Back in the days when we were all on Livejournal, these kinds of survey games were passed back and forth like so many Christmas cakes. The line “I nominate…” was always greeted, at least by myself, with dread and salivating expectation. I loved to inappropriately pour my heart out on the Internet yet dreaded how much time it’d suck from my life. On Facebook my friend Stephen nominated anyone who wanted to to list their top 12 influential records of all time. You don’t have to ask me twice to travel back in time 14 years. I avoided reading his list to not be unduly (or duly) influenced, so I when I wrote this I wasn’t sure about Stephen’s methodology and tried to list only albums that directly shaped the music I make or have made (or might possibly make in the future)—as opposed to albums that changed my worldview, I suppose.
- Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen / Songs of Love and Hate
For my first two selections, I’ve selected pairs of albums. Not as a way to cheat the numbers, but because I listened to them in tandem and, in my mind, they’re double albums. These two early Cohen LPs were in my parents’ record collection when I was a kid so I was introduced to Cohen’s music at around the age of five. I credit my ironic outlook and bleak worldview to Lenny. And on some level, whenever I sit down to write a song for any of my projects, I’m trying to write something as perfect as “Famous Blue Raincoat”.
- Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited / Bringing It All Back Home
I don’t know if it’s because from the time I started singing (around age 12) people compared my voice (not usually in a favourable light it seemed) to Dylan’s, but decided I should be “the next Dylan” and used his song-writing style from this period as a template. Since this is how I learned to write songs, I haven’t been able to shake the notion that these two records are the gold standard of song writing. Even when they’re both full of a lot of nonsensical pish-posh. Just like most Reverend Moon albums!
- Billy Bragg – Brewing Up With Billy Bragg
I similarly could pick a selection of albums for Bragg as well. “Worker’s Playtime” has probably been probably a more direct influence, but “Brewing Up” was the first Bragg tape I bought, so I’ll pick it. “Saturday Boy” was the song I most gravitated to and I suspect it’s responsible for every emo love song I wrote as The Urbane Decay. If Bragg showed me how to write Urbane Decay songs, Morrissey would later show me how to make them cynical, bitter and cutting. I feel I can mention Morrissey without cheating since Johnny Marr (big guitar influence, natch) played with both him and Bragg. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it.
- Tom Waits — Swordfish Trombones / Raindogs
Another two albums I listened to as one work, and also standing in for a whole discography, especially “Blue Valentine”. I’d be lying if Waits’ isn’t the third most obvious influence on my Reverend Moon songs.
- King Crimson — Court of the Crimson King
Another record in my parents’ collection that formed my ideas of what music should be at an early age. My dad described it to me as “heavy acid rock” and that sounded cool to me. I’d sit and listen to “21st Century Schizoid Man” in wonder on repeat. I’m pretty sure I gravitate to anything with a distorted vocal because of that song. The entire Heavy Moon catalog is an attempt to capture that magic.
- Skinny Puppy – Rabies
It’s generally not considered the best Puppy album but, since he produced it, this one doubles nicely as my pick for all the Al Jourgensen records that influenced me over the years. Perhaps most obviously in my old industrial band Neo-Psychotic Mind Rape, but also in some fashion I think what I was going for with the Semen Priest albums was trying to update “Rabies” and “Beers, Steers and Queers” for the vaporwave set. (If it’s not cheating, Underworld’s “Dubnobasswithmyheadman” gets honourable mention).
- Pink Floyd – Let’s Make Love In London Soundtrack
Probably a more honest choice would be Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, or Animals which I was so exposed to in my teen years (both voluntarily and involuntarily), David Gilmour’s guitar playing influences me at every turn. I hear it a lot in Moonwood, perhaps no one else does. This pre-Gilmour (pre-Piper at the Gates of Dawn as well) album though is one I most consciously try to emulate, be it with Moonwood, Heavy Moon or BABEL.
- Ry Cooder – Crossroads Soundtrack
At the age of 12 or 13 I was REALLY into this movie. Cooder’s cultural appropriation (I mean delta blues homage?) is also in my guitar DNA now.
- Satie – “Gymnopédie No.1”
The most influential record I’ve never heard. Not even a record, but a composition (though there’s many recordings). I think there was a Sesame Street skit that used it or something, but this is my goal every time I sit down to write a BABEL piece. Then it usually comes out more like Einsturzende Neubauten deconstructing Godspeed and Labradford (to again sneak in additional influences).
- The Cramps – Bad Music For Bad People
I’d already heard Ramones and The Pistols and The Clash but this is the tape that taught me you can be really shitty at music and be all the better for it. In grade seven, for Public Speaking a girl named Rebecca made a speech about how her sister’s favourite band was “The Cramps, but I call them the Stomach Aches because that’s what they give me.” Well! I went out and bought the tape ASAP. It’s the well I still go back to whenever I need trashy hillbilly tones.
- Generation X – Kiss Me Deadly
Picked this one because it’s the one with “Dancing With Myself” on it, which has to be the best new wave / pop / punk song of the ‘80s. Or any decade. The most perfect pure pop song ever written. Really, I can’t shake the idea Billy Idol is the high watermark of our culture. Joy Division is the cooler influence to put in Bandcamp tags, but The Urbane Decay is one long attempt to recreate the first three Idol records. Even sequentially numbering the Arachnidiscs split-tapes comes from Billy Idol (“Rebel Yell” was sides 3 and 4, “Whiplash Smile” was 5 and 6, etc). Problem is, of course, that I’m much more Mark Mothersbaugh than Billy Idol (thank god) so it was a doomed project.
- Arches of Loaf – Icky Mettle
When I wasn’t trying to re-write “Dancing With Myself” or “Girl Afraid” or “A New England” I was trying to re-write “Web In Front”. I mean, as much as I was also trying to simultaneously cover the Superchunk discog as well.
I nominate anyone who wants to do this.