This week we'll be following up the Top 100 Albums of 2010-2019 with interviews with each participant, where we discuss their personal #1 picks of the decade. Today is the last of the interviews. I hope you enjoyed getting a little bit more insight into the minds of (some) of the PN staffers. We'll see you all again in ten years!
Danny Wimmer’s #1 pick: Jeff Rosenstock - Worry. (2016)
Hey there, Danny! How' you doing? For the Top 100 Albums of 2010-2020 project, you chose Jeff Rosenstock's 2016 album Worry. as your #1 pick of the decade. Tell me a bit more about what lead you to choose this as your favorite album of the decade.
I'm doing well, Jeff, glad to hear from you this morning. The shortest and most honest answer is probably because I’m 30. This album speaks to a lot of themes and feelings that play on nostalgia and youthful years slipping away, but also reevaluated priorities, false integrity, settling into your life’s trajectory, and working too damn hard to still be fighting the same battles, and whether you’re commiserating along with Rosenstock during opener "We Begged 2 Explode" or the subject of his ire, I don’t think there’s any escaping these new paradigms to wrestle whenever it is you start to mature in the themes of your life. These aren’t exactly rare or un-tread topics in punk but they definitely benefit from the age and experience of Rosenstock on this record.
It is a pretty explosive album, and really features a lot of the hallmarks of his musical style. Now, you've got what are probably his three "major" releases from the decade on your list, so I'm assuming your a big fan of his work. But what is it that separates Worry. from We Cool? (#36) and Post- (#75) for you?
So this is where things get a little weird, maybe a little on the wonky side, as far as album reviews go, but it’s certainly fitting that you brought up “hallmarks” and “style”. As an album I feel like Worry. is much more its own flavor, a unique piece of art that bears all of the Rosenstock hallmarks but leaves little of the mountain of influences that go into all of his works. A little out of step with declaring this my Album of the Decade, I really don’t care for most of the influences that went into it; I don’t greatly enjoy most of Jeff’s labelmates, tour mates, or the contributing acts with the closest ties to Jeff’s music or career. I think here the ingredients are a bit more obscured in the opacity of the art, they inform the album without leaving a clear footprint more so than on his other solo releases of the decade. We Cool? is a great batch of songs but without the cohesion and grandeur of the subsequent two releases, and Post- excels in both cohesion and grandeur but the individual song quality isn’t at the same level (outside of the excellent “USA”) of the previous two records, and the inherent rowdiness is greatly missed.
"Wonky" (laughter) Seriously, though, I think that's a pretty good answer. I haven't really thought about those albums that much but, now that you've said it, I can buy into what you're saying. This may be a silly question, but I have to check- where you a fan of Bomb the Music Industry! as well?
I’d heard some of the BTMI stuff here and there but nothing that really did it for me, mostly later, more mellow output. So no, I wasn’t a contemporary fan of Bomb the Music Industry, but I’ve gone back digging through the back catalogue since and I really dig a few of the albums; they’re all good releases. If I had to pick a favorite I’d land on Goodbye Cool World!
Hmmm… I've typically found (and I may be off the mark with this) that most of his fans are carryovers from BTMI. I guess you're proof that I am wrong about that! (laughter). If I may ask, then, how DID you discover Jeff Rosenstock?
That's probably not too off-base as a generalization, but I found him at some point in the promotion for Worry., I think the first of what I heard was the music video for the single “Wave Goodnight To Me”, which didn’t strike me as anything exceptional other than being a very well done pop-punk song. But by time I heard tracks “Pash Rash” and “Festival Song” I knew this album (and Jeff!) was offering something pretty special. To this day it’s just about the only punk record in my collection my wife will quote to me, one of very few she’s spun alone at home, which for me is special testimony to Worry.’s impact and appeal, and speaks to the power in the underlying truths which form the album. Love is Worry.
