Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Top Five Side One Track Ones

This topic is, of course, the one Jack Black gives John Cusick in "High Fidelity", and I thought it would be a good one to kick off what I hope to be a regular feature here at the ol' blog without a clever name. Keep in mind that these are not merely my opinion, but actual fact; you are welcome to offer suggestions of modifications, but I have the final say, as God intended.

So: top five track ones. I think that a great opening track is one that immediately makes you say "yes, I will like this". It should really set the tone for the whole album, kind of like taking the opening kickoff in for a touchdown (never mind the fact that I think the second half kickoff is far more important, and were I an NFL head couch I would always defer). And these songs do that; they kicked down the doors of my ears and said "listen to ME!" Doors of my ears... yes, that's the simile I want.

I think it's really pretty awesome when this happens, and in fact, it just happened this morning, when I listened to Metric's "Fantasies". I had downloaded this album ages ago (shhhh) but never burned it until last night, and the first track is so kickass that the baby and I have listened to it five times already. I even thought about putting it on this list, but that seems premature. It gets an honorable mention, though.

Yes, this is a very rock-heavy list, and Indie rock at that. Sue me, it's what I like. I thought about putting on things from other genres, like "Linus and Lucy" or "Bombs over Baghdad", but that would be disingenuous. Like Cusick putting "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on his list.

Couple more honorable mentions go out to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name", which I might even argue is the greatest opening song ever, but I guess I'm over U2, so it doesn't make the cut, and Belle and Sebastian's "Lazy Line Painter Jane", which is brilliant but the opening track to an EP, not an album. It feels weird to not have any Belle and Sebastian songs here, but most of their albums don't really start out at top speed; it's the later tracks that are most memorable. Anyway, the list:

5. "Bittersweet Symphony", The Verve (Urban Hymns). This doesn't really fit the criteria I mentioned above, because it's more a great song that happens to be Track One. Still, it's a great, great song. It's a shame that this was the Verve's only true hit, and that they are often considered a one-hit wonder, and that they didn't see a dime from it.

4. "Writing to Reach You", Travis (The Man Who). My friend Travis bought their first album because he saw them open for somebody (Oasis?) and they had his name. I listened to their first album and thought it was all right, but this one... whoa. This song is just so pretty, and so sad; it may be the perfect Britpop song, and it's definitely the perfect Travis song.

3. "Twin Cinemas", The New Pornographers (Twin Cinemas). This song just kind of explodes out of the speakers. Travis (again) saw them open for Belle & Sebastian, said I would like them, burned me a copy of this cd, and I knew after about five seconds that he was right.

2. "Caring is Creepy", The Shins (Oh! Inverted World). This album was recommended to me (by... uhhhh... Travis... look, we just have similar tastes in music); we got a used copy in at my old record shop, so I popped it on and said "yeah, that's for me". You'll note this song is on the Garden State soundtrack, but is not the one Natalie Portman oh-so irritatingly says will change your life. That song was "New Slang" which is only the song Hillary and I dance to at our wedding. Damn you, Garden State!

1. "Reverence", The Jesus and Mary Chain (Honey's Dead). This is the song I want played at my funeral. It won't be, but it's the song I want played at my funeral.


  1. "doors of my ears" made my top ten list of similies.

  2. It might be a metaphor, though. My grammatical functions are rusty.

  3. Can I submit a Golden Era Hip Hop top 5 two weeks after the fact?

    5. "Pigs" Cypress Hill- with CB snippets and static, a chunky loop and Mother Goose crossed with scenes from Cops this is the kind of song they were never able to replicate after their stardom (or stonedom).

    4 "Jimmy James" Beastie Boys- bridged their hip hop scratchiness with their emerging plugged in feedback funkiness. Setting the tone for Check Your Head. and it opened with a corny Cheap Trick sample.

    3 "Excursions" Tribe Called Quest- Q Tip's opening lines " can find the Abstract listening to hip hop, my Pops used to say it reminded him of be bop...” can held as the symbolic moment when torches were past and hip hop gained cultural legitimacy for some. The songs and sounds that followed on their second LP was a coming of age manifesto for Hip Hop's third generation in 90s.

    2 “Straight Outta Compton” NWA With the subtlety of that tractor trailer plowing through parked cars in cramped neighborhoods in the opening scene of Beverly Hills Cop, Ice Cube's opening volley is a belligerent genre defining moment for the West coast and gangsta rap.

    1 “Countdown to Armageddon”/”Show 'em Watcha Got” As released, Public Enemy's opening track to their second album is a live recording of frenzied blokes blowing airhorns and whistles at a PE show in London with Professor Griff barking ominous catch phrases like “Armageddon has been in effect, better go get a late pass!” PE's producer Hank Shocklee has since revealed that Side B was originally to be Side A and vise versa and a switch was made at the final hour. The other side's opener “Show Em Watcha Got” is worthy as well. It is a blistering “instrumental” studio track coupled with distorted snippets of a speech from Sister Ava Muhammad. The song could accompany the explosion of a car bomb, a march on Washington or the insane soundtrack of a post colonial world where finance and power are global and horded and truth and justice is historical and communal.

  4. If Reverence is played at your funeral, Ken, I'm there.

  5. They may not have gotten paid, but it was worth it: To whomevers Baby Boomer aunt has this record in their attic collecting dust, give me a shout!