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Ryan O'Connell

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  1. I’m jealous of people out there who have yet to experience the Beastie Boys, to be able to take a fresh-faced dive into their discography and fully appreciate all of its splendor for the first time. Listening to the Beastie Boys for the first time is like thumbing your nose at gravity or any number of other tenets of polite society. It’s an unforgettable experience. For folks of a certain age (i.e. those getting a little long in the tooth,) we were blessed to be in the catbird seat as the group grew, matured, and expanded their sound over the course of their two-decade-plus career. But man, to be in a position to hear an album like Ill Communication for the first time would be amazing. From the release of Licensed To Ill in 1986 to their final album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two in 2011, The Beastie Boys underwent a total transformation. They evolved from brash party boys to erudite hip-hop masters with sounds and attitudes that were far more inclusive. Yet their edge never dulled and remained sharp until their final days. The world around them changed and with it, so did their influences, opinions, beliefs, and general perspective on life but in the end, they were still three dudes with attitude and swagger for days, as well as an endless desire to keep themselves entertained by music that was distinctly their own. As time passed, some tried to replicate at least some part of the Beastie Boys’ sound but those attempts never went well. You just can’t cop a style that is that authentic and that unique. Ideally at this point, all we can hope is that people have finally gotten wise to that. Fingers crossed but I have my doubts. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of Ill Communication, here’s a ranking of the group’s eight albums. 8. The Mix-Up (2007) Beastie Boys instrumental tracks are like shots. Spread out throughout an album, just like a night of heavy drinking, a few shots can be a lot of fun. However, a night that consists solely of shots is completely uncalled for. It’s not in the best interest of anyone involved I don’t care what that one friend we all have who loves shots says. That friend is a danger to society What separates The Mix-Up from the band’s other instrumental release that came before it, The In Sound from Way Out!, is that the first instrumental album was a compilation of previously released jams, tracks that had appeared on previous albums. It wasn’t presented as anything new and it was actually pretty helpful if you liked those tracks and wished you had them all in one place (and were also too lazy to make a mixtape containing them.) In contrast, The Mix-Up was made of all new compositions. There was even a tour where the band focused on instrumentals. It’s not as if the jams are terrible or anything. It’s just that, at times – and I’m saying this with all due respect – it sounds like I’m listening to a college jam band. Speaking as someone who was in a college jam band, that shit should be shared as little as possible. 7. To the 5 Boroughs (2004) With the world and their native New York City still reeling from 9/11, no one can fault the Beasties for releasing a tribute to their beloved New York City. We also can’t hate on them for making an album that was easily their most hip-hop-heavy. To the 5 Boroughs is definitely not a bad album. Let me repeat that: THIS IS NOT A BAD ALBUM. However, it’s also not a great album. It’s a good album; a solid B-, which is nothing to be ashamed of. As we all remember from back in the day, there’s a big difference between getting a B on something and a C, and the minus aside, a B is a B, kid. Now, saying To the 5 Boroughs is “just” a good album is largely due to the fact that the Beastie Boys were always a good to really good hip-hop group. But what made them stand out was their ability to dip into the wild waters of hardcore and punk and incorporate that into their hip-hop stylings. By leaning almost exclusively into hip-hop. they weren’t operating at full strength. With that being said, “Ch-Check It Out” is an awesome tune. 6. Hello Nasty (1998) Released four years after Ill Communication, Hello Nasty is good fun starting from the jump with “Super Disco Breakin’.” It’s a forward-thinking album, chock-full of futuristic sounds and thoughtful experimentation. Unlike Ill Communication, which had the feel of a band concocting mayhem in a garage, Hello Nasty sounds like a team of scientists experimenting in a lab. If we’re being honest though, and I’d like to think we are, I do have one issue with Hello Nasty: the length. It’s a long album. It’s like Drake album long. Studies have routinely shown that nobody has time for an album with 22 tracks. But we’re staying positive here. “Three MCs and One DJ” is the hip-hop side of the Beastie Boys in all its glory. Also, Hello Nasty is a top-notch album title. 5. Licensed to Ill (1986) At first glance, Licensed to Ill, with classics like “Brass Monkey,” “Fight for Your Right” and “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” on it, you could easily say, What the heck, man? How is this album not ranked higher? That’s fair; a solid question. I would say, friend, that the margin between the album that ends up at the top of this list and License to Ill at the fifth spot is incredibly minimal. So be cool. I’m not firing shots or hating on the group’s legendary debut. With a ranking like this, it’s a game of inches and no one, especially me who loves to champion debut albums, can sleep on the impact of this album. But it’s also their first album and a lot of times it substitutes legitimate quality for youthful exuberance. There’s no Hot Sauce Committee Part Two without License to Ill, but that doesn’t mean License to Ill should be ranked higher. Cool? 4. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011) Speaking of Hot Sauce Committee, let’s tip our caps to the Beastie Boys’ last album. The album was set to be released in 2009 but was delayed when Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer. It was eventually released two years later when Yauch was in remission and one year before he passed away in 2012. Hot Sauce is a near-perfect marriage of early Beasties energy and the forward-thinking lab work of Hello Nasty. It’s a fun album, especially in contrast with To the 5 Boroughs, which came out seven years earlier. The beats on this album are sick, and it features two of the best guest spots in the Beasties’ discography: Nas on “Too Many Rappers” and Santigold on “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.” They even pick up their instruments for a trip down hardcore memory lane with “Lee Majors Come Again.” I don’t know if they knew this would be their last album or not when they were writing and recording it, but either way, as far as last albums go, it’s everything a long-time fan could ask for. 3. Check Your Head (1992) Check Your Head is peak Beasties and possibly the album that best demonstrates what the group looked to bring to the table. It’s loose as hell and far from perfect from any kind of technical sense. Additionally, it’s fun, entertaining, inspirational, and most importantly, eternally appealing. Check Your Head is one of those albums that always sounds good, regardless of the situation. Well, not regardless of any situation. Let’s just say it’s good for a bunch of situations with “bunch” doing a lot of work there because the bunch in question is sizeable. The sounds on Check Your Head are great, especially Mike D’s drums on “Pass the Mic.” The snare hits are freakin’ perfect, man. Perfect. Check Your Head has the best instrumentals, some of the best rhymes, and an iconic album cover. Yauch’s bass line on “Gratitude” is the kind of fuzzy goodness that makes you want to get in a car chase filmed in slow motion (i.e. one of the aforementioned situations that were previously alluded to.) 2. Paul’s Boutique (1989) Released three long and crazy years after License to Ill came out, Paul’s Boutique was a hard left turn for the group following the success they had been gaining with their debut album and their association with Def Jam. The Beasties had split from the label over ongoing financial disputes in 1988 and signed with Capital Records. They then fled west to California to record Paul’s Boutiquewith The Dust Brothers. The album has benefited greatly from the passing of time, as it was dismissed initially. And by dismissed, I mean it flopped (relatively speaking of course.) It failed to reach the heights of its predecessor so you know, flop. Paul’s Boutique is the Beastie Boys at their weirdest and most liberated as if they were on a funky island with turntables, samplers, and a drum machine. It has become a shining moment of experimental hip-hop and a testament to the band’s willingness to push both themselves and their boundaries. License to Ill introduced the band to the world, but Paul’s Boutique let us see their true intentions even if it took the world a little while to catch on. 1. Ill Communication (1994) Any one of the Beastie Boys albums in the top three could occupy the top spot. If overall, this is a game of inches, then the top three is a game of millimeters. Not even daylight is getting in between the top three albums on this ranking. Personally, I ride with Ill Communication, and as for why, well it’s because of its scope. Ill Communication is the best kind of massive album. It’s wide-ranging, expansive, diverse, confounding, and something to strive for. You can find something new every time you listen to it. They kick around elements of jazz, funk, punk, and more, sometimes in the same song. “Sabotage” will forever stand the test of time, but it’s no less important than a tune like “Root Down,” which is a top-five Beastie Boys song. “Get It Together” featuring Q-Tip is a master class in collaboration and the instrumentals on the album are next level. The album has 20 songs on it but it definitely doesn’t feel that long. At various points, the songs seamlessly flow into one another. Ill Communication is the Beastie Boys’ high water mark, the moment they became true cultural barometers. It’s one of the best albums to come out of the 1990s, and one of the best albums produced by New York City. It’s the Beastie Boys firing on all cylinders and, because of that, it’s number one. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it’s an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79 Portions of this piece originally appeared on UPROXX
  2. Let’s start here: The Dave Matthews Band are not a jam band. Maybe they once were, back in the day when they were traveling up and down the east coast in the early to mid-90s, cruising in the same circles as bands like Blues Traveler, Phish, and Widespread Panic. But at some point along the way, things changed. They went from a jam band to a great live band. It’s not a knock against them and certainly isn’t any kind of slight. It’s really just a minor change in distinction; a clerical matter. Now, I became aware of this issue over the past couple of months courtesy of listening to the DMB channel on Sirius. The channel has become a go-to mainly because of its reliability and hey, anytime they play a version of “#41,” I’m down. The station naturally relies heavily on live shows and as a longtime fan of the band, it’s interesting to take note of the differences between a version of “#41” from 1997 and 2007 and 2017. Youthful energy and swagger eventually give way to more polished, veteran savvy, which of course is to be expected once a band gets a little long in the tooth. But it’s through that lens that it became apparent that The Dave Matthews Band doesn’t really jam in the way jam bands jam. They ride vamps and outros, trade solos, and such, but they don’t really jam. So yeah, The Dave Matthews Band isn’t a jam band. The Dave Matthews Band is a great live band. Case closed. The Dave Matthews Band have also been around forever and recently they announced the upcoming release of their tenth album, Walk Around the Moon. It’s their first new album in four years since they released Come Tomorrow in 2018. The band has also changed personnel too, something that most likely contributes to their moving away from jam band territory. Following the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore in 2008, the band essentially replaced him with a two-man horn section and when violinist Boyd Tinsley stepped away following some unsavory allegations, a keyboardist was brought in. Matthews’ longtime collaborator, guitarist Tim Reynolds was made a full-time member in 2008. Whereas when the band first emerged in the early 90s, they were a lean, yet massive-sounding five-person outfit, they now are an 8-man band that can be just as massive sounding, but not nearly as lean and spry. With a new album coming out and another summer tour mapped out, it felt like as good a time as any to tackle a ranking of Dave Matthews Band songs. I had already ranked their albums, so songs seemed the next logical move. Limiting a ranking of songs to studio versions also felt logical because come on now, we’re trying to keep this manageable, and with all due respect to the version of “The Maker” from the Live in Chicago album, it being left off this list would be one of the first of many tough decisions to be made. It should also be noted that any of the songs on Matthews’ solo album were left off. I’m a stickler for fairness, fam. You can check out a playlist of all these songs and a handful more HERE. Okay, let’s do it to it, kids. 40. “Why I Am” (2009) This song just drives. It never gives up or lets up. You think it might but no, you’re wrong. It’s okay. We’re all wrong once in a while. I once thought there was an opening act for a Widespread Panic show and ended up showing up at the set break. See, it happens. 39. “Dreamgirl” (2005) Matthews has a knack for writing a tune like “Dreamgirl,” a whimsical little romp about a lady love, and in my younger days, I had a knack for dropping this little ditty on a mixtape for a lady love of my own. Do people make playlists for people now? How does that work? I kind of feel that you lose some of the magic of the whole process doing it that way. You can find this and other similar questions on my podcast, Fuck, I’m Old. 38. “Digging a Ditch” (2002) Before there was The Snyder Cut, there was The Lillywhite Sessions. Both projects eventually saw the light of day largely due to fans clamoring for them. I would argue that Busted Stuff has the edge on Zac Snyder’s version of Justice League, but I’ll leave that one for the courts. As for “Digging a Ditch,” it’s like a rocking chair; easy to groove with. 37. “The Space Between” (2001) There was one night in college, maybe it was junior year and my buddy and I were sitting in my car, getting blazed and listening to Everyday, the new DMB album that had recently come out and was admittedly a little off-putting at first. It sounded like Dave Matthews Band run through a computer program. Anyway, that wasn’t what we talked about. No, we were talking about “The Space Between” and what it meant. I don’t remember specifics beyond us being stoned and sitting there kicking around ideas and frankly, that’s all that matters to me. Dave Matthews Band songs have been in my life for so long that they almost all have anecdotal memories attached to them, so more fleshed out than others. 36. “The Song That Jane Likes” (1993) I like this song too. It should be called “The Song Jane and Ryan Likes.” 35. “When the World Ends” (2001) Everyday was and still is such a weird album from the band. It’s a given that something gets lost when a band that is dynamic live enters the studio but on Everyday, so much life was drained from the band’s sound. It was jarring. However, what didn’t get lost in translation was the band’s strong songwriting. “When the World Ends” should be brighter and louder but there is some beauty in the restraint shown in this particular version and some solace in knowing the band could really rip in concert when needed. 34. “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” (2018) Listen, by 2018, Dave Matthews Band had hit that point of their career where anything new they released was just gravy. We had our hits, our songs we still listened to on a regular basis and hoped to hear when going to see the band live. Anything they released that was even close to fine was a win. It’s a low bar but it’s also a reality when a band has been around as long as they have. With that being said, “Samurai Cop” is a dope song with a cool title and boring subtitle and I’m not sure why it’s called what it’s called but I’m here for it, in the same way, I decided not to be here for that show “Tokyo Vice,” which just wasn’t as good as I was it’d be. But we can talk about that later. 33. “Seven” (2009) It’s weird to say that in the band’s second decade, DMB decided to start getting weird with things because let’s be honest, DMB had been getting weird with things from the jump. I think by the time decade number two rolled around, they just continued being weird and wrote songs like “Seven,” which is a weird song and yes, I used “weird” a lot here but I think it’s okay. It’s all justified. 32. “Recently” (1993) I’ll never get sick of summer. I’ll never get sick of cereal. I’ll never get sick of watching episodes of The Office (only ones with Michael Scott) and I’ll never get sick of listening to “Recently.” I Iike it when the song sounds like a honky down ho-down on the top of speeding locomotion. It’s fun. Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk. Get home safe. 31. “Ants Marching” (1994) Shit, man. I feel like this song should be higher. Oh well! No turning back now. 30. “The Best of What’s Around” (1994) “The Best of What’s Around” is one of the best opening tracks ever. According to who, you ask. Me. That’s who. That snare fill. The groove. The way the chorus explodes into an ocean of happiness and sunshine and fucking rainbows. It’s beautiful. 29. “Funny The Way It Is” (2009) “Funny The Way It Is” is a top-notch pop song and in an alternate universe, it has the feeling that the band should have tried to get to when recording “Everyday.” There’s no flash, and there are no funky time signatures. It’s straightforward, catchy, and has a delightful chorus that gets stuck in your head for at least three hours after listening to it. It even has a soaring guitar solo instead of a sax or violin solo. Is this when it all changed for Dave Matthews Band? Sure, maybe. Does this song mark the line in the sand that separates old-school Dave and new-school Dave? Well, I’ve thought about it for (checks watch) eight seconds and yes, I think it is. 28. “If Only” (2012) Away From The World is something of an afterthought when taking stock of the band’s catalog but it’s not without a few gems. “If Only” is soft, tender, and simple. It looks deep into your eyes, takes you by the hand, buys you a drink, complements you on your shoes; really wines and dines ya. And a bonus is the drums. Carter Beauford isn’t known for showing restraint when it comes to his drumming but he’s perfect on this song. 27. “Satellite” (1994) If this song wasn’t included, I’d feel dirty. Like I was trying to pull one over on myself. Oh and if you’re curious, “Crash Into Me” is not on this list and I felt nothing about that being the case. 26. “Mercy” (2012 “Mercy” feels like a spiritual cousin of “Funny The Way It Is.” Both songs are observations of the world, with both having tinges of optimism to them, optimism coming from the hope that things can be better. Dave can go dark at times but can also take swings at being the high tide of good feelings that rise all the boats. 25. “Pantala Naga Pampa”>”Rapunzel” (1998) The one/two punch that opens Before These Crowded Streets, arguably the band’s best album, can’t be separated. They work in tandems, like peanut butter and jelly, or sleep and my bed. “PNP” is as delicious as an intro one could come up with and the world music vibe of it serves as a nice appetizer to the globe-trotting undertaken by “Rapunzel.” 