150 Best Albums of 1998/’99

Not about to go back and triplecheck or anything, but by my quickie back-of-the-envelope tabulation, below we’ve got maybe 21% electronica (quite possibly a record) if you count industrial/digital hardcore (KMFDM, Ec8or, etc.) but neither pure Eurosynthpop (Toy Box, Pet Shop Boys, etc.) nor pure experimental whatever-you-call it (Intonarumori, Leather Hyman, etc.); 18% metal if you leave out noisy punks like Old Time Reljun; 12% hip-hop if Kid Rock and Fun Lovin’ Criminals count (a few years later they surely wouldn’t); 11% country including Americana bands; 6% Latin (mostly Brazilian); 3% jazz; indie rock too difficult to parse so feel free to figure it out and let know; and wow, less than 1% r&b (thank you Kelis) — what the heck happened there??

To be fair, Lauryn Hill (at least 50% r&b I’d say) just barely missed the cut; in 1998’s Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll she finished second only to Lucinda Williams, who just barely made the cut here. Still, if I expanded the list another 30 albums (not a ridiculous notion since so far I’ve allotted 150-albums-per-year more often than 150-per-two), that would’ve helped electronica (DJ Shadow, Cirrus, FSK, Hrvatski, Mariner, techno en españollers Om, XL Records’ triple-10-inch Against the Grain comp) and metal (Brain Surgeons, Crazytown, Cyclefly, Morgion, Nazareth, Solar Anus, Spirit Caravan, a maxi-maxi-single EP by Bloodstar, The Music Cartel’s stoner-doom Rise 13: Majick Rock Vol. 1 comp) and even country (Bellamy Brothers, Mindy McCready, Donna the Buffalo) more than r&b. So either soul music had a lousy couple years, or I have a blind spot.

(For what it’s worth, 1998’s P&J Top 40 is just as r&b-barren as my list here unless you stretch the genre around jazz-and-Nas daddy Olu Dara; 1999’s P&J, though, does have sisters Macy Gray, Meshell Ndegéocello, Mary J. Blige and TLC. So okay, fine: Blind spot.)

Getting back to what sorts of things are among the 150 below, let’s see: At least seven covers albums (Lester Bowie, Carnival in Coal, Detroit Cobras, Helloween, Holy Modal Rounders, instrumental Willie Nelson, Steve Reich re-interpreting his 20-years-younger self but still reliably calming my nerves, with Cordelia’s Dad to be determined later and Lacy/Rudd and Sabrina the Teenage Witch halfway there)! Two albums named Nightlife by fans of ’70s glam rock (Cobra Verde, Pet Shop Boys)! Two albums with “How to” titles (the Gathering, Lo Fidelity All Stars)! At least two albums by woman-fronted bands with songs about somebody named Emily (She Mob, Trailer Bride)! Two doctors who aren’t from where they say they’re from and unlike Jill Biden might not even be doctors (Dr. Bombay from Sweden, Dr. Israel from Philadelphia though I could’ve sworn Jamaica)! It’s also notable that Intonarumori, named for wooden noise boxes invented by Italian futurist Luigi Russolo in 1913, put out their album called Material the same year Material put out an album (not here) called Intonarumori — You can’t make this stuff up. (To be fair, it’s quite possible Intonarumori were taking a cue from Dog Eat Dog, whose 1993 EP Warrant followed close on the heels of Warrant’s 1992 album Dog Eat Dog.)

Still, I doubt any of those phenomenal trends made big headlines in the day. So to spur my memory about what did, I turned to my own Pazz & Jop comments, only to be reminded by Robert Christgau’s essay that I “became the Voice’s new music editor just as 1998’s ballots were being inputted.” And then I found my blurb pondering Swedish brownface Eurodance acts Los Umbrellos and Dr. Bombay, arguing with some strawman that “descendants of Boney M have been making wonderfully weird records for 20 years now, so I don’t see how this so-called International Pop Underground is especially new — no newer than 1998’s alleged glam revival, alleged planet-rocking intergalactic electro revival, or alleged two-invisible-scratch-pickled-turntables-and-a-microphone (or five) revival, anyway. All of which had their entertaining moments as well.” Good to know — but alleged by whom, I wonder? Or did I just make that all up?

