Published on May 7th, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
The Facebook Album Challenge: Kim’s Albums Explained
A challenge where you share your favourite albums with no explanation is stupid – the explanation is the point! Kim gives us his albums and explanations.
Since 2020 clearly hasn’t been challenging enough, Facebook has taken it upon itself to have its disciples publicly challenge their friends to make lists. Ten Albums That…Ten Recipes Which…Top Ten Movies From…well, you get it. And here’s the real kicker: no explanation! Nope. Just a picture. Apparently, explaining yourself in 2020 is a sure-fire way to make things worse than you could possibly imagine.
But I disagree. Let me explain: I don’t want to see ten album covers without any sort of personal endorsement and guided tour of your feelings and thoughts, because those are just ten pictures of album covers. The fun of this or any other challenge (Jesus, I hate that word) lies in the stories, memories, descriptions and enthusiasm of the person posting their list. I require more than just a picture from your list (I already know what the cover of Nevermind looks like, thanks).
I was nominated on Facebook to post ten albums that have influenced my musical tastes. And so I posted my ten albums, but wrote whatever and however I felt about them. Since not everyone has or cares about Facebook, I’m sharing my ten albums here. I hope these inspire you to explore some new music, reminisce about some old favourites, or just wonder aloud how much weed I smoke. Enjoy!
The Beatles – 20 Greatest Hits (1982)
Here is 1/10, the tape given to me by a friend’s older brother. Up to a point, nearly all kids have shite taste in music. When I got this, everything changed. I struggled to comprehend how the band on side one was the same band that was on side two, but I was hooked on their sound and, soon, the library books that told the fascinating history of rock n’ roll.
The Traveling Wilburys – Vol. 1 (1988)
This was a natural progression from the Beatles, and helped me follow rock history all the way back to the 1950s. Now I had E.L.O., the Heartbreakers catalogue, an intro to why Bob Dylan was such a great songwriter (the other Wilburys’ swear he wrote Tweeter and the Monkey Man in five minutes) and proof that Roy is top three rock voices of all time. The big album at the time was Def Leppard (hey! what’s got nine arms and sucks?) and I didn’t fall for that malarkey. I always marvelled at the magnificent recording sound on this record. I thought, yeah, no wonder, all these old rich dudes have endless budget money. I later found out that most of it was recorded over a weekend in Tom Petty’s kitchen.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands (1987)
Roy Orbison could sing eight octaves — every note on a piano and then some. Jim Reid can sing about six of those. When you look at this album as just a pile of notes, it seems like there’s not much to work with. But oh how JAMC proved that wrong, by finding a subtle, secret mood that you didn’t know you needed until you heard it. If you know this, play it again today. If you don’t, start exploring! Difficult to pick one album from these guys. Their sound changed as much as it could over time, mostly through production value. Feedback, 50’s doo-wop with dreary beauty, dirty Americana, pulsing electro beats and fuzz chords, they have a rich catalogue landscape, but Darklands is the one that will make you dance like an awkward teenager set fee.
The Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Paul’s Boutique — just too cool, too correct, too fast. Juvenile and brilliant at the same time, B-Boys would go on to do better, but this album was waaaay ahead of the curve. Wait, you cut up Beatles songs and poured whack rhymes all over them like Brooklyn syrup? Yes please! This whole thing is a treasure map to style and sound by way of sample that plays like a historical document and future roadmap simultaneously. The transition from Licence to Ill to this was Bowie-esque in its perplexing radical transformation and only now, looking back, does it make such perfect sense. No wonder it was the first record to truly pique my interest in rap.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
You know how some dudes get all obsessed about cars because of the way they sound? As far as guitar rock goes, this album is my Eleanor. Dysfunction of the highest order found certainty in the chaos just long enough to give us this lucid dream state of guitar rock for the ages. My teenage years continued its bombardment of seemingly endless voice-of-a-generation tryouts. Fuzz and feedback, growling and screaming. The pounding, jet-fueled drums and gothic baselines were still somehow all saccharine when you added those ceaseless, hallucinogenic lyrics of hope and beauty. Misfits scorched the radio waves due to high demand by the new alternative college festival kids, and the patients were running the asylum. Every time I hear this album the sun feels bright and warm on my face. What a time to be alive.
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (1992)
My tastes clearly lean towards sounds from across the pond, but there is no denying that R.E.M. paints an American landscape beautiful enough to draw global attention. Hard to believe this never reached No.1 in the United States but it was released one year after Nirvana’s Nevermind, which changed corporate music strategy forever. The definition for a band being ‘left-of-centre’ had been re-calibrated and R.E.M., the original left-of-centre band, doubled down on their mandolin plucking, accordion swooning and poetic crooning. You’ll never make it through this life without Man on the Moon playing on the car speakers during a dusty country summer drive, or the maudlin comfort of Everybody Hurts — the next best thing to a hug from your mum on those dark and lonely days. This album is impervious to the ravages of time.
