Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obsession, Lust and Betrayal - Modern Rock's Greatest 1998-2008 (10 CDs)

Compilation (various artist)

It may seem an outrageous idea to try and hold onto in today's über-cynical, post-everything age, but Rock 'n' Roll really did just start out as music for teenagers to lose their shit over. All the conceit, pomp and arrogance that followed during the next four decades has only served to delude the original message that folks like Elvis, Chuck, Jerry and Richard set out to establish; namely that this music shit should be fun, man. If you can't jump up and down, bang your head, pump your fist or slam into a wall (or each other) then perhaps you're not cut out for this whole Rock scene, right?

It was a notion that served music fans well throughout Rock's first wave, and up through the Surf era, the early British Invasion and all the American Garage-type bands that emerged in its wake. The medium of choice was singles: potent blasts of sheer electric exhilaration and joy. Two minutes thirty a side. No time for lofty concepts and conceits, the message had to be short, brutal and to the point. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to Rock 'n Roll nirvana: the long playing LP. Originally viewed within the realm of pop music as a way of collecting together stray 45s and sundry filler for the Holiday market, by 1966 the LP was becoming the format of choice for heavy musicians: the run of Fifth Dimension, Love, Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, Freak Out!, Aftermath, Revolver, Sunshine Superman and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme being the opening salvo.

By 1968 the LP had become the predominant form in which one enjoyed a band, and the poor 45 RPM single was considered a pop move, or worse, Bubblegum. Anyone who was Anyone in the Rock Hierarchy was cutting long-form conceptual "masterpieces" of their own design, intent on showing just how serious they could be. This trend of outrageous conceit reached a plateau of sorts with the Who's overblown "Rock Opera" Tommy, and within a year there would be Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. (Oh Elvis, where art thou?)

But as Psych begat Prog begat College Rock begat Alternative begat Indie, fans of Real Rock Music began to rebel. Perhaps the gauntlet was initially thrown down by none other than George Lucas with the soundtrack to his American Graffiti; a superb double album comprised of hit singles from the early Rock 'n' Roll era that single-handedly kicked off a national Fifties nostalgia trend. However the real hero of this tale was Lenny Kaye, whose original Nuggets compilation beautifully resurrected the world of Rock 'n' Roll right before the LP took over.

Nuggets wasn't just about Garage bands-- indeed most of the bands included were fairly polished and signed to at least medium-sized labels, if not majors. It also wasn't squarely about hit singles, or even singles per se. Whether or not the song was originally popular, or whether it was indeed picked as a single by some A&R rep, really had little bearing on its inclusion. No, what Nuggets was was the original "Scene" comp: Get together all the top bands, represent them with their very best song and get the fuck out of the way. But most importantly, keep it short and to the point. One blast after another. Club the listener senseless with the raw power of the three minute pop song.

It's a formula that's worked brilliantly for numerous genres and sub-genres. The masters of course were Rhino Records, who apart from keeping the Nuggets legacy going strong also released definitive Scene comps with their 70s-80s Punk and New Wave DIY sets; reclaimed 70s Bubblegum with the Have a Nice Day series; and also brokered the ultimate 70s funk, 80s Hip-Hop and 90s Brit Rock collections (What It Is!, The Sugar Hill Records Story and The Brit Box respectively.)

But where are the Nuggets of today? In other words, where can today's discriminating listener-- searching perhaps for the primal pop blast of, say, a Chocolate Watch Band or an Amboy Dukes-- score a quick fix? With the state of Rock radio and MTV these days, as well as the growing presence of Hip-Hop and Electronica within the new millennium, sometimes it's hard to remember that there are still young bands out there with electric guitars and a strong desire to simply rock the house and get bodies moving. I speak not of today's latest crop of Pitchfork approved Indie-Hipster-Slacker crap; groups that take navel-gazing to an extreme that would positively embarrass their hippie forefathers. Nor do I refer to the safe, calculated sound of such Dad-Rock stalwarts as U2, REM or Coldplay; music so cold and lifeless that it should sooner be played inside a wax museum than in the home of any true Rock music fan. Alternately, many of the more extreme if interesting bands trading in the realms of Metal, Noise, Math, etc. simply aren't sweetly commercial enough to provide the necessary sugar rush. So what does that leave our listener with?