And then there’s the millennium’s final year — you know, the judgment day Prince had dreamt of 17 years before. Except he never predicted the Year of Teenpop, as the day’s hype had it — even though obviously every year is the Year of Teenpop when you think about it, and even though (as Frank Kogan repeatedly pointed out) most of 1999’s biggest teen hits were also Adult Contemporary hits. Partly because, as I wrote at the time about the Backstreet Boys, “those guys’ problem is that they’re not bubblegum enough: They’re way too indebted to the adult-oriented ballads of Boyz II Men. I couldn’t imagine Betty from the Archies shaking a tambourine to their music.”

Nonetheless (again me then): “Whatever double entendres you detect in ‘…Baby One More Time,’ ‘Genie in a Bottle,’ ‘C’Est La Vie,’ ‘Mambo No. 5,’ and so on are heirs to a great tradition, dating back through ‘Push It’ and ‘Shake Your Love’ to ‘Sugar Sugar’ and the Ohio Express’s yummy euphemisms. Christina’s line about getting rubbed the right way and B*Witched’s about showing me theirs if I showed them mine were the funnest sex lyrics of the year, and getting moralistic about them is the equivalent of cutting Elvis off at the hips. Though I hear ‘Genie’ as a belly-dance-rhythmed metaphor for all the exciting genies that sneak out during the the scary Pandora’s Box that is adolescence.” Still sounds right, as I wrap up my third start-to-finish viewing of 1999’s new NBC series Freaks and Geeks, this time with my about-to-turn-13 daughter. (Square Pegs is next! Too early for My So-Called Life maybe, but we’ll get there before long.)

LFO’s “Summer Girls,” Christina Aguilera’s “Genie,” and B*Witched’s “C’Est La Vie” made my Pazz & Jop singles ballot in ’99, and B*Witched’s album ranks among those next-30-or-so also-rans just missing my 150. But give or take hilarious Danish Aqualikes Toy Box and a pair of albums by self-styled all-born-in-’79 cherry bombs the Donnas, the soundtrack to Sabrina the Teenage Witch (featuring non-hits by Britney, Backstreet, *NSync, Aqua, an early hit by Robyn and lots of fun cover versions) and WEA’s Totally Hits comp (with “Summer Girls” plus “No Scrubs,” “This Kiss,” “Smooth,” “[God Must Have Spent] a Little More Time on You,” and other era-defining smasheroonies) are as teenpop as the rollcall below gets. And they’re both near the bottom.

As for the top, there’s prog from Prague, Austin psych-jammers crossing Pere Ubu with Jethro Tull, some of the funkiest techno ever from a MIDI technician who used to work for A Flock of Seagulls, various Brits breaking big beats, various Brits trip-hopping and acid-jazzing and progressive-housing (it’s said) with organic instruments and turntables and making it all groove like a knee-deep dub-reggae blaxploitation soundtrack, Southernplayalistic ATLien hip-hoppers embracing the family and hushing dat fuss with Rosa Parks, a subterranean collective re-imagining hip-hop out of Berkeley and across the globe, reformed Dutch death metallers absorbing trip-hop and dream goth, reformed Portuguese black metallers waxing ethereal in some primeval kink dungeon, a Brazilian percussionist exponentially multiplying polyrhythms from across the African diaspora, transcendently swinging saxophonists and trombonists, shouty German goofs rocking stadiums with Eurobosh beats….you know, the usual. Y2K, here we come!

