A Few Great Albums from This Week!

theclashIt’s kind of humbling to think of a word before our favorite albums. After all, there was once a point in time where saying “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now” would only attract the attention of the most committed horticulturalists and botanists. These days, it’s widely recognized as a Zep lyric, but there was a very long time in human history where it meant essentially nothing. Our favorite albums have a way of changing the world around them, so it seems weird and jarring (at least to me) to think of a time before they existed. In considering all these classic albums released this week in history, I try to think of the context in which they arrived–what was going on at the time, both musically and socially? Was the album truly a product of its particular time or could it have come out at any point? These are the questions that keep me awake at night, and, I suppose, keep me paid at Rocknuts. Mostly the former.

The Clash – London Calling (12/14/79)

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What else can you say about this seminal punk album? I suppose I would say that it isn’t “punk” in the true sense, and that the group’s previous self-titled debut was a bit more indicative of  first-wave punk in all its glory. But if The Clash is a pure “punk” album, London Calling is so much deeper and denser. Blending elements of reggae, ska, soul and a handful of other styles, the Clash have at once created an album that towers above its punk peers while nodding in the direction of other genres, as if to say, “I’m coming for you.”

The Who – The Who Sell out (12/15/67)

Before Tommy and Quadrophenia, this early Who classic was miles ahead of the concept album game. More consistently listenable than Sgt. Pepper, while remaining thematically sound in a way Pet Sounds was not, The Who Sell Out is, quite frankly, the first rock album that truly works as a conceptual piece. It’s staged as a series of advertisements for a multitude of products, both real and fictional, and the whole thing works because of both the sheer commitment to the conceit and the fact that the songs would stand alone perfectly well in another situation. This is a common peril with progressive rock bands: they get so excited about the concept for an album that they forget to actually compose songs. The Who make no such mistake. They can’t help but write classics. 

David Bowie – Hunky Dory (12/17/71)

Is there anyone out there that isn’t still smarting a little bit because of David Bowie’s death? I know I feel weird and hollow sometimes, especially because I belatedly listened to his final album Blackstar last week and was reminded what a completely unique and singular talent he actually was. All I want, all anyone wants, is for this point of view to keep existing and creating, but that probably isn’t in the cards. Luckily, he has a rich back catalog that is just waiting to be discovered/rediscovered. Hunky Dory is my personal choice for best Bowie album, and it provides an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

But if you’re uninitiated at this point, might I ask you what the hell you are doing? Seriously.

Photo: The Clash; By Helge Øverås, http://www.helgeoveras.com/concertphoto.shtml (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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