after i graduated high school, i worked at salvation army for several years. i was driving a ’90 or ’91 tercel with a tape deck in it which was sort of fortuitous because thrift stores always have an abundance of media forms that recently became obsolete. the combination of working there and driving that car made for a gold mine of exposure to new artists and music that i otherwise may have never got into. last night i revisited one of those records and it made me want to write about it here. so here are a the albums and artists i credit the salvation army and my tercel with getting me in to.
- sinead o’connor – i do not want what i have not got
i always loved the single from this album, the emperor’s new clothes, and was pretty alright with the big hit, nothing compares 2 u, so i checked it out the whole thing and really liked it. it’s not a style i normally dig at all. it’s very focused on lyrics and doesn’t rock very hard too often but i was really impacted by how raw the lyrics are. of course everyone knows that o’connor is a fiery, opinionated lady, and i knew that before i listened to the album, but i still didn’t expect her to be so unguarded in her art. she speaks so plainly about some clearly very intimate stuff. it’s almost like she’s singing diary entries she made while she was at her most joyous, most angry, most resentful, etc. she’s a fucking extreme chick, and i like it. i would never, ever want to hang out with her because i bet we’d get in a fight and she’d physically attack me but she has made some brutally ‘real’ art and i admire the fuck out of that. very brave. i also love how unaffected her voice is. she never sounds like she’s trying to sing sexy or haunting or weird or whatever. she just sounds like a woman singing naturally, singing the way she feels inspired to sing. that’s surprisingly rare in vocalists, i think.
- billy joel – glass houses
my fucking scumbag asshole uncle once made me a mixed tape when i was a little kid, and to this day i still really like a lot of the stuff he put on there. it’s about the only good thing that man ever did in his entire rotten fucking life. anyway, one of the songs on there was it’s still rock and roll to me, and that song was the reason i grabbed this tape. and i was shocked because i loved the whole album start to finish, right away. i was so pumped that i checked out some other BJ albums but none of them rocked as hard as this one did. the others were more piano and ballads while this one was more rock and roll, and that suited me better. just about every song is a fucking hit in my eyes. and what’s more, i realized that BJ is a true wordsmith. he is incredibly talented on saying exactly what he means, yet staying perfectly within the constraints of rhythms, stressed syllables, rhymes, etc. i think that’s actually exceptionally difficult to pull off. most crappy poetry or song lyrics will use stupid techniques like sentence inversions in order to retain the rhyme scheme or meter, but they wind up sounding really archaic or stiff and rigid, or the author often has to change what they’re saying a little bit in order to make it fit into the music. that’s pathetic and obviously sucks. BJ doesn’t do that. listen to this album and pay close attention to the lyrics and the way he effortless, clearly, beautifully expresses himself. i think it’s really impressive.
- the b-52’s – cosmic thing
i was always pretty down with love shack and really liked roam but was dubious about the rest of this album. i mean, their super goofy schtick can be nauseating. but i was surprised at how legit the album is, how it still retains the goofy schtick but also attempts to communicate serious thoughts on serious stuff. some of the album is surprisingly focused on environmental and social issues but even those moments are as fun and goofy as everything else they do. i think it helps keep the heavy subject matter from feeling too heavy. it’s a great balance. i also really like the songs that are more personal, just about having fun with friends and crap. the whole thing makes for a great road trip soundtrack album.
- deee-lite – world clique
everyone loves groove is in the heart. if you don’t, you’re an asshole who doesn’t like to get down and have fun. it’s a killer song. i think it’s definitely the best cut on the album but the whole thing is still really fun overall, and it really captures the crazy, retro fashion-styled electronic music movement that came out of new york. i feel like it’s a period piece, a snapshot of some tiny scene that just happened to blow up in the early 90’s. plus lady kier was so fucking hot.
- prince – the hits
before i got this tape, i never realized how crazy and talented and versatile and unique and uncompromising prince is — in a nutshell, prince is amazing. i think he is a living legend, a true modern day version of michaelangelo or any other renowned, long-dead artist. even if you don’t particularly dig his stuff, i think you would be delusional to deny its many great and varied qualities. almost every fucking song on this tape is 10/10, and the ones that aren’t are like 8’s and 9’s. it’s top quality shit. and it served as my gateway to prince fandom: after this, i got into many of his albums, and even got to see him perform live a few years back. the best part of that was bill and i went to the after party show (which was actually really boring — i’m not into aimless, wandering funk jams) and just when we were ready to pull the pin and leave part way through, prince walked by on the other side of a barrier and bill said “hey, prince!” and slapped prince on the shoulder like an old friend. kind of funny since prince is so tiny, effeminate, and flamboyant, and bill is a giant, 6-and-a-half feet tall, affable white guy in a striped golf shirt. i think it’s a cute juxtaposition. anyway, prince’s body guards jumped in and pushed bill away and rushed prince away to the stage. when prince got up there, he just stood there and glared at us for like 5 or 10 seconds. a long time, really. i didn’t connect the dots at first and wondered, why is prince glaring at me? then i realized that prince wasn’t glaring at me, he was glaring at bill — he was pissed that bill had dared to touch him! you could tell he actually loved it though. he loved having an excuse to be quietly melodramatic. he’s so bitchy that way. anyway, it was super fucking cool and and is just another reason that prince holds such a special place in my heart.
part of what made me get into these tapes was the fact that they were so inconvenient to skip through. i normally have a very short attention span when giving new things a chance. if i’m not impressed in the first 10 or 15 seconds, i usually skip to the next song, and after that happens a few times, i just shut the shit off. i don’t have the patience to force myself to acquire a taste for every god damn new thing that pops into my line of sight. but with tapes, i couldn’t easily skip to the next song. i had to sit through some songs i would have normally skipped past, and i learned to appreciate things about those songs i normally wouldn’t have noticed. so i sort of miss that, and wonder if i will find another way to inadvertently force myself to give more time to new things. probably not. oh well.