  1. Už Jsme Doma The Ears/Uši (Škoda ’99)
  2. Pimp Daddy Nash Private Leftfield Downtempo Fuzz (World Domination ’98)
  3. Les Rythmes Digitales  Darkdancer (Astralwerks ’99)
  4. OutKast Aquemini (LaFace ’98)
  5. Wall of Sound Presents Bustin’ Loose (Ultra ’98)
  6. The Gathering How to Measure a Planet? (Century Media ’99)
  7. Peglegasus Tired of Adventures (Entropic Carnival ’99)
  8. Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd Monk’s Dream (Verve ’99)
  9. Quannum Spectrum (Quannum Projects ’99)
  10. Los Umbrellos Flamenco Funk (Flex ’98)
  11. Moonspell Sin/Pecado (Century Media ’98)
  12. Hardknox Hardknox (Jive Electro/Zomba ’99)
  13. DMX Krew We Are DMX (Rephlex UK ’99)
  14. Red Snapper Making Bones (Matador/Warp ’99)
  15. Leftfield Rhythm and Stealth (Columbia ’99)
  16. Carlinhos Brown Omelette Man (Metro Blue ’98)
  17. Nightmares on Wax Carboot Soul (Matador/Warp ’99)
  18. Gang Starr Moment of Truth (Noo Trybe ’98)
  19. James Carter In Carterian Fashion (Atlantic ’98)
  20. Caetano Veloso Livro (Nonesuch ’98)
  21. Scooter Back to the Heavyweight Jam (Club Tools/Edel Europe ’99)
  22. Goodie Mob World Party (LaFace ’99)
  23. Kid Rock Devil Without a Cause (Atlantic/Lava ’98)
  24. Intonarumori Material: 10 Years of Sound (Unit Circle Rekkids ’99)
  25. Toy Box Fantastic (Edel/Spin ’99)
  26. Arling & Cameron All-In (Emperor Norton ’99)
  27. Space Raiders Don’t Be Daft (Skint UK ’99)
  28. Lo Fidelity All Stars How to Operate With a Blown Mind (Skint/Columbia ’98)
  29. Pet Shop Boys Nightlife (Sire/Parlophone ’99)
  30. Steve Reich Music For 18 Musicians (Nonesuch ’98)
  31. Dave Douglas Songs for Wandering Souls (Winter & Winter Germany ’99)
  32. Drunk Horse Drunk Horse (Man’s Ruin ’99)
  33. Lester Bowie The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music (Atlantic ’98)
  34. Angel’in Heavy Syrup IV (Monotremata ’99)
  35. Tom Zé Fabrication Defect: Con Defeito De Fabricacao (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros. ’98)
  36. Ghost Snuffbox Immanence (Drag City ’99)
  37. Opeth Still Life (Peaceville Europe ’99)
  38. Hole Celebrity Skin (DGC ’98)
  39. Juvenile 400 Degreez (Cash Money ’98)
  40. Deep Polka: Dance Music from the Midwest (Smithsonian Folkways ’98)
  41. Trailer Bride Whine De Lune (Bloodshot ’99)
  42. The Auteurs How I Learned to Love the Bootboys (Hut UK ’99)
  43. Monster Magnet Powertrip (A&M)
  44. Tim McGraw A Place in the Sun (Curb ’99)
  45. Dr. Bombay Rice & Curry (WEA Sweden ’98)
  46. Wolf Spider Eight Favorites (Wolf Spider ’99)
  47. Joe Dee Messina I’m Alright (Curb ’98)
  48. Neurosis Times of Grace (Relapse ’99)
  49. Lee Ann Womack Some Things I Know (Decca ’98)
  50. Cobra Verde Nightlife (Motel ’99)
  51. Lionrock City Delirious (Time Bomb ’98)
  52. Kreidler Appearance and the Park (Mute ’99)
  53. Lil Wayne Tha Block is Hot (Cash Money/Universal ’99)
  54. Montgomery Gentry Tattoos & Scars (Columbia ’99)
  55. Redman Doc’s Da Name 2000 (Def Jam ’98)
  56. Willie Nelson Night and Day (Pedernales ’99)
  57. Cordelia’s Dad Spine (Appleseed ’98)
  58. Opeth My Arms, Your Hearse (Century Black ’98)
  59. To Rococo Rot The Amateur View (Mute ’99)
  60. Eminem The Slim Shady LP (Aftermath/Interscope ’99)
  61. Dixie Chicks Fly (Monument ’99)
  62. The White Stripes The White Stripes (Sympathy for the Record Industry ’99)
  63. Call on the Dark 2 (Nuclear Blast ’98)
  64. Tin Huey Disinformation (Future Fossil/P.O.S. ’99)
  65. Appliance Manual (Mute ’99)
  66. µ-ziq Royal Astronomy (Astralwerks ’99)
  67. Turbonegro Apocalypse Dudes (Man’s Ruin ’99)
  68. Course of Empire Telepathic Last Words (TVT ’98)
  69. Agalloch Pale Folklore (The End ’99)
  70. Helloween Metal Jukebox (Sanctuary ’99)
  71. Third Stone Invasion Third Stone Invasion (J-Bird ’98)
  72. Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces (Monument ’98)
  73. Basement Jaxx Remedy (XL/Astralwerks ’99)
  74. Beanfield Beanfield (Streetbeat ’98)
  75. I-f The Man from Pack (Interdimensional Transmissions ’99)
  76. El Stew El Stew (Om ’99)
