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Audiophiles: The Next Fucking Step

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To the masses, May is a time when summer is only a few shades of green away and the promise of warmth — however bearable or unbearable — looms large on every sunbeam. For some scholars it also marks the end of the school year, and for the graduating classes of the world it marks the end of an era. Whatever the latter may mean to you, there are plenty of tracks to hum while taking that long walk through the crowd and into the real world.

“Stain of Mind” by Slayer from Diabolus in Musica (1998)

No one ever crushes their opposition to Huey Lewis & the News — except for Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho,” and he’s so far off the deep end it almost seems justified. When striking out against the enemy, and when the enemy is the whole of humankind, why not choose Slayer and their brand of anti-everything sermons?

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995)

The only things that might outweigh the brilliance of Oasis’ first few albums are the egos of the Gallagher brothers, whose quibbling is now the stuff of rock legend. You wouldn’t be able to tell that from the music though, which sounds like a seamless blend of every hook in the “British Invasion Hall of Fame.” Incidentally, that also makes for a great boozy shout-along at the after-party.

“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake from Saints & Sinners (1982)

You’re at a turning point; you’re not sure where you’re going; your teased-out bleached-blonde hairdo is held down by a purple bandana: what do you listen to? Whitesnake, of course. It’s a scary world out there, and sometimes the only comfort is a gravelly-voiced power ballad and leopard-print spandex.

“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel from Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

For those leaving school with a bitter taste in their mouth, this track is an indispensable part of the score for any and all “swan songs.” The final orchestral crescendo instills a kind of bravado only possible through strife, and the tasteful, rolling, finger-picked outro is perfect for walking off into sunsets.

“Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C from Vitamin C (1999)

This song, with its unabashed nostalgia, melancholic strings and garish dance beat, signaled the graduation of humankind from the 1990s. In spite of that refined sadness, Vitamin C, a.k.a. Colleen Fitzpatrick, would go on to star in “Dracula 2000,” which featured Leonidas as Dracula, Captain Von Trapp as Van Helsing and Fitzpatrick herself as a topless vampire. I’m sure that last role had more depth to it, but in 1999, I was too busy with puberty to care.

“Montana” by Youth Lagoon from The Year of Hibernation (2011)

Youth Lagoon makes good use of reverb in this track, though the output isn’t surf-y or girl group-y as is usually the case with fellow lovers of deep space echo. “Montana” seems to be Grade A output from the Arcade Fire School of Anthems — featuring lyrics about breaking free from bedrooms, a floor-stomping kick drum heartbeat and maxims like, “A plant is said to be dead if it doesn’t grow,” which is rather sage advice for a graduate.

“Leaving, On A Jet Plane” by John Denver from Rhymes & Reasons (1969)

John Denver was one of the most honest singer/songwriters to come out of the post-Dylan folk boom, largely because he could communicate the most banal of joys and sorrows without hyperbolizing. Instead, as in this early career folk lullaby, Denver relies on a simple sing-song melody that’s instantly memorable and makes it that much harder to leave whoever you’re leaving.

“Young Turks” by Rod Stewart from Tonight I’m Yours (1981)

The pulse of a good synth beat, polished to a high-gloss new wave sheen — the guilty pleasure epitomized. Some people would break free and hit the ground running to “Young Turks” while trying to forget it’s Rod Stewart doing the crooning. Me, I like to picture him bouncing around like a blonde palm tree in the background of a scene from “Flashdance.”

“Movin’ On Up” by Primal Scream from Screamadelica (1991)

Hopefully those of us who are graduating this spring can afford to say things like, “I’m movin’ on up now / Gettin’ out of the darkness.” Those who can’t can always feel a little better by clapping along with Primal Scream’s gospel choir/classic rock/acid house concoction. As Arts Editor Sarah Hamilton might add, they’re always hiring in the more wilderness-y regions of Canada, which gives you the option of literally movin’ on up.

“Success” by Iggy Pop from Lust for Life (1977)

Heralding victory with reckless abandon, you can practically hear the smile spreading across Iggy’s face while he sings. If such a compilation existed, “Songs for Strutting, Volume 1” would blast off with this monster track’s beautifully glammy guitar solo and ecstatic call-and-response section.

“Mary France” by Jean Jacques Perrey from The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound of Jean Jacques Perrey (1968)

“Pomp and Circumstance” is great, but how can anyone resist the fat, bubbly charm of Perrey’s Moog synth? He manages to take the triumphant blare of Elgar’s masterpiece and feeds it through an adding machine, coming out with something that might score Disney’s Electrical Light Parade at the end of Star Wars: Episode IV.

“Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora from Tarzan Boy (1985)

If we all had theme songs with tacky synth hooks like “Tarzan Boy,” none of us would mind being let loose into the jungle of the real world. You might bask in the warm ‘90s nostalgia of recalling “Beverly Hills Ninja” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3,” which both featured this earworm. You could also crank the monosyllabic chorus and enter every room like you own the place.

“Believer” by John Maus from We Must Become the Pitiless 
Censors of Ourselves (2011)

As if taking a cue from “Young Turks,” John Maus delivers a throbbing bassline complete with a choir of sparkling keyboards. This one is all about unity, greatness and twinkling lights. “Jackie Chan flashing all across the world / Hulk Hogan flashing all across the world” — words to live by.

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann from Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) (1999)

Baz Luhrmann is better known for his work as the director of 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet” and 2001’s “Moulin Rouge,” which both have the same sort of perfectly gaudy sentimentality that made “Sunscreen” into an international smash hit. In the track, Luhrmann plays less like a producer and more like a conductor, pulling elements from a multitude of sources (a beat from a 1991 song by Rozalla, a narrator from his native Australia, an essay from the Chicago Tribune, a chorus from the “Romeo + Juliet” soundtrack) and compiling them into a strangely uplifting cross between MTV and Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata.”

“Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta” by Geto Boys from Uncut Dope (1992)

No school experience is complete without more than a little conflict — often, it’s more about dealing with the complications and less about the content that leaves you wiser.Making it to graduation gives you all the right to gloat about overcoming the obstacles, which is basically what the Geto Boys are doing here, albeit while slinging filthy epithets in the process. As a bonus, with this laid back gangsta rap classic in the background, everything you do happens in extra-dramatic slow motion.

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