In the Player
None of this is necessarily new, just whatever gets listened to more than once.
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
First wave: Inside Wilco, Jeff Tweedy is one of the best people in the world at what he does. The rest of the band is great but with the pieces all together it's something else. YHF moves Wilco out of the alt-country wasteland and into the mainstream without compromising a damn thing. The basic story is they split with their label rather than change a note of YHF. The band was right and it's a damn good thing they knew it (unlike when it happened to Dave Matthews, Lilywhite deservedly sleeps with dead fishes). The fact that it's only been released as a web audio-stream and still demonstrates some of the best production ever is a bonus. Whenever this collection gets pressed it's not a stretch to predict it will show on half the Top 10 lists the following January. (9)
White Stripes - White Blood Cells (2001)
First wave: Way cool. Puts the Rock and Roll back into Rock 'n' Roll. Without knowing anything about them this sounds like an real live songwriting team at work. Y'know, like Richards/Jagger or Robinson/Bell. Ain't a thing wrong with that, it's as honest-to-god refreshing as listening to live music after a month riding in an elevator. And that's just the recording. (9)
Ed Harcourt - Here Be Monsters (2001)
First wave: What's with the onslaught of great Brit music? First Clinic and now this. Good influences, good writing, good samples, raw competent execution. If that's the new formula I'll go with it. Too bad he sounds like Bono. (7)
The Strokes- Is This It (2001)
First wave: So are they any good and who cares what I think? There's no good straight-up rock music anymore, there's an aching void for a band like this. But a good test for any band hyped as the next Big Star is whether they make people go start their own bands. More groups cited the first Velvet Underground as their Jesus than there existed copies of that first album. The Beatles spawned whole generations of drummers, guitarists and dudes in specs with tiny round lenses. Even Platinum Blonde made people think air drums could get you chicks. On the flipside, barrios full of kids working to be the next Menudo never came to pass. So far, the Strokes have one cover band called Diff'rent Strokes (heh, bet that's not old yet. I bet no one's thought of saying "Whachoo talkin' 'bout Lou Reed?" either) and a graveyard worth of music geeks as fans. Until people are inspired beyond dressing in leather Gap casuals and jeans then don't believe the hype. Until then it's just a good record. (8)
First wave: Excellent group. Two LP's so far. Change was the first and it's one of those great first albums like Vices or Van Halen I where you don't care if the band tanks, at least they had that great first album. Emergency and I shows that they're far from tanking though maybe they grew up too fast. It's what a real reviewer might call "mature" which is great if you're into that sort of thing. But to keep the parellels going I wish they would have done their VH2 and Diver Down before jumping to the Sammy Hagar years. (7)
Kick Axe - Vices
But seriously, an on-line search reveals their Official Website is now hosted out of Czechoslovakia. Huh? (10)
Clinic - Internal Wrangler (2000/2001)
First wave: Once in a while you find something where in the space of five seconds you couldn't imagine a world without it. Clinic picks up where a lot of great bands left off. You could say they're kinda T. Rex, Half Japanese, Velvet Underground, Violent Femmes and six other bands and still not have the faintest idea what you're in for. Even when they're under the influence they sound like themselves and make great music. Instinct and craft. Let track 1 set the mood and go with it. (9)
Aftershock:When was the last time you listened to an album like ten times in a row? When every time it ended you sent it back to track 1 and listened straight through again. It's like eating candy all day but without that sick bloated feeling. Pure rock candy. The future of music is all right. Every band I've ever heard this good was either dead or fading by the time I heard it. Get in early and hope for a long trip. Tomorrow Never Knows. Feel. I'm Waiting for the Man. Mountain Song. All Apologies. Last Goodbye. 2/4.
How's this for surreal: Internal Wrangler was released in the U.K. in October 2000. Clinic played a club in Boston on Sept. 10 called Middle East. Internal Wrangler was released in North America Sept. 11. The band was scheduled to play Maxwell's in NYC that week. The good news is that there's more material to be released soon (find the Peel sessions, geez it only gets better). Related surreal sidebar: GIT/PIT hellspawn Dream Theatre had a worse coincidence -- picture an album released on Sept 11 with a skyline profile of NYC burning. That's a hard row to hoe even for a crap band. The cover had to be pulled, I saw a promo copy and yeah, like it was ever a good idea to start with. Buncha wanks. As for Clinic, the music glows. (10)
Detroit Cobras - Mink Rat or Rabbit (1998)
First wave: Cross Darlene Love with Chrissy Hynde, get Phil Spector to produce, set the guitars to fuzz. (8)
Aftershock: Every generation has a couple. Sinatra and Presley. Vicious and Biafra. Hetfield and Mustaine. Nagy.
