Welcome to My Top Ten, the fortnightly blog for music lovers who like to know where their favourite artists find their inspiration! Many a band or song or album has been discovered by a music fan because it was recommended by a musician they already loved. If you’ve always wondered what your favourite band or artist’s own Top Ten albums are, you’ve come to the right place! My name’s Luke Thomas, and over the coming months I’ll ask some of Australia’s best musicians about the albums that have shaped their lives and that they can’t live without. If there is someone you’d like me to ask, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best!
I know I stated last time that My Top Ten was done and dusted for the year but we now officially have one lucky last! Emma Swift will be doing a run of dates in Australia in December (one of those includes supporting the great Ryan Adams). Emma has garnered a massive following, splitting her time gigging and recording between Sydney, Australia and Nashville, Tennessee. She was duly nominated for an Aria award for her debut self-titled record that you must indeed check out. She has also recently recorded a Limited Edition vinyl-only single with Robyn Hitchcock (of The Soft Boys fame). You can also catch Emma along with Robyn Hitchcock & The Soft Boys at The Tote, Melbourne on December 20. Here’s Emma’s most awesome list. Merry Xmas! LT
I’ve never been very good at absolutes, so putting together a Top 10 list is a fun way to try and stick to something, even though I know that this list belongs only to this moment in time, November 2016. I hope some of these records resonate!
T. REX Electric Warrior [Deluxe Edition] (1971 / 2012)
The shimmering galactic eroticism of this record blows my mind. From the quivering vibrato in Marc Bolan’s voice on “Cosmic Dancer” to the vampiric lust pulsing throughout “Jeepster”, each track is a joy. Whenever I feel down and out, I close my eyes, listen to T Rex at maximum volume, and think about getting a fresh perm and a silvery jumpsuit. The best part of the deluxe re-issue is the addition of “Hot Love”, my personal favourite Bolan track. I will always get a pervy kick out of the following lines:
Well she ain’t no witch and I love the way she twitch, a ha ha
Well she ain’t no witch and I love the way she twitch, a ha ha
ROWLAND S. HOWARD Pop Crimes (2009)
I love this album so much I almost want to record a cover version of the whole thing. It is however, already perfect and needs no re-interpretation. The title track is a devastating masterpiece with the coolest groove and mesmerising, howling guitar and the verses show off the very best of Howard’s sardonic wit:
The Catholic church cannot verify
That there’s a single soul in hell
It’s just a wasteland of adversity
Devoid of all but the sound of wedding bells
From this vast expanse of nothing
Nothing good will come of this
But the hole in the zero
And an open-heart-surgery kiss
I am working on songs for my new record at the moment and there’s a decent amount of weird Catholic shit bubbling beneath the surface there. I know Rowland gets it.
Listen to Pop Crimes on YouTube
MARIANNE FAITHFULL Broken English (1979)
Once upon a time, in a small country town far, far away, I lived with my parents and their very limited selection of CDs. As far as fathers go, I had the classic Australian “fuck-up disguised as a top bloke” Dad. He taught me many dubious skills, including how to place bets at the TAB and how to smoke a bong. He also passed on how to obsessive-compulsively listen to the same record over and over again until you live it and breathe it and feel like it’s in your DNA. And that’s how I came to discover Broken English. Now, I don’t know any other kids whose father blasted “Why’d D’ya Do It?” at maximum volume to their 13-year-old daughter as a rite of passage but I’m glad mine did. Among many revelations this album delivered, I’m certain it was the first time I’d ever heard the word “snatch” used in a couplet.
Marianne Faithfull – Why D’ya Do It?
THE SMITHS Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
In fairness, I could put any Smiths record in my Top 10 but I’m going with Strangeways because “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me” is absolutely perfect and always makes me weep. Every songwriter knows that unrequited or doomed love is the best muse and none knew it more than 1980s Morrissey. There’s enough pent up longing in this track to fill a million teenage bedrooms and yet as a fully grown adult woman I still feel that desperation acutely. And thus, Strangeways.
The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
NEIL YOUNG On The Beach (1974)
My love, my one true musical love. A loner’s masterpiece rich in woozy guitars and bleak imagery, I never loved Neil truly until I played this record on repeat one summer in Sydney in the early 2000s. I remember the rain on my bedroom window, piles of clothes on the floor, a creepy landlord, an angry boyfriend and being utterly hypnotised by “Ambulance Blues” with its subtle jangle of tambourine and haunted harmonica. I listen to this record a lot.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998)
Like The Smiths, there’s a place in my heart for all of Lucinda’s records. She’s rock and roll and sadness and beauty and poetry and sex and all life’s great offerings. Listening to her is the closest I get to going to church. I find so much comfort in her words and melodies I should pay her for therapy. I’m going with Car Wheels On A Gravel Road because I’m listening to “Metal Firecracker” right now and I’m admiring the sweetness in her voice as she sings “All I ask is, don’t tell anybody the secrets, don’t tell anybody the secrets that I told you…” What a line! There’s a very subtle harmony vocal on the chorus being sung by Jim Lauderdale too and that makes me think of people in country music with really fucking good hair and that’s a thought vortex I could stay in forever.
Lucinda Williams – Metal Firecracker
YOU AM I Hourly, Daily (1996)
I was 15 in 1997 and had never been to a rock show before I attended the Big Day Out festival in Sydney. I wore a purple t shirt, purple corduroy pants, silver Doc Martens and a goofy grin. I watched Patti Smith preach to thousands. I cried seeing The Clouds. I soaked up Tiddas and their magnificent harmonies. And… I got concussion while crowd surfing in the mosh pit to You Am I. It was the best day of my young life. Hourly, Daily makes me think of being a teenage girl growing up in Wagga Wagga, which isn’t a place I think of with great fondness usually. But when I hear this, I’m happy. I think about my suburban bedroom strewn with candles, I think about my twin baby brothers in nappies, I think about my sister playing this record on repeat, I think about having lustful thoughts about boys who played guitar and yearning to be a fully grown adult woman living in the city and going to see rock bands every night. I love that this record gave me something to grow up for.
You Am I – If We Can’t Get It Together
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Honey’s Dead (1992)
Since the apocalyptic US election result, I’ve been listening to the first single from this album, “Reverence” with some devotion. The noisy guitars are suitably chaotic from the get go and build to an instrumental that sounds like an amplified emergency room. This is how my brain feels when I’m walking down the streets of my adoptive American hometown at the moment. When Jim Reid sings “I wanna die” over and over again, I feel suitably adolescent and ready for the end of the world.
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Reverence
LINDA RONSTADT Living In The USA (1978)
Linda is the first singer I heard that made me want to be a singer. A lot of other ladies have followed – from Hope Sandoval and Harriet Wheeler to Sandy Denny, Tammy Wynette, Karen Dalton and Emmylou Harris, Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell… I’ve studied plenty of female voices… But Linda was the first one I listened to repeatedly. I was eight years old when I heard her version of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and decided I wanted to be able to sing like that. This record not only introduced me to Linda and Elvis but also to Warren Zevon and that’s a musical crush I’ll have until the end of time, so there’s a lot of gold here. A sentimental favourite for sure but I’m a sentimental girl.
Linda Ronstadt – Mohammed’s Radio
ELVIS COSTELLO Imperial Bedroom (1982)
In the mid-1990s, I was very much into the Britpop music that dominated the charts. I imagined England as a kind of art paradise, home to my favourite young bands as well as all the dead poets my teenage heart could handle. I discovered Oasis, Pulp, T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath in the same year: 1996. This was also the year I discovered that the local bakery had weekend work and if I was willing to set my alarm to six o’clock in the morning every Saturday and Sunday, I would earn enough cash on the weekends to start building a real music collection instead of taping songs I liked off the radio. I spent all my money on mostly British albums and more money on Elvis Costello than anyone else. A teenage word nerd, I was drawn to his verbosity, his lyrical ambition and the way he sounded slightly pleased with himself whenever he’d come up with something really tasty. Imperial Bedroom is my all-time favourite Costello record. Time stops when I listen to “Kid About It”.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Kid About It
Hi folks, it’s getting close to the business end of the year and I would like to give a shout out and a huge thanks to each and every one of the contributors and readers for the inaugural season of My Top Ten. What a year it’s been! We’ve had Tim Rogers, Ashley Naylor, Ben Salter, Alan Brough, Davey Lane, Link McLennan, Dave Larkin, Laura Imbruglia, Steve Pinkerton, Zac Anthony, Mick Thomas, Jeff Jenkins and Seja Vogel! I wasn’t sure how long this would actually last but I’m so glad it grew into something somewhat larger than expected. I will leave you (as I know you’ve been hanging out for this!!) with my very own top ten. I did this a while ago as a template for the site. I know it’s the classic saying, but I hope you’ve had as much fun reading MTT as I have being able to bring it to you. Back in 2017, bigger ‘n’ better – stay tooned!!
THE STONE ROSES The Stone Roses (1989)
I bought this album when I was about 12 from Rockaway records on the Gold Coast (where I spent my formative years). There weren’t many record stores around but this was a good one. At the time I was listening to a lot of The Cure, Dinosaur Jr and a new band called Nirvana…yep I was a pretty cool 12-year-old! On this particular day I was in the record store and I was going to buy another Cure album to add to the collection but I picked up the Stone Roses album knowing absolutely nothing about them, it was just something about that Jackson Pollock-esque look of the cover. When I flipped the album over, they looked really fucking cool too (and still do mind you) and the title of the first song “I Wanna Be Adored” just sold me. I literally just took a punt and bought it. I put it on when I got home and was instantaneously blown away. This was some of the most brilliant songwriting I’d ever heard but in the vein of the Beatles or something. As I grew older with it, it all made sense to me. It opened the gates to a whole new breed of bands I got into. Still one of the greatest and most important records of all time. Masterpiece.
