everything you've done wrong
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Julian's taking a class at McGill where the professor asked the 200 students to submit their favourite bands, which he collected and compiled into a global ranking.

01. Dave Matthews Band
02. The Beatles
03. Led Zeppelin
04. Bob Marley
05. Pink Floyd
06. U2
07. Bob Dylan
08. OutKast
09. Radiohead
10. Ben Harper
11. Rolling Stones
12. Counting Crows
13. Grateful Dead
14. Neil Young
15. Simon and Garfunkel
16. The Tragically Hip
17. Aerosmith
18. David Bowie
19. The Doors
20. Jimi Hendrix
21. Madonna
22. John Mayer
23. Sarah McLachlan
24. Phish
25. The Who
26. Michael Jackson
27. Louis Armstrong
28. Beastie Boys
29. The Band
30. CCR
This is both really and not-at-all interesting. I mean, it's hilariously accurate to the cliche. The jam bands are there, the stoner bands, and a very healthy dose of the rock canon. No sign of the contemporary Top 40, outside of heart-on-sleeve troubadours like Mayer and McLachlan, and OutKast. OutKast's presence is actually very interesting - it suggests that the Pazz & Jop tokenism thing is slightly more complicated than (rockist/racist/closedminded) critics trying to seem rounded. I doubt these students would have felt compelled to have 'at least one' hip-hop record on their list of "favourite bands." More likely, they genuinely engaged with Speakerboxxx/Love Below, in a way that they haven't with most other hip-hop albums. (I'm assuming that Dre and Big Boi wouldn't have made the list a year ago.) Maybe it's because S/TLB is more 'conscious' (or proggier?) than the (presumably mainstream) rap these white kids have been exposed to. (The absence of indie rock on the list is as telling as the absence of undie rap.) It's strange, though, to see that OutKast isn't just the hip-hop group for indie fuxxxors who dig the Flaming Lips - it's the group of choice for the chilled-out suburbanites who smoke fatties and listen to Zeppelin.

Also interesting: Radiohead below U2!

In other indie rocker news, the most-commented-upon thread on Said the Gramophone is my post on Modest Mouse's "Float On". Not because I said anything interesting, but because google likes it. The thread is a fascinating excursion into the indie ideology war - it's all right here in stone-engraved caps:

"I pray to the gods of indie rock that the rest of the cd has some merit and this is just the crappy radio single epic forced them to produce."

"a frat boy sing along chorus that is not becoming to a talented band like modest mouse ... now they are using pop chord progressions. [This is meant as an insult. --ed.]"

Then there's the indie kids praising Thrice/Dashboard and the other indie kids attacking Bright Eyes/Thursday. It's a bloodbath, really. But beyond all this - there's also a lot of really intelligent comments, of people who are listening to their instincts and understand that the politics/social hierarchy is stupid: what matters is the music, not who's listening. Whether it's "sold out" or not, is it any good?

The Beatles - "Norwegian Wood" [take 2]. Because the mainstream rules. (One day I'll post a favourite Dave Matthews tune.) An alternate take from The Beatles' Rubber Soul recordings of "Norwegian Wood/This Bird Has Flown". "Norwegian Wood" is one of my very favourite Beatles tracks, playful and wry and ultimately black-hearted. This version is fascinating, almost terrifying. All the life has been stripped away, all the humanity. The sitar's been sedated, the drums and bass are grey and lumbering. John and Paul's vocals, mischievous in the final recording, have been turned ominous and uncaring, nearly psychopathic. The ambiguous final lines are no longer solemn-but-grinning; now, they're almost threatening. Who let this man into their house? Didn't they see the white of his teeth? The mud in his eye sockets? The zombie's hands? It's a nightmare song.

Sloan - "Everything You've Done Wrong". There was a time when maybe, just maybe, Sloan would have made the college kids' top-30 (in Canada, at least). Now, however, they continue their slow slide into irrelevance. Nevertheless, I can remember the first morning I heard them, the first day I read their name. I had awoken early before school, had tramped downstairs to watch the tube before I had to catch the bus. And there on MuchMusic was this casual, earnest pop jewel - a magnificent melody, blushing vocals, horns and handclaps and a bassline like my stammering silly heart. "Sloan," I noted at the end of the video. "Who?" I wasn't one to follow contemporary radio music, especially not Haligonian pop bands. But so began my two weeks of Sloan hunting, waking up at dawn, waiting downstairs by the TV, and hoping (dreaming!) of maybe hearing "Everything You've Done Wrong". It was my white whale, my Loch Ness Monster, my first love affair. It's honestly one of the very finest pop songs that has ever been recorded - effortless, dazzling, catchy, perfect. Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Years later, I own two copies of the album and a half-dozen mix CDs with this track somewhere in the running order. As much as I may listen to other songs, "Everything You've Done Wrong" is always on repeat, over and over again, somewhere deep in the kindest, happiest parts of my brain.

Posted by Sean at April 1, 2004 12:25 AM

Thanks for writing back about the blog info. It was very helpful for my speech. I really appreciate it.

Yay for "Everything You've Done Wrong"! I heard it on online radio at least a year or two ago, and it's also become one of my favorites. When people who like pop music ask me to make a mix CD, I usually try to include that song, because it's so wonderful. Thanks for including it.


Posted by Amber at April 1, 2004 7:01 AM

"Everything You've Done Wrong" is perfect. I love when I'm driving down the highway in the summer - headed to the cottage or the beach or whatever, and this song comes on - I crank it way up and everyone in the car is bopping their heads and it is impossible not to feel fantastic! I've always found Sloan albums to be uneven, but they have an uncanny ability to craft wonderful pop gems. Great pick.

