Posts tagged Ben 500
Posts tagged Ben 500
The Ben 500:
310. Mazzy Star - “Fade Into You” (1993)
The term Paisley Underground carries little weight these days, but for a time in the mid-80’s, it was one of the biggest movements coming out of the Los Angeles music scene. The sound was sort of a combination of jangly psychedelic folk a’la The Byrds, mixed with a bit of dirty garage rock like Crazy Horse. Many bands would emerge from this scene, to varying degrees of success. The Bangles were unquestionably the biggest band of the scene, even though their sound eventually skewed towards pop (“Walk Like An Egyptian”) and sappy overproduced love songs (“Eternal Flame”). Other bands that had some success include The Dream Syndicate, The Three O’Clock and Opal. Opal’s guitarist and main songwriter, David Roback went on to start a folk rock duo with singer-songwriter Hope Sandoval called Mazzy Star. Eventually becoming a full-fledged band, Mazzy Star were one of the best examples of the psychedelic folk sounds that paid an homage to the 60’s, but contained a droning, darker side, owing a debt more to The Doors and Velvet Underground, rather than the Grateful Dead. Their major label debut So Tonight That I Might See is chocked full of dreamy soundscapes, droning guitars, and Hope Sandoval’s sexy yet sleepy vocals and her cryptic poetry. Listening to the band’s only hit (which really didn’t gain traction until a year after it’s release), it’s hard not to be put into a trance. “Fade Into You” is a perfect encapsulation of their sound. It’s the sound of walking down Sunset Blvd at 5am after a long night of hard partying, and dreaming of what adventures lie ahead the next night in the City of Angels.
Key lyric- “I want to hold the hand inside you. I want to take a breath that’s true.”
I’ve never heard this song. Within 20 seconds I knew I already loved it. It is a mix between a lot of things I really like. #1. I love her voice, it’s very dreamy and clear. #2. I love the production, the reverb on the guitar and drums that all seems to bleed out one side of the speakers. #3. Songs with the same chords throughout have a certain feel to them… simple and droning. I love the repeated chords until the end of the phrase where they throw in the 4 chord and bring a touch of hope into such a dreary song.
The Ben 500: Ben Eisen’s Greatest Songs Ever
311. Weezer - “Say It Ain’t So” (1994)
By 1994, the grunge sound was getting a bit tired and played out. Even though it had successfully demolished the stranglehold that 80’s glam rock had over the airwaves for about a decade, the grunge movement was ultimately a passing phase. The one thing it did do was saturate the entire decade of the 90’s with sense of aloof detachment amongst the kids. A “Hullabalooza” concert-goer from a classic episode of The Simpsons put it distinctly. When he feigned excitement over Homer’s freak show act, his friend asked him “Are you being sarcastic, dude?” His response - “I don’t even know anymore”. Yes, the 90’s were the age of irony, when insincerity meant cool. Around the time the Seattle scene was waning, and more generic knockoff bands like Bush and Seven Mary Three were making millions moping all over MTV, a new band from Southern California burst onto the scene like a breath of fresh, nerdy air. Weezer were like no other band in their time. Sure they had the sarcastic ironic thing happening, but they also did it with a knowing wink and tounge planted firmly in cheek. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was an unabashed fan of classic pop music, especially the sounds of The Beach Boys, The Cars and Cheap Trick. To be unabashed fans of anything in 1994 meant you were severely uncool, and the band had an outsider, nerd-like vibe right from the start, which made their brand of silly/sincere love songs completely charming. Their debut album, produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek was chocked full of sunny, hilarious fuzz guitar classics. There was also a darker side to Cuomo’s writing, as evidenced in “Say It Ain’t So”, a nod to growing up with alcoholism in his family. Weezer would go on to devolve into a pathetic frat house party anthem band in recent years, but in the mid 90’s their sound was fresh and exciting, and a sure-fire antidote for mid-90’s mope-rock.
Key lyric- “Somebody’s cold one is giving me chills. Guess I’ll just close my eyes”
I don’t have too many ‘childhood’ albums, but this is one of them. It was the first ‘album’ I ever loved. I was always more of a song person, but I loved every single song from front to back. This is one of the first songs that ever made me want to play the guitar. I loved the sound of the lick at the beginning. One of my favorite parts is the octave higher harmony in the verses. You gotta listen carefully for it. It is a great story song. It’s a bit sad if you really listen to what it’s about. That was the great thing about them, they could write serious songs, but still seem quirky and cool. The big choruses like this are the defining sound that inspired a lot of future pop rock/pop punk bands. I really think this is a great song.