THE PIXIES Surfer Rosa (1988)
I remember being at a gig they held at the Milton Bowl when I lived in Brisbane. I was about 16 at the time. Gaslight Radio, Moler and Sandpit were also playing if I recall. Anyhoo, I couldn’t get into the bar as I was underage and all my mates were a bit older, so one of my friends suggested we go home and have some beers and listen to the Pixies “cos all these bands think they’re the Pixies”! So we got home and I’d never really sat and heard them before and that was the first time I had listened to Surfer Rosa. It was brutal, beautiful, raw and melodic with twisted harmonies, and I fell in love with them from then on. Frank Black is one of the great lyricists.
THE ROLLING STONES Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) (1966)
A close friend’s Dad gave me this compilation on vinyl when I was 14. Thanks Bob! I’d always been into the Beatles ever since I could remember and didn’t know much about the Stones. I adored all these early songs. I dearly love a lot of the Stones early 60s and early 70s records and I find myself in the same scenario with the Beatles where it’s hard for me to choose a favourite, so this compilation is where my relationship with the Stones began.
OASIS Definitely Maybe (1994)
To me, this album came out and blew everything else out of the water. People talk of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory as being THE classic Oasis album but this record kicks its arse I think. Oasis are like all my favourite bands rolled into one. My brother bought the “Supersonic” single home one day before anyone here knew them. He played it for me and it was one of the most powerful sounding songs I had ever heard. In listening to Definitely Maybe for the first time I would go as far as to say it was quite a transcendental experience. As I went along I found Oasis’ B-sides were as good as the A-sides which led me to think they were the best band since the Beatles. Like The Stone Roses first album this one just hit all the right notes and I think was just as important for its time. Back-to-basics barre chords, simple direct lyrics, classic guitar solos and just fuckin’ balls-out loud! Brilliant. Life changing. The last truly great rock band.
SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream (1993)
Some may find this an interesting choice but this record had a huge impact on me. Early to mid-nineties was just such a great era for music and I was a teenager and listening to stuff like this when I was in high school and it just made me want to leave school and join a band. This album has the best drumming on it and over-the-top guitar sounds that are really heavy but evenly melodic at the same time. Funny thing is I don’t really like any other Smashing Pumpkins records at all! They just nailed it on this I think. I got real obsessed and went on the hunt to find the exact guitar pedals Billy Corgan uses on this album and got most of them but still haven’t found the right outlet for my heavier side (as yet!). So I just fuck around with them in the bedroom.
THE BEATLES The Beatles (White Album) (1968)
I could easily fill up my top ten with Beatles records, but if I had to pick one the White Album would be it. When I was in my first band Lavish we drove from the Gold Coast to Brisbane regularly to play gigs cos there were only about one or two places to play on the Gold Coast! But whenever I listen to this album it reminds me of our drive home from Brisbane in the early days. It would only be my brother (who was also in the band) and his girlfriend at the time and it seemed we just listened to the White Album all the time on the way back after the gigs. Songs like “Cry, Baby, Cry”, “Julia” and “I Will” send shivers down my spine. I found it hard to choose a favourite Beatles album. I like ’em all equally, just depends which one I’m listening to at the time! My favourite band of all time.
CROWDED HOUSE Together Alone (1993)
Apart from those chaps from the Beatles, Neil Finn is quite possibly my favourite songwriter of all time. So I wouldn’t feel right without including something from his ever expansive body of work. I chose this album as I think it is brilliant from top to tail. “Kare Kare”, “Nails In My Feet”, “Fingers Of Love”. Songwriting at its finest.
THE LEMONHEADS It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)
My Grandfather used to buy me records and tapes every Christmas and they would always be hit and miss. You could end up with Al Jarreau or Lionel Richie, or occasionally he would come out with a ripper like this one. I’d never even heard of the Lemonheads at the time but thought I’d give it a listen because of the funny name and I’m glad I did. Every single song on this album is killer. Evan’s voice is so rich and effortless and the songs are just perfect pop. As fate would have it I somehow ended up playing bass for Evan Dando 10 or so years later. One of the high points of my career, even though I was a nervous wreck!
DINOSAUR JR Green Mind (1991)
Green Mind was another one I got into as a pre-adolescent. A good friend of mine growing up had an older brother who was a bit wild and was in the know of all things music. It seemed he was the first person to know of Nirvana. He also used to play with a machete in his swimming pool, but that’s another story. So we would go into his bedroom and listen to his records when he was out. I always remember listening to this particular album obsessively and I especially dug the cover. I would listen to the tracks “The Wagon” and “Puke & Cry” on repeat. Me and my friend both being aspiring musicians and listening to stuff like this at that age filled our imaginations with thoughts of how we could create a cunning plan to leave school and form our own band. I still listen to this album every now and again.
YOU AM I Hi Fi Way (1995)
It’s a toss-up between this and Hourly, Daily but this came first. I remember the day I bought this record. I was in Myer of all places. I’d saved up my pennies and I’d just started getting into a lot of bands like the Stones and The Who and I saw this record on the shelf and I was just intrigued by seeing the song titles on the front of the CD and the whole 60s/70s kinda look, and I just took a punt and bought it. Not really knowing anything about them really – I missed Sound As Ever when it came out but I think I had the “Berlin Chair” single with “I Can’t Explain” on it that led me to this. Superb songwriting and the sound of a band absolutely on fire. Showed me we had a band that could match any of the overseas acts. Rusty’s drumming stands out on this record and is phenomenal. “Purple Sneakers” is the perfect song.
Legendary Australian songsmith Mick Thomas shares his top ten records with us this fortnight. He has famously become known for his storytelling through his songwriting and as you might expect, there’s a great story to be told about each of his favourite records here. Mick has written countless tunes over the years and produced some great records. Amongst these, I strongly recommend checking out Mick’s solo record The Last Of The Tourists, recorded in Portland, Oregon and produced by Darren Hanlon. It’s a ripper. Here’s Mick’s Top Ten!
THE (EX) CAT HEADS Our Frisco (1990)
There seems to be a lot written about this album and this band on the web. It appears they are/were in some way an important part of the San Franciscan local music scene in the early nineties. But the night we wandered into their gig there weren’t a lot of people there. It didn’t feel like an important show and we were surprised when we spoke to the band and they said it was their last performance.
The record is a weird classic to my mind – strangely-lo-fi and quite unsettled, it seems to jump between a fully-fledged concept album about San Francisco (bookended by two instrumental tracks, “Fog Rolls In”/ “Fog Rolls Out”) and a collection of demos (three vastly different versions of one song). It’s sprawling and ambitious, as pretentious as it is unassuming and when I hear it I am back in San Francisco at the end of a tour. Or in the van driving up the Pacific Highway three months later listening to a cassette dub of it.
LOWEST OF THE LOW Shakespeare My Butt (1991)
I have written about this record a hell of a lot over the years but it continues to be one we play at our house at certain times and it never seems to lose its appeal. Although it came into our lives well after we’d become regulars in downtown Toronto it still speaks to me of our time there. It still tells the tales of that city. We were handed the CD by great friend and promoter Bruce Eaton one tour and it will always take me to times we spent hanging around his house in Kensington Market. It reminds me of the Grange Hotel and The Cameron House, The Siboney and The Horseshoe, and of the times that were not so good. So broke, so cold and far from home,1990 coming in from a long drive out east drunk and hungry and finding the town pretty well shut up on a Sunday night. And then the Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern was magically open but payday was five days away and then for the first time in my life realizing that they would take a credit card and wasn’t that the start of something else totally? The Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern is gone now but my credit card debt seems a constant and Shakespeare My Butt still sounds as good as it did back in 1992. Weddings, Parties, Anything only ever played two shows with the Lowest of the Low. It was nowhere near enough.
THE WARNER BROTHERS Talking in Your Sleep (1992)
We did a stack of shows with them through the years – both as the Warner Brothers, then as Overnight Jones and ultimately back to the Warner Brothers again. They made a great record after that one, Dan and Stuey, the two writers made great records under their own names as well but it’s still Talking in Your Sleep that means the most to me – and also to a lot of people who were around Melbourne at a particular time. They reformed recently as a thirtieth (!!!) anniversary of their inception and it was pretty much that album that got the majority representation.
SEAN McMAHON Welcome to Gippsland (2008)
I was walking past the Last Record Store in Smith Street when I noticed this one in the window and I guess being born in Gippsland it got my attention. I’d just become aware of the band Downhills Home at this stage and had no idea that Sean was from there or any other band to be honest. But here was this brilliant concept album with guest character parts sung by Matt Walker, Liz Stringer and Laura Jean and when they finally played it live it was billed as a Downhills Home show and so it was a confused foray in a promotional sense but the record itself is really self-assured and quite timeless. The playing is understated, the singing is evocative, the songs are interlocking and self-supporting, the whole thing totally lyrical.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS West (2007)
It’s the record she wrote after her mother passed on and although it’s pretty painful I think it’s possibly the purest expression of her personal blues. Stylistically it moves around a fair bit but the whole thing seems underpinned with an anger and a resentment that is at times quite exhausting. I like most of her records actually.
JAKE THACKRAY The Very Best of Jake Thackray (1975)
I first heard Jake Thackray songs in folk clubs back in the mid 70s and had no idea who the writer was. But the songs were acerbic and pointed – and they were funny. And when Darren Hanlon started playing an album of his to me a few years back it all made sense. They called him the working class Noel Coward but more than that he was a complex man from a complex tradition of European songwriting and it’s almost the few little serious snippets here and there that give the most away.
PAUL KELLY Post (1985)
I guess Paul has written better albums but this one is so much of its time and so simple and direct it’s hard to go past. We listened to it a lot in the early Weddings and when I went to a gig at the Club in Collingwood around the time it came out I remember people singing the words to each other, everyone with a kind of knowing camaraderie. Yep, I wanted a bit of that to be sure.
