Sunday, August 15, 2010


Let me introduce myself as a new contributor around here. I'll do my best not to be the new neighbor who moves in and leaves the house in disrepair just long enough to go into foreclosure, bringing down everyone's property values. I promise I'll mow the lawn every week. Just keep those damn kids off it in the meantime or there will be some serious fist shaking going on. You've been warned.
This new beginning has got me thinking about other great beginnings. In particular, great album openers. So I've put together a little list of what I consider some of the Best. Opening tracks. Ever. Here are my criteria:

1. The album itself has to be solid. None of these lopsided records that start strong but peter out by the time you're through.
2. The first track should effectively set the tone for the rest of the album.

That's it. That still leaves things wide open, and I could make a list that never ends, so I've narrowed it down to 3 selections that have special significance due to their impact at the time I first heard them.

The Afghan Whigs
The Afghan Whigs. "If I Were Going". From the album Gentlemen:

This is a moody album, and the opening track embodies that aesthetic fully. It sets the stage for a record that lies somewhere between concept album and musical theater in its repetition and reworking of themes. The album had been in my car stereo for weeks and I never really took the time to give it a close listen until one night on a lonely drive through the Virgin River Gorge. The moon was out and I was lost in thought, then I heard the opening distant train noise, the Saddest Tambourine Ever(tm), and the sparse guitar riff. From there I was hooked. Turn off the lights and let this one sink in. You're in for a hell of a ride.

Download Afghan Whigs - If I Were Going

Radiohead. "Airbag". From the album OK Computer:

I realize I could justify naming the opener from any Radiohead album since The Bends, but this has remained my overall favorite of their works so far. As far as establishing tone, this track does it in spades. Expertly matched guitars, paranoid sci-fi vocals, frenetic looped drums, and a stuttering bass line, all interspersed with computer sounds. It captured my feelings about the adult world I was just starting to play in, and made me feel like I had some crazy talented friends overseas who understood it all. I remember wondering if this was a new direction in Radiohead's music. It was. And maybe a change in music all around.

Download Radiohead - Airbag

Matthew Good Band
Matthew Good Band. "Giant". From the album Beautiful Midnight:

Combining cheerleaders with rock music has been done since, and probably before, but never with as much aplomb (yeah, you heard me, Marilyn Manson). The cheer and drum beat put you back in the bleachers at your high school pep rally, then things shift and Matthew Good takes over with his fabulous brand of Canadian rock. Writing about it, I'm not sure it works. Listening to it, I have no doubt it does. This album came at a time when I was delving into math rock and complex polyrhythmic music, and it reminded me that sometimes you just need to shut up, stop counting, and rock.

Download Matthew Good Band - Giant

That's my short list. It was nice meeting all of you. Thanks for the apple pie and brownies. I think I'll like it here.

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