PARENTAL WARNING: lots of cuss words ahead! Lock up your daughters! Hide the silverware! Christly God, it’s a Satanic rock’n’roll list!
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2006
Usually, I write this one up before year’s end. But I started to suspect that, apart from Scott Sellers, nobody reads the fucking thing. I mean, who cares what I think, right? Some days, I don’t, either.
My lack of enthusiasm for list-making was also compounded by my growing suspicion that rock’n’roll is starting to suck again. It’s not the Seventies disco era, or the Eighties hair band era, or whatever. It’s not that bad, yet. But it’s getting depressing again, boys and girls. Perhaps that’s why, in my forties, I’m only excited by the music that excited me in my teens – punk rock. (That, or the mid-life crisis thing. Take your pick. Some guys get trophy brides, some buy Porsches. Me, I start punk bands called Shit From Hell.)
Anyway, I digress. I figured I’d better do up the list when one of my partners leaned into my office, yesterday, and said something like: “Where the fuck is your best of 2006 list?” He looked peeved, and he’s a big Tool and NIN fan, so I don’t fuck with him.
Here goes. And remember, kids: don’t download, unless it’s someone who’s a millionaire already. Millionaires are fun to torment.
1. Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam: I love the word eponymous. Love it. Love saying it, too: “Eponymous.” The Merriam-Webster folks say it means “of, relating to, or being the person for whom something is believed to be named.” Mostly, you only see it in the context of reviews of rock’n’roll records. In this particular context – Pearl Jam’s eighth studio album, in a stellar fifteen-year existence – it fits. Is this the record that Vedder and Co. actually intended to be their first? It certainly sounds like it. ‘Pearl Jam’ throbs with anger and intelligence and talent, like all first-time rock’n’roll albums should. ‘World Wide Suicide’ got most of the air play when the record got released, because it succinctly summarized the angst that most of us feel about the world, these days. But the rest of the record – as with ‘Yield’ and ‘Binaural’ – sees Seattle’s finest refusing to play it safe, and taking plenty of risks. It is like they (and me, who love them) are younger again, and recording their first-ever album. Eponymous.
2. Towers of London – Blood, Sweat and Towers: The fucking Towers Of London are the most important fucking new rock & roll band on the fucking planet. I am not fucking with you. It’s not entirely of their own doing, this exalted status they now enjoy. Casting a glance over the pop charts, one can readily see why the five boozing, cursing, brawling, skirt-chasing delinquent Towers are more than hugely important – they are, in fact, utterly necessary. They are vital. They are what quite a few of us have been waiting for a long time. As far as the eye can see, piles and piles of aural dreck: Justin Timberlake, Nickelback, Christina Aguilera, the Pussycat Dolls. It goes on and on and on. Corporate-sized, focus-grouped, over-priced, glossy, glitzy CRAP THAT IS BORING AND WITHOUT ANY MERIT WHATSOEVER. Rock & roll has become, as it often does, terrible again. It is tiresome. It is self-obsessed. It is fucking awful. That is why God invented the Towers of London. And it is why you must buy this album, right now. It will save your life.
3. Rise Against – The Sufferer and The Witness: Don’t ask me how or why, but there I was at the tail end of September – in a jacket, slacks and a dress shirt outside MuchMusic, beside people in black T-shirts and who are half my age (at least), waiting to catch a glimpse of Rise Against. They were here for some promo thing. My wife said I’m “a weirdo,” and she’ll get no arguments from pretty much anyone we know, and quite a few of those we don’t. But I stuck it out, because I admire these young guys so much – straight edge, passionate, melodic, filled righteous fury. Listen to ‘Ready To Fall,’ as I did on that sidewalk that day, and consider whether the world still doesn’t need changing. The place is so fucking bleak and cruel and evil, most days, but these guys give me hope. They’ll do the same for you, if you let ‘em.
4. Artic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: The good news (if you’re one of Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys) is that Britain’s influential New Musical Express has decreed your first album to be one of the greatest of all time – up there with the Beatles and so on. The bad news (if you’re an Arctic Monkey) is that the NME has decreed your first album to be one of the greatest of all time, et cetera. Why is this bad? Why is it bad that this record – which is great fun, and well worth a try – sold faster than any debut album in the history of British pop? Well, for starters, it creates expectations for the quartet that they cannot possibly hope to satisfy on either side of the Atlantic. And on this side in particular, every review of the Monkeys’ first waxing mentions the NME hysteria – and accordingly treats the band with pronounced suspicion. It’s too bad, actually: its rollicking, tuneful pop-punk, with a sharp eye for social commentary as part of the bargain. But the irony remains: the NME helped lift the Arctic Monkeys out of obscurity – and they may send them right back there, too. (So far, however, the Monkeys are defying my predictions. Good.)