  77. One Lady Owner There’s Only We (Creation ’99)
  78. Dee Jay Punk Roc Chicken Eye (Independente/Epic ’98)
  79. The Coup Steal This Album (Dogday ’98)
  80. Holy Modal Rounders Too Much Fun (Rounder ’99)
  81. Ec8or World Beaters (Digital Hardcore Recordings ’98)
  82. The Donnas Get Skintight (Lookout! ’99)
  83. Manu Chao Clandestino (Ark 21/Virgin ’98)
  84. Divine Styler Wordpower 2 (DTX ’98)
  85. Kelis Kaleidoscope (Virgin ’99)
  86. Therion Vovin (Nuclear Blast ’98)
  87. Chris Perez Band Resurrection (Hollywood ’99)
  88. Strength Magazine Presents Subtext (Full Frequency/London ’99)
  89. Mammoth Volume Mammoth Volume (The Music Cartel ’99)
  90. Dario G Sunmachine (Kinetic/Reprise ’98)
  91. Old Time Relijun Uterus and Fire (K ’99)
  92. Carnival in Coal French Cancan (Kodiak/Season of Mist France ’99)
  93. Excelsis Vol. 2: A Winter’s Song (Projekt ’99)
  94. The Detroit Cobras Mink Rat or Rabbit (Sympathy for the Record Industry ’98)
  95. Def Cut Return to Burn (Bomb Hip-Hop ’99)
  96. Stereo Total Stereo Total (Bobsled ’98)
  97. Stan Ridgway Anatomy (New West ’99)
  98. Bran Van 3000 Glee (Capitol/Audigram ’98)
  99. :Wumpscut: Eevil Young Flesh (Metropolis ’99)
  100. From Beyond (Interdimensional Transmissions ’98)
  101. Scrawl Nature Film (Elektra ’98)
  102. Deep Purple Abandon (CMC International ’98)
  103. Huon Songs for Lord Tortoise (Animal World ’99)
  104. Dr. Israel Inna City Pressure (Mutant Sound System ’98)
  105. Night Ranger Seven (CMC International ’98)
  106. Air Moon Safari (Astralwerks ’98)
  107. Ozomotli Ozomotli (Almo Sounds ’98)
  108. Plastilina Mosh Aquamosh (Capitol ’98)
  109. Earthlings? Earthlings?  (Crippled Dick Hot Wax Germany ’98)
  110. Niños Con Bombas El Niño (Grita! ’99)
  111. Fatso Jetson Toasted  (Bong Load ’99)
  112. Boom Boom Satellites Out Loud (Epic ’99)
  113. Madonna Ray of Light (Maverick ’98)
  114. The Beatnuts Musical Massacre (Loud ’99)
  115. Azalia Snail Soft Bloom (Dark Beloved Cloud’99)
  116. She Mob Cancel the Wedding (Spinster Playtime ’99)
  117. Jay-Z Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life (Roc-a-Fella ’98) 
  118. Katatonia Discouraged Ones (Century Black ’98)
  119. The Donnas American Teenage Rock’n’Roll Machine (Lookout! ’98)
  120. SheDaisy The Whole SheBang (Lyric Street ’99)
  121. Ashes to Ashes Plaything  (Ata Boy! ’99)
  122. Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Album (Geffen ’98)
  123. In Extremo Die Verrückten Sind in der Stadt (Vielklang Germany ’98)
  124. The Notwist Shrink (Zero Hour ’98)
  125. Toby Keith How Do You Like Me Now? (DreamWorks ’99) 
  126. Boulder The Rage of it All (River of Fire ’99)
  127. The World Famous Beat Junkies Vol. 2 (Blackberry ’98)
  128. Fun Lovin’ Criminals 100% Colombian (Virgin ’98)
  129. Rancid Life Won’t Wait (Epitaph ’98)
  130. The Mollys Moon Over the Interstate (Apolkalips Now ’98)
  131. Junkie XL Saturday Teenage Kick (Roadrunner ’98)
  132. KMFDM Agogo (Wax Trax! ‘98)
  133. Greenthink Blindfold (Greenthink ’99)
  134. Decoded Feedback Evolution (Metropolis ’99)
  135. Leather Hyman Sunshine and Other Forms of Radiation (True Classical ’99)
  136. Brooklyn Bounce The Beginning  (Edel ’99)
  137. Destroy All Monsters Backyard Monster Tube and Pig (The End is Here ’98)
  138. T. Graham Brown Wine Into Water (Intersound Country ’98)
  139. Faithless Sunday 8 P.M. (Cheeky/Arista ’98)
  140. Bloque Bloque (Luaka Bop ’99)
  141. Blink The End is High (Mutant Sound System ’98)
  142. Theatre of Tragedy Aégis (Century Media ’98)
  143. Totally Hits (Arista ’99)
  144. Pauline Oliveros  Primordial Lift (Table of the Elements ’99)
  145. Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury ’98)
  146. Queens of the Stone Age Queens of the Stone Age (Loosegroove ’98)
  147. Chely Wright Single White Female (MCA Nashville ’99)
  148. Gogol Bordello Voi-La Intruder (Sunken Bell ’99)
  149. Death In Vegas The Contino Sessions (Time Bomb/Concrete ’99)
  150. Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones Eat Shit! (Burning Tree ’98)