Posted by Rob at April 1, 2004 8:43 AM

wow... so was that list of fav's by 18-22 year-olds or thirtysomethings? seriously.
i mean, i definately really like some of the bands on the list, but none are my favorites... it reads like a starbucks playlist - counting crows? the tragically hip? ben harper? what is this, 1994?

Posted by mr. blair at April 1, 2004 10:27 AM

I was surprised to see so much classic rock on the list, I mean isn't this a university? And Phish? I just don't get it.

Posted by Neil at April 1, 2004 11:21 AM

I'm sure you could have guessed 90% of these bands just by looking at the demographics of the class. Hell, you could apply this to the entire Arts faculty. I guess I'm stating the obvious.

Posted by anne at April 1, 2004 12:13 PM

You've inspired me to spearhead Undie Rap as a new genre I think.

Posted by Anonymous at April 1, 2004 1:14 PM

As a university kid, meself, I'm only surprised by two things on the list.
#1. The inclusion of Counting Crows, who listens to them anymore?
#2. The exclusion of Sublime.

I swear that every shitty time they have a bbq in the courtyard at my school, they are playing Sublime. Nothing like walking out of a class where we talk about the subordinated role of women in the 1800s to hear "A cigarette rests between her lips but I'm staring at her tits, it's the wrong way".

And, you know what, maybe I'm biased 'cuz my brother and sister love him so much, but I like John Mayer, he's funnny and decent. And anyone who records such a great acoustic version of "Kid A" deserves my respect.

And the best Sloan song ever is the last one off "Twice Removed".

Posted by caley at April 1, 2004 1:42 PM

Hey Caley. I'm a -huge- fan of "I Can Feel It," but it's still not the perfect track that "Everything" is. A little too repetitive, somehow, to fall totally into the sublime. (And my gf doesn't like it.)

re: Sublime. I guess they're sorta out of date, here, but then, I'd have thought the same thing of Madonna or the Counting Crows.

I don't like John Mayer, but his cover of "Kid A" is indeed pretty interesting.

Posted by Sean at April 1, 2004 2:10 PM

"what matters is the music, not who's listening. Whether it's "sold out" or not, is it any good?"

Well put. I listen to a lot of genre's out there with disregard as to who else is listening to them. And when someone snickers at my tastes, I fail to care. I like it, and I could care less if you do or don't.

And a great point on Outkast. I've actually been keeping my ear to them since '96, though never bought an album nor considered myself a fan, I think they are good. But they wouldn't make my list of favorites.

Posted by Indigo at April 1, 2004 2:11 PM

a disturbing trend i've found in fans of "indie" music (as a vast generalization) is to respect, or at least be okay with, bands that are purely pop. but openly LOATHE anything that treads the line. so it's okay for instance to admit liking a madonna song or "hey ya" but, if modest mouse records something with "a pop chord progression" or one of their songs ends up in a nissan commercial (which makes me happy everytime i hear it).. oh no! cry havok and let loose the dogs of whine!

related: indie bands in radio commercials [via largehearted boy]

Posted by justin at April 1, 2004 6:32 PM

It was through MuchMusic that I discovered Sloan too, and it was the charming video for "Everything You've Done Wrong" that hooked me on the band. I'm disappointed that none of Sloan's recent work has been able to hold a candle to its pre-millennial output, but the boys' shows still serve a useful function for those Canadian indie kids in their mid-20s who might be seeking a bit of a nostalgia trip. I had the pleasure of seeing the guys play a free outdoor show in a sleepy town near mine late last summer, and it was an entertaining (at times even exhilerating) gig. The second half of their set consisted of a clutch of thudding "rockers" from their last two studio efforts, but more than a few gems were played early in the evening.

As far as the results of the McGill professor's unfortunate survey are concerned, I think "predictable" is the word that might best sum them up. A lot of dross, a lot of outright shinola, and only a few gems. It's heartening to see that kids are still interested in listening to Dylan, The Beatles, Armstrong, Radiohead, and The Band, though; I'm of the opinion that those artists' talent and influence can never really be overstated.

Posted by Paul at April 1, 2004 8:22 PM

I agree with Paul that Sloan has certainly fallen apart in recent years. "Everything You've Done Wrong" was the last time I paid attention to Sloan, it's funny that since they stopped being interesting, they've become much more popular, getting played all the time. This reminds me that I need to pick up Sloan "Twice Removed" at some point in the future, as I really did enjoy it.

Posted by caley at April 2, 2004 2:33 AM

I remember the first time I heard that Sloan tune. May of '97. I immediately called the college radio station to find out who it was. They said they were getting more calls about that song than anything else they were playing. A perfect pop song. I'll never get sick of it.

Posted by stereogum at April 2, 2004 11:45 AM

......but the inclusion of louis armstrong is pretty excellent.

Posted by anne at April 2, 2004 2:48 PM

I actually think the mindset of these kids does have a trace of the same tokenism you're talking about. As I recall in college, there were always one or two rap groups (always groups) everybody liked -- but only one or two at a time. Gotta mean something.

Posted by Chris at April 4, 2004 1:09 PM

Everything you've done wrong is definitly a shiny,fresh pop song...Not like any of the one you could hear on any radio station...You could hear it again and again,you'll never get sick of it.

Posted by Ariane at September 5, 2004 2:07 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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