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Showing posts from September, 2004

52. Green Day - American Idiot (2004)

Many people seem blindsided by the fact that Green Day is still making relevant music, but to me it came clear with the last album, Warning. For whatever reason, anytime an artist seems to hit their prime early (Counting Crows, Weezer, etc.) it's hard to accept that they'll ever make something listenable again, let alone gripping. Warning wasn't a groundbreaking record, but it was highly enjoyable.

Now comes American Idiot, which to those who haven't been paying attention seems like an out-of-nowhere return-to-form. It's easy to attribute this to righteous anger about our current times, especially in light of the lead single, American Idiot. If there's one good thing to say about the Bush administration it's that they've given us some great reactionary music. In fact no two lines can sum up the Bush approach to "protecting" the country better: "Can you hear the sound of hysteria / The subliminal mind-fuck America" By the way, I always…

51. The Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia (2004)

I would never begrudge another music listener their opinion, but some opinions fly so brazenly in the face of truth that one can't help but react negatively. Witness Jody Rosen's review of The Thrills' new album in the October 2004 issue of Blender. She (or he?) uses adjectives such as "overwrought," "strained" and "self-serious" to describe the effort. He (or she) seems to think that the band has become pretentious and full of itself. I don't know what album Jody Rosen listened to, but I just don't hear it.

Instead, I would use these words to describe the album: "loose," "effortless" and "charming." And clearly no band high on their own importance would name a song Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?, nor would they write a line like "I'm too vain for greatness." Maybe Jody Rosen has some secret grudge she (or he) is playing out in print, because the only whiff of pretense on this album is the b…

50. Matthew Sweet - Living Things (2004)

Matthew Sweet has worked with lots of notable people through out his career: Aimee Mann, Hanson, Mick Fleetwood, Pete Droge, Shawn Mullins, members of The Attractions, The Bangles, Big Star, The B-52's, R.E.M., Talking Heads, Television, and Voivoid, as well as session musicians who played with The Rolling Stones and Beach Boys.

On Living Things, he adds another name to that resume. Van Dyke Parks is an idiosyncratic musicial prodigy who has done critically acclaimed solo work, but is best known for working on the songs that were to make up Smile, the Beach Boys' never-released (at least until the end of this month) follow-up to Pet Sounds. Matthew appears to be doing whatever he can to become this generation's Brian Wilson.

What Parks apparently brought to the table was a diversity of instrumentation. The gripping opener The Big Cats Of Shambala (I looked it up...Shambala is a wild animal preserve located on the edge of the Mohave desert, not far from where Matthew makes hi…

The Smashing Pumpkins - "Ava Adore"

Here's a secret: Adore is an awesome album. Created in the wake of the massive success of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and the temporary firing of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, it's the Pumpkins gloomy gothic eletronic Depeche Mode record.

Many say that the band went in this direction as a direct result of Chamberlain's abscence, but there's actually evidence that they were headed this way no matter what. The two soundtrack songs that directly preceded Adore, Eye and The End Is The Beginning Is The End, were completely different from anything the band had done before. It's as though Mellon Collie was the band's late '70s power rock album and these singles were their shot at early '80s new wave. The first time I heard Eye on the radio it was a thrilling moment to hear the band trying something so different.

Anyway, Ava Adore is the best song of this Pumpkins phase. Musically, the marching beat (not unlike Chamberlain's usual style) is played on …