Thursday, November 6, 2008

The 11 Most Criminally Underappreciated Rock Songs

We all have songs that move us, inspire us, and take us to a higher place. And then we wonder, "WHAT??? What do you mean you've never HEARD this song before? That's one of my favorite songs!"

I have a lot of these songs from over the years that I adore, and either they were never released as singles, stuck on albums that sold poorly or were just generally never recognized as being of higher quality than the artists' most well-known songs. Some of these songs are also from bands that I sometimes wonder why nobody liked them as much as me, and "Because they sucked" is not a proper answer, smartasses.

To that end, we've compiled the 11 Most Criminally Underappreciated Rock Songs. The rules for compiling this list are pretty simple, actually. It can't be a song that's featured in even light rotation on any rock radio station. Only one of these songs is featured on a greatest hits album, and frankly, it was a major stretch to put it on the album to begin with considering the fact that I hadn't even heard of the song before until I bought the CD.

The only other rules that apply are either that:
A: It can't be one of the first songs that comes to mind by a popular rock band.


B: You probably haven't even thought of this band in the last eight years. I'd say ten years, but a few of these bands are from my high school years, and I'm just slightly past my 10-year high school reunion. I'm willing to give them a pass in that sense.

That's really about come with us. Slightly underground. But not that far, I suppose.

11. Exit Music (For A Film)--Radiohead
Where You Can Find It--OK Computer (1997)

The more well-known songs by Radiohead: Karma Police, Creep

Why it's Criminally Underappreciated: I love Thom Yorke's solitary acoustic guitar, the creepy organ press, and the massive crescendo to close the song. It sounds almost as if David Gilmour of Pink Floyd dressed in all black and did some peyote with his lover right before kidnapping her in front of her parents. It's a beautiful, haunting song with a buildup bigger than Chinese Democracy but better in virtually every respect.

10. Got No Shame--Brother Cane
Where You Can Find It--Brother Cane (1993)

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated--Brother Cane came out in the heart of the grunge era and wrote this blues-rock gem that was so woefully behind the times, it actually came out ahead. Got No Shame is unabashedly bluesy, borrowing more from Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers than from Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It's heart is stuck in the 1970s, and it's soul is smothered in cream gravy with a side of grits. It just couldn't exist in the hyper-caffeinated sounds of Seattle rock. Brother Cane released a few more albums but were done by 1998. Sadly, that was about the time Seattle rock called it quits too.

9. Plowed--Sponge
Where Can You Find It--Rotting Pinata (1994)

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: I haven't the faintest idea why this song, and this band, didn't do better than it did even in hindsight. Some songs like "What I Like About You" by the Romantics didn't score as well on the charts when they first came out, but gained in popularity as the years progress. I'm surprised this didn't follow suit. Plowed is chock-full of raging sonic energy full of frenetic bombast. Or more simply put: It kicks a metric ton of ass. The only thing I can possibly figure is that Sponge came out at a time when rock music had sorta lost an edge. Kurt Cobain had just committed suicide right around the time this song came out. I'm convinced rock n' roll lacked the frantic energy that this song possesses, and Plowed at the time was like watching a 5-year-old with ADD run around at a funeral.

8. Drop--Blue October
Where You Can Find It--Consent To Treatment (2000)

The more well-known songs by Blue October: Hate Me, Calling You, Into The Ocean

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: Actually, the entire Consent To Treatment album fits the bill perfectly. This album came out during one of the absolute worst periods in popular music. It was an era of boy bands and Britney, rap rock and generic schlock. And here came Blue October straight out of the Houston Heights and the San Marcos River, cranking straight-forward rock music with a violin. They were emo with a sneer, and sang about sex, drugs and the saving graces of rock n' roll with a deafening force. Consent To Treatment is, in my opinion, the best album of this decade, but in 2000 no one seemed to care. The music scene eventually caught up to them, and in 2006, they became the toast of alternative rock with the Foiled album. But this is their forgotten masterpiece, and Drop is the single that, to me, defines the album.

