Top Fifty Albums
By Phantom Troublemaker
20. All Ages – Bad Religion
I like to think I have a fairly expansive vocabulary, but Greg Graffin uses words I haven’t even heard of. And he sings them, too. Really well. Bad Religion is a staple of any punker’s collection, and this is the best Bad Religion album you can own. It’s a greatest hits compilation (I always feel weird using that term when applying it to bands that really never got a whole lot of radio play. Not to disparage the band or anything, but a “hit” is generally a charting song. Most of the folks on my list have only one or two of those, if any, so how come almost all of them can boast “greatest hits” albums?) with all of your favorites on it. I once left this in my car CD player for three months. No lie.
19. The Sign Album – Prince & The New Power Generation
They should really include that symbol Prince used to identify himself in the 90’s on keyboards. How often has one of us writer types needed to write something about Prince and been left trying to describe that symbol? How much easier would it be just to standardize it on all future keyboards? Anyway, this is my favorite Prince album by far. This is the one my buddy Paul told me would prepare me to understand the magical purple world of the Sexy Motherfucker. He was right. I mean, the opening track is that tiny little man proclaiming “My name is Prince and I am funky/ When it comes to funk I am a junkie/ I did not come to fuck around…” No shit, man. This album is just crazy good. He follows that up with a song called Sexy Motherfucker. I am totally serious. I have the clean version of this album, too, and in place of the curse words are Prince’s signature squeals – yes, its as awesome as it sounds. The rest of the album was obviously made with the assistance of a funky ball of tits from outer space, then you hit track 14, the greatest and best song in the world. I think this one must be the one Tenacious D played for Satan. Which I would really like to see.
-Favorite song - 7
18. King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime – Faith No More
Ah, Faith No More, my absolute favorite band of all time. This is their third album (I don’t count pre-Mike Patton because Chuck Moseley sounds like a mute trying to sing. I apologize to mutes everywhere.) and it is great. I once had the opportunity to ask Jonathan Davis if Korn was at all inspired by Faith No More and he said that they definitely were. You can listen to almost any of the so-called nu-metal bands and hear the influence that Faith No More had on them. Everything from displaying wide vocal ranges to heavy bass lines to keyboards and odd time signatures come from these guys. I actually have a really great Mike Patton story for later. I have been lucky enough to meet the three celebrity-type people I always wanted to meet, and thankfully they were all super nice. Mike Patton was one of them. Too many people out there have only ever heard Epic and maybe Falling to Pieces, if they even remember that one. Everyone should expose themselves to this long-gone, great band.
-Favorite song – The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Note: Faith No More is back together now and incredible. I really, really hope they come to Georgia or somewhere nearby. Here's a swanky video from their first reunion show:
17. Decade of Decadence – Motley Crue
This might be the only entry that is truly deserving of the “greatest hits” moniker. I think every song on here got significant radio play at one time or another, even the crappy cover of Anarchy in the U.K. by the overrated and generally untalented Sex Pistols. Normally, a bad track would disqualify an album from this list, but this one is so hilariously awful it approaches parody, thusly excusing it from my normally strict criteria. I don’t know how many Top 40 hits are actually on here, but you’ll know every song on the album. Keyboards should have umlauts, too. Oh, yeah, their new song (Saints of Los Angeles - it had just come out when I wrote this) is actually really good. I did not expect that.
-Favorite song – Livewire
16. Pretty Hate Machine – Nine Inch Nails
I know that there are a lot of albums on the list that popularized a genre, but think about it – these albums were so good that they got regular people listening to a new type of music. That is certainly the case, here. Trent Reznor makes anguish fun! From front to back, this is a great album. Who knew being sad could be so funky? I truly think Reznor is one of the greats of my generation. Anybody who discounts him for being too poppy is likely a douchebag who pretends to understand all that crap in the Avant bin at Tower Records, and we all know those people are full of shit, right? I mean, I own Mike Patton’s solo albums, but I’m not gonna sit here and tell you they’re brilliant and I listen to them while reading Nietzsche or anything. They’re pretty much gibberish that’s been distorted until you can’t even recognize them as gibberish, but I still own them because they’re Patton’s gibberish. I certainly won’t try to convince you that they have any more value than anything Nine Inch Nails has put out. Anyway, this is number 16.
-Favorite song – Down In It
15. Pezcore – Less Than Jake
I didn’t even remember this until just now, but I did not like Less Than Jake until I saw them live. I would have to look back at my ticket stubs to be sure, but I think it was right after Losers, Kings and Things We Don’t Understand came out. I know it was before Losing Streak. Less Than Jake are admirably consistent without being boring. They have improved without “maturing” – “maturing” is music code for slowing down and starting to play lame music that only appeals to geriatrics and soccer moms trying to net younger dudes, some examples:
-Red Hot Chili Peppers, after Bloodsugarsexmagic
-Soundgarden/Chris Cornell, halfway through Superunknown
-Metallica, between Metallica and St. Anger (I love St. Anger, so I consider it redemption… for now)
You get what I’m saying, here. Lots of bands greatest albums are so great because they started sucking after that. If the Chili Peppers hadn’t started playing adult contemporary music after the amazing Bloodsugarsexmagic, how crazy and awesome might their albums be now? Can you even imagine if they had continued down the creative road that took them to that masterpiece? It pisses me off to even think about that.
