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Notes From The Flip Side: 01.01.2004

"I learned the value of humor during the time of Stalinist terror. I was twenty then. I could always recognize a person who was not a Stalinist, a person whom I needn't fear, by the way he smiled. A sense of humor was a trustworthy sign of recognition. Ever since, I have been terrified by a world that is losing its sense of humor."

Milan Kundera

Holy Shit, What Happened To PRA?

Several things. About six weeks ago, Josh Campbell came up with some wicked CSS hacking based on my rudimentary draft design to help hammer the site into shape. After that, it was all over but the hours of content migration. And I do mean hours. As I write this, I'm closing in on finishing the migration and it's been nearly a week of 8-10 hour days working on moving existing content and the shit still isn't done.

On the bright side of things, I was able to correct several errors and inconsistencies that I discovered while going through every single page in the site (with as long as I've been doing the site, something was bound to creep in). This reminded me that I still had archival reviews to add, photos to scan ... in short, a metric shitload of content that had been sitting idle on my system. I also talked to the Razorcake folks about adding the reviews I've done for that fine publication and they will be coming online as well.

Does this signal a return to reviewing? It may. I haven't figured out whether I really want to deal with that hassle again. I've spent so long telling people that I don't do reviews anymore that I'm not sure I want to open the floodgates to terrible singles, EPs and albums again because I really don't care about the hottest crust bullshit out of Lompoc or the latest emo-indie-folk fuckheads from Tuscaloosa. (Besides, there are dozens of sites who have larger staffs which are better able to review materials in a timely fashion ... but as the new essay I added suggests, maybe timeliness isn't everything ...)

With that said, I don't hate everything and I do give everything a chance (how much of a chance is inversely related to how many annoying emails or messages I've received about it - the more emails and messages I receive, the less time I spend on it). Some of the random CDs sent to me lately have turned out to be the things that kicked my ass the most this year (like Minmae's "Microcassette Quatrains," a fucking brilliant reissue which, if it had originally been released in 2003, would have been on the following list). If you want to send something and think that it rocks sufficiently to warrant review, visit the Contact page for information about where to send it. And don't come crying to me if you don't like what the review says because I've given you fair warning.

My Favorite Albums Of 2003

Although I don't know that I found as much worth hearing in 2003 as I did in 2002, it was still a great year for music. As usual, I don't try to claim that these are the best albums of the year; music elicits an emotional response and that response varies from person to person, making it impossible to quantify. Since all musical judgments are thus inherently qualitative, I won't pretend to tell anyone that these albums meet some non-existent standard which in turn makes them worthy of owning. They just kicked my ass. A lot. For whatever it's worth, this was what 2003 sounded like for me.


  1. I have some level of personal involvement with a number of bands on this list. I have either interviewed them, am in the process of interviewing them, am friends with them, talk with them on a regular basis, drink with them or otherwise have a relationship which extends beyond merely hearing the record. There are a substantial number of records which were released in 2003 by bands that I also have some relationship with that do not appear on this list.
  2. The only albums on this list which I did not pay for are as follows: Black Cross, "Art Offensive"; Elliott, "Song In The Air"; and Jaga Jazzist, "Animal Chin" EP. I purchased every other album on this list. The only album on this list that I would not have purchased (because I didn't know about it at the time) was Black Cross. Having heard the record and seen them live, I would have bought it. Thus, you can read every commentary in this list and know that it's from the perspective of someone who worked to earn money to buy these records and still feels that they're stellar.

Goodbye, 2003.

Goodbye, Dude. You were a good dog and a better friend. I'll never forget those weekend afternoons when you categorically agreed with my drowsy assessment that there was nothing better to do at 2 p.m. than take a long nap.

Goodbye, tornado warning makeout sessions. Goodbye, drive-in movies and longer drives home. Goodbye, cocoa made from powdered white chocolate.

I had a feeling this year was for me and you. It just came with a higher price tag than I had feared.

Off The Top Of My Head ...

  1. The most important thing that I've taken away from my most recent viewing of "The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen" is simply that magic occurs, that reason must sometimes give way to hope and awe. It is that bureaucrats and pedants can and will eventually be swept aside by dreamers. In the meantime, keep your head down and try not to get hit by shrapnel.
  2. It's 2004. That means it's time for George W. Bush to reserve a few U-haul trailers and start boxing things up. Hell, I'll even help that malicious fucker pack on my own dime and time, but he'd better buy the beer and vegetarian pizza.
  3. Since it's 2004, isn't it about time that we pull our collective heads out of our collective asses and stop killing each other over whose imaginary friend is better? I don't much care what you do or do not believe, nor should you pay any attention to what I do or do not believe because I'm pretty sure we can all agree that everybody deserves to have food in their stomachs, clothes on their back and a roof over their heads, as well as unpolluted drinking water, non-genetically modified food and seeds to sow crops that aren't patented by Monsanto. These are things which should extend beyond religion, so unless people of faith are ready to pitch in on that debate and stop shooting doctors, bombing clinics and public transportation, launching missile strikes which are intended to murder murderers, and destroying symbols of other faiths' faith, don't let the door hit your ass as you exit relevance, stage right.
  4. Ten years for the zine. Five years for the site. If this site were a baseball player, it would now be able to reject trades to teams that it doesn't like. And yes, this makes me feel a little on the old side. Not that the grey hairs didn't.
  5. I recently finished up another article for Clamor. As always, it will be available on this site once it has been published, but why don't you go buy a subscription and support that fine magazine in the meantime?
  6. In 2003, I spent roughly 350 hours on redesigning, transcribing, adding archival content, writing and the like for this site. That's almost nine full unpaid work weeks - in addition to my day job, in addition to reviewing for Razorcake, and proofing and writing for Clamor.
  7. There are a number of fine books in the Store which I highly recommend. All of them are discounted and include shipping in the U.S. In addition, purchasing one of these books will help out with covering hosting costs for the site.
  8. A new t-shirt design is coming soon, including girlie tanks, hoodies and more. Buying an article of clothing will also help cover hosting costs.
  9. I'm not sure when this Dillinger Four live album came out, but the witty stage banter between the songs is the best thing since Bill Hicks.
  10. While Pacific U.V. didn't make my favorite albums of the year list, there's something quite stunning about this collection of breathy, atmospheric songs (featuring a member of Azure Ray on two songs and released on that band's previous label). It's reminiscent of other moody pop records released by Saddle Creek and Warm, like Now It's Overhead or early Azure Ray records.

Site Updates

A note on the redesign - old Notes From The Flip Side and news updates were previously separated. They have now been combined into a single file. The old news files have been deleted. You may note that some pages no longer seem to be around. The only files that were removed were the old news updates. Other old files are exactly where they originally were on the off chance that you need to access them.

Added more archival reviews.

Added an essay on the nature of reviewing.

Added a piece by Pierre on being French in America during the second Gulf War.

Now Playing:

Ryan Adams. The Weakerthans. The Hidden Cameras. Black Cross. The Jealous Sound. Strike Anywhere. Arab Strap. Belle And Sebastian. Rainer Maria. Coheed And Cambria. The Jayhawks. The Swords Project.

Now Watching:

"Bulletproof Monk," "The Transporter," "Serendipity," "Scarface," "Run Ronnie, Run," "Old School," "The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen," "Punch-Drunk Love," "Life Or Something Like It," "Down With Love"

Just Finished:

Naomi Klein, "Fences And Windows"

Now Reading:

Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008