The worst openers on good albums

Fortunately I’ve covered a couple of these tracks already. The following tracks present innumerable obstacles, nuisances, and misbegotten intros to otherwise good or excellent albums. As usual, your mileage may vary.

1. Bob Dylan – “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (Blonde on Blonde)
2. Def Leppard – “Women” (Hysteria)
3. Paul Simon – “Allergies” (Hearts and Bones
4. Crowded House – “Chocolate Cake” (Woodface)
5. The Strokes – “Is This It” (Is This It)
6. Michael Jackson – “Bad” (Bad)
7. Stevie Wonder – “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” (Songs in the Key of Life)
8. Roxy Music – “In the Midnight Hour” (Flesh + Blood)
9. Nirvana – “Serve the Servants” (In Utero)
10. Radiohead – “Airbag” (OK Computer)
11. Van Halen – “You’re No Good” (Van Halen II)
12. Britney Spears – “Gimme More” (Blackout)
13. Taylor Swift – “Welcome to New York” (1989)
14. Erykah Badu – “Amerykahn Promise” (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War))
15. Genesis – “Invisible Touch” (Invisible Touch)
16. Modest Mouse – “The World at Large” (Good News For People Who Love Bad News)
17. Neil Young – “Little Thing Called Love” (Trans)
18. Madonna – “American Life” (American Life)
19. Beyonce – “1 + 1” (4)
20. Miranda Lambert – “All Kinds of Kinds” (Four the Record)
21. Wire – “I Should Have Known Better” (154)
22. Billy Joel – “Easy Money” (An Innocent Man)
23. G.W. McLennan – “When Word Gets Around” (Watershed)
24. R.E.M. – “Radio Song” (Out of Time)
25. Jimi Hendrix – “…And the Gods Made Love” (Electric Ladyland)

Ranking the best Genesis albums

Fans of Peter Gabriel’s fox heads and tales of the Giant Hogweed will find much to mourn here. Despite praising recently The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as one of the better realized “concept” albums (hint: all albums, comps included, use concepts), I don’t reach for it — still too damn long, and Tony Banks’ talent for finding the wrong keyboard patch runs untrammeled. Continue reading

Worst cocktails

Among my favorite posts concerned my favorite cocktail recipes. About ten years ago the Wall Street Journal published an article about sidecars, a wonderful cocktail that in 2008 was almost impossible to make without using a pre-fab mix. Well, the world has shifted on its axis. Even the most generic Courtyard Marriott employs a bartender who knows the rudiments of mixology I had no trouble casting a cold eye on the following:

1. Mimosas.

Sparkling wine and orange juice – what’s wrong, you’ll ask? Easy. How much orange juice can a person drink without reeling from acid reflux or requiring an insulin shot? How much champagne, prosecco, Cava, or whatever can a person drink without remembering the violent hangover awaiting? I understand the temptation, or, rather, the fear and guilt. To placate the suspicion that one shouldn’t Drink So Early in the Morning, the spirits are poured into a breakfast juice. If you’re going to drink, you’ve made a decision. Stick with it. You’re better off drinking a beer, or, better, a glass of wine.

2. The Lemon Drop.

Ordered by men and women afraid of alcohol and life. Because vodka, triple sec, lemon, and a wheelbarrow’s worth of sugar will ease their fears.

3. The Moscow Mule.

Sometime around 2014 I saw the invasion: three dozen copper mugs invading even the chicest of bars. A glass shortage, I thought. Vodka and ginger beer sounds delicious, perhaps refreshing on an early afternoon by the pool, but not a cocktail one orders with a robust sense of self-worth after 6 p.m. In addition, let me be clear: the two tastes clash.

4. Long Island Ice Tea.

Stop it – you’re not in college anymore.

5. Vodka Red Bull.

In South Florida, where the heat addles sentient people, a coke habit signifies accomplishment. Remember Luis Guzman’s bit in The Limey? If you can afford a drug like this, you buy a drug like this. Mortals stick to vodka Red Bull, a poisonous brew that apart from tasting like boiled asparagus toasted with mayonnaise and old Kraft single slices has a lovely habit of accelerating your metabolism as your heartbeat struggles to come down.

6. White Russian.

Cream is for coffee. I don’t drink dessert when I want a cocktail.

7. Amaretto sour.

In college, we ordered these because the Italian name created an aura of posh adventurism. Its consumers sounded as if they knew what they were talking about. Then we discovered its consumers liked a little nut in their citrus concoctions.

8. Daiquiris and piña coladas.

Excused in South Florida because it’s warm fifty-one weeks a year, but only if you order them poolside. Drive farther inland though and you’re asking for a beating.

Ranking Outkast

Andre 3000 brought wicked sartorial flair, an ace producer’s ear for cool sounds, and Buzzcocks. Big Boi brought common sense, hooks, and Kate Bush. Together with a galaxy of collaborators like Sleepy Brown, Mr. DJ, Rico Wade, and Ray Murray, Outkast recorded some of the richest hip-hop of its era — they’re sentimental in surprising ways, almost cute. I love them. I miss them. Continue reading

What privilege looks like

White men have endured so much pain in America. They need to take their country back.

Beginning in October 1968, records show, Mr. Trump had a 1-Y classification, a temporary medical exemption, meaning that he could be considered for service only in the event of a national emergency or an official declaration of war, neither of which occurred during the conflict in Vietnam. In 1972, after the 1-Y classification was abolished, his status changed to 4-F, a permanent disqualification.The Times began looking into Mr. Trump’s draft record anew when an anonymous tipster suggested that a podiatrist who was a commercial tenant of Fred Trump’s had provided the medical documentation.

The tipster offered no names, but The Times used old city directories, held by the New York Public Library, and interviews with Queens podiatrists to identify Dr. Braunstein.

The doctor’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

“It was family lore,” said Elysa Braunstein. “It was something we would always discuss.”

She said her father was initially proud that he had helped a “famous guy” in New York real estate. But later, her father, a lifelong Democrat who had served in the Navy during World War II, grew tired of Donald Trump as he became a fixture in the tabloid gossip pages and a reality television star, she said. The daughters, both Democrats, say they are not fans of Mr. Trump.

Thanks to the medical deferment, Donald Trump avoided serving in a war whose largest casualties included Vietnamese men and on whom the burden on poor and black young Americans was grievous.

‘Come; see the oxen kneel’

A poet and novelist of unrelenting gloom that never quite shaded into despair, Thomas Hardy has captured my imagination since a high school reading of Jude the Obscure. I return to him often, and there’s always a minor novel or two I’ve missed. Below is “The Oxen,” among my favorite holiday lyrics.

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.


So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,


“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Merry Christmas.

Ranking my favorite Keith Richards solo songs

An increasingly welcome relief as his band’s lead singer transmogrified into a pair of bulbous lips panting for cash in the form of a nineteen-year-old sorority girl, Keith Richards sang at least six classics and another six a notch below. On Dirty Work‘s “Sleep Tonight” he discovered his mature voice, owing something to Hoagie Carmichael: a little behind the beat, keyed to the rhythm of his uncertain piano and, on this track, Ron Wood’s tentative drums. The rest of his career fell into place. A Bigger Bang marked the first time he contributed blah tracks.

1. Sleep Tonight
2. Connection
3. Memory Motel
4. Before They Make Me Run
5. Thru and Thru
6. Happy
7. All About You
8. Slipping Away
9. Coming Down Again
10. Little T&A
11. You Got the Silver
12. Thief in the Night