London is the Place For Me (Vol 1) (2002)
I never thought Calypso is where I’d find really inspiring original songsmiths but the various writers that make up this testament to the West Indian experience in England are far more what I was looking for than the ones I found in the Anglo/Irish folk music scene of the 60s and 70s. “Lord Kitchener in the Jungle” is a kooky masterpiece. “Lady Want Rent”, “At the Coronation” and surely the best sporting ballad ever written, “Victory Test Match”. Classics. Lord Beginner, Young Tiger – folk music at its best.
THE KINKS The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (mono version) (1968)
I think this is my favourite Kinks album although Face to Face and Arthur which all came out around the same time are pretty close as well. But this has got Big Sky, Picture Book, Animal Farm – it’s got Last of the Steam Powered Trains and Village Green Preservation Society for Christ sake. And it’s got the best song about being drunk on stage ever written All of My Friends Were There. I guess everything I want The Kinks to be is on this record. Their lyrical, English version of rock n’ roll really finds it’s place here. But Arthur is still pretty good.
NEKO CASE The Tigers Have Spoken (2004)
A cracking live album. Some spirited covers, great playing and incredible singing – and a stack of wonderful songs. It’s a beautifully weighted record and one that seems to have an interlocking lasting appeal for me. The title track is riveting. Simple yet so personal it’s almost embarrassing. Easily my favourite record by her.
This fortnight’s top ten comes from comedian, actor, author, radio host and all round loveable funny chap, Alan Brough. Most of us recognise him from his regular weekly spot as team captain on the now-legendary TV show Spicks & Specks (repeats of which you can still catch every night on Aunty). More recently in June this year, Alan released his fantastic new children’s book Charlie And The War Against The Grannies to great acclaim. I was pleasantly surprised to see selections by Alan’s fellow NZ natives, The Clean and The Verlaines on the list. The Verlaines are also a personal favourite of mine – imagine a ‘punkier’ version of The Go-Betweens. If you’ve never heard of them I recommend you check them out. Here is Alan’s ripper of a top ten list.
DE LA SOUL Three Feet High and Rising (1989)
I was waiting for a bus. I had just bought Three Feet High and Rising on cassette. I popped it into my Walkman. Pushed play. Then lost my fucking mind. I had never heard anything even remotely like it. All I wanted to do was stand up and tell all my fellow passengers they should stop whatever it was they were doing and immediately go out and buy it. I couldn’t though because I didn’t want to take off my headphones. I didn’t want the experience of listening to that record for the first time to end.
TRACEY THORN A Distant Shore (1982)
Tracey Thorn’s voice is the very definition of bittersweet. The songs on this, her first solo album, are simple and spare. Her voice and a guitar is all she needs to transport me to small towns full of heartbreak, anxiety and the ache of saying goodbye to long-cherished dreams.
KATE TEMPEST Everybody Down (2014)
Hip-hop poet Kate Tempest combines the beats of The Streets, the theatrical intensity of Patti Smith and the poetic chops of W. H. Auden to relate 11 song-length stories about an intertwined group of millennials disenchanted and forgotten by the world their parents have left them. It’s is both wounded and wounding.
THE FALL Fall In A Hole (1983)
Fall In A Hole was recorded live in Auckland, New Zealand. It was the first Fall album I ever heard. It will always be my favourite. The record is dirty, pugnacious, erratic, ecstatic and furious. All the reasons I will always love this record and always love The Fall.
DAN KELLY Dan Kelly’s Dream (2010)
Dan Kelly is one of my favourite songwriters. His combination of un-ignorable melodies, hilarious lyrics and blazing guitar solos is unmatched in contemporary Australian rock and roll. As with every album I truly adore, each and every song on this record has been my favourite at one time or another.
COCTEAU TWINS Treasure (1984)
I have tried and tried to find some way of describing how and why I love Cocteau Twins as much as I do. I can’t. My reasons for loving them and the depth of my love for them defies reason and description. In some way my reaction to them may be the essence of music appreciation: love which defies reason and description.
DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS Too-Rye-Aye (1982)
The below lyrics are from “Let’s Make This Precious” – the second track on Too-Rye-Aye. They best sum up what I think about this record.
Somebody sing me a record
That cries pure and true.
No not those guitars. They’re too noisy and crude.
The kind that convinces refuses to leave,
There’s no need to turn it up.
If it’s pure I’ll feel it from here…
THE CLEAN Boodle, Boodle, Boodle (1981)
I probably first heard this record about three or four years after it was released. It had a huge impact on me. Not just musically either. All around me people were listening to AC/DC, Cold Chisel and Icehouse. I didn’t like those bands and I didn’t like the people who liked those bands. I desperately wanted to find MY bands so I could, in turn, find my people. I discovered The Clean. I discovered other people who had discovered The Clean. Everything changed.
THE VERLAINES Bird Dog (1987)
This record perfectly suited the 20-year-old me who first heard it. It’s melodramatic, pretentious, tender, dismissive, dark, exuberant, vulgar, gentile, guileless and calculating. After nearly 20 years of listening it still thrills me.
JAMIE XX In Colour (2015)
I was never a fan of the xx. So I’m not even really sure how I ended up listening to Jamie XX’s debut solo record. I’m glad I did though. Supposedly, while on tour, Jamie XX was watching a lot of obscure 1990s rave clips. In Colour emerged from that obsessive trawling of the past. There are hints of the past but this record sounds about as modern as a record can sound. I am, however, an old dude, so what the fuck would I know.
Seja Vogel is solo artist from Brisbane, well known for her love of the synthesiser. You may recognise her from her former band Sekiden and as a member of Regurgitator. More recently she has released a couple of great solo records under her own name ‘Seja’. Check out the tracks “When You Said You Were Mine” from 2013’s All Our Wires, and “I’ll Get To You” from 2010’s We Have Secrets But Nobody Cares. Speaking with Seja, I mentioned (referring to her ELO album selection) that I’m a big fan of Jeff Lynne’s work, to which she replied “I could write about how much I love him ALL day”. Which left me recalling an episode of The Simpsons where Homer asks Lisa, “Who’s your favourite Travelling Wilbury Lisa, is it Jeff Lynne?” I’m confident Seja would agree.
GRANDADDY Under the Western Freeway (1997)
I remember the first time I heard “A.M. 180” – it was at a small café in Brisbane that used to have all ages solo shows on a Tuesday night or something every week. It was just around the time I started to play in bands and this song was so inspirational in its melody, lyrics and energy. The whole album is really special – so many great keyboard parts, perfect pop guitar riffs and cynical lyrics. It also sounds really wonky, out of time and noisy in parts, which is something I was really drawn to instantly. This album also had that beautiful thing where just when you think you know where a song is going, it takes a turn and goes to a minor or a seventh chord and it really hits you in the guts in a good way. And then it ends with a few minutes of crickets. Perfect.
THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare! (1981)
My husband and I own about 5 copies of this album on vinyl because it’s too special to walk past when we see it in a thrift store. There’s nothing I don’t like about it. Sweeps up to every chorus, drum machines, synth programming, their cool-but-untrained voices. This album is so much more than “Don’t You Want Me”. Like when you notice some of the more obscure lyrics such as “Alsatians fall unconscious at the shadow of your call”. Also – Roland System 700 modular, Jupiter 4, Korg 770, Korg Delta, Yamaha CS15, Casio VLT1, Casio M10 and Linn LM1 – these are the things, these are the things, the things that dreams are made of.
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA A New World Record (1976)
I probably could have put ten ELO records in here as my favourite and most influential, but that’s another list for another time. The production on this album is so over-the-top it borders on ridiculous (what AREN’T you good at Jeff??). The intro is so dramatically orchestral and works up to a powerful crescendo, only to turn into a completely hilarious ‘dumb rock/pop’ riff. I love how most the songs on this record are super-complicated and intricate, with the perfect amount of delay on the vocals in all the right places (I’m taking a dive, dive, dive, dive) and then this album, as well as all his others, has one of those whamma lamma bamma lamma songs on it that make you question why you liked this band in the first place. You can see why John Lennon called them ‘son of Beatles’, and a lot of his songs are obviously influenced by the melodies and sentiment of that band, which in my book has never been a bad thing.
BECK Mellow Gold (1994)
I’ve probably listened to this album more than any other album. I know it back to front. I discovered this album on a bus heading to Falls Creek for a school ski trip in 1994 or 1995. I remember finding a tape on the bus that someone had left in the seat pocket. I put it in my Walkman and “Beercan” came on. And my little mind was blown. I think the tape had a bunch of other songs on it by bands like the Butthole Surfers and stuff, but I kept rewinding and listening to the Beck songs (just “Beercan” and “Pay No Mind”) on the tape until I wore it out. The first full songs I learnt how to play on the guitar were “Pay No Mind”, “Nitemare Hippy Girl” and “Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs”. Funnily enough, this record also got me more into hip hop because I loved (still do!) his weirdo apathetic rhymes like “I got bent like a wet cigarette, and she’s coming after me with a butterfly net”. I wish he would do more of that now.
HARRY NILSSON Aerial Ballet (1968)
This album is a masterpiece of orchestral pop. Again, I could have put 5 Nilsson records on this list. I love this one in particular because it’s full of so many effervescent and cleverly beautiful songs. It’s also packed with his trademark silly nonsense sounds (doowakkadoo) and some fantastic whistle solos. I always thought it was a shame that the most successful song on this record wasn’t written by him (“Everybody’s Talkin’”), because it takes the focus off what a lovely songwriter he is. Apart from the obvious “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “One”, songs like “Good old Desk” and “Together” strike some kind of nostalgic chord in me that feels a bit like home. And that voice!