24. “Tripping Billies” (1996) “Eat, drink and be merry/for tomorrow we die” no doubt was featured in plenty of high school yearbooks back in the day and for damn good reason. It’s a great lyric and great way of looking at things. And this is fun: what exactly is the song about? Well, appearing on VH1 Storytellers a long time ago, Matthews said the song was about the first time he took acid. Like some of us out there, he took it and then immediately was struck with regret, crippled by not wanting to trip. But hey, once the wheels are in motion, there’s not much you can do, which is the stance he took. Dude ended up having a great time. Yet in another instance, when being interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Matthews elaborated some. Goats are cool. “Tripping Billies” is cool. I think we’re good here. 23. “Grey Street” (2002) “Grey Street” is one of those songs that really makes you question the thinking behind shelving the Lillywhite Sessions. Were the label executives worried the songs were maybe too good? I don’t know how you listen to a track like “Grey Street” and think, yeah, we’re good, let’s do something else instead. The song stomps, hums, soars, and marches along as the band plays in perfect unison. I mean, did the original get weird and metal or maybe feature a strange flugelhorn part that no one really understood? Cause I don’t understand it and doubt I ever will. 22. “Smooth Rider” (2005) Sure, “Smooth Rider” might sound a lot like Blackstreet’s classic “No Diggity” but it could be worse, it could sound like Blackstreet but not “No Diggity.” Life is all about perspective, kids. 21. “Too Much” (1996) Walk with me, won’t you? You’ve been enamored with Under the Table and Dreaming since the fall of 1994 when you first heard “What Would You Say.” You’ve listened to the record countless times and naturally went and picked up Remember Two Things and Recently. You’ve been listening to those albums non-stop as well and you even bought a DMB t-shirt. You, my friend, are a big-timeDave Matthews Band fan. 1996 comes, the winter trudges on and finally, spring starts to break. Around this time, something big happens. DMB release a new song, “Too Much,” the first single off of their new album. It’s loud and wild and massive and fun. You, as a newly minted big-time Dave Matthews Band, are living the dream, kid. You’re pumped. This song is fucking sweet and summer is coming and it’s going to be the summer of Dave! Just don’t forget the sunscreen. You will still get sunburned, no matter how much Dave Matthews Band you are listening to. 20. “Everyday” (2001) It’s not like the album Everyday is a complete wash. It’s definitely not and I imagine if you’re a younger DMB or someone who wasn’t in the trenches when it came out, you most likely view it differently than I do or others like me who were big DMB fans at the turn of the century. But generational differences aside, the album’s title track is delightful. It sounds like flowers blooming or how nice weather feels when you have the windows open. It also sounds like “#36,” which makes sense because “Everyday” essentially evolved from “#36.” 19. “Don’t Drink the Water” (1998) This is somewhat related, but did you know that in the summer of 1999, there were riots outside of a DMB concert? True story. The band was playing two shows over a lovely August weekend at the Meadows Music Center, just outside of Hartford and while the shows themselves were wonderful, the scene in the parking lot after both shows was not. Shit was gnarly. I know, I was there. Actually, I only kind of know but yes, I was there (and perhaps too drunk) and I walked by, stopped, looked, and was told to move along by cops in riot gear. Then I think I went to MacDonalds along with everyone around who wasn’t partaking in rioting. It was a surreal experience and sometimes I think back to that weekend and laugh, laugh not at the riots but at my buddy Wilson getting way too fired up about the band using a trio of backing singers on the tour. I thought they were fine. He did not. Also, don’t fucking riot after a Dave Matthews Band concert, ya jabronis. 18. “What Would You Say” (1994) The one that started it all for so, so many of us. There was a world before this song and a world after. 17. “Here On Out” (2018) The only bummer about this beautiful tune is that it came out in 2018 and not 1998. If it had come out in 1998, it would have been included in so many mixtapes. So many. It’s a damn shame. Probably would have made the song more popular. Making a playlist for a love interest or special companion just doesn’t hit the same way. Kids these days are missing out. And I know I already talked about that but IT’S TRUE. 16. “So Much To Say” (1996) “So Much To Say” is one of those DMB tunes that when it comes on the radio, regardless of where it is in the song, I immediately lock into the groove and start singing along. The song is ingrained in me, it’s part of me. I hear it even when I don’t but when I do hear it, I definitely hear it and while that might not make a lot of sense, it does kind of sound like words Matthews would string together in a verse of one of his tunes so ultimately, it’s cool. And so is “So Much To Say,” a song that is something of a forgotten gem when taking stock of the band’s legacy and catalog. 15. “Drive in Drive Out” (1996) Any live version of this song packs the punch of a thousand stampeding elephants but if you can find one from the late nineties, well you best lookout. The guitar riff is the match and everything else is soaked in gasoline. Once combined, a wild blaze is ignited and can’t stop, won’t stop. 14. “Louisiana Bayou” (2005) There is a tightness to this song that feels like Everyday but it’s surrounded by a wonderful carefree vibe that is reminiscent of classic, good time having DMB. For DMB in 2005, possibly the best possible outcome of the couple of years that preceded it. 13. “Grace Is Gone” (2002) “Excuse me please, one more drink/could you make it strong, cause I don’t want to think/she broke my heart, my grace is gone/one more drink and I’ll move on.” That’s some relatable pain right there and summed up perfectly. 12. “The Last Stop” (1998) “The Last Stop” opens with a force usually reserved for cowboys kicking open a set of saloon doors and never lets up. Ever. It doesn’t even think about letting up. The thought never crosses its mind. “The Last Stop” is a wrecking ball, it’s shots of Yager chased with Tequila, it’s Fight Milk, it’s bare-knuckle boxing, it’s the promise of excitement and adventure and it’s the reality of adventure and excitement. “The Last Stop” is infused with fireworks, kid. It’s science. 11. “Seek Up” (1993) So if we were including live versions of songs, “Seek Up” would be higher, especially if you were to take a live version from those golden years in the late 90s. You know, like from Red Rocks. “Seek Up” is one of those Dave Matthews Band songs that could only be a Dave Matthews Band and couldn’t have been written by anyone else. 10. “Stay (Wasting Time)” (1998) Flip flops are always comfortable and so is “Stay.” Facts are facts, kid. 9. “Granny” (1994) For a certain segment of the DMB faithful, “Granny” entered their lives via live shows and live recordings. It just kept showing up but where the hell did it come from? It’s not on anything the band released before Under The Table Dreaming and only emerged in studio form when an extended version of the album was released. Turns out it was recorded during the Table sessions and was even tapped to be the lead single off of the album. Yet at some point, plans changed, and “Granny” was shelved, at least the studio version was. It remained in heavy rotation at shows during this time, which helped boost its myth-like reputation. All these years later, it’s still a favorite at a DMB concert, something of a rallying cry for the old heads and youngsters alike. 8. “Lie In Our Graves” (1996) “Lie In Our Graves” starts off calmly, smooth like a pond in the early morning hours. But as is so often the case, at a certain point the weather kicks up and the pond begins dancing with the weather as waves form and lovely little ducks run for cover. Nothing stays chill forever, broski, but alas, that’s not a bad thing, and with the weather kicked up by “Lie In Our Graves” once the rest of the band kicks in, excitement enters the picture. But hold on because things do get a little low-key once the song hits the bridge and thinking things are cool again the lovely little ducks return. Old men get their fishing gear out and there is a calmness that surely will stand pat for the remainder of the day. Right? No and especially when played live, things get all sorts of lively again and fuck those ducks and those old men fishing because it’s time to get nuts. 7. “Jimi Thing” (1994) Dude, “Jimi Thing?” Enough said. 6. “Bartender” (2002) “Bartender” is a massive song, a journey full of perpetual motion and forward trajectory. The music feels like an engine whether it’s the marching percussion or rumbling saxophone. There’s more flash to be found on Busted Stuff but “Bartender” sits there at the end, confident in what it brings to the table and not the least bit concerned it will be overlooked. How could it be? It’s an epic tune that feels as if it could go on forever, never really ending, just fading out. 5. “You & Me” (2009) Dave Matthews Band found themselves in a transitional period at the end of that first decade of the 2000s as they were still reeling from LeRoi Moore’s death and trying to stay fresh and relevant. The band had always had too much fight in them to become a nostalgia act and didn’t seem the type to go quiet into that cold dark night. Amidst this backdrop, they released their last great album, Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, an album that concludes with the absolutely beautiful track “You & Me.” Driven by a chorus steeped in positivity, Matthews shouts from the rooftops that “you and me together could do anything, baby” and you can’t but help that it’s in fact true. The album ended up being nominated for two Grammys, Best Rock Album and Album of the Year, and while it didn’t win in either category, just being nominated coupled with their inspired performance at the show was more than enough to show that the band still had plenty left in the tank and send them into a new decade with some wind in their sails. 4. “Two Step” (1996) Ah, I wish I could go back in time and listen to this song for the first time again. By now, the hits and booms and bashes – you know they’re coming but to experience them all fresh again would be amazing. We all have songs that we’ll never get sick of and “Two Step” is one of those for me. I may not always listen to it or pick it out of a lineup, but when I do, God I just appreciate the hell out of it. 3. “Crush” (1998) My relationship with Dave Matthews Band goes back years. We’ve established that by now. What tends to happen when you have such a long relationship with a certain act is that songs become songs you don’t just love, but songs that inevitably have a memory or two associated with them, and then all these years later, long after the memory was first etched into your brain and soul, it still feels fresh. When you hear the song, the memory comes along for the ride. It becomes part of the appeal, not just of the song but of the act itself; a soundtrack of your life thing. “Crush” is a beautiful song. It’s timeless. It has a life of its own when played live but the original studio version still sounds amazing over twenty years later. And dude, every time I hear it, I think about a buddy from college. His nickname was Porter for reasons that are now not totally clear and towards the end of our freshman year, he essentially decided school wasn’t for him and became something of a passive observer. We would get back from class and you would hear him down the hall listening to “Crush” or Enya (Porter was an interesting dude) and drinking vodka and fruit punch. Memories peel off from that one memory and that’s part of the fun and its part of the reason why I love “Crush” so much. That and yeah, it’s a great song. 2. “#41” (1996) As I get older, I tend to rely on the constants in my life. It makes things easier. One constant is that if Dave Matthews Band radio on Sirius is playing a version of “#41,” I’m in. No questions asked. I love how the chorus soars and the whole song has such a joyful bounce to it. Timeless, babe. “#41” is timeless. 1. “Warehouse” (1994) There has always been a duality to Dave Matthews Band, a combination of light and dark. They have never been just one thing and frequently, aren’t just two things. They have always contained levels. Yes, levels. It goes back to the jump, a result of their unique backgrounds and instrumentation. It was the 1990s for crying out loud and they prominently featured a saxophone and a violin. Their drummer was a madman and their bass player might have been the dude down the hall who sold weed and listened to jazz records. And in front of it all was this lunatic from South Africa whose fingers danced as he played and his vocals bobbed and weaved like a player running for his life toward the end zone. “Warehouse” is the song that perhaps best exemplifies this duality as it’s a song that starts off so dark and almost ominous but before long it’s as bright as a summer day. There may be better Dave Matthews Band songs but “Warehouse” is musically a mission statement for the band. It’s grand and epic, intense and ethereal. Lyrically, it’s an embracing of the present and opening one’s arms to the current situation, loving that situation and realizing it might be the best of what’s around but it shouldn’t stop you from exploring what’s outside of its walls. Take the chances, open yourself up to new experiences. Dave Matthews Band has always charted a course of confident certainty coupled with a current flowing underneath of apprehension. To be only one way would run counter to how Dave Matthews Band has always operated and likely always will, regardless of what the future holds. Dare to get weird, kid. The Dave Matthews Band always have. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79
  3. There is today, a today where computers are not only everywhere, but borderline mandatory. And today, these computers are capable of amazing things. Things like Facebook and watching Netflix and designing Power Point presentations and watching YouTube. These computers I’m assuming have games on them, or the ability to have games loaded onto them. I only say assume because I don’t play computer games. I don’t consider taking a Buzzfeed quiz to determine which character from Dazed and Confused I am a game. I consider it informative and potentially life-changing. Although I got Slater. That seems outdated to me. Now speaking of outdated, back when I was youngster, parting my hair on the right, looking adorable, hiding my feet that were growing too fast, we had computers in school- tan and boxy. The screen was green. For the most part their main function seemed to be typing. That’s it. They were typewriters with screens. The cursor blinked. Did I mention the screen was green? It was. Didn’t matter what you were doing. The screen was green. Typing, doing math or even better, playing Oregon Trail, the screen was green. And yes, Oregon Trail. It was the computer game for a little while there. It was what you played as a treat because quite honestly, you didn’t know what else to do with the computer. Somehow this constituted computer training, but possibly even working on your life skills. Which I suppose made sense, even though I was living in Maine and wasn’t even 100% positive sure oxen were a real thing. I can’t stress this enough, Oregon Trail was a big deal. And then it was gone. Computers kept getting better, more prevalent, more functional and with these changes, Oregon Trail became more and more antiquated. It became something that was reminisced about, but never played. Just another childhood memory, like TGIF and Mountain Dew. It was something that you couldn’t imagine ever coming back into your life. Well that is until someone on the Internet brought Oregon Trail, as well as other games of that era, back into our lives. I couldn’t resist playing. Just once. Just for kicks. Just to get to Oregon with my family in tow. The first thing you do is pick where you’re from and what you do. You have three options: I chose banker from Boston because I wanted to make this as real as possible. And no, I have never once considered being a banker, but I’ve been to a bank and on more than one occasion considered moving to Boston. Would this hurt my chances of success, though? Wouldn’t a farmer or carpenter, either one from more rustic areas of the country, have a better chance of making it from one end of the trail to the other? Yeah probably. Definitely a better chance than some east coast, white collared liberal. But banker from Boston was a choice that came from the gut so banker from Boston it is. I imagine I’ll regret the choice, but it’ll probably be because I’ll have so much time to think about things while riding the trail. No second-guessing! Banker from Boston it is. Next up you load up your wagon with your family. I really thought about this; much more so than the banker from Boston thing. I really wanted a good crew, something that is always essential when planning a trip. Giddy Up America’s Oregon Trail Wagon Tom Brady Rihanna Dave Grohl Questlove Why those fine people? I’ll tell you. Tom Brady: steady, reliable, pancake master Rihanna: unpredictable, sassy, “relaxation expert” Dave Grohl: jokester, in charge of campfire singalongs, story teller Questlove: wagon DJ, lots of friends & connections (for trading purposes) We were ready to roll. And we were going to roll in April. They give you options of when to leave. April seemed to make sense. I think. I am a banker from Boston, so this might not be in my wheelhouse. I’d ask my crew but ol’ Tommy Blue Eyes is texting Gisele about God knows what, RiRi is already onto her second blunt, Quest is consumed with picking the right music for the trip and Dave is rambling on about the unheralded music scene in Independence, Missouri. So the decision is mine. The decision is April. Before leaving we stop at Matt’s General Store for supplies. We have $1,600 to spend. Matt recommends 3 Oxen yoke (2 oxen per yoke.) We get 4 yoke. Matt recommends 200 pounds of food per person. We get 1,000 pounds and pledge to ration properly, even RiRi, who you know…munchies. Matt recommends 2 set of clothes per person. We get 14 sets, giving us a few extra. Seems smart. Matt has no recommendation for ammo. We get 15 boxes. This makes sense to Dave. I’m sold. Matt recommends “a few spare parts,” which consists of wagon wheels, wagon axles, and whatever the hell a wagon tongue is. We get two of each and no proper explanation about what a wagon tongue is. Sadly Matt does not carry rolling papers, Afro picks, Jack Daniel’s or Uggs. Our crew is set, but not 100% satisfied. It’s March 1, 1848 and we’re off. Peace out Independence. Next stop Oregon. Actually, next stop is 19 miles in as one oxen is already injured. Damn it Matt! Never trust the only store in town! And then, only a few days later, seven exactly, we run into a blizzard and lose a day. Needless to say, we are not off to a good start. Crew is in good spirits, though. Questlove’s music choices are predictably on point and Dave is handling most of the driving with Brady on map duties. Ri Ri? Snoozing. But looking super fly while doing so. Rivers: Kansas River: we “attempt to ford” i.e. cross carefully and are successful. Big Blue River: we “caulk the wagon” i.e. float across and are successful. We got rivers down pat. Good feelings are fleeting, though. This is meant to be ominous. March 18: severe blizzard. March 21: Questlove gets cholera. Ri Ri wisely asks him to put together some playlists because you know, in case he…well…we don’t want to talk too much about it…but in case he dies. March 23: Which he does. Tom, the ultimate team player, vows to rock a hair pick for the rest of the trip as a tribute. God, if we lose Tom… March 26: Tom Brady has exhaustion. NOOOOOOOOO!!!! March 28: Tragedy. Two deaths in a week. Our crew is understandably rocked. We spend the night of the 28th mourning our fallen travelers with shots of whiskey, Ri Ri’s special “emergencies only” stash and tales of Questo’s and Brady’s greatness. It is a night interlaced with sadness and fond memories. We pledge to go on, we pledge to never forget our friends. On a happier note, I’m getting better at hunting. Unfortunately I could only carry 100 pounds back, which is kind of a bummer. Tom Brady’s loss is felt. He could carry back at least twice that. Damn it, Tom! Why did you have to die? The good ones always go too soon. Sleep well sweet prince and please beat the Ravens this weekend. It’s just Dave Grohl, Rihanna and me now. We must continue on. It’s what Questlove and Tommy Football would have wanted, what they dreamed about. For the next few weeks things are quiet. It gives us time to think. Why are we going to Oregon anyway? Jobs, food, family? If we’re going cross country, shouldn’t it be to some place like San Diego or L.A.? I’m not sure Oregon makes much sense. San Diego is sweet. I wonder if we really thought this through. We probably didn’t. That’s so like us. Then a rough two week stretch hits. We told her to be mindful of where she wanders off too. But you know, stoners. May 3: Good day for hunting, but bad day for navigating. We lose the trail. I mean, it’s not like there’s many other trails. There’s really only the one. But we still lost it. I’m not going to point fingers at anyone. But…when Dave Grohl assures that he knows how to read a map, you believe him. It’s Dave Grohl, the guy who wrote “Everlong.” That’s an awesome song. Dude who wrote that mustknow how to read a map. Right? Dave is off map duty. And on top of that, our food rations are running dangerously low because someone (no names, only initials: Rihanna) is constantly snacking for reasons that…well, you know (in a whisper: weed.) We are forced to make a shift in our rationing policy, changing from filling to meager. May 12: Ri Ri has the measles! No, not Ri Ri! She’s our heart & soul! May 13: She was our heart & soul. We take a day off. We need to. This latest death has really shaken us. Ri Ri was going to bring the people of Oregon wonderful recipes from Barbados. Now? Now there will be no Barbados-inspired restaurants in Oregon. It is a sad day in Independence Rock. Dave is inconsolable. Rumors about some late night hook ups with Ri Ri might have been true. I didn’t believe them, didn’t want too. But for how shaken up he is? Kind of, sort of seems like something was going on. Oh well. What happens on the Oregon Trail stays on the Oregon Trail. While Dave drowns his sorrows in more whiskey…how much did he bring?