Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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59 Responses

  1. Dan Scotto says:

    Two other options on this question from albums I enjoy:

    Radiohead, OK Computer, tracks 2-4: Paranoid Android, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Exit Music (For a Film)
    Ben Folds Five, Ben Folds Five, tracks 10-12: Video, The Last Polka, BoxingReport

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    Pulp: Common People into Disco 2000 into Do You Remember the First Time

    The Magnetic Fields: Swinging London into Strange Powers into You, Me and the Moon

    Belle and Sebastian: Lazy Line Painter Jane into Nobody’s Empire into Wrapped Up in Books

    The Ramones: I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend into Do You Wanna Dance into Do You Remember Rock n’ Roll Radio

    New Order: Regret into Age of Consent into TemptationReport

  3. Glyph says:

    I tried to set myself some additional parameters around this.

    The first was that I wanted to get something fairly recent – here, I am failing, pretty hard. I am not sure whether that is because I am old (so, I don’t like nothin’ no more) or if it’s due to the Death Of The Album In The MP3/YouTube/Pandora Age.

    I also tried to stay away from doing the first three, or last three, songs on an album – the former because frontloading was a well-known phenomenon in the CD era, and the latter because, well, a properly-sequenced great album SHOULD have a great three-song run to close it out. That’s just Science.

    And, I’m trying to stay away from ones I’ve mentioned here before (so, the three-song run on side B of Pablo Honey of “Prove Yourself – I Can’t – Lurgee” is out).Report

    • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      With that said, I am still going to cheat right off the bat.

      This is cheating because A.) this whole album is one of the best-sequenced rock albums of all time and B.) the first track on the album is just a short, soothing instrumental that sets the stage.

      Which means in some ways, this is sort of the opening track on the album (dat BASS):


    • krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

      I tried to set myself some additional parameters around this.

      I’m onboard with these rules. One problem with pre-CD stuff is that records are two-sided and could only be so long. It’s hard to get a non-opener/non-closer string of three songs on LPs, since you had to get up and turn them over after 20 minutes or so.

      Also, a lot of my most beloved The Who and Jimi Hendrix records were for all intents and purposes singles compilations. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is chock-full of three-song home run streaks, but I think nearly all those songs were singles before the album came out.

      Anyway, all I listen to is Kowloon Walled City anymore, and their songs are essentially interchangeable.Report

      • Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

        Hey, as a fellow GbV fan, I’ve been meaning to ask you…have you ever heard of any…controversy over the Bee Thousand cover? There is a slight difference in earlier and later copies of the cover art (spot the difference!), and I was curious if my theory was true (I have done some rudimentary Googling but have never found anything).Report

        • Krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

          I have not been notified about this.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Krogerfoot says:

            Check your secret Uncle Bob decoder ring for recent transmissions.

            I have both a Scat and a Matador Bee Thousand CD on my shelf, and on the left side of the cover on the Scat are two blue “lightning bolts” – but the Matador has three (ditto for the LP).

            If you do a Google Image search you can see both designs, but it wasn’t clear to me which came first, and I naturally assumed the Scat design was the original.

            My theory was that somewhere along the line, someone pointed out that you can’t have two stylized lightning bolts next to each other without certain…unpleasant connotations, both historical and present (I suspected that having an unusual all-white album cover may have added to this concern). So they added a third.

            It never occurred to me to check the GBVDB until now, but if this is correct , I have it reversed – the original artwork had three, and it was pared down to two in at least some editions.

            Yes, you just learned the horrible truth here. Guided by Voices (…That Call You To An Aryan Destiny).

            I can’t decide which I think is better – two is cleaner, which would normally be my preference graphically, but three seems to better-balance the cover composition, and also is more suggestive of a flag (imagery they used more than once around this time).Report

            • krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

              This is The Crying of Lot 49 territory. My Scat disc has three bars and black print on the CD itself. I would have never seen the bars as stylized lightning bolts in a million years.

              I was just listening to “Acorns & Orioles” again from Under the Bushes Under the Stars and was struck by the strange notion that the song is not unbearably sad, as I’ve felt for years, but actually hopeful.

