A list like this is virtually impossible to construct and stick to with
a straight face – catch me on any given day and one or more of these
might saddle down a notch or two to make room for something I am no
doubt forgetting at this particular moment. But because I’m a
self-important cunt there couldn’t be too much doubt this was on its
way, right? So let’s jump right in.
Note: There is no
greater-to-lesser order here. These are the top ten I’m going with at
the moment (and trying to stick to in future conversations) and they
are all equal in their greatness and importance to me.
A lot of people erroneously believe the 90’s were defined by
‘Alternative’ music. WRONG!!! If you think about it folks, Mr. Cobain’s
head wasn’t the only thing losing substance by 1994 – ‘Alternative’
music was indeed an alternative
and peaked during the 80’s. By the end of ’94 the marketing Bananza
that was defined by buzzwords and a mock-sixties sentiment was gone,
remaining an empty banner for all manner of dreadful sludge to receive
hit-em-then-quit-em radio play (bare-naked laddies, green day, etc.).
What really defined the 90’s was Hip Hop. It was the decade where Rap
was transmogrified into a less rigid and uptight vehicle; it got
really high and started to hang out with a bunch of different folks and
so we got a whole new influx of more down-tempo creators, most notably
among them on the large scale was Cypress Hill, or more importantly DJ
Muggs. Muggs disappeared for a while as his ‘boys’ made fools of
themselves by trying their hand at rap-rock, resurfacing in 2003 with
one of the most amazing rock albums of the aughts: DUST. Part Pink
Floyd, part Temples of Boom, part shoe-gaze claustrophobic
introspective journey, Dust left me wanting a new chapter in the
insanely talented Mr. Muggs career. Sadly, we didn’t get it.
The Streets – Original Pirate Material:
What can I say, after about 1998 I was sick to death of all things hip
hop and it took a totally unexpected cultural perspective shift to
change that. OPM is everything hip hop from the States is not: it’s
fun, not insulting or threatening; it’s more interested in touting the
the names of suburban British suburbs or pubs than frontman Mickey’s
creds and it is was especially endearing with clever skits and
catchphrases, perhaps most notably ’round here we call ‘em birds not
bitches’. Start to finish and all the B-sides amazing, I still love
Mickey and the guys but their music has never quite lived up to the
greatness of that first album for me.
Malcolm Middleton – A Brighter Beat:
Enough hip hop. Half of the former Glasgow-based duo Arab Strap, I had
no idea who Middleton was or what his music, during or post Arab Strap
sounded like while I was unwittingly carousing through a friend’s MP3’s
and came upon A Brighter Beat. Might I say that within the first thirty
seconds of the first song I knew I had found a new musical opiate. A
Brighter Beat is simply one of the greatest endeavors to come to terms
with this strange life we all get to have for a while and the music is,
to me, the perfect ‘rock’ equivalent to number 9’s ‘rap’ strategem.
Gotta love those Brits folks, they are better than us in so many ways.
Just accept it.
Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R:
Right after this came out I bought it on a whim the day before driving
Northwest to Washington State with three close friends. To say that the
country’s open roads and mountainous landscapes are forever etched into
my interpretation of this amazing and eclectic heavy rock album is an
understatement. But it’s not just that. It’s not Brit-pop, indie or
metal. It’s its own thing. From Homme’s cool solicitation of every drug
known to man or his contemplation on bloody aprons to former bass
player extraordinaire Nick Oliveri’s nerve-shattering howls about
deprivation and sickness, both physical and mental, this is the
mescaline-soaked desert traveler of the decade and it very seriously
may have saved rock radio from itself. The year before I heard this
someone asked me the question, ‘doesn’t anybody in music know how to be
cool anymore?’ Sit down, carve yourself out a Busey-sized line of
QOTSA’s raucous desert rock and feel the chill as it descends upon you.
Fantomas – Delirium Cordia:
Mike Patton’s Fantomas frustrates the hell out of some folk. I must
admit it, the first album took a little time to open up to me.
