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Music and cycling go hand-in-hand. Whether we listen pre-ride, on the bike, aboard the wind trainer, or after a ride with friends to wind down, we all have our own taste. Disco, rock, techno, house, jazz, blues, whatever. It’s all “classic” because you define “classic.” And, in the spirit of “classic” we asked co-founder of Pablove, founder/president of CAST Management, friend of peloton, and fellow cyclist Jeff Castelaz to pick five of his “classic” albums. Here’s my impressions of each along with Jeff’s.
Words: Tim Schamber & Jeff Castelaz
Illustrations: Matthew Burton
THE SMITHS/THE SMITHS
[Schamber]: I was in 10th grade in 1984 when this album was released. I didn’t know who The Smiths were. It was the mid-80s and I was weening myself off of rock and accepting the synth stuff coming from abroad. My friend James felt The Smiths though. He was ahead of all of us in our group. He grew his hair like Morrissey, wore the same eyeglasses and dressed like him. He even took on his “emo-ness.” You knew those kids. It was only after a Spanish exchange student gave me a mix tape that I grew fond of them. She was European, I was a whitebread poser. Suddenly my eyes opened wider.
I love the way the album opens. Tight, slow drumming ease you into “Reel Around the Fountain.” It was unlike anything else out there. Morrissey’s voice was sad and monotone. He sounds vulnerable, but the lyrics are uplifting. Poetic. How does this work in 1984 with the synthetic musical atmosphere? Johnny Marr’s songwriting ability and musicianship helps. This is a real band. Talented. Side A flows evenly with well-placed falsetto here and there that is fresh and different. I like it.
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For me, Side B is stronger than A. Uptempo. Quick. “What difference does it make” is timeless even 30 years later, but it’s “I don’t owe you anything” that does it for me. Flowy and smooth, it’s where Morrissey’s buttery voice shines. It ends with a depressing “Suffer little children” but at this point you don’t care because you’re spent.
THE SMITHS/THE SMITHS
1. Reel around the fountain
2. You’ve got everything now
3. Miserable lie
4. Pretty girls make graves
5. The hand that rocks the cradle
1. This charming man
2. Hand in glove
3. What difference does it make?
4. I don’t owe you anything
5. Suffer little children
CASTELAZ SAYS [THE SMITHS/THE SMITHS]: “An album of anthems for those of us who were chained to our bedrooms reading, except when we were out honing our bike skills, as misunderstood non-jocks. Morrissey has many great bicycling lyrics, starting with this album.”
JANE’S ADDICTION/NOTHING’S SHOCKING
[Schamber]: Though Jane’s Addiction had already released a self-titled album in 1987 (recorded live), “Nothing’s Shocking” was their first studio release. I was already two years out of high school, working full time and taking college courses. It was that in-between time for me musically. Rounding out the 1980s and moving toward what the commercial world “marketing-stiffs” would call “Grunge.” The reality was that it was simply alternative. Different. It had an edge, plenty of angst and a ton of hard-hitting, in-your-face, heavy sound.
Enter Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction. Farrell is the driving force behind this band. He’s the creative, avante-garde singer/songwriter. His voice is punchy and penetrating. He can be soft and spiky and will turn on you in a moments notice. He’s unique.
“Up the beach” starts with a slow, melodic bass line that drones for 17 seconds until it clashes with the guitar of Dave Navarro, all the while Farrell’s haunting moan accents the madness. It goes like this with essentially no lyrics. It’s ballsy. Turn it up. The next two songs follow the same routine with similar tempo and Farrell’s voice that’s always on the razor’s edge. “Ted, just admit it…” is a jam session with impressive tempo changes from slow to fast, to balls to the wall with Navarro’s crunching guitar paving the way. “Summertime rolls” gives you a bit of relief with its deliberate pace. Things change big time and lighten up on “Idiots rule” with the infusion of some horns and the soulful stride, while “Jane says” injects some steel drums, and “Thank you boys” is a loungy, light-hearted instrumental. The fury of “Pigs in zen” wraps up the album on an aggressive note, and is the perfect bookend to an album that lures you in with a crazy mix of grinding tempo. While it’s certainly a team effort that makes this album go, I keep coming back to Farrell’s scorching voice as the reason I like it so much.
1. Up the beach
2. Ocean size
3. Had a dad
4. Ted, just admit it…
5. Standing in the shower… thinking
6. Summertime rolls
7. Mountain song
8. Idiots rule
9. Jane says
10. Thank you boys
11. Pigs in zen
CASTELAZ SAYS [JANE’S ADDICTION/NOTHING’S SHOCKING]: “An album fueled by Perry Farrell’s Cold War lyrical images of Reaganomics, sleezy commercial sex and a media complex that was invading our lives with highly biased untruths (how prophetic). Equal parts melodic grace, homicidal guitar work, add drumming, all hung impossibly on Eric Avery’s commanding, menacing bass riffs.”
[Schamber]: With all the hoopla about the Seattle scene, along came this 1991 release. Too many people associate Smashing Pumpkins with the “Grunge” scene, but they were hundreds of miles away from Washington, in Illinois. This was their first release and it was under the radar from the get-go. I never got in to them until years later when I discovered their second release “Siamese Dream.” I like “Gish” as it starts out with good power, but I don’t think it hits its stride until “Rhinoceros.” Slow and moody with crisp drumming and bluesy guitar work, it ramps up just enough (around 3:10) to keep the flame burning. “Bury me” takes the same route as the first two which is fine, but “Crush” is where you really hear the psychedlic influence and the fervor of Billy Corgan’s voice. If you want to hear some tight drumming turn up the volume for “Suffer.” It’s not manic or fast, but sparse, deep and tight. For me, this song is more about the musical accompaniment than the lyrics and voice. What I love about “Snail” is the constant change in direction the Pumpkins take. Slow, then fast, then back to slow. It’s maybe why I like “Siamese Dream” so much. “Snail” could have easily been right at home on that album. “Tristessa” also goes in the same direction as the first two and we come back down again with “Window paine.” I honestly could have used more of “Daydream” with bass player D’arcy Wretzky on vocals. Sneaking in the hidden track “I’m going crazy” really does a disservice to that song and her great voice. They should have ended there.
