“Can’t You Hear My Knocking marks that precise moment at which I realized Punk Rock was dead (which is bullshit, of course, it was just going into remission for a while). It would’ve been summer 1988, a party at the joint we called the Palace of Failure. I remember I was sitting on the stairs, swigging from my ever trusty bottle of cheap red wine, no doubt stoned as well. Suddenly somebody yanked off the hardcore record that was playing, mid-song, which was fine by me, I wasn’t exactly paying attention. A few seconds of party noise and then … pure riff magic, the Rolling Stones at their most elegantly gritty, tearing everything up, the whole party immediately starting to groove. Even Mick Jagger didn’t sound that annoying. How was that possible? And then, the last two-thirds of the track, he wasn’t around anyway, just a full-on Latin groove and some hot soloing. Pure bliss and proof positive that whatever had been so horribly wrong with old school rock back in the early punk days had now passed, a dysfunction of the zeitgeist or whatever. And how the hell had I not heard this song before? Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, from Sticky Fingers, the one with the zipper on the cover. Which means I had heard it. Because my friend Gary had that album way back when, end of Grade Seven. I distinctly remember playing with the zipper. Which is kind of weird, now that I think of it.” (Philip Random)
“Three in a row from Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, the suite known as Trilogy. Because it’s that kind of album. Crucial for both the culture as a whole (I think), and me in particular (I know). Because there it was, late 1988, the Winter of Hate, things having fallen apart (it’s a long story). I’m flat on my back on the bedroom floor, my parents place (another long story), so-called grown man doing yet another season in hell, recovering from various injuries and afflictions (self-inflicted and otherwise), too spent for anything but this prolonged commitment to nothingness … which could only be filled it seems by the sprawl of one monster of an album. Which was perfect really. If you’re only going to have just one album at the end of 1988, hard rains a-falling (metaphorically and otherwise), it may as well be the four sides of music and noise inseparable known as Daydream Nation, reminding you that the biggest truths have no boundaries, the most important stories never quite add up, the best songs never quite hold together, always yearning for, grasping for, gunning for MORE … and thus they are defined as much by the chaos at their edges as the calm at their centres (or is the other way around?).
The Trilogy from Side Four gets nod here, because it’s the final climax of an album that’s full of them. Guy wanders the sprawl, gets high, likely something psychedelic because he’s truly seeing the wonder in things (The Wonder), but then comes the long slow descent, the long walk home. He runs into some jocks, gets his shit kicked, ends up fading into nothingness (Hyperstation). And then who knows what happens? Except shit erupts. Like a god damned top alcohol dragster tearing up the quarter mile, fumes so intense they cause a rare local breed of starling to go extinct. (Eliminator Jr) Life is a nuclear eruption. A chain reaction daydream that never ends. That’s my impression anyway. What’s yours?” (Philip Random)
“The Pogues being one of those outfits that put a lie to the notion that the music of 1980s lacked soul. You just had to know where to look for it, or listen. In the Pogues’ case, that meant London, even if the sound (and the blood) was emphatically Irish. And sure, call them all drinking songs, I guess, just don’t discount the sorrow, or in the case of Thousands Are Sailing, the ghosts. An immigrant song, and so, a song of desperation, because it really does take you there, Ireland, 1845 and onward, the Famine. The thousands upon thousands who sailed away across the western ocean in the general direction of the Americas, packed into disease infested coffin ships with no prospect of anything save that it beat the certainty of starving to death if they stayed home. And then maybe three quarters of the way across, assuming you’d survived that far, some shady guy in religious garb might have pulled you aside and suggested that a snap renunciation of the papacy and conversion to the Church of England might save you and yours from getting dumped onto a plague island in the St. Lawrence river, reserved for Catholics and the like. At least that’s how it played out in my family’s story, or so I’ve been told. So yeah, here’s raising a stout to that stout and pragmatic Protestant Irish blood that still pumps through at least three-eighths of me, and to the Pogues for conjuring its bitter, drunken, resilient truth.” (Philip Random)