…I visit with my Aunt Rebecca and trade for some supplies. We need clothes. I have no idea where our clothes went, but we’re running low and Dave and I look ridiculous. He’s wearing one of Ri Ri’s shirts, I’m wearing most of Questlove’s old clothes and they are comically too large for me. Honestly, we look like assholes. This concern about appearances would be short-lived. May 16: Dave has measles. Which is you know, kind of weird because our girl Ri Ri had measles too. Are measles contagious? What are measles? Are they like chicken pox? Damn it. Questlove would totally know the answers to these questions. May 18 is a rough day. So that leaves just me. Everyone else is dead. Questlove is dead. Tom Brady is dead. Our beloved Rihanna is dead. Dave Grohl is dead. It feels like the dream of Oregon is almost dead. It’s on life-support. May 21: I have cholera. What the hell is cholera! Cholera: Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. Vomiting also occurs in most patients. – World Health Organization Well that sucks. So does breaking an arm. And then having dysentery. I’m having a rough week. Perhaps I should have stayed in Boston doing that banker thing. Ever heard of a banker getting cholera? Getting dysentery? Burying his friend Questlove? I haven’t. It’s quite possible that I’ve made a huge mistake. June gets off to a rough start. Damn it, another effin’ wheel! I spend the day trying to trade for a wheel, having to surrender a set of clothes (Dave’s) to get the wheel. June 28: I have a fever. Yes, it’s called loneliness. July 10: Damn it, lost another wheel. I should have read reviews of Matt’s General Store! His wheels are shit. The bad luck doesn’t last all that long though. Two weeks later I come across an abandoned wagon. Finders keepers on the trail, bitches! My looting “salvaging” gets me some more bullets and clothes. Maybe this is a sign? Maybe things are starting to take a turn for the best and things are starting to look up and my luck is starting to change? Maybe I’ll make it to Oregon after all? August 3: I have a broken leg. August 11: I have (another) broken arm. August 12: I have measles. August 20: I’m dead. I made it a little over halfway to Oregon. And then the game made fun of me. See you in another twenty years Oregon Trail. Ryan O'Connell loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. See more of his writing at his website, GiddyUpAmerica.com
  4. Editor's note: This column was written at the beginning of the month. Guess what I forgot to do? It’s May 4th. In some corners of the world, this is a big day known as Star Wars Day. You know, may the fourth be with you. It makes sense that we have a Star Wars Day given its cultural impact. I mean, have you noticed some of the other “days” we have? At least Star Wars Day is something worth celebrating. Now, because it’s Star Wars Day and because again, some corners of the world are super pumped about it, Star Wars related-content is out there, making the rounds, including a trailer for the new Obi-Wan series (which looks dope.) Me personally, I woke up, saw that Star Wars stuff was trending, got thinking, and came back to something I had been thinking about for a while now: when are we going to get a cantina band series??? Thanks to Disney now controlling Star Wars, shows set in the Star Wars universe have appeared on Disney+, starting with The Mandalorian followed by the Obi-Wan show, a show about Cassian Andor, a character from Rogue One and Ahsoka, which revolves around Ahsoka Tano who appeared in The Mandalorian among other Star Wars content. I’m sure there will be more, especially if another one of those comes close to hitting the mark like The Mandalorian and Andor did. Which leads me to ask, why not give the Cantina Band some love? You know the Cantina Band, those dudes chopping it up in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope. The tune they were playing is probably the most recognizable piece of music from the movies next to John Williams’ score and Darth Vader’s theme music. They appeared in one scene in that movie and that was it. They were gone. But they could be back and it could be fun. Think about it: a series about a band touring the galaxy while all kinds of crazy wars, turmoil, and blasting are happening. Making a living in a band and co-existing with your bandmates is hard enough without a large-scale rebellion happening. These dudes could have canceled gigs because the Empire blew up the planet where the show was scheduled to happen. Talk about a bummer, huh? Part of what has made some of these shows so much fun was that they showed slices of life in the galaxy carrying on amidst all the Star Wars bruhaha happening. It brought a whole new perspective to the franchise as we got to see what people who weren’t fighting in the various wars were up to and how they were ultimately affected by the events happening all around them. This trend could continue with the Cantina Band series, following the band as they tour and play other such establishments as the Mos Eisley Cantina; spots where the shady business would no doubt be happening, and said shady business could very easily be connected to stuff happening on projects involved in the Star Wars universe. And it’s about a band! Stories about bands are always great (or say in the case of Daisy Jones & the Six pretty okay.) The drama, the dynamics, the songwriting process. It’s gold. It’s always gold. And here, it’d be gold plus Star Wars. So if you’re keeping track: Band stuff: win Star Wars stuff: win Yeah, what LL Cool J said. Let’s do it, Disney+. If you’re skittish, make it a limited series. Limited series are sweet and everyone loves them because it’s minimal commitment. A movie would be excessive. Well, unless…we’re talking a This Is Spinal Tap style mockumentary about the Cantina Band. I could get into that. I bet you could too. You have my contact info Disney+. Let’s talk. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79 Portions of this piece originally appeared on UPROXX in 2015.
  5. This was easily one of the most agonizing things I’ve ever done. I consulted with experts (my brother-in-law, a diehard Pearl Jam fan.) I did hours of research. I asked the family of rabbits who live behind our shed for advice. I covered a corkboard in Polaroids, string, and index cards to such a degree that it would make Carrie Mathison jealous. In the end, I believe I reached a conclusion I can live with. Well, at least for now. The task was to rank Pearl Jam’s studio albums. If I included the live albums, we could be here for weeks; Pearl Jam probably just released a couple more live albums in the time it took you to reach this point of the piece, or at the very least, they thought about it. Pearl Jam does love to drop some live releases, don’t they? But no, no live albums here, kid. Just studio albums and I’m getting this ranking out there as the band’s debut album, Ten, celebrates its 30th anniversary on August 30th. And that’s fun because I don’t know about you, but I love finding ways to acknowledge that I’m getting old. As for how the rankings were done and how this list was constructed, I let two key things make the decisions: my gut and my heart. Why? Because that’s where Pearl Jam resides for me and it’s where they’ve lived since I first heard them more than 20 years ago. I still remember listening to Ten over and over again in my folks’ basement, and the giddy anticipation my buddy and I had as his mom drove us to buy Vs. at the local record store. I’ve grown up with Pearl Jam, and I can’t say that about many bands. Actually, I’m not sure I can say that about any other bands. For the most part, Pearl Jam’s albums exist on a scale of Wow, This Album Is Great to Meh, This Album Is Okay. They don’t have any bad albums, which is impressive given the length of their career. But they do have a couple albums that are, you know, not totally great. So, we’ll start with those. 10. Riot Act (2002,) Binaural (2000) tie These two albums exist in Pearl Jam’s second stage, one I have to admit I wasn’t totally a part of (see: Phase, Hippie). I actually think that a good number of people, Pearl Jam fans included, weren’t along for the ride at this point of the trip. Pearl Jam had come so strong out of the gate that a dip in quality was bound to happen. These two albums come from a band staring straight ahead at a fork in the road – at a point of decision-making about what kind of band they were and wanted to be. Riot Act, in particular, was the product of a band existing within a conflict, as they were only two years removed from the Roskilde tragedy, an event that would stick with them for the rest of their career. The tragedy was directly addressed in two songs on the album, “I Am Mine” and “Love Boat Captain.” While Riot Act has a handful of good tunes, none of them would show up on your Best of Pearl Jamplaylist. As for Binaural, it was the band’s first album with drummer Matt Cameron, and that should count for something. It also features a couple quality tunes; tunes that have managed to stick around after all these years – “Insignificance,” “Light Years,” and “Nothing As It Seems.” In the end, though, Pearl Jam’s second act might gain some significance the further we get from it. For now, it’s kind of like high school – not the greatest of memories, but a transitional time period that was needed. 9. No Code (1996) This is where Pearl Jam started to veer into that second stage. No Code feels like it should be better than it really is. “Hail, Hail” has endured and become a great live song, and “Off He Goes” is one of Pearl Jam’s best slow songs. The rest of the album, though… eh. The passing of time has not been all that kind to it. From this vantage point, it has the feel of a swan song album; the album that could have marked the end of their career as opposed to the start of a new era and given what we know now, how burnt out the band was at the time, I suppose that’s not all that surprising. Intermission No. 1 And now, a few quick words about “State of Love and Trust”… “State of Love and Trust” was originally released on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s Singles in 1992 and a remastered version appeared on the re-release of Ten in 2009. It also appeared on the 2004 greatest hits album Rearviewmirror. Sometimes, the song is fast and reckless. Sometimes, a little slower and more plodding. Yet, in every incarnation, it’s a completely raw and killer rock song. I love the dueling passions in Vedder’s vocals and the wild drums. Over a 20-year career, there’s bound to be songs that get left behind, but “State of Love and Trust” should not be one of those songs. 8. Gigaton (2020) Pearl Jam’s most recent album got lost amidst the shuffle of a global pandemic and if that hadn’t happened, it would have been interesting to see if that would have changed how it was received. For a band releasing an album at the stage of their career that Pearl Jam is, they could be forgiven for playing it safe and staying in their lane. And for the most part, they do stay the course. “Quick Escape” sounds vintage Pearl Jam and it’s great to hear. But they also pull out some new tricks, especially with a song like “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” which if you were so inclined, you could almost dance to. And that is just not something you would have said about a Pearl Jam song before. Well, unless you count slow dancing to “Just Breathe.” 7. Lightning Bolt (2013) Pearl Jam’s most recent album is a really good rock ‘n roll record. Who hasn’t found themselves in their car humming along to “Sirens?” I would also strongly endorse “Let the Records Play” as a killer doing-work-around-the-yard song. “Mind Your Manners” is a gritty as all hell tune, especially coming from a band that has been playing it has as long as they have. It’s definitely a we’ll show you song. And thinking about it, that feels like an underlying vibe from the album. The old dogs still have a few tricks up their sleeves. They’re not done yet, kids. 6. Pearl Jam (2006) Referred to as Avocado by diehards, this was the beginning of Pearl Jam’s third stage, the one that seemed to bring old fans back into the fold. I hadn’t thought much about the band in the years leading up to this album, but that all changed when I heard it. It was like reconnecting with an old friend you had lost touch with and, in doing so, you realized how much they meant to you and why you were such great friends in the first place. The first three songs don’t let up for a second. “Big Wave” is perfect for speeding down a highway with the windows down, and “Unemployable” might be the best Tom Petty song Tom Petty never wrote. But it should be noted that Petty is fantastic, so if it sounds like Petty, it’s a good song. Any band that’s been around as long as Pearl Jam will inevitably release the “back to basics” album and, in doing so, usually get mixed results. That’s not the case with Pearl Jam. Mission accomplished here. 5. Vitalogy (1994) A band’s third album exists in a weird place, especially if the first one is their breakthrough. It means that the second one is the Most Anticipated, leaving the third to either clean up after the mess the second album made, or try its best to keep the party going. Vitalogy does an admirable job at the latter. It also put a lid on the first stage of the band’s career. However, Vitalogy looks better on paper than it does in real life. Yes, it’s loaded with classics – songs like “Spin the Black Circle,” “Corduroy,” “Better Man,” and “Not For You,” making it feel like it’s a great album. But, if you dig deeper, you see that it’s a two-faced album. Sure, half of it is full of Pearl Jam classics, but the other half is comprised of songs that quickly fell into the abyss. “Bugs?”Really? “Corduroy” is going to carry any album it’s on to immortality, though but it has its work cut out for it. Intermission No. 2 And now, a quick ranking of Pearl Jam album artwork… 10. Backspacer 9. Riot Act 8. Binaural 7. Yield 6. Vs. 5. Pearl Jam 4. No Code 3. Lightning Bolt 2. Ten 1. Vitalogy 4. Backspacer (2009) Pearl Jam was the obligatory re-dedication to rock album for our friends in Pearl Jam. But then Backspacer came along and was the album that really planted the flag firmly in the ground again. There are no weak links on Backspacer. None! It’s all peaks and quasi-peaks. “The Fixer” is by far one of the band’s best radio-friendly singles and still sounds amazing on the three rock radio stations left in America. “Just Breathe” was probably played at a wedding you went to, and everyone was super cool with it. Pearl Jam could teach a class in mid-tempo rock songs, and, if they did, “Unthought Known” and “Amongst the Waves” would be clutch parts of the syllabus. This might be the Pearl Jam album I listen to the most and putting it above Ten might ruffle some feathers but this is the Internet. It’s where feathers are ruffled, whether you like it or not. 3. Ten (1991) This is easily the Pearl Jam album that has lived in the most CD books. It christened car stereos, went to college with you, and was bought again years later because you lost the original. Ten is one of the best debut albums ever. I don’t even know how I’d go about trying to quantify how much Ten meant to me when it first came out. Nirvana had the punk rock tendencies, but Pearl Jam had the Led Zeppelin and the Who influence, which made them more appealing to me. It’s hard to imagine a point in my life when I won’t turn the radio up when “Alive” comes on. Ten was the memorable first date that has led to this long-term relationship I have with Pearl Jam. As a result, that will always mean something. It can’t be ranked No. 1, though, or really any higher than this because that would ultimately mean it’s been all downhill for the band since, and that’s just not true. Slotting it at No. 4 seems like a good spot. I feel like ranking it any lower would be disrespectful. The CD booklet also unfolded into a poster, which, to a middle school kid just getting into rock and looking to replace posters of baseball players on his wall with bands, was a total bonus. 2. Yield (1998) Buried in the band’s second phase is one of their best albums. From top to bottom, Yield is a killer, featuring one great rock song after another. Yield is full of songs that a modern-day Pearl Jam concert would feel lackluster without. Just for a second, imagine if this had been the album released after Vitalogy instead of No Code. Pearl Jam would have become a gigantic, unstoppable rock juggernaut on par with U2. Instead, it came out after No Code, when a lot of people had bailed on the band, and, as a result, it got lost amidst the debris and rubble of the band’s second stage. History will only help Yield‘s legacy though, so rest easy Yield. You’ll be fine. 1. Vs. (1993) As I went into this, I had no idea what album would be No. 1. Going back and listening to Vs., I got three songs in when I realized I had my answer. Vs. isn’t just a great Pearl Jam album, it’s an all-time great album. There are just so many good songs on it, songs that have become the kind of classics you can recognize upon hearing just the first few bars of: “Go,” “Daughter,” “Glorified G,” “Dissident,” “Rearviewmirror,” and, of course, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.” Vs. is a legitimate monster truck of an album. Yet I think it’s the lesser-known songs that push the album over the top, though. “W.M.A.” is atmospheric, prog rock at its finest, and I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for “Rats” since I first heard it. With the release of their second album, Pearl Jam truly established itself as a band to be taken seriously. I also think Vs. has been kind of forgotten over time, only increasing its value. That will probably change as the years go by, as Pearl Jam retrospectives start to become more prevalent. It’ll be fun when it happens; when this album gets its due. It certainly deserves it. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79 Portions of this piece originally appeared on UPROXX in 2015.