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)
Nothing influences change in behaviour more than clearing up a misunderstanding and discovering sheer delight in the same space that was once occupied by premonitions of distaste. I misunderstood the content of this album because the cover lied to me. THE SMITHS, like a thousand meaningless pages of names in a phone book, told me nothing. Dead eyes, posh icy hands and frivolous sleeves, I just knew that this moping goth misery would bring me nothing but doldrums.
It was the end of the 90s when I finally listened, and as those pounding drums thundered in and Morrissey’s powerful croon hit my ears for the first time, I stood sheepishly corrected. The voice of Marr’s jingle-jangle guitar is as idiosyncratic and singularly distinct as Morgan Freeman reading bedtime stories. I had literally spent an entire decade bathing in the spoils of countless bands who attribute their inspirations to The Smiths, but remained blissfully unenlightened. Now I know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose to her Roman nose and her hearing aid started to melt.
Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994)
Do you even remember what Noel Gallagher looked like in 1994? He looked like fucking Bert from Sesame Street, and swaggered around as though he was shirtless Brad Pitt in Fight Club. His songs were that good and he knew it. Filtered through a one-of-a kind, one-in-a-million new production process at the 11th hour before release, Oasis somehow bottled the animal fury of their live gigs on a record, making it the loudest CD in any jukebox. Lyrical nonsense is delivered with cocksure authority from Liam as he led the charge in the last gasp of reckless freedom before the world went tofu health bar by the end of the 90s.
But in the meantime? Fuck it! Give me gin and tonic, I’m feeling supersonic, we’re gonna live forever, up in the sky and, tonight, you’re gonna be a rock n’ roll star. Jesus, we were still smoking cigarettes in pubs. I’ll wager that this album is responsible for more worldwide hangovers than sports. Definitely Maybe is the sound of 300,000 people in a park jumping up and down in unison, and sent half of the lads off to the guitar shop. Added bonus: if Netflix runs out of stand-up comedy for you to watch, just YouTube Liam or Noel. You’re welcome.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)
This is where the sound of guitars and reality part ways. The guys and girls of My Bloody Valentine had little care for fashion clothes and dance choreography as they laboured intensely for years to weave the sound of these notes together like thread on a loom. They were as grunge as Nirvana (minus the resentful anger) and somewhere in early morning fog of the Scottish Moores, their space-dream distortion songs crept over the horizon like the morning sun.
Listening to this album the first few times reminded me of 3D posters at the shopping mall. Shut up, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You stood there for hours, right outside Payless shoes near the Orange Julius with the sour cream from your super beef burrito dripping down your arm. You squinted and furrowed your brow, trying to visualize the space ship flying towards you, but all you saw was a redundant geometry of zero sum.
And then, suddenly, there it was! You barked out a squeal of some sort, and the heads of a dozen shoppers turn to stare, but you were oblivious, serene in an elevated state of enlightenment. Loveless is the shimmering swoon of analog perfection and is deserving of the reverence once reserved for cathedrals. If planet earth is ever invaded by aliens, I suggest we play them this record to prove that, despite what they may have seen on TV, humans are worth sparing.
The Tragically Hip – Up to Here (1989)
The night you partied with all your high school friends after the provincial championships; the time you helped your uncle with harvest and you had never been so tired and dusty your whole life; that late spring so many years ago when your girlfriend broke up with you; the time your family drove all the way out to B.C. for holiday; that summer up north at the cabin with all your old friends you never see often enough anymore; the time you saved up to put a brand new Alpine cassette deck in your car; every single summer night you came home after dawn and started mowing the lawn so your parents’ would think you woke up early to help around the house; the time your friend’s older brother was impressed you were listening to this and told you to check out The Band and Neil Young; the time your cousin gave you the first joint you ever smoked and you couldn’t stop laughing; the night the entire bar went crazy because Team Canada had just won in O.T.; that grey afternoon your friend died in a car accident and none of you knew what to say, so you just sat there, not talking, smoking cigarettes and the radio played quietly from the kitchen; the time your best friend got married and you were in the wedding party and the cake got knocked off the table by the neighbour’s excited dog; the first day you were ever on a university campus and you felt like anything was possible; the day Gord Downie died and the entire country bawled our fucking eyes out; today, when you play this again, and feel pretty good about life in Canada.