For those of you that haven't been around me for the last week and a half, count yourself among the lucky ones because that means you haven't heard me not shut up about my foray into New York City. I'm finally getting on a plane (tomorrow!) and heading back into my hometown. I'll be raising hell with my friends, pestering my family and embarking on the dreaded interview process. If all goes well, I'll get far the fuck away from Los Angeles and wind up in NYC forever.
To commemorate this upcoming excursion, this month's Aural Sex celebrates my favorite bands that hail from New York City. These are the bands that dominate my iPod, that I shell out to see live one or 100 times, whose websites I have bookmarked (or secretly have in my Mac history- sometimes I'm kind of a hipster).
Anyway, here's my list. I couldn't narrow down my top 10, so I did 12. Sue me. They're ranked in the order of how much I love them and how big of an influence they each had on my musical upbringing:
ESSENTIAL NYC PLAYLIST:
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
The Velvet Underground was one of the first artists to emerge from the New York City punk scene, the first genre of music I really discovered on my own as a kid (Raffi and shit like that doesn't count- I was three and couldn't yet distinguish between "suck-ass" and "not suck-ass."
While they never technically gained commercial success, The Velvet Underground is still considered to be one of music's most influential groups. Rolling Stone ranked them as their 19th Greatest Artist of all Time, with the 13th Greatest Album (The Velvet Underground & Nico). The album cover itself is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of pop-culture art of the last hundred years.
The band, famously managed by Andy Warhol, broke up and came back together several times with multiple line-up changes, but the two most well-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale, both of whom went on to find substantial success as solo artists. The band has since reunited to manage their own back catalog, but no performances are planned.
While I'm a pretty big fan of The Velvet Underground in general, I'm not including Lou Reed on this list because I can take or leave his solo stuff. However, if you'd like to check him out on iTunes, feel free. He's still an icon.
Most-NYC Worthy Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico
Sweet Jane (Loaded)
Venus In Furs (The Velvet Underground & Nico)
All Tomorrow's Parties (The Velvet Underground & Nico)
There She Goes Again (The Velvet Underground & Nico)
Heroin (the song, not actual heroin, you sick fucks) (The Velvet Underground & Nico)
NEW YORK DOLLS
New York Dolls had to be on this list because they have New York in their name. They formed in 1971 and were one of the first bands to blow the doors off of the New York City punk scene that would later spawn acts such as Blondie, The Ramones and Talking Heads (more on all of them later). I'm terrified of dolls, so normally I would stay away from these guys, but their music really spoke to me when I was in junior high, despite the fact that they'd been broken up for twenty years. Plus it's hard to be afraid of a bunch of guys that dress up like chicks.
In 2004, the three surviving members of the dolls (David Johansen, Arthur Kane and Sylvain Sylvain) were contacted by Morrissey for a reunion. Kane died a few months later, but the band is currently still together, and the lineup consists of Johansen, Sylvain and three new members.
Here's a fun fact, BTW: My dad actually met them when he was still cool and playing shows with his band in New York when he was in college.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: New York Dolls
Personality Crisis (New York Dolls)
Looking For A Kiss (New York Dolls)
Subway Train (New York Dolls)
Seven Day Weekend (A Hard Day's Night)
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DOWNLOAD:
"Hot Hot Hot." This is NOT New York Dolls; this is Buster Poindexter, the alter ego of Dolls frontman David Johansen. "Hot Hot Hot" is one of the most obnonoxious tracks ever recorded, and unfortunately, it's also one of the most ubiquitous. Do not, under any circumstances, listen to this song unless you've been threatened with slow, painful death.
I first came across MGMT while I was hanging out with a bunch of hipsters in Williamsburg. I know it's almost considered uncool to listen to them, and at first I actually found them really annoying. However, one of my friends had "Kids" on constant rotation and would play it ad nauseum at his house parties, so I started to get used to it. Then I liked it. Then I loved it. Then I started working out to it.
