Bye-Bye Lala: Albums I’ve Listened to on Lala.com, part IV

Well, this is the last day of Lala.com.  To bid it a fond farewell, I’m going through a chunk of albums that I used to have, but don’t anymore and haven’t listened to in years.  A couple decades, in some cases.  While preparing for this entry, I noticed that the music in my life is divided into several eras, each one marked by a dramatic shift in what music was in my collection.  To be extra nerdy, I’m going to be LOTR about it and call them “ages.”

The First Age: The Beginning

1. Wilson Phillips–by Wilson Phillips.  Many people would be embarrassed to admit what I’m about to admit, but I was shamed and humiliated so much by the time I graduated high school, it’s just really hard to do that to me anymore.  Especially when it comes to music.  This was the first album I ever owned.  My grandma bought it for me for the hefty price of $10 at the Sam Goody in White Oaks Mall back in the summer of 1990.  I was ten.  Go easy on me, I’ve always been a sucker for vocal harmonies.  I’m listening to it as I write this . . . and my goodness this is the very definition of early 90’s adult contemporary.  To the last detail–the way the harmonies are done, the keyboard effects, the bass guitar effects, the heavy reverb on the drums, and the painfully unoffensive execution of the vocals.  They could not have sounded more tame when the three of them sing that they want to be “impulsive” and “reckless.”  And lastly . . . I’m a little scared about how many lyrics I remember.  And who knew they covered a Rod Stewart song?!  Yeah.  Rod Stewart wins that competition.

2. Flesh & Blood–by Poison.  Now we can get started for real.  These guys were my first official “favorite” band.  I had friends my age that liked some of Poison’s contemporaries–Winger, Warrant, Guns n’ Roses; I even had some cousins that were huge Motley Crue fans.  But Poison was my band.  I started with the single cassette for “Unskinny Bop” and ended up buying this on tape probably a few weeks later.  I also eventually got their previous album Open Up and Say . . . Ahh.  But this album was epic then.  And it is at the bottom of my list of good 80’s hair metal, now.  They have a lot of blues and country influence in their sound.  Sometimes it’s hidden and sometimes it’s not.  That’s perfectly okay, but I remember these guys being a lot more “hardcore” than they really were.  I don’t doubt there’s lots of people out there with a much clearer memory of the early 90’s than I do that would say “duh” to all of that, but it’s kind of shocking to me.

The Second Age: Christian Rock

3. Change Your World–by Michael W. Smith.  How interesting that these two music eras of my life both started with ridiculous early 90’s contemporary artists.  I got it for the Christmas of 1992, and at the time I had somehow lost my First Age cassettes and wasn’t into music that much.  I got the tape and remembered how much I liked having music as a part of my life, so I listened to it and (at the time) liked it a lot.  Now I’ve listened to it as a near-30-year-old.  It reeks of all that was awful about that 1989-1993 time stretch.  (Side note: has anyone ever stopped to think about the irony that people who were adults at that time probably looked back at their fashion choices in the 70’s and thought, “What were we thinking?”)  Like Wilson Phillips, Smith makes extensive use of reverberated drum kits and cheesy bass guitar effects.  Yet he draws an awful lot more from African-American gospel and pop, complete with choirs and MC’s in some of his songs.  I’m going to be sure to avoid this album in the future, not just because I don’t care for it anymore, but because I had “Picture Perfect” going through my head every morning for a week afterward.

4. Scarecrow Messiah–by Bride.  As with the First Age, I started with a single contemporary album, but quickly moved into rock.  This time around, though, it was mostly Christian rock.  I fell hard for Bride when I heard their album Snakes in the Playground, and for the record that album STILL rocks like no other.  But I’ve been listening to my autographed Snakes cassette off and on for the last 18 years, so it doesn’t fit with the theme of this blog.  Instead, we turn to Bride’s follow-up to Snakes, the incredibly bland Scarecrow Messiah.  I think upon the release of this album, it was the first time I was already a big fan of a band and they released a new album.  I liked Scarecrow when it came out (though I always thought Snakes was better), but now I really don’t think it’s that good at all.  With two exceptions, the “Superstition”-esque “Place,” and the upbeat and brass-filled “Time,” the songs are pretty weak.  And “Dadmom” has to be the weirdest attempt at a normal song I’ve ever heard.  I can handle heavy songs about loving Jesus and doing good, and I love fast songs, but songs about loving mom and dad?  That’s a good message and all but it’s kind of like putting whipped cream on my steak.

