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Splintered live sides and revamped classics pop up at random

By MATT BERRY
STATIC and FEEDBACK staff writer

If radios still had dials, this would be the equivalent of taking a spin around the dial...

1. The Beatles — “Nowhere Man(Yellow Submarine): Ah, Rubber Soul-era Beatles. Still clinging to the ultra-catchy pop that made them pop idols, yet starting to add the lyrical and musical depth that would make them, well… The Beatles. Sorry, I actually spent too much time listening to this song and not writing. Whoops.

2. The Hold Steady — “Magazines (Athens GA): I’m a glutton for punishment, so I decided to download a bootleg of the one chance I’ve had to see The Hold Steady. I didn’t. That was stupid. This show, judging by the bootleg, was high energy, and the band was clicking on all cylinders. Even this somewhat weak track from Stay Positive comes alive during the band’s performance.

3. The White Stripes — “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)(Get Behind Me Satan): Aww yeah, marimba rock, y’all! In all seriousness, what other band would even attempt an album featuring multiple marimba-heavy songs, let alone pull it off as well as The White Stripes did? Jack White deftly overlays subtle acoustic guitars over the marimba and piano. The best part of the song is White’s multi-tracked vocals, particularly entering the final chorus.

4. The Beatles — “Dig a Pony(Let it Be… Naked): The 2003 remaster of the Beatles final album is one of the few examples where a revisit turns out far better than the original album. Paul McCartney famously hated the over-the-top production of Phil Spector on the original release. (Oh yeah, remember when Phil Spector was remembered simply as the guy who put that wall of sound over the greatest band of all time? What a simpler time.) John Lennon’s voice, along with each instrument track, pops in this mix, unlike the muddled original version. It’s nice to hear one of the band’s best riffs get the sound quality it deserves.

5. The Black Keys — “If You See Me(thickfreakness): Listening to The Black Keys first two albums now is somewhat shocking, given the drastic evolution the band has taken since 2006’s Magic Potion. The band simply doesn’t make such straightforward blues-rock songs anymore. That’s probably a good thing, as I’m not sure how long the band could have sustained releasing so many albums with such a similar sound. Rubber Factory still stands out as a great bridge between the two eras.

6. Pearl Jam — “Parting Ways(Seattle 11-6-2000): It’s amazing that we’re coming up on the tenth anniversary since the beginning of Pearl Jam’s experimentation with releasing bootlegs of every concert. This bootleg (which I bought in … 2002, maybe?) is what turned me into a full blown Pearl Jam addict. Coming off a grueling, year-long, globe-spanning tour and the tragedy at the Roskilde Festival, there were plenty of people who thought this might be the last show the band would ever play. That includes members of the band. If it had been, they certainly would have gone out on top. The setlist was long and incredible, and the band played with purpose and love for their craft and their city.

7. R.E.M — “New Test Leper(New Adventures in Hi-Fi): This might be Michael Stipe’s shining moment as a lyricist. On the surface, the song is told from the perspective of a freak on a TV talk show. The song is riddled with double meanings, though. At the core of the song is what Stipe perceives as the contradiction between the teachings of the Christian scripture and the attitudes of its followers. Stipe juxtaposes biblical references (“‘Judge not lest ye be judged’/What a beautiful refrain”) with the standoffishness of some of the church’s followers (“‘You are lost and disillusioned’/What an awful thing to say”). It’s easy to compare Stipe’s experiences as a gay man in the South with that of the “leper” narrator.

8. Bruce Springsteen — “The Rising(The Rising): Let’s face it: Bruce Springsteen can be pretty damned depressing. The working class Jersey hero doesn’t sugarcoat much. Yet the Boss’ 2002 homage to the post-9/11 New York Metropolitan area is undeniably hopeful. Instead of seeing the empty sky where the World Trade Center stood as solemn and dreadful, Springsteen sees is as a sky of love, hope, and opportunity.

9. Built to Spill — “Aisle 13(There is No Enemy): “One day I’ll come home to find you/Covered in ants/Cuz you’re so sweet.” Okay, so these lyrics may not be as brilliant as those from “Conventional Wisdom,” but the lead riff of this opening track from last year’s There is No Enemy is delightfully catchy. Built to Spill is best when they’re doing exactly what they do in this song: weaving an intricate symphony of guitar.

10. The White Stripes — “When I Hear My Name(Under Great White Northern Lights): The Stripes’ first full-length live album serves as a soundtrack to the fascinating documentary of the same name. Both the album and the film capture the band’s incredibly frenetic energy onstage and Jack White’s compulsive need to experiment. On “When I Hear My Name,” the only part of the original song that survives in its original form is about the first 45 seconds, before the band takes it in about four different directions.

April 12, 2010

E-mail Matt Berry at matt@staticandfeedback.com

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