              Kowloon Walled City’s newest record Grievances is really really good. People are either going to put up with the demented howling that stands in for vocals in that band, or they’re not going to, but if they do there is some really lovely music going on. I was sad that I never got around to writing my star-making review of their previous Container Ships record, which includes a scene where I am eaten by bears*, but I’m hopeful that the review I may actually write for this new record will get them the attention they deserve.

              * The review does. The record does not mention me or bears or bears eating anyone.Report

              • Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

                I don’t know if I originally saw them as bolts rather than bars, but at some point I noticed the difference in number, so looked closer, at which point this theory occurred to me (to be clear, my theory was NOT that they were ever intended to be SS bolts; my theory was that someone noted the unintentional resemblance, and so added another to avoid anyone making the association).

                It’s…entirely possible that I have spent far too much time contemplating GbV. Some things are built to obsess over and they are a rabbit-hole kind of band.

                You want to do a guest post on KWC? Definitely include the bears (for lunch).

                (Also, the saddest song on that record is “Redmen and their Wives”. “The way I see it, it’s already lost / So then be it, they say”.)Report

              • krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

                I have no doubt that a great bewildering and sad novel could be written about characters in Guided By Voices songs, about the band itself, and/or about the band’s fans. Lots of terrible novels could be as well.

                But then we could go back and forth all day about how terrible my GBV novel would be. I also have no doubt that I was born to write the definitive Kowloon Walled City album review. However, keep in mind it took me four solid days to reply to your previous comment, that was veritably slathered with krogerfoot bait.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    Some more cheating of my own rules, since these are (nearly) the last three on another classic album (the album’s “true” last track, is kind of inconsequential, feels almost tacked-on).

    Here, they are in full Beach Boys of Doom mode, taking a classic bright pop melody and pushing it down the deepest darkest nearby working coal mine they could find:


  5. Glyph says:

    If I were allowing myself the initial three on an album, I’m not sure how you beat Joshua Tree or Bee Thousand.Report

  6. Tod Kelly says:

    Man, there are almost too many to list, and certainly more than I could adequately attempt to rank. Still, I’ll start with some that are pretty obvious to me:

    Dire Straits, Making Movies: Tunel of Love, Romeo and Juliet, Skateaway

    The Who, Quadrophenia: Quadrophenia, Cut My Hair, The Punk Meets the Godfather

    Ben Folds, Rocking the Suburbs: Annie Waits, Zak and Sara, Still Fighting It

    Guster, Easy Wonderful: Architects and Engineers, Do You Love Me?, On the Ocean

    Lyle Lovett, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band: Here I Am, Crying Shame, Good Intentions

    Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto: Girl from Ipanema, Dorlice, Para Machucar Meu Coração

    Realizing I could spend my whole day doing this, so maybe I’ll just stop there…Report

  7. Tod Kelly says:

    Also, it speaks to my love of sappy sentimentalism that I might tweak @dan-scotto ‘s list by lopping off Bungalow Bill at the beginning and gluing on Martha My Dear at the end.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    U2, The Joshua Tree: Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, With or Without You (and then the rest of the album too).

    Garbage, Garbage: Supervixen, Queer, Only Happy When It Rains (and then the rest of the album too).

    Boston, Boston: More Than A Feeling, Peace of Mind, Foreplay/Long Time (and then the rest of the album too).

    Fleetwood Mac, Rumours: Dreams, Never Going Back Again, Don’t Stop (whole damn album).

    Nirvana, Nevermind: Smells LIke Teen Spirit, In Bloom, Come as You Are (and then at least the next four songs too).

    10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe: What’s The Matter Here?, Hey Jack Kerouac, Like The Weather.

    Jeff Beck, Truth: Beck’s Bolero, Blues De Luxe, I Ain’t Superstitious.

    Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Meet Me In The Morning, Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.

    Eric Clapton, Just One Night, Side 4: Rambling On My Mind, Cocaine, Further on Up the Road.

    I may take some heat for the Dylan selections, but I think each of those three songs is brilliant in its own way.

    And yes, Boston gets played rather a lot on very popular radio stations and therefore is no longer all that hip, but that entire album kicks some very serious ass.

    Also note two prominent appearances by Butch Vig.