THE CARS The Cars (1978)
This album was very influential to me and how I play keyboards. I remember the first time I heard “Just What I Needed” I knew I wanted to play synth lines just like that, and I’ve pretty much spent my whole musical career trying to replicate/channel them. “Good Times Roll” is such a great opener and sets the tone for the whole album. Other stand-out parts for me include that backwards drum bit in “Just What I Needed” and the outstanding solo on “Bye Bye Love”. What’s phenomenal about this album is that almost all 9 tracks are still played on the radio to this day. That’s pretty rare. Overall I find the whole record a perfect mix of sleazy and cool.
CHILLY GONZALES Solo Piano (2004)
I suppose this has been compared to Erik Satie a bunch, but I love this album because to me it seems way more modern and pop. And contextually, the thought of the same guy whose usual shtick to my knowledge was being a maniac electro dude, singing about how he has an extra testicle, playing these beautiful songs is something really special. Stand-outs for me are “Gogol”, “Bermuda Triangle” and “Basmati”. This album also reminds me of my grandmother playing piano to us as kids which is a happy memory.
DEVO New Traditionalists (1981)
This record is interesting to me as it was the first of Devo’s I bought. I instantly loved its sarcasm and social commentary (which seems to still be applicable today). The synth patches are something to behold (“Race of Doom”, “Love Without Anger”) and the counterintuitive arrangements made it stand out to me from other records I was listening to at the time. People say this is their angriest album, a result of being misunderstood by the mainstream. It was funny for me to get familiar with this one first, then later go back and listen to their pop classics. Whilst listening to this in high school, I did feel like Devo and I had a sort of kindship, an understanding of what was good and bad in the world. I think this is why I love this album so much – it’s like an old friend who’s always in your corner.
STEREOLAB Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)
It’s a risky move to put an eight-minute song first on a record, but Stereolab can get away with that kind of thing. This album makes me want to filter all my instruments and vocal tracks through synthesizers for the rest of my life. Every keyboard on this album gloriously squelches, splats and squirts in a way that massages my brain. I love a band whose harmonies are out of the box and percussive. Stand-out parts for me include the running bass line for “Percolator”, “Noise of Carpet”’s frequency and resonance sweeps, and the synth blips in “Motoroller Scalatron”. This album sounds like the music in my head.
WEEN Chocolate and Cheese (1994)
This is another album that I discovered in that magical time when I was about 14 or 15 when everything was cool and exciting. Another album I learnt all the words and chords to. I remember playing guitar and singing “Beuenas Tardes Amigo”, “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About” and “Don’t Shit Where You Eat” around my school to my friends, trying to be cool. (Did people think I was cool? No, but at least I was playing Ween and not Crash Test Dummies or something). This more easily palatable record than their previous was the beginning of my love affair with Ween that continues to this day. Even though I was embarrassed buying it because of its slightly naughty album cover (I was a kid!), the songs were definitely JUST offensive enough for it to strike a chord in my adolescent self. Bloody love this album. Bloody love this band.
We are rapt to have this fortnight’s top ten from the amazingly talented Laura Imbruglia. You can see Laura on her brilliant new show “Amateur Hour”, the first season is out already and thankfully there’s another on the way. You must check it out, it’s gold. Also, on the musical side of things, go on the hunt for a couple of my favourite tunes of Laura’s “When It All Falls Apart (And It Will)” from 2010’s The Lighter Side Of... and “Limerence” from 2013’s What A Treat. Oh and here’s Laura’s top ten.
LIZ PHAIR Exile In Guyville (1993)
This is apparently a song-for-song response to The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street album. I own both albums, but I never really listened for the inter-album conversation. I just love this album cos Liz is such a bad-ass. Her lyrics are funny, brash, sarcastic, brutally honest (see “Fuck and Run”)…all the things I love. Musically, it’s low-fi and rough around the edges – she sometimes sings below what sounds comfortable for her range, which is refreshing. I miss the days before recordings were polished within an inch of their life. I can’t really recommend this album enough – it has 18 songs, which sounds ridiculous, but as far as I’m concerned it’s all killer/no filler and stands up to endless repeated listens. Sadly, nothing else she did comes close to the perfection attained on this album. Indie Queen of the 90s, I salute you!
MAGNETIC FIELDS 69 Love Songs (1999)
If you thought 18 songs sounded like overkill, THIS album has 69 songs (so it’s not just a clever title!). The Magnetic Fields are led by the curmudgeonly, highly intelligent and prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt. His lyrics are simultaneously touching, hilarious and downright dark. Their music sounds from another time really, he’s into the Great American Songbook school of songwriters (George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein – very carefully selected words and rhymes, classy melodies). If you are a person who can’t appreciate musicals, you may not like this music. I’m talking musicals like “Singin’ In The Rain”, not musicals like “Fame” – these songs are classy in an indie pop way. Can you handle that? You should learn. Anyway, this is the album that got me into their music and specifically into Stephin’s wonderful lyrics. The songs are spread over 3 discs, just take it 1 disc at a time so it’s not so intimidating. Before long, you (like me) will know all 69 songs off by heart. I LOVE THIS ALBUM WITH ALL MY HEART.
BOB DYLAN Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
This album bursts out of the gates with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and it only gets better from there. I love that it kinda covers all the sides of Bobby in good measure – political, romantic, angry, abstract, ridiculous. The musical performances are nice and loose, as Bob’s way of recording is to pretty much record the band as they’re learning the song. It creates a really cool freshness and encapsulates that really cool sweet spot that happens when a band are just starting to gel on a song. My favourite of the tunes is “She Belongs to Me”, although I disagree with the misogynistic-sounding title. I guess it’s a common feeling to want to hold onto the person you love and keep them all to yourself…just sounds wrong! “Love Minus Zero” – also a deliciously gentle love song. I have many of Bob’s albums, but this is the one I always come back to. It makes me swoon.
THE SHAGGS Philosophy Of The World (1969)
Look – this album isn’t for everyone. I can’t even listen to it all in one sitting. But it’s still in my top ten albums, because it’s so amazing to me that it exists in the first place. Not only that, but it actually challenged my opinions about what makes music good and beautiful. This is a band of teenage sisters from New Hampshire, USA in the 60s. Their Dad bought them instruments and paid to record them “while they were hot” (I don’t think he meant “hot” in the sexy way – I hope not). It sounds like 3 people playing 3 different songs at once without listening to each other. The first time I heard the title track, I was filled with anger – how dare they record this racket?! However, the following week, I found myself googling the band and eventually buying the album. The lyrics are simultaneously naive and profound, and it’s actually difficult to play the same melody that you are singing, which is what the lead singer is often doing. I rate them, and I enjoy that their Dad backed them passionately. Frank Zappa called them “better than The Beatles”.
THE TRIFFIDS Born Sandy Devotional (1986)
This classic Australian album sounds like my childhood looks like in my memory. These guys were really good at word-painting, which is when the music and lyrics match each other evocatively. When David McComb sings “Wide Open Road”, the combination of music and words makes me feel like I’m in a car driving through the outback watching the heat rise from the bitumen.
This album is a beautiful time capsule of 80s Australia. I love it.
QUEEN Greatest Hits (1981)
I know, I know, I know, you can’t select a greatest hits album on one of these music nerd blogs! The fact is that this album fucking rules, and it remains the BEST SELLING ALBUM OF ALL TIME IN THE UK. I have Freddie tattooed on my arm, own most of Queen’s albums, and I could sing the praises of Jazz or The Works or actually most of them, cos I love Queen but this album is what sold me on them when I was a teenager. If you don’t own any Queen albums or are unconvinced of their brilliance, for godssake, start here and learn in a nice and concise manner exactly why they’re so beloved. And you know what? I want you to also watch their Live Aid performance on YouTube before you come at me with your “they’re too camp and bombastic” noise. If you already know Queen are wonderful and want to know which albums to check out for more wonder, my fave era is 1975-1985 – so any albums released in that period (A Night At The Opera through to The Works). The earlier stuff is also good, it’s just a bit dungeons and dragons lyrically, which I find kinda dull. The later stuff is a bit naff for my liking.
THE CARPENTERS A Song For You (1972)
I could easily just recommend a Greatest Hits album for The Carpenters too, but this album is actually pretty solid. The cover art also has a classic vibe about it. Side A is all 100% killer, Side B not as strong. I can sing the guitar solo on “Goodbye to Love” note for note, it’s a great time! The title track is heartbreakingly beautiful too. Look, just listen to Side A (the first 5 songs) and if you dig it, get a good compilation of singles. The problem is that this album is missing “Calling Occupants”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “For All We Know”, “Yesterday Once More” and a bunch of others. BUT “Song For You” is AWESOME and it’s not on many of the compilations. So you need this album and a tidy “Singles” one – . If you get a compilation that is too exhaustive, you’re gonna have to sift through a lot of dodgy early 80s songs. This one is pretty cool. I was raised on The Carpenters, and Karen is my ALL-TIME fave female singer. If you can’t appreciate a bit of cheese, you need to step back. Sonic Youth covered “Superstar” though, so The Carpenters are totally legitimately cool now.
FLEETWOOD MAC Rumours (1977)
Yeah, totes obvious selection. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT. Have you listened to it? Walking around? Several times every year? In the car? At home? Have you noticed how Mick Fleetwood hits the cymbal a few more times in the second chorus of “Dreams” than in the first one? It’s the little things like that that you notice when you really love an album. I love this album so much. Make sure you get the reissue, cos they added the beautiful track “Silver Springs” onto the reissue, and it always should have been on the album. It was a b-side, and the fans loved it so much that the band eventually added it to newer pressings of the album. Not as a bonus track, they actually added it into the middle of the album somewhere like it was always there. Absolutely dreamy.