5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Have you heard ‘The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth’ by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? You must before you die. You must! I linked to it on my web site back in February or something, and a girl in England wrote to me and said it changed her life (the tune, not the web site) and she flew to see them play in France. Then again…maybe it was Against Me! and not CYHSY. Whatever. Me, I have now found a way to fill the hole in my life left by Pavement. Time to die.
6. Against Me! – Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!: They released it in August, and it is mainly live versions of stuff taken from ‘Searching For a Former Clarity’ and ‘As The Eternal Cowboy.’ Despite the lack of newness, this record should demonstrate to you why the likes of Spin called them one of the best live acts on the planet – and why Warren now lists ‘Clarity’ as one of his Top Ten Records Of All Time, So Help Me God. And that’s why I wrote this, a year ago: “Based on the strength of this record, Against Me! have the ability to change punk, and rock’n'roll itself. They are literally that good.” They are.
7. The Briefs – Steal Yer Heart: So there we were, spinning through the XM satellite radio dial, one sunny Summer day, 2006 A.D., and we came across the pristine punk-pop brilliance of The Briefs’ ‘Normal Jerks.’ Sample lyric: “Normal people do what they want to…Normal people do what they like…They go out shopping and they go to fix their hair…When I walk by them, oh yeah, they just stop and stare…I say so what, I don’t care what you do…At least I’ll never, ever be a normal jerk like you.” It’s not Dylan, sure. Who cares (thank Christ, actually). Our four-year-old loves this band – in all of their Old School Punk New Wavey nuttiness, complete with Devo-like shades and goofy stage moves – with intensity is truly frightening. He sings their lyrics in school, and the teachers disapprove, which his Old Man (typically) loves. Added CanCon bonus: Stevie Kicks of the New Town Animals from Vancouver is now a member of the band, and they let him sing. Pogo!
8. Magneta Lane – Dancing With Daggers: The Japanese and Canadian releases came late, late in 2005, verging on 2006, so it’s legit to place this record – which, like the band itself – on a best-of-2006 list. The record itself is near-impossible to define, but captivating as Hell. An all-female trio (which is only relevant insofar as rawk’n’role is still a male-dominated game, and the women who make it to the front of the line – like Sleater-Kenney, like Hole, like Brody Armstrong, like all the great ones – fucking well deserve to be there) comprised of French (bass), Nadia (drums) and Lexi (vox and guitar), the gals got together back in 2003 and – here’s the best part, and call me a petty nationalist, I don’t care – THEY ARE ALL-CANADIAN! THEY ARE FROM TORONTO, EVEN! Now, if I hadn’t told you that, you’d figure they were from NYC or London or something – Magneta Lane are that cool. They are that great. Give ‘Bridge To Terabithia’ a spin – it is one of the best tunes of 2006, hands down. Huge things await these three. Brilliant.
9. Greg Graffin – Cold As The Clay: Picked this up at his solo show in Toronto, a few months back, when he was on a mini-solo-tour, backed by most of the Weakerthans. It was amazing. The lead singer of punk rock giants Bad Religion singing roots stuff, and actually pulling it off. On reflection, I shouldn’t continue to be amazed by the guy: as I wrote in the Anglican Journal this week, Graffin is a brilliant and fascinating person, and just not because he’s a punk legend and a celebrity. I mean, Graffin possesses a Ph.D in zoology – he wrote his doctoral dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism – and he is exceptionally intelligent. No punk caricature here, Virginia. ‘Cold As The Clay,’ produced by Bad Religion co-founder Brett Gurewitz, carries echoes of Gram Parsons, Neil Young and the Band, and that’s not a bad thing. It was recorded and mixed in seven days – just like in the good old days, before ProTools and computers and whatnot. And it’s terrific.
10. Shit From Hell – Stunned Shit Blunders: Well, okay. We haven’t been in the studio, as yet. Been delayed by the usual stuff. And I’m not sure that’ll be the title, either. But we’ve got more than a CD’s worth of stuff, including thoughtful crowd-pleasers like ‘Avril Lavigne Must Die.’ The record will makes us huge rock stars, we will quit our jobs, be chased by Paris Hilton, and I won’t have to do this fucking blog stuff anymore. I’ll be able to pay roadies to do it for me. Get ready, world! SFH is here!