  6. This piece was originally published in 2014. The Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show on Broadway. Without looking it up, I’m pretty sure it claimed that title once Cats retired. A fun fact about the connection between the two is that both musicals were composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber…actually Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. I think he’s been knighted. Since seeing Phantom this past weekend, there’s a been a few things that have stuck with me; a few things I needed to get off my chest. The first thing and a thing that might be a rather unpopular opinion is that the Phantom is kind of a douche bag. Now I’m not about to join Team Raoul or anything, but I do feel like the Phantom has some issues beyond ones involving rage and seems to have a penchant for death by hanging. And really, how did he learn to make all those wildly effective nooses? At one point homeboy seems to pull one of our his back pocket! There’s a few reasons why the Phantom isn’t the most desirable mate for the lovely song bird Christine, but definitely one of the main ones is that he seems to spend the majority of his time tying nooses, toiling away on his pump organ and getting exercise by climbing through the rafters of the theater that sits above his underground liar. Not exactly appealing hobbies. They wouldn’t exactly catch a ladies’ eye listed on a match.com profile… Phantom1870 It’s the music of the night Paris, France Seeking women age 18-50 in or around Paris Relationship: single Have kids: does music count? Want kids: maybe Ethnicity: mis-understood Body type: limber Religion: music yo! Smoke: every once in a while Drink: social In My Own Words For Fun: writing music, knots, more music, mischief, writing music, threats, fire balls, boating, “hanging” with my boys My Job: musician, theater owner, music critic So the Phantom hears Christine singing and…sorry, SPOILER ALERT…becomes infatuated with her. He wants to become besties, to become the John & Yoko of the late 1800’s French opera scene and have little baby Phantoms and all that good stuff. Of course she’s a little unsure about this because you know, he’s a Phantom. And he rocks a mask and lives in an underground liar. And everyone is scared shitless of him. So let’s talk about this underground liar and why it’s one of the major hurdles in a possible relationship between Christine and the Phantom. It’s only accessible by boat so Christine better like boats as much as she must dislike natural light because deep down in this cave, natural light will be just a memory for her. It won’t be a dream because I can’t see her sleeping much, seeing as how the old Phantom doesn’t have a bed. It kind of looks like he just sleeps in the boat, which is cool for fisherman and salty bachelors, but probably not that cool for newlyweds. And this lake they’re traversing- as far as I can tell it also doubles as both a bathroom and water supply. I don’t know what kind of gal Christine is- how prim and proper she may or may not be. But even the most backwoods, tobacco-chewing, femme fatale hayseed would have a problem with that arrangement. And come on, getting groceries down there? Forget about it! There’s also only one chair so they’d have to share that, which you know would get contentious. You’d think chivalry would prevail but as I previously stated, the old Phantom is kind of a douche bag with a temper. He’s going to want that chair sometimes. So chivalry be damned. Christine, you can sit on the boat. Especially when the Phantom is in one of his moods. The reality is that the Phantom’s liar might work for him, but it’s no place to bring chicks back to. I don’t care what kind of connection you may or may not have. Now you could be saying, Ryan, the Phantom isn’t a douche bag. He’s just a normal dude- insensitive, hard to read, a little neanderthal-esque. Douche bag seems a little strong. Okay, fine. No wait, not fine. Let’s talk about his musical, you know the one he demands the opera company perform or he’ll hang more people, drop more chandeliers and continue to terrorize them. Whatever happened to earning success? I’m sorry, but that part bugs me. The Phantom toils away on his little pump organ, composing his “masterpiece” and then when it’s done, he doesn’t do what normal musicians do and get out there and pay his dues. No, he hangs a dude, crashes a party and uses the looming specter of violence to get it performed. That’s like that knob job from Passion Pit recording a new album in his basement, then threatening to kill radio station interns if it doesn’t get played. Not cool. It’s a move only cool in the movie Airheads. Phantom, you need to pay your dues just like everyone else, sir. And I’m talking dues in the music industry. I get it- you’ve paid dues when it comes to emotional scars and psychological damage, what with being an outcast and circus freak and all, but that should get you a free ticket to the opera, not the opera itself. Oh and wait…you get a free ticket because you demand a box…not a seat, a box…at every performance! Frankly the Phantom’s balls might be more shocking than his disfigured face. Now I feel bad for the Phantom. I do. I’m not heartless. Dude was cast out, looks kind of funky and has poor social skills. I feel for him. But when it comes down to it, I don’t like how he goes about his business. That might not make him a douche bag in your book, but it does in mine. And truth be told, I liked Once better. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79
  7. Last week I watched Elvis. No, let me rephrase that. Last week I tried to watch Elvis but had to bail after the first fifteen minutes, which is a long fifteen minutes. It’s an exhausting stretch that ping pongs around a handful of key moments in Presley’s life with wild, reckless abandon, complete with swirling visual flourishes and jolting musical ques. I was on a plane. I was tired. It was frankly, too much to handle. And I felt compelled to leave it at that. I had tried and that felt like enough. But alas, I’m at a point in my life where decisions aren’t made in a vacuum and a few days later, now comfortably back home, The Wife and I decided to give the movie another crack. Yeah, it’s still a lot but overall, it’s fine. It’s a fine movie. It’s not a great movie but I also wouldn’t call it a bad movie. Tom Hanks is bad as Col. Tom Parker but beyond that, it’s okay. The fella who plays Elvis does a hell of a job but ultimately it’s a biopic that like most biopics tries to do too much. How are we still at the point where we think we can cram someone’s entire life into two or three hours and then think we’re doing that person justice? It’s madness, man. If you’re going to do a movie about someone, odds are that that person did a crazy amount of living, usually in a short amount of time and if you think you’re going to faithfully capture it all, you’re nuts. You probably also think Hanks was good as Parker, which to be clear, he was not. More often than not, biopics stumble and bumble their way into existence. They almost always sound good in theory but then junk in practice. The bad clearly outnumber the good, yet they keep getting made. As I sit here today, a Bob Marley biopic is currently being filmed, there was supposed to be one about Madonna, but thankfully it was scrapped and Bradley Cooper is doing one about Leonard Bernstein. Oh, and who could forget Jonah Hill playing Jerry Garcia in a Grateful Dead biopic directed by Martin Scorcese. But you know there are others out there, ones presumably about any number of classic rockers and musicians taken from us too soon. A biopic about a musician is always an intriguing prospect because the musician in question is naturally fascinating and even though we might already know plenty about them, there’s always a desire to learn more. Would a documentary work? Yeah, probably, but we can’t resist the mysterious appeal of a well-known actor attempting to lose themselves while portraying a famous musician. If no one minds, I’d like to propose a few new rules for biopics about musicians. I don’t know if they’ll help but they certainly can’t hurt. 1. Keep The Lying Or Exaggerating To A Minimum & Overall, No Big Time Lies So if you’re going to squeeze an entire life into two or three hours, then there’s going to be some skirting of facts and smudging of the truth. I guess that should be expected as you’re trying to move the story along and also cram as many details as possible into the movie. It’s fine. We kind of all get it and know what we’re in for. It’s not surprising when it happens. That is unless you go completely off-script and go rogue with the timeline and facts. Then it’s not cool. I don’t want to casually look up say, what Queen was doing heading into Live Aid and realize that they weren’t all but broken up and the show was a comeback show for them, which is what Bohemian Rhapsody would have you believe. That movie straight up sleeps on a bed of lies and once you know that, it kind of ruins it. You’re watching it under the impression that it’s a true story but the only truth involved is that the people behind the movie got cute with the facts, electing to side with the story they wanted to tell as opposed to the story that actually happened. You want to yadda yadda some things or play a little loose with timelines, that’s fine. But don’t do it to such an extent that we feel like we’ve been lied to. That’s not cool. 2. No Gratitous Songwriting Scenes Ugh, you know the ones. The guitarist starts playing a riff and the rest of the band stops and the engineer hustles over to the board to press record and that riff becomes THE SONG, a classic that the group is known for. That’s bullshit and just knock it off. I’m not saying you need to cut it out completely, but let’s tone it down a notch, ok? 3. The Actors Should Sing At Least 70% of the Time & The Actors Playing Instruments Should Really Look Like They’re Playing Austin Butler actually sang a lot of the songs in Elvis and in Walk The Line, Joaquin Phoenix sang everything and even learned to play the guitar in Johnny Cash’s unique style, which a pedicab driver in Nashville once told me is incredibly hard and who am I not to believe a pedicab driver in Nashville. In both movies, you can tell that the actors are singing (or mostly singing in Butler’s case) and I think it makes the movies better because it feels more real, which is saying something because very little in Elvis feels real. Contrast that with Bohemian Rhapsody where Rami Malek is lip-synching the whole time or even Ray, where Jamie Foxx is also lip-synching. It’s just not the same, fellas. It doesn’t matter how good you may be at lip-synching. It’s not a legitimate substitute for the real thing. Although in Malek’s defense, he was playing Freddie Mercury, someone who had one of the greatest voices ever. It’s not exactly something a vocal coach can teach you. He might get a pass there. As for the musicians behind the singer, do the work. If you’re playing guitar, make it look like you’re playing the chords. And God help me, if I see another “drummer” playing the wrong thing, like a ride cymbal when it should be a hi-hat, I might do something rash. I don’t even know what that rash thing might be but just the fact that I’m threatening a rash reaction should mean something. Don’t skimp on the small stuff here, people. There are rash reactions involved if you do. Also, it looks lame. 4. Let’s Keep Things to a Specific Period of Time As Opposed To A Whole Life Story This rule should help future biopics follow the other rules mainly because of the fact that these biopics are trying to cover so much ground, there’s collateral damage. You know, facts, accuracy, general believability. So hey, instead of telling a whole life story, why not focus the movie around one or two main events? For instance, instead of telling the entire story of Queen leading up the Live Aid performance, why not focus the movie on the Live Aid performance? You can add some backstory in via flashbacks if you want but the Live Aid recreation was easily the best part of Bohemian Rhapsody. Run with that! In Elvis, that movie could have been about his 1968 comeback special. And what if Walk the Linewas just about the concert at Folsom Prison? I think narrowing the movie’s scope would help immensely and also make sure things don’t get sloppy and weird. 5. Movies Should Be Done Independently Just like with documentaries, I think the families and estates of the subjects should be kept at arms distance. Directors and writers and actors can talk to them in the name of research but that’s where the relationship should end. If the family is involved, things can get muddy and biases get introduced. If I wanted a bias, I’d listen to someone talk to me about their kid. If anything, it makes Bohemian Rhapsody even more ridiculous because the dudes from Queen were involved and somehow were cool with such blatant disregard of the facts. The story of Queen is cool as is my dudes, you don’t need to embellish anything or sacrifice the truth for the sake of the narrative. Families can help fill in gaps but don’t get a seat at the table. Nothing good can come from it. You know, like Tom Hanks playing Col. Tom Parker. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79
  8. Dave Grohl has always been a busy man; a whirling dervish of hard rock and loud noises. Since the age of 17 when he was hired to play drums in Scream, Grohl’s life has had him ping-ponging from one gig to the next, sometimes with multiple gigs at a time. And while he’s gone from rock solid, heavy-hitting drummer to rock steady, arena-entertaining, frontman, the fact that he is such a great drummer has helped keep him busy whenever the Foo Fighters have had some downtime. The world will always need drummers, kids. That’s just a fact. So it’s with that in mind that a ranking of all things Grohl is not merely limited to just records by Scream, Nirvana, and the Foo Fighters. There are also albums by Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D, Them Crooked Vultures, as well as Probot and the Sound City sessions. And then for kicks, there’s a memoir, a solo project, and a couple tribute concerts. That makes roughly 30 things left to rank. So let’s get to it. 30. Foo Fighters/Dee Gees Hail Satin (2021) I get it. I do. You find yourself on a tour bus or in the studio and someone comes up with an idea and under the right circumstances, that idea gets some momentum and suddenly everyone is behind it. Everyone is pumped. Everyone is ON BOARD, baby. Everyone is so gung hu that the idea becomes a reality. That does not make it a good idea, though. 29. Scream No More Censorship (1988) Scream’s 1988 album was the first to feature Grohl on drums, as he had joined the band and dropped out of high school the year before. There’s nothing too remarkable about the album, but it’s a decent enough punk/hardcore effort. The fact that it was released by a reggae record label, RAS Records, might be one of the most interesting things about it. 28. Tenacious D Pick of Destiny (2006) The soundtrack to their movie of the same name, it was more of the same for the D, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Grohl was again on drums and also added vocals to “Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown.”) He also acted in the movie, playing Satan. 27. Sound City: Real to Reel (2013) In 2013, Grohl helmed a documentary about the legendary L.A. recording studio, Sound City, and its famous Neve console, which he had bought when the studio was closing down. To accompany the film, Grohl brought together a killer cast of characters, all of who had recorded at Sound City at some point, to record new tracks on the console. The album features collaborations with Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Rick Springfield, Krist Novoselic, and more. It took home two Grammys: Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, and Best Rock Song (“Cut Me Some Slack”). To promote the album and the film, Grohl put together the Sound City Players, consisting of people who played on the album, to play a handful of shows live. 26. Foo Fighters Skin and Bones (2006) Ah yes, the ol’ live acoustic album. We all knew it was coming; it was just a matter of time. And it’s not bad. It’s good, but it’s good from the perspective of you listening to it if you’re already a Foo Fighters fan. This album is like having a couple episodes of your favorite sitcom on standby in the DVR — just good to have around, but nothing new. 25. Scream Fumble (1993) The D.C. punk band’s fifth and final studio album was recorded in 1989, but not released until 1993, after the band had long since disbanded and Grohl had moved on to Nirvana. It’s the first Scream album to feature songs written by Grohl, and Grohl handles lead vocals for “Gods Look Down.” 24. Foo Fighters Medicine at Midnight (2021) I wonder if we had known this would be drummer Taylor Hawkins’ last album with the band, would we have viewed it differently? Hard to know, of course. What we did know going in was that the band was looking to loosen things up some and embrace some dance-rock and pop. Was it successful? Eh, it was okay. What is always successful though is that whenever I hear “Shame Shame,” it’s stuck in my head for the rest of the effin’ day. 23. Probot Probot (2004) Grohl always held a soft spot for heavy metal and Probot was his public declaration of his love for the genre. He wrote and recorded the music by himself in his Alexandria, Virginia, studio, never really intending to release it. That is until he was inspired by Santana’s Supernatural, which featured the guitarist working with a variety of vocals. Grohl liked the idea and ended up imploring some of his metal heroes like Lemmy of Motorhead and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity to help out and add vocals. 22. Dave Grohl “Play” (2018) In his free time during the Foo Fighters’ tour supporting Concrete and Gold, Grohl elected to tackle “Play,” a 23-minute-long instrumental track where he plays the following: electric guitar acoustic guitar bass guitar drums Wurlitzer electric piano synthesizers Mellotron vibraphone timpani percussion It’s pretty sweet. 21. Foo Fighters Saint Cecilia (2015) Released as a free download at the end of 2015, the was dedicated to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. The four songs are all good-time rock songs and hey, if it was combined with 2014’s Sonic Highways, an awesome rock album is theirs for the taking. Smart move recording this EP in the first place though — a good way to keep the buzz that the band built up throughout the year during Grohl’s one-legged world tour. You want a tip? Combine Saint Cecilia with Sonic Highways. Then you have a full-length Foo Fighters’ album. And a good one at that. You’re welcome. 20. Nirvana From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (1996) This album comprises live performances recorded from 1989 to 1994 and was originally intended to be released alongside Unplugged in New York in a two-disc set called Verse Chorus Verse. Nirvana’s surviving members, Krist Novoselic and Grohl, weren’t emotionally able to put the compilation together, resulting in From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah being released a couple years later. 19. Foo Fighters One by One (2002) An album by the Foo Fighters that has fallen through the cracks, the recording of One by One was rife with problems and drama. The initial recordings were ultimately scrapped and the band nearly broke up. But a performance at Coachella at 2002 brought the band back together and they re-recorded the album at Grohl’s home studio in Virginia. Every band that has more than five albums has one album that has one or two good songs but is ultimately forgotten. One by One is that album for the Foo Fighters. 18. Dave Grohl The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (2021) If you’ve ever seen or listened to an interview with Grohl then you know that homeboy is a talker. And even better, he’s a talker with stuff to say. God, the worst are talkers with shit to say. That’s not the case with Grohl though, who has an endless amount of stories at his disposal, and in 2021, he wrote some of them down and released a book. It’s basically porn for Grohl-heads and soft-core porn for general rock enthusiasts. If you’re a book person though, it might be a tough hang. But whatever. Get over yourself. 