The usual double-size issues of music magazines usually means the interminable year-end reviews and reflections on albums past. And though it does not seem like it, there’s a new decade afoot, and we’ve seen a lot of decade-bests as well that seem equally unnecessary.
What’s frustrating with a lot of these lists, in both new and old media and beyond personal tastes, is realizing the hypocrisy of the critics, and just how forgetful they are of what they deemed ‘best album this year’ in years past. And though this blog tends to focus on classic and garage rock music, which started this decade off with a sonic boom of true rock and roll power, a lot of what perhaps WOULD have been included in Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, and others of their ilk is sorely missing.
This is not my own best-of list, but rather, a few albums I’m surprised was not included among the best-ofs out there.
Album from One of the ‘Other’ Bands of the Retro Rock Explosion.
In about 2002, Guitar World magazine took it upon themselves to list the most-essential, must-have albums for every guitarist, and divided the decisions by genre. Included was the Garage Rock genre, which surely, probably would have been cobbled along the Punk genre, if not for the so-called ‘Retro Rock’ explosion in 2001. Included on this list were the then-obvious choices: White Stripes’ “White Blood Cells;” The Strokes’ “This Is It;” and the Hives’ “Veni Vedi Vicious.” Had they waited, they would find their third album “Tyrannosaurus Hives” to be the bands’ absolute best. While none of the songs have any of the immediate might and muscle from the likes of “Hate to Say I Told You So,” or “Main Offender,” “Tyrannosaurus Hives” feels like a more complete album, in that it shows a band taking the time to craft their spontaneous sound. They are, without a doubt, the most explosive, tightest sounding band on record of the past 10 years, and the fact that this album was damn near forgotten by so many is a crime. And for those of you who remember the Hives’ break-neck 2002 VMA performance, the Hives are Law.
Album by One of the More Successful ‘Retro Rock’ Bands.
The White Stripes, (and to a greater extent, for better or worse Jack White himself), has left an indelible mark on this decade, but unfortunately, many critics focus on their mainstream break-through “White Blood Cells,” and it’s immediate follow-up “Elephant.” I do have some bias here, as with every release “White Blood Cells” falls further down my list in terms of preferred White Stripes albums, but I cannot deny the near perfection of “Elephant.” However, “De Stijl,” their second album released in 2000, remains to be my favorite as their most raw, honest record to date. But what marks all of their albums as great is how different a character they each have. “Get Behind Me Satan” is reflective in its acoustic-based composition, but marked by strange sound effect experimentation. “De Stijl,” recorded in Jack White’s living room, bounces from country to punk to blues and marks some of their most sincere songwriting. And “Icky Thump,” much like “De Stijl,” is a collection with variety, but shows the guitarists’ muscle that wasn’t seen until “Ball and a Biscuit” in the middle of “Elephant.” And with how often they released these albums this decade, it feels as though we’ve always had the White Stripes, and are just as vital to the rock and roll lexicon as the Rolling Stones.
Best Album By a Band that, Nobody Remembers That They Know, But They Really Did, Really.
I believe Spin magazine in particular called Autolux a band to watch before promptly forgetting about them. Their first album, “Future Perfect,” was released in 2004 to little fanfare. However, it is an album perfect for it’s time: melancholy, but trippy. It’s an album perfect for a rainy day or a late night, but that doesn’t matter much so much as the general psychedelic leanings of their compositions, which were refreshingly present while also reminiscent of bands like Sonic Youth and the earlier incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins: swirling guitars, layered on noise, and lyrics about hating your friends (so I’m guessing, really). Unfortunately, it’s Autolux’s only album, thought late in 2008 or so, they released a single on their website for whatever it is that’s coming next.*
*(The latest on the band comes from a MySpace post dated Dec. 6th, wherein they’re only waiting for a label to properly represent them, and market their follow up with a little more effort than “Future Perfect.” Who could blame them, though? It’s a fantastic album that was swept under the rug, and deserves much love, thus my placement on this list. Otherwise, there’s always self-publishing, which at this point, would not be very fruitful for the band at this point).
Best Album By a Classic Rock Band.
In the era of the reunion, very few bands (let alone television shows!) were able to pull off a meaningful, successful regrouping. Pink Floyd tried to keep it together for the “Live 8” show, only to die a very cruel ironic death (yes, Roger Waters — you can play ‘Money’ at a fundraising event — that’s cool!). And who’s to say Journey or Foreigner, or the Pretty Things, or AC/DC, or the Rolling Stones, or the Who, ever really went away? None of them did, really, but when one of these bands released an album, it was a major event. And in my opinion, the Who did it best.
Unlike the Rolling Stones who tried in vain to update their sound for the 80’s and the 90’s before finally embracing the retro-rock cool of the Aughts (and finally, FINALLY, just released a god damn Rolling Stones album!), the Who’s “Endless Wire” shows a band knowing it’s limits in terms of expectations, but also wearing their age as a badge of well-earned rock maturity. While it’s not classic Who material (for the obvious reason being the lack of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle), it is still an excellent release that plays as well as “Quadrophenia” and “The Who By Numbers.”
The Whigs – “Mission Control.”
Wallpaper – “On the Chewing Gum Ground”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.”
The Dirtbombs – “We Have You Surrounded”
The Detroit Cobras – “Tied and True.”
The Love Me Nots – “Upsidedown Insideout.”
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – “Magic.”