DANIEL JOHNSTON Why Me? (2000)
This is a live album, and I love it because it captures Daniel’s great fragility in an unedited manner. I also like the little bits they kept in, like when his mic cuts out for a bit and he keeps singing. It just really moves me. He’s a beautiful pianist, and even though he’s kinda shoddy on the guitar, the purity of his songwriting is what shines through. My fave track on this album is “Silly Love” – it’s really good to listen to when you’re heartbroken. Fragile optimism distilled. If you can’t see past his imperfections to the beauty of his writing, maybe you should go to the doctor and find out if you’re dead inside. If you like what you hear on this, there’s SO MUCH MORE that awaits you – he was really prolific in the 80s. I also love Yip/Jump Music, Songs of Pain and Artistic Vice. If you like his writing, but you really can’t handle the lo-fi nature of his recordings, give Fun a go. And also – buy direct from his website, as his family facilitate it and the money goes into paying for Daniel’s carer I believe (you can buy his art on the website too – I have some – SO THERE!). M Ward does an awesome cover of Daniel’s song “Story of An Artist”, which is actually what made me seek out more Daniel songs.
THE DICTATORS Bloodbrothers (1978)
The word “thrilling” should come with a picture of this record next to it in the encyclopedia. It’s just fucking perfect, what more do you want? The Dictators are a punk/metal kinda band (proto-punk) with melodies and hooks coming out of every orifice. I love the New York sass of lead singer Handsome Dick Manitoba – his lyrics are hilarious and this album just makes me excited, goddamn it! The lead guitarist Ross the Boss went on to found Manowar. I also really love Cheap Trick and found it hard not to include them in this list, but I just think this album is a better collection of songs (and captures the band better) than any Cheap Trick album. Although Cheap Trick Live At Budokan…GET THAT TOO!
There is no better supporter of Australian music out there than all-round champion bloke, Jeff Jenkins. This fortnight we have branched out into new territory by having a non-musician share his top ten. Nobody knows more about the history of Australian music past or present than this gentleman and for a rare treat he shares his top ten “Australian” albums of all time. Jeff is a journalist and writes about music for a living. Every week he writes the column Howzat! for The Music publication and has written books including 50 Years Of Rock In Australia and Ego Is Not A Dirty Word: The Skyhooks Story. He also worked closely with Molly Meldrum for many years before recently releasing the long awaited biography, The Never, Um, Ever Ending Story: Ian Molly Meldrum.
Jeff: When Luke got in touch, I was at home. Of course I was. As Lester Bangs says in Almost Famous, “I’m always home. I’m uncool.”
Luke asked if I could do a list. Who doesn’t love a list? Music nerds are always making lists. We could do a list of our favourite music lists.
I love Australian music, which is not to say I don’t appreciate music from overseas. I could easily do a list of my Top Ten albums from the rest of the world. It would feature Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Weezer, Dixie Chicks, Dan Wilson, Warren Zevon, Prince, The Knack and Tom Petty. But my Top Ten list is all Australian. I love all of these albums. And ten is not enough – apologies to some of my favourite acts, particularly Horsehead, Australian Crawl, Lazy Susan, Colin Hay, The Go-Betweens, Midnight Oil, Skipping Girl Vinegar, Kings Of The Sun, The Angels, Dave Graney, Motor Ace, Missy Higgins, Darren Hayes, Nick Barker, Joe Camilleri, Wagons and Ross Wilson.
STEPHEN CUMMINGS Lovetown (1987)
When The Age polled some critics to come up with the 50 greatest Australian albums of all time, I placed Lovetown at number one, calling it “the sound of Melbourne melancholia”. “You can’t have everything,” Stephen sang, “sometimes you can’t have anything at all.” Stephen wasn’t built for stardom, but when Lovetown was released, he was dubbed “the St Kilda Sinatra”, a fair description I reckon, though Stephen is a better songwriter.
BEN LEE Awake Is The New Sleep (2005)
Every month I have a sparring session with my good friend Neil Rogers on RRR in Melbourne. Neil kindly has me on his excellent show, The Australian Mood, and he even allows me to constantly bang on about the brilliance of Ben Lee. I think Ben is a pop genius; Neil is not so sure. Awake Is The New Sleep is Ben’s masterpiece, a work of remarkable honesty, optimism and beauty. Wide-eyed and dreaming. Awake Is The New Sleep makes me cry and smile. “Yeah, you broke my fucking heart,” Ben sings. “But I still want you.”
PERRY KEYES Johnny Ray’s Downtown (2010)
Neil Rogers and I might not agree on Ben Lee, but we’re part of a unity ticket when it comes to Perry Keyes. I’ve been a cheerleader for Perry since Neil turned me on to his remarkable double album debut, Meter, in 2005. Perry is the Sydney Springsteen, the Paul Kelly that you’ve never heard of. His third album is a cinematic epic, the Redfern version of Born To Run. He documents the life and crimes of the inner city, where “falling backwards is easy” and “some stuff just won’t wash off”. But there’s beauty amid the bleakness. Perry Keyes is a remarkable Australian story. When it comes to Aussie songwriters, he’s as good as it gets.
SKYHOOKS Living In The 70’s (1974)
I did a book with Skyhooks (1994’s Ego Is Not A Dirty Word). They’re difficult buggers, but they taught me a lot. And their debut album still sounds great (props to producer Ross Wilson), with its wonderful nervous energy. Living In The 70’s was the first local blockbuster, the start of the modern music industry in Australia, the album that turned a glorified hobby into an industry, showing that you could have a music career in Australia, that “you could get paid for just bein’ a freak”. As one reviewer said when it was released: “If you can’t get interested and/or excited, you’re either deaf, asleep or dead.”
DIED PRETTY Doughboy Hollow (1991)
Died Pretty were every bit as good as R.E.M. They should have conquered the world. Ron S. Peno is one of the great frontmen. He gets lost in the music. He feels it. Died Pretty’s masterful Doughboy Hollow is, put simply, perfect. And it features one of the greatest nods to another Aussie act: “So here I am, alone with you/ The Sunnyboys, God bless them and God bless you.”
PAUL KELLY AND THE COLOURED GIRLS Gossip (1986)
I was on a Year 12 camp when I heard “Darling It Hurts” for the first time. “Shit,” I thought, with my limited music vocabulary, “that’s a great song.” I’d seen Paul Kelly the previous year, playing songs from the remarkable Post album when he supported Australian Crawl and The Motels. I was struck by the fact that this guy could write some amazing songs. And Gossip was the album that showed the world.
THE FAUVES Lazy Highways (1998)
Don’t get my best mate started on The Fauves. He can list his favourite Coxy songs, his favourite Doctor songs and his favourite Fauves B-sides. When it comes to the best Fauves album, the fans are split between Future Spa and Lazy Highways (I’d also throw 2008’s When Good Times Go Good into the mix). Coxy sings of “no chart action, no radio”, but Lazy Highways is an Aussie classic, filled with nostalgic pop-culture references. And “Wear The Label On The Outside” is a touching ode to friendship: “All right,” Coxy sings, “we’re laughing about it now while we’re flicking each other with towels and joking about our genital size in the shower/ But I’ve got nothing else but love for you.”
DEBORAH CONWAY String of Pearls (1991)
Deborah Conway’s debut solo album is a singer-songwriter masterclass. It’s deeply personal and revealing, filled with wry observations. “All those teenage radio songs about romance that lasts forever,” Deborah reflects. “Well, I found out they got it wrong.” Head straight to the title track and then listen to the rest of the record.
ICECREAM HANDS Sweeter Than The Radio (1999)
If I’m trying to pick up girls, I mention that I’m related to Charles Jenkins. It’s not true, and, sadly, it doesn’t work, which says more about me than Chuck, who is surely the most underrated Aussie songwriter. Jeff Tweedy? Chuck has got him covered. And Icecream Hands bass player, Douglas Lee Robertson, sings like an angel and also knows how to write a nifty tune. I still laugh when I hear “You Could Be Reported”, which reminds me of a relationship I had with a girl who had no interest in football when we started dating. “You know, I found you tuning into the football score,” Chuck sings. “I said, ‘Since when have you been interested in the football score?’ She said, ‘Shut your mouth, I want to hear some more.’”
MELODY POOL Deep Dark Savage Heart (2016)
It’s hard to compare a new album to records I’ve been playing for decades, but Melody Pool is special. This is what Joni Mitchell would sound like if she grew up in Kurri Kurri in NSW. Deep Dark Savage Heart – Melody’s second album – is a window to her soul. “I am pressured to show only light,” she sings in “City Lights”, “to be filled with all that’s good and bright. But I’m a slave to a darkened mind. And who are you to tell me I’ll be fine?”
Jeff’s Howzat column can be found each week on the Living In The Land Of Oz website
This fortnight we’re absolutely delighted to have Steve Pinkerton, frontman for super 2000s band The Anyones share with us his top ten records. Nowadays you will find Steve fronting the ever-awesome Ronson Hangup (along with a cast of fine gentlemen!) and also playing the drums for Melbourne legends Dallas Crane. Steve has delivered us some great tunes over the years – look for “Rubin” and the undeniably glorious pop of “Pocket“, both from The Anyones’ self-titled record. In more recent times check out the rollicking “Shades Of Stones” from the Ronson Hangup’s self-titled debut. And whilst on the subject, where is that second Ronson LP?! …Surely can’t be too far away! It promises to be a classic. – LT
Steve: My approach to My Top Ten Albums was to list the albums that had the greatest emotional impact on me in my formative years – I may rate other albums higher but these albums had the powerful combined effect on me of environment, circumstance and time.