17. Tenacious D Rize of the Fenix (2012) The band’s third album was nominated for the Best Comedy Album Grammy, and Grohl is again behind the drums. It’s not as good as the first album, slightly better than the second album. That’s literally all I can say about this album. 16. Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold For the most part, the Foos had never really gotten all that political. They dabbled, but never went full bore. On their ninth album, that changed some with the vibe of the album having been influenced by the general doom and gloom hovering over the country following the election of Donald Trump. “I mean, as the political arena started heating up in America before the elections, it became clear that there was so much more threatening all of our lives than I’d considered before,” Grohl said at the time. “I’m looking at a candidate that has blatant disregard for the future environmentally, when it comes to women’s rights, diplomatically. … I have three daughters that are going to survive me for decades – how are they going to get on unless there’s some positive and progressive change?” Musically, the album is a solid mature Foos album. 15. Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007) On the band’s sixth album, they went back and forth between traditional Foo Fighters’ rock songs and acoustic rock songs. Oddly enough, the results are mixed and ultimately the band gets an “A” for effort, “B-, C+” for execution. The album was nominated for five Grammys, with it winning Best Rock Album. 14. Foo Fighters In Your Honor (2005) Not even the Foo Fighters are impervious to the perils, pitfalls, and temptation of the big rock double album. It seems like it’s a disease that affects every group that gets to legendary status. On In Your Honor, The Foos went with one disc being rock, and one disc being mellow and acoustic. The results are uneven and somewhat disjointed. As is the case with most double albums, it’s a good album that if cut down, could be great. 13. Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork (2013) The band’s drummer Joey Castillo left the band in the middle of recording and Grohl stepped in to finish the album, which was the band’s sixth. The album received three Grammy nominations and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. 12. Nirvana Insesticide (1992) With Nevermind taking the world by storm, Nirvana’s record label, DGC, needed something to fill the void until the band released a follow-up. Cue the compilation record of demos and previously unreleased material! The album was released jointly by DGC and Sub Pop, Nirvana’s first record label. 11. Foo Fighters Sonic Highways (2014) The band’s eighth and most ambitious album was a cross-country jaunt, trailed by an HBO film crew. Eight cities, eight songs, and if only it had a couple more songs, it would definitely be ranked higher. The songs sound bigger, fuller, and more interesting than traditional Foo Fighters’ songs with guest spots from Gary Clark Jr., Zac Brown, Joe Walsh, Rick Nielsen, and more. 10a. Foo Fighters There is Nothing Left to Lose (1999) The Foo Fighters third album was their first with drummer Taylor Hawkins. It has a different sound than the first two, a little softer and more melodic. The album helped the Foos win their first Grammy, Best Rock Album. There is Nothing Left to Lose was the first to be recorded with the band playing as a three-piece following the departure of guitarist Pat Smear, but they managed to tighten their sound and grow their fanbase even larger. 10b. The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert (2022) There are celebrity deaths that happen and maybe you shrug your shoulders, say “that’s too bad” and perhaps even Google the recently deceased to catch up on their life. But then there are celebrity deaths that really throw you for one and for me, that happened on March 25, 2022, when I heard Taylor Hawkins had died. Even almost a year later it still doesn’t seem real. But what helped with healing were the two tribute concerts organized by Grohl and company; one in London and one in Los Angeles. The concerts were both a celebration of Hawkins and a celebration of rock ‘n roll fandom. It was beautiful, with each show featuring a murderer’s row of rock royalty. Yet the highlight was at the London show when Hawkins’ show Shane joined the Foos onstage for “My Hero.” If you don’t get goosebumps watching it, you might need to check for a pulse because buddy, you ain’t living. 9. Tenacious D Tenacious D (2001) The D’s first album isn’t just a great comedy album, but a great rock album. With Grohl sitting in on drums, Jack Black and Kyle Gass hammered away on 21 solid acoustic-powered rock tracks. The skits are quality too. 8. Nirvana In Utero (1993) Originally thought to not be commercially viable by DGC, In Utero ended up being certified platinum five times by RIAA, and has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. So, perhaps DGC was a little off in their projections. Ha, nerds. Heading into the studio to record, Nirvana was seeking to go in a different direction following the success of Nevermind and looking for a rawer sound, the band recorded with Steve Albini for a more raw, bigger sound. 7. Foo Fighters Foo Fighters (1995) Released in July 1995, Foo Fighters was written and recorded entirely by Grohl, with one guitar spot by Greg Dulli and production help by Barrett Jones. The album was recorded as a way for Grohl to deal with the death of Cobain, with nine of the album’s 12 songs written while Grohl was in Nirvana. Overall it was done largely for fun and Grohl has often said that if he thought anything was ever going to come from it he would have picked a better band name. The album was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 1996 Grammys, losing to Grohl’s old band’s last album, Unplugged in New York. 6. Them Crooked Vultures Them Crooked Vultures (2009) The only album from the supergroup featuring Grohl, Josh Homme, and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin is exactly what you think it would sound like: a wild combination of the drums of Nirvana, the hammering of Queens of the Stone Age, and the powerful stomp of Led Zeppelin. It’s a giant record, in both sound and feel. I don’t send Grohl several emails a day, asking for him to get this band back together again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. Or that I might start. 5. Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf (2002) For their third album, Queens of the Stone Age brought in Grohl to play drums, who put the Foos on hold amidst the drama surrounding the band at the time. Grohl and Queens’ frontman Josh Homme had been friends since 1992 and Grohl jumped at the chance to get back to drumming and take a break from being the frontman. Songs for the Deaf was the band’s breakthrough album, earning them their first gold certification in 2003. 4. Foo Fighters Wasting Light (2011) The band’s seventh album was their first with original guitarist Pat Smear since The Colour and the Shape and was recorded over 11 weeks in Grohl’s garage in Encino, California, on analog — part of Grohl’s attempt to get away from digital dependence. The Foo Fighters had just played Wembley Stadium, a mountain top of sorts, and wanted to do a back-to-basics album as a challenge. Wasting Light was nominated for five Grammys, winning Best Rock Album. 3. Nirvana Unplugged in New York (1994) Recorded in New York City in November 1993, the performance for MTV was perhaps one of the most iconic live concerts in rock n’ roll history. It would be the first Nirvana album to be released after Cobain’s death and would go on to be the band’s most successful posthumous release, certified 5-times platinum by 1997. Nirvana bucked the trend of playing only hits and popular songs, instead opting for obscure covers and lesser-known Nirvana songs. 2. Foo Fighters The Colour and the Shape (1997) The Colour and the Shape was the first Foo Fighters album recorded as a full band. Instead of playing all the instruments, as he had with their first album, Grohl simply stuck to vocals and guitars. Or at least, that was his initial plan. He ended up re-recording the drum parts as well, as he was unhappy with the band’s original drummer, William Goldsmith’s performance. Goldsmith was understandably a little bummed about the turn of events and left the band during recording. The runaway success was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 1998 and ultimately became the band’s best-selling album, selling more than 2 million copies. 1. Nirvana Nevermind (1991) When an album you helped create is generally considered one of the best albums of all time, it’s going to be at the top of any list like this. It’s something I think we can all agree on. Nevermind was Nirvana’s first album on DGC Records, as well as their first with Grohl on drums. The iconic rock album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and finds itself on numerous Greatest Albums of All Time lists, including Rolling Stone‘s, who has it number 17 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums. A version of this piece originally appeared on UPROXX. Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79
  9. Another year coming to an end means a few things but most importantly it means it’s time to take stock of the year that was. And the only way to take stock is in list form. Rank ’em if you must but if there’s not a list involved, it doesn’t count. Those are the rules. When it comes to the year in music, 2022 brought out the heavy hitters. Beyonce and Taylor Swift both released monster albums as did Kendrick Lamar. The Red Hot Chili Peppers returned, Spoon continued to do Spoon things (i.e. release solid, strong albums,) and Black Thought of The Roots may or may not have gotten sick of waiting for his bandmates to record anything and released a banger in Cheat Codes, a project with producer Danger Mouse. Now when it comes to looking at the “best” songs of the year, I go in a slightly different direction. I like to single out the songs that grabbed my attention, that made me stop dead in my tracks, turn the volume up, and ignore everything thing else in this godforsaken world until the tune was over. These are Hey-Oh! songs, bud. You heard ’em and in one way or another, let out a good ol’ Hey Oh!. Since 2013, I have assembled my year-end list based on this idea that some songs are Hey-Oh! songs and as such, my lists are generally comprised of songs I think best fit the mold. What exactly is a Hey-Oh! song? I’m so happy you asked. In 2021, the songs that made the list were by artists such as Silk Sonic, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Bartees Strange, Foo Fighters, The War On Drugs, Freddie Gibbs, St. Vincent, Kacey Musgraves, and Olivia Rodrigo among others. If you’re so inclined, you can check out all the songs that have made the list each year here. So, in 2022, 40 songs made the list, although a few more could have slid in there if I had elected to go past forty. Don’t go past forty though. Much like 2am, very little good happens after 40. We have some of the usual suspects on the list but there are also some new kids in school. Overall, not a bad year. Not bad at all. ( See and listen to Ryan's list here. ) The Return Of The Red Hot Chili Peppers In late 2019, before everything got weird, it was announced that two-time Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante was rejoining the band. For long-time fans, this was exciting news. Over the course of their shockingly super-long career, the band has arguably been at their best when Frusciante is involved. With all due respect to the other guitarists who have spent time as a Chili Pepper, Frusciante just makes more sense than anyone else. His guitar pairs perfectly with Flea’s bass, his vocals provide a solid backdrop to those of Anthony Kiedis’ and his songwriting and penchant for taking chances bring out the best in the band. So it then shouldn’t have been a huge surprise that the band’s first album with Frusciante back in the mix was great, but it was because the past couple of albums without Frusciante had been decidedly not great and at best, were pretty good. Unlimited Love was solid from start to finish and despite the weird hiccup of the first single, “Black Summer,” it ended up being one of the best albums of the year. I wasn’t bowled over by “Black Summer” and probably like a lot of people, was confused by Kiedis’ accent. What really won me over was “These Are The Ways,” a song that starts quietly before erupting into the kind of rock music the band has perfected. A great Chili Peppers’ song is pure chaos and seems to go in several directions at once and “These Are The Ways” is no exception. I hope this third run with Frusciante involved lasts for a while because again, the Chili Peppers truly are significantly better when he’s involved. If he leaves again, there’d be no shame in the rest of the band leaving with him. Allergies…But Like, The Good Kind The Allergies are a couple of DJs (DJ Moneyshot and Rackabeat) from England who throughout this year seemed to keep dropping songs that would go on to become some of my favorites of the year. They were certainly the ones I listened to the most. The duo has been around for a few years but it wasn’t until they teamed up with incomparable Lyrics Born did they pop onto my radar. It was all sunshine and rainbows after that. And beats. Lots and lots of funky beats. Much like when Lyrics Born teamed up with Galactic, his partnership with The Allergies made almost too much damn sense. The wild beats, horns, upbeat vibe, and generally moose-on-the-loose feel of the tune screams vintage LB. It’s fun music, plain and simple. I’d inject it in my veins if I could. Market it as a cure to what ails ya, whether it’s the Sunday Scaries, Mondays, the 2 o’clock feeling, or general malaise. It’s worth noting that the Allergies had another tune that just missed the list. Again, market this as a drink that makes your life full of sunshine and you got yourself a hell of a product. If nothing else, 2022 was the year I discovered The Allergies, meaning that whatever else happened, this year is going down as a win. Damn You, Harry Styles, And Your Endlessly Catchy Songs There was a stretch there where it seemed as if every single time I was in the car with my seven-year-old daughter, a Harry Styles song would come on the radio. It was funny but also kind of weird but in the larger sense, indicative of the firm grasp Styles had on pop music this year thanks in large part to his 2022 album Harry’s House. Now, for the most part, I was cool with any of the songs the radio would play because they’re all a good time but “Late Night Talking” was in a league of its own. It’s one of those songs where I can’t get it out of my head for the rest of the day AND THAT’S OKAY. Black Thought Found A New Best Friend Black Thought, the iconic lyricist and vocalist of The Legendary Roots Crew has long since established himself as one of the best emcee’s in the game. Not even a few years spent yukking it up on late-night television can take that away. However, legacies are great and all but they can be dicey when it comes to a living legend. At some point, you want to get back out there and remind the people why you garnered such a dynastic legacy in the first place and even though that might not have been his intention, it’s exactly what Thought did this year, releasing a tight, fierce and captivating solo album, Cheat Codes. Thought teamed up with Danger Mouse on the project and the return to hip-hop did the producer good. His production is fantastic, beautiful in its overall simplicity as he’s more than happy to let Thought and the guests that came to hang out and drop bars steal the show. Will The Roots ever release an album again? I don’t know. I think only Questlove knows. But if they don’t, a world where Black Thought drops fire solo albums like Cheat Codes is still a pretty good one to live in. Music Phish Twitter Talked About When Phish Wasn’t On Tour Phish Twitter is generally a fun place. It’s full of interesting discussions, and nuggets of information, and when the band is touring, real-time chitter chatter about setlists. Again, it’s good fun and a nice way to connect with some quality like-minded individuals. Now, when Phish isn’t on tour or hasn’t made any news as of late, Phish Twitter tends to turn its lonely eyes elsewhere, typically using the opportunity to prop up bands that are not Phish. The results are mixed because facts are facts, and a lot of jam bands aren’t all that good. But to each their own! In 2022, the majority of those eyes were gazing longingly at two bands: Goose and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Goose came out of the pandemic with some serious Northeasterly winds to the back and grew in strength as the year went on. They released a great studio album (Dripfield,) toured relentlessly, and headed into the end of the year touring with Trey Anastasio Band in what could have been dubbed the Mutual Admiration Tour. I was hesitant to fully embrace Goose for two reasons. One, their name is ridiculous and two, an onslaught of gushing and hype tends to turn me in the opposite direction. But I eventually came around and you know, I’m pretty honking happy I did. Speaking of ridiculous band names, King Gizzard seemed to release a new album every single week once summer ended. Just when you got done listening to one, another was released. They actually might have just released another one while I was writing this. Those sneaky Aussie bastards! In a situation like the King Gizz one, sometimes you need help sorting through the barrage of music. Thankfully I stumbled upon the band’s performance of their weird, afrobeat, indie rock tune “Ice V” off their album Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava. Whereas Goose is pretty easily accessible, King Gizzard takes a little more work. And because of how they seem to jump from genre to genre so frequently, both their music and songs aren’t for everyone. Hell, parts of their songs might not be for everyone. You should treat King Gizzard like a choose-your-own-adventure book and chart your own path through their discography. But whatever you choose to do, take “Ice V” with you. The Sounds Of Summer, Babe Summer isn’t a season, kid. Summer is an effin’ state of mind. I love summer, I love summer beers and I love summer music. Unfortunately, summer weather and summer beers ghost us once fall hits but summer music can’t stop, won’t stop. 2022 provided us with some great sounds of the summer that you could take with you all year long. Jack Johnson, a noted purveyor of the sounds of summer, released Meet the Moonlight this year. It was his first new album since 2017 and hey, it sounds like Jack Johnson. Perfect! Let’s be honest, friends, at this point you’re mind is already made up about Johnson and his music. You’re either still with it, you’re out or you were never in. Not much is changing at this point and that’s fine. Jack Johnson plays Jack Johnson songs. If you want to be challenged by an ever-changing shift in musical styles and genre allegiances, listen to King Gizzard. Mihali Savoulidis, the lead singer of Twiddle, released his second solo album this year and among other things, Effection features “Open House,” a wonderful little tune that sounds like 78 degrees, flip flops, and sand between your toes. The song also features Dispatch Chadwick Stokes of Dispatch on vocals because we also live in a world where Dispatch is back in our lives and that’s pretty sweet. I’m not sure I would designate the music of The California Honeydrops as just summer music, but they certainly are a card-carrying member of that genre. Yet they also dabble in overall music I could best describe as “Chill AF.” The band’s music is the equivalent of comfort food or your favorite hoodie. It just feels good. In 2022, they released Soft Spot, which you definitely dive into as soon as the holidays are over and no one is forcing you to listen to Christmas music anymore. Soft Spot might just save you from totally succumbing to the dreaded winter doldrums. Not bad. Not bad at all. You know, like 2022. A year that wasn’t bad, not bad at all. Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
