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May 7, 2017 / bloggenstatt

J is for Japandroids, Jay Z and John Lennon. J is not for Jack + Iliza

I didn’t realize J was such a loaded letter until my thumb was frantically circling around my old iPod. Clockwise. Then Counter clockwise. “Damn, that’s a lot of good bands.”

I just snubbed Joy Division, Jimi Hendrix, James Blake, Jay Reatard, Jack White, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Cliff and John Doe.

At least a couple of those should be rectified when I get to W and X — I hope.

Japandroids

Japandroids’ body of work is unassailable. The most harsh critique I could levy against them is that not all their albums are Celebration Rock. Brian King and David Prowse are responsible for an all-time classic album sandwiched by two excellent albums.

They also put on a helluva live show.

You go into a Japandroids concert sort of assuming the triumphantly raucous sound on the albums can’t be replicated by just two dudes on a stage, but they absolutely attack their set lists. It’s even louder, faster and more fun than the fist-pumping, glorious albums, and a screaming crowd ends up filling in on backing vocals.

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Jay Z

Calling Jay Z hip-hop’s equivalent of the Beatles would undermine Shawn Carter’s longevity. Calling him the Elvis of rap would capture his larger than life branding, influence and the ubiquity of his singles, but it wouldn’t accurately represent the cohesive brilliance of Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, The Black Album or American Gangster.

The only real hard knock against Hov is that his career has spanned 21 years and counting and not everything he’s put out has been great. I really think you can boil his career down to the four albums listed above plus Watch the Throne and a sort of greatest hits playlist and be set, but you can count the number of hip-hop albums that deserve to be mentioned in the same breathe as The Blueprint on one hand, so Jay Z’s several other classic albums are gravy.

 

John Lennon

John is my favorite Beatle. With that said, I think I have to acknowledge the problems with the man who made a lot of music I love.

There’s a backlash against Lennon, who was been lionized in death. This has led to an appropriate course correction because it turns out a Liverpoolian raised in a broken home with substance abuse problems wasn’t technically speaking a great person, father or husband.

But, the annals of music are filled with some truly terrible people, so I think his shortcomings as a person should be acknowledged and his contributions to pop music should and can be admired at the same time.

Lennon was the troubled, sour, blues-rock-loving half of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team. I think Paul probably had a higher batting average in terms of game-changing hits to songwriting credits, but John’s songs were weirder, rawer and hit higher peaks. Plus, I’ve always preferred Lennon’s sometimes-reedy, sometimes-unhinged vocals.

He has my favorite solo career of any of The Beatles. Plastic Ono Band is one of my all-time favorite albums. It is a rock star reckoning with his one messianic public stature, his abandonment issues and mortality. It also rocks. Loud guitar, driving drumming and throat-shredding screams are all present.

While I think Double Fantasy enjoys a lot of its reputation by virtue of being the last thing Lennon recorded, I’d go to the mats for Imagine . It is also a wonderful album capable of bleak, cynicism(“Crippled Inside”) to one of the most enjoyable, effervescent testaments to an unconventional love ever recorded (“Oh Yoko”).

 

Jack + Eliza

I was drunk and watching Season 1 of the Judd Apatow-produced series  “Love” and a song by Jack + Eliza was used to close an episode. I downloaded an entire album. I didn’t even like the song the next morning.

 

 

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