Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Feels Like the First Time

Some people do great things right out of the gate and then disappear forever (Harper Lee, Christian Laettner, Tag Team). And then there are those who despite not looking very promising in the beginning, go on to do great things (Jimmy Carter). Today, an ode to some of modern musics' greatest innovators and music-makers whose first albums were, well, not that great.

The National - The National
This is a band searching for its sound. Clearly, they didn't find it here. While The National might be indie rock's current kings, the trip to the throne was full of murky and kind of boring alt-country. Fitting then that the band best known for making albums that take time to grow on you, took their own sweet time growing into being a great band.

Radiohead - Pablo Honey
Sure it was awesome but let's be honest, "Creep" was a total ripoff of mid-nineties angst ala "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Beck's "Loser," and the Smashing Pumpkins, "Zero." Most of Pablo Honey is sappy and kind of embarrassing (and the band wouldn't argue this). Radiohead's rise from just another nineties grunge rock outfit to making a handful of the best albums known to mankind is comparable only to the Beatles metamorphosis from boy band to inventors of modern music.

Nirvana - Bleach
While some purists (read: fun hating, annoying contrarians) may claim Bleach was truly Nirvana's best record, the truth is, most of it is downright unlistenable. While moments like "About a Girl" show the amazing songwriter Cobain hid under all those blown out amplifiers, songs like "Floyd the Barber" are the musical equivalent of water boarding.

Bright Eyes - A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997
Whiny doesn't even begin to describe the upper-middle class complaints of a young Connor Oberst. However the singer/songwriter was able to finally channel all that teen angst into a pretentiously-titled emo-folk epic, Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground and has since seemed to settle on an easy going country-rock sound with songs about fortune tellers and long road trips. Though his latter albums have lacked the emotional depth of the early stuff, the feeling is more genuine and mature.

Neutral Milk Hotel - Everything Is...
The first official EP of Neutral Milk Hotel, Everything Is..., is a messy collage of headache-inducing noise. Apart from the title track (a fun fuzzy psyche-pop tune) this album is just pure throwaway. The next album out of these guys however, was one of the most moving and amazing pieces of art of the 20th century.

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