Queen – Greatest Hits
This was pretty much just vengeance out of the gate.
Last year (I think. I am exhausted and my life/ the last several months is all a fucking blur) I had Queen on my to-listen list. But the person who recommended it to me did it in a weird way. They wrote “Queen – Greatest Hits / Night at the Opera” and for some dumb reason I mistook this to mean that ‘Night at the Opera’ was their Greatest Hits album.
It isn’t. Nor did I think it was terribly good.
And because of this the whole time I listened to it I couldn’t help but think to myself “Man I could have sworn Queen had more hits than this”, as maybe two songs I recognized played.
It was greatly disappointing, and I sought to fix it. So this time around I just gave myself an album of hits to listen to.
Yup. It was enjoyable. I mean, what do you expect. Queen sure has a lot of hit songs. It’s almost like they are a big deal or some shit.
But there is what is for me an interesting thought here. Yes, now in retrospective light Queen seems like a great band. But part of this music challenge is listening to actual albums, to try to establish whether I would be a fan of the band comtemporaily. In other words, if I was living in a time when Queen was a thing and I picked up one of their albums, would I be sold.
Greatest hits albums aren’t very fair to that point.
Stromae – Racine carrée
The last time I listened to a Stromae album, I didn’t care for it. I for the life of me cannot remember why. All I remember was giving it a fair listen to, thinking about my motivations for listening to it, and then striking it from my album (save for the one song that I liked from it, which was of course the hit single alors on danse). I have no idea if that is a fair assessment or not, but it makes sense to me. I came in there for a reason, found my reason lacking and left.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed here, but I was disappointed in a new and interesting direction. I was expecting to simply dislike this video and scrap it from my phone except for the song Tous les mêmes. But instead, I kind of liked it. And that brings up something interesting. Why did I like the previous Stromae album I had listened to? I really cannot recall, but I can go ahead and assume that Stromae learned from that album and decided to put in more of what I like into his music (no, not really).
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sex Sugar Magik
I have a Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) story.
Sometime back in 2010 (oh.god.i’m.so.old) I was working in a youth hostel that had a bar adjacent to it. At some point I got moved from Reception to the bar. It was a hell of an experience, and I still do think every young person should work as a bartender at least once in their life. It teaches you a lot of things, and it is a fucking terrible job most times.
It was a terrible job for me in so many ways that it probably deserves a story onto itself. But for right now I am going to focus on just one singular aspect of its shitiness.
We were pipping in music from someone’s ipod. I no longer recall who, but it was someone in the management. I don’t think they cared too much what was on it, and it just seems to be a random selection of radio hits from no further back than a decade or so. It was meant to be a playlist of just the kind of random radio songs that would make your typical dude-bro high five. I was at that point in my life largely in the process of trying to metamorphize out of the horrific pretentious asshole that I was, so I didn’t really mind so much.
Except for one little thing. The RHCP album Californication was on their twice that I could find. It may have been on there three times. We became aware of the because despite the fact that the ipod was just on shuffle mode most of the time, Californication came up frequently. We all soon started to bitch about it, so this wasn’t much of an imagined phenomenon.
We did look look at the ipod at some point and did indeed find it on their twice. One of its iterations was in some folder starting with A, so even when the ipod was going in order, it came up early.
I have heard no album as much as I have heard Californication.
AND I FUCKING HATE IT.
This is not RHCP’s fault. Californication might actually be a solid album for all I know, but just as you would forgive a person who had sruvived Chinese Water torture for getting alarmed at the sound of a leaky faucet, I hope you can forgive my reaction.
I heard that album, or selections from it, multiple times a day, every day, for months.
So It really means a lot that I am here giving the RHCP another shake. But I did so because I felt they deserved it. You don’t write a song like Under the Bridge because you are somekind of fucking amateur. I know they had changed styles a lot from where they started, so I wanted to go digging in the crates to see what they were about.
I went right to Blood Sex Sugar Magik.
And I was not disappointed at all. It is a solid album through and through. No complaints on my end. You can really here the funk influences here. It is def not the pop stuff that I was subjected to at that bar.
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Run the Jewels is a lot of things. It is my brother’s favorite group. And he is no Johnny-come-lately. He has actually been following El-P’s career since the Company Flow days. And because this is my older brother we are talking about, it meant that I have been following El-P since his Company Flow days as well, at least in that little brother monkey-see-monkey-do kind of way. This is all to say that I have some kind of nostalgia based emotional investment in Run the Jewels, even though I had largely forgotten about the existence of El-P back when my brother suggested I listened to them when I was living in China. That album was RTJ3, and it was really good.
So I was excited when I got an email informing me that the next Run The Jewels album was coming out. I was also excited to hear that Run The Jewels was moving to the Cory Doctorow business model – IE, give your intellectual property away for free and recover your costs in other ways.
So yea. I was in many ways excited for this album. And I gave it a few listens and didn’t come away with much. Sure, it was alright, but I thought that RTJ3 was much more memorable. Still good, I guess. But just kind of meh.
My life is currently a hot fucking mess. This blog, whose entries are normally written months in advance, are now coming home to roost. Its because I had such an atrocious time with my last job. It made even listening to an album a week a fucking challenge. And I had a shit ton of other duties and obligations too. A lot of things were falling apart around me. In fact, I opened up the page to this blog post and found that the numbers for the weeks made no sense. I also found that I hadn’t planned albums past seven months. Half way into July, I saw that I had nothing planned for Week 30. So in my panic I opened my phone and found the first damn album which I had never listen to.
And the winner is…
Jeru the Damaja – The Sun Rises in the East
Holy shit. This album was great. Or at lease that was my initial reaction. Maybe that was just my mood, as I did encounter things in this album that would normally piss me off (a lot of couched religious language, a song that seemed to be a late 90s retelling of the psychomachia). But there were plenty of things that I did like about it, notably the word play and obscure references. There was a reference to Run Run Shaw1, and I was over the moon with glee of knowing who the fuck that was. I know that the game-like naming of facts has nothing to do with actual knowledge (something I foolishly did believe as a kid), but there is something that strikes me still as sophisticated about a certain kind of name dropping2.
Still, I think I’ll delete this album from my phone. Sure, it was good, and I enjoyed listening to it, but frankly, I know can’t remember any song from it specifically.
1Sir Run Run Shaw was a Hong Kong film producer who later in life became a philanthropist. He founded schools across China and Hong Kong, and the hospital I went to for doctor’s appointments when I lived in China was name after him. From how Jeru uses the name in the song, I don’t think he knew of Shaw’s philanthropic work
2Ok, one more anecdote and then I will shut up. But if youare actually reading this blog, you know how I love anecdotes!
Back in 2000 or early 2001 my brother introduced me to some rapper or the other. Enjoyable enough, sure. But as I was listening to the lyrics I heard him rhyme something with the word “bombin'” that made me just think ‘you have to be making that up’. So I looked up the lyrics, found the rhyme, and looked it up. Turned out it referred to a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan.
Yea, he had rhymed “bombin'” with “Osama bin Laden”. But what that really did was plant that name, and its association with terrorism, into my head. Some time later, either on sept 11th 2001 or shortly there about, I named dropped Bin Laden in a conversation with a person who was actually politically astute enough to know the name as well (and not just from a rap song) and by pure dumb luck of naming the one and only terrorist i could name, I looked good damn prescient and educated.
It was a dumb trick, and I am reasonably sure I burned through a life time of luck with it.