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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jack McDowell on R.E.M. & managing rookie ball

JACK McDOWELL: The Dodgers asked me to come to Arizona for Spring Training as a special instructor, travel around a few weeks during the summer, you know, five day-trips to high-A, AA and AAA affiliates, just to see what goes on, which I was on board with. Couple weeks later, the organization called up to let me know they had a managerial opening in rookie ball for the Ogden Raptors if I was interested. I ran it by the wife and joked “Remember when I said I was gonna be gone for two weeks? How does six months sound?’’

djordan Posted: March 20, 2014 at 09:12 AM | 154 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jack mcdowell, mlb

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   1. eddieot Posted: March 20, 2014 at 05:03 PM (#4674640)
I saw Stickfigure at Maxwell's. They weren't bad. Jack's a big dude. Never would have guessed he's an REM nerd.
   2. Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman Posted: March 20, 2014 at 11:52 PM (#4674703)
McDOWELL: "Document" is fine, there’s good stuff there, obviously, but I have other favorites. If I had to rank them, I would go “Lifes Rich Pageant,” “Murmur,” and then the rest. Speaking of becoming more accessible, a lot of critics and fans point to Pageant as to when everything started changing for the band, and there’s some purists who take issue with that, but I love that record. You want me to point out one song on Document I really enjoy? "Distrubance at the Heron House" would be it.


Pageant and Murmur are my top two as well , but being asked to separate the first 5 is pretty damn hard ! All are classics

Bloody great interview as well
   3. frannyzoo Posted: March 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4674792)
I put Reckoning higher than Mr. McDowell (note I believe he has two of its tracks in his countdown), but agree the first five are pretty much inseparable, in terms of ranking.
   4. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4674804)
REM is one of my favorite bands, ever. I may be the only person on the planet that still defends Monster.
   5. djordan Posted: March 21, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4674825)
Listening through all the albums again this weekend, re-discovered "Sitting Still" on "Murmur." Such a cool tune. "Wolves, Lower" on "Chronic Town" remains one of my favorite driving songs.
   6. eddieot Posted: March 21, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4674827)
I may be the only person on the planet that still defends Monster.

I'm with you Dock! I found Monster to be big dumb fun ... something REM hadn't really pulled off before. That material made for some good live performances.
   7. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4674836)
The amount of love I had for "Radio Song" is only equaled by how unbelievably dated it now sounds.
   8. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4674853)
I used to be a huge, huge REM fan, but the only albums I listen to now are Pageant and Reckoning. So, on that basis, I declare those the two best REM albums.

The amount of love I had for "Radio Song" is only equaled by how unbelievably dated it now sounds.

Oh yeah, it's terrible listening to it now.
   9. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4674854)
I'm with you Dock! I found Monster to be big dumb fun ... something REM hadn't really pulled off before. That material made for some good live performances.

Agreed. The first five albums are so good that the others all suffer by comparison, but Monster is really pretty good in its own right. I'd put it somewhere in the top tier of the post-IRS albums.

Regarding the first five albums: after all these years Murmur has emerged as my #1 and Reckoning as my #5 (one of them has to come last, and while the high points on Reckoning are superb I find the album as a whole is a bit less consistently good from start to finish than the others). As between the other three it's almost a toss-up -- if pressed I might say Fables, Pageant, Document, but I love them all.
   10. Baldrick Posted: March 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4674865)
I was becoming musically aware just about when Out of Time came out, and really started to get INTO music in the following couple years. So all of my early experience with R.E.M. were with that version of the band. It wasn't until much later in life I was able to go back and actually check out the earlier stuff. So I admit that my feelings on the band are specific to the context of my discovery. But I have to say that I think Automatic for the People is their best album, and I don't actually think it's particularly close. I'd also put New Adventures in Hi-Fi very high on the list. Underrated record with tons of great songs.

Of the IRS records, I love Murmur and Document but only like the other three. They're good, of course, but they don't blow me away.

Monster is terrible. Probably their worst record. Up and Reveal are less memorable, certainly (I'm not sure I could hum more than one or two songs from either), but I don't actively dislike them either. They're just innocuous. Monster has more good songs, but also has some that I actively wish I could erase from my memory.
   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4674867)
"Monster" has a lot of good songs on it. It's like "Green" that way.
   12. frannyzoo Posted: March 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4674868)
New Adventures in Hi-Fi is a very good record, and about the only "later" one I still listen to. Solid evidence for the theory that "theme" isn't terribly important in putting together a good record (Sticky Fingers perhaps the best example of this).
   13. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4674877)
New Adventures in Hi-Fi is indeed very good, and "Leave" is just an absolute killer song.

I own Reveal but I don't think I've listened to it since the week I got it. I think by then I was bored with them, especially after Up didn't excite me very much. Despite them being one of my favorite bands, ever, I have not heard Around the Sun, Accelerate or Collapse into Now. Should I?
   14. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4674900)
it always shocks how (relatively) little love Reckoning gets in macrocosmal REM discussions
   15. Baldrick Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4674905)
I own Reveal but I don't think I've listened to it since the week I got it. I think by then I was bored with them, especially after Up didn't excite me very much. Despite them being one of my favorite bands, ever, I have not heard Around the Sun, Accelerate or Collapse into Now. Should I?

