Notes From The Flip Side: 01.07.2001
The first update of 2001 and the new millennium. As such, it's time to sweep out all the old crap. 2000 wasn't an especially great year for music; rather, I didn't hear much new stuff that destroyed my world. However, I did manage to cobble together a few Top 10 lists of stuff that I think is noteworthy for one reason or another.
Top 10 Albums of 2000
1. Elliott - False Cathedrals
Start to finish, this is the album of the year. At its worst, it's only solid. Only. At its best, it's sweeping and majestic in scope, more like a symphony than a traditional album, less like prefix-core and far closer to a work of art.
2. Dillinger Four - Versus God
Certainly the best punk album this year; certainly one of the best punk albums in any year. When most other albums this year said "Get paid," D4 said "Get even." They may be four voices in the wilderness, but those four voices are screaming louder than all the pop-punk groups and boy band fans put together.
3. The Weakerthans - Left and leaving
Who said punk has to be loud? In which the band proves that "Fallow" wasn't a fluke (in fact, it was only a warm-up exercise), that slowing down and making music softer can be far more radical than picking up the tempo and that resistance comes in many forms and subtlety often lets it slip in unnoticed.
4. In My Eyes - Nothing To Hide
About 20 minutes of blistering Boston sXe hardcore. Old school to the extreme, this album is the second best release Revelation put out this year; this album is only second to Dillinger Four in laying blame where it belongs.
5. Notice - One Name For Multiple Diseases
The best album to come out of San Diego this year. Vaguely emo, slightly punk, fairly poppy - this album flirts with categories, but never goes to bed with any of them. It's all melodic guitar riffs and shouted choruses, soaring vocals and rumbling basslines and drum work, a brief history of pop music edited by twenty-something punks. In the end, it's simply astonishing.
6. The Sea And Cake - Oui
I spent most of this year looking for something really interesting. Thanks to Tesse at Off The Record, I found Belle and Sebastian, The Sea And Cake and Sam Prekop. While I immensely enjoyed all of them, The Sea And Cake is consistently experimental, interesting and deeply moving.
7. Sunday's Best - "Poised to Break"
This may not be one of the most innovative albums of the year, but I often pick my favorite albums based on how much time they spend in my CD player or on my turntable. Considering I haven't really been able to stop listening to this record since I picked it up, I'll take that to mean that it deserves to be on this list.
8. Furious IV demos
So the new album is long overdue and these songs haven't even been officially released. So the only way to really hear these songs is going to one of the band's shows. So what? Some bands put out their first record and promptly start struggling to write another song and dodge the sophomore jinx; Furious IV's new songs make the first album sound like the amateurish work of a lightweight garage band. Now all they have to do is release them.
9. Saint Etienne - Sound of Water
I'm happy any time I see a new Saint Etienne album out. This album is a little less pop and a bit more avant-garde than the band's past work; while it maintains the Motown edge, the lush backdrops are stripped down and stark. They jitter nervously, fluttering uncertainly as the songs unfold. Fragments of melodies stumble into the gaps in experimentation, then walk out the door to smoke another cigarette. Altogether more polished and refined than Sarah Cracknell's accomplished "Lipslide," a solid pop record which also deserves some mention.
10. Melomane - Resolvo
One line sums up why I like these songs so much: "I'm just a modern day Dean and Gene Ween on the rock and roll trail." And that accurately summarizes these demos. It's hard to say what Melomane is; it's much easier to say what it isn't. You can kick heavy metal and rap out from the start; if I have to make a comparison, I'll start with the Silver Jews and also nod to Pavement in their more introspective, C&W moments. These songs search for deeper transcendental meaning in music - the kind of meaning that Pavement and Yo La Tengo, among other bands, have tried to find in the wilds of three chords and red guitars - and stamp out stylistic chalk lines with their feet along the way.
Top 10 Live Bands of 2000
1. Hot Water Music
I can't think of any other band that puts as much energy and passion into their live shows, except ...
... which matches HWM in its intensity, note for note, chord for chord.
3. Furious IV
It's nice to see a band that shows up and plays like they give a shit, even when only a handful of people pay to get in.
This year, every year. Still one of my favorite bands, ever.
5. The Weakerthans
One of the best albums of the year, one of the best shows I've seen. Ranging from soft and understated to music that needed to shout to make sure it was heard, this show rocked, even when the lads were doing so in less conventional ways. It's been a long time since I've seen a band connect with a crowd in a such a genuine, spontaneous way.
6. A.M. Vibe
I love this band. I haven't seen another indie band approach music with this much joy, this much passion, this much playfulness in years. I see as many of their shows as I can and usually stand in front of the stage in slack-jawed amazement.
7. Dillinger Four
Okay, so I heckled them. I was still singing along and pissing off the people in front of me who didn't know who these guys were. It was absolutely worth the 160-mile drive to Corona and back on a workday.
8. Screaming Fat Rat
Dave Quinn made me listen to these guys outside the Crow Bar one night - little did I know that only a few months later, I'd be in Japan, jumping around while they tore through a 30-odd minute set of beautiful punk rock that actually means something.
9. The Urchin
I saw these guys in a sound studio just outside Tokyo. Everyone was shoulder to shoulder, smoking and drinking. The Rock was loud and heartfelt, moving and inspiring. And at least one time this year, we stood together as one.
I first saw Oval in Sendai; it was a small club (I think it was called Birdland, but I'm not sure) about two flights down in a basement. I didn't know what to expect, but I was filming anyway. They took the stage, got ready to play. A little feedback ... and then, in rapid succession, snare-bass-snare-bass-snare-bass ... Dave Quinn came running in from the dressing room and I was hanging from the rafters, knowing what was coming because I knew that drumbeat as sure as I know how to stagger home when I'm drunk. Oval kicked off the set with a cover of Hüsker Dü's "New Day Rising" that almost made me forget that Husker broke up 13 years ago. And then they got better.
2000 was a great year for me. I feel like I finally pulled the pieces of my life back together. My life isn't what it was, but I don't want it to be. It is what it is; for the first time I can remember, I'm perfectly happy with that. And why shouldn't I be? It's been a year of staying up all night and talking to people I just met, traveling the world and realizing that people aren't that different, eating breakfast at Pokez and then staggering into a movie theater to digest the food. It's been trips to Portland, long walks in the rain and sun-dazed afternoons in cafés. It's been going to the hospital and quitting coffee, road trips for punk shows and seeing old friends for the first time in years. It's been sad and happy, joyful and depressing, wonderful and heartbreaking - in short, it's been everything a good year should be. I hope all of you had a similar year. We should all be so lucky.
Emily and I are still planning our split zine - no word on a release date yet. I'll probably be adding some archival interviews and record reviews with the next update. Email puckett at punkrockacademy dot com if you have any requests.
Mid Carson July "Ten Years On Autopilot," Sunday's Best "Poised To Break," Elliott "False Cathedrals," Melomane demos, American Football "Self-titled"