guided By Voices what Relix Magazine is to the Grateful Dead, recently ranked Robert Pollard’s Top 500 Songs ever (which seems like a lot until you see how many songs he’s written so far which is well into the four-figures) and Do the Collapse placed four songs in the Top 200, a significant achievement. “Surgical Focus” placed #19, “Things I Will Keep” #27, and “Wrecking Now” #146. My personal favorite song from the album, “Liquid Indian,” logged in at a respectable #156. “Liquid Indian” like most GBV songs, defies analysis, but I love the simplicity of the chorus and how Pollard sings it. Dreamy, I posit. There’s also something entrancing about the flow of the song, like ink dripping off the end of an antique desk onto a hardwood floor. Oh, and to be honest, one set of lyrics really put it over the top: “I’m a born again, boot-stomping witch humper.” Of course you are, Bob, of course you are.

10 "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)" | The Old 97's

It was inspired by a lost cat, but if you’re a dog person like me, you can substitute a canine storyline freely, especially because the song technically doesn’t overtly state what has gone missing, just that it was small enough to slip out a ripped window screen. The lyrics convey a palpable sense of loss and longing, something a person would risk their life to get back, so singer and songwriter Rhett Miller leaves his backdoor open, allowing for the hastened return of whatever’s slipped away, knowing full well the ramifications for his personal safety. The key is that while the melody is upbeat, the melancholy comes through loud and clear, almost like a Gin Blossoms song circa New Miserable Experience. Rhett Miller is one of the craftiest songwriters of his era, with a turn of phrase to envy, and this is one of his finest creations. Those hoping for a sequel to see how it ended were never rewarded.

09 "Hat and Feet" | Fountains of Wayne

RIP, Adam Schlesinger, lost early during the COVID pandemic. An amazing songwriter who seemingly could not write a song without an indelible melody attached to it. Utopia Parkway, the 1999 follow-up to the band’s teeming self-titled debut, was packed with clever pop songs that stuck in your mind instantaneously. When I saw the band on this tour, they only had two albums out, but they already had enough great tunes to build a rock-solid power-set without any dead spots, similar to a band with a much larger catalog from which to cherry-pick. I distinctly remember looking at my companions in amazement upon this revelation. Early on, they were a band already at the height of its powers. There are many directions I could've gone to represent Utopia Parkway, but I’ve always been drawn to the simplicity of “Hat and Feet,” a seemingly inconsequential little ditty that soon reveals itself to be a masterpiece of clever understatement the more it worms its way into your everyday life. And trust me, it will.  


08 "Papa Was a Rodeo" | The Magnetic Fields

Slim pickings here—only 69 songs released by Stephin Merritt’s Magnetic Fields in 1999! I didn’t even have to count ‘em up, either. The album was titled 69 Love Songs, after all. Miraculously, a staggeringly high percentage of those songs were fabulous and to say the least, diverse in style, approach, sound, vocals, you name it. The three-CD set caused a bit of a critical conniption fit back when this came out. I mean, few love a good concept more than snobby critics and they responded by slathering praise all over this epic dissection of love from pretty much every angle. When the band played Chicago over three nights, each audience got a completely different set of songs, none repeating from what I understand. Which makes sense, of course. I really should put together a definitive list of my favorites, perhaps a Top 20 List in the future, but for now and forever, I’m drawn to the instant classic, “Papa Was a Rodeo,” a minimalist, country-styled love song (that would never be played on country radio in a million years unless re-recorded by Jason Aldean or similar) with some humorous lyrics sung in Merritt's beautifully rich baritone: "I see that kiss-me pucker forming / But maybe you should plug it with a beer," as well as a chorus that can hold up against any current Nashville competition…


Papa was a rodeo, Mama was a rock and roll band

I could play guitar and rope a steer before I learned to stand

Home was anywhere with diesel gas, love was a trucker's hand

Never stuck around long enough for a one night stand

07 "Limp" | Fiona Apple

This no-holds-barred, in-your-face, bullshit-calling takedown, executed miraculously from behind a grand piano—not an easy task—should've been recorded in front of a live audience of fed-up women and their egocentric boyfriends. Let the carnage begin.

006 "What's He Building?" | Tom Waits

It may seem strange to choose this oddball spoken-word interlude from Mule Variations (my #1 record of 1999), especially when there are so many “new” Tom Waits classics present on the track list surrounding it. It’s funny how this album still seems new to me some 25 years after its release. That said, Tom’s been around since the early-70s, so you see where I’m coming from. “What’s He Building?” foretells our social media dominated society—a society where everyone is in everyone else’s business, making something out of nothing, jumping to conclusions, espousing conspiracy theories, perpetuating rumors, courting scandal, and positing groundless accusations and opinions…did I miss anything? Of course, we've always done these things, but it has never been so easy as it is now. There’s no single Tom Waits moment that approximates quite what he accomplishes here, which is a story told through the suspicious and uninformed queries of strangers, neighbors, and know-it-alls. Inside his home, a man is making strange noises at all hours of the night. Outside, one innocent observation after another piles up at the man’s front door (or the crack of light underneath it) until it seems like a mountain of evidence proving wrongdoing and possibly even evil is being perpetrated. Among the accusations, we hear a litany of “facts,” but none of them tell you anything about the man. But they do tell you everything about the people poking their noses in his business. Genius.

