Tag: Warren Zevon
Some things happened through the first eight months of the year. On 11 September, 2001, terror hit the world when Slayer released their ninth studio album, God Hates Us All. George Bush responds by declaring war on Afghanistan. This likely made Slayer guitarist Kerry King sad. Also, it appeared to be a somewhat weak musical year, in my estimation.
10. Ash – Free All Angels
There’s nothing complicated about this music. It’s just good, straightforward pop rock. I like the band and Tim Wheeler knows his way around a catchy hook, even if it gets a bit repetitive after 6 albums of it. This one perfectly distilled their blend of slightly crunchy pop punk (Burn Baby Burn) with their more sentimental side (Shining Light).
9. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
(Somewhat) unfairly vilified during the emo backlash that came at the end of this decade, Jimmy Eat World were at the mainstream vanguard of the movement as it solidified in the late 1990s. More accessible than the more artsy emo of Sunny Day Real Estate, JEW (oh hell, it turns out you can’t turn the band name into an acronym!) made it okay to be sensitive in the often frat-boy realm of pop punk rock. ‘The Middle’ was ubiquitous throughout the year, but other tracks like ‘Sweetness’, ‘Get It Faster’ and ‘Hear You Me’ still stand strong.
8. Tricky – Blowback
I know that Maxinquaye is seen as his masterpiece and it is pretty amazing, but I revisit this album just as regularly. Replacing some of his earlier claustrophobic darkness with the (tiniest) hint of light and fun, he enlisted an odd but effective coterie of collaborators, including Alanis Morissette, Cyndi Lauper, Live’s Ed Kowalczyk and most of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to produce an album more accessible than his earlier work. I think some of his critics feel that this approach went horribly wrong, but I think it worked a charm. The guests rarely overpower Tricky’s glowering presence, and the album runs the emotional gamut nicely.
7. Warren Zevon – My Ride’s Here
Warren Zevon was underappreciated as an artist throughout his life. His wry, oft-acerbic character studies were balanced with a surprisingly vulnerable and sentimental side. 2003’s The Wind was his true swan song (Zevon died that year of lung cancer) was his literal final statement, but I think My Ride’s Here better sums him up as a man and as a songwriter, and stands as a fitting epitaph. God, I hope Zevon’s still out there somewhere, living out the lyrics to this album’s title song. Also, bonus points for producing a sweet little ode to a big, dumb old roughneck hockey player, hired as a goon but longing for just one goal. The song’s called Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song), and features long-time fan David Letterman on backing vocals.
6. The Strokes – Is This It
To be completely honest, I’m including this album on the list for sheer historical reasons, rather than any real personal attachment to it. Sure I bought it, and I like it, but it’s a little too…chilly for my tastes. I prefer emotion to icy, too-cool-for-school indifference. Still, there’s no doubting the impact this album would have on the coming decade. Before this, a lot of music in the late nineties (at least in the mainstream) was bland, overproduced pop crap. After this album was released, a lot of music (at least in the mainstream) was still bland, overproduced pop crap, but now there was room for at least a few bands who wielded guitars and sounded like they came straight from their garage and onto centre stage.
5. Crooked Fingers – Bring on the Snakes
This entry is more for the Crooked Fingers catalogue as a whole. Eric Bachmann’s post Archers of Loaf band has become one of my favourite bands over the last year or so, and their rough-around-the-edges folk rock has grown over the years, with 2008’s Forfeit/Fortune adding horns and a bit of a jaunty feel to the mix. I like it all, but I do find myself going back to their quieter, mid-tempo miserablist days, like on Bring on the Snake.
4. Ryan Adams – Gold
It’s pretty common knowledge that Ryan Adams doesn’t have the highest quality control standards. He could produce about one amazing album every two years, but instead chooses to release an okay record every year. Still, he produces some gems, and Gold was probably his most varied and most consistently strong album.
3. System of a Down – Toxicity
Another ‘nu-metal’ band that doesn’t deserve the tag, System of a Down produce a unique and completely mad mix of carnivalesque showmanship, blistering metal and unhinged vocals. Toxicity shows them at their political and songwriting pinnacle. The band was producing good records fairly consistently throughout the decade, but are currently on hiatus.
2. Tool – Lateralus
Tool take their time in between releases but the results are always meticulously crafted and well worth the wait. Coming 5 years after Aenima, the band took their mathematical, complex metal to new heights with Lateralus. They can do quiet and creepy (‘Parabol’) and loud and raging (‘Ticks & Leeches’) with equal aplomb.
1. Spiritualized – Let It Come Down
1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space is seen as the band’s masterpiece, but I think Let It Come Down is even stronger. It was an audacious undertaking, as main man Jason Pierce fired the entire band and replaced them with 115(!) session musicians, including a choir and orchestra. The results are sublime and moving, from the impotent anger of ‘Out of Sight’ to the (relative) euphoria of ‘Stop Your Crying’ to the heartbreaking ‘I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You’. This is truly a phenomenal piece of music.