(laughter) OK, so if we took the 2010-2019 decade limitation out of it, how does Worry. rank among your all-time favorite albums?
Wow, what a huge fucking question. Let me get back to you in, like, a week or two. (laughter) Where does it land, all-time, greatest punk albums? It’s high, probably by far the highest of any you’d consider pop-punk, but honestly so are my other two albums that rounded out my decade-list top 3, Rogue Taxidermy and Joy as an Act of Resistance, and it pains me that neither made our Top 100. My list was certainly guilty of straight-up recency bias, but I really do think that the last decade, last two decades, have produced every bit as much great, all-timer class material as any other ten year period since MC5 were kicking out the jams. To give an answer, I think I could easily slot Worry. into an all-time Top 25.
Sheesh… so low. You must not really like it THAT much… (laughter). OK, let's finish this off: Favorite song off of the album, and why?
Oh I have to say “Festival Song.” Because Jeff Rosenstock, through the years he’s put into his music, the DIY ethic he lives, the way his labor has touched and transformed scenes across the country, through the scope of his output and consistency of values in his words and his actions, is just Mr. fucking Integrity in the punk scene. To hear him call out how “this is not a movement / It's just careful entertainment / For an easy demographic / In our sweatshop denim jackets” is a sting that hurts just right in the parts of me that are still a work in progress.
Well, Danny, unless you have anything more to add about the album, I think that'll be it?
Oh I think I've said plenty. And, really, what could I say that's more meaningful than 'Worry. was the greatest album of the decade'?
I don't think you could say more to convince anyone, other than a duel or fisticuffs! (laughter)
Greg Simpson’s #1 pick: The Hives - Lex Hives (2012)
Hey there, Greg! What's up? For the Top 100 Albums of 2010-2020 project, you chose The Hives' 2012 album Lex Hives as your #1 pick of the decade. What is it about this album that made it your top pick?
The Hives are not the most prolific band, but when they put out an album they make it fucking count. Between 1997 and present day they’ve only put out five albums, but they are all fantastic slabs of fevered-pitch garage-punk with a loveable and oftentimes hilarious shtick about being the best band in the world (although those statements are often pretty close to true). Each album has shown a lot of growth, no doubt helped from gaps between records, with the most sizable gap being before this album. I was waiting for Lex Hives for five years and it did not disappoint. I awarded it a perfect 10 on my review of the album at its time of release, and obviously with me putting it at #1 on my personal list eight years later proves that I stand by that score. They are also the best live band I have ever seen, and that includes my favorite band of all time, They Might Be Giants, and those guys ain’t no slackers when it comes to a captivating, rocking show. With this Hives album, the addition of some 50s style rock n’ roll tricks mixed into yet another batch of amazing tunes was what put it over the edge for me into perfect album territory. Pounding upright pianos, bari and tenor saxes honking out the chord changes along with buzzing bass, aggressively trebly guitars coming at you from both speakers, and Pele Almquist’s patented howl still somehow in peak form, Lex Hives is the best album of the 2010’s. The fact that none of the other staff members here did recognized that is a goddamn shame, and it not making the top 100 at all is a tragedy on par with the sinking of the Titanic. Fuck!"
You'd think I'd know how to spell his name by now… sorry I didn't check first - it's "Pelle Almqvist"
Pelle Almqvist is a tough name to remember. Don't worry about it! (laughter) So, I can get why The Hives ended up anywhere on this list, but I never thought of them as garage punk. More like part of the garage rock "revival."
If you listen to their debut Barely Legal and Veni Vedi Vicious you will hear the speed that lands them in punk territory. The White Stripes were a blues rock band. The Strokes were ripping off Television. But the Hives were coming from a punk and post punk world with the speed of the Ramones, the guitar tones and jittery nature of The Jam, and the volume of The Who. Add those three influences together and you get garage punk.
Hmmm… I'll admit, I never really heard most of their music except for some of the more "popular" songs that were played around, so I just chalked them up as part of that 70s rock kinda thing.
