Top Ten 90s Singles of 2007:
("Listen" links will open streaming MP3s from the Anti-Static archives.)
1. Beak - Airplane [Listen]
Blowing up in the face of the San Francisco pop punk expulsion came Beak, who served up a throbbing cocktail of Flipper-like noise on this Insignificant Records single. (And then again later, on their impossible to find "Autoselfreplicationalism" full-length.) Blarin' sax, wailin' vox, and a would-be Muppet behind the drumkit -- you tell me what's not to love.
2. A Bullet for Fidel - The Last Day of Fall [Listen]
The curiously named A Bullet for Fidel is actually one guy -- Brian DiPlacido -- who recorded a handful of records for the Scat label throughout the 90s. Although I never saw him perform and have no solid memory of buying them, I somehow managed to acquire all of his releases and they only really connected with me quite recently. Some truly threadbare sounds here, but they carry an autumnal starkness that's brilliantly affecting.
3. Sun City Girls - Eye Mohini [Listen]
A nice prelude to the interstellar pop of their "Torch of the Mystics" LP, the "Three Fake Female Orgasms" double single from which this track comes was one my most oft turned-to audio irritants at the dawn of my radio career. (To say nothing of the eyebrow-raising enjoyment afforded by saying the words "Three Fake Female Orgasms" on the radio.)
4. Leslie - Via Dolorosa [Listen]
The absolute pinnacle of Washington DC post-hardcore. These ex-members of Jawbox, Swiz, and Edsel came out of nowhere with this mysterious 45 on Jade Tree Records, and were promptly never heard from again. The modern noir sensibility of "Via Dolorosa" really makes me hope that George Pelecanos has heard this record.
5. Big Nurse - Hey Hey [Listen]
My days of drunkenly arguing over the best-ever NJ punk single are gone forever, but that probably says more about the sissy company I keep these days than it does the quality of local noise being made. These shore-core darlings forever endeared themselves to me with this pick-axe-through-your-spinal-column number, as brought to you by the appropriately named Heat Blast label.
6. All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors - I Am Where You Were [Listen]
Something else I didn't "get" until well after the band had broken up and I'd already branded myself a rank amateur by giving them a bad review in my old fanzine. Duh. All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors keyboard man Joshua Booth now ably holds it down in the current lineup of Dalek, and you can hear the stylish My Bloody Valentine influence in his work there, as well as on this single courtesy of the fine Gern Blandsten label.
7. Greenhorn - Lover's Song [Listen]
A lot of people think I'm from Ohio based on much of the music that I loved 10-15 years ago. Gaunt, Scrawl, the Turks, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, and Greenhorn, who wrote songs like open skies and empty highways and which could fill your heart with dueling emotions at the drop of the needle. Sort of like some secret Neil Young that only you know about.
8. Playmate - Upside Down [Listen]
From the fabled Japan Bashing series of 7" comps that featured everything from post-Boredoms noise to stoner psychedelics. Every release in this all-too-short series felt like an instant collector's item (the only place to find 'em locally was at Pier Platters in Hoboken, otherwise you were relegated to the Public Bath label's mysterious PO Box for mailorder. Any way you slice it, Playmate proves beyond doubt that the women of Japan have much more up their sleeve than the surfy garage pop to which they are most commonly associated.
9. Geezer Lake - The Man Who Secretly Hated the World [Listen]
A wildly underrated band from North Carolina who, perhaps inadvertently, released one of the most thoroughly menacing songs I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. Geezer Lake released numerous singles and albums, mostly on the D-Tox label (which they may have had a hand in running?), but this track from their first 7" coupled anguished vocals with one of the meanest guitar sounds this side of Big Black or Sabbath. Great!
10. Dahlia Seed - Milk [Listen]
A fondly remembered pride-and-joy of Jersey, as heard here on their split 7" with Greyhouse on the Troubleman Unlimited label. The chronic problem with re-visiting the music of my 20s is how the lyrics can be somewhat wince-inducing, and even though Dahlia Seed worked some pretty emo angles through their songwriting, vocalist Tracy Wilson delivered them with a commanding grasp around the listener's throat. And pick slides! Why the hell don't more bands use pick slides?
Explanation: Nostalgia is an ugly beast, but last year around this time, I decided that fifteen minutes a week wouldn't kill anyone. Hence the Anti Static podcast, which I started as a means of throwing some light on the great independent singles I came across while wearing the DJ/fanzine editor cap during the 1990s. Some equal time for the less commonly namechecked artists of that era seems in order, especially with "Pixies Revisionism" currently at fever pitch levels. But anyway, that's enough of the moldy oldies for now. There's more discussion of these sorts of records going on over here. Those of you more interested in the sounds moderne should stay put.
