Apr 15, 2020

Top 20 Influential Albums. Yes, 20.

I keep getting nominated to post 5, 10, 20 influential album covers on Facebook.  I've done this at least twice already and at least once without being nominated.  So I decided to consolidate and put it all here for you if you're interested in this type of thing.  It's The Quarantimes so you know you have time to read it.

Huey Lewis & The News: Sports
The first album I can remember listening to over and over. It was my dad's but it never left my stupid little portable tape player.
 It was also the first time I was really cognizant of what an actual rock & roll band was.  The idea that different dudes played  different instruments playing together and writing songs.  My dad recorded some live concert off HBO onto a VHS tape that we watched over and over.  I remember the kick ass horn section they had and it made me  want to play the saxophone after watching it.   I don't want to play saxophone anymore but  I guess you could say that the heart of rock & roll is still beating inside of me.  I ended up becoming a drummer. 

Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo
What other suburban white kid wasn’t smitten by break dancing in 1984?  C’mon man. I had pants with too many pockets and everything! What a complete nerd I was.  Anyway, I convinced my parents to buy me this record.  I’m not 100% sure it was actually this record but it was similar with I’m sure many of the same songs.  I remember playing it on the turntable of my parents gigantic Hi-Fi system in the living room with speakers that were as big as a mini-fridge trying to awkwardly emulate the dance moves from the movie.  I sucked but there was something I really liked about the rawness and not-give-a-fuckedness of it all.  I guess I knew there was something special about it but I just didn’t understand it.

Weird Al: Dare To Be Stupid 
Around the same time I was getting over my Break Dance phase, Eat It was tearing up the charts.  Weird Al was a new sensation and little kid me couldn’t get enough.  My friend had In-3D which featured Eat It but when I finally got around to having my own copy,  it was Dare To Be Stupid I chose.  The follow up to In-3D,  this one featured the hit Madonna spoof Like a Surgeon and the classic Yoda but I always liked the title track which was a DEVO style parody.    It also had a Huey Lewis parody!   I knew that album back and forth.  I think this also helped unlock my sense of humor like nothing before.  Like Spaceballs that came out around then and I also liked, It was mature but in a way a kid could enjoy. 

RUN DMC: Raising Hell
This album was probably the first album that I sought out on my own and listened to non stop.  I traded my mini Casio keyboard for it to a friend in like 4th grade.  I learned every word even if I really didnt understand it fully.  Imagine a chubby little white kid with a fake Walkman  rambling off words to "Proud To Be Black" in the back of his parents van on family trips. That was me.  Something about the raw style and bold uniqueness to the music drew me in.  A theme in my tastes that would continue as I got older and still today. RUN DMC and those early rappers were pioneers and there's always a place for pioneers in my collection. This album represents all the rap I was into that Raising Hell opened me up to. All the summer afternoons watching YoMTV Raps. Listening to The Beastie Boys, NWA, De La Soul, Too Short etc.

 Beastie Boys: Licensed To Ill
While I was listening to RUN DMC everyone else was getting hyped on Beastie Boys and I would scoff,  "that's not REAL rap"  ...even as a dumb 5th grader I had standards.  I eventually caved.  At this time skateboarding and all the wild untamed world that came with it had entered my life.  Even tho I didn’t fully understand it, I knew I liked it.  I saw a skateboard in a  Beastie Boys video and the heavy guitar vibe mixed with the very NY hip hop aesthetic I liked in RUN DMC pulled a slightly more mature me in.  I remember my friend found a “new” Beastie Boys album at the flea market and we were very disappointed and figured it must be fake because it was from the flea market.  Turns out it was Paul’s Boutique.  Obviously we and the world were just not ready for it yet.   License To Ill still has a place in my collection.

Quiet Riot: Metal Health
Around the time I was discovering the skateboard culture I was hanging out with these kids down the street.  Two brothers who also skateboarded.  Often I would stay late at their house listening to records on their record player.  Bob Seger, KISS and this one.  Something about the production values and the catchiness of the songs on this album drew me in.  They had this dumb plastic toy guitar with no strings we would use to lip-synch and do air guitar on.  It was totally stupid but we were kids.   It’s cheesy as fuck but quintessential 80’s pop-metal that wasn’t  totally pretentious yet. Anyway this album really resonated with me and maybe even moved me closer to being a metal head.