3 comments

  1. via facebook:

    Edd Hurt
    Carlinhos has faded for me, though his stuff on Sergio Mendes’ “Brasileiro” is great. Ze’s “Fabrication Defect” might be my No. 1 from this era, a fantastic record.

    Edd Hurt
    I really like the equation of teenpop and adult contemporary in the piece.

    Edd Hurt
    I saw James Carter in NYC around 1996, man, he killed it. You always do a great job of recognizing jazz-oid music.
    Chuck Eddy
    Thanks! Far from my speciality, but I try to hear the good stuff.

    Edd Hurt
    Interesting that Xgau has 16 archival-best-ofs and comps in his 1998 A and A minus lists. “The Music in My Head” is a fave of mine for sure.
    Chuck Eddy
    I noticed that, too. As I’ve said before, I’m saving archivals for their own lists (someday). And that includes The Music In My Head (recorded 1970 to 1995, if my liner note skim just now is right.)
    Edd Hurt
    Correct. Some great stuff on that record.

    Edd Hurt
    I do admit to kinda loving some of “A Thousand Leaves,” another Xgau thing. I even appreciate the Lucinda Williams album, just can’t listen to more than one song at a time. I feel like I’m drunk when I hear the damned thing.
    Edd Hurt
    ’99, I love the Latin Playboys and that Handsome Family comp. Mandy Barnett’s countrypolitan album (her only good album before the one she did couple years ago). And you know I love the last Pavement album..
    · Reply · 9h
    Edd Hurt
    And Old 97s, my favorite Americana band ever. “Fight Songs” is great.

    Sundar Subramanian
    Found a Youtube stream of the Už Jsme Doma album. Listening now.
    Chuck Eddy
    ALL their albums (at least ones I’ve heard) are worth checking out.
    Sundar Subramanian
    This is pretty cool. I may look into their other albums.

    Edd Hurt
    So you don’t have much Americana on here, and I think there was a lot of it in ’98 and ’99, with “Car Wheels,” on your list, and Old 97s’ “Fight Songs” sorta codifying it, along with that Wilco-Bragg record and the Mekons and Ted Hawkins and Escovedo and Fulks, Handsome Family, Gillian Welch also. Fulks already had a best-of by ’99. You have Lee Ann, Jo Dee, Chely and the Modal Rounders on your list. All but the last kinda in between Americana and country, maybe.
    Chuck Eddy
    Trailer Bride, Cordelia’s Dad, the Mollys, Willie, Stan Ridgway’s spaghetti western noir out in the California desert ….Actually shocked me that the highest finishing country (Trailer Bride) was Americana! But right, in general, Americana’s greatest … See More
    Chuck Eddy
    Not to mention *Deep Polka: Dance Music from the Midwest*!!
    Edd Hurt
    Ha, right!

