The Studio One compilations planted a notion that maybe I didn’t hate reggae music after all. My coworkers at Waterloo Records would play these compilations, and I would find myself liking what I heard. Dawn Penn’s “No No No” left a particular impression, but many years would pass before I learned the song’s title. The only reggae music I heard growing up was sifted through a Hawaiian music filter, and I didn’t like it.
Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1
OK, fellow gays, I understand why you all love Robyn now.
The Faint, Danse Macabre
I stocked so many copies of this album during my Waterloo shifts, I got sick of it, having never heard a single note. If it’s that popular, it had to suck, right? Maybe in my more judgmental days …
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
I was living in New York City at the time this album was released. That season, Kronos performed twice at Alice Tully Hall. Most of the pieces on those programs would eventually make their way to the Night Prayers album. So I was a bit disappointed they didn’t end up on Short Stories.
I sat a few seats away from Osvaldo Golijov at one of those concerts. He stood up when Kronos acknowledged him after starting the concert with a premiere of his work. I congratulated him as he passed me on the way out to intermission.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
I had adjusted to life in New York City. I had a rough bout of homesickness the preceding autumn, which I found disappointing because I had waited what felt like an eternity to escape Hawaii.
But I wasn’t totally at ease. I still was in denial about being gay, and I hadn’t learned how to be comfortable with solitude. I did lay the groundwork for what would eventually pivot me away from music and into journalism by writing for the campus newspaper. I had also started to enjoy reading fiction, which was handy because that winter was actually rough.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
I bought the album on release day, so same answer as above. I’m pretty sure I took a crosstown bus from Hunter College to the Tower Records at Lincoln Center, which had an entire floor dedicated to classical music.
What do you think of it now?
I do not like Short Stories.
Up to that point, Kronos crafted their albums well, threading diverse pieces into a thematic whole. Short Stories felt like a compilation with uninteresting B-sides.
Perhaps the lack of a thread was the point of the album. I just remember feeling impatience with a number of longer pieces on the album.
If I were to rank Kronos’ Nonesuch albums, Short Stories would anchor it.
The Ordinaires’ One should have been an album I held dear.
It was a discovery I made reading Pulse magazine, and the band’s press name-dropped a bunch of rock bands and classical composers — two things that would shape my development as a wannabe musician.
But it faced stiff competition. Naked City and Kronos Quartet monopolized my attention, and I wanted the dopamine hits I got from Winter Was Hard and the self-titled Naked City debut to repeat with every subsequent discovery.
The Ordinaires came close. The first few times I listened to this album, I liked it. It had its skronky moments and its pretty moments. Oddly enough, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” would capture my affection, despite a growing distaste for Led Zeppelin.
But it didn’t survive a purge for cash. I decided I couldn’t really keep the tape — yes, I bought it on cassette — if I liked only one song. One was weird, but not weird enough. So I let it go.
In the 30 years that would follow, I would find myself missing that cover of “Kashmir”, but the moment would pass too quickly for me to act on it.
Then at the Northwest Record Show in November 2019, I found it on vinyl selling for $2.
Reacquainting myself with this album allows me to rag on my younger self for letting something valuable slip away. Well, valuable to me, otherwise I would have been charged far more than $2 to reacquire it.
The Ordinaires positioned themselves as less weird downtown New Yorkers. They may have hung out with the noisers and no wavers, but they were a bit more tuneful than that.
One smoothes over the jump-cut eclecticism of Naked City and tones down the noise. It’s a gateway album to a far stranger realm of music.
Oh, shit — the racism in this 20-year-old old review of Rage Against the Machine’s Renegades is barely contained. At the time I wrote it, I hadn’t been exposed to much hip-hop, so I took uninformed digs at the genre.
I have to cringe at the scare quote dis of Cypress Hill. My ignorant mid-20s ass would be surprised to learn I would eventually own the group’s first three albums.
And what the fuck is up with calling Afrika Bambaata’s drum machines “cheesy”? There were no other types of drum machines at the time!
Perhaps the most egregiously racist comment in that review was the suggestion that Zach de la Rocha do something other than rap. Yes, he could be a very good punk singer, but he’s renowned for his flow. The value judgment underpinning the remark was just uncalled for.
I try to be self-deprecating these days about having rockist tendencies, but boy did I take it seriously 20 years ago. It’s appalling how seriously I took it.
Now that I own some Cypress Hill, Devo, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Minor Threat albums, I can tell I downloaded the source material for Renegades and did some half-assed A/B comparisons. I had zero appreciation for the creative license Rage took with this cover album.
Back then, I was trying to meet a self-imposed publishing schedule, and sometimes, you end up with a turd.
That review was definitely filler, and I knew I had no expertise to tackle it. But I gave it a shot anyway.
As Adam Savage said often on Mythbusters, failure is always an option.
Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.