Metallica: ...And Justice For All 
Skipping ahead a few years skateboarding was less important and this mega beast found it’s way into my psyche. I’m not sure exactly how but by 7th grade I was wearing Metallica and Anthrax t-shirts to school.  I don’t know what bands I’d first heard but this one stands out as a milestone for me.  Even back then tho my tastes were eclectic.  The first music I ever purchased with my own money was the cassette single for One and the single for De La Soul’s Me Myself and I.   This was also  around the same time some friends of mine all got guitars.  I had drum sticks that a babysitter’s boyfriend gave me and I’d bang on a bucket to jam with them.   I remember sitting in front of a mirror while the One video was playing trying to emulate what Lars was doing.    The first time I actually played a real drum set like a year later people we’re surprised I knew what I was doing.  The rest, as they say is history.

Anthrax: State Of Euphoria
Obviously I’ve already mentioned Metallica.  Eventually I became a little thrash kid listening to bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Testament. But this album along with their 'I Am The Man' EP really showed me that a heavy band with serious music could have a lighter side that didn't take everything so seriously all the time.  I Am The Man was actually a Metal/Rap song, which was sort of unheard of for the time.   It showed that you could have a sense of humor in heavy music. And I the video for Antisocial they just look like they’re having a good time.  Despite the playfulness, these guys, like other thrash bands of the time had some very poiniant lyrics about heavy subjects.   I think I learned a lot more about the world from these bands than I did in school.   Anyway Anthrax will always be one of my favorite bands.

Faith No More: The Real Thing 
This one came out of nowhere for me. Just some normal summer afternoon watching MTV and this video comes on... It wasn't quite heavy metal but it was. It wasn't rap, but sort of. It was kind of funky like Red Hot Chilly Peppers but it was different. It was Epic. I was just 100% hooked. I went out and got the album right away and the tape didn’t leave my stereo for months.  Sitting in my room studying every lyric. It was just so cool. The real thing.   All the while sort of keeping it a secret from my metal head friends.   It subconsciously prepared me for a lot of music I would listen to and play later on. Huge inspiration for me.  I initially didn’t like their follow up Angel Dust because I thought it was too mainstream. It took a few years for it to grow on me and it’s actually my favorite album by them now.  The Real Thing really had an effect on me even tho I don’t like it as much now.

Primus: Sailing The Seas Of Cheese
This is a fun one. When I was face deep in being a metal head I would see Primus' Frizzle Fry album displayed predominately at my local East Bay record store and when I would ask my metal head friends if they’d  heard this band they all would scoff and dismiss it. After all, it wasn't blaring thrash metal. So I never listened to it. Then down the road I end up seeing the Jerry Was a Race Car Driver video played during Headbangers Ball on MTV and was amazed. Immediately I went and got Sailing The Seas of Cheese and never let those boneheads tell me what to like again. This album had the humor and lightheartedness I liked in Anthrax but also had elements I liked from Faith No More.   This time the push to more diverse music was a very conscious one.   It moved me to listen to all kinds of other music.  Jazz, Funk, bands like King Crimson and more soul music from the 70s. It really pulled my heavy metal head out of the sand and opened my eyes as a music lover and a drummer. Tim Alexander's drumming became the cornerstone of my drumming style at the time.

Rage Against The Machine
One summer day in the early 90s our local rock radio station KVHS was having a live broadcast at The Warehouse Record Store. They were giving away stickers and cassette singles and stuff. I got two really big tapes that day. Quicksand album Slip and Rage Against the Machine single for Bullet in the Head.  This album came along at a perfect time for me and once again, like others from this list, it changed how I listened to music and how I played it.   Side note, don’t think I tossed that Quicksand tape out…  I loved it, and it gave me a unique feeling I’d never had listening to music before.  I was 15 and wasn’t really ready for it. None my friends understood why I liked it.  Not until 10 years later did I even hear of anyone else knowing who that band was and discovering they had a whole, much deserved following.  It's still a regular in my music rotation and it never gets old.  It just wasnt as impactful musically for me as the others on this list.  I should probably mention here that you will not see any grunge bands on this list.  Despite me trying to be more diverse and have a more open mind musically I still refused to give any of the emerging grunge and alternative bands a chance.  They were basically what was popular and what all the normals were listening to.  A decision I would later regret as I discovered many of these bands later on were actually pretty good. 