Zen Guerrilla - Shadows on the Sun (2001)
First wave: Way cool. Kinda like a religious revival meeting that Jim Rose, James Brown and Hendrix would be at. And there's a bunch of snakes and fire and stuff. (8)
Doyle Bramhall & Smokestack - Welcome (2001)
Aftershocks: Just what we needed, another Wild T & the Spirit. Bramhall is a damn good guitarist in the tradition of Hendrix. Cool voice. Writes lyrics like a hack 80's metal band but that's not always as bad as it sounds. Great lineage, knew the Vaughn's growing up, was in the Arcangels, opened for Clapton. But he's rewriting the past, or copying it. Without doing it better. Or making it his own. Heck even the Tea Party found a voice. So You Want It To Rain is the only track here that's both stellar and not derivative. The rest can be really good, but you start to say "Oh this is his Crosstown Traffic. This is his Foxy Lady with Voodoo Chile lyrics, only he's a Problem Child. That was a Beatles riff." You get the idea. A lot of blues might be about packing new lyrics into the same 12 bars but you can't do it like that if you can't tell a story. (6)
Acetone - York Blvd. (2000)
First wave: I've got this curse where by the time I hear music it's a crime scene. First Jeff Buckley, now Acetone. Good music in a Nick Drake kinda way. Maybe a bit low key. (7)
Ryan Adams - Gold (2001)
First wave: This is progress? Might as well have kept Whiskeytown together. Don't get me wrong, this is still a better album than most dream of making. But in a Def Leppard Hysteria kinda way that makes you wonder if a more substantial album was released in a parallel universe. Heartbreaker felt like it hinted at better things to come, maybe safe pays the bills. Once again looking forward to the next one. (8)
Aftershock: Okay, it's actually good but has problems. Call it a panoramic view ranging from New York to Los Angeles that traces his move from the one city to the other. He musta hated New York. And spent too much time on Broadway because the first couple tracks get older faster than you can say "Midnight and the kitties are sleeping." By track 3 you're out of New York and glad to be on the road, the first great piece of music. 4 is even better. A couple wrong turns and by track 7 it's lost and asking Chris Izaak for directions. And then it gets better again. By the end of the trip it actually sounds like Ryan Adams doing Ryan Adams tunes. And those can be really, really good.
As a whole, if this album really is an arc from one place to another then it does the job. That also means it's inevitable that some parts are going to suck and other breathe. The first impression stands, the upside is that Gold hints at better things to come, and some of them arrive before it's over. (8)
Jeff Buckley - Eternal Life EP (1995)
First wave: Album and road versions of Eternal Life, plus acoustic versions of Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should Have Come Over recorded in Japan (On Air Azabu Studios, J Wave Radio). The road version of Eternal Life is close to what's on Mystery White Boy minus the live energy. This is really the way it should have been released on Grace unless the idea to turbo charge it came later, good to have a clean version in any case. The two acoustic tracks sound real good. One of the better EP's. (9)
Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R (2000)
First wave: Played it until I was sick of it. Went back and listened to the first album for a few months. Now I'm back to Rated R. QOTSA is back the studio right now, Gene Ween worked on a few tracks with 'em, can't wait until next year, think it's scheduled for February. Speaking of Ween collaborations there's supposed to be another Z-Rock Hawaii disc coming up too. And they just released the Toronto show from the country tour on Chocodog Records. Way cool. (8)
(10) Canon. On par with Radio City, the White Album and Nothing's Shocking.
(9) Get it. The best of what music can do.
(8) Hear it. Bound to make a few top 10 lists.
(7) Good music.
(6) Take it or leave it.
(5) Leave it.
(4) Why buy when you can hear it on AM radio.
(3) Why buy when you can hear it blaring out of that black Civic with the bitchin' stereo.
(2) Plain wrong.
(1) If you dig disco then you're reading this scale upside-down and this is a 10.