The Drama You've Been Craving
Monday Dec. 18, 2000
The Albums That Shook My World
Looking back at the albums that helped make Year 2000 more than just bearable.
By Michael Goldberg
For some years now I've thought that we've been experiencing a golden age of music. Some ask how that could be, pointing to the trash that, often enough this year, has filled the top of the charts -- the BritneyBackstreetChristinaNsync machine, along with the so-so-to-worse hard rock of the LimpGodsmackPapaRoachCreed monster.
You won't find most of the music I care about at the top of the charts, although some of it (albums by U2 or Radiohead and The Wallflowers) made its way into the top 10.
This year, some of my favorite albums (Teenage Fanclub, Black Box Recorder) weren't even released in the U.S. Many of the others were released on indie labels.
When I sat down and began to review what had really moved me this year, I found that a top 10 or even a top 20 just didn't cut it. I found at least 30 albums that really rocked my world in Year 2000, albums that made the hard times a whole lot easier to take and made the good times even better.
These are albums that made me rethink my world. They made me question my life, and what I spend my time doing. This was a year in which I left what had begun six years ago (1994) as a utopian experiment, a Web site (Addicted To Noise) devoted to the music that I thought mattered. By May 2000 it had become an unbearable working situation at a huge corporation (MTV Networks) that treats music like insurance policies or bags of cat litter or worse. A media company that thinks so highly of its audience that it actually offered them a program called "Jackass."
Cast No Shadows
Here's some of the music that made a difference:
1) Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars): The best rock band in the world at the top of its form, mixing feminism and punk rock, delivering an album that inspired me to start climbing Mt. Everest all over again. Yes!
2) Cat Power, The Covers Record (Matador): So quiet, so sad. Chan Marshall turned these 11 songs by other writers (along with one of her own gems) into an epic ballad of loneliness, sorrow, and ultimately redemption.
3) Mekons, Journey to the End of the Night (Quarterstick): I think of the Mekons as the British version of The Band, if The Band hadn't self-destructed. You could call this Americana or No Depression rock, but I don't. I just call it awesome.
4) Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica (Epic): Long day's journey into night and then some. Experimental with plenty of mood shifts. The epic rock album of the year.
5) PJ Harvey, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island): Polly Jean Harvey's songwriting is only exceeded by her voice, which can turn you on, then tear you down.
6) John Hiatt, Crossing Muddy Waters (Vanguard): This just may top Hiatt's previous masterwork, Bring the Family. He's survived and learned from hard times; now he sings about 'em so you can learn too.
7) Teenage Fanclub, Howdy! (Columbia): Just imagine your very favorite moments from songs by the Beatles, the Bangles, the Flamin' Groovies and Marshall Crenshaw. Now imagine a whole album like that. This is what beauty sounds like.
8) At The Drive-In, Relationship of Command (Grand Royal): We are planning a revolution. We are gonna take these Republican politicians/bums (yeah, George W. Bush, you're in our sights!) and exile them to some godforsaken island as far from here as possible. And this is the music we're gonna listen to when we do it.
9) Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life (Nude):The music: Dreamy and very British. The message: how to survive in the modern world. The hit: a perfect articulation of the war of the sexes called "The Art of Driving."
10) Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump (V2): Looking back, it's now easy to see this post-O.K. Computer album as predicting the dot-com slump that hit some six months after its release. But I like it 'cause the songs are ace, and the group's rock sound original.
And Then There Were Ten More...
I also spent time with these excellent albums this past year.
11) Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne (Island): Woman done wrong. And then some.
12) Various, Free the West Memphis 3 (Aces & Eights/ Koch): May just be the best benefit album ever. From No Depression country-rock to hard rock. Ultra-cool.
13) U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind (Interscope): They're back, they're great, and they sound just like U2. That's a good thing.
14) Wu-Tang Clan, The W (Loud): Hip-hop album of the year? You bet.
15) Coldplay, Parachutes (Nettwerk): Once again, a genius pop-rock band (following in the tradition of U2, Radiohead, the Stone Roses) from across the sea.
16) The Wallflowers, Breach (Interscope): Jacob and his band of merry rockers deliver the great American rock 'n' roll album.
17) Mark Kozelek, Rock 'N' Roll Singer (Badman): Moody, dark and wistful. His Red House Painters recordings were good; these are better.
18) Richard Ashcroft, Alone With Everybody (Virgin): Verve frontman goes solo, America yawns. As usual, America is dead wrong.
19) Jess Klein, Draw Them Near (Ryko): Imagine Lucinda Williams' little sister.
20) Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man (American): May just be my favorite of his recent albums. "The Mercy Seat" is good, but there are 13 others that will get under your skin too.
And Another Ten ...
21) Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues (E-Squared/ Artemis): Best Earle album since Guitar Town? Oh yeah!
22) Nina Gordon, Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Warner Bros.): This is pop, but good pop. This ex-Veruca Salt singer/guitarist shows Britney and Christina and Mariah as the joke they are.
23) Man or Astro-Man?, A Spectrum of Infinite Scale (Touch & Go): Steve Albini pulls an instrumental guitar-rock masterpiece out of these weirdos.
24) Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol): OK, it's not the death of rock. And it's not the beginning of a new rock either. It's just a good, slightly strange Radiohead album.
25) Neil Young, Silver & Gold (Reprise): Is Young the best singer/songwriter (other than Dylan when he's on) who's had hits since the '60s? Here's the proof.
26) Jurassic 5, Quality Control (Interscope): Dope hip-hop, DJ crew.
27) The Transfused (Yoyo): Yes, it is possible to make a great rock opera. And yes, this is it.
28) Everclear, Songs From An American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile (Capitol): Scoring hit records has only given Art and the boys more guts.
29) Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby (Bloodshot): A country-rock kinda thang, and a good 'un.
30) The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Survival Sickness (Burning Heart/ Epitaph): Up against the wall, motherfuckers!
Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.
© 2000 Michael Goldberg. All rights reserved.