312. John Lennon - “Jealous Guy” (1971)
The Ben 500: Ben’s favorite tracks… of all time
Ben 500 -
315. Queen - “You’re My Best Friend” (1975)
BEN: When Queen released the album A Night At The Opera they were at their creative and commercial height. Besides the hilariously dumb “I’m In Love With My Car”, and the mindblowing “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which may or may not come up later in the countdown…), Opera also contains “You’re My Best Friend”, a beautiful ode to companionship and devotion. The first Queen single written by bass player John Deacon, “You’re My Best Friend” hits you with one great hook after another. Musically, the band is in classic over-the-top theatrical form. Brian May piles on layer after layer of guitar tracks, Roger Taylor pounds away a larger-than life drum part, Deacon delivers a slippery bass line to die for and lays down some crunchy Wurlitzer organ, and of course Freddie Mercury brings his huge voice, adding just the right amount of feeling.The lyrics are sweet and heartfelt, perfectly encapsulating the feeling you get when you know you’re with someone you can always trust and count on. If you can relate to the line “You’re the first one when things turn out bad”, you’ve already won at life.
Key lyric: “I’ve been wandering around, but I still come back to you/In rain or shine, you’ve stood by me, girl/I’m happy at home”
316. Keane - “Can’t Stop Now” (2004)
BEN: The English pop band Keane’s debut album Hopes And Fears is chocked full of soul-stirring arena-ready rock anthems and heartbreaking piano ballads. The breakup classic “Can’t Stop Now” is a bit of both. It’s simultaneously sad but hopeful, with the lyrics telling the story of having to move on, even though it means breaking the heart of someone you care about. The narrator is trying to explain to his lover of his need to be free. “I noticed tonight that the world has been turning/While I’ve been stuck here withering away” Singer Tom Chaplin’s diminutive size (he slightly resembles a young hobbit) belies his overwhelmingly powerful voice, and he sings with an honesty that adds emotional weight to the lyrics. Keane is a piano-based band, and most of their musical identity comes from keyboardist and main composer Tim Rice-Oxley. His soaring piano and the sparkling production make this song something bigger than the sum of it’s parts.
Key lyric: “Motion keeps my heart running”
MARK: This song doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t hate it, but it isn’t very memorable. I may think of it completely different if I had it attached to a memory. The production is big and bold, but in a way I think I would like to hear a stripped down version, I think it would be more pleasing to my ears. Its ok, but I’m not in love with it.
Claudia: It’s Epic! (I’ve never heard her use that word… she must really think it is!)
THE BEN 500: Ben Eisen’s Top Songs Ever!
317. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - “People Ain’t No Good” (1997)
BEN: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds had taken their brand of fiery drug-fueled songs about death and mayhem about as far as they could go with the 1996 album Murder Ballads. During this period. Nick was abusing drugs and going through a string of tumultuous relationships. Considered by some to be his “hangover album”, The Boatman’s Call was released in 1997 to universal praise for it’s more introspective, minimalist approach. Some of Cave’s best songs are showcased here, including the romantic gothic classics “Into My Arms”, “Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For” and the powerful lament “People Ain’t No Good”. The lyrics to “People Ain’t No Good”speak for themselves and the newly-reigned-in Bad Seeds are at their tasteful best. A softly played piano leads the song and a sorrowful violin played by Warren Ellis puts a nice touch on the last verses. Like so much of Cave’s work, its about as bare, dark and honest as it gets, like Leonard Cohen in his prime. Amazingly, this dark classic has a home alongside Lipps Inc’s “Funky Town” and Eddie Murphy’s version of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” in the wildly diverse Shrek 2 soundtrack. Who would’ve ever thought that was possible?
Key lyric: “Even in their hearts they’re bad/They’ll stick by you if they could/Ah, but that’s just bullshit, baby/People just ain’t no good”
MARK: I don’t call myself a Nick Cave fan. I actually dislike most of his stuff… but, I like Nick Cave songs like this (and the ship song). It shows he can write a melody and write a great song. It really doesn’t sound too much like him… thats the Nick Cave I like! Has this been used in a movie? It would be a good song for one!
Claudia’s Review: Its a little boring.
It’s Back… Ben 500
318. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (1969)
BEN: In the late 60’s Neil Young was a fixture in LA’s Laurel Canyon scene - a group of closely-knit artists that included The Byrds, The Eagles, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. After breaking away from Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”) and striking it out on his own, Neil hooked up Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina to form one of the hardest rocking bands of the era - Crazy Horse. Their debut record Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was a smash hit thanks to some raw energy and killer tunes like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand”. The title track from this record is about Neil’s growing disillusionment with Los Angeles and the Laurel Canyon scene, and pining for his home life in native Canada. As a transplant from far far way, I can relate to Neil’s sentiment sometimes. “Everybody seems to wonder what it’s like down here. I gotta get away from this day to day running around, everybody knows this is nowhere.”
MARK: This is my favorite Neil Young album. Every single song on it is good (even though there’s only 9). This song has everything I love about Neil Young. It has a simple beat, good harmonies, a guitar lick, and it’s also catchy. It’s hard not to love this song.