Dalek - Abandoned Language [Listen]
I think it's now safe to say that as long as they keep putting out records, they'll keep making my "best of" lists. The absolute imperative of forward thinking hip-hop.
Jesu - The Conqueror [Listen]
Emo Metal that washes over you like warm waves from foreign shores. With a dubious description like that, no one is more surprised than me by how much I love this record.
Mors Ontologica - Don't Cry [Listen]
Who the hell are these guys? And does that band Snuff know their lead singer has been abducted?
Big Blood - Sew Your Wild Days, Vol. 1 [Listen]
The most convincing motivation I've ever heard for packing up the family (well, the wife and the cat) and moving to a city I've never even visited. (Big Blood's native town of Portland, Maine). Scott Williams offers up the full skinny as well as exclusive MP3s that'll blow your mind over here.
Palomar - All Things, Forests [Listen]
These local kids have made a brilliant pop record with some truly sophisticated urban sensibilities. Palomar is far more deserving of the attention that Brooklyn's many lesser groups are hogging at the moment.
Michael Franti & Spearhead - Oh My God [Listen]
From the Nonesuch Records forthcoming compilation "...And All the Pieces Matter: Five Years of Music from The Wire". The lyrics capture present day history with spine-tingling panache, and the music swings with the same pedigree as William DeVaughn's classic "Be Thankful for What You've Got". Probably my favorite song of the year, no foolin'.
Unknown Instructors - The Master's Voice [Listen]
Old punk guys make weird music that somehow makes old punk guys seem cool again -- a worthy feat in any man's English, especially given the ridiculous number of aggro geezer bands in current circulation.
Oxbow - The Narcotic Story [Listen]
Burnt, shithouse blues for the 28th century. Scary. Really scary.
V/A - Mary Anne Hobbs Presents Warrior Dubz [Listen]
Mary Anne Hobbs is a DJ on BBC Radio 1 who has been a big champion of the UK Grime/Dubstep phenom. Thank your lucky stars that (most) WFMU DJs can't scrape up the cash to get a snazzy press photo like the one she has.
Best Book Read in 2007: Ladies & Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning
As comprehensive as it is fantastic. This is the story of the New York that unfurled against the tumultuous backdrop of 1977 and which I experienced through the lens of WPIX Action News broadcasts. The narrative charges back and forth from the Son of Sam serial killings, the wildly dysfunctional relationship between Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson and his forever-embattled manager Billy Martin, the public suckerpunches hurled from the Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo camps throughout the city's mayoral race, and the infamous blackout and subsequent riots that besieged Bushwick.
Having the dispassionate mood of that era addressed historically, but at the breakneck velocity that's normally reserved for an action-thriller, creates the kind of narrative that you'll continue to re-consider well after setting the book down. (The chapter devoted to the city-wide blackout and near lynching of Con Ed chairman Charles Luce is one of the most palpably arresting passages you'll find anywhere.) It offers insight, action, outrage, and an electrifying summation of the city during its worst period of urban rot. Most importantly, it sets the stage for the economic and cultural changes ushered in during the 80s, which have made New York the decidedly more palatable environment that it's become.
Best DVD: The Films of Kenneth Anger Volumes One and Two
Having clean copies of all of the legendary experimental film maker's works snuggled comfortably on my DVD shelf is a wonderful thing, if only to have them at the ready for quick reference when the mood calls, and to avoid waiting around for Anthology Film Archives to schedule their customary screenings. Volume One contains all of the early stuff you learned about in your college film class (everyone takes college film classes, right?) like Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Eaux d'Artifice , whereas Volume Two focuses on the later, more overtly beguiling material like Invocation of my Demon Brother and Lucifer Rising. Magick for the whole family.
Best Fake Band Name Collectively Made up at the WFMU Lunch Table: These Arms are AIDS
(Image not available)
Best Thing on Television: The Wire (HBO)
And if I'm the first person telling you this, you really need to get out more. Or stay home more, as the case may be.
Most over-watched video on YouTube: Scorpions - Sails of Charon
What. Why are you looking at me like that? Look, if I'd really wanted to waste your time, I would have written about my recent obsession with Joe Walsh solo records, my surprising affinity for the second L.A. Guns album, or my recent discovery that there are at least three people in New York City who actively refer to PJ Harvey as "The Peedge".
Anyway, happy new year.