Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Top 20 of 2008: #1

1. Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life

Ok, where the fuck did this come from? That's what I hear you saying. And you're right. I have no business making The Chemistry of Common Life my favorite album of 2008. I like stuff like Ryan Adams and My Morning Jacket (who both had albums this year, by the way, one was ok and one sucked hard). I don't listen to hardcore. I don't even know how to distinguish good hardcore from bad hardcore. What the hell, Cliff?

I'll tell you what the hell. This record knocked my block off in a way that hasn't happened in years. From its very first notes (played on a flute, natch) you can tell something is different. There isn't anything typical about this record. Opener "Son the Father" slowly builds from that flute opening to a tsunami of guitar rage and Cookie Monster growling, punctuated by whipsmart lyrics like "It's hard enough being born in the first place, who would ever want to be born again?" This ain't your older brother's hardcore.

The rest of the album refuses to fall in line, going from the bongo-driven march of "Magic Word" to apocalyptic doom of "Days of Last" to the surrealistic power pop of "Black Albino Bones." These guys are falling all over themselves to do a mind job on you, both with their unconventional music choices and their incredibly smart, thought-provoking lyrics. Granted, you'll need a lyric sheet to keep up, but these guys sing about politics and religion with a unique and challenging point of view. It's totally unexpected.

No other album this year took my breath away like The Chemistry of Common Life. I listen throughout the year to stuff that I play again and again, but a few years on I find myself not even thinking about those albums any more. The majority of this list probably falls into that category, to tell you the truth. This album is going to stick with me for a long time. It made me relish the rush of hearing a song once and then immediately playing it again at twice the volume. It gives me chills. It's an instant classic, and it made me believe in the power of music yet again.


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