They're fine. Around the Sun is probably my favorite of the three. But you're really not missing too much. They haven't descended into terribleness or self-parody, but you could pretty safely pretend the band ceased to exist in 1998 and not have done yourself much damage.
   16. The District Attorney Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4674916)
I may be the only person on the planet that still defends Monster.
Then you must enjoy the hell out of used record bins.

I was surprised to find that my easy answer to "who is the best American band?" (i.e., no solo artists) is "R.E.M." I don't love them that incredibly much (although I do love them a lot), but when you take out all the Brits, etc. and the soloists, they were what I had left, and it wasn't close.

(I expect 5,000 posts explaining how R.E.M., the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground, etc. aren't even candidates when it was so obviously Joey Lugnut and the Candy Bars.)
   17. DL from MN Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4674918)
I was glad to hear Accelerate and Collapse into Now just to know they could make a non-terrible record again.
   18. DL from MN Posted: March 21, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4674921)
Who is the best American band?


Pixies, Minutemen, Husker Du, Replacements and Pavement top REM for me just among their contemporaries. I'll take Ramones and Beach Boys over REM too. Currently active it might be Wilco which says more about rock music than Wilco.

edit: Forgot Flaming Lips. They're the best active American rock band.
   19. Baldrick Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4674928)
I was surprised to find that my easy answer to "who is the best American band?" (i.e., no solo artists) is "R.E.M." I don't love them that incredibly much (although I do love them a lot), but when you take out all the Brits, etc. and the soloists, they were what I had left, and it wasn't close.

Just had a VERY extended conversation with a bunch of friends about this. The general consensus was for The Beach Boys, which I grudgingly accepted. Most of their best stuff was only on the edges of rock, and while they are excellent I'm not sure they're SO good to overwhelm their relative lack of rockiness.

I did start with the answer that I probably had to be R.E.M. Nice combination of actual quality, popularity, range of styles, and durability. That said, as much as I like R.E.M., it kinds of a sad comment on the state of American rock bands that they could potentially be the answer by default. Compare that to British bands, where the top 10 list is probably strong enough that no American band could even crack the list. I mean, the 10th best British rock band is probably...The Smiths? You might take R.E.M. or the Beach Boys or whoever ahead of them but it's certainly an argument.

Is there something about American culture that pushed all of our greatest artists toward more solitary projects?

Best current American rock band: Okkervil River.
   20. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:14 PM (#4674930)
it always shocks how (relatively) little love Reckoning gets in macrocosmal REM discussions

Reckoning is definitely my favorite record of theirs. Pavement even made a song about it!
   21. Monty Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:20 PM (#4674934)
I very much enjoy Monster. There's nothing wrong with putting down the mandolin and turning up the distortion occasionally. And New Adventures in Hi-Fi is also very pleasing to my ears.
   22. rb's team is hopeful for the new year! Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:21 PM (#4674935)
Why is phil not involved in this discussion?
   23. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4674941)
REM's consistency is stunning. 15 studio records (plus the Chronic Town EP) and depending on your tastes at least 8 of them are good, and that's the first 8. I'm not sure if any other American band can touch that.

But Guided by Voices gets my vote as best American rock-n-roll band.
   24. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:31 PM (#4674948)
you could pretty safely pretend the band ceased to exist in 1998 and not have done yourself much damage.

Thanks Baldrick. That's pretty much how I've been regarding them.
   25. djordan Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4674952)
I really like the idea and thought process behind "Bad Day" off the In Time compilation, but the execution reminds me of an aging guess hitter who can figure out what's coming but just can't quite get around on the pitch.
   26. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4674955)
IMO, the best American rock band is still Creedence Clearwater Revival, It would be The Band if they weren't 4/5 Canadian. The Byrds also deserve consideration. Favorite current American band - sue me, but it's Death Cab for Cutie.

Flaming Lips is probably the band I've never heard a complete album from (I heard their version of "After the Goldrush" on the Neil Young tribute album, and didn't care for it) that I'd most like to get a feel for. I'm a bit intimidated by the breadth of their catalog, though, and don't know where to start. Any suggestions?
   27. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4674956)
REM's consistency is stunning. 15 studio records (plus the Chronic Town EP) and depending on your tastes at least 8 of them are good, and that's the first 8. I'm not sure if any other American band can touch that.

I guess Prince doesn't count, not being a band?
   28. eddieot Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:19 PM (#4674967)
But Guided by Voices gets my vote as best American rock-n-roll band.

My highly subjective top 10 American bands: Replacements, GBV, REM, Wilco, Husker Du, CCR, Ramones, Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr, Pavement

I know I'm supposed to respect the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson is a genius, blah, blah, blah but I just don't see it. I've tried, really, but I just don't "get" the Beach Boys. Good Vibrations is a great song. That's all I got.

The Flaming Lips would rank higher but I really prefer their older acid rock over their current spacey electronica sound. The Clouds Taste Metallic tour was one of the best live shows I've ever seen.
   29. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4674977)
Compare that to British bands, where the top 10 list is probably strong enough that no American band could even crack the list. I mean, the 10th best British rock band is probably...The Smiths? You might take R.E.M. or the Beach Boys or whoever ahead of them but it's certainly an argument.