Quite a lot, actually. Emerging roughly around 1998, and led by such later-era Alternative bands as Green Day and Weezer, came a new genre loosely referred to as Modern Rock. The term is actually more or a catch-all than anything, combining as it does Power Pop (Fountains of Wayne, Phantom Planet); Punk (Pennywise, Alkaline Trio); Pop Punk (Blink-182, Yellowcard); Reggae Rock (311, Rx Bandits); Pop Metal (Linkin Park, Hoobastank); Post Punk (Franz Ferdinand, We Are Scientists); Singer Songwriter (Dashboard Confessional, Jack's Mannequin); Emo Pop (Hawthorne Heights, Taking Back Sunday) and just flat-out Rock 'n' Roll (White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age). In other words, the term comprises anything in the Rock milieu that's "hot", contemporary/ commercial and hi-energy. Or for another way of looking at it, if it sounds good pumped through car stereo speakers and gets young people excited and amped up, it's a Modern Rock Nugget.

On a personal level, I began compiling Obsession, Lust and Betrayal back in 2004 as a series of quicky compilations to help me better absorb all the great music I heard coming out of the New Pop Rock Renaissance. It was never intended to be anything other than a series of mixes I kept in the car for my own enjoyment. However, by the time I initially finished off the tenth volume sometime in 2008, I had been inundated by so many requests from friends for copies of each and every disc that I started to understand the widespread appeal of such a collection. Remember that no credence was given to whether or not these songs were released as singles. The qualification was simply that they had to be the hottest, catchiest tracks going. If the song didn't merit 5 stars in my iTunes library, it didn't make the cut. Simple as that.

At any rate, after giving out about 50 copies of this set to various friends and acquaintances, I decided to go back and tighten it up by making sure each song was ripped at 160K or better, the track-to-track flow was smooth, the overall volume normalized and my original artwork added to all files. These cleaned-up versions are my early Christmas present to all you Children of the Sphere.

Apart from becoming reacquainted with the bands I previously mentioned, listeners of Obsession, Lust and Betrayal will be introduced to such overlooked genre luminaries as songwriting genius Kevin Ridel (represented here on cuts by AM Radio, Peel and Ridel High), Pop Punk masters Gob, and Manchester UK's hardest rocking band Nine Black Alps. I even granted a little additional space to my great local Oakland bands Desa, the Matches, Davenport Totem and my good friends the Violent High so that folks all around the world can get a taste of the fantastic scene we've developed here locally.

As a final aside, we do of course understand that the critics are down on a lot of these bands, and that Weezer, Blink, 311 and their ilk aren't likely to be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame© anytime soon. Therefore it is our opinion here at the Sphere that these critics are simply overpaid hacks pushing agendas that have nothing to do with loving music. These pond scum are merely the progeny of the dip-shits that almost killed Rock 'n' Roll in the first place by telling your folks that the Electric Prunes were garbage and what you really should be digging is ELP's Love Beach. So like Flav says, don't believe the hype. Just download this box set, throw it on your iPod or car stereo and rejoice in feeling alive with the power of the perfect three minute Rock song.

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  1. Brilliant bit of writing there, mate! Downloading now and will start listening tonight. Very excited about this!

  2. I've never posted a comment here but it's been long overdue. You're a fantastic writer with a very effective way of reaching out with your words. I feel like I've read your stuff before- Have you written outside of this site? If so please share because I'm hooked on this blog and your fascinating authorship and impeccible taste.

    IN short, good show!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Re-upped! (All except disc 3 which has a nasty glitch in one of the tracks. I'm working on getting that fixed.)

  5. I don't want to grab it if I'm going to be missing 10%, so could you send me a message when disc 3 is back up? Thanks for all the awesome stuff on here, by the way! I've been grabbing a lot tonight!

  6. Fosho, I just have to chase down that one track and I should have it posted.

  7. Thanks for all the great music!
    Any chance of getting a reup on disc 3?

  8. hells yeah!!!!!

    Obey Gravity

  9. They're all DEAD Jim!!! They're ALL DEAD!!!!

  10. Sorry, Sendspace tends to delete anything that hasn't been downloaded in 2 months. I'll try to get those up for you ASAP.