7. Unbroken (Hotel Baby)--Monster Magnet
Where You Can Find It--Monolithic Baby! (2004)

The More Well-Known Song by Monster Magnet--Space Lord

Why It's Criminally Appreciated: It's their own damned fault, in a way. Monster Magnet released a killer album, Dopes To Infinity, and then didn't release another album for three years. That album, Powertrip, featured Space Lord which was commercially successful. Their next album sucked. It was four years until they released this tasty piece of rock candy. "Unbroken" has everything you could want in a three-and-a-half minute rock n' roll song: A kick-ass chorus, plenty of profanity, rip-roaring guitar solos, and lots o' screaming. But there just hasn't been enough of Monster Magnet in recent years and this one fell through the cracks.

6. Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)--Cracker
Where You Can Find It--Cracker (1992)

The More Well-Known Song by Cracker: Low

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: OK, so I'm technically cheating just a little bit on this one because I just heard it on the Flashback Lunch feature on our alternative rock station here in Austin. But still, "Teen Angst" sounds like a smart-ass Neil Young pounding back bourbons straight with Denis Leary. It's darkly humorous, needlessly sarcastic and damned fine rock n' roll that sounds best after a few drinks of brown booze. This one simply was obscured by Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the ilk when it was released in 1992, and that's a shame because this one could swing with any of the best works of that era.

5. Candy--Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson
Where You Can Find It--Brick By Brick (1990)

The More Well-Known Song by Iggy Pop: I Wanna Be Your Dog (with The Stooges)

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: I actually knew nothing about this song, or this album, until I read Slash's autobiography. Slash and Duff both played on this album and contributed to a song called "Home." I knew a fair amount about his career and that he was discovered by David Bowie, and so based on the recommendations of Bowie and Slash, I felt it necessary to check out this album. What I didn't realize, though, was how much Iggy Pop sounded like Bowie, and how good of a songwriter he is as well. His voice is beautifully dark and rich, and perfectly complements Kate Pierson of the B-52s on this song that I'm pretty sure is about cocaine, but I can't be totally sure. On a side note, I never knew Kate Pierson was hot. I mean, Good Lord, seeing this video was quite a shocker.

4. God Gave Me Everything I Want--Mick Jagger featuring Lenny Kravitz
Where You Can Find It--The Bruce Almighty soundtrack (2003)

The More Well-Known Songs by Mick Jagger: Seriously, we need to have this conversation?

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: Lenny Kravitz wrote this one and sings backup for Mick Jagger. I'm not a huge fan of Kravitz, but he does a phenomenal job of channeling old-school Stones like "Gimme Shelter" and puts a modern twist on it with Mick singing lead. But hell, that's not the only reason it's criminally underappreciated. This is the only song on this list to be paired up with somebody else as equally underappreciated: The absolutely stunning Catherine Bell.

3. Supernaut--Black Sabbath
Where You Can Find It--Black Sabbath Vol. 4 (1972)

The More Well-Known Songs by Black Sabbath: Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: "I like it because I think it's prototypical of a certain musical style, and I think it's well done. Also, I happen to like the guitar lick that's being played in the background." --Frank Zappa

Zappa, however, neglected to mention that this riff is one of the heaviest, most evil sons-a-bitches on the face of the earth. If riffs were people, Supernaut would probably be Ray Lewis: hard-hitting, intense and possibly capable of murder.

