My phone never rings. On the rare occasion, I make sure to grumble with a guttural: "yeah." I want the caller to think that I'm busiest underground rock writer in the world constantly being interrupted by interview call backs, A & R people wanting to know my T-shirt size, local bands asking me to make a flyer ("Something spooky but not deviating from Mao y'know? Cos our CD is a concept album about the shining path). After the ring it's an out of town rock band needing a connection. I wanna make it seem like I'm more important than I really am, the world of the rock writer being so generally negative and at best so self serving, rock writers are the shoe shine boys of the rock and roll elite. Ahem. I figure a best of 2000 list is a good way to introduce myself, my critickal biases and my general distain, especially to an audience that doesn't know me. Some background: I've written a column for the venerated LA rock rag Flipside for almost three years, called "The Post-Modernist Always Rings Twice". I wrote a manuscript called "Power, Sex & Magick: Royal Trux in Ohio", about seeing that ensemble for four days last year. It came out in edition of Eight last summer. Right now I'm working on a manuscript about another band, a Georgia band. It'll come out in an edition of Eight after the Superbowl. Then God knows what subject I'll write about, but I will of course continue to document my eternal soundtrack. I try to focus in on what music I've been obsessing on and how it all relates. I'd rather be on the side of the gentle nudge, the simple shoulder tap of suggestion. As a "critick", and I throw the 'k' upon it to help deflect the sometime negative connotations associated with this nomenclature, as a rock critick: I'd rather turn people on rather than make them shy away, the notion of the negative "write-up" only serves to sell the product in a different slant, a different demographic appeal: if the product is really that bad, why waste your time writing about it? With that said, this is my best of 2000, and thank you for your gracious attention.
1. Johnny Cash, American III-Solitary Man (American)
Yeah! Johnny sings my favorite Will Oldham song, and Will sings the backing. I think this is a song about some fuck up who's involved with a lady and he tells her in spite of the gloom "you know I have a love for everyone I know" and then I see I darkness, "did you know how much I love you?" Mr. Oldham knows how to cut it, he can explain things I think I feel. Things I think, situations I've been in cos y'know at my age you've been around the block and then to have Johnny Cash explain it, put an underline on it, it just sort of shocks you into that epiphany mode. The rest of the record is okay. It's Johnny Cash, he's cool, he the man.
2. Royal Trux, Pound For Pound (Drag City)
Yeah I wrote the liner notes. Yeah they paid me with a hotel room north of Baltimore. Real nice, a multi story Holiday Inn in Aberdeen and as I look at the receipt Jennifer penned "sig on file". My favorite band on the planet with their sturdiest line-up, this record sums up their post punk blues-ness with the best rhythm section in America: Dan Brown on bass, Chris Pyle on percussion and Ken Nasta on drums. Just stunning. I'm so transfixed by their blues, by their casual abandonment, their relentless experimentation. I haven't heard from them in months. They're Raider fans and I'm down with the Eagles. Neil's first concert was Queen in Europe during "News of the World". My first concert was Queen in Portland Oregon during the "Jazz" tour.
3. Man Or Astroman?, A Spectrum of Infinite Scale (Touch and Go)
I understand that MOAM have a reputation for wearing costumes and having a sorta vaudeville act schtick about outer space or something. An act is not something I'm usually interested in. Since I rarely venture out and I own no VCR I am not a member of MOAM's target audience which I am told is built upon their continual criss-crossings of the continent as well as forays into the foreign hinterlands. Originally from Alabama (and that's where their main engineer guy Jim, he's burly and he shakes yer hand tightly, that's where he still lives driving the five hours when it's time to open the doors of their new studio in a slowly gentrifying Atlanta community next to the rail road tracks in a current of industrial and fading cotton awareness. It's an old granary, the inside of Zero Return studios is hollowed out and you can look down on where the musicians play from this hollowed screened room of controls and data banks-upstairs somebody lives up a pale wooden deck. Last month they played the John Peel show and I'd love to get a bootleg -I bet it was cool. And that shows you how far I've come with MOAM-yeah I heard of 'em, heard a flip side of a Gearhead single a few years back and it was cool, it was drone like surf rock and it didn't offend me. I liked it. This record is the unbelievable, shades and tones and drones all instrumental 'cept for the cut where they record their dot matrix printer-I dig this, like seriously and I play it loud. Mr. Albini's best job behind the board since Whitehouse. Looking forward to seeing these gentlemen one of these days.