005 "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" | Moby

I read both of Moby’s autobiographies—effusive and verbose (as he is known to be), but both fascinating. The truly remarkable first volume doesn’t even cover his defining recorded moment. It's the second installment that tells the story of Play, the album of his that almost everyone now owns. Lots of people like to dump on lil Moby for selling out his record repeatedly by licensing it to commercials, TV, and movies. That doesn't bother me anymore, though. It's not like he had a hit on his hands at the time. In fact, it became. a hit because of that decision—it didn't do much before that (then) controversial move (which is now commonplace). The origin of the record was actually very humble and unassuming. He was simply doing what he always did—experimenting late at night, fucking with beats and sounds and samples, this time layering vocals, keyboards, and electronic elements over old blues and gospel recordings. The evening is treated casually in the book as a result. That said, I do love the backstory more when I know the ending. In this case, what happens next is the preamble to a cultural detonation of sorts, one that is actually spellbinding in its simplicity. Moments like this don’t come along often, and you have to make the most of them when they do. It was a once in a lifetime "holy shit" idea (to quote Sean Parker in The Social Network). When he made it he didn’t even know what it was yet. What it turned into was an era-defining album you should listen to again for the very first time. It's amazing. To call him a cultural criminal misses the point. I remember the moment I first heard “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” I was walking in downtown Chicago, Discman in hand, mesmerized by this unlikely mixture of sounds, something I'd never heard presented this way before. It appealed to me on a musical level (a deep love of soul, blues, gospel, etc), but it also worked on an emotional level, too. As I walked through the crowded Chicago streets I was sure I'd found an entry point into my own soul. Not the case, unfortunately—that door was still locked—but that's the power of a good song.

004 "I Try" | Macy Gray

The arrival of Macy Gray in 1999 was just what I needed to restore my interest in contemporary R&B. A true original—highly distinctive voice, unique songs, and some welcome eccentricity, too, her not-so-secret sauce. She lured in fans with singles like "I Try" and then challenged them to stay around for the wackier more ambitious stuff peppered throughout her records. She lives in her own world to say the least. I can easily see crate-diggers 30-40 years from now searching for her records in used vinyl bins (vinyl is still going strong in the future, I'm happy to report!). One of those records will be her acclaimed debut, On How Life Is, the record that broke her to a larger audience. It contained "I Try," and while it is one of her more successful and conventional songs, to deny it its classic status, holding its own against any ballad from any era, is a fool's errand. So come for the big ballad and stay for the rest. She's got you in her clutches now.

003 "Sidewalk" | Built to Spill

Few bands were better than Built to Spill in the 90s. Discuss. I stand behind the claim. "Sidewalk" is one exhibit of many supporting this bold statement, especially notable since we're talking about the decade of the alternative rock explosion. The beauty of this band is you rarely know what the fuck they are on about, but it doesn't matter—when leader Doug Martsch goes off on some random guitar excursion only to bring the song around to an exhilarating hook, it's a huge release for me each and every time it happens. I honestly don't know how he writes his songs, but nobody has been able to replicate his approach. Maybe the name of the band betrays their secret. The infrastructure is present, but the engineering is suspect, leading to dramatic and unexpected consequences. Watching his songs unfold, break down, and form together again at the last second reveals one of the most consistently thrilling creative processes I've witnessed. My final takeaway: the less you know how it's done, the better it gets.

002 "What Do You Want Me to Say" | The Dismemberment Plan

At the end of the 1990s, you really had to do something different to stand out from the alt-rock crowd. Enter D.C. band, the Dismemberment Plan, who ended the 20th century with a record that sounded unlike anything that came before it. Credit band leader, songwriter, and singer Travis Morrison, whose odd song presentation, off-kilter instrumentation, and innovative lyrical approaches delivered an album full of delightfully weird, sometimes strangely affecting alternative rock songs. "What Do You Want Me to Say" has a blasting, anthemic chorus, but that's the only thing normal about it. Everything else barely adds up, from the clanging riff that approximates a European police siren to the lyrics that begin with the "go on..." introduction: "I lost my membership card to the human race / So don't forget the face." It's all just so Give this album some time and its unusual qualities will grow on you.

001 "Guerilla Radio" | Rage Against the Machine

This stun gun track is rap, punk, rock, folk, you name it, all at fucking once. But while the sound is undeniably a blitzkrieg, it's the message, man! That's what this band is all about! In secret, I wonder what percentage of Rage fans were able to make anything out of the band's dense, complex web of political advocacy and how many just loved the fact that Tom Morrello could actually pulverize eardrums on his guitar. How many used the music as a call to action and how many just loved Zach's passionate, force-of-nature venom-spitting behind the microphone. Hopefully, a little of both maybe? While the subject matter of this song (Bush v Gore and other tangential issues) may be a little outdated, there's still some lasting truth in it. Even if there wasn't, there's also some absolutely wicked power surges happening throughout, especially the moment when Zach pauses to whisper in our ear...

It has to start somewhere

It has to start sometime

What better place than here?

What better time than now?

If that isn't an all-purpose rallying cry for social change then nothing is. The fact Morrello follows it with a crushing guitar riff only makes it that much more impactful. When you hear this song, you want to start advocating for change RIGHT NOW. Unless it's time to watch The Bachelor, of course, then we can do it tomorrow! Yeah, tomorrow we fight for real change!


I could go on, but I've got to motor. It's not every day the celestial odometer turns over to 10,000,000,000 years, ya know. So, I'm gonna party like it's 9,999,999,999!


The Priest


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