  10. With another Christmas season very suddenly upon us, we’re met with the return of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special once again. Now, I’ve seen the 1964 movie countless times, but in recent years, I’ve found myself more and more baffled and perplexed by the beloved holiday classic. Simply put, Rudolph has just not aged well. Watching it now, it’s obvious that it has some issues and that it has enough of those issues for the special to now be seen as both problematic and somewhat troubling. If for some reason you’ve never seen the special or it’s been ages since you have, let me quickly refresh you. Two reindeer have a baby named Rudolph. He’s born with a bright red nose, making him an embarrassment to the family. They hide it but the truth eventually surfaces and Rudolph peaces out. At the same time, this little elf dude announces his desire to be a dentist and not a toy-making slave. He is also cast out of the North Pole. The two end up teaming up and eventually run into a burly-looking fella who routinely licks his ice pick and is out mining for gold. They run away from a snow monster with googly eyes and come across the Island of Misfit Toys, which is as sad of a place as it sounds. Eventually, they all return to the North Pole and it takes a massive snowstorm and the threat of Christmas being canceled for people to realize Rudolph has value and then they all live happily ever after. It’s a heartwarming story that also has plenty of issues—including these eight that continue to bug the living hell out of me. Issue 1: Why are reindeer such dicks? No, really. Why? As far as I can tell, they work one day a year and I’m assuming they get free housing. Even without seeing information such as salary, a benefits package, and other perks, you’d think they’d be in better spirits. But they all seemed salty as hell, and when it comes to our boy Rudolph, they were all straight up dicks. Also, male reindeer are incredibly chauvinistic, which is totally not cool. Beyoncé taught me women have value too and Beyoncé would never put up with these male reindeer acting the way they do. She definitely wouldn’t be cool with the females letting their behavior slide either. Maybe male reindeer should also listen to Beyoncé and then rethink their stance on women. The ladies should probably listen to Beyoncé too. Actually, pretty much everyone should listen to Beyoncé. Issue 2: Shouldn’t the North Pole be more progressive and inclusive? Uh, yeah. I’d say that being just a little more progressive and a little more inclusive would be a step in the right direction at this point. Unfortunately, it seems like true change will only come when one of Santa’s eight reindeer is a female. We’ll get there, ladies. I also think we just need to wait things out until Ms. Claus starts having more of a say in the day-to-day operations. Then we might start seeing some change up there—things like better hiring practices and more thought put towards creating a safe work environment (unless she’s part of the problem, and if that’s the case, I worry that we could never see change up there taking the whole “immortality” thing into consideration). Do better, North Pole. Do better. Issue 3: How did no one never think that a reindeer with a headlight for a nose would be an asset? So you’re flying a sleigh around the world and you are flying at night. On top of that, in at least half of the area you are traveling in, it’s winter. It would then be safe to assume that (climate change or not) it’s bound to be snowing somewhere during your travels. Now I may be but a simple commoner—a man not all that familiar with aerial sleigh travel and the visibility restrictions that may or may not come with it—but I would think that if a reindeer were to be born with a built-in headlight, that reindeer would be one heck of a catch. That reindeer would be sought after, recruited, and coached up like a five-star quarterback from the great state of Texas. That reindeer was born with a god-given gift. Remarkable. How could Santa and the animals of the North Pole not see how much of an asset that is? Dude. These people are idiots. Issue 4: Isn’t it kind of lame that everyone only started being nice to Rudolph once they needed him? Yes, yes it is. That is just no way to treat people or reindeer. Rudolph should have told them to pound sand when they came calling because they needed him and only then fully accepted him. At the very least, Rudolph should have held out for a raise or something. Get out of the cave and into a crib with some heat, choice furnishings, and a nice view of dancing penguins and the Northern Lights. Rudolph caved way too easily. Know your value, Rudolph. Don’t you know it’s the player-empowerment era? Issue 5: What the hell is up with the lion with the wings? Oh, King Moonracer? Well here’s the thing kids: drugs are weird. What’s up with King Moonracer, you ask? I would say that unlike Santa, he’s a thoughtful and compassionate leader who’s eager to see his people succeed and find happiness. He’s not looking to hold anyone back or disparage them. He knows that everyone has something worth sharing and that everyone is special, regardless of whether or not they don’t work right and came with the wrong pieces. King Moonracer is a progressive icon and not just the product of what was obviously a wild acid trip—like, a really wild acid trip. No, like, I worry what that writer’s life might have been like afterward. Were they okay? Did they ever recover? Did they continue to take acid and write kid’s stories and ended up working for Disney or something? Sadly, there are some questions in life that will never be answered. Issue 6: I would think that if an elf wanted to be a dentist it would be encouraged in the North Pole Studies have shown that the only thing elves eat is candy. Studies have also shown that candy contains sugar. You know what sugar does, kids? It rots your teeth out. So, if elves have a diet that is comprised almost entirely of candy, one would think that they would have a bevy of problems with their teeth (or at least what few teeth they probably have left). Man, if only there was a dentist around to help these poor elves out. Oh yeah. There was. However, everyone routinely dumped on him and sent him packing because he didn’t want to build stuffed animals. Super cool, you guys. I get that making toys is a top priority in the North Pole and maintaining the sleigh is probably number two on the list but I’d think that the long-term sustainability of the workforce and the well-being of said workforce would be a major priority as well. Bringing in a nutritionist, physical therapist, and, yes, a dentist would be incredibly beneficial to not just the elves but the higher-ups as well. It keeps the risk of injury down, helps with insurance premiums, and ensures that team morale never falters or falls off a cliff. This makes sense to me. And they had a dentist right there in front of them! There’s probably an elf or two also interested in nutrition and physical therapy too but they’re too afraid to say anything lest they be subject to the same ridicule, scorn, and bullying Hermey was. They saw how our boy Hermey was treated when he announced his intentions to become a dentist and were justifiably afraid that they’d get the same kind of response if they made their desire to pursue a different occupation known. That’s no way to run a business, foster a community, or create a culture of acceptance. Come on, North Pole. It’s called inclusion. It’s pretty sweet. Issue 7: How long was Rudolph out there on his own after bailing on Hermey and Yukon? While they’re at the Island of Misfit Toys, Rudolph decides he needs to strike out on his own. It’s a little bit of a martyr move, but whatever. He roams the North Pole for..uh, how long exactly? That part is a little unclear. Now to be fair, I’m not all that familiar with the aging process of reindeer nor do I have any idea how long it takes for antlers to grow. While I would think it would take at least a year for them to fully form, they make it seem like he was only out there for a few days just kicking around, growing up, getting buff, growing hair in weird places, and having his voice change. Here he is when he leaves. Here’s what he basically looked like when he emerged from the wild. Something fishy is going on in the North Pole. Maybe you can credit it all to Christmas magic but I’m starting to think that a place where toys talk and reindeer fly might not be on the up and up. Issue 8: I’m sorry, but Santa gaining what has to be over 100 pounds in a less than a day doesn’t seem healthy The threat of a snowstorm and the potential of Christmas being canceled ruined Santa’s appetite, and as a result, he started looking rather svelte. Yet upon realizing that Rudolph wasn’t actually a weirdo but rather valuable addition to the team, Santa switches gears and in like, a day, packs on at least 100 pounds. Regardless of what kind of magical world you are living in, that kind of rapid weight gain is simply not healthy. I think Santa is taking his immortality for granted if you ask me. If only there were an elf among the ranks who harbored dreams of becoming a nutritionist and could help the old man out—especially as he gets up there in years. The sad thing is that there probably is, but as I mentioned before, that elf isn’t about to come out and say it anytime soon because the North Pole is a dark sinkhole of exclusion, lack of acceptance, and bullying. But hey, happy holidays! Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79
  11. My high school sat in the middle of sunny Portland, Maine and was a long, large building that from a distance looked more like a prison than a high school. But it was an old high school, one of the oldest, and it was only a block or so from the unofficial center of town, Monument Square. Off to one side of the square was One City Center. In One City Center were a couple radio stations, one of which was the local alternative station and that station used an outside area on what was probably the third or fourth floor as a stage where they had bands play. You couldn’t see the band all that well because of the height, but you could definitely hear them. When a band was playing up there, they could be heard throughout most of the immediate area. With school ending one day, a couple friends and I had heard about a free show happening over at Monument Square and decided to check it out. This was in 1996, which the record will show was a long time ago, so anymore details regarding our exact thought process have been lost to the annals of time. I do somewhat remember the music having already started as we were walking over there, getting louder as we got closer. It was upbeat music; music that at the time, a time of the last throes of grunge and the upswing of Green Day and emergence of Dave Matthews Band, I didn’t hear a whole lot of. But there was something about it, that at the time, appealed to me. I only know this because I left Monument Square having become a fan of Barenaked Ladies. Soon after I bought their latest album, a live album called Rock Spectacle. They had released a few albums before the live one and truth be told, I’m not sure if I bought any of those. A reminder, this was 1996. The Napster era was a few years away and streaming music was a decade down the road. If you wanted to get into a band and dive into their catalog you only had a few options: you could hope your friend had an album and would let you tape it, you could find the CD in the used bin, thus saving you a few bucks, or you could pony up and by the album new. I feel confident saying that in the first few months of my Barenaked Fandom, I only owned Rock Spectacle. Eh, I might have had Born on a Pirate Ship, the album released a few months before Rock Spectacle. Wait, Pirate Ship was released in March of 1996. Rock Spectacle was released in November. The free show was definitely in the summer, if not spring. Upon further review, I most likely bought Born on a Pirate Ship after seeing them and then bought Rock Spectacle when it came out. Glad we got the cleared up. Steven Page, Jim Creeggan, Ed Robertson, Kevin Hearn, Tyler Stewart (from L) What doesn’t need clearing up is that I had become a pretty big fan of the band. They were right up there with Live, the aforementioned Dave Matthews Band and Green Day, and whatever classic rock bands I was into at the time. They played another show on the One City Center patio the following summer and at some point during this time frame, played at show at the fabled Portland venue, the State Theater. That same alternative radio station was giving away tickets and somehow, either through can good donations or through the magic of calling in to the station and being the right caller, I won tickets. I remember trying to find a buddy who was also into the band to let him know. He was in class and I communicated the news from out in the hallway; a memory that sounds very high school, which means it probably wasn’t as cool as it seems all these years later. You know, kind of like liking the Barenaked Ladies. Between seeing them that first time and the summer of 1998, my fandom for the band stayed pretty consistent. During this time I was deep within the clutches of an endless hunt to determine the music and bands I liked and didn’t like, so there was no doubt strong competition from other bands when it came to keeping my attention. But if memory serves correct, which it you know, kind of does, Barenaked Ladies were in the mix at least to the point where the release of their 1998 album Stunt was something to look forward to. Stunt of course, was the one that blew them up. With the door kicked open by “One Week,” the album became their most successful and elevated them from cult band with a small, but dedicated following to morning show fodder and top 40 radio stalwarts. It’s always dicey when a band goes from being a secret to being what everyone is talking about, which is what happened in the months after Stunt’s release. I would imagine that this surge in popularity may have had something to do with the decline in my appreciation of the band, but I can’t be sure. If this tale has proven anything so far, it’s that my memory is spotty at best. While in college, my journey of musical discovery had taken a turn, becoming a leg of my journey that historians will describe as hippie-led. Phish and other jam bands, as well as DMX (it’s complicated,) became fixtures for me, and a lot of what I had listened to in high school started to fall by the wayside. Barenaked Ladies shouldn’t feel bad. A lot of the grunge bands I had loved fell victim as well. I have a hard time believing it now, but there is a chunk of my life when Pearl Jamjust straight up didn’t exist. Yet during that same time I could sing along with every word of the latest Moe album. Times had changed and as I moved on, parts of my past didn’t make the trip. In September of 2000, the band released Maroon, an album I vaguely remember maybe having. The tone of the album was different. It was their serious album. By that point though, a shift in tone really didn’t matter to me. If I did buy Maroon, it was more of a last gasp act of loyalty than anything else. The relationship was over, but I still felt compelled to show face to keep up appearances. I said we’d be friends, but it was only a matter of time before Barenaked Ladies became an after thought and a memory as opposed to active part of my life. They were never completely forgotten though, but the reason why has less to do with their music and more to do with liking them in general. A little bit about me: I can be a tad bit obsessive when it comes to things like bands, TV shows or other facets of pop culture. The end result is that when I fall, I fall hard. It’s why I went to college with two large books of CDs. Again, this was 1998; your music traveled with you either in CD books or in shoe boxes filled with tapes. In high school I frequently became enamored with a band, rushed out to buy their CD and more often than not, ended up selling it a few months later when I needed money to buy something from a new band I had fallen in love with. It was vicious cycle. Addiction usually is. Yet where things with Barenaked Ladies are different is that at the time, there were other bands that came out of nowhere to capture my attention. Marcy Playground for example. The radio started playing “Sex and Candy” and sure enough, I ended up buying the album. But that didn’t last long and most likely within a few months, I was back at Bull Moose Music, selling the CD to get money to help me move on with my life. The difference with Barenaked Ladies is that my obsession lasted longer than the others; lasted to such an extent that I would have very easily described myself as a fan of the band, something I wouldn’t have necessarily done with Marcy Playground. I liked Marcy Playground, but I loved Barenaked Ladies. And then I didn’t. Then I just stopped. Well, it was more gradual than that, but still, looking back now it feels like one day I was a fan of Barenaked Ladies and the next day I wasn’t. This shouldn’t feel weird, but it does. It’s why I still think about the time period. On the one hand, Barenaked Ladies weren’t any different than the other bands I became briefly infatuated with in high school, but on the other hand, they were a level up from those other bands. I didn’t just buy one album of theirs, I bought a couple. I saw them live; putting forth an effort to do so. I learned things about them; became attached to them. Twenty years later my fandom with the band continues to befuddle me not just because their music hasn’t aged well for me, but because my fandom seemed to have such a definitive beginning and ending. It’s rare for a band that I supposedly liked as much as I liked Barenaked Ladies not to have at least a little bit of staying power and for me to come back to every once in a while. As was previously mentioned, I got into Phish in college and when I saw I got into Phish, I got into Phish. I thought for sure I would like Phish for the rest of my life and that was that. Except that wasn’t that and a year or two removed from college my love for Phish started to wain and would continue to do so until they were a band I thought of in the past tense as opposed to the present or future. However, I still listen to Phish from time to time and remain interested in what they are doing, even though I don’t generally consider myself a fan anymore. I was into Moe in college as well and a similar pattern followed. And while I don’t keep up as closely with them as I do Phish, I’ll still go back to Moe from time to time. The same goes for bands like Oasis, Nirvana and Atmosphere, bands that held my attention the tightest for a short period of time, before that grip eased up and I moved on. Barenaked Ladies didn’t do that though. Their window opened, air rushed in and fill the room and just like that, it was closed. It was closed with such fervor that now, twenty years later, the idea of liking Barenaked Ladies seems laughable, if not embarrassing. When they appeared on a float in last Thursday’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, celebrating thirty years together, I was almost amazed with the idea that I once really liked them. It didn’t seem possible. “One Week” is a terrible song. What was I thinking? Again, liking them just doesn’t seem possible. But it was possible. It happened. I have the memories to prove it. From sometime in the spring of 1996 to sometime in 1998, I was a big fan of the Barenaked Ladies. I saw them live three times, owned albums of theirs and listened to them on a regular basis. And then I wasn’t and that was that. This will never not seem weird to me and that weirdness will end up having more staying power than the band’s music will. Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