I understand that completely. It's certainly not intentional, but my list of my ten favorite acts includes British, Australian, Canadian, and Japanese acts, but no American ones.
   30. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:49 PM (#4674986)
Flaming Lips is probably the band I've never heard a complete album from (I heard their version of "After the Goldrush" on the Neil Young tribute album, and didn't care for it) that I'd most like to get a feel for. I'm a bit intimidated by the breadth of their catalog, though, and don't know where to start. Any suggestions?

To me the Flaming Lips have been two different bands, and I agree with eddieot; I prefer their pre-Soft Bulletin stuff than what they've done since. They were so much more rock-n-roll in those years. But then they started utilizing the studio as an instrument, and The Soft Bulletin is when they started getting all the critical acclaim. If you think the Flaming Lips is drug music, then they were on uppers the first half of their career, and downers the second half.

If you like your rock-n-roll loud and sloppy and catchy then try In a Priest Driven Ambulance, Hit to Death in the Future Head, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, and/or Clouds Taste Metallic.

If you like layers and layers of space and sound and the kind of studio experimentation that Radiohead is known for, then try The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and/or At War with the Mystics. I can't speak to anything they've put out since.

Avoid Zaireeka. It's something else, but it's 4 CDs that you need to play all at the same time.
   31. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4674988)
I know I'm supposed to respect the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson is a genius, blah, blah, blah but I just don't see it. I've tried, really, but I just don't "get" the Beach Boys. Good Vibrations is a great song. That's all I got.

I agree and disagree. Pet Sounds is probably the greatest record every made, but man am I so over it. I actually prefer their pre-Pet Sounds stuff these days. If you love the Ramones, there's no reason you shouldn't like all those great Beach Boys singles on Endless Summer.
   32. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4674989)
REM is one of my favorite bands, ever. I may be the only person on the planet that still defends Monster.


I'm not a huge REM fan - without checking my library, I'm pretty sure I've got a least a few cuts from all their albums and many of them in total, but I like Monster, too.

I like it when artists explore new sounds -- sometimes it works (see the Stones and Some Girls), sometimes it doesn't because they get lazy and are just trying to ride the latest wave rather than actively exploring it (again see the Stones and the laughable debacle of Emotional Rescue).

I've had the same argument with many people about Liz Phair - no, her foray into pop isn't Exile in Guyville, but guess what - sometimes you do your masterpiece young and just want to try something else. I'm still arguing the relative worth of the New Pornographers' Together with people. It's not Twin Cinema or Mass Romantic, but I think it's at least a pretty fine attempt at return to glory.

My tastes for American bands would likely fall outside the standard BBTF accepted realms -- I would certainly rank the Flaming Lips somewhere in the top 20, if only for pure talent and output, even if they're not a band I regularly seek out to listen to. I would also toss Wilco and REM into the mix (REM makes my top 20, Wilco is probably at the edge).

Some others - so sure, prepare your radio hag flames now --

- Cheap Trick - My personal favorite and also my nomination for the most criminally underrated band in history. Just because they wanted to get paid with Lap of Luxury, people completely forget how truly excellent their first few albums were, how perfectly pop hummable even their 80s stuff is, not to mention how well they've recovered in their old age (Rockford is a very good - even great - album).

- Guns and Roses - What's more - I think they owned a sound that was also more uniquely American... sure, like plenty of bands, they've got roots in Brit imports like Sabbath and Zeppelin, but front to back (until the breakup - I don't count the current iteration as GNR), a short, but great library. Outstanding peak.

- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - I suppose maybe I'm cheating by including the Boss -- but in fact, I'd say that Bruce's weakest stuff is actually his solo albums. Maybe you can say they're less a "band" than a guy WITH a band, if we can count "Bruce Springsteen AND the E Street Band" as a "band" rather than solo artist, then I think they're my #1

- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Same problem as the Boss above, I guess... but again - I think Petty's weakest material was his true "solo" stuff. The best work was together with the Heartbreakers.... and so far as that goes - it's pure Americana... really good stuff.

- Black Crowes - I suppose I wouldn't even try to make an argument for "best" -- but they're in my top 5 favorite American bands... I guess if you're going to take a sort of southern boogie/blooze band - you'd take the Allman Brothers and I guess I'd agree, but I like the Crowes better.

- Grateful Dead - Deserves at least a mention...
   33. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 03:58 PM (#4674995)
I would also agree that it's almost unbelievable how hard it would be for an American band to crack the all-time, worldwide top 10... The Brits kick our asses so badly on that front -- hell, setting aside my Cheap Trick fetish, I think there might be Canadian bands I'd slide in ahead of American bands.

That said - we're a pretty white audience here... If I had to think of other genres and how to rank them with my preferred genres -- you might have some Motown and rap groups that might be able to make a top 10 case.

That said -- solo artists? I think the list is mostly American... Maybe something to that rugged American individualism :-)
   34. Perry Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:02 PM (#4674999)
IMO, the best American rock band is still Creedence Clearwater Revival, It would be The Band if they weren't 4/5 Canadian. The Byrds also deserve consideration.