    I’ll also enthusastically second @tod-kelly triptych from Dire Straits, which is simply glorious. And there’s more — I would have to give some thought to which triptych from Led Zeppelin stands out (again, I’d probably just take the first album and put it all up there)

    And with that, I need to get to my actual job because I could do this all damn day long.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Burt Likko says:

      RE: Garbage: I’m not a hater, I like Version 2.0 quite a bit – but I never really forgave them for not even having the best Scots-sung “Happy When It Rains” (notice that the JAMC even plagiarize their own selves, it’s essentially the same riff from “Something’s Wrong”, up above):

      (Also, my tongue is in my cheek – Garbage would surely readily-acknowledge their musical debt here):


    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Good choices all. The Rumors pick is particularly inspired.

      My only quibble with Burt’s list is, as he predicted, the three from Clapton. I decided to disqualify greatest hits/best of albums, which I think has to extend to most live albums of previously recorded songs as well.

      It’s what kept me from going with one from the Stones. Overtime I thought about some choice cuts that might well catapult a mediocre list into a stellar one (Gimme Shelter, Can’t Always Get What You Want, for example) I kept finding that they didn’t. The only way I cold make it work was to use Hot Rocks or some other best-of album, and I decided that was cheating.Report

    • I would say Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts; If You See Her, Say Hello; Shelter From the Storm, wryness to melancholy to hope.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    I immediately flashed to Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” with Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Down By The River.

    But a quick google tells me that “round and round (it won’t be long)” is in the middle of those.

    Which ruins my first thought.

    I’ll have to sleep on it.Report

  10. Chris says:

    I’m trying to think of some recent stuff.

    Any combination of tracks on To Pimp a Butterfly would work, but the last 5 in particular are amazing.

    I would pick 3 consecutive songs from FKA Twig’s LP1, but after 2 I feel like I need a cigarette and have to stop listening.Report

  11. Michael Cain says:

    Disclosing my age and (lack of, perhaps) taste, the opening three tracks from Elton John’s Madman Across the Water: Tiny Dancer, Levon, and Razor Face.Report

  12. krogerfoot says:

    Interesting. First triptych that springs to mind for me is Bob Marley & The Wailers: Live‘s opening three: “Trenchtown Rock,” “Burnin’ and Lootin’,” and “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),” but then again live records have even more inherent advantage along the lines of the frontloaded album openers.

    If I had more than five minutes to think about it over the next few days, I’d mine some records from the Clash, Elvis Costello, Sly and the Family Stone, Public Enemy.Report

  13. Road Scholar says:

    Echoing Mr Cain’s caveat about age and taste, I have to nominate Van Halen’s debut album. “Runnin’ With the Devil”, “Eruption”, “You Really Got Me”.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Road Scholar says:

      Although I know that I probably have an outdated and romanticized view of your job, it seems like it should at least offer access to the stretches of uninterrupted album-listening time that most of us crave.

      I’m envisioning a recurring feature, where the commentariat nominates albums you’ve never heard; you spend a week or two on the road with the album, then report back with your impressions.

      We could call it “Road’s Rules”.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Glyph says:


        That’s an interesting suggestion. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how well that would work now. I haven’t mentioned it around these parts but I’ve just recently embarked on what I suppose you could call an advance in my career, as I’m now a mentor.

        What that entails is taking a new guy fresh out of school out on the road for about a month and polishing up their skills and teaching how to actually do this job successfully.

        Bottom line is that I no longer have the hours upon hours of alone time I used to have.Report

        • Glyph in reply to Road Scholar says:

          Aw, but congrats!Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to Glyph says:

            Thanks! To be honest I’ve thought about putting something together as a GP thing, but if I did that I would rather deal with what I know and love: ~70’s era classic rock. XM has a channel called Deep Tracks where they play stuff you probably don’t know or remember from bands you DO know. So Led Zeppelin that ISN’T Stairway, Pink Floyd that ISN’T DSOTM or The Wall, etc.

            You’re the undisputed King of New and/or Obscure (at least to me) music. If I have a niche it would be more along the lines of archeology.Report

  14. El Muneco says:

    Burt Likko:
    10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe: What’s The Matter Here?, Hey Jack Kerouac, Like The Weather.