4. Stool Sample, Masterpiece of Shit (CD Visionary)
They're a three piece now, Rotgut Roger on bass singing 'em out with his tattoos like a trenchfoot grasping his neck so he can spout some graphics about his bath tub ring around the collar life. Cholo on the lead, spiny accusations mostly, like driving his motorcycle around a pool table and the latest addition, the nutty professor alias Captain No-Burn: Angry Todd Killings pounding them out a top a kit that reads "I'm not an alcoholic." Their type of sexist drunk punk, shock rock they rant is so startling in it's crudity and its lack of decorum that it is easy to rather dismiss them as just another case of arrested development, or disorderly conduct charges channeled into more positive expressive routes. Once you cut the trunks open and count the rings it's obvious that these are punks, that they are here to stay. After a myriad of comp appearances and splits the men of Kennesaw are presenting their first full length on the Nihilistics label. Songs like "my dick your mouth" bring it all back home. Essential, the only punk band that matters, that will endure to the end.
5. Jucifer, Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip (Capricorn)
Ms. Amber Valentine plays guitar and has three Marshall amps, her best friend Ed Livengood plays drums and practices martial arts. He's tense and tightly wired, wound up and he lets go on the semi-circle of drums. He pounds and bangs on them in time with them while Amber sledgehammer chords, just walls of sound. This past summer they blew the roof off a capacity Knitting Factory waiting for Royal Trux, such power wielded with such precision. Headshaking, from Athens, Georgia. New album in February.
6. Men Of Porn, Men Of Porn (Man's Ruin)
Great surprise this Fall, I hadn't heard them till I saw 'em play a sprawling heavy metal club out the outskirts of Spartanburg, heavy is the optimum word, three piece, Tim Moss from Ritual Device plays guitar but he sorta scrapes tones over it-a long gated edge type of playing, right on top of Sean, drums man, the rhythms he was in El Dopa and the middle ground is staked out by Brain who usta be in Richmond's Buzzoven. I use the discussion about their lineage the show that the Men of Porn is the logical extension of these bands. To use a short cut to thinking I was postulate an approximation: the instrumental Black Flag album, "the Process of Weeding out." After a long wait at a check in counter, Sean explained that it's called "Days Inn" because it takes days to check in. Cool, hard rock, intelligent, loud.
7. The X-Impossibles, White Knuckle Ride (Cargo/Headhunter)
Every Wednesday night this past April, the X-Impossibles played a beer wrenching populated set, they roll over their classic punk ness, their retrograde coolness with two guitars, power undercarriage and sing along notch vocals-Dead Boys & Clash covers, but so much more-they demonstrate a real comfort with the form, shaping it into something one can chug beer and cheer to and not mind that it's 2001. They'll be on the West Coast in the spring.
8. The Subsonics live in Central Park 26 August 2000
Atlanta's garage rock maestros! Live in Central Park, for free! Guitar, bass & drums. Kinetic live, the songs are where it all starts, Buffi Aquero's solid slamming drum beat, she stands up and it's just like granite, Christi Montero in gold lame pants handles the fat bass and then the man Clay Reed, in a skin tight leather outfit with painted toenails, he hovers on the mike stand just leaning out and snarling,the lyrics "it'll all come back to haunt you." The firstest with the mostest in a l923 band shell on the East Side and about 200 people stand up at the energy, the photographers rush the stage and the drums sound tripled bouncing off the John Phillip Sousa walls. They recording now but don't have a deal. They're playing with the Blues Explosion in Nashville on New Year's Eve.
9. The White Lights, (five song demo)
This is an Atlanta band that recorded at Zero Return. Buffi from the Subsonics leads this band playing guitar and writing the songs. It's a huge work, Sam on organ, Stewart on vibes, Ana on violin, Johnny on guitar, Keith on bass and of course Clay Reed on drums. It has a different feel, the White Lights have an ability to create a mood, the supply a feel wrapped around their songs. I saw 'em at a Christmas party the other night and wished they would have kept playing. In the spirit of disclosure, my girlfriend plays violin. Unlike Springsteen apologist Dave Marsh who likes to forget his wife works for the Boss, I wear my heart of my sleeve.
10. Radiolaria "The Last Matinee" final gig in Cincinnati 15 April 2000
Cincinnati's homegrown Sonic Youth, two guitars space rock, ethereal planning and dropping into empty spaces. A good band, a nice sound; they were a long running quartet and they went out in a last waltz type of food and booze extravaganza in a l940's movie theater. I got impossibly drunk and enjoyed myself.