Seconded.
   35. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4675000)
The best American band is Swans. They have everything: longevity (12 studio albums with a 13th later this year, plus another 9 live albums, including Swans Are Dead which is one of the best ever), incredible artistic growth and diversity (initial no-wave brutalism giving way to more exploratory singer-songwriter-y stuff that encompasses everything from folk/country, goth, musique concrete, punk, post-rock, electronica, noise, etc. etc.), an uncompromising approach that totally eschews any forced considerations of accessibility or commercial viability. And their most recent album was the best they've ever released. They're 30 years deep and only getting better.
   36. Monty Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:10 PM (#4675005)
any forced considerations of accessibility


That means nobody but their devoted fans finds them listenable, right?
   37. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:12 PM (#4675008)
Just googling around a bit, some other names to toss out there...

You've got the grunge set -- Nirvana, Pearl Jam and a few others... Nirvana was too short and overrated anyway - Pearl Jam maybe has a top 50/even top 20 case, but not my cup of tea.

A few of the Dinosaur rock bands -- Aerosmith maybe at least deserves a spot in the conversation, but not any real consideration. The Doors are another one, but once you get past the cult of Jim Morrison, you've basically got bad poetry + Ray Manzarek making a career out of Inna-Godda-Davida organ music... Still - a few good pop tunes - Peace Frog is pretty good, LA Women, etc.

Some decent metal entrants -- Metallica, maybe Megadeth... a few others.

Beyond that --

Velvet Underground hasn't been mentioned... They're probably not top 10, but deserve a mention.

I actually think Green Day has a shot at getting there - especially if you give them credit for all the side projects and alias bands (Foxboro Hottubs, Pinhead Gunpowder, etc).

The Band seems to come up a lot - but they were really just a few peak and then a lot of meh. Van Halen is another one...

   38. Baldrick Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4675010)
You won't get any pushback from me on Springsteen/Petty. Best American rock artist is very likely Springsteen, and Petty isn't THAT far behind. You could make a pretty strong argument for Dylan, of course. And you wouldn't go wrong saying someone like Chuck Berry or Little Richard or Elvis. But for my money, it's Springsteen. But that's the thing. Not a band.

I really do wonder if it's just a coincidence, or whether the British version of Springsteen would have turned over more creative control to the E Street band, and taken a slightly different path. Or whether Petty and Mike Campbell would have become true collaborators. Or whether Dylan and the Band would have been...you know...a band.

I went into the long conversation about best American band thinking that Creedence was a clear top 10-15, but definitely didn't challenge for #1. A couple folks pushed hard for them, so I went back and listened to a bunch of stuff I hadn't put on in a very long time. And I was definitely underestimating them. But I just don't think they can match the peak quality of the Beach Boys or Nirvana, don't have the longevity of R.E.M., don't have the influence of VU, etc. Depending on how you want to balance things, they might catch just enough of all those elements to take the title though.

I also think there's a pretty strong argument for Modest Mouse. If they had turned out 3 good albums over the last decade instead of just one, that would really help. At this point, though, they've only put out maybe six or seven great songs since 2000. Which is only a couple more than R.E.M.
   39. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:18 PM (#4675011)
I wouldn't rank them #1, but I feel like the Red Hot Chili Peppers are overlooked in the Top 10 American bands discussion.
   40. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:21 PM (#4675013)
That means nobody but their devoted fans finds them listenable, right?


Hardly always the case for Swans.

But they certainly don't care what you think.

:)
   41. Group Captain Mandrake Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4675016)
I would also agree that it's almost unbelievable how hard it would be for an American band to crack the all-time, worldwide top 10... The Brits kick our asses so badly on that front -- hell, setting aside my Cheap Trick fetish, I think there might be Canadian bands I'd slide in ahead of American bands.


OTOH, USA kicks ass in Blues, Country, Soul, and Jazz. Maybe Rock is king, maybe it isn't, but the US takes a back seat to no one in the breadth and depth of our musical greatness. Oh, and a vote for CCR, with The Allman Brothers a close second.

That said -- solo artists? I think the list is mostly American... Maybe something to that rugged American individualism :-)


Eric Clapton, Elton John, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, John Lennon, Richard Thompson. The Brits can hold their own on that front as well.

Edit: Also, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Peter Frampton, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Peter Gabriel.
   42. Monty Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4675017)
Hardly always the case for Swans.

But they certainly don't care what you think.

:)


Good response! I appreciate that you included both "accessible" and "non-accessible" tracks. From your initial description, I was imagining something a lot more crazy.
   43. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:29 PM (#4675021)
I would also agree that it's almost unbelievable how hard it would be for an American band to crack the all-time, worldwide top 10... The Brits kick our asses so badly on that front -- hell, setting aside my Cheap Trick fetish, I think there might be Canadian bands I'd slide in ahead of American bands.


The only way in which the Brits kick America's ass in rock is with a very narrow view of what constitutes rock, basically the halcyon outlook of baby boomer cultural superiority. When was the last time British rock could compete with America, the late 70s? Looking at the body of work produced by great American bands in the years since, how can Britain even compete?
   44. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4675022)
Good response! I appreciate that you included both "accessible" and "non-accessible" tracks. From your initial description, I was imagining something a lot more crazy.


Always happy to try and sell somebody on Swans. Gira is an interesting character - his background is that of an art school student, not a musician, but he's a big fan of stuff like the Rolling Stones, old blues and country artists, etc. So you get lots of folkier, old-school Americana stuff mixed in with 20-minute assaults of drone and percussion. He's not inaccessible, but he's absolutely uncompromising. I really do admire him as much as I do any artist. It helps, of course, that I love his music.
   45. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:35 PM (#4675026)
I think more than a few Brits would acknowledge that the Velvet Underground and The Ramones might crack the top 10. And if The Smiths is a top 10 band, I wonder what Morrissey might say about The New York Dolls qualifications
   46. Group Captain Mandrake Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:35 PM (#4675027)
Oh, and a vote for CCR, with The Allman Brothers a close second.


Scratch that. ZZ Top.
   47. Baldrick Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:38 PM (#4675030)
OTOH, USA kicks ass in Blues, Country, Soul, and Jazz. Maybe Rock is king, maybe it isn't, but the US takes a back seat to no one in the breadth and depth of our musical greatness. Oh, and a vote for CCR, with The Allman Brothers a close second.

The point isn't that the US is totally outclassed in rock, exactly. We certainly don't win the fight, but the strange thing is that all our best contenders are solo artists.

And that is pretty true in those genres, too. Many of the top folks in those fields are solo artists. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Coltraine, Billie Holiday, Aretha, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and so forth. I mean, Ellington's band might be the best band of the 20th century - but they were never really a *band* in the sense that we're talking about here.

Eric Clapton, Elton John, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, John Lennon, Richard Thompson. The Brits can hold their own on that front as well.

Bowie and Costello I will absolutely give you. Thompson, too, though much as I like him I don't think he's at the same level as some of the other folks we're talking about. Joe Jackson...meh. And perhaps I'm being unfair to Sir Elton, but also meh. As for Lennon, you might remember him as also being the member of a pretty famous band. And I think you could make a pretty strong argument that The Yardbirds and Cream and Blind Faith output beats any solo Clapton work.
   48. Group Captain Mandrake Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:48 PM (#4675036)
Yeah, I really shouldn't have put Lennon in there. just going off the cuff and I wanted bulk. But my edit added a bunch more good ones. One may likewise quibble with gabriel, and YMMV, but I think he did his best work post-Genesis. Sting didn't, which is why I didn't include him.

Edmunds and Lowe were far more influential as producers, so again, YMMV.
   49. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4675039)
OTOH, USA kicks ass in Blues, Country, Soul, and Jazz. Maybe Rock is king, maybe it isn't, but the US takes a back seat to no one in the breadth and depth of our musical greatness.

Add hip-hop and the breadth and depth gets all the more wider and deeper.
   50. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4675040)
Eric Clapton, Elton John, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, John Lennon, Richard Thompson. The Brits can hold their own on that front as well.


And Kate Bush. Who, in case you missed it, announced today she will be playing 15 nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in London later this year, her first full concerts in 35 years.
   51. Group Captain Mandrake Posted: March 21, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4675042)
As for American solo acts, IMO, none better than Joe Bonnamassa right now.
   52. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4675045)
Actually, IMO, the best rock band in the world over the past decade has been neither British or American. In fact they don't speak English, and don't have any male members...
   53. DL from MN Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4675047)
Love Cheap Trick. Also like X. Don't think either one pushed boundaries that far.

Never thought of Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen as a "band". I think Petty collaborates with his bandmates as much as some of the other bands on the list so why not.
   54. eddieot Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:18 PM (#4675048)
I saw the Allman Brothers this week at the Beacon in NYC and I would put them up against Springsteen and the ESB as the best live American act presently touring. Trucks and Haynes are amazingly good guitarists and really complement each other. Gregg Allman's voice is still great but he seemed barely there. A little sad. I'm going to miss this iteration of the band. I have seen the Crowes a number of times and they are completely hit or miss live.

And Elvis Costello is a freaking genius.

   55. DL from MN Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:21 PM (#4675049)
I mean, the 10th best British rock band is probably...The Smiths?


I think you left out a zero
   56. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4675053)
Also....what about the Flying Burrito Brothers? Top 1, imo
   57. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4675054)
Also....what about the Flying Burrito Brothers? Top 1, imo


That first album is as good as country or rock gets.
   58. Manny Coon Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4675055)
To me the Flaming Lips have been two different bands, and I agree with eddieot; I prefer their pre-Soft Bulletin stuff than what they've done since


More like four, the stuff from the 80's nobody listens too, then 90's stuff from Priest Driven Ambulance to Clouds Taste Metallic, then Soft Bulletin through Mystics and now Embryonic/Terror are again something completely different. I think if someone wanted to get started on them they should each of Clouds/Soft Bulletin/Embryonic and then go from there.
   59. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4675059)
The only way in which the Brits kick America's ass in rock is with a very narrow view of what constitutes rock, basically the halcyon outlook of baby boomer cultural superiority. When was the last time British rock could compete with America, the late 70s? Looking at the body of work produced by great American bands in the years since, how can Britain even compete?


Perhaps it's been a while since British bands have had the staying power to make their way into the top spots -- and I likewise suppose there's a bit of bashfulness over over-trumpeting new imports after the laughable Oasis "best band since the Beatles!" hoppla -- but I think depth, Britain still pumps out plenty of winners on a regular basis... they just tend to fall apart or fall off more quickly.

I'm still a big fan of the Vancouver sound - so recent vintage, I still take Canada... YMMV...


Bowie and Costello I will absolutely give you. Thompson, too, though much as I like him I don't think he's at the same level as some of the other folks we're talking about. Joe Jackson...meh. And perhaps I'm being unfair to Sir Elton, but also meh. As for Lennon, you might remember him as also being the member of a pretty famous band. And I think you could make a pretty strong argument that The Yardbirds and Cream and Blind Faith output beats any solo Clapton work.


Right - I thought about Clapton/Lennon (or even McCartney) - but their solo stuff really isn't all that inspiring. Clapton's top zillion tracks are all from collaborations/various supergroups. Lennon has a few decent solo tunes, but the best solo Lennon I don't think measures up to mediocre solo... say Dylan.

Elton's a strange case - I mean, his really early stuff is legitimately great... but it's been nearly 40 years since he's put out something even candy pop fun (though, I do admit that I have this really strange fondness for the song Nikita... cannot explain it). At some point, Elton's standing has to slip for burrowing so deeply, thoroughly, and completely into schmaltz... I can appreciate the occasional schmaltz, but that's about all the guy has been doing since sometime in the 80s. Hell, even Rod Stewart took a stab expanding out that cage a bit with some half-ass motown covers.
   60. Repoz Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:49 PM (#4675060)
The greatest American band today is New Coke. Yesterday it was OBNOX. The day before that it was Big Tits. Days before that...I forget.
   61. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:50 PM (#4675061)
Ha - just realized it wasn't Repoz that posted this to begin with...

EDIT: Listening to that Big Tits track for the first time -- love it... onto the backlog list of bands to keep an eye out for they go.
   62. Monty Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:57 PM (#4675064)
At some point, Elton's standing has to slip for burrowing so deeply, thoroughly, and completely into schmaltz... I can appreciate the occasional schmaltz, but that's about all the guy has been doing since sometime in the 80s.


The Lion King's pretty good, for what it is.
   63. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 21, 2014 at 05:58 PM (#4675065)
More like four, the stuff from the 80's nobody listens too, then 90's stuff from Priest Driven Ambulance to Clouds Taste Metallic, then Soft Bulletin through Mystics and now Embryonic/Terror are again something completely different. I think if someone wanted to get started on them they should each of Clouds/Soft Bulletin/Embryonic and then go from there.


To me the Flaming Lips have been two different bands, and I agree with eddieot; I prefer their pre-Soft Bulletin stuff than what they've done since. They were so much more rock-n-roll in those years. But then they started utilizing the studio as an instrument, and The Soft Bulletin is when they started getting all the critical acclaim. If you think the Flaming Lips is drug music, then they were on uppers the first half of their career, and downers the second half.

If you like your rock-n-roll loud and sloppy and catchy then try In a Priest Driven Ambulance, Hit to Death in the Future Head, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, and/or Clouds Taste Metallic.

If you like layers and layers of space and sound and the kind of studio experimentation that Radiohead is known for, then try The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and/or At War with the Mystics. I can't speak to anything they've put out since.

Avoid Zaireeka. It's something else, but it's 4 CDs that you need to play all at the same time.


Thanks.
   64. The District Attorney Posted: March 21, 2014 at 06:25 PM (#4675069)
Avoid Zaireeka. It's something else, but it's 4 CDs that you need to play all at the same time.
Do they at least stagger the starting times by a few seconds, so you can press all the "start" buttons in time?

Aerosmith maybe at least deserves a spot in the conversation, but not any real consideration... Van Halen is another one...
My friend with whom I had this discussion doesn't particularly care for R.E.M., but ended up saying things like "I guess it's... Van Halen...? How about Aerosmith..?" I suspect he'd admit now that, even though they're not his thing, R.E.M. is a pretty logical answer. (Insofar as this is about "logic", which is probably not at all.)
   65. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: March 21, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4675073)
I'm just glad no one mentioned The Doors
   66. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 21, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4675077)
Do they at least stagger the starting times by a few seconds, so you can press all the "start" buttons in time?

Nope! You need 4 people. I've only heard it once in college when we specifically threw a party to listen to this album.
   67. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4675080)
I'm just glad no one mentioned The Doors


I mentioned them, but I think with sufficient derision..
   68. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:19 PM (#4675090)
I was becoming musically aware just about when Out of Time came out, and really started to get INTO music in the following couple years. So all of my early experience with R.E.M. were with that version of the band. It wasn't until much later in life I was able to go back and actually check out the earlier stuff. So I admit that my feelings on the band are specific to the context of my discovery. But I have to say that I think Automatic for the People is their best album, and I don't actually think it's particularly close.


This is exactly where I am. Out of Time came out just as I got old enough to tell the difference between MC Hammer and real rap music; Automatic caught me in my first flush of real music fandom. But it also seems true to me that assertions that the first two albums are the best are a form of authenticity fetishism. They're clearly practice records.

Of course there's no such thing as a "best" band of any variety, but the human instinct is to rank things. Perhaps true to our individualistic self-mythologizing, most of the greatest American recording artists are solo acts: Dylan, Springsteen, Redding (who I'm listening to now), Franklin, Madonna (#### you), Michael Jackson. Probably the "classic" pick is the Beach Boys, though I must admit that I don't really listen to them in any wise but the casual.

The American band I've felt most passionate about, other than Nirvana when I was 13 and quite literally had mystical beliefs about Kurt Cobain, is probably Neutral Milk Hotel, or maybe the Mountain Goats. There's also something to be said for a lot of hip-hop groups, especially Public Enemy and Tribe.

EDIT: On further consideration, the obvious answer is the Velvet Underground. I'm done.
   69. frannyzoo Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:42 PM (#4675096)
Hmmm...I'll throw in my lot for the five top American bands (sticking to "rock" and its branches, as it avoids mention of the second Miles Davis Quintet, etc.):

1. Camper van Beethoven
2. REM
3. Stooges
4. Yo La Tengo
5. Brave Combo (which is actually my fifth favorite, but I will eschew the regional and change this to...)
5a. They Might Be Giants

   70. Monty Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:52 PM (#4675100)
But it also seems true to me that assertions that the first two albums are the best are a form of authenticity fetishism.


I really hate statements like this. You can't just have different tastes from someone? You have to declare that people are either lying about their own tastes or have somehow deluded themselves? Murmur and Reckoning are great albums.
   71. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:56 PM (#4675101)
Good lord repoz, obnox is just shit terrible.
   72. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 21, 2014 at 07:59 PM (#4675105)
Not a single mention of Talking Heads? Not saying they're the best, but IMHO they're worth including in the discussion.

Ditto for Naked Raygun.

Neat to see the endorsements of CCR, my favorite band as a kid.

And yeah, Swans are quite something. GBV as well.

The Gun Club & Social Distortion both probably go in my top 10. Public Enemy as well.

My favorite LP by an American band, probably, is by someone who unfortunately never ever came close to regaining that peak, though they were always good fun -- the Cramps. The LP, of course, is their debut, Songs the Lord Taught Us.

More recently, I'm quite fond of stellastarr* & the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. God only knows what sort of staying power they'll have (assuming stellastarr+ ever gets around to recording anything again.)

But, yeah, pretty much this:

EDIT: On further consideration, the obvious answer is the Velvet Underground. I'm done.
   73. zonk Posted: March 21, 2014 at 08:05 PM (#4675108)
Not a single mention of Talking Heads? Not saying they're the best, but IMHO they're worth including in the discussion.


Damn. Yeah - was gonna mention them... they should be in the mix for top 10.
   74. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 21, 2014 at 08:37 PM (#4675115)
But it also seems true to me that assertions that the first two albums are the best are a form of authenticity fetishism. They're clearly practice records.

At least in the case of REM, this statement seems to me to betray a lack of understanding of why the people who like the early stuff like it so much. The combination of Stipe's elliptical early lyrics, his mumbled delivery and the absence of lyric sheets in the first albums meant that you usually had no idea what he was actually singing about. All that came through was the underlying feeling, and if you came across the early albums at an impressionable time of life (late teens/early 20s), the music packed an emotional wallop unlike anything else around.

The later albums are more accomplished musically and lyrically, but something was lost on the way: as Stipe turned into a more conventional lyricist (and a skilled one) the songs became less emotionally absorbing. Automatic is a fine, fine album, but it simply doesn't resonate with me in the way Murmur and Fables still do. YMMV, but from where I stand this has nothing to do with "authenticity fetishism" or hipster dislike of records that sell lots of copies.

Now I'm going to go downstairs and play some jangly Peter Buck-style guitar.
   75. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 21, 2014 at 08:39 PM (#4675116)
On further consideration, the obvious answer is the Velvet Underground. I'm done.


Technical disqualification: Cale is Welsh, plus Nico was Eurosomething.
   76. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 21, 2014 at 09:02 PM (#4675121)
Parliament-Funkadelic beats 90% of the aforementioned candidates.
   77. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 21, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4675127)
The combination of Stipe's elliptical early lyrics, his mumbled delivery and the absence of lyric sheets in the first albums meant that you usually had no idea what he was actually singing about. All that came through was the underlying feeling


Yeah, exactly. If you like meaningless, maundering bleating by a band that doesn't really know what it's doing, then those first couple of records are going to seem awesome to you -- you get to read all the stuff into it you want to.
   78. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 21, 2014 at 09:31 PM (#4675131)
Yeah, exactly. If you like meaningless, maundering bleating by a band that doesn't really know what it's doing, then those first couple of records are going to seem awesome to you -- you get to read all the stuff into it you want to.

Yup, that's what I like. You evidently like acting like a smug, conceited prick on the internet. To each their own.
   79. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:23 PM (#4675165)
When was the last time British rock could compete with America, the late 70s? Looking at the body of work produced by great American bands in the years since, how can Britain even compete?

I can't believe Eso didn't come in here shooting fire from his eyeballs, but Radiohead would like a word with you. (MUSE as well, to my ears anyhow.)


Parliament-Funkadelic beats 90% of the aforementioned candidates.

Hell yes.
   80. DL from MN Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:25 PM (#4675166)
Of course the Flaming Lips are two different bands - before and after Steven Drozd joined. I don't really understand how someone could prefer the "before" version of the band but it doesn't bother me.
   81. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:30 PM (#4675168)
The year is 1982. RMc (still going by his real first name), 17 years old and an incoming freshman, is the youngest program director in the history of his college radio station (and still is, I think). Among a slew of other records, he hears "Radio Free Europe" from some obscure southern band, decides it's pretty awful, and does not add it to the playlist.

He would change his mind eventually.
   82. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:35 PM (#4675170)
Among a slew of other records, he hears "Radio Free Europe" from some obscure southern band, decides it's pretty awful, and does not add it to the playlist. He would change his mind eventually.

This describes exactly my feeling about Madness - who then became an all-timer for me within about three months.
   83. billyshears Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:51 PM (#4675172)
I'm still kind of going back and forth on whether we can consider U2 an American band.

Also, I'd be kicked out of the fan club if I didn't mention that Titus Andronicus is the best rock band today. Sorry.
   84. billyshears Posted: March 21, 2014 at 11:53 PM (#4675174)
More recently, I'm quite fond of stellastarr* & the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.


The Pains of Being Pure of Heart are awesome. In a just world, their last album is what pop music would sound like.
   85. Monty Posted: March 22, 2014 at 12:14 AM (#4675187)
I'm still kind of going back and forth on whether we can consider U2 an American band.


Rattle and Hum notwithstanding, U2 are not American.
   86. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 22, 2014 at 01:47 AM (#4675197)
I'm still kind of going back and forth on whether we can consider U2 an American band.


Of course not. Half of the band was born in England.
   87. Baldrick Posted: March 22, 2014 at 02:34 AM (#4675200)
Also, I'd be kicked out of the fan club if I didn't mention that Titus Andronicus is the best rock band today. Sorry

Oh lord, not this again.
   88. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: March 22, 2014 at 04:53 AM (#4675206)

TOP FIVE:
Little Feat
Allman Brothers
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Grateful Dead
Earth, Wind and Fire
   89. Lassus Posted: March 22, 2014 at 04:56 AM (#4675208)
Oh lord, not this again.

Heh
   90. Long Time Listener, First Time Caller Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:38 AM (#4675272)
You know, now that I think of it Fleetwood Mac bears mentioning. If you had to put together a "total package" of popularity, quality, and influence, American bands suffer in comparison to British bands. But if you remove "popularity" from the equation, America has plenty of seminal acts who also published exceptional records. To name some bands who haven't really been discussed here: Love, Big Star, Fugazi, The Minutemen, and Television
   91. Swedish Chef Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:50 AM (#4675277)
Avoid Zaireeka. It's something else, but it's 4 CDs that you need to play all at the same time.

Once I accidentally ordered four sets of Bluetooth stereo speakers instead of one. For a moment I pondered keeping the order as it was and use them to play Zaireeka. Sadly, common sense won that battle.
   92. Swedish Chef Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:54 AM (#4675278)
I don't know why you are even discussing US vs UK. The question is easy to settle: which of them is Pavement from?
   93. billyshears Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:09 AM (#4675279)
I'm still kind of going back and forth on whether we can consider U2 an American band.


I suppose now I have to clarify that this was a joke. Apparently not a very good one.
   94. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:16 AM (#4675281)
I'm still kind of going back and forth on whether we can consider U2 an American band.

Ask yourself this: are they comin' to your town, and will they help you party it down?
   95. eddieot Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:31 AM (#4675285)
Also, I'd be kicked out of the fan club if I didn't mention that Titus Andronicus is the best rock band today. Sorry.

Huge fan here. Agree they deserve a mention.
   96. eddieot Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:32 AM (#4675286)
And if we're talking live bands I have to give a shout out to Drive By Truckers.
   97. DL from MN Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4675288)
I mentioned Minutemen (their band could be your life) but thanks for adding Big Star and Fugazi. Television is one band where "I liked their first records more" is entirely appropriate.
   98. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:57 AM (#4675291)
I don't know why you are even discussing US vs UK. The question is easy to settle: which of them is Pavement from?

In the battle of the US vs UK, California wins. Pavement, Metallica, Camper van Beethoven, The Grateful Dead and on and on.

But, as usual in these threads, I have to give a shout out to Booker T and the MG's as the band that never gets mentioned. The house band for Stax Records never gets enough love.
   99. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4675313)
Technical disqualification: Cale is Welsh, plus Nico was Eurosomething.


Were the 2002 Seattle Mariners, with a Japanese guy in the lineup, not an American baseball team?
   100. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM (#4675314)

The Pains of Being Pure of Heart are awesome. In a just world, their last album is what pop music would sound like.


Album No. 3 is due to come out in about a month. I found that out while idly researching them a few days ago, at which time I also found out that they were playing Birmingham, 100 miles or so up the interstate from me, last night. Thought about going, but I'm getting too damned old & tired for such nonsense, plus gas isn't free. *sigh*
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