ALICE COOPER Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)
Some of you who associate Alice Cooper with the era of the single “Poison” and beyond may be asking “what the fuck Steve?” (not to mention Alice’s occasional right wing outbursts – although next to Ted Nugent he’s positively Trotsky) but let me tell youse…from ’69 – ’77 Alice Cooper was the perfect mixture of irreverence, horror movie and sensational rock/pop. My older sister Jane introduced me to this – and it certainly had an impact. Originally signed by Frank Zappa to a 3 album deal, by 1974 Alice had essentially gone solo with a sensational backing band (shared with Lou Reed) that included the amazing Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter on guitars and producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss, Lou Reed). Welcome to My Nightmare was a concept album that was also made into a finely crafted theatrical performance. I loved the production, the story line, the guitars, the drums and the songs that ranged from the melancholy (“Only Women Bleed”) to great pop/rock (e.g. “Cold Ethyl” and “Department of Youth”) – oh and a touch of necrophilia.
AC/DC High Voltage (1975)
My brother’s birthday present – we gave this album a good flogging and were suitably amazed by Angus’s skills on “Baby Please Don’t Go”, romanced by Bon on “Love Song” and inspired by Phil’s drum roll on “Show Business” (which was one of the first things I learnt to play on drums). My strong memory is playing “She’s Got Balls” over and over just to annoy my Mum (surprisingly she had difficulty hearing Mozart’s influence). My brother was also responsible for introducing me to Slade and ELO.
ELTON JOHN Greatest Hits (1974)
Yep dark, gritty, subversive – ok maybe not – my Dad gave me this album on cassette and I fondly remember a beach holiday on Sydney’s central coast where I was rarely seen without my mono tape deck, weighing circa 2 kilos, and single ear piece with this album on high rotation (well it probably took 10 minutes to rewind the tape so perhaps medium rotation). What can I say, wall to wall melodies and lush recordings. It was number 1 in both the US and UK for weeks selling about 17 million. Favourite tracks included “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Bennie and the Jets” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”.
KISS Alive! (1975)
There are groundbreaking albums like Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds – and then, ahem, there’s Kiss Alive! A gift, this album was really the record that precipitated my love for rock/pop music – I would definitely love to be able to say it was Frank Zappa’s Mothermania but alas. My Dad surprisingly brought this back for us (unsolicited) after a trip to the USA and the first thing I remember was being obsessed with the front cover (outfits, makeup, rock poses, etc). A “live” album, there has always been great debate over how much is actually “live” (some say it’s only Peter Criss’s drum tracks) but this was always irrelevant to me – and regardless, I always enjoyed Elton John’s “Bennie and The Jets” with its deliberate and heavy-handed crowd noise overdub. I particularly loved the tracks “Strutter”, “Black Diamond” and “C’mon and Love Me”. Kiss were big fans of Slade and named the album after Slade’s Slade Alive. Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper) subsequently produced the album Destroyer so you can see there’s a theme to my formative years. Inspired by the New York Dolls (Peter Criss grew up with NYD’s drummer Jerry Nolan), Kiss took the cartoonish theme to a new level – a child’s dream.
THE ROLLING STONES It’s Only Rock And Roll (1974)
As schoolkids my friends and I were obsessed with the Rolling Stones and their albums, bootlegs, movies, etc. Not necessarily my favourite Stones album – I still love it because it reminds me of my school buddies and Year 12. It was the last album featuring Mick Taylor and was the first produced by Jagger/Richards as the Glimmer Twins. There are two highlights for me – the tracks “It’s Only Rock and Roll” and “Time Waits for No One”, which features a lead break by Mick Taylor that rivals his effort on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. The lead break is so familiar to me I think I could sing every note from memory – yet surprisingly it’s a song that the Stones have never played live (possibly because Mick left the band shortly after). Dave Larkin recently revealed to me that he is also a big fan of this track so we give it an occasional butchering at Dallas Crane rehearsal. Just after we had finished Year 12 my best mate Bern and I snuck in (me underage) to the Chevron Hotel on St Kilda Rd to watch John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which featured members Mick Taylor and John McVie (Fleetwood Mac). We stood directly in front of Mick Taylor in awe – and in total fear of being kicked out. After the show we waited for them to appear and asked for a photo – and they couldn’t have been happier to oblige. The photo featuring a beaming Mick, John, John and Bern is still on my wall. Bern had just received his driver’s licence so we jumped in his mum’s car and chased their minibus down St Kilda Rd –John McVie decided to show off to their entourage and climbed out his window to shake my hand at 80kmh. I still remember Mick Taylor et al in fits of laughter.
LINDA RONSTADT Simple Dreams (1977)
This album was essentially forced upon me by stealth by my older sister Jane who flogged it to death at full volume. At that stage I was struggling between the LA sound and British New Wave – and my music collection was favouring the latter. Linda Ronstadt’s subsequent albums also reflected these British influences with songs written by Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. The songs on Simple Dreams range from tracks written by Buddy Holly (“It’s So Easy”) and The Rolling Stones (“Tumbling Dice”) to my favourite tracks written by Warren Zevon which include “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” and “Carmelita”. “Carmelita” resonated with me because it’s indicative of the other 70s 3-minute tragi-romance songs that I was drawn to such as Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”, Rod Stewart’s “Georgie”, Hot Chocolate’s “Emma” (later covered by Urge Overkill) and even John English’s “Hollywood 7” (although admittedly these were a tad more heavy-handed). This certainly inspired the track “Rubin” on The Anyones’ second album.
THE BEATLES Revolver (1966)
I won’t bother going into another vivisection of this album – suffice to say that as kids we were always surrounded by music (particularly classical music) thanks to my mother – but vocal harmony wasn’t her focus. So when I discovered The Beatles, and in particular Revolver (and Rubber Soul) it opened an amazing new world. I’ve been a sucker for a harmony ever since.
THE JAM Sound Affects (1980)
My first band out of school was comprised of my brother Mal and I, Nick Murphy (i.e. the genesis of The Anyones) and also Bern (mentioned above in the Mick Taylor experience) and we were essentially a garage 60’s inspired rock band – The Jam were a significant influence. Sound Affects was an easy transition from Revolver as the track “Start” was almost a ‘lift’ from “Taxman” – but it never bothered me. “That’s Entertainment”, “Boy About Town”, “But I’m Different Now” and “Pretty Green” were other faves. It reminds me of our first gig where some aggrieved patron promptly slashed the tyres of many of the patrons – wasn’t me… promise.
THE SMITHS Hatful Of Hollow (1984)
This album was the soundtrack to my university days, new friendships and tedious first year philosophy conversations. We knew it all – and thought we ruled the world. Morrissey and Marr perfectly framed the experience. In short, brilliant lyrics, melodies and lots of guitars. I was lucky enough to support Morrissey in The Anyones (and he’s been pestering me to be his ‘bestie’ ever since…).
LED ZEPPELIN Physical Graffiti (1975)
In the 90s I did some backpacking around the Philippines with Nick (The Anyones) and this album was my travel companion (via Walkman). It’s an intimate musical experience when the conditions are rough, the budget tight, the scenery stunning – and mobile phones/internet non-existent. A double album, I was seduced by the dry, powerful production (some tracks recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile studio) – and, of course, the drumming.
Ben Salter was one of the very first people that sprang to mind when I had the notion of doing My Top Ten. When I ask people for their top ten I anticipate their response with large amounts of trepidation. Committing to writing a top ten albums list is no walk in the park. It consumes time, serious thought and an enormous amount of consideration. But by the same token it’s a damn lotta fun! I understand this, as I have done one myself. Ben’s first response to my email was “This sounds great. I’m a bit flat out at the moment so forgive me if I don’t get it straight back to you but please keep hassling me.” …And hassle I did.
Around seven or so months later, after much consideration, bless him, I received his utterly brilliantly constructed top ten list. I first saw Ben play at a small bar in Northcote about 10 years ago. He was unknown to me at the time so I was watching a scruffy-haired gentleman playing “Oh Darling” by the Beatles and he was absolutely nailing the vocal (if you know the song well you’d know it’s a crazy hard vocal to tackle). Since then I’ve followed a lot of stuff he’s done both past and present, and there’s a heap of great songs to be found – this gentleman can certainly pen a tune. If you don’t already know the track, check out “Drug Flowers” by his band The Gin Club, a classic. Enjoy Ben’s list with added disclaimer! LT
The idea of doing a top ten list of albums induces within me the type of palpable dread and anxiety usually associated with trips to the dentist. I fear judgement. You might think this is strange coming from someone who essentially makes a living acting like an arseclown on stage 3 or 4 nights a week. But Luke has been an amazing combination of really nice and completely persistent and so I would be even more of an arseclown/hole if I turned him down. His most recent email was a sort of “Well, I’ve done my best, I’ll just leave this here” guilt trip sort of thing that really got me in the feels… luckily by then I’d nearly finished this all off. But anyway – The List.
I’ve decided to try and avoid most of the obvious ones, because, well, everyone has heard those. So no White Album even though it’s probably my favourite album ever. No Together Alone even though it changed my life. No AC/DC, probably the best band in the entire world (Powerage yes I said yes yes yes). No Radiohead YES RADIOHEAD FUCK YOU THEY’RE AWESOME. No Smashing Pumpkins or Pearl Jam or Nirvana or Bush or Tonic or Creed or Nickelback.
But anyway, while I have tried not to put really obvious ones in, I have still put in albums or recordings that I have listened to a million times. I don’t know why I am even writing all this, I am going to cop heaps of shit regardless. Oh well. You know what’s really cool? Just being yourself.