1. I am one
4. Bury me
9. Window paine
11. I’m going crazy (hidden track)
CASTELAZ SAYS [SMASHING PUMPKINS/GISH]: “Nobody understood, everybody left us behind, and this album is the soundtrack to our revenge on Bad Parenting, USA. Most of us aggro cyclists align perfectly with Billy Corgan’s double-barrel riff assault, his lyrical voice-of-the-downtrodden, and Jimmy Chamberlin’s TT pace drumming.”
[Schamber]: It’s early summer of 1991 and I’m living in Chico, California in an apartment just outside of downtown. Next door, a greasy haired graphic design major named Dennis and his stony roommate are my friends. Dennis is always barefoot and smiling and looks like Curt Cobain. By this time, the Seattle, Washington influence is in full swing in this college town and Dennis has Nirvana’s “Nevermind” on constant rotation. I hear it through our common wall on a daily basis. I like it, but I grow tired of it. I need something else. I find a used copy of Pearl Jam’s first release “Ten” at the record store downtown. I buy it. At this point I had big speakers and I could compete with Dennis. I pop in the CD, and my apartment grows fangs. We all know about Pearl Jam now, but back then, they were new, fresh and different.
“Once” has that moody beginning that hits full speed quickly. You are immediately knee-deep into this album. It’s an underated track in my opinion since “Alive” and “Jeremy” tend to steal all the glory. The guitar work is sharp, then woozie and by the time you’re at 3:15 you feel the angst of this song, of this album. The rest of it builds off track 1. Though I’ve listened to “Alive” several hundred times, I never grow tired of the first 33 seconds of introduction and that moment you first hear Eddie Vedder’s voice. It truly is a well-crafted song all the way through. “Why go” nervously builds to a cresecendo, and then they follow up with “Black” and “Jeremy.” It’s hard to find a better two song combination like these. Both are sparse, deliberate and haunting. “Oceans” proved that they could slow it down and is one of my favorite songs of the bunch. “Porch” ramps the speed up a bit and then “Garden” slows it down with an uptick of emotion just near the very end. I love the madness of the track called “Deep.” There’s so much going on here at moments that you may lose your mind, but then at 2:24 it all slows down and Vedder’s voice comes alive. Then he erupts again and guitar chaos continues. Finally the hidden track called “Release.” Its deliberate pace smoothes out the edges allowing you to clear your mind and sit and think about what you’ve just experienced. “Ten” went on to sell more than 10 million copies. It’s still good.
2. Even Flow
4. Why Go
CASTELAZ SAYS [pearl JAM/TEN]: “Eddie Vedder’s masterpiece portrait of misspent Chicago childhood times, healing afternoons of perfect San Diego surfing sessions, as channeled through his bandmates’ stunning update on classic rawk tunesmithery. Cyclists who can pace with Vedder’s rage on this record win races.”
VAN HALEN/VAN HALEN
[Schamber]: It’s 1978 and my sister is blasting this record on my dad’s hi-fi. Has she gone mad? What is this? I was all about Led Zeppelin at the time and nothing or nobody else mattered in music for me. I sit at the top of the stairs. Where’s my mom? Dad’s at work and doesn’t know his speakers are melting. From the get-go Van Halen’s self-titled and first album was pure hellfire. Eddie Van Valen wasn’t playing the guitar he was toying with it, laughing at it, making it bleed. How does he play that fast? I go back to my room. My sister just one-upped me big time. Van Halen was tight, talented and fresh and I loved it.
At the time, you bought albums and each side was scrutinized. You placed it on the turntable, dropped the needle and played it in order. When the first side ended, you shot up, flipped it over and repeated the process. Unlike today, the first song on Side B was crucial. It had to be good. Now, with CD’s and digital files, we hit “Shuffle” and listen to things out of order. We skip over songs with a click. It’s progress but it “ain’t” natural.
This album needs to be listened to in order. “Runnin’ with the devil” explodes and we are off. “Eruption” is called an instrumental, but sweet mama, it’s more than that—it’s an assault. Tracks 3 and 4 are solid but “I’m the One” is my favorite on Side A. Turn it over. Side B’s opener “Jamie’s cryin’” is a perfect “swingy” tune that’s followed by more assault with “Atomic punk.” How is this band so tight on their first record? “Feel your love tonight” continues the swing with great backing vocals and “Little dreamer” slows shit down with a bluesy tone and more incredible backing vocals by bassist Michael Anthony. “Ice cream man” is fun and full of sexual innuendo and David Lee Roth nails it. “On fire” is the heaviest of all the tunes with more screeching guitar from the master. They never topped this release, though “Van Halen II” has plenty of power.
VAN HALEN/VAN HALEN
1. Runnin’ with the devil
2. Eruption” (Instrumental)
3. You really got me
4. Ain’t talkin’ ‘bout love
5. I’m the one
1. Jamie’s cryin’
2. Atomic punk
3. Feel your love tonight
4. Little dreamer
5. Ice cream man
6. On fire
CASTELAZ SAYS [VAN HALEN/VAN HALEN]: This album is pure puberty. Four boys from Pasadena bottled turbo-charged West Coast sunshine and sold all of us on a world where scissor kicks, finger-tapped guitar solos and kick drums as ominous as Sherman Tanks were better than our crappy hometowns. This one goes to the desert island.
From Issue 30 of peloton.