Five Minnesota albums deserving of a 33 1/3 book
The 33 1/3 pitches are open again! For music obsessives, this long-running series of short books devoted to iconic albums has been a great resource for amusement and exhaustive reporting.
Two personal favorites from the series are Carl Wilson's tome about Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love and Christopher Weingarten's take on Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. But there are titles concerning the Beastie Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, and a few with local ties. Prince's Sign "O" the Times is explored by Michaelangelo Matos and the Replacements' Let it Be is explored by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy. (And, Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited by Mark Polizzotti, we suppose.)
Now, they're taking some more proposals until April 30, and here are five Minnesota albums that would be a fascinating read.
5. Next - Rated Next (1997)
As Peter Scholtes wrote in 2000, "most white folks in our sticks-on-a-stick hadn't even heard of self-dubbed Minnesota "ghetto celebs" Next until well after their ode to dance-floor penile functionality, 'Too Close,' had gone up and down the charts for nearly a year." And yet, this non-Prince product was one of the biggest R&B hits of the late '90s, and a coveted Billboard Hot 100 number one. The very un-Googleable Next was discovered and propped up by another relic of the era, Naughty by Nature's producer Kay Gee and eventually had the backing of industry heavyweight Clive Davis. It would be fascinating to uncover how they erected their signature hit and career in the unlikely Twin Cities.
4. Soul Asylum - Grave Dancers Union (1992)
Nike high-tops and a copy of Soul Asylum's sixth studio album were in every teenager's bedroom in the early '90s. Seattle overtook Minneapolis for the grunge home base, but Dave Pirner's ragged voice on Grave Dancers Union was what everyone needed when Kurt Cobain got to be a tad too intense. Grammy voters loved "Runaway Train" enough to deem it 1993's best rock song, and this recording was emblematic of the whole "authenticity/selling out" debate that rages into the present. Choice interview for this book would be Pirner's ex Winona Ryder.
3. Atmosphere - God Loves Ugly (2002)
This album is arguably one of the most influential documents created on Minnesota soil. Fresh into the Napster era, a song like "Fuck You Lucy" pulled hip-hop heads from the Def Jux camp, Eminem fans, sensitive punks, and anyone else looking for a movement that wasn't already full. Ever since, nearly any white guy who raps with feeling is inevitably compared to Slug, and the Rhymesayers brand has gone global.
2. Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade (1984)
You can get a taste of how fucking raw and ridiculous Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton could be in Michael Azerrad's chapter about them in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Now, here's a chance to go over this formative era in melodic hardcore with comb fine enough to groom Norton's fancy mustache. Honestly, though, this would be a chance to head for more conceptual pastures, and be less a history and more an interpretation, given that this album follows the arc of a guy who runs away from his abusive home. Check out Mountain Goats principal John Darnielle's book about Black Sabbath's Master of Reality to assess how far the 33 1/3 series can take things.
1. Lipps Inc. - Mouth to Mouth (1979)
Yes, the groovy disco platter "Funkytown" originated from a Minneapolis act, and isn't the album cover for Mouth to Mouth a wondrous sight in itself? Though this release -- masterminded by bandleader Steve Greenberg -- only has four songs, each one is a delightful time capsule and a vehicle for the dancefloor siren Cynthia Johnson, who also played some fierce sax for the Time, and eventually joined Sounds of Blackness. This is back when City Pages was called Sweet Potato and before many of our faithful readers knew how to walk. I want to read this book, and it doesn't even exist yet!
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