ELEVATOR TO HELL Parts 1-3 (1996)
I first encountered the introspective nasal kitchen sink indie-rock of Canadian songwriter Rick White when Beck played an Eric’s Trip song when he programmed Rage a million years ago. Not long after I met a fellow from Canada named David Chenery whilst busking. He ended up living with me and he introduced me to White’s next couple of bands, Elevator To Hell and Elevator Through. Of all the 90s DIY indie 4-tracky noisy bands out there I think these guys are my favourite, and I think this is my favourite album of theirs/his, that I’m aware of anyway – I just had a look at Wiki and there are tonnes of releases I haven’t heard. (Eerieconciliation is also good. So is Purple Blue. They all have at least one or two really memorable, amazing singles on them) He’s still churning them out, under a variety of monikers – I think he released his most recent solo album in 2009. Not sure. Anyway this is great stuff – paranoid, lo-fi, distorted bass, odd arrangements. If you like stuff like Flying Nun’s Tall Dwarves you might like this. Also reminiscent of some of the Elephant Six sort of stuff. I dunno, it just does it for me. Eric’s Trip are similarly awesome. Wish I could have seen them live.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND The Velvet Underground (1969)
I was never a massive Velvet Underground fan until I heard this album… not really cause I didn’t like them, I mean I listened to Velvet Underground & Nico a bunch of times when I was 17 or 18, but after that I was just too busy listening to Kyuss or Pearl Jam or something, I dunno. But one of my bands The Gin Club went to Los Angeles in about 2008 and I made the obligatory trek to Amoeba records and I saw this album there, on blue vinyl. So I nabbed it. I can’t remember why. I think I was sort of obsessed with the song “What Goes On” at the time (which is one of the most perfect pop songs ever written btw). But anyway I started listening to this album a lot, late at night, in the dark, through my friend and housemate and landlord Steve’s totally amazing speakers, and I was just blown away. It’s perfect. It’s sort of a folky album I suppose – there’s some apocryphal tale of them having all their equipment stolen prior to recording – although it still has the absolute wackdom of “Murder Mystery” and the escalating bug-eyed teeth grind of “Beginning To See The Light”. For me this is a really spiritual album… there’s a lot of earnestness in Lou’s lyrics. Doug Yule’s vocals are amazing also, I really like his playing. John Cale had left by this stage. I dunno I could go on and on about this album. Just get it, turn the lights out and listen to it. I think my favourite track is “I’m Set Free”. But my favourite Velvet Underground track of all time is “I Heard Her Call My Name”. But that’s on White Light/White Heat. But Loaded might be my favourite album now, assuming you include the bonus tracks. I dunno, I just love them, I think they are most probably my favourite band.
KYUSS ...And The Circus Leaves Town (1995)
The name Kyuss comes from a Dungeons & Dragons monster, or to be more precise Tintin, an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons monster.
“A son of Kyuss is a walking corpse with worms protruding from its facial orifices, which attempt to burrow into living beings and kill them. The spawn of Kyuss are the footsoldiers of Kyuss, part of the Wormgod’s wormspawn legions.”
Now those two sentences are either the most exciting sounding thing in the world or the most absolutely naff, depending on your outlook. The same can be applied wholly to the band itself. You either like Kyuss or you don’t. I used to play Dungeons & Dragons (no-one is surprised to hear) and I love them. It’s hard to say why they’re so awesome. There is just something elemental, primal… They’re really a band of contrasts – they’re dumb as shit but really really clever. Super aggressive but real hippies. There’s a fairly misogynist metal vibe to the lyrics, but more gals like them than almost any other super heavy band I can think of. And they are super heavy. They tune down to C, which is not unheard of, but still rather heavy. My housemate Harley put on Welcome To Sky Valley last night while I was cooking dinner (Tuna Mornay, if you must know) and I hadn’t heard it for ages, and I was struck by just how incredibly heavy they are. They can be sloppy occasionally but they can really play. I think Circus is my favourite though, I’m not exactly sure why. It’s just devastating. I definitely prefer Alfredo Hernandez’s drumming to Brant Bjork’s (I can already hear the hisses of approbation coming from smelly bong rooms everywhere), I love his hi-hat work (kill me). There’s just something a bit more considered, melancholic and epic about this album. It’s got some great instrumentals (“Thee Ole Boozeroony”, “Jumbo Blimp Jumbo”), a sort of stoner reggae song (“Size Queen” – I know that sounds like the most abhorrent genre imaginable, apart from jazz fusion, but like jazz fusion, for some reason, it’s not, and that’s a lot of commas), a couple of sonic-bath, acid-clarity proggy numbers (“Phototropic” and “Catamaran”), plus we haven’t even discussed “One Inch Man” and the unbridled machismo of “Gloria Lewis”. Man. The final song “Spaceship Landing” could be the best song ever written. I’m not saying it is, I’m saying it could be. There’s just something about this band that makes one lose one’s mind.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D performed by Itzhak Perlman & The Berlin Philharmonic (1990)
Phew, only up to number 4. How about we have a nice break and play some Beethoven. I guess there are lots of versions. I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.
TALK TALK Spirit of Eden (1988)
This could easily be Spirit of Eden *and* Laughing Stock because for me the two albums sort of flow into each other. But I’ll stick with the one most people know, in direct contravention of my foreword. I first heard about this album in the Buried Treasure section of Mojo, around 2000 AD or thereabouts. I tracked down a few songs on Napster at some horrid bit rate, probably took about three hours for one song or something. I was immediately struck, they just didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before… pastoral epic jazz prog? I guess the thing that makes it more than anything is Mark Hollis’s painfully open-hearted voice and lyrics. Heart on the sleeve is a massive understatement… it just feels like you’re listening to something you maybe shouldn’t be allowed to. But it’s so beautiful. Apparently they just got really stoned, recorded a bunch of drum loops and then started layering stuff over the top of it. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. Lots of other interesting things about this album – it features Danny Thompson on double bass and Nigel Kennedy on violin. It was panned by the critics. The shortest song goes for over five minutes. Etc etc.
LOW Ones And Sixes (2015)
I thought I should put in a recent release to demonstrate that I still listen to music. I don’t really listen to music though, not like I used to. I can’t pinpoint when it happened. I used to read every single music magazine, try and hunt out obscure bands and releases, all different genres. I would listen to music all day long. I judged people by their music taste. But then music became my sole profession, and I got really superstitious and stopped. I try to avoid music documentaries, books, magazines. I just sort of let music come to me. It’s Hard To Explain/Except To Say/That I Have Video Games To Play. Which of course leads us quite naturally to Low. What can I say, this is absolutely beautiful, spiritual music. I mean it is also ‘indie rock’ or ‘slow core’ or whatever the hell any of those useless labels mean, but labelling Low ‘indie rock’ is like labelling the Eiffel Tower a ‘building’. Low’s music is deeply sublime. This is their most recent album and I was lucky enough to see them perform most of it in Brisbane recently, at Black Bear Lodge, which is about a 200 capacity room. It was transcendental. Urgh I feel weird just talking about this, just go and listen to it. See this is why I can’t listen to too much music and why I hate doing top tens and I can’t go to the movies, I get far too carried away with this stuff.
THE DRONES Feelin Kinda Free (2016)
To be honest I haven’t listened to this album that much yet. The same goes for the Low album as well. Maybe five times each. But it’s my top ten and I’ll do what I want. “Taman Shud”, “To Think That I Once Loved You” and “Boredom”, the three singles, are worth the price of entry alone. “Private Execution” is just incredible as well. I nearly put Havilah, their fourth album, as my pick for this list, as I have a close connection with it and I know it back to front. But I hate nostalgia. I’m in love with the future. I feel lucky to call all the members of The Drones people I have met, with the exception of Chrisso their new/old drummer, who I’ve just heard about.* I have a lot of time for them all (except Chrisso) as musicians and as people. Hear me out here, but I think there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between The Drones and Midnight Oil, particularly on this new album. I just don’t see a lot of other successful Australian rock bands taking on indifference and experimenting and dragging their audience around as much as The Drones. But as I said I don’t listen to very much music these days. I just think this band is important, and quite apart from any political or whatever stuff contained in the lyrics this is just good music, well played and produced, with something interesting to say. *I actually got to go and see Drones in Newcastle last weekend and I did meet Chrisso, he was great, and the band were amazing, ironic mullets aside. The riff from Private Execution could be the best one since “Luck In Odd Numbers”.
THE WU-TANG CLAN Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
It would be sort of taking the piss to suggest that there is one hip hop album I have listened to that could feasibly be included in this list. Well, there is in fact – Wu-Tang Forever. I think I spent most of 1997 listening to that album. Ben Tuite from Giants of Science and I had moved into a share house with these two American exchange students, in Taringa in Brisbane. One of them was this Russian Jewish dude from Brooklyn, Mike Sokovikov. He’s pretty well known now as an artist. But yeah he introduced us to heaps of hip hop and that whole culture… he skated and tagged and everything. I know I said I wouldn’t include obvious ones, and Wu-Tang Forever is about as obvious as it gets. But it is pretty amazing. Tuite and I used to stun the skater kids in the mall in Brisbane by belting out verses of “Triumph” in between the Crowded House and Simon & Garfunkel. How the hell did so much talent end up in one band? The mind boggles. Hard to even pick a favourite member of that band, for me it keeps changing. Those fringe dudes like Inspector Deck and U God are really something else, even though it’s hard to ignore the out and out genius of the GZA, the RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and of course ODB. Like many others I spent a lot of time giggling over the illicit thrills of Straight Outta Compton when I was a lad. NWA were sort of like AC/DC to me back then – I just thought of them as this novelty band with naughty lyrics. It was only later that I realised just how masterful (and painfully misogynist) they were. Ice Cube’s anger is just awesome to behold. Eric B & Rakim Paid In Full, I love that album. I haven’t even mentioned Tricky, which is not really hip hop, but it’s something like it. Pre-Millennium Tension and Maxinquaye are two of my favourite albums. Oh… Welcome To The Terrordome by Public Enemy. Amazing. Haven’t listened to much contemporary stuff, not for any other reason than the one stated above – I sort of stopped listening to music. I have a hell of a lot of Kanyatching up to do. Okay so see what I did there, I got about 6 more albums into my list, I should have just done top 10 genres. My friend Chris will be groaning when he reads this. I’m just trying to become translucent. I’d really like to go to New York.