  12. Band names are a slippery slope. Coming up with a quality band name is damn near impossible. Few have done it, thousands have tried. You want to sound cool, which is a tall task. But you don’t want to sound like you’re trying to be cool. Ultimately, you want something that will look good on a club’s marque, looks dope as a sticker and isn’t super regrettable down the road. Well, if you’re band makes it that far, which is also damn near impossible. My cousin was in a band once that was called Free Weed. Stupid name? Yes. Good band name? Totally. A band name should be memorable and stand out; grab people’s attention. It should give people an idea of what you’re about before they even hear your music. It should have a vibe, a feel, a look, and a bunch of other hard-to-pin-down qualities. Oh, and it needs to be one that hasn’t been used before or isn’t currently in use. That one is important. Like, super important. I’ve lost track of how many band names I’ve come up with. Landing on each one was its own little death march through deliberation hell. My favorite names of bands I’ve been in are the Ho Down Warriors, B Side Prophets, and Sidecar Radio, the last one being my number one. I’m not particularly proud of being in a band called Juice but there’s nothing I can do about that now. What’s done is done. Now my favorite band name, probably of all time, is Manifest Nexto Me. They were a hip-hop band from Burlington, Vermont in the early 2000’s. The name Manifest Nexto Me sums up everything that I feel makes for a good band name in that it’s memorable, cool, catchy, and interesting. It’s also clever as hell. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about the band because of how their name will always stick with me, which I think should be every band’s goal. What are some other great band names? A List of Great Band Names Led Zeppelin – one of the toughest names out there Beastie Boys – the Beasties were the kind of cool almost every band strives for Guns N’ Roses – in any one else’s hands, it would be laughable Sublime – sums up the band perfectly Rage Against the Machine – ditto Velvet Underground – a great phrase Gang Starr – my favorite hip-hop duo/band name The Black Keys – classic sounding De La Soul – my second favorite hip-hop duo/band name The Roots – they could be called by no other name The Delfonics – legend award Dispatch – how had no one thought of this before? The Temptations – also classic sounding Morphine – perfect, just perfect…for them, not me or you Grateful Dead – in the Great Phrase category The Rolling Stones – also in the Great Phrase category The Hold Steady – ditto Buena Vista Social Club – it sounds like a great place to hang out, drink sangria and play bocce Rogue Wave – great use of the singer’s name (Zach Rogue) Run The Jewels – PHRASE! Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra – they’ve shortened it to Antibalas, but it’s still a great-sounding name Jimi Hendrix Experience – all-time winner for the best name of a musician and his backing band Local Natives – like Dispatch, how had no one thought of this before? Talking Heads – it’s a common phrase now but it probably wasn’t then, which makes sense Outkast – simple and perfect Nirvana – they also couldn’t be called anything else A Tribe Called Quest – super cool Smashing Pumpkins – we all did it or at least thought about doing it Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – a tough version of the Buena Vista Social Club The Allman Brothers Band – best “brothers” band name Creedence Clearwater Revival – this could be so many things Widespread Panic – in the Great Phrase club Black Flag – menacingly tough Black Pumas – accurate and cool; a twofer Jurassic 5 – smooth as butter The California Honeydrops – it sounds as delightful as the band’s music! The Mars Volta – what is a Mars Volta? More like what isn’t a Mars Volta, kid. Rocket From The Crypt – another one in the GREAT PHRASE category Silk Sonic – whoever came up with that one deserves an award of some kind A List of Great and the Band Names Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit Bob Marley and the Wailers Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes Elvis Costello and the Attractions Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears Michael Franti & Spearhead Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
  13. Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2022 As we sit here, over ten years removed from the premiere of Game of Thrones, three years since the show ended, and now on the cusp of the premiere of House of the Dragon, a Game of Thrones prequel, it can challenging to take stock of the show’s legacy. On the one hand, there were the massive set pieces and battles, shocking deaths, and breath-taking episodes, i.e. the stuff you are likely to remember fondly. On the other hand, there’s the rushed ending that flew in the face of nearly everything that had come before. Everyone always likes to talk about the power of first impressions but let us not sleep on the power of finishing strong, something Game of Thrones most definitely did not do. Ah, but the nay-saying and nit-picking is boring and tired and worn out. I for one, like to think back positively about the show and think about those things I mentioned. I like to think about the scope of the show especially. You know, the big stuff, kid, the parts of the show that largely separated Game of Thrones from everything else on television. Game of Thrones just felt so enormous, certainly more massive than anything you’d have expected to see on television and anything we had seen up until that point. To this day, “Blackwater,” the penultimate episode of the show’s second season remains the most in awe I’ve ever been watching a television show. The scale of the Battle of Blackwater Bay was akin to something you’d have seen on the big screen, not on your own small screen, and from the comfort of your own home. I don’t care how big some of these new flatscreen televisions may be, there wasn’t a television screen out there prepared for what that episode entailed. From that point on, the show would continue to double down, especially when it came to battles. Almost every season from season two on had one and if not, there was a moment that rivaled a battle in terms of the emotional impact. For better or worse, with Game of Thrones we expected the grandiose. With a new show set in Westeros set to premiere and with it, a flood of Game of Thrones retrospectives and memories, it’s the grandiosity of Game of Thrones that is so easily remembered. But in between the battles and gasp-inducing deaths were the things that really made Game of Thrones so good, the little moments. For a show that operated on such a massive scale, it excelled at also capturing little moments between characters, usually right before things got cranked up a notch. The fireworks Game of Thrones provided were always the main takeaway, but more often than not, the calm before the storm moments was the stuff that got you at the time. And that’s what I want to focus on as we gear up to head back to the friendly confines of Westeros. I want to celebrate the ten best moments from the show. Of course, limiting myself to ten means that some classic Thrones’ moments aren’t making the cut, moments like when Jon and the Wildlings climbed the wall or when Tyrion killed his father Tywin. Likewise for when it appeared Theon had murdered Bran and Rickon or when Jon watched Yrgitte get killed. It wouldn’t be anything related to Game of Thrones without something unfortunate happening, though. Them’s the breaks in Westeros, kid. 10. When the Mountain swiped Oberyn’s leg during their fight Episode: “The Mountain and the Viper” (S4, E8) Oh Oberyn, we hardly knew ya, bud. The Dornish Prince arrived in Westeros at the start of the show’s fourth season in the wake of The Red Wedding and Tywin Lannister having eliminated the Robb Stark-led threat from the North. For the Lannisters, things were pretty good, although this Oberyn fella was a bit too much of a wild card for their liking and seemed destined to cause a problem for them, which he eventually did, stepping in to be Tyrion’s champion when Tyrion chose trial by combat for his role in Joffrey’s murder. And it looked like Oberyn might actually pull off something of an upset against Cersei’s champion, the Mountain, the man responsible for the murder of Oberyn’s sister. But our dude got cocky and started celebrating at the five-yard line. A rookie mistake and when he wasn’t looking, the Mountain made him pay, first with his eyes and then with his skull. Oberyn’s death was a tough watch. Someone crushing another person’s head will do that. But there was something about his death that twisted stomachs and stuck with you. Here was a new character, a breath of fresh air, and a possible replacement for the main foe of the Lannisters, someone who could maybe take them down, and just like that, he was gone. If anything, it’s our fault for getting attached. At that point, we should have known better. 9. When Jon watched Rickon die before the Battle of the Basterds Episode: “Battle of the Basterds” (S6, E9) So, if our first life lesson is not to celebrate too early, our second lesson is that you never run away from a deranged psychopath in a straight line. You gotta zig-zag, and be a little elusive because there’s a good chance the deranged psychopath in question might start shooting arrows at you and if you’re running in a straight line, you are making it super easy on them. Did you catch all that, Rickon? God, man. Of course, Rickon took a lethal arrow to the back and of course, Jon felt compelled to throw his well-crafted plan out the window and charge Ramsey and his large army all by lonesome. Very on-brand for Jon. But it was a little surprising because, since his resurrection, Jon had seemed like a man on a mission, someone possibly not so prone to bouts of emotion-led acts of foolishness. Going into the battle with Ramsey for Winterfell, it was clear Ramsey had the numbers and the advantage. Jon and his squad needed to play it perfectly and that all started with being patient. Yet then Rickon died and all that went to shit. Jon Snow 2.0 is out there still making Jon Snow 1.0 mistakes. 8. When Littlefinger realized he was the one about to get got Episode: “The Dragon and the Wolf” (S7, E7) Season seven was supposed to be fun because finally, after so much time apart, the Stark children would be reunited. Well, except for Rickon. Can you imagine what Arya must have thought when she heard about the whole running in a straight line thing? But the good times didn’t really last that long, especially when it came to Sansa and Arya. Granted they had never been close, but you would have thought that some time apart and the experiences and hardships each had endured during that time would have brought them together. Not so much, though. Sansa was trying her best in a management position she was learning how to do on the fly and Arya was giving off major just-got-home-from-a-semester-abroad-and-now-I-know-things vibes and the two clashed. It got awkward and you know, it was a bummer because damn it, man, we had waited so long for any kind of Stark reunion. To have it sour so quickly almost didn’t seem fair. And then for Sansa to turn on Arya? Shit. Come on now. But surprise, Sansa and Arya fooled you, fooled me, and most importantly, fooled Littlefinger, who after seven seasons of being a devious son of a bitch in the shadows, finally reached the end of the road. The look on his face when he realized it was him on trial and not Arya, ooooh, that shit was delicious. 7. When Margaery realizes Cersei is up to something by not showing up to her trial Episode: “The Winds of Winter” (S6, E10) Margaery Tyrell, like Oberyn, was a welcome addition to the show and while she stayed around longer than the Dornish prince, it still wasn’t long enough for my liking. But you know, Margaery was too good for us and definitely too good for Westeros. As season six wound down, the religious fanatics, the Sparrows, had captured the hearts and minds of Westeros and were set to hold a trial for Cersei. The charge? Living her life, I guess. And the trial was a who’s who of the Westerosi elite. Everyone and their uncle was there. Except for Cersei. And while the High Sparrow didn’t seem to see the problem with this, Margaery did and tried her best to convince the leader of the Sparrows that something was afoot and they needed to get the hell out of there. Naturally, he ignored her pleas to bail and doubled down, barring anyone from leaving. Then they all died. Except for Cersei. Margaery was a worthy adversary for Cersei but in the end, Cersei downs threats, both real and imagined, like some top-shelf Dornish red wine. 6. When Tormund learns that Brienne is not a knight Episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” (S8, S2) It takes outsiders living outside of an established system to more often than not be the ones to correctly point out the faults of said system. In this case, it was Tormund ready to question some Westerosi bullshit like why the gals can’t be knights, especially when the woman in question is none other than Brienne of Tarth. Brienne getting knighted by Jaime on the eve of the throwdown with the White Walkers was definitely one of the high points of a flawed season eight and one of the most touching moments of the entire series. But in rewatching it, Tormund’s reaction to learning that Brienne wasn’t a knight really stuck out to me. Because yeah, why the hell Brienne wouldn’t be a knight? Brienne was badass and a better fighter than the majority of dudes rolling around Westeros calling themselves knights. But she couldn’t be one because of BS gender roles? Get out of here with that nonsense. It was wonderful that Jaime did what he did but not-so-wonderful that it took so long and a quiet moment before certain death for it to happen. 5. When the Nights Watch Rangers find the bodies left behind by the White Walkers Episode: “Winter is Coming” (S1, E1) Silly me. Heading into the show’s seventh season, I was adamant that the only thing that truly mattered on Game of Thrones was the inevitable clash with the White Walkers. I felt that all the backstabbing and quibbles happening amongst the living would eventually be pushed aside in the face of a common enemy, effin’ ice zombies. Now, my main reason for this kind of thinking went all the way back to the show’s very first episode and how that episode began. It didn’t begin with Starks or Lannisters or dragons. It began with three members of the Nights Watch out for a jaunt north of the wall and hello, they run into a Wight and some meticulously placed dead bodies. That’s what the showrunners felt was the best way to start the entire series. That had to mean something right? The showrunners definitely had a plan and knew what they were doing right? Ugh, maybe skip that second question. But whatever. I felt very strongly about this because the prologue to “Winter is Coming” had such a distinct vibe and feel to it. Plus, over the course of the next couple seasons, amidst all the human shenanigans, the show would remind us not to sleep on the threat from the north. They kept dropping hints and the hints seemed important and damn it, I fell for it. Oh well, this is a great way to introduce a show, regardless of the overall meaning of the whole thing. 4. When Daenerys pulls a fast one on the slaver when purchasing The Unsullied Episode: “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S3, E4) We learned that Daenerys wasn’t to be trifled with from the early going and throughout the show’s first two seasons, we continued to be given examples of this being the case. Overlook her or underestimate her and she’d make you pay. The girl walked into a burning fire and walked out with three baby dragons. She’s not messing around, guys. Danys came to play. I feel that Danys reputation as a bad motherfucker was cemented four episodes into season three when she acquired The Unsullied. It definitely seemed like she was going to be giving up one of her dragons to get the highly touted army and for armchair experts like myself, that seemed like a steep cost, regardless of how amazing the army might be. It’s a dragon. You’d probably want to hold onto those. And then she did! And in the process, she pulled a fast one on the asshole slaver selling her The Unsullied and it was one of the most satisfying deaths in all of Game of Thrones. Eff that guy, am I right? After that happened, there was no denying the force of Danys. 3. When Cat Stark sees Roose Bolton’s armor and gets wise to what’s happening at The Twins Episode: “The Rains of Castamere” (S3, E9) Where were you when The Red Wedding? Oh, that’s easy. IN A STATE OF SHOCK thank you very much. Do you know who wasn’t? Catelyn Stark. She got wise to the whole thing before poor Robb did and while that didn’t really do a damn thing, we still award her five bonus points and she gets extra time at recess. Catelyn sensing something was up and making eye contact with Roose and then confirming that treachery was coming in hot is one of those things that benefits from a second viewing because in the moment, it’s all happening so fast and everything becomes so dark and ominous, it gets overlooked. Another life lesson? Just listen to your mom. She knows what’s up. Cat knew Walder Frey was going to be salty about Robb reneging on his agreement to marry one of his daughters and that no amount of talk would cool him down. Walder Frey doesn’t get cooled down. Walder Frey lures you into his home and murders you under the guise of a celebratory feast. I bet that when Cat and Robb met up in the afterlife, the first twenty minutes they spent together consisted of her just looking at him and Robb pleading with her to stop, telling her that ‘yes, she was right and he was wrong.’ It’s okay, Robb. We’ve all been there. I mean, not to that extent but yes, we’ve all been there. 2. When the dogs start barking at Hardhomme Episode: “Hardhomme” (S5, E8) The massacre at Hardhomme is my favorite battle in Game of Thrones. God, I love it. It’s also probably the episode I think about and want to rewatch the most because that last twenty minutes or so is amazing. It’s creepy, it’s foreboding. It’s like a horror/action movie and you can’t take your eyes off of it. And it all starts when the dogs begin barking. Everything seems fine like it’s pretty much all going to plan. Yes, Jon would have liked more Wildlings to take him up on his offer to come south of the Wall, but beggars can’t be choosers and as Tormund points out, when the food runs out, they’ll change their mind. That one woman says goodbye to her daughters, says she’ll be right behind them and of course, that seems like a major red flag in hindsight but at the time it didn’t. It just seemed like something that character would say in that moment. And then the dogs start barking. Then the wind seems to shift and ooooh that feeling that shit is about to get a little crazy begins to creep its way up your spine. “Close the gates!” And that always sucks because without fail, someone just misses getting through the gates before they close, and then everything goes quiet. “Hardhomme” was Game of Thrones reminding you that they’re not effin’ around and when they need to, they can blast a 500-foot homerun or break off a 80-yard run. Oh and the way the Night King looked at Jon and when he raised the dead and was like, guess what assholes, I have a bigger army now… Damn it, I love that episode. 1.When Daenerys sets sail for Westeros Episode: “The Winds of Winter” (S6, E10) Finally. No, really. Finally. After six seasons of trudging through deserts, being captured, being captured again, escaping death, vanquishing foes, sniffing out traitors, raising dragon babies and more, Daenerys was finally headed to Westeros. The show, which had always been massive in scale and scope was going to start contracting and coming together. Plots would begin to merge and an endgame was in sight. It was all very exciting. The Danys stuff had started to become almost its own show, albeit a great show, but still, one that was removed from everything else happening on Game of Thrones. It was fun while it lasted but it was time to get everyone in the same room and get down to business. Was this the last truly exciting moment in Game of Thrones? Yeah, maybe. The ones that would follow have a case but they are also hampered by context and surrounding events. Danys setting sail to Westeros has a purity the other moments don’t. Anything and everything seemed possible at that point. The potential of Game of Thrones was off the charts and nothing could get in their way. Well, except for themselves. But that’s for another time. Ryan O'Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
