A brief disclaimer: These are the top albums of all time according to Joyless House insomuch as I provide most of the content here, and handle most of the administrative duties. My publishing partner was not consulted and neither were the minstrels.
A note on criteria: The list is limited to albums I own. I have to be able to throw it on my turntable. And these are my favorite. In cases where I was torn between including one album or another, sentiment was given presidence over artistic merit: the deciding factor was sheer number of listens over an extended period of time. When I wake up in my clothes at 6:00 am to an empty bottle of Beam, what albums are strewn about?
Here we go.
10. Warren Zevon: (self titled) 1976
There are a couple of clunkers on here but there are also several songs where Warren acheives the pinnical accomplishment of songwriting. He manages to communicate an intelligent, funny and completely unique perspective through a fusion of music, subject matter and lyrics. And he does it despite working in the very cradle of vapidness and crapulence: L.A. in the 1970s, recording with the likes of Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Linda Rondstadt, etc., which makes it all something of a sad miracle. Some might prefer WZ at the height of his fame and powers, as in 1978's Excitable Boy. I'm slightly more fond of the desperate freak we get here. Tragically, we could all see where it was going: 1980's Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.
9. Teengenerate: Get Action! 1994
This is a perfect record. It sounds like Teengenerate discovered discovered rock n' roll in a parallel universe where everything was just a little bit faster. In fact they were from Japan, the place where american pop culture goes to get perfected. Thundering Rn'R basslines, insanely fast drums, unintelligble singing, hot guitar licks. Shut your bedroom door and turn it up loud! You will feel like a teenager agian.
8. Lee Harvey Oswald Band: A Tase of Prison 1994
Goddamn, it was a good year to be 16 and hopped on on drugs and deviant sexuality! There might be a theme developing here. LHO were some kind of punk rock Spinal Tap except better. A caricature. Well, people like cartoons for a reason and this shit is awesome. A sample: "Pulsating ring, I'm your vasalined thing; I'm your trailer park doggy-style slut. I'm a black rubber bitch, I'm a halloween witch, I'm a barroness whipping your butt. I was born with a bloody red horn and I'll die signing tragic farwells. I'll ram my hot rod 'cause Satan's my god and someday I'll rule you in hell." Enough said.
7. T. Rex: The Slider 1972
I like this one better than Electric Warrior; for one thing, you don't have to hear Get It On . . . although there was that fucking Coke commercial that used "The Slider" . . . Anyway, Marc Bolan was some kind of weirdo. He was an eccentric, I think. He wrote great songs. There is a simplicity, a sparsness to the music here that can only be pulled off if you're really really good. This is the kind of record that will get you laid by hot chicks that normally listen exclusively to crap. It's just that sexy, people!
6. Reigning Sound: Break Up ... Break Down 2001
This was a revelation to me after listening to nothing but punk rock for years. A lot of country western influence here. No throwaway songs. One of the most painstakingly crafted records ever. The arrangment, the recording, the instrumentation, everything is just so. A far cry from the Oblivians. And what of the Oblivians, you say? Well, if I owned Play 9 Songs With Mr. Quintron . . . but, you know, the criteria.
Put this one on when you get dumped by your girl; take with bourbon, neat. Loser.
5. Lou Reed: Transformer 1972
Ok, I couldn't pick between The Velvet Underground & Nico and Loaded so I picked Transformer. I'm a writer after all, and musically, I always gravitate toward songwriting over everything else. Here Lou Reed reaches a plane of creative perfection that we mortals can only dream of. Word is Lou was a tremendous asshole. Tom Zalaski of Action 2 News has a great story from the 80s of having to break it to a full house at Brown County Arena that Mr. Lou Reed could not make it :he was passed out drunk back at the hotel. Oh well, God killed him for his transgressions; we still have Transformer.
4. The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle 1968
This is just a masterpiece of melody and harmony. One of the most pristene and dynmaic things you'll ever hear. It sounds like it should be played in a church. Interestingly, The Zombies were ready to break up at the time of this recording due to waning popularity and Odessy was like a last artistic fling. Take note aspiring artists: eschew commercial success, stay true to your art, and in 40 years obscure writers will suck your dick in print. Also, the title is spelled wrong - check it out! The story goes, the dude who did the cover art fucked it up and the band was too nice to tell him. Crazy!
3. The Devil Dogs: Saturday Night Fever 1993
The ultimate party album. The sound is live and loud and the New Yawk accents are in full effect. Fuck . . . leisure suits, Chuck Taylors and greasy hair. While the rest of country was digging grunge rock and pretending to not like sex, the Devil Dogs were singing about cars and getting their dicks sucked. This album is a must for anyone who has ever been a teenager and/or liked rock and roll music. God bless them for breathing life into an art form that generations of disaffected band nerds have tried to kill.
And on that note . . . something from a classically-trained, intellectual, homosexual snob from Manhattan!
2. The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs 1999
Stephen Merritt is simply our greatest living songwiter. This is a behemoth of an album. The rules are that every song is a love song and is in a different musical style. I don't know how he manages it, but of the 69 tracks here, about 60 of them are great. I'm not sure that this really belongs on a list with a bunch of rock n' roll records . . . An interesting idea espoused by Merritt: that it is not the artist's charge to express his or her true feelings, but to create something that evokes feeling. It is an important point to consider after all the self-important self-loathing of the 90s.
And now, mostly because I'm not sure if it's fair to include 69 Love Songs on the list, an electronic drum roll, please. . .
1. The Deadly Snakes: Porcella -or- A Bird in the Hand is Worthless 2005
A band from Toronto that never got their due. Or - I don't pay very close attention - maybe they were the biggest fucking thing in Canada, I don't know. But this album is transcendent. It's been classified as baroque pop, whatever that is. The songs are dark, rootsy; there are strings and horns. It manages to sound like something from the most sinister corners of the Old South. The Deadly Snakes gallop right up to that line between seriousness and pretension but never quite cross it (or don't cross it too often, anyway). Andre Ethier is a genius: great songs, great lyrics. This is a double LP, so it's perfect to get drunk to and sing along with alone in your bedroom and end up lying on your bed sweating, with a painful buzzing in your chest wondering if you're not too young to have a heart attack after all. It's a good kind of hurt.
Go out and buy these fucking records. Trust Joyless House; if you don't like them. there's something terribly wrong with you.