    Surprisingly to those who know me, I’ll +1 this. I was absolutely blown away by their SNL appearance when they did WTMH and LTW. Mind you, I like these three songs much more than anything else they ever did…

    If I am allowed “first three songs”, my top choice is pretty obvious, from my coming of age period:
    ZZ Top – Eliminator: “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Got Me Under Pressure”, “Sharp Dressed Man”

    Others off the top of my head…

    They Might Be Giants – Flood: “Birdhouse In Your Soul”, “Lucky Ball & Chain”, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”
    Alarm – Strength: “Strength”, “Dawn Chorus”, “Spirit of ’76”
    Urban Dance Squad – Mental Floss For The Globe: “No Kid”, “Deeper Shade of Soul”, “Prayer For My Demo”
    Big Country – Steeltown: “Rain Dance”, “The Great Divide”, “Just A Shadow”

    And for U2 albums, my preference would be “The Unforgettable Fire”, but this is “best three together” not “best two together”…Report

  15. aarondavid says:

    Wow, just wow. I mean I can’t even! Can you even? All of that above, its problematic.

    Here is the answer:

    Curtis Mayfield, Superfly soundtrack: Little Child Runnin’ Wild, Pusherman, Freddie’s Dead.

    Just listen to the first 15-16 minutes if you are not sure (no matter, you will listen to the rest.)

    • Chris in reply to aarondavid says:

      A prefect album.Report

    • krogerfoot in reply to aarondavid says:

      Well chosen, @aarondavid. I wanted to include Curtis Mayfield, but my CM record is an awesome UK compilation, which seemed outside the spirit of the rules. I never freaking realized that the actual Superfly soundtrack had all those songs right in a freaking row.

      Short Eyes is another crazy Curtis Mayfield soundtrack.

      That reminds me—I need to check my Al Green records. There can hardly help but be some amazing triptyches on there.Report

  16. Hoosegow Flask says:

    Alice in Chains – Nutshell, I Stay Away, No Excuses

    Michael Jackson – Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean

    Faith No More – Land of Sunshine, Caffeine, Midlife Crisis

    King’s X – Over My Head, Summerland, Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something

    The Gathering – In Between, Alone, Waking HourReport

  17. Brandon Berg says:

    Edit: Never mind. Didn’t realize they were supposed to be back-to-back-to-back.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I’m not sure the rule was explicitly stated (and Saul appears to have broken with it, in at least one of his entries).

      Also, I’ve never understood why sequential songs are “back to back”, unless we are playing the second song in reverse. Shouldn’t it be “back to front”?Report

    • Hmm. All three links work, but only one embedded. CK?Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Yeah, that’s a thing now in comments, more than one embed per/ usually doesn’t work anymore (that’s why I did three separate comments up above).

        It seems to have something to do with being the “last” portion of a comment too, because sometimes if you include any prose/text after the embed link, it won’t embed.

        (The OPs also recently started auto-changing the longer embed code, to the shorter one – the longer one is nice because you can control picture quality – and the “center” tags don’t seem to work anymore).Report

  18. And it’s hard to beat Mozart’s last three symphonies, though Beethoven might have done it with his 5th, 6th, and 7th.Report

  19. Slade the Leveller says:

    Smile by Brian Wilson, backed by The Wondermints contains this stretch: Song for Children, Child is the Father of the Man, and Surf’s Up. In an album that is one of the best, if not the best of the aughts, these 3 really stand out. Listening to the whole thing makes one wonder if Sgt. Pepper would be a rock and roll footnote if Smile had been released in the ’60s as a Beach Boys album.

    I’ll second the nomination of Boston’s debut opening 3. That was the first album I ever owned, and those 3 make for one of the best sides ever released.

    The closing trio of Super Furry Animals Phantom Power: Valet Parking, The Undefeated, and Slow Life is SFA in a nutshell. Never constrained by a single sound, there’s something for everyone in just these 3.

    Here’s the Smile stuff, with a bonus opener.


  20. I Can See for Miles, Pictures of Lily, and My Generation from Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy. Of course that’s cheating.

    Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing, and For No One: joy, disdain, and deep sadness.Report