Wednesday, December 22, 2004

DB Up in Your Ear: The Top 40 Kick-Ass Songs of All Time

I was at the gym recently pummeling away at the damnable elliptical contraption when the worst thing in the world happened: the batteries in my iPod kicked out on me. I was therefore subjected to 25 dim and horrid minutes of background gym music. “Toxic,” by Britney Spears, was the only song near tolerable. Yes, it was a time to sweat and think and Bear Down.

I started thinking about Top 40 radio, wondering who listened to this kind of broadly accessible music nowadays. Certainly not anyone that I know, I thought. I then started thinking: What if I could program a radio station and play my Top 40 of All Time Kick-Ass greats?

As soon as I got home, I began to occupy myself with compiling and composing criteria, important geek tasks of the highest order. An all-time kick-ass song, as I defined it, was a song you have a history with: you played it after a job interview in your car and screamed at the top of your lungs. You cranked it to 11 after a final exam until the entire dormitory pounded at your door and told you to have a little respect dude, other people are still trying to study. You used it as a crutch to get you around that last quarter-mile on the track. And on and on.

I started to get into specifics, and realized only certain kinds of songs qualified. For example, some songs make me feel bad ass, but aren’t necessarily all-time kick-ass material, like “Still D.R.E.,” by Dr. Dre. Then there are songs that are compulsive and giddy and great, like “Ma and Pa,” by Fishbone, and “Let’s Push Things Forward,” by The Streets, but don’t quite rank with the kick-ass heavyweights.

The list started to take form and shape. As I looked it over, I realized that in many ways it revealed a lot about me, as though I were letting long lost secrets, notes, and files out of my own personal Musical & Emotional Vault. That’s stupid, though, I thought. But is it?

Without further adieu, here’s my Top 40 Kick-Ass Songs of All Time, in no particular order. Have a look, and please hit me back with your own kick-ass agenda, your own top secret musical files.

Burnt Orange Peels – Beck
Say Anything – Bouncing Souls
Sick of It All – The Distillers
Can I Run – L7
Walking Contradiction – Green Day
Broken Face – Pixies (live)
Crackity Jones – Pixies (live)
Super Rad – Aquabats
Police On My Back – The Clash
What’s Golden – Jurassic 5

Woman in the House – Brother Meat (live)
The Unknown Soldier – The Doors
Peace Frog – The Doors
Pocket Full of Fatcaps – Downset
Know Your Enemy – Rage Against the Machine
Do It Clean – Echo & the Bunnymen
War – Edwin Star
I Just Want to Celebrate – Rare Earth
How’s My Driving – Less Than Jake
Zero – Perfect Thyroid

Damage, Inc. – Metallica
Devil’s Night Out – The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones
My Sharona – The Knack
I Got No – Operation Ivy
Live at P.J.’s – The Beastie Boys
Salvation – Rancid
All You Need – Sublime
Step One – Suicide Machines
Strike – Suicide Machines
C’mon C’mon – The Von Bondies

Insubordination – Voodoo Glow Skulls
Last Party – Voodoo Glow Skulls
Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth – The Dandy Warhols (live)
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Ski Bunny – Boss Hog
Freedom of Choice – Devo
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter – Nirvana
Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
Trendy – Reel Big Fish
Fall Together – Weezer


The Sore Loser said...

Just one Nirvana song and two Doors songs? Your transformation into a complete punk-ska-guy-o-phile is nearly complete.

Your description of what constitutes a "kick ass" song reminded me of my songs of choice for my last batch of philosophy interviews. Though I blush to admit it, I mostly listened to Blood of Eden (Peter Gabriel) for comfort and The Man in Me (Bob Dylan) when I really felt like whupping it up. Let the good times roll.

I'm not going to produce a top 40 list, but here are a few I'd like to mention:

When the Levee Breaks -- Led Zeppelin
Kiss - Prince
American Jesus - Bad Religion
Bourbon and Division - Firewater
West End Blues - Louis Armstrong
Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin
She's Not There - The Zombies
Hey! - Suicide Machines

Eric Berlin said...

I don't think I've converted into anything, my friend. If anything, my tastes have gotten more and more eclectic over the years. To note from this list:

Beck, The Distillers, L7, Bouncing Souls, Green Day, Pixies, The Clash, Jurassic 5, Brother Meat, Downset, Rage ATM, Echo & the Bunnymen, Edwin Star, Rare Earth, Metallica, The Knack, The Beastie Boys, The Von Bondies, The Dandy Warhols, Boss Hog, Devo, Oingo Boingo, Weezer.

Not ska-punk. So not every band you haven't heard of is ska-punk, brotha (wink wink).

A band like The Doors just isn't going to get up there on the "kick-ass" scale. Great music, sure, but not kick-ass on the all time level. Similarly with Led Zeppelin -- great and classic heavy metal, sure, but still... Even Nirvana, while one of my favorite bands, has a downbeat quality that is more suitable to an angry-depressive mindstate than one where you wish to get your kick-ass on.

It's a state-of-mind, I guess.