Pretty soon EVERYONE was into them, even Spin magazine. Normally I shun Spin magazine's opinion, because, like I said, Hooray For Hipsters!, but I can't help myself. MGMT is SO GOOD. They're everywhere now, even picking up multiple Grammys.
Damn you, Brooklyn music scene!
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Oracular Spectacular
Kids (Oracular Spectacular)
Time To Pretend (Oracular Spectacular)
Electric Feel (Oracular Spectacular)
Brian Eno (Congratulations)
Flash Delirium (Congratulations)
Blondie was a great addition to the New York City punk scene because the "frontman" was actually a hot chick. The band itself straddles multiple musical genres- they were lumped into the punk category, but their albums also incorporated new wave, rap, pop and reggae.
Parallel Lines, released in 1978, is listed among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of all time, and the band was specially commissioned to record the single "Call Me" for the Richard Gere film American Gigolo. (PS, ladies- Richard Gere is naked in the movie. Like, NAKED naked. It's pretty fucking awesome.)
Lead singer Debbie Harry is an icon among women in rock- after a 15-year breakup in 1982, Blondie reformed and still performs today in support of their upcoming new material. In 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
MOST NYC-WORTHY ALBUM: Parallel Lines
Heart of Glass (Parallel Lines)
Call Me (American Gigolo soundtrack)
Rip Her To Shreds (Blondie)
The Tide Is High (Autoamerican)
("One Way Or Another" doesn't count. I really hate that song.)
Nada Surf is still relatively unknown even though they've been kicking around for almost 20 years. They have an interesting sound- they're a Brooklyn-based band that's reminiscent of the laid-back SoCal vibe.
I've been listening to Nada Surf since junior high, when their song "Popular" was released. It's a pretty funny anthem about dickhead teenagers, and you've probably heard it already even if you don't know it yet. Even though the song got major airplay, I don't know anyone that knows who the fuck this band is, and that's really too bad because I've loved them for years.
Nada Surf is also something of a staple when it comes to covers, having been hand-picked by the music gurus from The O.C. to record their own version of OMD's "If You Leave," which was featured on one of the show's soundtracks and an episode from Season One when the show was still watchable. When the band was signed to Elektra, the idiots at the label "didn't hear a single," and had the band record a shit-ton of covers and release those instead. Their latest release, If I Had A Hi-Fi, consists solely of their interpretations of tracks from other artists.
I strongly recommend that you check these guys out. Trust me- have I ever steered you wrong?
You promised never to bring that up! I told you, it was a scavenger hunt!
Most NYC-Worthy Album: High/Low
Whose Authority (Lucky)
If You Leave (OMD cover- while you're at it, get the original, too) (Music From The O.C. Mix, Vol. 2)
Hi-Speed Soul (Let Go)
Zen Brain (High/Low)
IGGY AND THE STOOGES/IGGY POP
Technically, The Stooges are from Michigan, but the band itself got its real musical start from the New York City music scene, so they still belong on the list. Besides, I'm writing this column, and I say so. The Stooges were great because Iggy Pop is insane- he's one of those guys that you wonder how the fuck he's still alive. (PS- he later did some weird Nickelodeon shows. Two worlds collide, right?) The Stooges are especially note-worthy for me because Iggy Pop's solo stuff holds a place in my rotation as well.
There were also a couple of Stooges references on Lost, and I think it's pretty superfluous at this point to mention how obsessed I am with that show, so I'll just shut up and let you form your own opinions.
Despite their 1974 split, the band recently reunited and toured in support of their new material. I'll bet it was pretty sick, but I'm broke, so I missed it.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Raw Power
Download This- The Stooges:
Search and Destroy (Raw Power)
Raw Power (Raw Power)
I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges)
TV Eye (Funhouse)
Download This- Iggy Pop:
The Passenger (Lust For Life)
Lust For Life (Lust For Life)
Real Wild Child (Blah Blah Blah)
The Bravery is pretty awesome. Their entire first album is amazing- I have every single track on my iPod. I actually saw them perform at Terminal 5 and they put on a pretty solid live act.