2. I'm The One--Van Halen
Where You Can Find It--Van Halen (1978)

The More Well-Known Songs by Van Halen--Jump, Panama, Runnin' With The Devil

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: Eddie Van Halen is widely regarding as one of the greatest guitarist to ever live, but this might very well be his best effort to date. I'm The One is the 5th track on Van Halen's debut album, and that's an album that already features Eruption and Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love, two songs that pretty much every aspiring rock guitarist worth a salt takes their cracks at learning. But I'm The One is perhaps better, not just because it features Eddie's blinding speed and death-defying dexterity on the six-string, but because it many ways he manages to reinvent the blues to suit his needs. Basically, it's almost as if Eddie Van Halen took John Lee Hooker and Eric Clapton, grabbed them by their ankles, flipped them upside down, shook them vigorously until their noses bled, and then threw them down a flight of stairs for good measure. Whatever lands at the bottom of that flight of stairs is what Eddie Van Halen recreated. The blues became a wild, screaming, scary ride because of that shakeup, and on "I'm The One" Eddie Van Halen sounded like a man laughing all the way to the bottom.

1. Give In To Me--Michael Jackson featuring Slash
Where You Can Find It--Dangerous (1991)

The More Well-Known Michael Jackson Songs: See the entry on Mick Jagger and ask yourself that same question. Dumbass.

Why It's Criminally Underappreciated: It's not very often that you'd consider Michael Jackson sexy. And by "not very often," what I mean is "never." But Michael Jackson along with Slash manages to accomplish just this. Michael Jackson sings with raspy soul that accomplishes the near-impossible. He actually sounds like he's trying to seduce women, and towards the end of the song, he sounds like he's actually successful at it. And then there's Slash. He plays like Aretha Franklin sings: Full of soul, guts and grace. His solo is every bit as good, if not better, than anything he recorded with Guns N' Roses or Velvet Revolver. This song was never released as a single in the United States, and as a result, most Americans missed out on one of the great collaborations of the 1990s.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Not Over Yet

OK, OK, first and foremost, my sincerest apologies to the great people of Lubbock and Texas Tech University. The Red Raiders played one hell of a game, the Longhorns made way too many mistakes, especially in the secondary, and made us pay accordingly. I will pay my penance and gladly spend some money at the Artist Formerly Known As Hub City Brewery the next time I'm in town. Seriously.

And yes, by the way, your nose-picking insurance salesman of a coach with that wacky sense of humor can gameplan a little bit too. Props to him. Even larger props to him if Tech can beat Oklahoma State and Oklahoma as well. That'd pretty much put you in the national championship game as well because there's no way in hell that Tech would lose to Baylor and the Big XII North Champ. At least I don't think so.

But that's the interesting thing here. Tech still has to finish, and just like the Horns, they've got one hell of a task to stay there. If recent years are any indication, getting to the top is much easier than staying there. I believe at one point last year we saw South Florida, California, Mizzou, West Virginia and, of course, the Ohio State WegetourasseskickedroutinelybytheSEC all occupy the #2 spot in the BCS rankings. Texas Tech is #2 right now. Whether they can stay there or not remains debatable.

Now what we have are the Longhorns occupying the #4 spot, and facing a rather winnable stretch of games: Baylor, at Kansas, A&M. In a weird, twisted kind of way, I'm actually kinda looking forward to the stretch run. You see, the pressure's off now. Colt McCoy has been pretty spotty following the Missouri game, and I wonder if maybe all the attention he's been receiving lately has affected him more than he's let on. It's an incredible dynamic having to go from Tuscola to Austin. It's an even greater dynamic having to go from Vince's shadow to your own. I don't even think that the attention has necessarily gone to his head. From what I gather, and this is merely speculative, but it seems like all the attention might be a little embarrassing for a Born Again small town kid like Colt.

Well, the rest of the college football world has moved on, and is looking at Texas Tech. The national spotlight will cast an occasional glare on Texas, but not certainly the way it has over the course of the last month. Baylor and a little home cooking will be good for Colt McCoy and the Longhorns to regain some confidence, and not have to worry about the constant specter of #1 constantly glowering over every move they make.

Let's let some other teams carry the #1 burden for a little while. I think after November, the Longhorns will be strong enough to carry that burden again. And after November that #1 ranking will no longer be a burden anyway, but rather, a ticket to Miami.