The Third Age: Grunge and Alternative

5. Purple–by Stone Temple Pilots.  This is cheating a little bit, as I’ve heard this album as recently as 7 years ago, but I didn’t listen carefully.  It was the album that ended my Christian hair-metal era of Guardian and Bride and brought me into the (then) current mainstream of the Grunge era.  My big brother (a heavy contributor to my early musical tastes) had the opportunity to go to an STP concert and meet them backstage.  The next day he and I watched some STP Unplugged, and I was hooked.  There’s a lot of Grunge that’s become as dated as flannels and undercuts, but this album is timeless.  I really like being able to listen to their guitar work and now, as a guitar player, really appreciate their style.  The singles from this album are all great, but my favorite is still probably “Army Ants.”  I like fast songs, what can I say?

6. Dookie–by Green Day.  Another Christmas present, received via big sister in late 1994.  I had this on cassette and listened to it a ton for probably 3-4 months, and not much longer after that I switched to real punk rock (in fact, it was a year after THAT when I heard that Green Day was apparently a punk band; could have fooled me).  Now?  I was bored pretty fast.  “Basket Case” is still catchy.  “Burnout” is a good opener.  But everything else just seemed to dry up quickly for me.  But I cannot decide if I like or loathe Billy Joe’s voice; I hate it when OTHER bands try to do that nasal-and-throat-fake-english-accent-kind-of thing, but this guy is the one who coined it.  Oh, and did he really say, “I went to a whore, HE said my life’s a bore?”  That’s always weirded me out.  Maybe he meant it that way.

The Fourth Age: Punk and Ska

7. Ninety Pound Wuss–by Ninety Pound Wuss.  When I made the switch to being a full-blown punk fan, I had a small issue on my hands.  While I liked a lot of the political attitudes of the music, I didn’t line up with the religious views (or lack thereof) of many of my favorite bands.  There was Christian punk, but it was really just MxPx and their clones.  It was tiring trying to find a decent punk band that was Christian and wasn’t trying to be Green Day.  Then I heard Ninety Pound Wuss.  This album became a frequent visitor to my Discman.  I hadn’t listened to this album too much after 1998, as my collection at the time was growing, and then in 2000 all my CD’s were stolen out of my car, and I never got this one back.  Well, one Lala listen later and I can tell you that this album will still kick you in the face.  It’s fast, it’s harsh, and it’s loud.  It’s perfect.  Also, it’s neat to listen to this album now and know where Shelton and Olympia are.

8. Act Your Age–by Home Grown. Here’s another one that I listened to a ton for many months, then I just grew tired of it and put it away . . . and then my CD’s got stolen, and I all but forgot about it.  I was honestly expecting this album to be very poor, but for what it is, it’s not bad at all.  They’re by-the-numbers, for sure, but it’s still fairly early enough in the game in 1998 that they can get away with it.  Easy melodies and harmonies, heavy guitars in predictable progressions, catchy riffs, and goofy and snarky songs.  Awful singers, really, but they harmonize well.  Which is weird but true.  Speaking of their songs, I wonder if they had ill feelings about the song “She’s Anti” a year after this came out, when the Columbine Massacre happened.  They seem to make light of a girl killing cheerleaders and football players, and it didn’t phase me at the time, either, but now it seems a little too tragic of an idea to sing about in a I-V-vi-IV progression.  But “Grow Up” is still the best song on here by far: great harmonies, fast drums, heavy guitars.  Great stuff.

9. Heads Are Gonna Roll–by The Hippos.  Of all the CD’s I lost in The Great Car Theft of October 2000, this is the one that I can’t believe I haven’t repurchased.  I didn’t even need the listen on Lala to realize this (though I’m not sorry I did).  This album, along with albums like Catch 22’s Keasby Nights, is a swan-song of the third-wave ska era.  There were some classics that defined the early part of that 1994-2000 time-frame, but the ones that get the least attention are the great ones like these that played us out.  Plus, The Hippos started taking their sound in a new direction and mixed strong elements of synth-pop into their songs; there’s honestly nothing else truly like this album.  I had their first album and they sounded a lot like a Reel Big Fish clone.  That kind of turned me off.  If it wasn’t for this sophomore masterpiece, I would have forgotten them along side other 2nd-rate ska bands of the time like Spring Heeled Jack or The Eclectics (who?).

Well . . . that’s it for these posts, and that means that’s it for Lala.  It’s been fun.  Now I need to start budgeting for a CD splurge.

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