There was more than a little grumbling around the Pencilstorm offices when people were told they had to work over the 4th of July long weekend: talk of jumping ship to Grantland, The Huffington Post, etc., but cooler heads prevailed and we decided to rerun Nick Jezierney's excellent Watershed Rankings series, to get us to the 5th of July.
This six-part series is the brainchild of Nick Jezierny, a former sports journalist who has worked at newspapers in Ohio (including the Columbus Dispatch), Texas and Idaho, and who obviously occasionally has too much time on his hands.
(Comments on the rankings by Colin Gawel, Joe Oestreich & Ricki C. will be sprinkled liberally throughout the piece, and some videos will be thrown into the mix.)
Criteria: I took 66 Watershed songs from the major releases, beginning with Twister. I started this probably a few weeks after the release of Hitless Wonder. I was driving to Whitefish, Montana from my current home in Boise, Idaho for a vacation. On the trip, I listened to every Watershed song on random shuffle. It’s a 12-hour trip from Boise, so that definitely helped make the drive less painful. Anyway, two songs get reviewed twice because of the different versions ("Black Concert T-Shirt" and "If That’s How You Want It"). I took into account live versions of songs because “Three Chords II” is such a great record it wouldn’t be fair to rule out live songs. (Seriously, do you EVER hear the studio version of Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do?”) The live versions of some Watershed songs totally make them sky-rocket up on my list. Here we go, I’m sending these in groups of 11 so the list will last six days on Pencilstorm, should it be approved for publication.
Day 1 (The Bottom 11)
Studio Stuff (66): Total cop out, but let’s face it, no Watershed song deserves to be called the worst Watershed song, right? This isn’t really a song, just a bunch of noise that separates the good stuff on “Star Vehicle” from the rest.
Didn’t Exactly Lie (65): A little too country and slow for my liking, and the song is just too damn long.
Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn It Loose (64): This probably should have been recorded by the League Bowlers. Just doesn’t work for Watershed that well.
Colin G. - Just to clear things up, the previous two songs were never considered actual studio tracks. To make a boring story just as boring, at one point the record Star Vehicle was changing labels and we had the masters in our hand for exactly one night so we decided to slip on a couple of B-sides before it went out to be re-pressed. The art work kind of makes them look like they belonged but "Star Vehicle" as intended was only ten songs. The bonus tracks were added as a sweetener for people who had already bought a copy. All three songs were recorded at Captured Live studios in Durham, NC where we spent a week and cut about 10 demos. Only these tracks have ever seen the light of day outside of Biggie's iPod.
What Would I Need You For (63): This is where the list gets hard. This song really could be 20 places higher, but for me, it’s the low point on the debut record.
I’ve Been Looking Everywhere / Born To Run (62): I love the song “Born To Run,” and if you’re going to cover it, give it some of your own personality. Needs a little Watershed-ification. The “I’ve Been Looking Everywhere” part is interesting and I gained appreciation for it while seeing it performed live at Slim’s in Raleigh, N.C., last year.
Colin G. I don't know how much more personality you can give Born To Run than taking a song originally cut as a Spector wall of sound rip-off and doing it as a three piece garage band. Just the song and no frills. I suspect Little Steven would love this version. And the fact we just slipped it in on the end of the record, spliced to another track….
Don’t Give A Damn (61): I’m not an Ohio State football fan. Living in Columbus (which I did from September 1991 to May 1998) was very difficult in the fall when you were overwhelmed by the Buckeye fans and media. This is the only Watershed song my wife will skip when it comes on in the car, and I don’t stop her. Of note, I do think it’s awesome it was recorded considering Watershed is a Columbus-based band that roots for Ohio State. Watch This!
Paint The Town Red (60): When I first downloaded this song, I didn’t realize it was a cover. Learning that made me feel better. Why? Because I found this after “Fifth of July,” and to me, this was a step backward for the band. As a cover, it makes sense. I still haven’t heard the original version. Listen Here!
I Deserve You (59): This is an excellent vocal performance, but it just gets lost on "Side 2" of Twister.
Watch This! No footage of this song, but very rare cover of Sinead O'Conner "Last Day of Our Acquaintance" after band plays "Johnny 99." Film from infamous Endo/Exo three night stand in Jacksonville, FLA. The band refuses to talk about what happened, to this day.
Going Through The Motions (58): The only song I really don’t like on “Fifth of July.” I do like the execution of an idea. The song is called “Going Through The Motions” and the tempo is so monotonous, and the lyrics are spot on. Very well done, but it’s out of the 3-minute, up-tempo song structure of the rest of the album.
Colin G - The song was deliberately placed on the album to set up "Best is Yet to Come", which was deliberately placed last on the record. This wasn't necessarily a safe/smart choice but we felt it made the entire 5th of July record more interesting and still do.
Never Could Have Made It (57): A little too sappy for me, but it isn’t a bad song by any means.
Colin G - No sir. Joe Peppercorn shines. Sucks the sap right out of it Lindsey Buckingham style.
Wreck It (56): A very raw song that should have been the theme song for the recent movie of the same name.
Ricki C. - Let me say this, right at the outset of this list: I have NO MEMORY whatsoever of more than half of the tunes thus far, and I've been seeing Watershed since 1990. Let me also say this at the outset: I've been a FAN of the band way longer than I've been an employee of the band. (Point of fact: as late as 2005 I was still being referred to as "that Neil Diamond-looking guy who's always hanging around talking to Colin" by no less a personage than Michael "Biggie" McDermott.) I have an insider's view of the outside, an outsider's view of the in.
The Watershed Rankings series will continue on Pencilstorm for the next five Saturdays.