When you’re an influential musician, people tend to ask you what you’ve been listening to lately. Here at 5 for 20, we’re just as keen to find out what records loom large in our favourite artists’ memory banks. So, we’re asking folks for their top five records of the last 20 years.
This week we hear from Rob Benvie, who currently plays in the Dears and Camouflage Nights and, along with childhood pal Joel Plaskett, came to prominence as a guitarist/vocalist in Halifax’s Thrush Hermit. Benvie’s also an accomplished writer, and his second novel, Maintenance, is the CBC Music book club selection for August.
Sometimes, coming up with a 5 for 20 is taxing. Just ask Benvie.
“Boy oh boy, much as I want to make this list bitchin’ and fun, I confess the 1992 cut-off date eliminates some of my hand-to-heart all-time favourite albums,” he says. “I’m an inconsistent consumer/collector of music, and typically only get really into a couple of records a year. But when I do, I get deep.
“I had an idea of choosing albums that clung neatly to the 1999 setting of my mind-blowing, life-altering novel Maintenance, but that didn't really lend itself well to the assigned concept. So I said f--k it. Anyway, let’s go!”
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
I very distinctly recall being in Clyde Lieberman’s office in New York – he was my first band, Thrush Hermit’s, publishing guy and sort of our mentor – in 1993 as he played us a cassette of this rap group he’d just signed. I couldn’t believe something so thwappy and funny and, frankly, terrifying was being played on Hot 97. There are few more potent pleasures than throwing on "C.R.E.A.M.," or "Method Man," or "Protect Ya Neck," or jeez, come on. Unimpeachable, still.
Supa Dupa Fly by Missy Elliot (1997)
Like some weird phoenix-y force of joyful evil, Missy appeared at a moment when American R&B was killing everything. Timbaland's production is disgustingly tight, the hooks are nauseatingly catchy, everything’s sleek and cold and perfect. If I tried to introduce myself to Missy at a party, she’d sock me in the sack.
At Action Park by Shellac (1994)
There is a very specific smart-mean-funny thing that American Midwest rock guys like [Steve] Albini and those Touch & Go/Drag City bozos have that I’ve never been able to fully understand, being a bumpkin Maritimer and prone to excessive acquiescence. I recorded for a couple of days with Albini way back when, around the time this LP came out, at his home studio in Chicago, before he moved operations to his current facility. Even inspecting the knobs of Steve and Bob Weston’s amps was intimidating. Despite its abrasive elements, this is a ridiculously catchy record. Todd Trainer equals sickening drumming (no ride cymbal!). Shellac at The Knitting Factory, about a year or so after this, remains my all-time favourite rock show.
Neuseiland by Neuseiland (2000)
Listen to "When You Get Back from the War."
Halifax is a strange place. Everyone is in a band or a songwriter or self-proclaimedly "passionate" about music (no credentials beyond bar receipts needed). And yet there is also a very conservative and generically reverent tendency that kinda bugs me. But cool folks, bitching bands, continue to do great things out of our briny home.
Charles Austin – formerly of Super Friendz, current head honcho at Echo Chamber Studio, also in the Lodge – is one of those guys. The recordings of his band Neuseiland, accompanied by rare geniuses Andrew Glencross and Drew Yamada and Tim Stewart, with drums alternately supplied by Joel Plaskett and Cliff Gibb, remain my favourite progressive-minded recordings from a place and time with which I have a somewhat thorny relationship. GBV meets King Tubby meets Willie Nelson. Sadly, Neuseiland is apparently now dead and dusted, but if you think Halifax music is all cowboy-shirt beige Big Star roots-rock or fat moron rap, I beg you to seek out Neuseiland.
End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story by the Dears (2000)
Listen to "End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story."
Another autobiographical pick, I guess. Give me a break; I'm trying here. For a while after Thrush Hermit broke up, I was pretty disenchanted with the idea of being in or starting another rock group. One night in London, Ont., while on tour bassing for Mike O’Neill, this opening band blew my mind. I bought their CD and had it on repeat for weeks thereafter, trying to convince many friends that, perish the thought, there was actually a good band from Montreal. Two years later, I was living in that vile, beautiful city and playing guitar in that vile, beautiful band: I’ve been in and out in various ways ever since, and singer/leader Murray [Lightburn] is now one of my bestest pals.
Runner-up: Basic Concept by Local Rabbits
Listen to "Play On."
Join the CBC Music Book Club, meeting via blog post every Friday, and read Maintenance by Rob Benvie.
5 for 20: Justin Peroff of Eight and a Half
5 for 20: YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN
5 for 20: Kathleen Edwards
5 for 20: Bahamas
5 for 20: Damian Abraham of F--ked Up
5 for 20: Dave Clark of the Woodshed Orchestra
5 for 20: Jayme Stone
5 for 20: PS I Love You
5 for 20: Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies
5 for 20: Bry Webb
5 for 20: Cold Specks
5 for 20: Dan Griffin of Arkells
5 for 20: Parlovr
5 for 20: The Dudes
5 for 20: Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces
5 for 20: Baby Eagle
5 for 20: Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station
5 for 20: Dave Ullrich of the Inbreds
5 for 20: Patrick Pentland of Sloan
[CMW] 5 for 20: Mike O’Neill
5 for 20: John K. Samson of the Weakerthans
5 for 20: the Barr Brothers
5 for 20: Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three
5 for 20: Edgar Breau of Simply Saucer
5 for 20: Plants and Animals
5 for 20: Lynn Perko Truell of Imperial Teen
on Aug 15, 2012