Welcome to Greatest Hits 2.0! Two weeks ago, we looked at two seminal albums by The Cure and Sonic Youth, which you can read here
The above image is the cover of The Beastie Boys’ 1989 album Paul’s Boutique – named after a clothes shop on the corner of Rivington & Ludlow, Lower East Side, just half a mile from Elliot’s apartment at 217 East Broadway. More on the Beasties later…
We ain’t gonna hang about as the Mr Robot Hacks HQ is buzzing at the moment and we’re being busy little bees… and we don’t mean we’ve been alphabetizing our CD’s!
1) Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” 1975
Pink Floyd’s follow-up to The Dark Side of the Moon is, in most part a tribute to Syd Barrett, the band’s original frontman and songwriter who was forced to leave due to ill health.
As well as taking a shitload of LSD, poor Syd suffered from mental illness, possibly schizophrenia and became increasingly depressed and socially withdrawn; experiencing paranoia, hallucinations, memory lapses and periods of catatonia.
Remind you of anyone we know? Someone who hallucinates their dead father. Someone who wakes up in an SUV in a car lot after losing three days? Someone who doesn’t recognise their own sister? Somone who created a fantasy world to cope with being in jail?
The first track(s) on the album, “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” segues seamlessly into what should be Mr Robot’s theme song “Welcome to the Machine.”
But, for me, it’s the title track “Wish you Were Here” that contains the most synchronistic lyrics, opening with:
“So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell?”
And now we know that Elliot has been in prison all this time, he’s kinda created his own Heaven out of Hell… he had to as a coping mechanism.
Verse two begins:
“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?”
Which links to Elliot’s story perfectly; he idolised his father and now haunted by him as a ghost.
And finally, in the last verse:
“We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl.”
I’m not saying that Sam Esmail took his ideas from these songs but they’re obviously influential, maybe even favourite albums, and (just like how he’s clearly influenced by Fincher and Kubrick, Scorsese and Bergman) these themes that have been rattling around in his head have helped shape who he is.
Ready for more Greatest Hits 2.0?
2) Soundgarden “Superunknown” 1994
Soundgarden and Audioslave’s lead singer and songwriter Chris Cornell’s fight with addiction is well known and this incredible album features songs you surely know and love just as much as me…
Tracks like “Black Hole Sun”, “The Day I Tried to Live”, “Spoonman” and “Just Like Suicide.”
The eponymous track on the album “Superunknown” inhabits the same realms as Nine Inch Nails (which surely must appear in Elliot’s CD’s one of these days) but contains positivity than Trent Reznor could muster!
For a show which questions perspective and the very nature of reality, the song begins:
“If this isn’t what you see,
It doesn’t make you blind…”
Before the chorus perfectly describes Elliot’s state of mind and what Mr Robot is doing to him:
“Alive in the Superunknown,
First it steals your mind,
And then it steals your soul”
Before ending with how Elliot lives his life…
“Get yourself afraid,
Get yourself alone,
Get yourself contained,
Get yourself control.”
The last line being a hint on how to defeat Robot if this new trust thang doesn’t work out!
3) The Beastie Boys “Check Your Head” 1992
The Beastie Boys’ third (and my favourite) studio album is the first “grown-up” album they made after the teen-angst rock anthems of Licence to Ill and the fascinating experiment in sampling that was Paul’s Boutique.
Check Your Head allowed Mike D, MCA and Ad Rock’s punk upbringing to fuse effortlessly with hip-hop, mad rhyming skillz and funk-era sampling. It created a cross-pollination of styles and genres that reminds me of both Mr Robot’s many, varied stylistic influences and of that giant melting pot of people, cultures and ideas – New York City.
Just like Mr Robot, The Beastie Boys’ oeuvre often feels a like a love letter to New York and I’m sure, as kids those cheeky monkeys would have jumped the subway barrier or walked the short journey across Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn to Elliot’s hood;
The definition of madness has to be making a saxophone sound like a chicken, but The Beastie Boys went ahead and did it anyway. R.I.P. MCA We still miss and love you.
As for the connection to Mr Robot – isn’t it obvious? If anyone ever needed their head checking, it would be Elliot Alderson.