Till My Head Falls Off 01.07.03: Two Thousand And Two

For Your Listening Pleasure

The Strokes – Is This It

The beginning of rock’s “rebirth”, or just another over-hyped fad?

News to You

So Queens of the Stone Age have a hit? No, it’s true! And not only that, there is a different version of it at the above link. Happy New Year!

Two Thousand and Two

I actually like the Queens of the Stone Age song “No One Knows” quite a bit, in one of those “it’s kinda catchy and kinda fun, so I kinda like it, ok!” kinda ways. As it turns out, Music For the Deaf was one of the two or three dozen CDs I purchased in 2002 in my quest to discover the Next Big Thing in ROCK that every music magazine and Web site said was here.

But did the Strokes, White Stripes, Vines, Hives, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Donnas and all the rest usher in a new era in rock and roll? Or was it just a bunch of crap, lucky enough to provide the couple of catchy, slightly meaningful, guitar-based tunes necessary to grease up the Hype Machine, which jumped the gun by proclaiming the Good News: for the first time since Kurt Cobain died, rock was back?

I tend to think it was a little bit of both. Sure, the “S” bands got a lot more credit than they deserved. A lot of us heard the opening riff to “Last Night” on alternative radio, in a lead-in to a commercial break during the football playoffs, or on Saturday Night Live, and thought “this is different.” We saw the White Stripes, Vines and Hives performing on MTV awards shows and on the cover of Rolling Stone and said, “rock IS back.”

And maybe it WAS different. If you compare Justin Timberlake and Xtina to Jack White and Ben Kweller, there is indeed a difference. The latter rock more than the former.

And maybe rock IS back. Hell, 2002 wasn’t just the year of this new garage sound. Metal heads were treated to new music from System of a Down, POD and Saliva, old favorites from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Neil Young and Joey Ramone to Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Rage Against the Machine/Soundgarden hybrid Audioslave continued to pump out new tunes, and of course, there was Wilco, Beck and the Flaming Lips for all you freaks out there.

It was actually a pretty good year for rock, even though the charts were dominated by hip hop, country and the Oh, Brother… soundtrack. As I’ve said before, The Kids are listening to rock and roll again, and have picked up their guitars (and notebooks) to try and create some of their own. All of the above music — as well as the resurgence of the Greatest Hits Album (thank you, Elvis, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Elton John, Bjork, U2 and all the rest for having catalogues worthy of re-compiling into some solid CDs) — has played a part in this “rebirth,” but we still have a long way to go.

I’ll take it.

Yet Another Top Ten List

On that note, here is my list of my top ten favorite albums of 2002 (official American releases). I’m sure you’ll disagree, so hit me here and tell me why I’m “wrong.” And no, I haven’t heard the Norah Jones album, but she sure is cute!

1. Eminem: The Eminem Show — Album of the Year, without a doubt. I was talking with Iago Ali about Mr. Mathers, and he commented that he “liked him better when he was funny.” That’s where I disagree… While I enjoyed his last few albums mostly because of Eminem’s humor, Show takes things to another level. He’s matured, he’s introspective, and even a little apologetic as he grows out of his character and really fine-tunes his art. Either that or his movie was the greatest public relations ploy ever. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” would have been Song of the Year for me if “Lose Yourself”, from 8 Mile never came out.

2. Joey Ramone: Don’t Worry About Me — This came out in February, and I can’t believe it fell under the radar of all the same music critics that were paying tribute to this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer a mere ten months earlier when he passed away. This punk never forgot how to rock, with fun songs like “Maria Bartiromo” interspersed with the deeper, sad “Don’t Worry About Me” and especially “I Got Knocked Down” where he belts out “I want life/I want my life.” Chilling.

3. Foo Fighters: One by One — Driving, hot rock songs from one of grunge’s survivors, and boy are we glad he’s still sticking around. One of the last rock front-men you RECOGNIZE when his songs come on (and I don’t mean in a Rob Thomas kind of way), and this version of the band just keeps getting better and better.

4. The Roots: Phrenology — Black Thought may not be the greatest emcee, but this hip hop BAND tickles you in places you forgot you had. One of their best yet.

5. Badly Drawn Boy: About a Boy Soundtrack — Unlike Damon Gough’s other release of 2002, Have You Fed the Fish Today?, this album stays away from corny lyrics and boring musical interludes and successfully tells a story, bringing you through this excellent movie with each lyric and each note.

6. Tom Petty: The Last DJ — The day Tom Petty retires is a day he breaks the hearts of rock fans everywhere. Seeing him live definitely made an impact on my feelings for this album, as he belted out anti-corporate America songs you could groove to, and maybe some of the new rockers out there can learn from this guy.

7. Beck: Sea Change — Never a Beck fan, I really enjoyed the mellow, more “grown-up” feel of this latest release. Looks like he’s abandoned the catchy “two turntables and a microphone” sound and matured a bit, and it’s a direction that suits him.

8. Bruce Springsteen: The Rising — Can three great songs make a record? In this case, “The Rising”, “Nothing Man” and “My City of Ruins” are more than enough to include the album on this list. It helps that the first time I heard the latter song was on the September 11 telethon, as I simultaneously held back tears and rage. This album won’t heal you, but it sure helped Bruce get through some rough times, and he expresses that better than most of us could.

9. Pearl Jam: Riot Act — I almost put The Vines’ Highly Evolved here, but then slapped myself. All those teens from Australia do is rip off Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and toss in a little Beatles, so they don’t make the list (although I do consider them the “best” of the hyped “new rock” bands that debuted last year). But Pearl Jam’s latest really shows what makes them a band that continues to sell out arenas and isn’t going anywhere: solid songs, a sound (more classic rock than grunge these days) fueled by power chords, and, well, Eddie is full of himself just enough to be a true rock star.

10. Weezer: Maladroit — It’s a fun album, and the video for “Keep Fishin'” features the MUPPETS. Can ya blame me?

And to make it an even baker’s dozen, here are some honorable mentions:

11. George Harrison: Brainwashed — just makes us miss him more…

12. Nas: God’s Son — listen to “Made You Look” and tell me Nasir isn’t one of the best emcees around…

13. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — the first Wilco album I’ve fully listened to, and very good in a country-sort-of-a-way…

Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping 2003 builds on some of the better trends from 2002, so we can kick dirt on the graves of Justin and Xtina’s careers and move on….

Oh, but before you go, make sure to visit my new Web site, moodspins, and check out the latest from James Marshall (and dial up 867-5309 while you’re at it). Great, great piece, James.

peace. love. moe.

– Matt

Till My Head Falls Off can be found weekly on 411 Music (old columns are archived in the pull-down menu below). Already hit everything on 411? Matthew Michaels also contributes to 1-42 and his new site, moodspins, launches this week.