REWIND: With RIFF’s founder on vacation, his substitute has some changes

The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds

The King of RIFF, filling in this week for the vacationing founder, declares The Beach Boys the greatest American band.

As of this column’s publication, our founder and illustrious editor Roman Gokhman is on vacation. That means, since I’m inexplicably the site’s Managing Editor, that I’m in charge.

This was a terrible idea by all involved because I should not be left in charge of anything.

To reinforce that point, I am ruling the site with an iron fist and shaping it to my image. Let this column be an official Royal Edict—I changed my title to King of RIFF by the way—to inform my subjects of our new policies and direction. Also I changed everyone else’s collective title from “staff” to “subjects.”

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit — “Sad But True”

This is now a Metallica fan site.

Don’t get me wrong, we won’t only write about Metallica. They don’t release albums often enough for that to be a viable business model. I do decree, however, that every article must make at least one mention of either a Metallica song or Metallica themselves.

For example, are you interviewing an up-and-coming artist about the release of their debut EP? Ask them whether they’re a Metallica fan and what their favorite album is. Covering a concert? Shout “TRAPPED UNDER ICE!” and include whether or not they actually play “Trapped Under Ice” in your review. Mention in every album review whether it includes a Metallica cover and rate it accordingly.

You may be asking, but what if it’s not a metal band? I included an example of an excellent blues/country version of a Metallica song. Nobody has any excuse.

Gordon Lightfoot — “If You Could Read My Mind”

From this point forward, I am completely revamping our album rating system.

Look, the whole 1-10 stars thing is fine. It more or less does the job. But what context does that really give the reader? What does seven stars, for example, really mean the album is like?

That’s why our new rating system is based on Gordon Lightfoot songs.

Is the album slow and heartfelt? Then you’d rate it “If You Could Read My Mind.” More uptempo? “Sundown.” If it’s a flawless, perfect 10, album of the year contender? “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.”

You may be asking, what do we rate the album if it’s not good? Well in that case, you’d just leave it unrated. There’s not really another option because Gordon Lightfoot doesn’t actually have any bad songs of the 500 or so he’s recorded in his career.

Counting Crows — “Mr. Jones”

Music stopped in 2001.

Obviously, the ’90s were the peak of music before its inglorious collapse into the 21st century. Prior to the ’90s, music was also often really great. But, tragically, the last truly great musician is Andrew WK with his 2001 magnum opus, I Get Wet.

Sure, there’s a band or an album here or there that are good as a sort of novelty. Ghost’s Prequelle and Meloria and Run the Jewels’ RTJ4 are shockingly good for being from the 21st century. But they can’t hold up to pre-2001 albums. Prequelle is no Master of Puppets, for example, and RTJ4 is no Sex Packets.

Also, if you’re curious, I picked this song for the entry because it was the most ’90s song I could think of, and I’m the King of RIFF, so I don’t have to actually mention the song in its entry anymore.

George Harrison — “My Sweet Lord”

George Harrison is the best Beatle.

You may disagree with that statement. If so, you are no longer one of my subjects. At RIFF, we agree that George is the best Beatle, and there is no room for dissent or debate.

Paul was too commercially driven, John was a domestic abuser and Ringo was Ringo, but George? He led just about every creative evolution of the band. He may not have been one of the primary songwriters, but he was the one in their ear, exposing them to influential things like the sitar and drugs that shaped the direction of the band that shaped the direction of music.

There is also a ranking of coolest musically inclined Beatle children: Zak Starkey, Dhani Harrison and Sean Lennon, in that order. James McCartney does not make the list.

The Beach Boys — “God Only Knows”

The Beach Boys are the greatest American band.

Yes, we are a Metallica fan site. That edict stands. But that doesn’t mean we can’t know and appreciate the musical roots, and the musical roots are the Beach Boys.

For example, let’s take Metallica’s best album, Master of Puppets. It’s good front-to-back, a cohesive album of great tracks. In the early ’60s and prior, that would be unheard of; albums were one or two good singles and a bunch of filler drawn from the label’s catalog of pre-written songs.

The turning point in industry recognition of an album as an artform unto itself is the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Sgt. Pepper didn’t spring fully-grown from George’s (and to a lesser extent, John’s and Paul’s) mind. No, it was inspired by the Beach Boys’ best album, Pet Sounds.

Really, I did a whole column about it. How music was conceived, recorded and released from the late ’60s until the MP3 era was because the Beatles were so blown away by how good Pet Sounds was and had to try to outdo it.

Those are my edicts for now. All subjects should keep an eye on our company Slack for future edicts, which will probably involve bringing me Starbucks.

Follow King of RIFF Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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