REWIND: I thought that I was going to be collecting social security before I would be consuming stuff that was first whipped and blended into a tasteless, innocuous mash, requiring little digestive effort. Turns out, the joke's on me.
Overall, depending on your point of view, the last year in music was either as dull as watching paint dry, or fascinating because the level of consistency would otherwise seem theoretically unattainable. The ultimate irony in this lackluster year is that the pinheads in Washington, D.C., managed to work themselves into a veritable frenzy by confusing insipid with dangerous. On the other hand, everyone knows those empty suits are the real OG's anyway... maybe they just don't like the competition.
Women have been infiltrating the ranks for a while now, and 1995 saw more femmes in the house than ever. P.J., Courtney, Alanis, Luscious Jackson, TLC, Kim Gordon, Elastica, Bjork, Geraldine Fibbers, K.D. Lang, Sinead, Melissa and The Breeders, in addition to the ever present Janet, Mariah, Whitney and Madonna, to name a few. Some of them aren't even resorting to sex appeal to further their careers, and at least one of them could punch you out. Move over fellas...
We can stop using the term "alternative," which was actually rendered meaningless some time ago. When alternative radio finally arrived in Tucson, you can bet that it had already assumed a strong position in the music market. The real alternative now is in older music forms: jazz, World Music, lounge, country and Latin. There will always be room for rock 'n' roll, but it has been around for a while now and might have reached the juncture where we're not as enamored with the sounds produced solely by guitars and drums. If you disagree, take comfort in the fact that critic as visionary is a rare occurance.
On the local scene, it can be noted with pleasure that the most recent issue of CMJ had mentions of three locals: Giant Sand, Friends Of Dean Martinez and Fuzz. And, in case you haven't noticed, that is Doo Rag playing in the background on one of the Levi's commercials you see on TV--don't hit the mute button next time and check it out. Not bad for a burg this size.
There were some bright moments this year, and I asked regular contributor and all-around music know-it-all Fred Mills to pitch in and give me his top 10 faves for 1995. Without further spewing, here they are:
1. Neil Young, Mirror Ball (Reprise). Smashing who? Silver huh? Nine Inch whatzits? Ask any hooker and she'll tell ya: Men over 40 rock harder, longer, and with more appreciative passion. Pearl Jam came along to watch the action.
2. Rainer, Nocturnes (Glitterhouse). Import-only set of holy stoned ambient-blooze wizardry: What if Robert Johnson had been a tech freak with access to samplers and synths?
3. Joan Osborne, Restless (Mercury). Ah, Alanis, you can run but you can't hide, and this lady's gonna catch you and beat your ass into the dirt.
4. Yo La Tengo, Electr-O-Pura (Matador). Alchemizing the spaces between the notes into precious crystals, YLT balances the light/dark, the soft/heavy, and the sublime/ abrasive.
5. The Who, Live At Leeds (MCA). Near-dead heat with Sell Out and Who's Next--but stretched out to 74 minutes, the greatest live album of all time just got greater-est.
6. Tortoise, Rhythms, Resolutions & Clusters (Thrill Jockey). So-called "post-rock" brimming with dub, jazz and new-electronica textures. And nary a tuneless, angsty vocal in earshot.
7. John Coltrane, Stellar Regions (Impulse). Better late than never for a jazz novice. Unreleased tracks from '67, equal measures squawk, skronk, meditation and transmutation.
8. Cul De Sac, I Don't Want To Go To Bed (Flying Nun). Krautrock revisited and squoze through a modern lo-fi, trance-inducing sieve.
9. Radio Birdman, Living Eyes (Red Eye). Seminal Oz punk band finally sees its underrated second album remixed and exploding from the speakers like the MC5 and Stooges records before it.
10. Scorn, Gyral (Earache). Rock Celeb math: Napalm Death + King Tubby x The Orb - vocals = Mick Harris (the ambient dub auteur of Scorn).
And here are my picks for 1995:
1. Pell Mell, Interstate (Geffen). The title says it all. Twangy, sinister guitar perfect for a long drive.
2. The 6ths, Wasps Nest (London). The vocal tracks were done by guest artists and then sent in to be added to the music. Successful experiment.
3. Rainer, Nocturnes (Glitterhouse). Cotton don't grow no higher than this guy. Master of taste and guitar.
4. Chuck Prophet, Feast of Hearts (China Records). Well crafted songs straight from the heart from guitar whiz-kid.
5. Tricky, Maxinquaye (Island). Eerie and seductive.
6. John Coltrane, Heavyweight Champion (Atlantic). Everything he ever recorded for Atlantic including a previously unreleased CD. Listen and you'll discover why Jack Kerouac said he wanted to write the way John Coltrane played the horn. Brilliant.
7. P.J. Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Island). Stripped and stunning. Her best album to date.
8. James Carter, The Real Question (Atlantic). Album of ballads by multi-reed phenom.
9. Jr. Brown, Junior High (Curb/Atlantic-reissue). Who can resist a guy who weaves Hendrix into country music so effortlessly?
10. Jayhawks, Tomorrow The Green Grass (Def America). Great American rock in the spirit of the Flying Burrito Bros.
Happy New Year!
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