5, 10, 15, 20…
I’ve love the new 5, 10, 15, 20 columns from Pitchfork, wherein some pseudo-famous indie rocker details the albums that made his or her life what it is at each five-year-increment.
So I’m stealing it.
A word to the wise – I’ve cheated. But for good reason. Often, you’ll see two – or even three – albums. Chalk it up to a wildly changing focus on genres. I’ve passed through several different phases, and these phases all seem to peak a few years AFTER the five-year-interval. In fact, ages 10, 15 and 20 served more as a crossroads between phases, where two genres mixed.
Outside of The Monkees and various cartoon theme songs, I’m sure I was uninitiated in the ways of music back in 1984. Of course, I don’t remember. I was only five.
I do vividly remember my father requesting “Happy Birthday” by the Beatles on the radio for my sixth or seventh birthday, and I remember Phil Collins’ “Mama” and “That’s All” playing a lot, but “We Are the World” probably served as my initiation.
It was the first time I actually wanted to be part of a song – to be one of the singers. I used to imagine my stuffed animals and toys singing a benefit song together. Because I apparently didn’t have many friends.
Speaking of no friends, I was utterly devoted to “Weird” Al Yankovic when I was 10. Naturally – he was the soundtrack to the lives of many future dorks, and I was no different.
However, this is also the age when I branched out a bit, so giving the entire year to “Weird” Al is a little deceiving. It’s funny to think that this was the year that produced Paul’s Boutique, Doolittle and Bleach, but my unpracticed ear was drawn to the blossoming hair metal scene, thanks in part to a cassette purchase of Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood.
Hair metal really took hold of my attention when Poison’s live album – Swallow This Live (1991) – came out, and I then focused primarily on safe, radio-friendly rock bands: Poison, Motley Crue, Warrant, Ugly Kid Joe, Van Halen. Boring. Predictable. Awful, now that I look back.
And then, ramping up to age 15 – and my first days in high school – something else happened: Metallica. Metal got serious, and the Metallica juggernaught culminated with their first live box set, Live Shit: Binge and Purge. I had never been so excited for a musical project in my entire life. Come to think of it, I probably never have been since, and may never again. It allowed my love for Metallica to coast on for several more years, even after they got all shitty and cut their hair.
Of course, this was the time I became more interested in both alternative music and a renewed era in pop punk. This is the year Kurt Cobain died, the year Ill Communication and The Downward Spiral and Weezer’s debut album were released. So R.E.M. and Nine Inch Nails and whatever else was considered “left of center” at the time became awesome in my mind. Green Day’s Dookie gets the nod for pointing me in the future direction of Bad Religion and NOFX.
We skip Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas is the Reason, Sense Field and the rest of the Revelation Records/Post-punk emo-ness that led me to want to be in a band and sing warbled whining about tortured teenage angst, and we go right to the tail end of that movement – my sophomore year in college, spanned across two cities, when Hot Water Music and Braid and The Get Up Kids fueled a period of manic inter-state concert attendance.
This was the year I learned how to drink, and it was the year that led me to my final genre change – from that warbly emo kid to the sophisticated indie rock aficionado, or, at least, an aficionado-in-training.
I had graduated college and moved back to Sioux Falls and gotten married and had a dog and two jobs I hated and was a very busy person in general.
And in the two years between moving from St. Cloud (November 2002) and signing up for Sirius Satellite Radio (December 2004) I nearly completely forgot about music. I didn’t listen to anything new. I didn’t pay attention to the scene, didn’t go to many shows, and hardly purchased CDs.
I was stuck, just like those aging rock fans who still cling to their Journey and Tesla albums. Except I was clinging to northwest indie – Modest Mouse, Built to Spill. Foremost was The Moon and Antarctica, an album I still love to this day.
(Sirius saved me, though – specifically Sirius 26: Left of Center.)
This is me right now. According to last.fm, Modest Mouse holds the top six spots in terms of most listened to albums (not counting those I use as “concentration music,” which often loop over and over again in the background: jazz, Thom Yorke, Sigur Ros). Ugly Cassanova – an Isaac Brock spin-off – sits at #7.
But to claim Modest Mouse again would be boring. And not fair to the rest of the stuff I listen to. Now, for better or worse, my tastes have branched and become so varied that I no longer have favorite bands or albums, and my reliance on Modest Mouse and Built to Spill as easy fallback choices is probably a remnant from my lost days of music. Age 25. See above.
Now, I could easily claim MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, or Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, or Okkervil River’s The Stand-Ins. Hell, even Girl Talk could stand a chance to land #1. (Ben Folds’ Songs for Silverman – an older one – should also be mentioned.)
But despite the wide array of choices, one album did take a higher stage: Ween’s Chocolate and Cheese, the album on which I wrote a book proposal to Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, and the album that allowed Ween to creep into the upper echelon of my listening habits.