Friday Top 5: Favorite All-Time Bands

live
Live, circa 1995.

I define a band as a group of musicians who write and play their own music, so even though I enjoy the stylistic beats of N*Sync they don’t classify as a band. The same is true of Moby, since he’s just one guy even though he utilizes resources far more than just himself. As for all-time, I mean as of this exact moment. Things could very well shift in a few weeks’ time when I’ve been introduced to a new band that shoots up the list.

With that being said, my top 3 favorite bands have been my top 3 favorite bands for over 10 years, so there is some staying power there at the absolute top. Also important to note: I take into account entire band catalog when considering them for inclusion on this list. If I only like one of their albums that album may make my top 5, but the band itself would not. Now, on with the show…

5. Live. There’s something to be said for a ’90s band that had one “hit” album, and one “enormous” song, when that album and that song are my least favorite from them and still the album is in my top 20 all-time albums list. I love Live because they were brutally honest when so many other bands were just posing. Their lead singer Ed Kowalczyk was definitely into the mystical but it was honest. His lyrics were and remain deep and insightful in a way that most bands don’t dare touch.

Oasis_Band_3
Oasis, circa 1998.

4. Oasis. What strikes me so much about Oasis is the fact that for most of its run the songs were written by the guy who wasn’t even the lead singer. What also hits me is that the lyrics fit the vocals so well regardless. Yes, the Gallagher brothers fought all the time until they finally split as a band, but in-between all of that fighting there was something beautiful that shines through anyway. I don’t care if people call them derivative. Listen to the music.

3. R.E.M. In their song The Apologist, Michael Stipe croons, “I wanted to apologize for everything I was, so I’m sorry.” It’s so ironic, though, because I don’t feel they have anything to apologize for. The band shifted throughout the years they were together, from college radio darlings to big stadium rockers, to quiet, introspective old guard. And they did all things well. It’s the beauty of Stipe’s voice, the sometimes quirky lyrics, and the band’s chops that create that perfect combination.

2. Black Lab. Wow, what can I say about this band? I’ve seen them live once, and it was hands-down one of the best live shows I have ever been to. Amazingly too many people still haven’t heard of them, but their music is electric. I first heard of them in 1997 right after their first album was released. A friend of mine was huge into them from the start and made me listen to it on a roadtrip. I was hooked and bought the album the second we returned to Philly. I haven’t looked back since. Paul Durham’s voice is haunting. It sticks with you long after the song is over. Their latest record was just released and I’ve been listening to it nonstop.

u2nolineonthehorizon
U2, circa 2008.

1. U2. U2 is, and always will be, my favorite band. They just speak to me in a way that no other band has ever been able to, and I love every single song they’ve ever produced, B-sides and all, soundtrack songs and all, even the songs they just guested on (Mary J. Blige’s version of One, anyone?), they are that dynamic to me. I identify with the songs, with the music, with the lyrics, even with the individual band members. It doesn’t hurt that they started their band the year I was born either. We’re the same age, and that is simply another sign that we were meant to be together.

Sam

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