2002 Music Reviews

Ryan Adams, Gold (2001)   C
Elton John calling him a 'genius' is premature to say the least - whatever happened to 'talented' or 'gifted' or are those adjectives too 'ordinary?' - but it's an okay effort: melancholy lyrics over Wilcoesque guitars and (sporadic) strings, earnest intentions and intelligent lyrics. Give him some time and he may produce some classic material; this is a noteworthy warm-up session.

... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes (2002)   F
After hearing some really promising songs from their earlier albums, I expected more from "Source Tags & Codes." I have a bootleg of one of their concerts and it's light years beyond this. Lead singer whines like Sunny Day Real Estate.

Arovane, Tides (2000)   B+
Beautiful ambience from this little known artist; he deserves more recognition than he's been letting and this album is a real treat. Put it on, dust your house, paint, cook, design web pages.

Badly Drawn Boy, Hour of the Bewilderbeast (2000)   F
"Magic in the Air" is such a wonderful tune that you wonder why the rest of the album isn't that good. Sounds like really belabored Beatles cover tracks.

Beck, Sea Change (2002)   D
Production values (by Nigel Godrich) good, Beck's self-obsessed mumblings after eleven songs tiresome. "Mutations" was a lot like this in terms of form, but the result of that album wasn't at all tedious because it wasn't about Beck breaking up with his woman. Hollywood's filled with hot broads: let the dumb bitch go.

Boards of Canada, Geogaddi (2002)   C-
Doesn't quite reach the peaks of "Music Has a Right to Children" or "Inabeautifulplaceoutinthecountry" but gets close in a few places, namely "Dawn Chorus," the album's only real high point, with a delicious mixture of porn moaning and symphonic strings. (Any song that samples Leslie Nielsen will get the royal thumb up from me.)

Clinic, Walking With Thee (2002)   D-
Follow-up to "Internal Wrangler" isn't as hypnotic, although sporadically effective (you can count the seconds) as a variation/continuation of postmodern BritRock. Not very good.

Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)   A
Shattering melancholy in this shamelessly mainstream masterpiece; "Parachutes" was more illuminating and folkish - not to mention an even better album (it may be one of the great albums of all time) - but that was a milestone nobody expected. "Politik" sounds like Blur's "Sing" and I still love it.

Cornelius, Point (2002)   C-
If you're familiar with his remixes of other people's material, some of the tunes on Keigo Oyamada's newest LP will sound really familiar. However, this doesn't mean it's all 'bad' - Oyamada's gift at producing summery beach music is upbeat and hypnotic. I never listen to any of his albums or songs during the wintertime, however, as the unpleasant East Coast weather makes his Bermuda-In-A-Bottle a little depressing.

DJ Shadow, You Can't Go Home Again (2002) [EP]
A few tracks from "The Private Press" plus a radio edit and a B-side. Actually got scared on the first listen that Davis had gone off the deep-end - it doesn't sound a bit like him - but taking in "The Private Press" several times has put my mind at ease.

DJ Shadow, The Private Press (2002)   B+
Shadow's past LPs have bordered on boring (I don't count his work as UNKLE), myself and friends all preferring his phenomenal remix work, rare EPs, live work and underground material - this is probably the best 'album' he has put out, period. The Special Edition disc on this makes me ill, on the other hand, so don't waste an extra fifteen (or so) bucks on it. Stick to the main disc, it's one of the best of the year.

Elbow, Asleep in the Back (2001)   C
Kind of thing that grows stronger with each listen (like "OK Computer" and Underworld's "Beaucoup Fish") - decreases in quality a bit, though, after a while, and that's not the best thing for a record to do. It is fun, however, to piss off everyone around you by chanting Any day now / how's about / getting out of this place over and over and refusing to stop. Good times.

Jimmy Fallon, The Bathroom Wall (2002)   F
"(I Can't Play) Basketball" sounds like a parody of the Beastie Boys while "Troll Doll Celebrities" is about as 'yesterday' as Troll Dolls themselves. In fact, the album itself exists in some sort of time warp, and it might have went over better in the late 80's/early 90's (everyone knows about the "Walk of Shame"). Only stand out track: the very funny Beck imitation, "Idiot Boyfriend." Next time: recruit Tina Fey.

The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)   B+
Aside from being drop-dead-depressing - it's a disc that's a metaphor for death and fear of the unknown - I fully advise everyone to take a listen, esp. those that claim to like experimental music. The inclusion of one of the Boredoms (Yoshimi) provides some laughs (the Boredoms are Japanese Noise Rock, an aural assault for the uninitiated). Keep the Xanax close and the revolver far away when you reach "Do You Realize??" which almost had me in tears.

Hefner, Dead Media (2001)   D
Hefner decides to do Gary Numan and Devo - the result is interesting although sporadically irritating. Take a listen if you must, but "We Love the City" is still tops for me.

The Hives, Veni Vidi Vicious (2002)   A-
They get in, get out in about a half-hour - it takes some people longer to put their clothes on in the morning - and make for the equivalent of a caffeine/cocaine-laced energy drink (you know, in those little cans?). Listened to it with Will on the flight to Vegas and it was in my head the whole time. Beautifully aggressive and quite memorable.

Interpol, Interpol (2002) [EP]
Teaser for the "Turn on the Bright Lights" LP. I would have liked "Precipitate" on here - or on the full album - but no matter. You can download that from one of your favorite peer-to-peer program or streaming server or just buy the "Precipitate" EP.

Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)   A
The sound of agony, of unbearable sadness - listen to the first four tracks and tell me you feel good. "NYC" sounds like a lament for the wounded metropolis of the band's childhood, and those rumbling guitars and that cascading noise are guaranteed to cause shivers. It's also further proof that Rob Sheffield and the rest of RS have lost their minds. Ignore the Joy Division comparisons; I'm talking My Bloody Valentine circa "Isn't Anything." In a word: Devastating.

Norah Jones, Come Away With Me (2002)   D-
This album is selling rapidly, which is a very good thing for Ms. Jones: she has talent and her voice is lovely. But I'm still not convinced she has the emotional range or poetic complexity of Fiona Apple and most of the songs on her debut are covers (though the title track and "Don't Know Why" are hers). Somehow I get the feeling that if Norah sang the theme to the Muppets or anything by Nick Drake they would sound incredibly sexy. Not the worst thing, but still....

Lamb, Fear of Fours (1999)   D+
1999 release from the duo can be summed up quite simply: instrumentals good, singing awful. Louise Rhodes comes off like a drunken Nelly Furtado with cotton wool stuffed up her nose.

Moby, 18 (2002)   C+
He took "Play," remixed it, added more African-American vocalists and re-released it. I took another listen to it in July 2004 and increased the rating slightly.

Mogwai, Rock Action (2001)   C-
More vocals and clearly defined songs this time for the avant-garde space rock group - not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm still so in love with their earlier works (like the "Fuck the Curfew" E.P. and stuff like "Stanley Kubrick" and "May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door") that this almost seems ... too accessible. Worth a listen for die-hards, although it's not nearly as haunting as they're capable of being (and when it comes to Mogwai, sparse droning is actually a good thing).

Jim O'Rourke, Bad Timing (1997)   B
It took me a long time to get into this disc - it's very difficult - and came to it after listening to "Eureka" and "Insignificance." The repetition masks some slowly evolving background alterations; to really "get it" you need to take several listens. I still prefer O'Rourke's other work better, but those that don't cringe at the thought of Philip Glass playing folk music are advised to try it.

Beth Orton, Daybreaker (2002)   B-
What a voice! I was first exposed to Ms. Orton from her doing vocal work for the Chemical Brothers ("Where Do I Start," specifically) and was enthralled with her last album. Not much change from that last album, sadly, but still a steady and delightful work. The last track is probably the best, although there are several good runners-up, namely the ghostly title track.

Sigur Rós, ( ) (2002)   B-
Untitled, unexplained, unexplainable album from the Icelandic group. It has no liner notes, track titles, cover art or anything like that to give the smallest clue as to what they're getting at, and what a delicious relief it is (a lot of the great classical musicians never went into explicit detail as to what they were really saying, either). If they made a film of someone's life, and that someone was afraid he or she had cancer, and awaiting the test results (like the Agnes Varda film "Cleo 5 to 7"), and it was directed by Terrence Malick, this would be the soundtrack.

The Streets, Original Pirate Material (2002)   B-
Rough-sounding rap/dance fusion from a wise-cracking pro-pot video game junkie who muses on life and failure - Skinner turns out to be some kind of Loser-Hero, turning his private world of Amsterdam vacations and the 'geezas' (I hate that word) into a highly personal - and consequently critically-acclaimed - work. Dorky and a little redundant (the same ideas are repeated song after song) but admirable in a way; you think of Eminem if Eminem weren't trying to be such a pugilistic bad-ass and instead trying to be Momus (albeit a Momus less interested in the gamut of sexual perversity and literary in-jokes). Beat Gran Turismo on the hardest level? Quite a feat, son....

Super Furry Animals, Rings Around the World (2001)   D+
Nothing especially catchy on this - at least, nothing like the band's great songs "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" or "If You Don't Want Me To Destroy You." "Radiator" is still tops, but you can't beat the inclusion of a free Bonus disc. The more Furry Animals you can get the better.

South, From Here On In (2001)   C-
Contains the blistering track "Paint the Silence" which sports some Josh Davis/James Lavelle strings. The length of the album is a problem, however, and it runs longer than some old movies. Yipes.

Tom Waits, Bone Machine (1992)   A
Slightly older album from the poet is one of my favorites: it's just the right length and remains consistently great throughout. "The Earth Died Screaming" is a remarkably enjoyable song, with Waits using his jagged voice to full effect.

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)   B+
First track is a stunner - the curiously titled "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (also the name of the documentary on the band's woes) sets the tone of the rest of the album, with Jeff Tweedy's voice shaking from instability and fear, and with the instrumentals just as unbalanced. The rest benefits from Jim O'Rourke's production work - does the man sleep? - and mishmosh lyrics (personal favorite: "Take off your band aid cuz I don't believe in touchdowns"). Quality like this builds a massive fanbase; say adios to obscurity, boys.

Andrew W.K., I Get Wet (2002)   B+
Wilkes-Krier paints himself as a post-Ozzy truck driver with soiled clothes and a diploma from Juilliard; makes brilliant first album. Lunkheaded responses in interviews are great reads ("GRRRR" is a common reply); his appearance on now defunct "Politically Incorrect" notable for absolute silence, then, in response to something about America or terrorism, a grunt followed by headbanging to imaginary noise. Genius.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2002) [EP]
Infectious, energetic grrrl (& guy) riot-punk; love the countdown in "Art Star" (is the screaming homage to Cannibal Corpse or Napalm Death, perhaps?), love the double entendres, love the dirty guitars, love the clunky sound in "Bang." If the LP's anything like this, we're talking about something genuine....

Hans Zimmer, The Soundtrack to "Black Hawk Down" (2001)   D
Worth mentioning for the Rachid Taha track and a few scattered moments. It made its presence felt in the movie itself - shit, it's probably better than the movie.