  14. Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2016 As hard as it is to believe and as cliched as it is to say, I can’t believe I have been a father for almost a year now. Pretty much everything that has been said, everything written in parenting books, everything used anecdotally by celebrities in regards to fatherhood is spot on. It’s a trip, a never-ending logistical operation filled with highs, lows, exhaustion, delirium, more highs, fewer lows and much more. It’s easy to say that you could never imagine life without a baby once you have a baby, but that’s not entirely true. In quieter moments you can easily catch yourself looking back at your old life and there are definitely times when you look back at that life and that life led is lit in a very flattering glow. But all of that is fleeting. Fun to think about, but fleeting nonetheless. If I’ve learned one thing this past year it’s that parenthood is all about moving forward- moving on to the next day, the next stage, the next tooth coming in. Actually, that’s not all I’ve learned this past year. The whole moving forward thing might be the most prevalent, but it’s not the only lesson learned throughout my first year of fatherhood. There’s actually 22 more. Any song out there can be turned into a kid-friendly song It’s true and all about how you sing it. “I Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weeknd and “Shake It Off” by up and coming indie songwriter Taylor Swift were big hits at the changing table. A surprise winner was “Close Your Eyes” by Run the Jewels, which yes, I know, is probably not a song suitable for a newborn. But dude, it worked and a sub-lesson to this lesson: if it works, do it. Don’t question it, just do it and be happy it works. Keep your DVR stocked, especially with sitcoms During the first couple of months, I found myself in front of the television a lot- mostly when feeding our little ninja or with the bambino napping in my arms (i.e. “the human hammock.”) Having some shows already on stand by was a game changer; one less thing you have to think about. This proved invaluable, especially when it came to feeding. A hungry baby is like a ticking time bomb. There’s no time to scan channels, man! You need to act fast! You need to make quick decisions. Being able to find something to watch while feeding the baby in two clicks tops streamlines the process, making for a happy baby and a relieved dad. If some of our daughter’s first sentences are lines from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I’d say we’ll have a pretty good idea when she may have first heard them. Being able to make a good shushing sound is priceless The Sleep Sheep is a miracle product, as is anything that produces white noise really. But sometimes you are left to your own devices and being able to replicate the soothing sounds of a white noise machine is money. Ten minutes to go the bathroom is amazing It’s almost as good as taking a ten-minute nap; only you get to see what is going on in the outside world for a few wonderfully uninterrupted minutes. The idea of “when they nap, you nap” is great, but it has a shelf life Yes, during those first two weeks especially, if the baby is taking a nap, you’d be smart to take a quick one yourself. In those first few days you don’t even have to try. You can fall asleep in less than five seconds. But there comes a time when you can’t always take a nap because little things like laundry, eating, dishes and errands need to be done and it becomes harder and harder to get them done when the baby is awake. This realization that you can no longer nap when they do is one of the more harsh realizations that dawn on you during the first two to three months. If you can take a nap, put the phone down and get to it The clock is ticking. You don’t know if you’re baby is down for ten minutes or forty, so you can’t be wasting time dinking around on your phone. That’s what the bathroom is for. Life is easier when your wife lays out the baby’s clothes This isn’t coming from some kind of that’s women’s work mind-set. Heck no. This is coming from a dude, I’m color-blind and matching clothes is tough mind-set. I have a daughter and little girls have outfits. The onesie matches the pants, both match the lightweight hoodie that goes over the onesie and the friggin’ socks match the whole thing. It’s serious business. You can’t have the bambino going to day care looking like an unemployed clown. She can’t become that baby. I try to put outfits together, but I’m really just gambling and it’s not fair to anyone involved. So long story short, mornings are infinitely better when The Wife is able to lay out clothes ahead of time. Overalls were invented by the devil They seem so easy, so perfect, but dude they are a pit of despair when it comes time to put them on. Do you go over the top, up from the bottom? Which snap goes where? With all of the snaps undone the overalls look like a tarp that wasn’t folded up properly. Where the hell do they end and where do they begin? No one knows. No one will ever know. Onesies that have sleeves that cover the hands are God’s gift to new parents Little babies are cute and cuddly, but they also have dangerous razor blades at the end of their adorable little hands and those razors can’t be trimmed for a couple months. So as a result you have to put mittens on them. Yet I think one of the first thing a baby learns is how to take those mittens off. It doesn’t matter how you put them on, how you tie them or what you use to tie them (resist the urge to use zip ties) – the baby will get them off. That then defeats the purpose of having them in the first place. During the first two to three weeks of parenthood I think you want to keep a handle on frustration as much as possible; ensure that for the most part, your life exists within a controlled environment. However, dodging frustration gets increasingly harder when you are picking up mittens all the time and trying to save your baby from little scrapes and cuts on their face. You don’t want a baby who looks like they got into a knife fight with some street toughs. There is a a way to solve this problem though – onesies with long sleeves; long sleeves that unfold and become mitten-like. Take that baby! Your mitts are secured, your face unscathed, your dad un-frustrated. Everyone comes away happy. Bath time gets easier It does, which is reassuring because those first few times, bath time does not go well. You can talk yourself into focusing on the precious memories you and your wife are creating but dude, that’s damn near impossible when it sounds like an exorcism is happening. There’s screaming, flailing, more screaming. It’s hot because you’re heating up the kitchen by having the oven on with the door open (a trick my Aunt taught us) and you are also very nervous about breaking the baby- a general fear that becomes even greater when the baby is wet and hard to hold on to. But it gets easier over time, helped in large part by the introduction of toys and baby’s ability to sit up on their own. Of course then you just worry about them falling over and drowning, but one thing at a time. Focus on the positives here. Actually, focus on the positives everywhere. You do a lot of dishes At one point an uncle asked me what was one thing about being a parent that had happened that I did not see coming before hand. My answer was simple- I did not expect to be doing so many damn dishes. He laughed. I didn’t. I didn’t even appreciate the irony as I was doing dishes when he asked me this. Bottles, nips, pacifiers, chew toys, regular toys, medicine droppers, bowls, spoons, bibs, more pacifiers. I’ve spent so much time doing dishes I feel that I’m angling for a cooking position in our house. CVS is always there for you Since day one of parenthood I struggle to count the number of days where I didn’t go to CVS. I’ve collected so many large receipts full of coupons I’ll never use that I could wall paper a room with them if I didn’t know that removing wall paper is literally the worst job in the world. Take a lot of pictures; edit later Just delete the blurry ones later. Like when you’re in the bathroom. “Should I make more coffee” is a ridiculous question It is. Because the answer is always “yes.” Even when you think the answer is “no,” the answer is still “yes.” The signs will be there when it’s time to ditch the bassinet You know like, if when the baby is starting to stir and it looks like a velociraptor is trying to get out of it’s cage, it’s time. The phrase “butt paste” is never not funny Fact. There’s no shame in taking a couple nights to finish a movie It’s a numbers game and as with any numbers game, there are odds. The odds of you and the Wife finishing a movie in one night are not good. Like with a lot of things baby-related, it’s a race against time. You can’t start it until the baby falls asleep because you’ll miss most of it. Oh, especially if subtitles are involved. That’s definitely not going to happen. It’s probably best to just save anything with subtitles for a few years down the road. Everyone knows movies with subtitles are for middle-aged people anyway. Back to the numbers game- let’s say the baby falls asleep around 8pm (and this is once they’ve developed a sleep schedule and can go the whole night without sleeping- before then, skip movies and stick with TV shows.) That puts you on the couch roughly around 8:15ish provided dishes are done and everything is packed for the next day. Hopefully you’ve already picked out a movie. If you haven’t, screw it. Just put on the Food Network or something. But if you have picked out a movie beforehand you most likely start it movie around 8:20 or so. Awesome. Fast forward and hour or so and it’s a safe bet that by 10pm you are starting to have trouble keeping your eyes open. This makes sense because you’ve probably be up since 5:30 or 6 that morning. You can try and muscle through, but by 10:30 you’re done; falling asleep with a beer or glass of wine in your hand while the dog looks on, wondering when the hell everyone is going to bed because she’s definitely ready. Add in one or two trips upstairs to chill out the baby, who woke up because she’s sleeping on her pacifier and you’ve maybe watched two hours of the movie. It’s cool man; just finish it tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how much time is left- just call it a day and pick up where you left off tomorrow. Well, unless…let’s leave it at this: plans are best drawn up in pencil. The first day of work that doesn’t include a cup of coffee in the afternoon is a heck of an achievement It’s true. Celebrate. Cherish it. You’ll probably need one the next day. Switch up what side of the bed the monitor goes on It shouldn’t live on one side- that’s not fair. Studies have shown that whoever has the monitor on their side doesn’t sleep as well. And by “studies” I mean I’ve noticed it, witnessed it firsthand and believe it to be true. When the monitor is on your side you’re kind of on watch duty and the person on watch never really sleeps. If they do, they definitely don’t sleep as well as the people not on watch. Every noise is loud; the brightness of the monitor will constantly wake you up. It’s a burden that should be shared. It’s only fair. Another “study” shows that fairness alleviates resentment and resentment is best avoided during the early stages of parenthood. Just because the baby has slept through the night doesn’t mean you will Yeah, because they might not be breathing and you think about that every time you wake up and realize that they haven’t woken you up. It’s really fun when you first wake up at 4am and your first thought is that you haven’t heard the baby once. So you do one of two things, if not both. You stare long and hard at the monitor, trying to see if their chest is moving. If that doesn’t work, and it won’t, you get up, quietly walk into the baby’s room and gently touch their chest, just to make sure there is a sign of life. And there is. Of course by the time you get back into bed, calm yourself down and eventually fall asleep, the baby has woken up and is ready to start their day. The answer is always “yes” when the subject is take-out If one person is thinking about it, odds are the other person is too. At some point you have to stop answering “tired” when your wife asks how you’re doing She’s tired. You’re tired. You’ve both been some kind of tired since the baby was born. Might as well accept it and move on. Because it all goes back to lesson one: it’s all about moving forward. Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
  15. When it comes to the late Chris Cornell, the voice of Soundgarden and Audioslave, there are two things I know about him that most people might not. I know he had a brother named Peter and I know that Chris and Peter’s father passed away on May 5, 2000. Now the only reason I know these two particular facts is because the passing of the Cornells’ father led to Peter, who is also a musician, having to cancel a show he had scheduled for that night at the 8×10 club in Baltimore. Peter Cornell’s abrupt cancellation resulted in Jahronne, my band at the time, having a much different night than was planned. Instead of playing a fairly routine, run-of-the-mill opening spot, we ended up playing a show that would become one of my favorite shows ever. That show would also be both a top-five college memory as well as music-playing memory. As a result, every year when May 5th rolls around, I don’t initially think of Coronas. I don’t think of Margaritas and I definitely don’t think of sombreros. No, on Cinco de Mayo I think of Peter and Chris Cornell, their father’s passing, and how everything can quickly change in a few hours. *** Jahronee (named after a member’s former gym teacher) consisted of myself, Party Time Paul, Joey T, and No Nickname Andy. During sophomore year at Goucher College in lovely Towson, Maryland, a few miles outside of Baltimore, we had some good fun playing shows on campus. We frequently playing the Gopher Hole, the school’s coffee shop down in the basement of the student center, a spot with terrible acoustics but a welcoming vibe. By spring of that year, we had started to take our show on the road and into the wilds of Baltimore. We played a spot called Cafe Tattoo (on a Sunday afternoon I believe) and played our first two-set show at the Brass Monkey in Fells Point, a joint whose slogan was, where no one looks ugly after two. The slogan for your first two-set show? Exhausting dude. At the Gopher Hole at Goucher College in Towson, MD A month or so following the Brass Monkey gig, we were slated to play the 8×10 club in Baltimore’s Federal Hill section on Cinco de Mayo. Headlining the bill was Peter Cornell, the younger brother of Chris Cornell. That was all we knew about him. That was all we told people about him. We had played the 8×10 club a couple times before, mostly on Open Mic nights. The club’s soundman was a surly gentleman with little tolerance for unprofessional youngsters such as ourselves. Details are a little lost to time but I’d like to think my kindness is what eventually won him over. Playing properly tuned instruments probably helped as well. The band was excited for the show, giddy almost, and were anxious to try and parlay our opening slot into a headlining slot sometime down the road. With Joe’s station wagon jam-packed, we arrived early, probably too early, and as a result, had plenty of time to kill. With none of us yet at the legal drinking age, we sat on the curb outside the venue, waiting for our set time. As the night went on, the streets grew wilder and we watched in amazement the escalating drunken madness swirl and come to life around us like a storm building. At some point, club management found us out on the curb and notified us that Peter Cornell had canceled. His father had died suddenly. Because we were the only full band on the bill, they were bumping us up to the headlining slot. "Can you play for an hour?" They asked. The answer would sort itself out later. Of course, we could. Immediately we got on the phone, using both the payphone outside and the phone behind the bar (this was before everyone had cellphones mind you.) We started calling everyone back on campus whose number we could remember. Get down here! We told them. We’re headlining! We exclaimed. Bring everyone! We urged. The night had turned. The vibe was different. Now we weren’t just dudes playing a quick opening slot, but a band playing an actual set on a night when people actually came out. Excitement ran smack into nerves and came out in a tangled web of false bravado and gusto. All things considered, a perfect combination. *** The 8×10 has since been renovated, but in 2000 it was dirty; a step up from a dive bar, but not a big step. The difference between the two was a tripping hazard. There was a wafting aura of dinginess to the place that struggled to make its way through the staleness of the air. It was dark, with the only natural light coming from the one or two windows that looked out onto the street. Three floors up and accessed by a winding stairway found behind the stage was the band room, a place that we were allowed to hang out in now given our sudden change in status. The stairs snaked along walls covered with the signatures of bands who had been there before. We saw “Phish” scrawled on the wall as we made our way up, a highlight for us and something we’d surely tell friends about later. At the top of the stairs was the band room and it smelled like a drunken gorilla with body odor. The guy who was playing before us was a beefy fella and he had commandeered the room. He was holding court, entertaining two sketchy-looking gals, and chopping up lines of coke on the mirror he had put down on the floor. Polite of course, he offered it to us. Polite of course, we quickly declined. We weren’t rock stars yet. *** When it came time for us to play the room was damn near packed with friends from school. Phone calls had worked. Word had spread and carpools had been arranged. Everyone’s favorite campus band was doing them proud and the kids came out. Our friend Kenny danced through the crowd, making his way to his normal post at the front of the stage while Amanda pranced around the club barefoot, a questionable move, but a joyous one nonetheless. Everywhere we looked we saw familiar faces. Did we play the perfect set? Probably not. Did that matter? Nope. The night was one of those nights where the emotions that were felt and the enthusiasm that ran full speed through my body could never be repeated or replicated. It was a completely pure and beautiful night that came out of nowhere, leaving an unshakable joy in its wake. As a musician, it would prove to be a hard night to beat and would be a show that had top 5 staying power straight through the 300 plus shows I played with a band I was later in Sidecar Radio. As for Jahronee though, the show was our high-water mark and was a night we never got close to again. A few months later the band was done, having barely survived the summer that followed that spring semester. Then Joe’s apartment burned down in the fall, the fire taking his guitars and my drums with it, and the heavy-handed symbolism was hard to ignore. As is so often the case with bands, we had all moved on. Maybe in retrospect, that night at the 8×10 means so much to me because it was essentially a good night & good luck show for us. Even though it seemed like such a rocket launcher of an opportunity, the reality was it was the exact opposite, a funeral for a friend. The night was a success though, but not the kind of success that lead to future success. And that’s okay. Not every good thing is meant to be a sonic boom and last forever. Sometimes the best things in life are drive-bys and are quick moments that you should grab and hold on tight to because their staying power is ethereal and in the wind, never meant to last for that long. So while the day of May 5th is a heartbreaker for the Cornell family, it will always bring a smile to my face. We had fun, we did it right, and we did it justice. I’ll always be sorry for the Cornells’ loss, but on that night their loss was our gain. And it was fun. A lot of fun. Ryan O’Connell is originally from sunny Portland, Maine, went to college in Baltimore, spent some time in Philadelphia, and now lives by the beach in wonderful New Jersey. In short order, Ryan loves the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, the Black Keys, the Roots, his family, The Wire & the writing of Dave Eggers although his last couple books have been “meh” at best. He does not care for waiting, appreciates someone who maintains a nice front lawn, and harbors a constant fear of losing his keys. To read more from Ryan, visit GiddyUpAmerica.com
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