Gordon MacLachlan was born in 1967. He divides his time between music instruction, domestic bliss, and several fame-and-fortune-eluding musical projects in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (one of which is the rock group Turntable Graveyard). He has no idea what goes on in the spiritual realm, and instead finds solace in Kurt Vonnegut, David Lynch, and Coca-Cola.
Should there be more contemporary stuff engaged with here? Yeah, sure. But this is what I’m listening to now, and it’s still catalyzing for me to hear the insurgency in these records, like the artists had to secure it before it burned away.
At any rate here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – The Beatles, The Beatles: I hope someday I hear a better collection of songs, but I’ve been waiting about 33 and 1/3 years. It really wasn’t fair—3 of the greatest songwriters to ever shiver in a van together stepping up their game in the midst of 1968’s seismic, postmodern cultural mutations. These are the songs that people who don’t know The Beatles don’t know. From the moment I put the needle down on my surprisingly white vinyl pressing it was awe and wonder at what pop, rock and folk were capable of doing to me. This is the Harrison of While My Guitar and Long, Long, Long, the McCartney of Blackbird and Mother Nature’s Son. Everyone’s got a favorite singer and songwriter and John Lennon picked up both checks for me—it’s his songs especially that elevate this stunning, weird, spooky, raucous, beautiful double album which seems to tick off every popular song form of the century up to that point. I keep putting this album on because if it’s not Dear Prudence, it’s Julia; if it’s not I’m So Tired, it’s Cry Baby Cry; if it’s not Sexy Sadie (from which Radiohead copped the Karma Police bridge, and maybe some inspiration), then it’s Everybody’s Got Something To Hide. And it’s always Happiness Is A Warm Gun.
2 – Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: Slanted and Enchanted was never the one for me. I prefer this tighter but still loose, soaring and endlessly catchy gold sound. Probably my favorite sophomore full-length, it’s become to me the embodiment of the wise-ass but romantic ethos that I’ve steered my compass by since, well, Letterman. I will always prefer genuine feeling and rough-hewn melody from a bunch of smart-ass pop punks to any of these flaky, soul-patched, stream-of-consciousness, meandering-melody, structurally-boring, self-consciously sensitive coffeehouse candy-asses who believe everything they think of while sitting on the can is poetry. I crush on things metafictive, and this record is as much about rock as it is rock. An ambivalence pervades the album, from the seemingly triumphant, immediately undercut howl of “This is the city life/Oh come on, let’s talk about leaving” in the opener Silence Kit to the final lines in Fillmore Jive (“When they pull out their plugs and they snort up their drugs/Their throats are filled with”). Singer/writer Stephen Malkmus evokes a world-wise-weariness and off-the-cuff erudition that isn’t so much Jane’s Addiction as it is Finnegan’s fucking Wake. Pavement’s work is that eternal diamond in the rough; to quote Neil Diamond, a melodist that Malkmus likely appreciates, it’s a Beautiful Noise.
3 – The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers: Even if I didn’t grow up an off-ramp away from the highway that was Jonathan Richman’s girlfriend as he went by quick, this music would be cool like being alive is cool. (That’s G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N.) A record ahead of its time, even when released in 1976 four years after it was made, and a record I listen to every month without fail. The two tracks getting the most—and it wasn’t much—play when I first heard them were Pablo Picasso and Roadrunner, which don’t really represent the heartbreakingly vulnerable, guilelessly original, and frankly hilarious personae that the album is awash in. Is Jonathan Richman taking the piss? Nah. I think he really does like Hippy Johnny despite wanting to take his place. I think he really does go to bakeries on account of the lack of sweetness in his life. And I think he really does still love his parents and the old world. But I also think that this VU-infused band–with its rhythm guitar chank and keyboard fuzz, cultivating a drummer for The Cars and keyboardist for Talking Heads, and precipitating a swath of bands from Sonic Youth to Stereolab—rocked like a goddamn fireball on songs like She Cracked and Someone I Care About. Seminal stuff, almost unmatchable.
4 – Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul: Yeah it’s a compilation, but at my age you sometimes feel that life is too short to fuck around—just give me the single malt. For instance, the way she abandons the lyric to the backup singers on the chorus so she can just wail, enraptured, on I Say A Little Prayer. What a tremendous body of work she’s left us, a stirring and ecstatic definition of strong, sexy, and soulful. More than any single artist I’ve experienced, Aretha’s the one that seems to leave taste and subjectivity behind—if nothing she does does something to you, you may be lost, pilgrim. To these ears, she’s the greatest voice in the history of recorded music, and really it’s not close. Listening to the climax of the gorgeous dream that is Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby), I realize that no one like Aretha can make 3 and 1/2 minutes seem 3 hours too brief. Re-re-re-revisit this most sublime of box sets—there was never an apter title.
5 – Pixies, Doolittle: Critics have belabored the link between this Massachusetts band’s quiet/LOUD formal tendencies to Nirvana’s—but the umbilical noose I focus on is the lyrics. Smart, vivid, economic, graphic, romantic. How kindred is Cobain’s Heart-Shaped Box to Doolittle’s final track Gouge Away: “Sleeping on your belly/You break my arms/You spoon my eyes/Been rubbing a bad charm/With holy fingers”? But the sound really is the story on this record—the unsung Santiago’s howling, lurid, deafening guitars; Francis’s top-tier caterwaul and silver melodies constantly driven forward into splendor and unease by Deal and Lovering. This album has found a lot of fans over the years, but boy is a lot of trash heaped on their swan song Trompe le Monde. But that record is another masterpiece and I’d likely have picked it first if I hadn’t heard this one first. Their passion, their intelligence, their uncompromising aesthetic of surreal and glorious, their charming edge–these guys sparked the best rock of the last 25 years.