Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs. 76-71
Grabbed this album as part of a clutch of ten from a used CD store when I started overdosing on old indie bands. The clerk, upon scanning it, audibly gushed, and without irony. “Oh yeah – this is great. It’s so…it’s so lush.” Some records take work to get past the bitter rind. But I kept putting those other nine discs aside for the summer of 2003, and this was like eating ice cream every day. From 16 Lovers Lane (1988).
I remember once telling my older brother that Asia had a good song – “no, I’m not talking about ‘Heat of the Moment’…it’s like a song they don’t play on the radio anymore.” Nervous of his judgment – and that by calling it ‘good’ I had already hyped it further than he would any single song – I remember rewinding the cassette to play it, and stopping to check it’s progress. Of course, I landed right on the part where the song softens (at 3:03) and the singer does some 1980s-style over-emoting:
“it’s in your eyes!”
“Ugh,” is all I remember him saying. “No, wait! That’s like, the shittiest part of the song! The rest is awesome!.” I don’t think he stuck around to hear the rest. Which is awesome. And “Heat of the Moment” is pretty great too. From Asia (1982).
74. The House of Love ~ “Man to Child” (N/A for download. Album from Amazon.)
I thought I overpaid for this CD at first. $19 for a 32 minute CD – used? Who cares if it’s rare, or that John Peel liked it?! But I stuck with it, and now realize that House of Love had discovered a new shade on the spectrum of guitar perfection: spare, delicate, piano-like; but each note hits even harder than the surly lyrics. “I hope you die before you get too old.” House of Love had limited success in Britain – and the U.S. was much too busy with Def Leppard and Richard Marx at the time – but the good news is that means they won’t be uttering that line at the Super Bowl halftime show when they’re 75, unlike some people we know. From The House of Love (1988).
I used to play this at the end of my work day as a teacher, when the cacophony of chatter would fall away and I’d slip into a calm paralysis. Over 9 1/2 minutes it advances like an ominous, slowly swirling fog – until it’s all around and you can’t move. It gets caught in some power lines around the 4 minute mark, and though I usually like tasteful racket, I find this minute to be the worst tenth of the song, and a relief when it goes away and the healing resumes. From Laughing Stock (1991).
When did I realize I like this song? Not sure; I remember laughing at Seal, not with him, when my brother suggested he was called Seal because he got bit in the face by a seal. And I remember getting tortured by “Kiss from a Rose” while working in the produce section, during the hype for one of the 11 Batmans to come out in my life time. Somehow all the other Seal songs I sort-of knew were convicted by association. I think I finally untangled its convoluted chorus ten years later, seeing an SNL rerun and doing my best not to be blown away by an adult contemporary song. But it had atmosphere, melody, and urgency – my three favorite things in music. This was a pop hit? And one that hasn’t really endured? Thankfully it has not become a victim of oversaturation, and I feel like I have it all to myself. From Seal II (1994).
Eno seems like he invents an entirely new world in every song, like a dream you barely remember. This one is both futuristic and organic, with the horizon slowly expanding upon a frictionless surface. Plus, I like to envision a future where spiders are trusty comrades, not where they scare the shit out of you. From Before and After Science (1977).
Honorable Mention. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ~ “Tha Crossroads”
Despite the presence of Seal, this is one of the paler portions of the Top 100. And while there will be no affirmative action in my Top 100, I’ve added some honorable mentions for diversity’s sake, and a more complete picture of what I like. Because I do enjoy some rap (and it will most definitely not be shut out of the list) but, overall, it doesn’t usually describe much of a reality I’ve ever lived in, and therefore doesn’t cut as deep with my emotions.
This is an exception though. I discovered this song in 2007, when I found out it had been a #1 hit while I was in high school (back in ’95 I had my headphones on, pumping Metallica into my skull and drowning out the rest of the world). Scrolling the list of #1 hits while my students were doing worksheets, I cued up a clip of the video to see if it looked familiar. Not knowing the speakers were on, the first note leaked out.
That’s all it took. “Play that Bone, Mr. E.” While the kids sang along, I noticed I thought it was kind of good. And for a brief few moments, my students and I enjoyed the same music, and we shared the same reality. Then they asked me to play Soulja Boy, and the spell was violently broken. From E 1999 Eternal (1995).
List so far ~
100. Elton John ~ Funeral for a Friend
99. Dave Schramm ~ Hammer and Nails
98. The Bob Seger System ~ 2 + 2 = ?
97. The Young Generation ~ The Hideaway
96. Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie ~ Belle and Sebastian
95. The Cars ~ Drive
94. Moose ~ The Only Man in Town
93. Wire ~ French Film Blurred
92. King Crimson ~ Starless
91. The Only Ones ~ The Whole of the Law
90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances
89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off
88. Wipers ~ Youth of America
87. Heart ~ Alone
86. The Stone Roses ~ Sugar Spun Sister
85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg
84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When
83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding
82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get it Out of my Head
81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail
80. Rush ~ 2112
79. Pere Ubu ~ Final Solution
78. Gary Wright ~ Dream Weaver
77. John Hiatt ~ Cry Love
76. The Go-Betweens ~ Clouds
75. Asia ~ Only Time Will Tell
74. The House of Love ~ Man to Child
73. Talk Talk ~ After the Flood
72. Seal ~ Prayer for the Dying
71. Brian Eno ~ Spider and I
Laura Cantrell ~ Hammer and Nails
King Missile ~ Sensitive Artist
Eric Carmen ~ Make Me Lose Control
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ~ Tha Crossroads