“Take the Doctor Who theme, jam it up with Rock and Roll Part 2, add some big beats and incidental noise, and voila! the whole world shall move. And it did, sort of, Doctorin’ The Tardis being one of those records that hit like a monster all over the world, excepting the Americas where it never bothered to crack pop radio – the KLF being almost as committed to sabotaging themselves as they were to world domination. For instance, Doctorin’ The Tardis was originally credited to the Timelords, a moniker that got dropped after only one more release, which wasn’t even a record. It was a book called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way). Future shenanigans would include hooking up with Tammy Wynette for another almost monster hit, and later (now operating under the banner of the K Foundation) burning a million pounds (about three million dollars at the time) in the name of art, which confused a lot of people and forever earned misters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty mythical status in my book. And they also (sort of) invented the notion of the extended ambient chillout mix. Call them true and justified heroes of this ongoing apocalypse and you won’t hear me arguing the point.” (Philip Random)
“Because it made John the drug dealer cry. Tough guy, carried a gun sometimes (or claimed to anyway), you did not f*** with him. It was 86 Street nightclub, 1988, maybe three hours into the 19-piece P-Funk All Stars extravaganza, George Clinton and company riding a groove that had been building all evening, just wave after wave of funk infused fabulousness, everything building, building … and finally shifting slightly, evolving into a recognizable song, the one about there only being one nation, the one which entices us to all move in groovy unity. That’s when John nudged me, pointed to a tear on his cheek. If that musical moment had somehow been pressed to vinyl in all its power and glory, it would probably be number one on this list. But I guess we’ll just have to go with the album version from a decade previous, which like so much of the Parliament-Funkadelic stuff, works fine even as it falls magnitudes short of the live item. Oh well. Maybe you had to be there. I was.” (Philip Random)
“Because it’s Leonard Cohen (mostly forgotten about at the time) laying out a pretty much perfect summation of late 1980s resignation (and resilience). Because everybody with a half a brain (or perhaps soul) over the age of twenty-one had to know that the dice were loaded, the fights were fixed, the good guys had lost the war, the rich were richer, the poor were getting eaten. Didn’t they? And yet, well, here’s where I drop one of my all time fave quotes (also from Mr. Cohen) as to the nature of life, reality, everything. ‘We do live in several worlds. We live in a world that’s mundane, a world that’s apocalyptic, a world of order and a world that knows no order. We’re continually juggling these worlds, entering and leaving them. I’ve always had the sense that this apocalyptic reality is with us. It’s not something that’s coming.’ Everybody knows this, right?” (Philip Random)
“It’s true. The mind is a terrible thing to taste. All those lysergic juices, leaking down from your brain to the back of your mouth when all that acid you put in your veins gets to bubbling over. Actually, I was in total control the whole time, Lollapalooza, 1992, the biggest mosh pit I’ve ever encountered, the dark gods of Ministry reigning supreme in their ridiculous over-sized hats. Which is key. Despite all the menace, there was something genuinely fun about Ministry live. Although there was that moment toward the end of their set when they were slaying all with Stigmata (and officially seizing the day from the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Jesus + Mary Chain, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) — I turned for a moment from the stage, looked back through the multitude, the thousands upon thousands of spent and wasted young faces illustrating the key lyric all too well: The only truth I know Is the look in your eyes. Did I mention it was pouring rain that day? The rain just kept a-falling.” (Philip Random)
The lead-off track from maybe the greatest album ever in the history of anything, Teenage Riot is where Sonic Youth get political, make their demands explicit as to what it’s going to take to get them the f*** out of bed and deliver the goods. A full-on teenage riot and nothing less. Which may be inappropriate, wrong even, but f*** is it fun to tear up Main Street, smash all the windows, not get caught! Which by the end of Teenage Riot is exactly what’s going on – Misters Moore and Renaldo annihilating frequencies with their magic guitars, smashing every window and door, setting all humanity free for a while. Even the adults. The rhythm section’s not half bad either.
“Springtime, 1989, the year I ended up in London somehow. It’s a long story, which only matters here because that’s where I found Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. Lonely, very low on cash, wandering through the big HMV near Piccadilly and there it was on cassette, remaindered, dead cheap. What I knew of Talk Talk was that they were a better than average synth-pop outfit. What I was completely unprepared for was the deep and spacious and ultimately epic first side of Spirit of Eden – three titles (The Rainbow, Eden + Desire) but really all one seamless song, and exactly what I needed to set my soul free long enough to get my thinking straight toward sorting out the problem of the rest of my life. I left town the next day.” (Philip Random)