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Stars Pick Their Top 5! This Week: Tiger Army

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California psychobilly burners Tiger Army formed back in '96, and they've been a regular presence on punk-rock package tours and fest bills since. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick 13 is the only member to have stuck with the teddy-haired reprobates from the start—they've put out five killer studio albums. They've been hugely overlooked and underrated for years. Of late, the band has veered further towards traditional rockabilly as well as Brit new wave, though they're still able to explode like crazy bastards when a song requires. As they prepare to bring the shit-kicking show to the Rialto, we spoke with Nick 13 about the five albums that changed his life ...

1. The Clash—The Clash: This was one of the first times I ever heard punk rock. A friend's dad had the LP, the original import no less. "Janie Jones" was the most exciting kickoff to a record I'd ever heard, and is still right up there (whatever suit thought it would be a good idea to change it for the US market was clueless, of course). This album was crackling energy reinforced with undeniable melody. My life began pulling away from the normal.

2. V/A—Skate Rock, Vol. 2-Blazing Wheels and Barking Trucks: Punk had been buzzing around my consciousness for some time, overheard from friends' older brothers' bedrooms and the like, or intriguing me in the pages of Thrasher magazine. But when I pressed play on this cassette from a skate shop south of my hometown, my life literally changed. I heard hardcore for the first time, the "hard rock" I listened to in elementary school went out the window forever and I experienced an epiphany that I had to play music. It was no longer enough to listen, and for the first time it seemed possible. This wasn't polished radio rock, this was as real and raw as it got. The opening track "Prevent This Tragedy" by McRad contained the fastest drums I'd ever heard in my life. T.S.O.L., Big Boys and many more followed. There was even a rockabilly song, "Ready To Rip" by the Kingpins!

3. Ramones—Mania: After I'd decided that I needed to become a musician, there were a few details to work out, such as learning to play guitar ... that's where this album came in. After I got an electric guitar, I'd turn up my stereo, turn the '60s-style hard-pan mix all the way to one side (to hear bass, drums and lead vocal only) and play along to songs like "Blitzkrieg Bop." It was the last push I needed to feel like I could do it myself, and as soon as I found like-minded individuals (easier said than done in my small town), I did.

4. Sex Pistols—The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle: The irreverent versions of beloved Pistols songs with string sections or as disco songs had some sort of influence on me I'm sure, but it was two particular covers on this album that helped shape my musical preferences indelibly: "Something Else" and "C'mon Everybody," They illuminated the connection between 1950s rock 'n' roll and '70s punk in neon, a link that I'm still exploring musically. This album is how I discovered Eddie Cochran, and digging into my next musical world after punk began.

5. Buddy Holly—Buddy Holly Lives: Albums were an emerging format in the 1950s, behind the dominant format of the single. So most collections of Holly's work were posthumous, and this was my introduction, purchased for me by my Dad. It had everything I needed to know about life: three chords, melody, harmony and the aural Rubik's Cube of how to write truly great songs. I'm still listening, trying to solve it in my mind.

With Murder By Death and Tim Barry on Tuesday, June 27, 7 p.m. The Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., $23-$26, All ages.


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