Director’s Cut, with it’s collection of movie score/theme covers
properly Patton-ized was a much easier hook. But when album three’s
single 74 minute/17 second single track hit the shelves a lot of people HATED it. Not me. I’m a Patton-o-phile so I generally like
everything the man does, even if it takes me a while to do so, but Delirium
Cordia hit me as the most ambitious, amazing cartographic experiment of
the human psyche’s nightmare territories that I’d ever heard right off the bat. It
remains so. Turn off all the lights in the crib, light a single candle
and turn Delirium Cordia on LOUD. It will scare the bee-jeezus out of
you. Hell, once I think it induced some kind of freaky astral
projection in me that’s influence lingered for daaayysss. To the point
I questioned my sanity and avoided the album for a while. After an
experience like that, how could Cordia not be on my top ten?
Burial – Untrue: What got me interested in Burial was Warren Ellis’ description of how it produced images of a drowned London.
Spot on sir.
Burial is apparently considered under the umbrella of Dubstep. This has
led me to look into other artists attached to that moniker. None come
close to the sinister submersion created on Untrue. Nothing I’ve ever
heard before or since sounds anything like this. Like hearing a city’s
voice from inside the puddles of rain that collect on its back streets.
Opeth – Blackwater Park:
I know I just spent another recent blog prattling on about how awesome
these magnificent Swedish fellows are, this album especially, so I
won’t overdo it here. Let it just be said if the 70’s and 80’s
introduced us to the concept of metal and the 90’s nearly ruined it,
Opeth perfected it in 2001 by synthesizing all that had come before on
Blackwater Park. Good show lads!!!
Grinderman – Grinderman:
Nick Cave is one of those artists that is just too big for one group.
He does a lot of offshoot type stuff, strange little projects or
appearances here and there, but it’d been a long time since I’d
considered him as anything other than either Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds
Then came Grinderman.
From the first riff of the first song this album rips hard – but in
that sophisticated, Nick Cave kinda way. Like a man in a dapper suit
arriving at your home and breaking all your furniture before punching
your wife (our husband) in the face. Heavy, so heavy, but without the
trappings of anything genre-ish. And yet this is not your father’s Bad Seeds either.
It’s almost like Nick Cave singing for The Doors if the Doors were in
the middle of a knife fight.
Damage Manual – Limited Edition:
The second full album by Connelly and Atkins post Chicago Industrial
scene monster The Damage Manual is just that – a monster. Whereas the
first album and E.P. surprised me with a Led Zeppelin-meets-Revolting
Cocks sound this one, now minus Jah Wobble and Geordie Walker but plus one Steven Seibold on bass and guitar, this one sounds like The Jesus Lizard meets Ministry.
Heavy on the Lizard. Need I say more?
The Damage Manual is the one band I can think of that prove Industrial music did wither and die – it mutated. This is the evolution of the once great Chicago scene and its many ‘sounds’ – all of them put in a digital effects blender and spat back directly into your face.
David Bowie – Reality
– I feel like a douche for no Frank Black/Black Francis albums hitting
my list, but rest assured they are skirting the peripheral, all ten or
so he released within this last ten years. However, as tough a call as
it was to not include Mr. Black I opted to go with Bowie simply
because, it’d been so long since I’d heard a Bowie album I could
not live without (I love them all). In fact, although I often get
threatened with violence when I say this in public, Reality to me is
the BEST Bowie album. Ever. I’m a tone and atmosphere freak and this one
has soooo much of it, from the weird guitar tones of the first track ‘New Killer Star’ to
the David Lynch jazz of ‘Bring Me the Disco King’, Reality is the not the Bowie of previous
decades, adopting current styles and trends and hitting the ball out of
the park with them. No. Reality is, I suspect, the synesthetic
transformation of the man’s inner vision of life on Earth (and clearly
the realms beyond as well).
Peripherals: Baby 81 by BMRC, Young for Eternity by The Subways, New Radicals – Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, Grand Duchy’s Petite Fours, nothing by the red hot mini mufflers and too many more to even think about now.