Now, you have mentioned some… displeasure… about no one else picking the album, and it not making the top 100. Would you like to venture a guess as to why that may be? Not the math part of why it didn't make the Top 100, but why no one else even thought to add it to their list?
Here's my guess - our staff all of a sudden skewed younger than even when we did our Best Of 2000-2009 listing. These KIDS don't understand how important that early aughts thing was. It wasn't the way Rolling Stone and Spin wrote about it, it didn't pull shitty mainstream tastes away from manufactured pop back into liking actual rock music, but it DID bring some bands to prominence that became gateway bands to people a decade younger than me, and to people my age it proved that yes the underground rock and indie musicians can still pop there heads up and get on the radio however briefly. Our staff is even younger than that, maybe they were in elementary school when VVV broke big with "Hate To Say I Told You So" (the best single out of any of those bands, better than "Seven Nation Army," better than "Last Night,") so they don't understand how big it was for me as a punk kid at a conservative college to hear a band so fast, jagged and rightfully egotistical in a New York Dolls / Richard Hell kinda way to have a hit single. I bought the album and their first album and goddamn, these swedes were better than all those Brooklyn bands together, and the White Stripes who seemed slow as molasses in comparison.
This may or may not be a fair observation, but do you think this may have slipped under the radar for many readers because it was, really, their only significant release of the decade (barring the 2010 EP Tarred and Feathered). With such little output, and being eight years since its release, maybe some people just… forgot about it?
I made a pretty big stink about it around the site when it came out, with my 10/10 review and a live review from their Chicago show on that tour. Hey, I'm Greg0rb, you should pay attention to me! But you're right. The guys had kids - a bunch of their kids came to that show because it was the last show of the tour before they flew back to Sweden - so that slowed them down significantly. When they DO put out a new record, you better believe I will actually write a text review for it and yell it from the rooftops.
(laughter) So, like a lot of bands, even moderately successful ones, life kid of gets in the way. I mean, also, when you reach a certain level of success, the band becomes a brand. So you can't just whip anything out and say "this is our band's new album," right? I think that's why so many veterans start venturing into side projects. Maybe its also just fatigue?
It could be fatigue, but I think it's more the family thing. I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty certain these guys must have day jobs now with so long between albums and tours. But when they DO put out an album, they go ALL out, they don't half ass it. Lex Hives is proof of that, and it probably took the longest to record of any album since there was so much extra instrumentation like pianos, organs, synths, saxophones, etc. And when they tour, it's like 6-9 month international tours. Whatever jobs they have must be lenient to let them do that every few years! And like I said before they've had family travel international to come see them, so they have families that understand their jobs, or at this point it might just be a very intense side-hustle. (laughter)
And to be fair to them, they haven't been completely silent since Lex Hives. They released one song "Blood Red Moon" in 2015, and two songs in 2019, "I'm Alive" and "Good Samaritan." Putting out two singles in 2019 has me waiting for a 2020 LP, but I haven't heard anything from their official site or social media about that happening.
So, no news as of that 2019 single? Didn't they pick up one of the guys from Randy at some point? I think I recall hearing about that…
Holy shit I hadn’t heard that!! Bassist Dr. Matt Destruction left shortly after Lex Hives! Dammit!
They also have a touring drummer listed on Wikipedia so I guess Chris Dangerous doesn’t always tour with them. Like they’re doing much touring? His style is amazing and helps define the band; I can’t imagine seeing them with someone else behind the kit. Oh wow but it’s Joey Castillo, drummer of Queens of the Stone Age, and he’s also drummed with Danzig and Eagles of Death Metal among others. So yeah he might do ok but he’s a hard rock guy not a garage rock guy. I guess I’d give him a chance. (Laughs)
Everything you just said after "Oh wow…" was a total turn off for me… (laughter)
(Laughter) So you’re not a QotSA fan either? I liked that one song that was on whatever EA hockey game that was out in 2004, that’s about it… (laughs). Thanks a lot Jeff, now I’m making a Spotify playlist of songs from my Top 100 albums OF ALL TIME. My day is now filled and nothing else may be done, sorry honey I can’t pick all the wintertime dog poop out of the backyard, what a shame. (cue greg0rb giggles) Give me a couple hours and I’ll get back to you.
