It is a new year and musically, I have been on something of a retro kick from my youth. It is not to say there isn’t a lot of good music being made right now, quite the contrary. But if you subscribe to the feeling that young people feel things more intensely than us middle aged folks, than I felt a lot of this music and experienced it more deeply than some of the newer things I listen to nowadays. Any rate, here is the list.
Classic hip-hop group out of California and though few people know it, pioneer Latin American artists (the two primary band members immigrated from Cuba). These guys, along with the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, were constantly playing in my cars during high school and college and to be honest, to this day. Most people know them for their songs about Marijuana, but listen close, you will hear some of the most innovative sampling and biting social commentary in music. Modern day Bards these guys.
Been around for a very long time, this California alternative metal band has defied easy categorization. In that way, they are like another favorite of mind, System of a Down. These guys have been listed as an influence for most of the metal bands that came up in 2000-2010 and it is not hard to see why, they have been successful with a particular style of in your face metal that is both heavy and technically proficient in a musical sense (a common complaint against some of the other metal bands playing). Korn has been a constant companion of many of my workouts over the years.
Sometimes, you just want a generous helping of cheese with your music. The Darkness are in many ways, the modern inheritors of Queen’s mantle of king of British anthem rock (Queen’s guitarist Brian May has toured with these guys). They have had their ups and downs over the years including a pretty dramatic breakup and then getting back together again. Their videos are fun and silly and their music is quite distinctive. Everything they do seems to be tongue in cheek and while there are people out there that vehemently disdain them, they seem to sell out every show they do. This particular video is from their 2012 album and is modern day homage to Van Halen’s ‘Hot for Teacher’.
The very first metal band I ever loved. These guys started in the mid 70’s and are still touring today! I think the second concert I ever attended was their ‘Power Slave’ tour back in 1984 (shit, that was 30 years ago!) and it remains one of my favorite memories of all time. These guys came from a time when it wasn’t enough to be loud, unlike some of today’s metal where heavy single chord guitars and death growls passing for metal. You had to be a guitar virtuoso to make a splash. You had to do something different every album (like Maiden’s 15 minute ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’). Regrettably, these guys are a shadow of themselves nowadays but I was proud to have their poster on my wall and listening to ‘Aces High’ is still a thrilling experience.
I was into Punk before I was into Metal or Hip Hop but after the Clash fell off the scene and Social Distortion went on hiatus, there was like a ten year period for I simply didn't have a lot of time for Punk. Then in 1995, I was introduced to Rancid and I was back in love again. Rancid did a lot of things different but I think the most important thing was that it was when Punk grew up for me. It was no longer about partying and angst. It was about what happens when Punks grow up and have to approach life like the rest of us. Michael Ness of Social Distortion and Lars Frederickson of Rancid wrote songs that spoke to this theme and as I grew up, they charted the course for me on how to transport who I was into the brave new world of adulthood. I owe this band a debt.
Because F’ you, that’s why. I saw Meat Loaf for the first time in the mid 80’s at one of my favorite places in the whole world, the New York State Fair. Let me tell you, you have never seen a 300 pound man work so hard. Meat Loaf gets something about music that many people seem to forget and that is Music above all else, should be entertaining. Meat Loaf later dried out, lost a lot of weight, and put out some really good music and videos in the late 90’s but I prefer to remember him like this, like I saw him at the State Fair…fat, sweating, probably drunk, and singing his heart out.