Their second album, The Sun and the Moon, was slightly disappointing, but I'd still count myself as a fan. Any band that got their start playing a residency at Arlene's Grocery will at least garner some of my respect.
Here's something interesting: apparently frontman Sam Endicott and keyboard player John Conway used to play in a ska band with Jonathan Togo from CSI:Miami. Huh. I had no idea. Togo's character gets exponentially more annoying and less relevant with each passing season, but the actor is probably a Bravery fan, so maybe I'll try to like him more.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: The Bravery
Their entire first album, The Bravery
Believe (The Sun and the Moon)
The Ramones are perhaps the most influential band from the New York City punk era. I fell in love with their music shortly after hearing "Blitzkrieg Bop," and the Ramones are single-handedly responsible for ushering in my love of punk. My obsession with The Ramones allowed me to discover every other punk band on this list (although the fact that I was already getting into The Clash certainly helped).
Some haters will argue that The Ramones had no talent and all their songs have only three chords, or whatever. To them I say, Fuck You. Find me a musician who classifies themselves as a punk artist who doesn't list The Ramones as a colossal influence on their careers. Also, do you have a street in Greenwich Village named after you? I didn't think so. Eat me.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Ramones
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones)
I Wanna Be Sedated (Road To Ruin)
Rockaway Beach (Rocket to Russia)
Sheena is A Punk Rocker (Rocket to Russia)
Rock 'N' Roll High School (Rock 'N' High School soundtrack)
Beat On The Brat (Ramones)
I Don't Care (Rocket to Russia)
Spiderman Theme (Adios Amigos!)
Both of my parents turned me onto Talking Heads at a really young age, so they're one of the first bands I remember listening to as a kid. This is the only reason that they're SLIGHTLY ahead of The Ramones on this list- they've been part of my life for longer. Four of their albums made Rolling Stone's Greatest Albums list- that's pretty fucking impressive for a band with only one Top 10 American hit, no? In 2002, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Part of what made Talking Heads so great was that David Byrne is such a gigantic asshole. He's publicly stated on multiple occasions that Talking heads will never get back together, and that the closest the rest of us will ever get are our old Talking Heads albums and the stupid Tom Tom Club, the side project of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz. What a dick.
Weymouth and Frantz supposedly live really close to New York City, though. How cool would it be if I could totally find them?
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Speaking In Tongues
Once In A Lifetime (Remain In Light)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Burning Down The House (Speaking In Tongues)
And She Was (Little Creatures)
Take Me To The River (More Songs About Buildings and Food)
This Must Be The Place (Speaking In Tongues)
Interpol is on my list of bands that I love but have never seen live. They're actually on tour right now but I'm still unemployed, so that's not happening. (PS- Chanukkah is coming up in a few months, for any of you that are feeling generous. <3 <3 <3) Not only is this band based out of New York City, but they show the love by giving their official site the address of interpolnyc.com, which only forces me to love them even more.
I've been listening to Interpol for probably about ten years- definitely since college, and I thought they were from the UK when I first heard them. Then I found out that we hailed from the same city, and I got super excited. Somehow I always missed when they were on tour, and now that I know about their current shows, there's a cruel joke being played on me in the form of my laughable bank account. I hate you, bank founder, wherever you are (probably dead already).
Anyway, Interpol emerged as one of the premier indie bands of the 2000's, and was signed to Capitol after their commercial success. The album that Capitol released in 2007 was Interpol's first with a major label (they started with Matador) and honestly, kind of blew.
I think the band realized that, because they went back to their indie roots and re-signed with Matador. They just put out the self-titled Interpol last week, and it is every bit as great as I was hoping. If you don't listen to them yet, seriously; you should.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Antics
Slow Hands (Antics)
NYC (Turn On The Bright Lights)
THE STROKES/ALBERT HAMMOND, JR.
I really don't want to be one of those douches who's all, "Oh, I was listening to these guys before anyone else, blah blah, whatever."
