Don't Burn The Day Away, Or: Dear God, This Jukebox Is Actually A Time Machine

So I crashed the carAnd I turn up loud my old guitar and sing Some Ramones or Hendrix thing...

Welcome to Music Week here at Slowly Going Bald. The staff has been working round the clock to create a week's worth of themed content, which is sure to please, educate, uplift, entertain, and in general make you a better person. They haven't even eaten in days. That's the kind of commitment being shown here. Hey, what can I say, sometimes I take it up a notch. I don't know exactly why I felt like doing a theme week. But I guess it's because (a) music's another important part of my life, (b) the variety seemed fun, and (c) the inherent nerdiness of planning a theme week appealed to me. With all that in mind, what better way to kick off Music Week with a little public humiliation? And now, in no real particular order (after the first five or so, anyway), I present: The Top 15 Albums of My High School Years: 1. Dave Matthews Band, Before These Crowded Streets 2. Counting Crows, August and Everything After 3. The Refreshments, Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy 4. Matchbox 20, Yourself or Someone Like You 5. The Wallflowers, Bringing Down the Horse 6. Eve 6, Eve 6 7. Fastball, All the Pain Money Can Buy 8. Dave Matthews Band, Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95 9. The Black Crowes, By Your Side 10. The Goo Goo Dolls, Dizzy Up the Girl 11. Hootie & the Blowfish, Cracked Rear View 12. Eric Clapton, Unplugged 13. Chalk Farm, Notwithstanding 14. Nickel Creek, Nickel Creek 15. Green Day, Dookie As I was putting the list together, several things jumped out at me. • First is the list's stunning ordinariness; it's a remarkably mainstream collection of albums from the era, and there aren't any surprises in the bunch. Most of the artists are standard late-'90s pop-rock aimed at teens, and I ate it right up. Seriously, what white middle-class teen could resist the angsty allure of Billie Joe Armstrong warbling "Seventeen and coming clean for the first time ... / I found out what it takes to be a man / Mom and Dad will never understand what's happening to me"? Guy was preaching. I guess it makes some kind of cosmic sense that I shoplifted that album. • Also, what's up with the total lack of female voices? Man. I guess that's pretty standard for a teenage guy, though, so it's not that surprising. But I'm glad I grew out of it. • However, I make no apologies for any of the albums — well, maybe the Hootie (which you should know it took a supreme act of will just to list that one). But hell, I was 15. You do a lot of stupid things at that age. But I still own all of these albums, even though Fizzy Fuzzy and August and Everything After are the only ones still in rotation. Putting these albums on takes me back to a completely different time, whether it's the opening strings of "Pantala Naga Pampa" or the thundering drum kickoff to "Go Faster" or the mournful violins of "It's Up to You." Like it or not, these albums were around during the formative years, and they're in me for the long haul. • But the biggest difference between now and then is that the albums on the list are relatively upbeat, or anyway they're not as dark as the stuff I'd get into later. Sure, some of the albums listed have their darker moments — the unrequited "Layla," some Chalk Farm cuts — but most of them are somewhat positive. Dave Matthews has written some beautiful songs about longing, but that's not the same as sadness; it wasn't until "Grace Is Gone" on the Lillywhite sessions and subsequent Busted Stuff (and later "Stay or Leave") that he wrote a great sad song. Counting Crows have the darkest entries on the list, and to this day, the one-two punch of "Anna Begins"/"Time and Time Again" still knocks me out. But the albums listed are generally reflective of worldview that was necessarily neutral to postive because of youth. Since then, my tastes have grown up, and out, and sideways, and have come to encompass a wider variety of singers and songwriters associated with the alt- and classic-country set. Matthews is a good writer, but he's never written anything that touches the bottomless pain of "I'm stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on / But that train keeps a-rollin' on down to San Antone." Clapton's white blues are no match for "Damn Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains)." And what can match the gorgeous melancholy of "Casimir Pulaski Day"? Like the man said, pain is where I hang my hat.