So, to get back to Less Than Jake, I have never been disappointed by one of their albums (since I started liking them) and that is saying a lot. The first is still my favorite, though. The remaster is great since it includes a DVD of live performances and sounds amazing. I very highly recommend it.
-Favorite song – Throw the Brick
Note: Less Than Jake released a remastered version of this album since I wrote this. I don't think it sounds as good as the original, but maybe that's just me.
14. Mesmerize/Hypnotize – System of a Down
I am counting these as one album because the cases attach to each other. Also because I didn’t like them as much until I took them in together, as they apparently were meant to be listened to. I initially did not think these were as good as System of a Down or Toxicity, but putting them together makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I now think this is one of the best albums I have ever heard, but being the best doesn’t count as much on this list. One of the things that put me off a bit at first was Daron’s increased presence on vocals, but now I think I might actually prefer him to Serj (especially after enduring approximately 73 billion plays on the local rock station of Serj’s bland solo song, Empty Walls.). Not that I want Serj gone, but let’s just say I’m a lot more excited about Scars on Broadway than I was about Elect the Dead. I didn’t mean for that to turn into some attack on Serj, believe me when I say that he is one of my favorite vocalists, but I just saw him on Rollins’ show recently with Tom Morello, and the subject was their political views, which I don’t want to hear about. I can listen to SOAD and ignore the flaky political stuff in favor of the incredible music, but when they’re just sitting there talking about it with Father Punk you can’t really look past it. And I don’t disagree with everything System says, just for the record. For the sake of this blog, though, I will be as vague about my political beliefs as I can stand to be. I don’t want this to be a forum for serious discussion. We are, after all, on a website intended for 12 year old girls (thank you for that awesome quote, Richard. I reference it often.).
My fondest memory of this album is listening to Mesmerize while playing Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in the original Man Room – a smoky garage that was hot as the devil’s butthole that time of year.
-Favorite song – Old School Hollywood
13. Liquor in the Front – Reverend Horton Heat
I find myself with surprisingly little to say about this album. I’ve seen the Reverend play quite a few times and it is always great. Go see him if you have the chance. This one is a must for road trips. Just watch your speed, ‘cause it’ll have your foot jamming down on the accelerator – slow-paced this album is not. Another consistent act that has never disappointed.
-Favorite song – Big Sky/Baddest of the Bad – best album intro ever. Imagine ninjas fighting cowboys in outer space. Fuck, yeah.
12. Buhloone Mindstate – De La Soul
I thought this was my favorite De La album. You’ll find out later if I was right or not. The first three De La Soul albums are, to me, the greatest trilogy in hip-hop history. As much as it would have broken my heart, they should have stopped after this one. As a matter of fact, hip-hop could have stopped after this album, because it has never gotten better than this. Better albums came before it, but I cannot name a single hip-hop album released after Buhloone Mindstate that tops it. De La are like casual kings of the world on this album, flowing like its no bigger a deal than breathing, and sharing their air with many other talented artists who flow right along without seeming intrusive or hogging the spotlight. So many times, guest spots seem like an attempt to latch on to someone else’s glory or fit in where you have no business trying to fit in (see: AOI albums). Here, though, all the guests feel like family. Everyone is natural and comfortable, adding without taking anything away. Relax, and submerge yourself in hip-hop greatness for a little while.
-Favorite song – Ego Trippin’ (Pt. 2)
11. The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest
This album set the standard for intelligent hip-hop. It led the way for artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common Sense. This is the album where Phife stood up and said, “Oh, by the way Tip ain’t the only one around here with flow”. This is the album with Jazz (We’ve Got), Buggin’ Out and Show Business. Scenario! Who doesn’t at least attempt to sing along with that one? Just because you start stumbling around Charlie Brown’s verse is no reason not to try, dammit! This album was so close to being in the top ten.
-Favorite song – Scenario
So that wraps up the top forty. This has taken a lot longer than I realized. I’m glad I’ve done it over a weekend all at once or I probably wouldn’t ever finish this thing. Now I’m going to work on 10-6, which will post on you future people’s tomorrow, then 5-1, which will each warrant a post of their own. Those will go up Monday through Friday next week, which is three days away for you folk of the future, but seven days away for me as I speak to you from the past. Its kind of like The Lake House, isn’t it? No. Until tomorrow, stay creepy.
And here's your video. This shit is hilariously 90's. Look at Busta!: