Posted by: rhino7592 | January 1, 2010

This is not a mid-life crisis

I am a music snob.

Music has always played a big role in my life. I am one of those people who has used songs or artists to relate to certain stages of my life. I definitely subscribe to the fact that musical tastes are learned or cultivated.  (some people just don’t have any, but I don’t hold that against them) My biggest influences on my tastes were my dad and older sister.

When I was younger, my family moved to St. Louis from the South and we would make the 16 hour trip several times back to South Carolina. I have fond memories of riding in a GMC conversion van (which was really just a gussied-up passenger van) with my parents and my sister.  16 hours is a long time to be trapped in a van with the greatest hits of the late 70’s on 8 track. My dad would make his own 8 track mixes so I got a good deal of variety.

Willie Nelson, Seals and Crofts, The Doobie Brothers, Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot were all part of the rotation. I still know most of their lyrics to this day.  “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” anyone?  My dad also influenced my fascination with film scores.  On many occasions we would be flipping through TV and come across a movie and the play the unspoken game of name that composer.  He was always partial to John Barry, who is probably most famous for “Out of Africa, or “Dances with Wolves,” (not to mention a handful of Bond movies)  I lean towards Hans Zimmer and James Horner.

As I grew older, my sister stepped in as the guiding beacon of my musical tastes.  She entered college as I was getting out of middle school.  As everyone knows, middle school is Dante’s version of pop music Hell.  If it was Top 40, I am sure I listened to it.  As I entered my freshman year in high school, I was ready for something else.  My sister stepped in and introduced me to some of the alternative greats: REM, U2, Janes Addiction, The Cult, The Cure.  She also turned me on to some metal bands that released some landmark albums during that time frame, notably Metallica’s “And Justice for All,” and Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime.” (“Mindcrime” was my first dive into concept albums.  It was my “Wall” before I realized there was one.)

As my references show, I was in high school during the peak of hair metal, as well as one of  the cyclical rises in country music.  By my senior year, Garth was king of the world.  Needless to say, I needed something else.

I was always fascinated with VH1’s Behind the Music.  I would watch everyone that came on, but the ones about the popular bands from the late 80’s and early 90’s all had one common theme, their popularity ended circa 1992.

As I have gotten older and thought about the musical influences in my life, I am always stricken by seismic changes that occurred during this time.  If the Beatles changed my parent’s generation forever, than my generation experienced the same thing in the form of some flannel and melodies. Of course I am referring to the release of “Nevermind” and “Ten.”

Both of these albums were  in heavy rotation in my CD player the spring of my senior year, and began what I think were some enlightened times in popular music.  I soon began listening to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains as well.  (Ah “Dirt,” the struggles of heroin addiction never sounded better) Now I know that as Nirvana and Pearl Jam became the flag bearers of grunge, there were many copycats that came along to cash in (Silverchair, anyone?) and grunge began to fade.  Some may even argue that it ended with a shotgun blast in Seattle. Who knows?

I know that there are some bands who first had success during this time, that I still listen to this day.  And though their first big hits were grunge tinged, they are both now something completely different.  They have had different levels of success and continue to release albums.  I am talking about Radiohead and Seven Mary Three.  I will get to them later.

As I mentioned earlier, I live in South Carolina, more specifically, Columbia.  This is where I get to the second  musical event of my adult life that changed the face of popular music.  Of course I am talking about Hootie’s “Cracked Rearview.”

During their peak, Hootie ruled the world.  The music, while, in hindsight, was not groundbreaking, was a shot in the arm and was strikingly different to the grunge scene.  As with grunge, Hootie ushered in a flurry of similar styled bands, which I still listen to today.

As with grunge, Hootie could not sustain their popularity and gradually faded into the background.  After I graduated from college, my musical tastes began to flow all over the place. I am sad to say I own not one, but several albums that I am not proud of.  Until around 2000, I counted on the local “alternative” radio station to feed me what they thought was popular.  The advent of the IPod was the last blow for Clearchannel, et al dictating what I would listen to.

For the last few years I have been on a UK kick.  Coldplay, Snow Patrol, David Gray, People in Planes, and Gomez have dominated my lineup.  I am still fiercely loyal to certain bands that have formed my musical tastes as an adult. I have also grown to think that I owe a great deal to my close friends, and the big sis, who had turned me on to some great bands along the way.

The following is a sample of albums that have influenced my tastes during my adult life.  I tried to keep it chronologically  ordered to show how my tastes changed.  It is not a complete, nor perfect list.  There will probably be some omissions or bands that are no doubt influential, but I stand by my list.  I welcome any counter arguments or suggestions.  Remember one man’s “Joshua Tree” is another man’s “Pop.”

Nirvana – “Nevermind” and Pearl Jam – “Ten” I group these together for the reasons I have already talked about.  I actually lean towards “Vs” as my favorite Pearl Jam album, which, as you will see will be one in a long line of sophomore releases that I think set the standard for the band which released them.

Counting Crows – “Recovering the Satellites” I almost regret that I never bought another studio album from Adam and Co., but i do feel like I would be disappointed.

Sarah Mclachlan – “Fumbling towards esctasy” Huh?  What can I say? I am a sucker for a voice.

Tori Amos – “Under the Pink” We’ll all admit that Tori has gone a little bat shit in recent albums. This is not one.

Seven Mary Three – “Rock Crown” Another sophmore effort. They enjoyed the radio airplay with “American Standard,” but I will fight you for this one.  7M3 is still one of my foremost favorite bands.  This opens with “Lucky,” and doesn’t let up.  They are still pumping out albums, but nothing compares to this one.

Radiohead – “The Bends” Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, ” OK Computer” is great and on everyone’s top ten list, but this one has “Fake Plastic Trees.”

Better than Ezra – “Friction Baby” Another band that keeps chugging along, BTE is the one band that I wish had a bigger following.

Then follows the years of musical funk.  When I was buying the albums I am not proud of.

Coldplay – “A Rush of Blood to the Head” One word: “Amsterdam”

David Gray – “Life in Slow Motion”  I was a little late to Mr. Gray, but I have since gone back and seen the light.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – “The Swell Season”  They has since renamed themselves after this album and have released a second superb studio album.  This one has some of the best songs I have heard in years.  “Leave” is the best FU song that anyone can identify with.


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