Claudia’s Review: I like it, but Mark listens to it way too much.
The Ben 500: Ben Eisen’s top 500 songs ever.
319. The Who - “I Can’t Explain” (1965)
BEN: Recorded in January of 1965, this may well be the first punk rock song… ever! If you think about it, all of the elements are in place: angry and confused lyrics, sneering vocals, high energy, and poorly recorded, loud guitars. The Who’s first single was also one of their best. It gets mega points for simplicity and brevity - some of the very cornerstones of rock n roll. They also brought something else new to the table, which is Pete Townshend’s signature frustrated and introspective lyrics. Most bands at the time, like the Beatles and Stones, were singing about love love love. Pete had other things on his mind, and had the guts to write about it. It’s no wonder they were championed among the disenfranchised youth and held up as the favorites of hoodlums, dropouts and other so-called losers.
Key lyric: “Gettin’ funny dreams again and again, I know what it means but…”
Check out this awesome promo video, featuring Townshend and the lads playing in front of a bunch of hoodlums and losers:
The BEN 500:
320. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - “I Want You” (1986)
BEN: Appearing on what would be Elvis Costello’s last album with The Attractions in 10 years, Blood & Chocolate, “I Want You” is a dark, creepy love song by an obsessed and jealous lover, struggling to find ways to express his intense feelings. Blood & Chocolate was recorded in a very unique style. The band recorded each song live in a single room at stage volume without headphones - just listening to each other through monitors and strictly going off of feel and instinct, like a live performance, which makes everything sound alive and immediate. The “extreme close up” style of vocal recording on “I Want You” makes it extra creepy as It almost feels like Elvis is whispering in your ear. The band delivers an understated, tasteful performance, using a bare bones arrangement. In the end, Elvis’ words and intense performance sell it, making “I Want You” possibly the best stalker song of all time.
Key lyric: “I want you. The truth can’t hurt you, it’s just like the dark. It scares you witless, but in time you see things clear and stark.”
Here’s a clip that I found on the youtubes, using footage from a Greek film called “I Want You”. Very moving…
I also found a pretty excellent live performance featuring Elvis on guitar and Fiona Apple singing lead. Check it out:
MARK: I really like this song. I was immediately drawn to the production… it does sound live and spacious. I read what you said about how they recorded it. It feels like you can shut your eyes and see them in the room. Even though the song is good, what makes it great is his vocal. The organ and the electric guitar sound so precise and well placed. They seem separate but blend very well. I really like this song, even if it is 6+ minutes!
Claudia: He sounds scary. (time goes on) Yeah, he is creeping me out. (claudia leaves room)
321. The Doors - “The End” (1967)
BEN: Somebody once said that The Beatles and The Stones were for blowing your mind, and that Jimi Hendrix and The Doors are for when your mind is already blown. Coming seemingly out of nowhere in the mid 60’s LA scene alongside other psychedelic freakout bands like Love, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore formed one of the most unique and briefly brilliant bands of the era. Honing their sound over months and months on stage at LA clubs like London Fog and The Whiskey A-Go-Go, The Doors became a free spirited, stream of conscious, jazz-inspired group that were largely driven by the charismatic poet/singer Jim Morrison and the band’s liberal intake of mind-expanding drugs. By the time they got signed to Elektra Records in 1966, they were ready to take over the world, which they did thanks to the smash hit “Light My Fire”. The Doors’ self-titled debut album was released to overwhelming praise in January of 1967, six months before Sgt. Pepper. The Doors concludes with what I consider the band’s masterpiece, “The End”. Originally written as a breakup song, “The End” was refined and expanded and honed over months of performing it live(it was always the set closer at their Whiskey shows). Recorded and performed in one take, this remarkable track is something of a minor miracle. It’s so expansive musically and lyrically, touching on themes of death and loss, as well as delving into the Freudian concept of the Oedipus Complex. Regardless of the meaning of the lyrics, “The End” is 12 minutes of sonic bliss, blowing minds and leaving a trail of beauty and wonder. Amazing.
Key lyric: “Can you picture what will be?/So limitless and free/Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand/In a desperate land”
MARK: My attention span for long songs usually ends at about 5:00. Anything longer and I seem to stop paying attention. This song is a rare exception. I am a fan of slow jams that seem to just float by. This song kinda puts you in a trance and the lyrics seem to be so poetic/strange that you don’t pay attention to them until one of the lyrics pops out and grabs your attention. I am not a huge Doors fan, but I do like this song. I love the unchanging vibe that really only swells and then backs down. It’s a pleasant song (maybe besides the Oedipus part)
Claudia’s Review: It sounds like Indian music.
