The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 3

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

It’s beginning as an emo rabbit hole. I really wanted to go back and listen to Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and see how well it’s held up, so that’s my starting point. Razorblades have been locked up.

  • Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

If you were ever into Emo, then I feel you almost have to like Clarity. It’s the last pure Emo disc that I think Jimmy Eat World ever did and is one of the best all time in the genre. If there’s a perfect emo record, I haven’t heard it, but this is close. Bleed American is the better record in Jimmy Eat World’s catalog but the rock nature of that record took a bit of the emo edge off (IMO). However, Clarity was very overlooked back in the day. I remember playing the shit out of this at WTSR when I was a DJ – specifically “Lucky Denver Mint” and “For Me This is Heaven” but especially the former which still holds up well today and to me is the best song ever made within the Emo genre. This and their previous record were on Capitol which didn’t do a great job promoting this record and/or signed them a bit too early before the genre had really formed as when they moved to Dreamworks for Bleed American, they blew up.

I’d like to think that “Lucky Denver Mint” could have been a huge hit if the video was even remotely good. Check out this piece of shit below, in an era where MTV made bands.

  • Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most

Holy shit, this was hard to listen to. Lead singer Chris Carrabba is the poster child for Emo music and Dashboard Confessional is the first band I think of when the genre is mentioned. I was never in the scene, so I could be totally wrong but when I think Emo, I think of teens that hate life so bad that they can’t get out of bed. I really don’t think I’m that far off, though I’m sure that doesn’t represent everyone. And Emo was supposed to be relatable because it talked about the agony and despair that you were feeling when you listened to it. I get that this was supposed to be the comfort for the people immersed in the culture and probably helped a lot of people through hard times. But as someone that was happy at this point in my life, Carrabba comes across to me as a whiny little oh-wow-is-me screamer. Just the painful screaming (and I mean screaming) to end the final track, “This Bitter Pill” is off-putting to me. It’s bright and sunny today and yet this record brought me down, down, down. Maybe you had to live it to understand.

“This Bitter Pill”
  • Matchbook Romance – Stories and Alibis

Funny to see this on Epitaph but Emo seemed to branch out a bit form post-hardcore at some point and the louder emo bands seem to have a slight element of punk now and again, so I guess it makes sense to an extent – or Epitaph just had to cash in on the craze.

So the algorithm moved me from Dashboard Confessional to Matchbook Romance. Again, having never been into the sound, I had no idea who these guys were. The ever-so-fun Wikipedia tells me that they had a total of two records, this being their first. And this is a paint-by-numbers version of what Emo rock is to me. Pained screams, the world sucks, I suck and man, nothing is going right. Check out “The Greatest Fall” for all of that rolled up into one.

“The Greatest Fall”
  • Brand New – Deja Entendu

I had a few choices from Tidal to go to next but I chose Brand New because I had heard of them before and might have even listened to this album in the past. After getting through this, I knew more songs than I would have expected to, so I must have popped it in at some point in time. I figured this might be the best chance moving forward in this rabbit hole, of actually liking one of these albums. And I was sort of right. There are moments like “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” that I hate but ones like “Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” which are pretty damn cool. This is a combo of alt rock and Emo, leaning more to the emo side, especially on the ballads. This also marks the first disc in this post that has what I like to call “Fall Out Boy titles.” You know, 10 word titles that really don’t pertain to the song but might be kind of clever in a dad joke kind of way, titles. I know, I know – that didn’t start with Fall Out Boy but over the years I can’t think of a bigger band that has had such ridiculous titles and there a lot of branches of Emo that have that as well.

“Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”
  • Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree

Shit, might as well hit Fall Out Boy since they are connected to literally every band in here according to Tidal. I’m actually a casual Fall Out Boy fan and by casual, I mean I like their recent material and their greatest hits discs are pretty fantastic. It wasn’t like I always liked them though. I very much thought they were pretentious douchebags with their stupid ass titles like the opening track, “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song.” But then I realized that I also might be a douchebag (but not pretentious motherfucker…) and came to the realization that they are actually a pretty fun band. It never made me go back and listen to their earliest records, like this one, but I don’t actively turn the radio off when I hear them now. So that’s something.

The album itself isn’t terrible but isn’t great either but I have a new appreciation for the singles at least, since I’ve stopped being full of myself and just started enjoying music. The hardest part for me is actually telling you what songs I liked since only the singles like “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” actually have the title in the song. So I’d have to go back and listen to see if I liked “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” or “I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me.” And really, I’m not listening twice. I’ll stick with the newer stuff.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
  • Simple Plan – No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls

I think with that, I’m likely firmly out of the emo and now into the 2000’s pop-punk bands and I’m not sure this works for me. I was talking about this sound the other week with a buddy and was just commenting how dated it is. And this album is totally dated to the early 2000s. I thought I had listened to this album in the past but I don’t recognize anything but the singles “Addicted” and “Perfect.” I suppose back in 2002, I could have listened to this and enjoyed it but it seems like really generic and juvenile to me now. Damn it, I sound old, don’t I?

  • Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo of Bliss

Up until now, I had only heard the name Biffy Clyro but never any of their music. Now that I have, I have no idea how the algorithm of “Similar Bands” to Simple Plan got me here. I see places where they are labeled as post hardcore, so maybe that’s it. Maybe I just picked the wrong album but if everything sounds like this – which is hard to describe really – some blend of avant-garde alt-rock, maybe a bit of post-hardcore, maybe a bit of noise rock, maybe a slight pop-punk feel once in a while – then the connection is lost on me. Every now and then I got a bit of a Jawbox feel or maybe a Local H vibe but then they go promptly in a different direction. I like unique bands and this seems like the type that I might go back to and listen to the other records to see what they’re about – but in this context, I just wasn’t feeling it. In looking at the singles from this record, I see the first one was called “Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys.” Not sure how in the world anyone thought that would be the title of a hit song but you know, “MMM MMM MMM MMM” became a hit, so I guess you never know. Unfortunately, while this makes for a short rabbit hole, this was the derailer for me. So rabbit hole #3 stops here.

“Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys”

Tidal Catalog #28: Green Day

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for great formatting, you know?

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)

Entrance Point: Like a lot of people, the first album I had heard from Green Day was Dookie, back when it first arrived and I’ve listed to every album since then and came into this as a fan of them.

Included: I chose to just use “1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours instead of the two individual EPs because it’s the more well known version of that era and the discs are similar enough that ranking the full combo didn’t seem off.

Not Included: Woodstock ’94 which was a record store day only release in 2019. It may be included in the future if I can track down a good version of it somewhere. American Idiot: Cast Recording. While this is obviously Green Day music, the album is performed by the cast and doesn’t really fall under my rules to include it.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale:

  • Nimrod (9.5)

Dookie is certainly the album that made Green Day a household name but Nimrod is really the album that changed their career path for good. Between Dookie and this record, there was Insomniac, which maintained a lot of the pop punk traits of the previous album while adding a few new sonic touches here and there. With Nimrod, they just decided to go for it and created all the music they had been thinking about over the years. There’s plenty of standard Green Day tunes like “Nice Guys Finish Last” “The Grouch” and “Redundant.” But of course there’s also “Good Riddance” which is the hit ballad you will hear forever, a surf rock tune (“Last Ride In”) and a track that almost pushes them to the metal side (“Take Back”). From start to finish, it’s the best listen in the catalog, with the most energy they’ve ever had on a disc.

“The Grouch”
  • American Idiot (9.5)

And if Nimrod opened them up to new sounds, well, American Idiot pushed them completely over that edge. This album was of course a “Punk Opera” and while the disc starts out with the title track which sounds very much like a vintage Green Day track, must of the rest of the disc is alt rock at the core, with strings, epic guitar licks and tracks that stray very far from three chord punk. I’m not big on the “sell out” label as I appreciate when bands realize they need to adjust to stay relevant and when they pivot to something as great as this record, it’s certainly welcome. And somehow still in 2020 they are considered a punk band despite detractors saying they no longer belonged that family. The real key to the album is that the music is great and the story line told throughout the disc is consistent and good. And it’s not like they gave up all their punk roots. I mean, it’s slicked up for sure but a song like “St. Jimmy” harkens back to the Dookie days for sure. And with a couple of 9 minute songs that each have five “movements” in them, American Idiot sure was different at the time as rock operas like this hadn’t really been popular since the 70s. The album spawned its own stage show too! And you know what, it still holds up very well.

“Jesus of Suburbia”
  • Warning (9)

Warning is actually the album I go back to the most when I want to hear a Green Day record. This is a really underrated record that eschews the loud punk and moves to a mostly acoustic rock, folk and pop sound, with some of the best songwriting of Billie Joe’s career. I think it’s the songwriting that makes this stands out the most but I certainly do like the fact that is doesn’t sound like other Green Day records and yet, still feels like Green Day. Not many bands can make a record that both sounds like them and doesn’t sound like them at the same time. Haha.

  • Dookie (9)

While not their first record, it’s the first one that commercial radio listeners had likely heard of back when it came out in 1994. I was not into punk then, so I wasn’t very familiar with Lookout records, where Green Day were before signing to Reprise for this disc. I anticipate that many people in my generation were introduced to mainstream punk music thanks to this disc and I will always have fond memories of my youth while listening to it but I don’t rank based on that. Musically, it’s great of course but there’s a few weak moments near the end. What it has are those songs that last forever, “Longview” “When I Come Around” “Welcome to Paradise” and more. Those are iconic at this stage. I can’t see anywhere that this was remastered and the original production doesn’t sound all that great today – as least after you listen to American Idiot and such.

  • Revolution Radio (8.5)
  • Kerplunk (7)
  • Insomniac (6.5)
  • Tre! (6)
  • 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (5.5)

Comprised of their first EP (1000 Hours), their first full length album (39/Smooth) and their second EP (Slappy), this is almost all the material before Tre Cool joined the band as the drummer and formed the Green Day lineup that we all know today. I only heard this album after Dookie, so I didn’t get to Green Day until they were huge. Listening to this now, other than the typical lo-fi punk production, it seems obvious that the band was going to be big but I don’t know if I would have figured that back then. You’ll listen to it now and hear the same pop-punk that Green Day is known for but it’s pretty clear that Billie Joe hadn’t yet gotten the full potential out of his voice and there’s quite a few songs that are pretty dull. But it’s a fun look back at the origins of the band.

“409 in Your Coffeemaker”
  • Uno! (5.5)
  • Shenanigans (5.5)
  • Awesome as F*ck (5)
  • Dos! (5)
  • 21st Century Breakdown (4)

So you might say, “but Dave, how can you love American Idiot and hate this since they are pretty much the same record?” Well, see that’s the thing right there. This is fucking lazy. With each consecutive album up until this point, Green Day has pushed their sound forward. With 21st Century Breakdown, they lazily decided to make another punk opera but with lesser quality songs. I get the draw to doing another one of these types of records since the first one was a major success but this second on was a bit much. There’s great songs on the disc (“21 Guns” “Horseshoes and Handgrenades”) but for the most part, the songwriting isn’t nearly as great this time around.

“Horseshoes and Handgrenades”
  • Bullet in a Bible (3)

Summary: 15 albums, average 6.6