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Men Losing It: Five Cult Albums

10 August 2012

Occasionally men lose it. They flip. They get their heart smashed and then plummet, or absolutely erupt, or both. That makes for a dangerous situation, resulting in some really unsavory headlines. It also produces some of the most fabulous, gut-wrenching cult albums of all time. Here are five of them from men at their best, worst moments. I highly encourage you to listen to these albums. I also strongly suggest you don’t, if you enjoy being happy.

1. Sugar – Beaster (1993). As the B-side EP to Copper Blue, these tracks should have been the scraps. Au contraire. These are the juiciest cuts. Together, it makes up the  feistiest, most explosive material from Bob Mould, who rails about betrayal and angst. Sugar’s punk past festers wonderfully at this juncture.

2. Weezer – Pinkerton (1996). After the eminently likeable blue album, Weezer did an about-face and released a most unpopable sound. A rock opera gone bad, Pinkerton features Rivers Cuomo’s terrifying descent in self-pitying loneliness after a series of obliterated relationships, including a misguided crush on a lesbian.

3. Chris Whitley – Din of Ecstasy (1995). Many artists, especially after receiving popular acclaim on their first album, take a new turn. Whitley jumps off the rails. His American steel bluegrass is replaced by soaring electric guitars and soulful noise rock. Drugs and anger play out more strongly here than on any of his other work. Underneath the abrasive presentation is sheer genius at work.  Was the album was released twenty years too soon – or too late?

4. Damian Rice – O (2002). This very well may be the most self-loathing, girl-loathing, life-loathing album ever made. Yet just when you think Rice’s dysfunctional libido has consumed him, he bounces back with an inscrutable sweetness.  Watch the movie Closer to maximize the psychological pain.

5. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen (1993). Greg Dulli lives in hell most of the week, with breaks to go to the bar. It’s unclear what sent him into his emotional spiral, but the grunge rocker knows all too intimately the terrors of his self-destructive eros in “Gentlemen” and “What Jail Is Really Like.”  This is one of the unsung albums of that strange foray Americans took into alternative rock.

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