Cannibal Corpse: Butchered At Birth 
While I was getting more adventurous with my musical tastes around this time, branching out into jazz, funk and new wave fusion,  I was also getting more diverse within the genre of heavy metal.  My heavy music tastes expanded from just thrash metal to straight up death metal.  Some of Slayer’s stuff was pretty dark, and by now I’d gotten into Sepultura and some other, faster and darker bands on the fringes of what could be considered Thrash but when I heard this album it changed my whole perspective of how truly brutal heavy music could be. From here I discovered a whole universe of bands like Death, Obituary, Brutal Truth, Morbid Angel, Suffocation and so on. Even to this day a big part of my musical tastes is aggressive, fast, confusing music with blast beats and guttural vocals.  I really wanted to put Death's Human album here because it really stuck with me more but I feel like I wouldn't have ever known about it if not for hearing Butchered At Birth first.

Dead Kennedys: Plastic Surgery Disaster
I knew about punk music and had heard it indirectly through skateboarding culture but never really got into it. Other than DRI I never payed much attention to punk rock.  This tape ended up in my possession somehow in the early 90s, I think it belonged to either Jeff or some random older punk dude that we hung out with one time. I knew the logo of this band from ads in the back of Thrasher magazine and from the Slayer guitarists guitar but never really listened to them. I gave it a few listens to appease the person who gave it to me but I just didn’t care at the time.  A few years later further into my experimental phase I found it again and gave it another go.  Now with more mature ears and mind, something just resonated with me. The energy, combined with Jello’s lyrics pulled me in.  It was like the old thrash songs about politics and social issues but more in your face.  I kept thinking to myself 'THIS came out in fucking 1982?'  It was in 1994 and still is now relevant as ever.   For some reason other DK albums just never connected like this one.  Around this time I played with my punk band UMF in high school I was introduced to a lot of stuff.  Minor Threat in particular which could have easily been on this list.   Now I'm in a punk band and have listened to a ton of stuff but I keep coming back to Plastic Surgery Disaster and Minor Threat as my go-to punk music.

Deftones: Adrenaline
This band was off my radar for way too long. I had heard the name mentioned around but thought it was “The Def Tones” and that they were a Ska band. I had just grown out of my Ska phase so I never payed attention. I had heard of Korn but they weren't really on my radar yet either. Then one day a friend of a friend was showing off his new car stereo and was blasting this album.  It was so heavy… And chaotic, yet masterfully crafted, groovy and melodic. Slight hip hop tinge but not in the way Faith No More or Rage was. I knew instantly that this was something special and new. I asked what band it was and to my surprise he said Deftones.  I had been so foolish!   From that moment on Deftones would be one of my favorite all time bands. The more I got into it I started to take apart the drumming.  It ended up being the biggest influence on my playing from that point on. Around this time my band Fingertight was being formed and those guys got me into bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit that were also big influences in that band. Our first songs sounded like heavy Primus mixed with Korn and Deftones.  Then an album that would change everything for my band came out.  More about that next.  

Incubus: S.C.I.E.N.C.E. 
When I say I like this band people are surprised because they aren't familiar with this record. Everyone is familiar with the melodic pop-rock drivel they’ve put out since, but this album was so unique and fresh. It had a funky upbeat style but a gritty edge and a DJ, that for the first time in a rock band was more than just sound effects. It was a legitimate instrument in the bands overall sound. This album was prog-rock, rap rock, funk and nu-metal all blended together in a really interesting way.  It really changed the direction of how my band at the time would approach music. It inspired more melodic writing rather than the rhythm driven percussive style we started out doing. I really wanted to continue loving this band but like I said before they went stupid and mainstream with ballad hit after hit into a void of hollow dumb music that I hate.

Aphex Twin: Come To Daddy
OK so, I’m not nor ever have been a really big fan of electronic music.  And I don't even know if this was an actual album but somehow, somewhere  I heard this track. Probably the video came on some obscure MTV show late at night.  I don’t know but it got me interested in the style of Drum & Bass or Jungle music.  I don’t know shit about it other than I dig the heavy beats contrasting more droned out melodies underneath it.  It’s a really cool idea to me musically and immediately introduced it into songwriting for Fingertight around that time.  I still appreciate  the idea of this music but really can’t just sit and listen to it nor could I name off artists who create it.  I will tho say it is definitely an influence to my drumming and song creation and I’m pretty sure this song started it all.

