First off, thanks to everyone who has voted for songs and submitted comments for Mtx forever “best of” compilation we’re cooking up. I wasn’t sure how much interest there would be, but it turns out there was quite a bit, and I appreciate how thoughtful and “serious” these entries have been. As you can see from the comments below, and as you know if you’ve tried, it’s quite a difficult task to produce a short list that is simultaneously “best” and comprehensive. It’s thirty plus years of stuff, much of it uneven.
If you haven’t voted yet, there’s still time: head over to Sounds Radical and put in your two cents’ worth. Full details are here. This is an ongoing project and we’re going to keep the voting open, because it’s interesting to “take the pulse” and it may even wind up being helpful.
In this post I’m going to share preliminary “results,” and follow that with some of the submitted comments and my responses. (If you’ve followed my social medias you’ll likely have seen some of these — I’ve been posting them as they came in. Aggregating them here so they can be found again. I find them pretty interesting.) As always, let me know what you think, here or in any of the usual ways.
So: “results” may be putting it strongly because there’s a long road ahead and we’re just getting started with this. but for what it’s worth I am going to share the top ten thus far.
- Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba
- Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
- I Wrote a Book about Rock and Roll
- Here She Comes
- More than Toast
- She’s Coming (Over Tonight)
- Swallow Everything
- I’m like Yeah, but She’s all No
- Dumb Little Band
- With My Looks and Your Brains
We’ve had around 300 entries so far (pretty good for just a weekend, I’d say.) These are the tracks that appeared most often in the entries. No real surprises, except perhaps the prominence of “With My Looks and Your Brains.” Of course this crude tally doesn’t take the context into account, the other tracks that people selected as part of their lists. Many people, quite properly, were going for a particular “vibe” or feeling in the list as a whole. This is interesting data too, and if I can figure a way to assess and present it meaningfully I will.
We expect a lot more entries, and this tally will likely shift quite a bit: it’s early days. But if you were to take these as the “hits”, and imagine them as the core of the compilation, then they would have to be balanced with other songs from sources outside the four (effective) albums represented here. I’m not saying that’s how it will be done… it probably/definitely won’t be done exactly that way. But it’s interesting to think about it in terms of “balancing.”) We would need songs from ’86 through 92 and post-’99. We would need slow ones. Quiet ones. Variety. Diversity is our strength. (It’s not that that material isn’t represented on these lists: it’s just that there’s greater difference of opinion as to which particular tracks are worthiest.)
Most importantly it doesn’t take sequence in to account, which is the most important consideration in many ways. I’ve got some ideas on how to try to “crowd source” approaches to sequencing down the road. Stay tuned for that. It entails more than just gathering all your favorite songs in a clump.
But speaking of, just by the way, there was a Japanese CD compilation (ca. 1998) called Songs about Girls that was basically constructed that way, a bunch of Japanese kids chosing their favorite songs and lumping them together. It’s not bad now that I look at it, but the sequence is a bit… crazy. Anyway, that was then and there, this is here and now. (This release, to my genuine shock, does not appear on discogs.com. Somebody should add it, yeah?)
Anyhow, much, much more to come on all of this. Stay tuned, and feel free to vote if you haven’t already done so.
And now to the comments. There’s a lot more to choose from and I’ll be featuring more as time proceeds, but here’s the show so far:
From Karen: “This was harder than I thought. But I’m going to win.”
From Michael: “Finally got it down to 24 but honorable mentions are two covers — SEX OFFENDER and LOVE AMERICAN STYLE ( speaking of , the latter is more than your average cover, yes? Based around the TV show theme?)”
Me: “Love American Style” isn’t a cover, though it has a bit of the song after which it is named in the bridge. I guess you could say, it “contains” a cover? Anyway, it’s definitely going on here regardless.
Lance: “Wish I could choose more songs, but given twenty four choices, I’ve distilled things down to the quintessential MTX songs, in my opinion. I would say every record has it’s own unique “voice” and I would say they are some of the greatest rock n roll records out there.”
Me: Too kind, but you’re right about the “voice” thing. Part of that was deliberate, part of it just the result of circumstances making it so. “Art” is weird.
Comment: “I find it impossible to picture anything that is even sort of the “best of MTX” not including the best version of Sackcloth and Ashes.”
Me: Yeah, I get that. There are plenty of Love Is Dead songs you could say that about though and this just frees a slot for them. It’s all about the songs for me, and I want to put out as many of them as possible. As for the LID S&A: we’ll get there.
Comment from Sam: The best songwriter I know once told me that Our Bodies Our Selves is the best album ever. Surprised there’s less talk about it in these threads.
Me: I hear from many people who say it’s their favorite, but (a) I’m not sure how much this owes to a contrarian spirit (which, don’t get me wrong, I respect) and (b) I wonder how much of that is based not on the album proper but on the CD comp of it, which includes all the songs on the “Gun Crazy” 7". In other words, maybe what they are really preferring is the Gun Crazy songs.
