WE’RE BACK Y’ALL! The long national crisis that was Barenaked Ladies is now firmly in our rearview mirror, and we’re blazing into the future with two of our favorite things in the universe: Andy McAlpine, and The Replacements.
Do we even need to introduce The Replacements? Few bands have ever come close to matching the hooks, hedonism, and heart of these lovable lads from Minneapolis. From their raw punk beginnings to their sad, folky denouement, The ‘Mats produced an incredible stretch of music that was at worst fascinating and at best utterly transcendent, cementing their legacy as one of the greatest bands of all time. We literally don’t know anyone who hates them—even Christgau liked them sometimes, and he’s an actual monster.
So with the help of bearded bundle of joy Andy McAlpine, we recorded nearly two hours of almost entirely ecstatic power pop discourse. It’s literally the exact opposite of talking about Barenaked Ladies. We think you’ll like it. Also: dumb coke stories, brief returns to hell, and Bill.
Thom looks awfully sad up there, and for good reason—2017, as a year, mostly served to prove that no dumpster fire is so heinous that it can’t be made even more dumpster-fiery. But because the universe is just packed with ironic twists, this was also one of the best years in music in recent memory (and not just because this was the year when your illustrious hosts first crashed on this awfully esoteric island). So, starting on this fine Saturnalia, we’re taking a break from our discographic discourse to look back at all the music that made existence just a little more bearable, even as the walls crumbled down around us.
The one issue with our format is that, while we get to explore so much music history in-depth, we rarely get to talk about all the contemporary artists that are making history right now. So there’s a lot of pent-up joy coming out in this episode, as we discuss top 40 surprises, the continued relevance of Flying Nun, and whether not having heard something really does make it new enough. And like any good Christmas special, we also take this time to look back at the work we’ve done, and even bring back a few fan-favorite guests to give us their take.
This episode, we go through podcasts past and our top five songs. Stay tuned next week for our top five albums!
This Waitsmas Finale is dedicated to Ralph Carney. Rest in peace buddy—wherever you are, I hope you’re playing a saxophone and bass clarinet at the same time, you incredible badass.
Can you hear the blind street urchins banging their garbage cans? The rabbit bones clattering through our drain pipes? The conjoined twins looming portraits of the damned on Broadway? Do you know what it all means folks? That’s right: Waitsmas day is upon us! We’ve finally reached the apex of the one true holiday season, and are celebrating in style by inviting recurring castaway/life and death of the party Andy McAlpine to gush our way through the second half of the Tom Waits oeuvre, from the dramatis personae of Franks Wild Years to the raucous collage of Bad As Me.
After the Kathleen Brennan-inspired madness of Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs established a new direction for Tom Waits, he embarked on some of the freest experimentation of his career, embracing industrial primitivism on the apocalyptic Bone Machine and a Burroughsian carnival on The Black Rider. It was a period where he took his newfound freedom into strange new places, creating strange works that would never be repeated again before. And then, with the impeccable Mule Variations, the Tom Waits sound was fully canonized, setting off his path into respected elder statesman. But while many icons go stale at that point, Tom continued to make incredible albums, and while his pace has slowed down the quality of it has been as high as ever.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that this is one of our most enthusiastic episodes since Sleater-Kinney, a beer-fueled mirth-fest that’s as raucous and celebratory as Waitsmas day should be. It’s all about finding joy in the darkness, and we can’t think of a better way to cap off a year like this than by inviting you to join us here, in this cave, around this weird-smelling yet intoxicating fire we call Tom Waits. Pay no mind to the screaming. Also: Andrew dispels the myth of Coney Island, Andy gives the traditional Waitsmas presents, and Max dies at the end.
Feeling wistful in this winsome winter weather? Well so are we, faithful listener, which is why we’re dedicating our first full episode of November to one of our all-time favorite songwriters: Joanna Newsom. And thankfully, this harpists’ siren song was enough to drag three-time castaway and possible cave-dweller Andrew McAlpine back to the island, to give his own skewed perspective on her brief but incredibly deep discography.
As one of the only survivors of the short-lived and abominably-titled “freak folk” movement of the early-oughts, Joanna Newsom made a name for herself by taking what first seemed like a gimmick—her status as a classically-trained pedal-harp player—and turning it into a career packed with dense lyrical brambles, impeccably constructed song-craft, and her own divisive, inimitable chicken-fried-Björk singing voice. She’s a sentimental favorite of everyone on this episode, leading to a surprisingly contentious but heartfelt discussion of the four albums she’s written to date. It’s an episode packed with heartbreak and unlikely alliances, capped off with our very first letters section! Also: Max reveals the origin of her vendetta against Van Dyke Parks, Andy shills for the pleasures of suburban Western Mass, and Ryan Shea gets just super roasted for, like, no reason. He’s not even on the episode. Sorry Ryan.
Can you believe we’ve been trapped on this island nearly half a year, and never once discussed the beach or its titular boys? Well it’s about damn time we rectified that. So, with the help of return castaway/bearded bundle of joy Andy McAlpine, we’re going to take on one of the most legendary discographies we’ve yet encountered—The Beach Boys. The weird and wild world of the Wilson brothers is full of classics and clunkers, and on this episode we’re running the gamut of both, with a selection of albums ranging from the pure pop pleasures of The Beach Boys Today! to the lo-fi depths of Smiley Smile. In the process, we learn a lot about the glossed over depths of this band, the joys of life before and after Pet Sounds, and, of course, the epic heights of “Bull Session with ‘Big Daddy'”. Also: the world’s greatest box set, food party gender dynamics, and the perks of eating John Stamos.
The chaotic weather patterns of Julyded by Voices month have shipwrecked another guest on the island—fortunately, that guest is poet, actor, and Guided by Voices superfan Andrew McAlpine! That’s right, we have double the bearded Andrews on board to guide us through GBV’s wild and wooly hi-fi era. Spanning multiple lineups and a bevy of labels, this era is commonly seen as the moment when Bob Pollard lost his way, ditching the lo-fi charm of their classic albums for a more commercial sheen. Yet it also sees the band experimenting with their sound like never before, and the end result is an eccentric collection of highs and lows that produced some of the most interesting (and highest charting) albums of their career. With the help of Andy’s jovial, moderating presence, we take on a divisive set of albums, and find far more jewels than we expected. Also: Controversial Opinions, Doug Gillard’s Extraneous Solos, and plenty of new stickers to help those albums fly off the shelves!
For more Andrew McAlpine, check out http://www.andrew-mcalpine.com/!