These are my favorite kinds of albums. The scenario goes down like this. You buy the album because you like the band; you buy it on the merit of band’s reputation, sight unheard. You listen to it once, maybe twice, but just aren’t taken with it like the previous album that enchanted you so. Then you shelve the album in disgust and disappointment. Time passes. Then one day you decided to give the album a second (or third) try. This is usually due to the fact that you are on a fix for the band and you have exhausted everything else. And for some reason, maybe you are in a different place in you life, a different mood, different weather…the album is suddenly the frog prince and it becomes the gem of your collection. (With the coming of the new digital age, “shelving the album” means turning the album off on your iTunes playlist. But because it is a band you like you don’t throw it away unless you need the hard drive space.) So, here are a few of my Sour Albums turned Sweet.
Zooropa took me by surprise. That was problem number one. I bought Achtung Baby the day it came out. I remember coming home from school one day and seeing the video for “The Fly.” That song was bizarre and fun and unlike anything I’d ever heard. And so, when the album came out a few weeks later, I had my mom drive me to Music + to buy it. (I didn’t have my license yet.) So right on the heals of Auchtung Baby comes Zooropa without any warning. At first it seemed like Achtung Baby‘s left overs. I just didn’t “get it.” It ended with Electro-Johnny Cash for Jack Lord’s sake! I put it away and didn’t listen to it again for literally eight years. Then one Saturday, it was in my CD spinner just staring at me, challenging me. Why didn’t I like that album? I picked up Zooropa‘s gauntlet, put on my headphones and gave it another whirl. I still don’t know what changed with me or the album since 1993, but this is now, by far, U2’s best album. I often fantasize about taking a world tour of Zooropa by going to Miami, New Orleans, London, Belfast and Berlin.
Beck’s Sea Change
I dug the first single, “Lost Cause” quite a bit. But when the album came out it was chocker block full of more moody weird Beck. This was not the Beck I was used to. The Beck I knew was quirky, techno, hip-hoppy Beck. I was happy and Beck was trying to bring me down, man. Plus, Beck sounded like he was impersonating Marlon Brando as the Godfather while singing. Stuffing his cheeks full of cotton. And so, Sea Change was put away. Then about a year later in my winter of discontent, I brought Sea Change back out, but only to hear “Lost Cause” again. I would put the song on, enjoy it and then continue working. So, the album would play on and I wouldn’t be paying much attention to it. But before I knew it, I knew most of the words to an album I could only name one song from. When I realized this, I made an effort to consciously listen to the album all the way through. It seemed my subconscious really dug Sea Change. And so, Sea Change is now on constant rotation. Moody yes, Beck-like no, but I dig it.
The Cardigan’s Long Gone Before Daylight
My friend Toaster turned me on to The Cardigans with Grand Turismo (a superb album). The thing with The Cardigans is, their albums are sometimes hard to track as US and European release dates are never the same, or even close. After much research I learned that there was an album made after Grand Turismo and it was available. And after even more tracking down I got my mits on Long Gone Before Daylight. I gave it one listen and discarded it like the proverbial red-headed step-child. It sounded like Pink Floyd trying to make a country album with a guest female vocalist. A few months later, I forced myself to listen to it again because I have precious little other The Cardigans to listen to, and I be damned if am going to waste $10 on iTunes (which I had already done with Elvis Costello’s North). Again, for reasons unknown, on the second go around I was way into exactly what I hated about it the first time – Pink Floyd’s gender bending hootenanny.
They Might Be Giants’ John Henry
Apollo 18 is probably the best Giants album there is. So, when the Giants announced that they were putting together a full fledged band and departing from the Two John formula they’d been using for their following album, I was skeptical. I think that announcement alone made me hesitant of the album right off. On first listen many of the songs had good bits, but no one song as a whole tickled my fancy. Plus the little girl on the cover looked a lot like on of my wife’s, Miranda Kopfschmertzen’s, room mates that year, so that kind of gave me the weird willies. (Though, at the time Miranda Kopfschmertzen was not yet my wife. We didn’t get married until after we graduated college. She was still my girlfriend, Miranda Kampieren.) So, I didn’t dig on John Henry. In fact it kind of put me off the Giants all together for many years. Then Clamhead came to work at my place of employment about five years later. She is the Giants’ biggest fan. Her computer had the best speakers, so we all used it as a jukebox. Being the hunourmous Giants fan that she was, everything They Might Be Giants had ever release was on the iTunes rotation, including John Henry. And over a period of months all the John Henry songs would come up on random. I enjoyed them all and so, I decided to give the album as a whole a try again. You guessed it, I dug it. What’s more there were a grip of albums released since I stopped listening that I got to catch up on. It was like they release 5 albums all at once.
All of my sour album turn sweet stories seem to have a similar formula a la VH1’s Behind the Music. (Read the following in movie guy voice and imagine a lot of photos circa 87-91 are being zoomed in on.) “Some guys meet in rural Minnesota. The give up school to play music full time. Life is hard and they live off of dung and kiwis in a one room apartment for a year. Then they get a recording contract via some scheister manager. The tours are too much for one guy to handle and he quits. The quitter refused to be interviewed. Then the scheister manager makes off with all the cash after the monster tour. Then there are some drugs and chicks and an alien abduction. All of them briefly marry Playboy bunnies. The next album goes doen the crapper and the band splits. Two of the guys are now friends again and touring under the name Cheap Band Revisited, but the third guy his super heavy into mysticism, refuses to talk to the other two and is currently suing them about using the band’s name. They all laugh about how many drugs they took. The all complain about bankruptcy while giving interviews in their individual mansions. They may all still be on drugs. One of them still may be abducted by aliens.”
Albums still on the shelf:
- Elvis Costello’s North
- U2’s Pop
- Tom Petty’s Echo (Which has put me off Petty all together)
- R.E.M.’s Monster
- Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Californication
Tell me of your Sour Albums turned Sweet.