Comment: “Even though Show Business is My Life doesn’t count since it’s solo vs MTX, “Two Martinis From Now” and “Thinking of You” would be my write in votes from that one… “
Me: Thanks. A SBIML re-issue is definitely on the agenda, and I have some big plans for it when and if we get there.
Steve: All of love is dead songs should be on it
Me: That would certainly make it easy.
Sandra asks: “Dr. Frank, When does voting close for this? I take a lot of time to make these decisions like I do with our election absentee ballot. This is 100x more difficult!”
Me: Yes, I know what you mean. I find it nearly impossible as well, which is partly why I thought of “crowd sourcing” it, if c.s. is the word I want. No rush. This is a slow, deliberative process that must go through several stages before execution. You’ve got time.
Comment: “This was the hardest thing I’ve done for a while. I had a shortlist of almost 40 songs, and it killed me to remove one and one until I got down to 24 songs. LOve Is Dead, Revenge Is Sweet, Alcatraz and Yesterday Rules mean very much to me. I just have to close my eyes, and they take me back to certain places, people and emotions. Still, I tried to pick some of the older songs to capture the sound and spirit of MTX”
Me: This is how it was for me as well. (And I have several different versions of it in mind, all with their pros and cons.) Some of it is far enough in my own past that I’m kind of like an outside observer like anybody else, but cultivating that distance for much of it impossible and surreal to try. Thanks for helping.
[It appears that this one combined several submissions into one without my realizing it, and that the first bit is actually from Josh the Vegan, not Heidi. Oops— ed.]
From Heidi: “I know I’m in the minority with Milk Milk Lemonade being my favorite MTX album so I had to pick a disproportionate number of tracks from that album to give those songs a bit of hope. Too difficult dammit. Feel kind of bad that I couldn’t pick more of the early stuff. I like it, but I feel like the best of the best is later. I would have put “Down With The Universe” on there too if it were an option. Been listening since I was 14, I’m 39 now!!!
This was the happiest part of my day, so far! Thanks for a great excuse to listen to all my favorite songs!!! This was my list, before I got here, haha. Bitter Homes and Gardens The Empty Experience I Fell For You Up and Down I Don’t Need You Now Here She Comes More Than Toast Love Is Dead Merry Fucking Christmas Tomorrow is A Harsh Mistress End of The Ramones She Turned Out To Be Crazy And I Will Be With You Flying Jelly Attack T-shirt Commercial Love American Style King Dork Danny Partridge Institutionalized Misogyny Last Time I Listened To You Lawnmower of Love Love you guys!!! Soooo excited for this!!! Thanks for letting us help! ? Heidi Long live songs about girls! “
Me: It probably is a literal minority as Love Is Dead / Revenge are so preferred, but I hear from lots of people who say that Milk Milk Lemonade is their favorite. It’s a strange album in many ways, and could be vastly improved sonically. (It’s the main candidate for a remix if and when we can make that happen, but in the meantime, for this project, we’ll see what can be done with mastering.) There is an alternate mix (the original one I think) of “Book of Revelation” that sounds a bit more rational and might be good to use here but we’ll see. Cheers.
Jonathan: “With anything available on Sounds Rad excluded, this became surprisingly easy. My only tough call was leaving off ‘Somebody Who Cares’ so I could include ‘Spy vs. Spy’. Maybe you could combine the votes for songs with multiple versions? I prefer the cuts of ‘Let’s Be Together Tonight’ and ‘The Last Time I Listened to You’ that were featured on the CD release of BBBBBB, but if most people prefer the album recordings I don’t want to fracture the vote! Cheers”
Me: Cheers to you too. “Spy vs. Spy” doesn’t tend to get a lot of love so thanks for that. We’re doing this by song qua song, mostly, and if either of those songs wind up on it I think we’ll just choose the version that fits best; however, as I said in the original post, the master tape of that version of “Last Time I Listened to You” is not longer extant, which handicaps it greatly. (It’s the one I prefer too, and it’s a bit of a shame, but: maybe that means we just skip LTILTY on this. Still mulling.) Thanks for chiming in.
Jon: “The kids knocked over my beer while I was occupied with this. Bastards.”
Mason: “That was a lot harder than I thought it would be! I wanted to be fair and pick a wide variety of songs and I might have failed haha. I like and respect all of your albums, but Revenge and Alcatraz just do something for me.”
From our friend Wes: “This was harder than I thought. I tried to go for deeper cuts (somewhat literally — made a rule I wouldn’t include the first track of any album, which was painful in the case of Yesterday Rules — but I reckon if you’re going to re-release those on Sounds Rad at some point, the intro tracks are easy to find there). If you had the recordings, I would want to see: 1) Danny Partridge live version with The Name Game from MTWL 2) Pathetic — Sweet Baby cover from the Joel-era tour 3) T-Shirt Commercial from the Lookout comp And of course the Girl Scout song. Looking forward to seeing you guys again in St. Louis.”