FRANK BLACK AND THE CATHOLICS Frank Black And The Catholics (1998)
All recorded live to two-track. Amazing songwriting and playing, and of course, the best middle 8s in the business. So many good songs on this album. “I Need Peace”, “Suffering”, “Steak & Sabre” and of course the incredible opener “All My Ghosts”. If you get this album and listen to it more than five times and still don’t like it then you’re an idiot. A lot of people think Frank Black’s solo stuff is way better than the Pixies. I’m not sure about that but I sort of went pretty hard on the Pixies for a long time and I can’t listen to it that much anymore. Frank Black though, I feel like I still have a lot of stuff left to discover. Let’s not even get started on Teenager Of The Year. Argh.
CHARLES MINGUS The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (1963)
Yeah, well, if you don’t like jazz you won’t like this, and that’s really saying nothing. I really love Mingus. I’m not the first white musician to say that and I won’t be the last. To me his music is synonymous with other sophisticated things that come from the west coast of the United States in the 50s and 60s, particularly Raymond Chandler novels. This album was one of the first jazz albums to have overdubs… it’s pretty cool. Like a lot of Mingus albums it starts in this sort of meditative, subdued place but by the end it has just gone bonkers. Charles’s psychotherapist did the liner notes. It’s awesome. What else can I say about Charles Mingus? Bass player. Bad ass. Insane.
This fortnight we’re stoked to have singer/songwriter/guitarist and frontman for Melbourne power pop aficionados The Wellingtons, Zac Anthony. Not only does he sing, write songs and play the guitar, he’s an absolute monster on the drum kit. If you ever get the chance to see him on the drums go check him out cos he goes bananas on ’em and he’s one of the best around. I was honoured to have him as a band mate of mine for a little bit so I got to see first hand. Anyhoo here’s Zac’s top ten!
WEEZER Pinkerton (1996)
The first time I heard Weezer was on a school bus heading to Year 7 camp. A girl who was a few years older than me in school was entrusted with helping the teachers to look after us ravenous year 7s. She had a trusty Walkman with her, and was kind enough share her headphones to turn me onto Weezer. “Sweater Song” was the first song she played me followed by a few other choice cuts from the Blue Album. Really I could have picked the Blue Album or Pinkerton here for this list, but I’ve gone with Pinkerton for the raw emotion and dynamics they managed to capture onto tape. The way Rivers screams ‘WOAH’ after the first chorus of “Tired Of Sex” under a wall of crunching guitars always gave me chills. The softness and fragility of songs like “Across The Sea” and “Butterfly” really hit home. The immediacy of “Why Bother”, the singalongabilty (yeah made that word up) of “El Schorcho”. And I haven’t even mentioned my favourite song from the record “Pink Triangle” yet! Weezer was pretty much the blueprint for what I wanted to achieve with my own songwriting.
PHANTOM PLANET The Guest (2002)
I moved to Melbourne from country Victoria when I was 18, and my band at the time slowly followed me and relocated too. I can’t recall exactly how it happened but I came to meet Scott Thurling (Popboomerang Records) soon after who showed an interest in our band. At the time he was running a mail order service disseminating pop music for discerning listeners around the world. I went over to his house quite a few times, dropping off Sweet Chuck (our band) cds that he was selling via his mail order service. Each time I’d drop 20 cds off, he’d kindly lend me a similar amount of CDs of bands he thought I’d like from his excess stock. Invariably he was right. Phantom Planet Is Missing (their debut) was one of those CDs, but again (as per Weezer) it’s their follow up record that is my favourite of theirs. You can hear the Californian sunshine in their melodies. “Always on my Mind” laconically bops along. The mandolin solo, I assume, a suggestion from producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Elvis Costello, The Bangles), only increases the So-Cal jangle of the doubled acoustic guitars (think Byrds/Eagles) and works sublimely well with the bounciness of the mildly distorted Fender Rhodes keyboard. The rest of the record overflows with memorable melodies summing up those innocent, awkward and sometimes frustrating boy/girl interactions that turn your stomach in knots. “Hey Now Girl” and “Nobody’s Fault” are prime examples of the crafted hooks and idiosyncratic vocal delivery of Alex Greenwald. I loved the record so much we even stole the font from the album artwork to use for The Wellingtons.
SOUL ASYLUM Grave Dancers Union (1992)
I was in grade 6 when “Runaway Train” was a hit and I liked the song enough to tape it off the telly to VHS for repeat listens. A few months later the single “Black Gold” followed and I gave it the same treatment. The second single hinted that there was a heavier edge to the band, more than the MOR acoustic balladry that was “Runaway Train”. It wasn’t until a few years later when I saw the album in a store. I was record shopping with my Mum and I think she was a little concerned by the name of the band and the album title, and she tried to coerce me into to buying something else (a few years back she had understandably confiscated my copy of the Motley Crue classic Doctor Feelgood) but I went on my hunch and with some trepidation took it home with me. The opening riff of “Somebody To Shove” in its minor key was quite jarring and the darkness of the lyrics delivered with fragility and a clear sense of anxiety was a little alarming for a pre-teen. But the explosion of the chorus with its shift to the major relative key excited me like few songs have before. This might not be their best album but it was their most influential on me. Dave Pirner’s creative and quirky lyrics blew my mind and made me smile, and the melodies and arrangements were like nothing my naive brain had heard before – experimental, punky, and containing enough hooks to have me engaged and wanting more.
YOU AM I Hourly Daily (1996)
In Grade 6 I did my work experience at Clarks Sound Centre in Leongatha (don’t look for it, it’s no longer there). My payment for the week’s work was $25 and my pick of any CD from the store. Hourly Daily was due for release on the Monday and I took it home on the Friday night (three days before its official release) with a bonus live disk attached, no less. I first discovered You Am I via JJJ (a national Australian radio station for those outside of Australia). I was deeply saddened and had concerns about my singing career when I couldn’t hit the high note from “Berlin Chair” while singing along. You know the note that not even the great man can hit himself these days just before the musical interlude at the end, he sings TOO LATE……… TOO LAAAAATTTTTEEE…
Hourly Daily built on the pop smarts that You Am I had hinted at prior to this, their most ambitious and dense record. Sounding more like the Kinks (before I even knew who they were) and less like Nirvana, this record was, as you say, right up my alley. Such a clever, well thought-out record. “Good Morning” was instantly added to the set list of my high school cover band. Rusty’s drumming style (flashy, busy and animated) really changed the way I approached playing drums (much to the disgust of every producer that has ever had to record me behind the drums). I went to see Soundgarden at Festival Hall mostly because You Am I were the main support. A diverse record (horns, strings, 12-strings) that ties together brilliantly.
THE POSIES Frosting on The Beater (1993)
I came upon this record around age 20. Hearing “Flavor of The Month” on RRR was enough to prick up my interest and I found the album in Dixons Recyled Records. Starting an album with “Dream All Day”, “Solar Sister” and “Flavor Of The Month” is as strong an opening stanza as you’ll find. Another great drumming record and Jon and Ken harmonizing is a thing of beauty. When The Wellingtons were asked to play our favourite record live top to bottom this was the record we collectively chose.
FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
Hard to pick a favourite album from a band that haven’t put a foot wrong their whole career. I recall my high school girlfriend came over to my house one Friday night after school sometime in ‘96 with a copy of the debut F.O.W. record and Car Button Cloth by the Lemonheads. Me knowing little to nothing about both bands (and thinking I was abreast of all the cool new bands), I was quick to dismiss her new purchases. I was probably jealous. “Why’d you buy those?” I said. “Nothing good out huh?” By the end of that weekend I was proven wrong as we played them on repeat and did things teenagers do while behind closed doors.
ELVIS COSTELLO The Very Best Of (1999)
Yeah I know picking a Best Of is a cop out. But it’s honestly the way that I began my research on Elvis. I first heard “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding” in the movie 200 Cigarettes in around 2000 – the soundtrack featured several of his tunes plus Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to Be Kind” (the author of “What’s So Funny…”) plus The Ramones and The Cars among others. If I had to pick a favourite album of his without too much thought I’d lean initially towards Brutal Youth or This Year’s Model. Hard to sum up what it is about Elvis that makes him so great. He’s been a Punk, a Balladeer, a Country Crooner and everything in between, but one thing remains: he knows the value of a well-written tune.
MIKE VIOLA AND THE CANDY BUTCHERS Hang On Mike (2004)
So hard to pick my favourite record by Mike (the voice of the song “That Thing You Do” and recent member of Ryan Adams’ band and production team). Falling into Place and Lurch are other albums of his I could have easily picked. Mike’s voice has a tonal quality that is just so magical and emotive, you can perhaps sense his vast life experiences in his vocal delivery. This record is really intimate and personal and he lets you inside his life. The perfect combination of piano and acoustic jangle. Beautifully arranged.
JELLYFISH Spilt Milk (1993)
A much-loved, short-lived, ill-fated group. Again, very hard to pick which album (of their two) is best. Another band that I have Scott Thurling to thank for. Peerless harmonies, inventive arrangements, pushing boundaries (and multi-tracking) until they break. Belly Button, their first album, may be more consistent but doesn’t reach the heights Spilt Milk does. “The Ghost At Number One”, “Joining A Fanclub”, “New Mistake” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” are good examples.
RHETT MILLER The Instigator (2002)
Expertly produced and backed by Jon Brion (who nearly made this list himself with Meaningless). The harmonies and guitar playing on this record bring further joy to these great songs. “Our Love”, “Four-Eyed Girl”, and “Hover” would all contend for some of my favourite songs ever written. Rhett’s usual ‘bag’ runs more into the alt country mode with his group Old 97’s but here he focuses on some of the best pop ‘n’ roll ever made. The production is really dry and thick and makes for a rich listening experience. Pretty sure my ol’ bud and ex-Wellingtons keyboard player Amy Walters got me into Rhett.
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