Because it’s August and you have nothing better to do than jump into a discussion of the best songs of a compilation CD that is almost old enough to drink – yes, “No Alternative” will turn 21 in October — please follow RandBallsStu (aka Steve Neuman of MPR/American Public Media) and I down this rabbit hole.
[This has nothing to do with sports, so be warned].
We will both give our rankings of the best songs on the disc, and I will even *temporarily* suspend the use of the royal we in order to make this less confusing. Stu gets to go first because he sent me this about a week ago and I’ve been slacking. Our different tastes in music should put to rest rumors once and for all that we are the same person. We are not. [Language warning on the links].
RandBallsStu’s No Alternative Power Rankings
- âUnseen Power of the Picket Fence,â Pavement. This was my first exposure to Pavement: a weird, clattering, stagger of a song about R.E.M. and the Civil War that doesnât mention picket fences or have a chorus. So itâs perfect. I think I read that they were going to perform this on MTV and Michael Stipe wanted to dance in the background so they decided against it. HIGHLIGHT: The way they sing âG-G-G-G-G-G-GEORGIAâ towards the end.
- âAll Your Jeans Were Too Tight,â American Music Club. Pedal steel guitar and despair work just as well in an alternative rock song as they do in a country song. At least, I think itâs pedal steel. Either way: wonderful tune, woefully underlooked band.
- âSappy,â Nirvana. Hidden track! Nobody does hidden tracks anymore! Crackerâs Kerosene Hat had about 80 of them.
- âTake A Walk,â Urge Overkill. ONE OF US: Both Nash Kato and King Roeser of Urge Overkill are Minnesotans. So, theyâre in.
- âJoed Out,â Barbara Manning. I re-listened to the CD in order to make a better judgment on these power rankings for you, the reader, and remembered how much I enjoyed this track by one of the relatively lesser-known acts on the record. Kind of a somber Liz Phair vibe if youâre into that sort of thing. (Yes, I know she pre-dates Liz Phair.)
- Of the remaining covers on this thing, the best one is CCRâs âEffigyâ by Uncle Tupelo.
- I enjoy the Goo Goo Dollsâ take on the Rolling Stonesâ âBitch,â but the former have done so much wrong in the intervening years that I cannot in good conscience rank them. I remember the theme song you wrote for Good Morning, Miami, Johnny Rzeznik. You thought you could distract everyone with that superfluous âzâ WELL GUESS WHAT THAT DIDNâT HAPPEN.
- Patti Smithâs contribution is touching and easy to admire, but listen to âGloriaâ instead. âGloriaâ is amazing.
RandBall’s No Alternative Power Rankings
- âVerse, Chorus, Verse,â Nirvana. Yes, we can argue about whether we should call this song by its other title, âSappy,â but to me itâs always VCV. And more importantly, itâs one of the five best songs ever recorded by one of the five best bands that ever picked up guitars and sang. So it easily tops my list even before factoring in that it’s the best hidden track this side of Beck’s “Debra.” I donât know how you would hide a track on iTunes, but someone should figure this out because I WANT TO BE SURPRISED.
- âAll Your Jeans Were Too Tight,â American Music Club. The thing that sparked this whole back-and-forth was a tweet I sent while driving to Mankato (donât tweet and drive) noting that I always think of this song on that drive because of the lyric âTrying to make you feel better is like trying to trick St. Peter,â and the drive takes you through St. Peter. Thatâs ridiculous, but itâs true. I’m weird and that’s how my mind works. Just a fantastic song, though.
- âGlynis,â Smashing Pumpkins. For a long time, I tried to pretend that I did not like the Smashing Pumpkins. Did. Not. Like. Nirvana was everything, and they were just some watered down version of everything. But even before I could admit that I liked Smashing Pumpkins, I really liked Gylnis. IN SECRET.
- âUnseen Power of the Picket Fence,â Pavement. As Stuart notes, this is one of the most Pavement songs ever. And I love Pavement. I saw them like 15 years ago. Iâve forgotten like 80 percent of everything that happened at all the shows Iâve gone to, but Pavement is vivid. Malkmus can name-check anyone he wants.
- âIris,â The Breeders. This song is only great for about 45 seconds, but when itâs great itâs so, so great. Speaking of name-checking, I saw the Breeders many years after their prime, and they were fabulous. My friend Jayme shared a cigarette with one of the Deal sisters. At least thatâs how I remember it. [Seal the Deal joke self-deleted]. But really, it was a great show.
- As Stu also notes, the âEffigyâ cover and Urge Overkill’s “Take a Walk” are very good.
- I also very much like the Soundgarden song âShow Me,â but there are better Soundgarden songs in their ample catalog and therefore they miss the cut.
- I really don’t like the Bob Mould song or the Soul Asylum cover of Sexual Healing. I’ll just move to Wisconsin now.
- Basically, I compiled these rankings based on a quick re-listening of all the songs, plus my memory of which ones I skipped over always, which I skipped sometimes and which I was particularly excited to get to.
- I came across this Straight Jacket Fits song in the course of my research, and I think you should listen to it.