Me: Well the Girl Scout song ain’t happenin, but thanks for remembering. (Incidentally though I recently found the Girls Scouts of America promo cassette from which the half-remembered lyrics in that surreptitiously recorded mic check were derived. Maybe one day I’ll post it, it’s pretty good.) I’ve wrestled with the “first track” issue as well. Not only because of them being more prominent because of that position but because because other “slots” have significance too. Somehow it feels like “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba” shouldn’t be second on any side. Because, you know, it’s already been done. Sometimes though there’s logic to it, because there’s a genuine technical reason to choose acoustic songs to end sides, so “Hitler” going to end a side here most likely…. Overthinking this, I’m sure.
Jesi: “This was too hard!! I probably did it wrong by not including the later albums but I have some earlier little songs stitched forever on my heart that I’m willing to fight for (“New Girlfriend”?? Yes it’s the B-side and yes it NEEDS to be included!) My desert island MTX won’t be the same as others’ and that’s ok. It pained me not to select all of my favorites, but I believe each and every one of my nominations is worthy of “Best Of” status. And probably you should just throw the entirety of Love is Dead in there for good measure.” — Jesi
Comment from Dan: “Love this! Am I crazy or was Frank once thinking of doing a “best of” where the chosen tracks were all re-recorded with the most up to date version of the band/technology? I always kind of liked that idea though it would be jarring to hear new and unusual “covers” of the classics! This seems a more authentic compromise. Also — does Frank have a personal “best of” list and will he release it once the voting is done? I always find it interesting to see what the artist’s view of their touchstone tracks are compared to mine. (I.e. I love how Nick Cave unashamedly adores his song “Rock of Gibraltar” which seemed like a fairly nothing track on his Nocturama album to the rest of the world.)”
Me: The idea of re-doing an old album has its appeal, but I’m not sure it would be worth doing because (a) the recordings as they are, reflecting their time and circumstances, are “part of history” at this point; and (b) everyone would hate it. I could see doing it for a song or two (and I guess we did do it with “King Dork” on KDATA.) And, I suppose, much of the live set is just that. I really don’t have firm ideas on what is “best”, but my main criterion is the songs qua songs, the best-written, most interesting compositions, I guess. Sometimes they coincide and overlap with the “hits”, sometimes not so much, but that’s what makes it interesting.
Comment: “Why exclude shards? I would definitely put “we are the future people of tomorrow” on this!”
Me: Yeah that’s a good one, but we just released it a few months ago and the idea is to cover more ground and not repeat anything. Similarly, to those who would like this to be tracks 1–16 from Love Is Dead plus the first side of Revenge Is Sweet: that would make a re-issue of LID down road rather redundant, wouldn’t it?
From Danny: “This was pretty awkward to do, even though I spend a large amount of time making top 5, 10 & 20 lists of various things….A top 40 would have been much easier! I realised doing this list how much of a terrible fan I am — I was late to the MTX party so most of the stuff on my list is from ’94 onwards — I’m still not completely familiar with the earlier stuff, so feel free to give my songs half a vote. I still havn’t properly listened to the Beatles White album either, so please don’t take any offense, the stuff I know is right up there with the greatest songs ever written. PS. Merry Christmas”
Me: Merry Christmas to you too, and thanks for the compliment.
From Charles: “I just finished submitting my picks and while there were some heartbreaking exclusions, the process really brought my love for Alcatraz into sharper focus. Anyway, I look forward to seeing the final selection!”
Ryan: “When discussion of the greatest pop-punk song of all time comes up — and it often does in my life — “Swiss Army Girlfriend” is always the first song to come out of my mouth. It’s a (mostly) three chord song with amazing tone, melody, and the coolest bridge ever. And when underrated albums come up — Alcatraz is my go to. I still don’t think I’ve ever heard another album like it .”
Me: Thanks very much. “Swiss Army Girlfriend” is for sure one of the good ones.
Trey: “Wow, this exercise was harder than I thought it could be. So many great songs, each one evoking memories of great times, places and people. Times change, tastes evolve, but MTX has been a constant in my life for nearly 30 years! That’s saying something.”
Michele: I think its unfair to limit us to 24 choices lol this was one of the hardest lists I have ever had to make
Aaron: “This is a pretty cool idea. Thank you for including me, it’s nice to be a part of something like this. My functional knowledge of the MTX catalog is limited largely to the Love is Dead/Revenge is Sweet era, so I largely limited my choices to those albums. MTX wasn’t my favorite of the Lookout! Records era of pop punk I was just barely getting into at the time. They were, however, by FAR the cleverest band I was listening to, and they changed the way I thought of what could happen regarding music, for which I will be forever grateful.”
Adam: Love Is Dead is my favorite MTX album, cliché I know, but it really is that good. Also, weirdly, the King Dork Approximately album has grown on me quite a bit. I can’t fucking get over “High School Is the Penalty” and “I Wanna Ramone You.” As for Milk Milk Lemonade, its not a big favorite I’m sorry to say, other than “Book of Revelations,” which is super hooky and has such a cool fanciful guitar lead.
Tucker: “”This is hard and I feel like too many are excluded, but this is my own dream playlist (excluding some stuff already on Shards, of course).”
Daniel: “Even excluding the 32 songs that appear on the Shards albums, narrowing down the best of the remaining songs in the MTX catalog is a daunting feat!! Good luck!”