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Some of My Best Friends Are Records 

SF Weekly writers pick their favorite Bay Area records of all time

Wednesday, Mar 15 2006
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Van Morrison

Saint Dominic's Preview

(Warner Bros.)

Van the Man's fifth LP (from 1972) found him splitting time between euphoric R&B and, um, mystical shit. Some of it sounds as '70s Mill Valley as Morrison's bell-bottom trousers, but it's worth it for the 10-plus minutes of transcendental Irish-ish folk of "Independence Day." If this disc doesn't make you a believer, there is no God. Even if there really isn't.

Pavement

Slanted and Enchanted

(Matador)

Sure, Stockton is stretching the bay a bit, but Pavement always seemed very much of the area. Besides, this 1992 debut LP is so good it's impossible not to have on here. Like Lou Reed making Sonic Youth play British post-punk: oddball refrains, gnarly riffs, recorder grime, fantastically enthusiastic suburban angst.


Hello, My Name Is: Mike Rowell

After plowing through my music collection and trashing my apartment in the process, I've settled on these Bay Area classics. While there are scads of artists, from Blue Cheer to Six Organs of Admittance, that are list-worthy, these best represent San Francisco for me; this is the kind of stuff that compelled me to move here in the first place.

Fifty Foot Hose

Cauldron

(Mercury/Weasel Disc)

Back in the heady hippie days, Cork Marcheschi and crew included homemade instruments and electronics on this amazing amalgam of sci-fi sound-effects experimentalism and flower-power psychedelia. It took decades for the world to catch up with Fifty Foot Hose, and the CD reissue of Cauldron is well worth seeking out.

Flipper

Generic Flipper

(Subterranean)

Pre-eminent guitar squall. People used to argue passionately over this record's validity. Was it genius or trash? Both actually, which makes it so essential. "Sex Bomb" is a big punk mile-marker, but existential anthems like "Life Is Cheap" and "Way of the World" still provide an apropos soundtrack to the urban experience.

The Residents

Duck Stab/Buster and Glen

(Ralph)

While an argument could be made for, say, the warped pop deconstructivism of Third Reich 'n' Roll [Editor's note: Which it is above, incidentally], this expansion of an earlier EP is a Residents benchmark, featuring a cornucopia of classics like "Constantinople," "Blue Rosebuds," "Bach Is Dead," and every other track on the album. A fortuitous masterpiece.

Negativland

Escape From Noise

(SST/Seeland)

These culture jammers have put out a lot of smart, important recordings over the years, but Escape From Noise is their archetypal album. From clever collage and silly snippets to such classic tracks as "Christianity Is Stupid" and "Time Zones," this is the linchpin from which all later Negativland springs forth.

Dead Kennedys

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

(Alternative Tentacles)

Despite the tinny production, this snide, surf-tinged masterwork galvanized an entire generation of West Coast punks. Songs like "Kill the Poor," "Let's Lynch the Landlord," "California Über Alles," and "Holiday in Cambodia" are crucial punk classics, but let's not forget that the whole thing makes for a fun listen. Still.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Strangers From the Universe

(Matador)

There are no real dogs in the discography of this innovative quintet, but this release on Matador is oft acknowledged as the high point. Ingeniously compelling, from "My Pal the Tortoise" to "Noble Experiment," Strangers is TFUL282's most satisfying start-to-finish listen. While it's sadly out of print, used copies aren't too hard to find locally.

Caroliner Rainbow Hernia Milk Queen

Rear End Hernia Puppet Show

(Subterranean)

Choosing the best of the many Caroliner offerings is a challenge, but this first album set the standard and still sounds dementedly great. It came in a box of weird detritus, and laid down an influential template of DIY hallucinatory freakiness that would inspire many a noise band in subsequent years.

Chrome

Alien Soundtracks

(Siren)

Rarely has an album title been so on-target; this effects-slathered oddity sure didn't sound like it came from this planet. The bizarre, random atmospherics of Soundtracks trump later, more rocking Chrome albums, plus the disc was originally conceived as mood music for the newly established Ultra Room at the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre. Weirdest sex music ever.

Factrix

Scheintot

(Adolescent)

A haunting, beautifully brooding album similar to early Cabaret Voltaire, full of scrabbling guitar, distorto-bass, metronomic drum machine, and half-spoken vocals, all drenched in reverb. Hell, the term "industrial music" was coined by sometime Factrix collaborator Monte Cazazza. Scheintot was included on the recent German double-CD anthology Artifact, but now that's out of print.

Spot 1019

Self-titled

(Pitch-a-Tent)

Camper Van Beethoven was vital, but someone needs to throw a bone to this truly fun and criminally underrated band. While musically solid, what made Spot run was the hilarious free verse of charismatic vocalist Joe Sloan, singing about things like space-traveling cats, gnarly little surf machines, and "Dinky Dog the Demon Master."


Hello, My Name Is: Tamara Palmer

Here are some of my top souvenirs from a life spent marinating in the Yay Area's funky music stew. While I wouldn't suggest that these are everyone's meat and potatoes, they still stick to my ribs just fine. And this isn't a highfalutin music-critic chart -- as OutKast's Andre 3000 says, I'm just being honest.

Digital Underground

Sex Packets

(Tommy Boy)

More than a decade and a half after Sex Packets' release, its freaky humor still pokes out like nipples through a wet T-shirt. DU opened for Public Enemy at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in 1990, and seeing who I'd later learn was Tupac Shakur humping a blowup doll to the title track really sealed the deal for me.

Pointer Sisters

Break Out

(RCA)

Damn, I wish the Pointer Sisters were still busting out electro-jams like "Automatic." R&B has never been that cool since. These Oakland sisters were really very much quite hyphy back then. I even love the bigger hits like "I'm So Excited," "Jump (For My Love)," and "Neutron Dance."

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