322. Radiohead - “Just” (1995)
BEN: One of the greatest bands of the modern era, Oxford, England’s Radiohead have had an incredible transformation over the years. After 1993’s mopey classic “Creep”, they could have easily faded away as just another one-hit-wonder like so many others from the 90’s British Invasion, but with the 1995 album The Bends, they expanded their sound. The music became more dense and layered, utilizing their 3 guitar attack, with more sophisticated arrangements and song structures, all the while keeping their great sense of songcraft intact. “Just” is a great example of their ambition. A multi part epic of a song, it builds and builds to an unbelievable crescendo, featuring Johnny Greenwood’s stratosphere-reaching guitar, and Thom Yorke’s howling vocal. The band would go on to expand their sound even more after this, but this is the period where I feel they got the formula just right. Between The Bends and OK Computer, Radiohead had the second half of the 90’s sewn up as the greatest band in the world. Before they went on to make weird, arty soundscapes in the 2000’s, they were the masters of pop-art songs that really rocked.
Key lyric: “One day I’ll get to you, and teach you how to get to purest hell”
Just as Radiohead was on the cutting edge of rock music back in the 90’s, they were also at the forefront of innovative and arty music videos. As a fine example, here is the creepy and inexplicable video for “Just”:
MARK: The video is funny! Thom Yorke is so weird and twitchy. I like Johnny Greenwood’s guitar in this song. I think that is one of the things that makes them so great… they really know how to all play together. This isn’t particularly my favorite Radiohead song, but I can still respect it. To me, it sounds a lot like the production of OK Computer but more 90’s rock influenced. This is one song that I like better after watching the video. Its not that I don’t like this song, just not one I want to hear every day.
Claudia’s Review: It sounds angry.
The BEN 500:
323. The Boomtown Rats - “I Don’t Like Mondays” (1979)
BEN: In 1979, Ireland’s Boomtown Rats were riding high from 5 consecutive top 15 singles on the British charts. They were one of the original first wave of punk rock bands to emerge from the UK in ‘76 and ‘77. They were on tour in America one fateful day when singer Bob Geldof read a telex report about a school shooting in San Diego. It seems that a 16 year old girl named Brenda Ann Spencer went berzerk at her local high school and began firing a gun at random, killing 2 adults and injuring 8 students and a police officer. When asked why she did it, she replied without a hint of remorse, “I don’t like Mondays, this livens up the day”. Dumbfounded, Geldof began writing a song about this tragedy, but the sheer absurdity of what had happened caused him to give his song a slightly humorous bent. Geldof’s lyrics speak to a deranged mind pushed over the edge by unseen forces (“The silicone chip inside her head gets switched to overload”) and the girl’s family’s complete denial of the facts (“Daddy doesn’t understand it, he always said she was good as gold”). Add in a killer hook (the repeated line “no reason” is a brilliant earworm and instantly sing-along-able), a catchy melody and an elegant piano part and you’ve got an instant classic. Not surprisingly “I Don’t Like Mondays” was a worldwide smash everywhere except the USA, where the song was banned from most radio stations out of respect for the victims families. The heyday of punk rock and new wave came and went pretty quickly, but “Mondays” is an enduring classic and still sounds fresh today.
Key lyric: “School’s out early and we’ll soon be learning/And the lesson today is how to die”
MARK: I have never heard this song. Its very musical theatre-esque. I think the context in which he wrote it makes the song a lot more fascinating. Its a great song… very much like a Queen song (or the more recent band fun.). I like the recorded strings at the beginning, its a really gritty tone juxtaposed with the bright piano. It reminds me of a song by punk band Homegrown called ‘Psycho Bitch’. (I am sensing an All Time Top Ten list here!) I like this song though, its very interesting… it’s definitely a song that I couldn’t make. I agree with your top lyric too!
Claudia: It sounds so happy, but it’s so sad!
324. Travis - “Flowers In The Window” (2001)
BEN: Scotland’s Travis are revered in their home country but in the US they are merely a footnote in the second wave of British bands that invaded in the 90’s and 00’s. Bands like Oasis, Radiohead and more recently Coldplay get all the glory, but I believe Travis had a two album run - 1999’sThe Man Who and 2001’s The Invisible Band - that rivals anything these other bands have released with the possible exception of Radiohead’s The Bends and OK Computer. “Flowers In The Window” is a gorgeous ode to wedded bliss, with just a hint of suggestion that creation of new life and more joy is just around the corner. The lyrics tell a story of how the narrator came from a cold dark place to find love and it basically saved him, and he wants to express gratitude towards his partner. The song boasts some pretty string arrangements and a warm tone throughout that compliments the words and impassioned vocal of singer Fran Healy. Another underrated gem.
Key lyric: “So now we’re here and all is fine/So far away from there and there is time time time/To plant new seeds and watch them grow/So there’ll be flowers in the window when we go”