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Qualler's Re-Album of the Year: 1993

As a lifelong listmaker / obessor of all things pop culture, and having recently turned another year older (I won't divulge my real age, but I can say that I recently turned TV-18), I have been wistfully going back to the nascent Qualler pop culture brain, reflecting on how it developed, and looking back at the pop culture ether that I devoted myself to as I grew older (i.e. TV-18 years old.)

Most specifically, and in light of The Arcade Fire's recent Grammy win for Album of the Year(*), I went back to the year I started naming Qualler's Album of the Year, a prestigious award placed upon the album that most grabbed me every year.

(*)As a Grammy Athiest ever since the year Pearl Jam won some Grammys for their third album Vitalogy and Eddie Vedder went onstage to announce that Grammys are "meaningless", I say to that award "Hooray" as halfheartedly as possible.

Which brings me to the purpose of this new feature: for me to re-bestow Qualler's Album of the Year award, year by year. Looking back at the albums that I bestowed the ever-so-important award upon, I am filled with a large dose of nostalgia and a tinge of regret. Of course, the things we pick up as we move through life, as we experience life experiences, are invaluable, and part of growing older is to understand the perspectives of certain pieces of art that were impenetrable to our 10-year-old selves. Which is a long-winded way of saying, Qualler's Album of the Year, the first year young Qualler bestowed an Album of the Year title, was ... Get a Grip by Aerosmith.

Some pre-Album of the Year background: my earliest memories of music enjoyment were courtesy of my dad making me cassette tape recordings of his vinyl collection of Beach Boys songs and (early) Beatles songs (obvs, the later stuff, when the Beatles hair was longer than their eyebrows, was too long for single-digit-age Qualler to absorb.) Later, in the late 80s, I have fond memories of organizing my baseball card collection(**) in my bedroom on Sunday afternoons while listening to "American Top 40" hosted by Shadoe Stevens(***) Z93, the "#1 hit music station". Hits that I recall truly loving include "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul (featuring the singing and dancing animated cat in the video!), "Unskinny Bop" by Poison (HE SAID THE WORD "HELL" IN IT!) and the first rap song I ever heard, "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer (why is a guy talking through this song?), and so on. I also remember hating "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. because it was "really weird."

(**)My obsessive organization of DVDs and video games can be traced to this activity.
(***)Following a tangent from last week's
Six Feet Under post, Shadoe Stevens played a former Top 40 DJ named Sonny Sharp who befriends David Silver in a season nine episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Seriously, 90210 will one day be connected to everything ever.

All of which is to say that my introduction to the compact disc was highlighted by, among other albums like Bobby Brown's Bobby and the Aladdin soundtrack, a new album by another staple of Top 40 radio: Aerosmith. These Aerosmith dudes were truly edgy guys. Not only did they start in the 70s, which was a decade in which my dad listened to much of his classic rock, but they were undisputed kings of the snarky pop rock single (that is, kings in my 10-year-old limited worldview mind.) And don't get me started on that album cover that often caused me to rush to put the CD back in my new CD rack as soon as parents came close to my bedroom -- because, you know, cow udders are totally inappropriate things to look at(****).

(****)This shouldn't be surprising that I believed this, considering I recorded songs like Beck's "Loser" off the radio while editing out all the swears, like the words "why don't you kill me".

Starting with the truly groundbreaking-at-age-ten "Intro", where Steven Tyler, assisted by some weird effect that can only be described as Bird Steven Tyler Tweeting In The Distance spews angrily poetic with lyrics like "You got the right key, baby, but the wrong keyhole", which segues nicely into the proper opening track "Eat the Rich" which I could clearly relate to based on Tyler's lyrics about how much he hates the women who he's dating who only like him for his money. Also, the lyric "Attitudes may taste like shit / but go real good with wine" was totally edgy. And no song could be complete without a loud burp at the end. Yeah, man, EAT THE RICH SNOBS!

This is also the record with the most Aerosmith hit singles that sound the same as each other than perhaps any other album in their discography. "Livin' on the Edge" was the lead single, while "Cryin'", "Crazy" and "Amazing" were all, basically, the same song. All of those songs were assisted by memorable-to-a-ten-year-old videos that kind of had a continuing story that, more importantly, starred young Alicia Silverstone and young Liv Tyler. Schwing!

As it turns out, Get a Grip, while still a fully tolerable slice of Americana processed rock-pop put together by a solid musical brand, is not the type of album that has any type of longevity to it. As a man in my late 20s, I have found that albums that I discovered later in life are the ones that stuck with me. Of course, in no way would Yo La Tengo's Painful have been my favorite album in 1993. Filled with the trademark hushed guy-girl vocals and echoey guitar warble and mallet-smacked drums along with the heavy-feedback mellow squalls that we all know and love as a Yo La Tengo favorite, it was also one of the first "underground" records that I fell in love with. As is the case with much of the music I have grown to love, Painful was passed onto me through my friends' older cousins/brothers/siblings. It was a record that, in the later 90s, when I was playing in high school bands with friends, was a signpost of our musical influences. While other bands in our high school aped from classic rock and ska, I always wanted the bands I was in to sound more like the slightly-more avant-garde indie rock sound of bands like Yo La Tengo. In fact, the band that I ended up playing with for the longest (they were called Maximum Jack) in high school debuted to our high school by playing a cover of Painful's instrumental closing track "I Heard You Looking".

Really, though, nostalgia can only get one so far. Thankfully, Painful is chock full of songs that, to this day, still slay me. "From a Motel 6" is a gorgeously simple shoegaze pop song, the mellow and rock versions of "Big Day Coming" are superb dual sides of each other, the aforementioned "I Heard You Looking builds over and over itself like the best post-rock songs of today, "Sudden Organ" makes great use of its title by literally featuring an organ that dominates the song, and "Nowhere Near" is a heartfelt ballad that's beauty only becomes more apparent the longer you spend with your special sumpin'-sumpin', and so on and so forth. If great albums that are "timeless" are the kind of albums that reveal their multiple layers to one while one grows older, then Painful fits that mold perfectly.

Although Get a Grip undeniably made a mark on young Qualler, but it's albums that I discover later in life that I hold onto as I grow older. Whether I'm TV-18 or in my late 20s, Painful has been a record that I have held onto tightly. Therefore, my official Re-Album of the Year award winner is: Yo La Tengo's Painful.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 11:22 AM |  

    I also remember feeling guilty about cooler music during my "tween" years. One of my friends convinced me to buy "Nevermind" when it came out, and I put a piece of masking tape over the baby's penis on the cover because I thought it was inappropriate.

  2. Blogger DoktorPeace | 7:03 PM |  

    I also worked many a day putting my baseball cards into who knows what kind of order (sometimes by player weight, I think). My video games are the only things organized (alphabetically) in my life, and I wrote down the box scores for all of my Ken Griffey SNES scores in lengthy journals...

    So that's why we're friends!

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