Monday, 23 December 2002

Joe Strummer RIP

Joe Strummer died yesterday as the result of a heart attack. He was 50.

While I've always thought The Clash's place in the pantheon of rock was a little overstated there's no denying the importance that Strummer's work has to many and his death marks the passing of a true icon.

Link to the Guardian's obituary

Sunday, 22 December 2002

The best albums of 2002

25. Weezer – Maladroit
Shabbily produced and annoyingly upbeat but Rivers Cuomo is still the best pop punk songwriter of his generation.

Best track – Keep Fishin'

24. N*E*R*D* – In Search Of…
A monumental collision of hip hop, funk, rock and pop that's only a little short of some of The Neptunes' best work.

Best track – Bobby James

23. Brendan Benson – Lapalco
Winningly geeksome lyrics and 80s power pop delivered with absolutely adorable charm.

Best track - Metarie

22. Boards Of Canada – Geogaddi
Pushes the boundaries of electronica rather than breaking new ground but it's still absolutely exceptional.

Best track – Sunshine Recorder

21. The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
Demands a deal of patience but it's John Darnielle's most forceful, complex and rewarding album.

Best track – The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton

20. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Sophisticated, provocative, catchy and serene. Not quite the masterpiece that many seem to think it is, but not far short.

Best track – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

19. Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown
Despite the obvious new wave influences, Make Up The Breakdown is impeccably cool and, thanks to the unusual song structures, actually pretty unique.

Best track - Bandages

18. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O.
Subtle, restrained and painstakingly detailed, Yanqui U.X.O. lacks the force of its predecessors but it's still wonderful.

Best track - Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls

17. Beck – Sea Change
Harrowing, lonely and beautiful. Hard to believe this is the same Beck who made Odelay only six years ago.

Best track – Guess I'm Doing Fine

16. Jesse Malin – The Fine Art Of Self Destruction
The first solo album from a major talent. Malin is destined for greatness.

Best track - Brooklyn

15. Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Yeah, your mum likes it but this is a majestic and glorious album.

Best track - Clocks

14. Mr Lif – I Phantom
A deliberately over-the-top grand opus that very few artists - never mind rappers – could pull off with this level of wit and dexterity.

Best track – New Man Theme

13. Adam Green – Adam Green
It seems like Green has left the super cool stomping songs about crack in his Moldy Peaches past. His solo debut is a smart, funny and sweet acoustic gem.

Best track – Mozzarella Swastika

12. Tom Waits – Alice
Heartbreakingly delicate and certainly the more beautiful of the two albums Tom Waits released this year.

Best track - Alice

11. Tom Waits – Blood Money
That Waits is able to transform this deeply cynical, miserable and bleak into a work of great humour and romance is testament to his unmatched talent as a songwriter.

Best track – Misery Is The River Of The World

10. El-P – Fantastic Damage
Fantastic Damage never quite lives up to its Funcrusher Plus / Cold Vein heritage but it's still a remarkable sprawling opus of anger and angst.

Best track – Tuned Mass Damper

9. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Source Tags & Codes
Blistering, blissful and dangerous. An album of immense weight that it perpetually sounds like it's about to implode. That it never does is testament to the band's incredible skill.

Best track – Relative Ways

8. The Libertines – Up The Bracket
Shambling and, at times, moronic, Up The Bracket regurgitates more than it innovates but you sense Carl Barat and Pete Doherty have made an album that will, quite rightly, become a landmark piece of British rock.

Best track – I Get Along

7. Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
Quite genuinely one of the most powerful and thrilling rock albums ever made.

Best track – No One Knows

6. Bright Eyes – Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground
A bleak, bold journey through Conor Oberst's ambitious and active 22-year-old mind reveals more naked emotion than any other album this year.

Best track - Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to Be Loved)

5. Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around
A consistently thrilling album that proves, even at 70, Johnny Cash is at the height of his powers.

Best track - Hurt

4. The Streets – Original Pirate Material
Not hip hop, not garage, not pop. It's hard to know exactly what it is and that's exactly what makes it a bona fide classic.

Best track – Don't Mug Yourself

3. Edan – Primitive Plus
A wild and weird masterpiece from maverick Boston suburbanite Edan Portnoy that lampoons rap stereotypes and attitudes while honouring the golden age of hip hop.

Best track – Run That Shit!

2. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
Interpol's much anticipated debut was a dark and brooding rollercoaster. At times it veers a little too close to a Joy Division homage but this is just as great a debut as Is This It was.

Best track - Roland

1. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Astoundingly, The Flaming Lips have made an album that can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with The Soft Bulletin. It almost defies belief that they've made another album that defiantly charges into uncharted musical territories and is abnormally alive with possibilities. An album that's bewildering and staggering. The year's and quite possibly the decade's best.

Best track – Do You Realise?

Thursday, 19 December 2002

Album Review: One By One

The stories leading to the extended gestation period for this LP have made it the most eagerly awaited Foo Fighters release to date. Taylor Hawkins' brush with mortality and Dave Grohl's sojourns with Tenacious D and the Queens Of The Stone Age seem to have reawoken the Foo Fighters. Grohl has always known his way around a decent riff, but one has wondered whether or not he had it in him to make a truly rocking LP. One By One tells us that the answer is a defiant "YES!".

Straight from the blocks the album attempts to blow the listeners eardrums apart. The album's opener and first single All My Life is a genuinely great rock record and possibly the Foo Fighters best single to date. Low rattles along at such a pace, it is clear that the band have rediscovered the focus that seemed to be missing on their previous LP There's Nothing Left To Lose. Every note seems to matter, and on Low and the following track, Have It All this urgency and focus becomes clear.

Grohl also proves that his skills in writing ballads has improved too. Tired Of You is the most haunting song Grohl has yet to write. Grohl whispers over a stark guitar line (from Brian May of Queen no less), "Is this just desire or the truth?". It's certainly one of Grohl's finest moments as a songwriter, and a worthy centre point for the album.

The only criticism of the album might be the quality control. Halo limps along without actually doing anything and 'Lonely As You' is fairly average. However, two mediocre tracks from eleven isn't a bad hit rate.

What One By One proves once and for all is that the Foo Fighters are a great band. It shows two fingers to the critics who have suggested that the only reason for their success is Dave Grohl's iconic status in rock music. The newly-rejuvenated Grohl puts it best on the recent single Times Like These when he affirms us, "It's times like these you learn to live again." A spectacular return to form.

Sunday, 8 December 2002

Wonderful LP covers

Incredible collection of hilarious and beautiful obscure LP covers.