But you know what? Fuck it. I randomly saw The Strokes play at a club in Brooklyn before they were signed and I knew that they would be huge- and that was before it was common knowledge that the singer was John Casablancas' son.
Ever since then I've been following The Strokes. I've seen them live probably five or six times. (I even "accidentally" went to an Albert Hammond, Jr. solo performance- he opened for Bloc Party, and I didn't even know until the opening act was announced. He was phenomenal, BTW.) I own all their albums and downloaded their soundtrack tunes. I would have bought Julian Casablancas' solo album, also, but I heard it and it was a huge disappointment. It doesn't sound anything like The Strokes- actually, it kind of sucks.
I'm in the category of "massive" Strokes fan- I will see them every time they tour near me. It helps that Julian Casablancas is a big-time Mets fan, so he probably shares my pain right now. Also, the "News" section on their website is done up to look like the New York Post.
They have a new album coming out soon, and I'm already there. Until then, here's some awesome stuff for you to listen to.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Close. All of their CD's are pretty epic. But if I absolutely had to narrow it down, their first album was what really made me fall in love with them, and keep shelling out money for concert tickets. So if I really, REALLY had to, I would go with Is This It.
Download This- The Strokes:
Last Nite (Is This It)
Juicebox (First Impressions of Earth)
Hard To Explain (Is This It)
Heart In A Cage (First Impressions of Earth)
Reptilia (Room On Fire)
You Only Live Once (First Impressions of Earth)
12:51 (Room On Fire)
Someday (Is This It)
The Modern Age (Is This It)
Ize of the World (First Impressions of Earth)
What Ever Happened (Marie Antoinette Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
When It Started (Spiderman- Music From and Inspired By)
Download This- Albert Hammond, Jr.:
Postal Blowfish (Yours To Keep)
Hard To Live In The City (OMFGG- Original Music Featured on "Gossip Girl" No. 1)
Everyone Gets A Star (Yours To Keep)
It was tough to choose between my #1 and #2, but the Beastie Boys have more songs that everyone likes, and they're also more synonymous with New York City in general. They've also been around for longer. I understand that that's an unfair advantage, due to the generation gap, but hey, sometimes life sucks.
I'm a Brooklyn Jew myself, and the Beastie Boys are representations of both rap and rock, so they've always been somewhat of an influence on my life. I never wanted to be a rapper, of course, but I've always felt somewhat connected to the music business. I don't know what it is about them, particularly, since I can't stand rap as a whole, but there's just something about the Beastie Boys in general. I just love them. I always have. They don't take themselves too seriously; although they should, they're considered legends in the industry. And BTW, have you guys seen the video for Sabotage? It's a classic.
The Beastie Boys are kept in such high regard because they're still around today, although now they're less about partying and more in favor of womens' rights and freeing Tibet. I hope they never split up. I'll probably go into shock or start crying or something.
Most NYC-Worthy Album: Oh, shit. All of them? I can't do that, can I? Every single album Beastie Boys have put out have at least five or six outstanding tracks on it. Are you really going to make me do this?
Fine. I pick Licensed To Ill. No, Ill Communication. Maybe Paul's Boutique? No, definitely Licensed To Ill! That one.
Sabatoge (Ill Communication)
No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn (Licensed To Ill)
Brass Monkey (Licensed To Ill)
Fight For Your Right (To Party) (Licensed To Ill)
Paul Revere (Licensed To Ill)
So Watcha Want (Check Your Head)
Sure Shot (Ill Communication)
Intergalactic (Hello Nasty)
Body Movin' (Hello Nasty)
Ch-Check It Out (To the 5 Boroughs)
The Sounds Of Science (Paul's Boutique)
Girls (Licensed To Ill)
Hey Ladies (Paul's Boutique)
There are my picks for the musical acts that married my two greatest loves: New York City and music. Let me know who influenced you guys, and if anyone relevant came out of your hometown.
Also, I'll be back home for at least two weeks, so I'll probably slack on some of my posts. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Don't worry, I have some guest posters coming up for you guys in order to quench your Kosher thirst.