The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Johnny Walker (Black)'s Year 2000 Rock Top 15

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: The incorrigible Johnny Walker (Black) begins contributing album reviews to this week. As an early and longstanding contributor to Addicted To Noise, he routinely skewered the conventional, politically correct assumptions of the hack rock-crit populace. When Black (or should I say Walker?) offered his Year 2000 best-of, how could I resist?

The Johnny Walker (Black) Top 15

1. The Cure, Bloodflowers (Elektra) and live in concert at the Molson Ampitheatre, Toronto: If this is really to be the swan song from Robert Smith and the boys, they couldn't have gone out on a higher (or should that be lower?) note. Smith puts himself under the microscope here to paint a sometimes bittersweet, sometimes desperate and disquieting portrait of the rock star as Everyman at middle age. The epic, three-hour live show was no less riveting — watching "Lovecats" fans sit through the band's apocalyptic version of "100 Years" was alone worth the price of admission.

2. Radiohead, Kid A (EMI): I thought, and still think, that The Bends is one of the great rock albums ever, but OK Computer left me cold. I'm firmly back in the fold with Kid A, though, and never mind the erroneous comparisons to current electronicans: this is the mix of existential angst and squiggly synths we've been missing since David Bowie and Brian Eno did their initially reviled (by some), now revered (by many) Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger).

3. Primal Scream, Exterminator (Epic) and in concert at The Guvernment, Toronto: Rabble-rousing, righteous, genre-mixing mongrel rock from one of the world's truly great bands. Live, singer Bobby Gillespie was stoically effective, but it was ex-Stone Roses bassist Mani who really kept things careening along all evening through a mix of masterful musicianship and uninhibited enthusiasm. Proof that the spirit of rebel-rock lives on.

4. The The, Naked Self (Interscope) and in concert at The Guvernment, Toronto: A man out of time is moody Matt Johnson, who after a lengthy absence returned with anti-NWO songs called "Global Eyes" and lines about "Kentucky Fried Genocide." His fight against corporate power came to include his own neglectful parent label, Universal, by year's end. As Naked Self came out early in the year, it's likely to be forgotten by trend-of-the-minute rock critics, but for those who still believe in the LTA (Long Term Artist), Johnson is the real deal, as his typically impassioned live show also proved.

5. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Interscope): After all the hoopla, the most important thing about Marshall Mathers is the eloquent-in-its-own-nasty-way voice he gives to white working-class rage, to all the guys "working down at Burger King / spitting on your onion rings." If rock 'n' roll is really an attitude, this one was as rock 'n' roll as you can get (see "The Way I Am"). The best skinny white guy from Detroit since Iggy Pop.

6. Groop Dogdrill, Every Six Seconds (Beggars Banquet Canada): Blistering post-Nirvana rock from the UK: song after song of pulverizing brilliance, and melodies to boot. It scares me that almost no one is talking about this album &151; how many other brilliant works like this are languishing out there? Please, somebody release this in the U.S.!!!

7. Shellac, 1000 Hurts (Touch & Go): Steve Albini gets back to the nastiness of his Big Black daze with this set of angular power-trio punk. Albini's musings on such tasty topics as adultery, parental death and murder will have the hair in the back of your neck tingling in no time. Emasculates the competition with sledgehammer effectiveness.

8. Suicide, The Second Album / The First Rehearsal Tapes (Mute): Reissue of the year. This album shows what's lacking in much of today's "electronic" music: attitude. Martin Rev (keys) and Alan Vega (vox) were punks first, musicians second, but it's their minimalist aesthetic that makes this music sound so fresh after 20 years. And "Touch Me" is still the ultimate cool-as-ice, 2-a.m.-street-cruising tune.

9. Marc Almond, Tainted Life (Pan Books UK): Marc Almond's lived a proverbial nine lives and lived to tell us about it. This book is one of the best autobiographies ever penned by a rock star: jam-packed with pills, powders, sexual thrills and lucid, self-critical commentary from the man who is a solo star in Europe but remains best known in North America for Soft Cell's classic single, "Tainted Love." A must-read.

10. The Twilight Singers, Twilight as played by The Twilight Singers (Columbia): Those who mourned the loss of Greg Dulli the Dark Poet on the Afghan Whigs' funky 1965 album a couple of years back will be gratified to hear that he's back on this side project, minus the noise. Jazzy, sexy, evocative stuff here from Dulli — who has never sounded quite so at home in the darkness — and talented cohort Harold Chichester (Howlin' Maggie).

11. Jeff Buckley, Live in Chicago (Columbia Music Video) and Mystery White Boy (Sony): The 1997 death of Buckley, an original talent comparable to Hendrix or Scott Walker, was a great blow to rock music, which has been struggling to find new directions in the years since. Live in Chicago captures Buckley's magic at its peak in a 1995 gig, showcasing his breadth and scope: from evocative covers of "Lilac Wine" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to a stomping version of the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," along with his own, singular material, this mystery white boy with the golden throat could really do it all. As a bonus, the Mystery White Boy CD gathers peak international performances and features some rarely heard original material.

12. Psychotica, Pandemic (Internet only): Unfortunately for me, 2000 was the year I finally got hip to this band, whose career seems to have been short-circuited by the bankruptcy of their record company. Pandemic was to have been their third official release, and found its way to the Internet in various forms after the aforementioned fiasco put its "official" future on seemingly indefinite hold. A true shame, as this was the goth-glam masterpiece that Marilyn Manson failed to deliver in 2000 — truly inspired singing from Pat Briggs takes this one all the way into greatness. Seek it out.

13. The Delgados, The Great Eastern (Beggar's Banquet): Inspired orchestral pop-rock in the vein of Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs, perhaps not surprising as this Scottish outfit is co-produced here by the Rev's Dave Fridmann. Words like "bittersweet" and "ennui" come to mind. Rewards repeated listens.

14. Queens of the Stone Age, Rated R (Interscope): Rock's new road warriors, led by ex-Kyuss/Screaming Trees guitar-slinger Josh Homme, offer up some guilt-free grunge on this disc, which features a walk-on by The Trees' Mark Lanegan. The band's rallying cry of "Ecstasy, Vicodin, Marijuana....C-c-c-c-c-cocaine!" ("Feel Good Hit of the Summer") should tickle the hearts of the incoming Bush neocons in Washington.

15. Pantera, Reinventing the Steel (Elektra): There's a little heavy metal in all of us, and when the mood strikes, this one does the job like no other that appeared in 2000. Forget metal with hip-hop beats: Pantera's equation of "Heavy Metal = Black Sabbath" is the winning formula. Call this one Sabbath-on-Steroids — "Goddamn Electric" indeed!

Honorable Mentions: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication (Warner Bros)
Dr. Dre, 2001 (regular and instrumental versions) (Interscope)
(both of these were released in 1999 but dominated my CD player in 2000)
The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Capitol)
Ute Lemper, Punishing Kiss (Uni/Decca)
Six by Seven, The Closer You Get (Beggar's Banquet)
Therapy?, Suicide Pact—You First (Ark21)
Tony Iommi, Iommi (Divine Recordings)

Disappointment of the Year:

Marilyn Manson, HolyWood: In The Shadow of the Valley of Death Nothing): A compromised record from a man who supposedly detests compromise. Can his Welcome to My Nightmare period be far behind?

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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