Yeah. I think I saw QotSA on SNL or something and I was like "no thank you." (laughter) So, taking the decade requirement out of the mix, how does Lex Hives stand in your overall list of favorite albums?
JESUS H CRACKERS JEFF I’M MAKING MY TOP 100, I’ll get back to you in a year! (laughs) Making a top album list of all-time is super difficult for any huge music fan, but in my 17 years teaching music I’ve had excuses to dig into genres other than what I was already super familiar with (read: punk, indie, emo, hardcore, classic rock, oldies, Motown) and so in my brain’s running top albums list I was starting adding albums in genres like folk (favorite album Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land: The Complete Asch Recordings, Vol. 1), old country (Carter Family’s Wildwood Flower), blues (Robert Johnson’s The Complete Recordings), jazz (Billie Holiday’s Lady In Satin), hip hop (Outkast Stankonia and more. Soooooo this was difficult to gauge where Lex Hives would fall among these titans of their respective genres.
I would say my favorite album of all-time is a typical one: The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, followed The Who’s Who’s Next followed by The Beatles’ Revolver and probably David Bowie’s Hunky Dory and then something by The Supremes which is tough because my favorite era of theirs were during a singles-consuming pop music time than an album time, but I would have to go with The Supremes A’ Go-Go. Jumping to punk and indie, what I’ve focused on with Punknews for obviously reasons, I’d have even more titanic albums like Dookie, And Out Come The Wolves, backwards to Patti Smith’s Horses, Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Modest Mouse’s Lonesome Crowded West, the Mountain Goats All Hail West Texas and The Sunset Tree and Dinosaur Jr.’s You’re Living All Over Me and Bug.
Lex Hives would definitely make the top 100, and miiiight make the top 100. Still working on a Spotify Playlist and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole life and my choices haunt me in the dark of the night. This is VERY important and the world wants to know my opinions. sarcasm detector explodes At this point, a random guess would be that it would fall at #75 on my all-time list. It is the best garage-rock / garage-punk record, and while that seems like a baseball stat where they say “this guy has a good chance of hitting a double or better because at Fenway, in night games when the temperature is below 60, he has hit 20 doubles in 70 at-bats.” (laughs) But yeah that’s what I’m sticking with at the moment. DAMMIT JEFF.
(laughter) That's quite a lengthy answer and, to be quite honest, I'm surprised it actually landed on a specific number towards the end! OK, final question: favorite song on the album, and why?
That's an easier question. Every song on this album is perfect, but the most perfect is the closer, "Midnight Shifter." I love it so much that I used it to base an Outdoor Velour song on in 2015, thinly veiling in a working title called "Got The Hives" which ended up sticking even after it had lyrics. On setlists now we just write "Hives." (laughs) "Midnight Shifter" encapsulates the growth of the band. At it's heart it's a punk song in the Ramones tradition- simple and hard-hitting beat, crunchy barre chords and buzzing bass. But keeping with the production of Lex Hives, the layer on thick saxophone chords between bari and tenors, to beef up the progression, and some pounding Little-Richard style piano. Listen to "Midnight Shifter" and then my song "Got The Hives" and you'll see why I agree that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." The Hives are the best garage band of my lifetime, hands down, and even in the broader punk genre, one of the best punk bands of my lifetime. It's unfortunate they've only put out five albums, which is partially why the album was wronged by all the other staff members.
Awesome! Well, Greg, thanks for chatting with me about your #1 pick of the decade. This whole project has been a blast!
Totally! I love this nerdy shit.