|Issue 55: Special "Better Late Than Never" Edition|
Essays: It's a Big World After All by Rob Brookman
IT'S A BIG WORLD
by Rob Brookman
Okay, kid, right 2001 was a musical sinkhole. Not a goddamn thing to get excited about. Even the record execs thought so.
Let's run it down: The Strokes? Preening, backward-looking hype mongers. Dylan? Jesus, is he still around? Radiohead? Appropriately gloomy, but what's with those mega sale figures? The Gorrilaz? What's next, Pokemon doing two-step? Ryan Adams? As if. Hell, even good old Britney doesn't pack the same ironic whollop anymore.
Look, kid, we wish you had a Nirvana to call your own, too. But until one comes around, maybe it's time to get your head out of the chat rooms and take in some fresh air. After all, if 2001 taught us anything, it's that there's a big wide world out there. And it's just your luck that, in 2001, more of it than ever before awaited sampling at your local record store.
Not sure where to start? Here's my pick: Cachaito by Orlando Cachaito Lopez. Right, he was the bass player in the Buena Vista Social Club. But don't let that scare you off. If anything, this 68-year-old sounds refreshingly ahead of his time, mixing his Cuban jazz with everything from hip-hop to dub.
As long as we're talking jazz, leave Cuba for Norway and try out trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer's Solid Ether. Call it Miles Davis goes techno, or Bitches Brew goes clubbing. Works better than caffeine, that's for sure.
Ready for some vocals? Pick up Frenchman-by-way-of-Spain Manu Chao's Proxima Estacion: Esperanza. Imagine a European Beck with a ska jones and you'll get the idea. Want something a little harder? Then Rachid Taha's Made in Medina is the ticket rai on steriods, you might say.
And let's not forget Africa. In 2001, there was plenty to choose from. My favorites were Baaba Maal's Missing You... Mi Yeewnii, Sound Time by Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and His Nigerian Soundmakers, Sankofa by the Highlife Allstars, Samba Mapangala's Virunga Ujumbe and, via follow DAAers Peter Gorman and Tim Frommer, Gigi's self-titled CD.
Maybe you're ready to go exploring in the Middle East. Understandable it has been in the news a bit lately. So try the North African compilation Tea in Marrakech. It's an eye-opener, a living, breathing reminder that modernity hasn't bypassed the entire region despite what you read in papers.
See, kid, good music is where you find it. In 2001, you just had to look a little farther.
WHEN EVERYTHING HERE
by Tim Frommer
As we know, quality is better than quantity, though 2001 will be remembered musically for more of the latter than the former, unfortunately. It almost seemed that musicians knew some near-Apocalyptic moment was coming and wanted to commit everything to tape. A year of striving and voluminous output that needed, as we all do at times, some significant pruning. To wit:
Double albums from Jenny Toomey and Unwound, single records from Mark Kozelek and his band Red House Painters which qualifies as a double in my book. Plus a limited-edition live solo disc from Mark released in December.
Radiohead and Ida release their second albums in as many years culled from the same recording sessions. Interestingly, Capitol funded both projects though only found it necessary to release Radioheads. Tigerstyle picked up the slack for Ida.
Mac McCaughans two bands, Superchunk and Portastatic, released strong albums and his label, Merge, released some of the best music of the year. And they signed Bay Area pop darlings Imperial Teen.
The band formerly worshipped as Pavement offers dividends: Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs (Preston School of Industry) release their first post-demigod status records. Matador covers its ass by issuing both.
Two significant and well-written books on the Amerindie scene are released: Michael Azerrads Our Band Could Be Your Life, 13 mini-histories of seminal bands from late-70s and 80s, including Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr, Big Black and the Minutemen; and Dance of Days, by Mark Jenkins and Marc Andersen, a meticulously-researched view of DC punk from 1975-1995. Plus, the zine Punk Planet released a book of interviews: We Owe You Nothing.
Death Cab for Cutie releases its third album in as many years. Methinks Ben Gibbard should have saved the three new cuts from last years Forbidden Love EP to make this years the Photo Album stronger.
After woodshedding the song "Furniture" live since their very first gig, say 14 years ago, Fugazi decide they have the tune down and release it as a separate 7" along with the full-length the Argument.
DJ/Producer/Drummer/Tabla player Karsh Kale releases his debut album and appears on at least two more of the years most intrepid "world dance fusion" records (Gigi, Tabla Beat Science).
Juno and Joe Strummer release albums 70 minutes or longer with songs checking in at over ten minutes in length.
Madonna charges $250 to let concert-goers see her play air guitar on her black Gibson.
Bjork tours with a 50-piece orchestra.
The Strokes PR agent.
Unlike recent years, there was no clear-cut top record for me. At one point I joked that I didnt have a #1, but instead four #3s. The proof is in the pudding and my guess is that next year in this time Ill still be playing at least a half-dozen great records from 2000 (Sleater-Kinney, Coldplay, Travis, Death Cab for Cutie, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Aimee Mann), but half as many, if that, from 2001.