The Soundtrack of My Life: Parental AdvisoryPosted: April 3, 2013
Hard as it may be to believe, not all of the music I’ve listened to over the years has been what you might call “family friendly”. In fact, some of it crosses the line into downright offensive. Not in the sense of “it all depends on your taste”, but rather in the sense of “by any societal norm this is beyond the standards of appropriate”. That’s not to say I believe in censorship (obviously), but rather I at least acknowledge that I wouldn’t want children or my mother to listen to it (Mom, please take the hint. No, seriously. Stop reading. Like, right now.)
That having been said, I still love these albums. Some of them for their musical style, some of them for their social importance (and sometimes both), and some… well, I just have a sick sense of humor. Let’s just get it out there. I won’t laugh at just anything (Jimmy Fallon, this means you), but some kinds of vile humor when presented well can be so over-the-top that it’s actually entertaining. It’s not for everybody, but it works for me. (Seriously Mom, you can stop reading now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
So here’s some of my all-time favorite albums that push the boundaries and go places few others would dare.
N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton: Let’s just get the big one out of the way first, shall we? This is arguably the most important album in rap and hip-hop history, and certainly the most important album in gangsta rap. It launched the careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. While you can as easily make an argument that this album glamorizes the gangster lifestyle as it does making a realistic portrayal of it, for myself I have heard few (if any) later albums that have presented as honest and raw a depiction of life in a gang. With such lyrics as “I might stumble but I still won’t lose/now I’m dressed in the county blues” there is at least a cursory acknowledgement contained within the otherwise violent and misogynistic lyrics that this is not a lifestyle that has good long-term options. It is a brutal portrayal of a brutal situation, and one that, while not completely absent of humor, also does not completely shy away from boldly expressing an anger and frustration that did not have a clear voice up to that time in the music industry. Some of the key tracks I would recommend are the titular “Straight Outta Compton”, “Gangsta Gangsta”, “I Ain’t Tha 1”, “Dope Man”, and of course the famous “Fuck the Police”.
Faith No More – Angel Dust: I’ll be honest, I was never a big fan of Faith No More, in spite of their popular album The Real Thing (which contained the hit song “Epic”). Then they released Angel Dust and that all changed. “A Small Victory” completely rocked my world, and I decided to listen to the rest of the album (a friend had already bought it; this was back before downloads, even the illegal kind). The music was a wild ride, ranging back and forth from sedate and sedating to brutal and breathtaking, while the lyrics where hypnotic and disturbing all at once. This album came along at a time in my life when I was unsure about my direction, and the disjointed themes and mismatch between many of the lyrics and musical movements fit my mood perfectly; listening to it now takes me back to that time and helps remind me how far I’ve come. Some of my favorite tracks include the aforementioned “A Small Victory”, as well as “Midlife Crisis”, “Kindergarten”, “Crack Hitler”, and “Midnight Cowboy”.
Lords of Acid – Lust: This was one of the first techno albums I was ever introduced to, and to this day it remains one of my favorites. (That having been said, if you think you like techno and you don’t already own Pretty Hate Machine, hang your head in shame and then go educate yourself.) I remember the day I first heard it (this is going to sound strange, but bear with me). I was in a friend’s basement for our weekly gaming night (as I’ve already mentioned, I’m an RPG geek from way back) and he had invited a new guy to join our group. I don’t remember the guy’s name (sorry, guy) but he brought some music with him, and I do remember this. It was like a revelation for me. The bass that pumped right through me, the beats that got my heart pumping, and the vocals… well… Mom, if you’re still reading this despite all my warnings, just stop now. I’ll wait.
I swear to you now, it was like aural sex. There’s just no other way to describe it. With an album title like Lust I suppose that’s to be expected, and it’s definitely a theme album, but just wow. Did they ever nail it. It’s dirty, it’s rough, and it’s got it all down. I’ve heard more than one person say this is the best album ever to have sex to, and I can’t disagree. This isn’t an album for or about making love, this is about getting your freak on, and for that purpose there is no substitute. If you’re up to it, the best tracks on the album would be “Take Control”, “Rough Sex”, “I Sit On Acid”, “Lessons In Love”, and “Hey Ho!”, although really it’s best experienced as a whole.
Gwar – Scumdogs of the Universe and America Must Be Destroyed: And at last we come to the grand finale. Gwar is a band that truly has no redeeming features. You either love them or you are completely repulsed by them. A satirical heavy metal band that goes beyond pushing the envelope and moves straight into ripping it to shreds, they use elaborate props and costumes as part of a stage show that violates every possible obscenity law… on purpose. These guys go out of their way to offend. They’ve been banned in at least one state that I know of, and they’ve also been nominated for at least one Grammy (long form video for Phallus In Wonderland, based off the album America Must Be Destroyed). While there have been other attempts to do revolting satire of metal, I haven’t found one yet that quite strikes the balance between musicality (yes, they do actually manage to play their instruments passably well), surprisingly intelligent and socially relevant lyrics (if you can get past all of the offensiveness), and brilliantly raunchy humor. The tracks that I would recommend trying to see if you can appreciate their unique brand of satire would be “The Salamanizer”, “Slaughterama”, “Vlad the Impaler”, “Sexecutioner”, “Have You Seen Me?”, “The Morality Squad”, “America Must Be Destroyed”, “Blimey”, and “The Road Behind”. Just make sure you have a strong stomach.