classic album dissections 2019

FugaziRepeater & 3 SongsRepeater available on iTunes

Fugazi Repeater

Fugazi was a post-punk band from Washington D.C. that maintained a fiercely independent, DIY ethic and still went on to sell millions of records. Though their best known song is probably "Waiting Room" from their 1988 self-titled EP, their first full length album, Repeater, deserves to be considered a classic album according to Jim and Greg.

Initially an open-ended outlet for former Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye's musical creativity, Fugazi grew into something more when all four members found ways to contribute their ideas. MacKaye told Jim and Greg that Repeater was their first release after former Rites of Spring singer Guy Picciotto started playing guitar in the group in addition to singing. Greg pointed out that Picciotto and MacKaye approached their guitars more like sound machines than traditional instruments, letting the rhythm section of drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally drive the songs. The conversation covers the lyrical differences between Fugazi and Minor Threat, the importance of Fugazi's live shows and explains why a tank of helium was necessary for one of Fugazi's biggest shows in Chicago.

Do you have a story to share about Fugazi? Join our discussion group.

Go to episode 722
Rocket to Russia

The Ramones Rocket to Russia

In 1976, The Ramones blasted onto the budding punk scene with their self-titled first LP and blew critics away with their blistering speed and old-school simplicity. However, it wasn't until the next year, after a monumental European tour and the release of their third album, Rocket to Russia, that the group's characteristic break-neck punk sound flooded the airwaves and the took the rock world by storm. This week, Jim and Greg revisit a Classic Album Dissection of The Ramones' 1977 speed machine featuring their 2007 conversation with drummer and producer Tommy Ramone. Jim and Greg, curious about the magic behind masters of punk, ask Tommy about the day-to-day during the recording process and the band's cross-pond rivalry with British punk group the Sex Pistols. Tommy tells all, including the story of the band's suburban origins and the secret behind Dee Dee's famous, though not-so-useful count-offs.

To stake their flag in the dissection's conclusion, Jim and Greg each choose their favorite song from Rocket to Russia. Jim plays "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", calling it the“perfect rock song”and reminiscing about his young days listening to The Ramones. Greg settles on the song "We're a Happy Family" as a representation of the Ramones knack for writing catchy social commentary. The song satirizes the idea of perfect suburban family life represented so often by TV programs at the time, a poignant topic for the suburban-boy Ramones from Queens, New York.

Go to episode 714

Marvin Gaye What's Going On

In 1971, Marvin Gaye released his iconic album What's Going On, one that is beloved by many critics and fans alike. This album marked a huge departure for Gaye, as most of his catalogue at the time had mostly consisted of love ballads and upbeat tracks. On What's Going On, Gaye wrote, and sang, about polarizing and controversial topics at the time, like racism, the environment and drugs, themes that today seem more relevant than ever. He also wrote about his personal struggles, such as difficulties within his marriage and the heartbreaking death of his duet partner and close friend Tammi Terrell. Along with the powerful lyrical messages he delivered, the sonic elements of the record are just as impactful. Marvin Gaye enlisted talented musicians such as The Funk Brothers and also the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to create a magnificent blend of sounds that could evoke emotion from a brick wall.

Greg and Jim explain what was going on in the country at the time of the album's creation and release, and talk about what Gaye was dealing with personally. They'll also chat with NFL Hall of Fame member and retired Detroit Lion Lem Barney about his experience working on the title track which led him to receive a gold record.

Go to episode 711

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps

40 years ago this summer, Neil Young, along with the band Crazy Horse, released the iconic album Rust Never Sleeps. The 1979 release was mostly recorded live during Young's 1978 tour, save some overdubs. As Jim and Greg discuss, it was in large part a response to the emerging punk music. How does a classic rocker from the '60s grow and evolve? This is how. As Young sings in "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," "It's better to burn out, than to fade away."

That song bookends the album, with the middle tracks broken into an acoustic section and an electric one. Jim remarks how brave it was for Young to come out with nothing but an acoustic guitar. He particularly loves the song "Pocahontas," which makes reference to the Native American icon in addition to the Hollywood icon Marlon Brando. Greg chooses to highlight the hard-stomping electric "Powderfinger," which attempts to reconcile America's complicated identity.

Go to episode 710
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De La Soul 3 Feet High And Rising

Jim and Greg explore De La Soul's 1989 3 Feet High And Rising, one of the most enduring albums from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. It was a recording that broke the mold of what hip-hop could be, utilizing Prince Paul's artful, eclectic production, and Mase, Trugoy, and Posdnuos' unique style.

Greg notes that it's an album that celebrated uniqueness, and made it okay for rappers to be“nerdy”rather than "street". The hosts also dig into the story of the breakout hit from 3 Feet High and Rising, Me, Myself, and I. They also explore how the album's 200 samples set the stage for a decades long legal battle that impacted the sound of hip hop for years to come.

Go to episode 704
The StoogesFunhouseFun House available on iTunes

The Stooges Fun House

For our first Classic Album Dissection of the year, we're looking at The Stooges' second album, Fun House. It was a big left turn after their debut album in 1969, The Stooges, which was produced by John Cale fresh off The Velvet Underground. Where their debut featured production flourishes like hand claps and sleigh bells, Fun House was recorded almost entirely live to tape- including Iggy Pop's energetic vocals. The album wound up being recorded live because the producer, Elektra staff producer Don Gallucci (who also happens to have played keyboard on The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie,") removed all the sound proofing from the studio in an attempt to replicate the band's live set-up — including giving Iggy a hand-held microphone. With no baffles, there was so much“bleed”that multitracking was impossible. The irony was that the Elektra studios were state of the art to achieve quiet and“clean”recordings for the folk artists who made up the majority of the Elektra lineup at the time. It's easy to draw parallels between the Fun House sessions and Gallucci's experience recording "Louie Louie" seven years prior. Gallucci told Jim and Greg that The Kingsmen weren't happy with Jack Ely's vocals on their first take, but the engineer refused to turn down his vocal microphone (and he lacked the self control to stand further away). The band's creative solution was to suspend the mic above Ely, so he couldn't reach it and his vocals would be buried in the mix. The unintended side effect was a room sound, creating the“goofy party”effect as Gallucci described it.

Jim and Greg both profess to be big fans of The Stooges, though they differ when it comes to Fun House. Greg declares it one of the greatest rock records ever recorded, while Jim says he loves the song-oriented first half, but can't stand the free jazz-influenced second half. Jim cites "Down On The Street" and "Dirt" (and a Lester Bangs essay on Fun House) as crucial to the development of the punk aesthetic. Greg calls the experimental second half of the record an evocative synthesis of rock, funk and free jazz. He insists that the chemistry between Iggy, guitarist Ron and drummer Scott Asheton, bassist Dave Alexander and saxophonist Steve Mackay was so singular, that is may never be replicated.

Go to episode 692