College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 30 and 29

30. Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans, Upstroke for the Downfolk

Paul Cebar, like his band, is a Milwaukeean. His band’s sophomore release, Upstroke for the Downfolk, came out in 1995 and, like a lot of the music that fell in the “Dairy Rock” category, clearly had enough oomph with the station personnel to linger on the charts for a good long time. In general, Cebar’s music was kind of all over the place, bringing in funk, blues and latin music influences, with the one common denominator the necessity of songs to jump and pop enough to hold the attention of a packed bar, in a city and state where there are plenty of people happy to be there for nothing more than the beer. Though he reminded a largely local (or at least statewide) phenom, Cebar had a strong enough name and following to keep on keepin’ on, continuing to release albums, play gigs and even take advantage of the fundraising apparatus of the moment to successfully maintain the groove.

29. Lou Reed, Set the Twilight Reeling

I have a feeling that many music fans would designate Set the Twilight Reeling as the precise moment when they decided it was okay to stop paying attention to Lou Reed. After watching both his commercial acclaim and critical acclaim sag through most of the nineteen-eighties, Reed scored a major comeback with the spectacular New York, released in 1989. From there, he spent some time as an exalted elder statesman of rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of artist whose every new release was treated as a major statement. This was especially easy to do because he was making concept albums, that Rolling Stone endorsed technique of suffusing greater merit onto records by snatching it anyway from other, narrative-driven forms like novels and film. Easy at it was to initially praise albums like Songs for Drella and Magic and Loss (both inspired by the death of Andy Warhol), they actually didn’t hold up all that well once the gravitas of their structure faded away with each repeat listen. That’s part of why I find myself to be a bit of a dissenter on Set the Twilight Reeling, which I think is a highly undervalued high-water mark for Reed in the nineteen-nineties, precisely because it’s a loopy free-for-all, with Reed waxing nostalgic about egg creams and professing his love for new girlfriend Laurie Anderson with dubiously childish language. For the first time since he revived his career with New York, this was Reed the vagabond rock ‘n’ roller rather than him sternly adopting the role of artiste, and the truth is it suited him better, the playfulness contrasting nicely with his always evident curmudgeonly nature. I adhere more closely to the conventional wisdom in one respect: everything after this is bad news. Or worse.

An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue

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