Turbines to Power! Rockets to Speed!
DAS LIED DER DEUTSCHEN
What does it say about me that I chose as my album of the year a Kraftwerk record that was made in 1983 and has been sitting on a shelf for 20 years? Florian und Rolf have either been tweaking the thing all this time or they just got tired of it or maybe they needed the money. Note that they still haven’t written any new songs since 1986, except for Expo 2000. Nice way to make a living. But the thing was continually on my stereo. No other electro group can do it this smoothly or with this degree of automatzinnenblasenich.
My most listened-to groups this year were Le Tigre and Chicks on Speed . Since Le Tigre didn’t release anything this year, the Chix come in at number two and Germany takes positions 1-2. I really like their earlier noisier albums, but this certainly has its moments, like the ultimate anti-headbanging anthem, “We don’t Play Guitars” .
Kraftwerk retiree Karl Barto s came in as an also-ran this year. There were some promising moments on his Communication , but then there was that embarrassing song that sounded like a bad Gary Numan out-take. Gong!
Astute culturati will note that there’s also a connection between my album and film of the year: the Tour de France .
LAST NIGHT A DJ RECORD SAVED MY LIFE:
This year for some reason I got into those CD’s where an artist plays their favorite records and we’re supposed to think wow isn’t that special. In the old days these musicians would do a guest slot on some vacationing DJ’s slot, and that would be the end of that ego trip. Now they get to put them out as more product. That said, I was inspired by Morrissey ’s Under the Influence CD, notably the vintage cajun and rockabilly cuts mixed in with the punk pioneers, especially the rockin’ numbers about woodpeckers and Castro. Also, now that I think about it, Morrissey does like certain German-related things, so I guess he (perversely) fits in with this year’s theme.
The other hotcha this year was the nostalgia revival of post-punk and particularly no-wave. Long live Ze and Lizzy Mercier Descloux and Essential Logic and Liquid Liquid and DNA!
FAVORITE GIGS OF 2003
Guess I’m getting old and set in my ways, but I mostly go to gigs by the same groups again and again. So here’s props to concert of the year by Jimmy Cliff at the Poughkeepsie Riverfest in Sept. and to continued good times from the Battlefield Band at the Town Crier in January, to IABAS in New Paltz in April and July, to Ari Up in May, to the Neville Brothers with Dr. John in June, and to the Du-Tels in January. Some acts I hadn’t seen before include The Mammals and the Reeltime Travelers who were down-homey and old-timey at the rained-out Clearwater Revival in June, and to Merellyn Gallagher’s concert of classical organ works at Vassar’s Skinner Hall in June.
KEWEL FLIX OF 2003:
The Triplets of Belleville – a unique film – a grandmother rescues her bicycle-racing grandson from Mafia kidnappers with the help of an elderly Andrews Sisters-type act. Love the music, especially the sister who plays the refrigerator shelves!
The Legend of Leigh Bowery – Boy George’s idol, although Bowery made Mr. O’Dowd look like a Boy Scout by comparison.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown – great rhythms, and Bootsy makes Mr. O’Dowd look like a Boy Scout by comparison.
A Mighty Wind – I know folkies that really behave this hilariously, and Eugene Levy makes Mr. O’Dowd look like a Boy Scout by comparison.
School of Rock – a bit disappointing, wasn’t even as naughty as A Mighty Wind, and Jack Black looked like a Boy Scout by comparison to Mr. O’Dowd.
Laurel Canyon – probably the most accurate music-biz flick this year, including a visit to the legendary Country Store of GTO’s fame.
Also props to leftie indie docs like Weather Underground , The Same River Twice , and Strange Fruit .
As usual, Vassar’s WVKR, 91.3 , is still the best in the valley, and shout-outs must go to Geet Mala with Padma (all Bollywood all the time), to the Polka show with Mike and Terry , and to reggaespectrum.com with Dexy B and Supa T for the best in reggae and rocksteady! Other props to the Fancy Broccoli show with Julie. Where else can you hear 30’s mambo records with German vocals!
The best music TV show I saw all year was the PBS series, The Blues , especially the episodes with B.B. King , Skip James and J.B. Lenoir .
The only recommendations that I can give you this year are Stan Cornyn’s Exploding, the story of the rise and fall of Warner Bros. Records, and the reissue of Legs McNeil’s klassik Please Kill Me, the true story of the rise and fall of punk musik.
MUSTS TO AVOIDS:
The Magic Band’s Back to the Front exhibited a serious lack of vision. Plus, as per Zoot Horn Rollo’s critique of all post-Zoot Magic Bands: they’re too slow! Too bad! But I will note that Gary Lucas’s collaboration with lute player Jozef van Wissem is cool, especially the Kraftwerk rip on the sixth cut!
BINGE AND PURGE
Reflecting the more mature interests of yours truly, a rapidly aging roué, here’s my two favorite FOODS of 2003:
Jane’s Ice Cream – Lemon Chiffon
Café Spice – Vegetable Kara Curry
REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME
Top Ten New CD PICKS for 2003
Kraftwerk – Tour De France Soundtracks
Chicks On Speed – 99cents
Morrissey – Under the Influence
Youngblood Brass Band – Center: Level: Roar (a Hip-Hop marching band!)
Ghetto Priest – Vulture Culture (On-U return to form)
Adrian Sherwood – Never Trust a Hippy (‘cuz I helped mix a track)
Cut Chemist / DJ Shadow – Brainfreeze (the Double Dee & Steinski of 2003)
Belle and Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress (a ‘fun’ album from B&S ??)
Stew – The Naked Dutch Painter…and other songs (21st Century Soul Cabaret)
various artists selected by Jeb Loy Nichols – Country Got Soul (worth it for ‘I Hate Hate’ alone…)
Extensive Runner-up PICKS
Wire – Send
Junior Senior – D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat
Grandmaster Flash – The Official Adventures of Grandmaster Flash
Laurie Anderson – O Superman Remixes
Brian Eno – Curiosities Volume 1
Harold Budd, Bill Nelson & Fila Brazillia – Three White Roses & A Budd
Dub Solidarity (DubHead compilation)
Ladytron – Softcore Jukebox
New Order – Back to Mine
The Orb – Back to Mine
Harold Budd – La Belle Vista
Stereolab – Instant O In the Universe
Reverend Charlie Jackson – God’s Got It
The Wanda Jackson Show – Live and Still Kickin’
Robert Wyatt – Cuckooland
Fred Morrison – Up South (excellent, quiet Celtic)
Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Mambo Nassau /&/ Press Color
Carolina Cotton – Yodel, Yodel, Yodel
Essential Logic – Fanfare in the Garden
Rough Trade Shops – Post Punk Vol.1 (compilation)
New York Noise (Soul Jazz compilation) & N.Y. No Wave (Ze compilation)
Mutant Disco – A Subtle Dislocation of the Norm (Ze compilation)
The Young Tradition / Royston Wood & Heather Wood – Galleries / No Relation
Creation Rebel – Starship Africa [+4] Japanese reissue
The New Age Steppers – The New Age Steppers Vol.1 [+4] Japanese reissue
Tommy McCook – Blazing Horns / Tenor in Roots
The Cats and The Fiddle – We Cats Will Swing You [Vols. 1 & 2]
Crammed Global Soundclash – 1980-89 The Connoisseur Edition (compilation)
Derrick Morgan productions –Red Bumb Ball (Pressure Sounds compilation)
Bruce Palmer – The Cycle is Complete (first ‘rock’ ’new age’ record)