One of my goals while I’m 40 is to listen to 40 albums that were important to teenage me. I’ve gone back and heard seven so far.
1. U2, The Unforgettable Fire
This one’s a bit of a cheat–I’ve listened to parts of this pretty consistently over the years, but I haven’t heard the whole album, start to finish, in who knows how long. My preferred tracks probably hurt this, though: the tracks I tend to avoid–“Fire” and “Indian Summer Sky”–sounded out of place now. Besides, they’re harsher than the soft, mellow, flowing tracks that attract me to this album: a lot of late work nights this last semester were capped off by a long drive home to the trio of “Promenade,” “4th of July,” and “Bad” on earphones (but of course I still love “Pride,” so go figure).
New Verdict: B+
2. The Cure, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
I remember this being a long, rambling, uneven album…and this re-listening confirmed that. The surprise here was that some of the highly visible singles from my childhood–like “Hot Hot Hot!!!” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”–are just annoying now, and some of the more obscure tracks from later on towards the end of the album–such as “The Perfect Girl,” “Like Cockatoos,” and “A Thousand Hours”–are more catchy and pleasant than I remembered.
Still a deeply uneven effort. Why make the album so overstuffed with discordant filler like “The Snakepit” and “Icing Sugar,” the later of which sounds like a ripoff of their own classic “The Hanging Garden?”
New Verdict: B-
3. The Cure, Disintegration
Holy crap, this is even more of a perfect classic than I thought it was! The themes are explored so deeply that the album has more variety than I recalled, but every detail is tightly in service of the overall effect. It’s genuinely moving. No surprise that the lesser tracks now strike me as just as powerful as the well-known ones: though not a popular single or anything, there’s a reason why the track below gave the album its title! Really, a total masterpiece from the first note to the last.
New Verdict: A+
4. U2, October
This one gets low marks from most, but I remember liking it. I still do after hearing it again–though not at all polished, it has real passion. It;s more punk, in that sense, than their punk-influenced debut. Still, the rough edges are hard to ignore, but just like other albums above, I now find myself drawn to tracks that eluded me in youth, especially “Is That All?” (even though it steals its riff from their great previous single “The Electric Co.”).
New Verdict: B-
5. Erasure, The Innocents
The biggest disappointment so far. I really liked this as a teen, but now even the ones I liked seem like bubbly, flighty tunes which strike me as easy and even hollow (I’m looking at you, “Imagination”and “Heart of Stone!”). Not really much in the way of hidden gems here.
New Verdict: C
6. Nine Inch Nails, Fixed
Another dud, with one bright spot. I had completely forgotten about the awesome “Gave Up” remix that opens this album–I put this on repeat to motivate me while grading papers. The “Wish” remix is similarly solid, but everything else is just filler, just varying shades of pointless.
New Verdict: C-
7. Tears For Fears, Tears Roll Down
Wow! I liked this one before, but now I seriously love it! How did I not appreciate this more in the 90s? Two tracks are a bit weaker (can you guess which two?), but they’re far from awful, and everything else is solid gold, with endless replay value. Man, this album is awesome. Believe me, this will be on heavy rotation for a long time to come!
New Verdict: A+