Posted by: kaleidophonic | November 12, 2011

Coolest Songs in the World, Vols 1-8

Happy weekend! It’s time to get the fuzz out – garage fuzz. Also literal fuzz. Like that stuff that clings to your clothes and gathers in little dust bunnies in the hallways. Whenever I decide to get serious and clean the crap out of my apartment, I always turn up the garage rock fuzz while I work. This weekend is one of those times, so I thought it appropriate to talk about a series of albums that have been part of my household cleaning soundtrack (along with the loud vacuum noise, clanking of dishes, and that neat sound the tub makes when you rub it “squeaky clean”) for some time now.

I guess maybe it’s kinda backwards that I listen to dirty fuzzed out music and lyrics while I clean, and I blame Little Steven, aka Steven Van Zandt, aka Silvio Dante; radio dj, guitarist for Bruce Springsteen, and cast member of tv’s Sopranos. I mostly know him as Little Steven, host of the syndicated radio show the Underground Garage.

One day, many years ago now, I was surfing through the radio dial and this came blasting out of my speakers:

Ravonettes “Great Love Sound”


And my head made that “kablooooey” sound that happens when my mind is blown apart.

I still love this song to pieces. The screaming in the background and the dirty fuzzed out sound is just so amazingly cathartic.

This was my introduction to Little Steven, and after listening to the show for a while I eventually caved in and started purchasing the CD compilations. (I find it more convenient to have the CDs than tuning in to the show at a given date and time, or listening through his website.) I am now the questionably proud owner of Vols. 1-8 of the Coolest Songs in the World.

So just what, you may be asking, ARE the coolest songs in the world?

Well, if you liked that Ravonettes track, and if you like any of the following groups, I recommend you check out these comps. They’re full of punk, garage, and gritty indie rock tracks, mostly from the 1980s through to the present. Groups featured on these comps include:

Big names such as the New York Dolls, Joey Ramone, the Pretty Things, David Bowie (David Bowie?), the Pretenders, and the Stooges. Indie bands like the Go-Gos, the Mooney Suzuki, Soundtrack of Our Lives (SOOL) are well represented, and the compilation series is also a good go-to source for new groups doing homage to the garage rock tradition. It was through Little Steven’s comps that I first heard about groups like The Maggots and The Urge.

Vol. 2 even includes a track from Montreal’s own High Dials!

(This isn’t the song from the comp, but I couldn’t find a link for “I Am the Eye”).

Another reason I really dig the Coolest Songs series is that there’s always a few tracks from girl groups like the Donnas and the Go-Gos. I wish the world had way more garage girl groups. Its just so hot when chicks appropriate that cocky male rock posture, when they turn the guitars and fuzz into a tool of feminist expression. It’s a direct rebuttal to the fact that women have for so long been nothing much more than objects of desire in the dirty, grungy world of rock n’ roll.

. Hawt.

The only negative thing I have to say about this series is that the earlier albums have more meat to offer than the newer ones. Vol. 8 was a bit of a let down. It didn’t seem to have the swagger, depth, or different sonic textures of the earlier volumes like Vols. 1 & 2. That said, Vol. 6 is one of my personal faves because it includes the Andrew Oldham Orchestra number “365 Rolling Stones (One for each day of the year)” as well as a track from England’s long-running Pretty Things, “All Light Up” – a track about the revolutions (and drug culture) that swept the world in the late 1960s and early 70s. It’s like a mini-history lesson backed up with jangly guitars, rockin’ solos, hand clapping, and a chorus of children singing along.


And with that, I’m off to rock and roll my way to a dust-free apartment. See you in a few days.

– KJ


  1. Right on time. I’ve had to try to explain garage rock to a few different people recently…

    • Check out the November monthly episode spotlight too – its my garage rock show and I start with that very same premise: how do you define garage rock?

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