System Of A Down 
So many bands came out around this time that were trying to copy the sound of the pioneers of Rap-Rock and Nu-Metal it just got sad and basically the whole genre became a parody of itself.   When this album came out it really surprised me.  It had all the things, groove, heavy guitars, aggressive lyrics but it had this wildness to it.   Serg’s vocal style was like nothing I’d heard before. Closest comparison was Jello Biafra from Dead Kennedy’s but this was a whole different thing.  The music was so spastic and unique.  Yet again giving my band another influence to pull from as we evolved with the music of the day.  Slipknot came out shortly after this and kind of blew me away as it was like nothing before but didn’t really influence me like System Of A Down did.  Slipknot was a breath of fresh air for metal but ended up kind of starting a whole new sub-genre of cheesy Mall-Metal that I never really got into.  Nothing like System Of A Down has really come along which solidifies this album as one of my top 20 influential albums.

Glassjaw: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence /
At The Drive In: Relationship Of Command

Two bands hit the scene around the same time shortly after this that upped the fucking ante big time.  Glassjaw’s Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence and At The Drive In’s Relationship of Command.   The pure aggression and crazy vocal delivery from Glassjaw shook my core.  It had elements of some East Coast hardcore bands I’d heard but it was so out of control.  I immediately brought played it for my band mates.  We didn’t know what was happening but we loved it.  At the same time At The Drive In shows up and it’s got a more controlled, off time kind of feel.  But with crazy vocal delivery with lyrics that seemed either random or too intelligent for anyone to understand.  Both bands had that groove to it that hearkened all the way back to bands I’ve listed like Faith No More and Deftones but did something completely new and unique with it.  I’m not even sure which band should get this spot so I’m going to have them share it.  Even tho they are really different bands they represent the same innovation and  musical reboot  for me at the time. 

Queens Of The Stone Age:  Songs For The Deaf
An engineer who was working on my band’s album in 2002 or so wouldn't shut up about this band.  I think he was from the same area as them and gave us some CD’s to listen to.  A couple older Queens Of The Stone Age albums and some Kyuss.  I was like OK, yea, its’ kinda like stoney Soundgarden.  It’s not bad, I can see why he liked it but it’s not really hitting for me.  Then right around that same time this album came out and MTV was playing the video for No One Knows or whatever the first single was.  I instantly liked it and was surprised to see it was that boring stoner band that Miles made me listen to.  I immediately went and got the record and was blown away.  The drumming was incredible and found out shortly after that it was non other than Dave Grohl who I hadn’t heard of from anything but Foo Fighters back on drums.  Despite not really liking the Foo, this album started my ongoing love affair for Grohl, the rock n roll advocate and drummer… Not the Foo Fighters front man.   Anyway a few years later I’m in a new band that’s a little bit more rock & roll than my other bands were, I found myself ripping off Dave’s drum style from this album left and right.  Huge, inspiration for me still.  And this album still shreds.  Other Queens’ albums after this not so much. 

Mastodon: Leviathan
I was cruising the Tower Records by my office on my lunch break thumbing through CD’s and stopped on this album.  I’d never heard of the band and knew nothing about them but the name “Mastodon”  and the album art just kind of made me decide that I needed to buy it.  I took it back to work and put it in my computer and was more than pleasantly surprised.  It was heavy, it was slightly proggy but it had a laid back vibe that felt new to me.  It was in the same vein as Queens but totally not.  It kind of reminded me of some of the thrash from the late 80’s but chilled out.  The drums were really up front in the song writing too which  I always appreciate.  There wasn’t much else like it at the time that I was aware of other than The Bronx which I found from an out of left field  recommendation from the morning radio DJ I listened to.   A couple years later I plugged Mastodon into Pandora and it spit out Red Fang and High On Fire which I love now.  Those bands turned me onto Doomriders, Young Widows and Whores and a ton of what I guess you would call Stoner Metal.  I love all that shit now.  And don’t tell my current punk band but I’m slowing introducing elements of in our newer songs. 

 All of these may not be my favorite album by said artist, some are but they hit me in the feels at the right time in my life and put me on a new path in one way or another. I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me.  If you have never heard of any of these I encourage you to look them up in you streaming app of choice and check em out.  They changed my life. 

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