    Jaz Jacobi
    Really grateful to see an underappreciated band like Scrawl show up on a couple of these lists. Lately I’ve been dumping large portions of my twentysomething “sad music” period from my library, but I’ll always have room for “11:59 It’s January,” the saddest New Year’s Eve song ever.
    Jaz Jacobi
    That said, I was surprised, or not-surprised maybe, to find that I own less music on this list than practically any of Chuck’s prior examples, maybe five albums or so? [And two of them are by the same artist, the Donnas!]
    Chuck Eddy
    We play Scrawl’s and Dismemberment Plan’s New Year songs every New Year! In fact, the almost-teen here suggested we make a NYears playlist with just those two songs over and over. Sadly, both the EP with “The Ice of Boston” and Dismemberment Plan’s album wound up ’98/’99 also-rans.
    Jaz Jacobi
    I think I still never have heard the Dismemberment Plan–I think I routinely used to get them mixed up with some other band I’d only read about?
    Chuck Eddy
    They are sort of the emo Dave Matthews Band (or something like that.)

    Jaz Jacobi
    “Intonarumori… put out their album called Material the same year Material put out an album (not here) called Intonarumori — You can’t make this stuff up. (To be fair, it’s quite possible Intonarumori were taking a cue from Dog Eat Dog, whose 1993 EP Warrant followed close on the heels of Warrant’s 1992 album Dog Eat Dog.)”
    And Nick Lowe’s BOWI, and Green’s “R.E.M.”…

    Like

  2. via facebook:

    Christian Iszchak
    “It’s also notable that Intonarumori, named for wooden noise boxes invented by Italian futurist Luigi Russolo in 1913, put out their album called Material the same year Material put out an album (not here) called Intonarumori — You can’t make this stuff up. (To be fair, it’s quite possible Intonarumori were taking a cue from Dog Eat Dog, whose 1993 EP Warrant followed close on the heels of Warrant’s 1992 album Dog Eat Dog.)” 😆

    Alfred Soto
    I never pegged you as an Outkast fan. I guess I never thought about it.
    Chuck Eddy
    Late adopter. I did P&J Stankonia in 2000, though.

    Dan Weiss
    Glad to see deejay punk-roc and mm’s powertrip – how does the 1998 music for 18 musicians compare for you against the original?
    Chuck Eddy
    I like the ’78 original more, I suppose, but don’t own it, so…
    Still, when I need something ambient to calm my nerves, it’s always one of the very first CDs I think of. So I’d be lying if I didn’t pay my respects.

    Like

  3. Just found my probably incoherent and embarrassing Pazz & Jop ballot (on which my #1, #5 and $7 albums were technically 1997 releases) and comments from 1998! Here goes:

    CHUCK EDDY — PAZZ AND JOP BALLOT FOR 1998

    ALBUMS
    Everclear — So Much For the Afterglow (Capitol) 16
    Faithless — Sunday 8 P.M. (Arista) 15
    Madonna — Ray of Light (Maverick) 13
    Los Umbrellos — Flamenco Funk (Virgin) 12
    Mindy McCready — If I Don’t Stay the Night (BNA) 10
    Monster Magnet — Powertrip (A&M) 8
    Rammstein — Sehnsucht (Slash) 7
    Dr. Bombay — Rice & Curry (WEA Sweden import)
    Stereo Total — Stereo Total (Bobsled) 6
    The Donnas — American Teenage Rock’n’Roll Machine (Lookout) 6
     
    SINGLES
     Third Eye Blind — “Losing A Whole Year” (Elektra)
    Los Umbrellos — “No Tengo Dinero” (Virgin)
    Madonna — “Ray of Light” (Maverick)
    Fat Boy Slim — “Rockafeller Skank” (Astralwerks)
    Will Smith — “Miami” (Columbia)
    Placebo — “Pure Morning” (Virgin)
    The Offspring — “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” (Columbia)
    Hole — “Malibu” (DGC)
    Will Smith — “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (Columbia)
    Rammstein — “Du Hast” (Slash)
     
    REISSUES
     The Perfect Beats: New York Electro Hip-Hop and Underground
     Dance Classics 1980-1985, Vols. 1 through 4 (Tommy Boy)
    Super Bad on Celluloid: Music From Black ‘70s Cinema (Hip-O)
    Disco 54: Where We Started From (Hip-O)
    Billboard Top Dance Hits, 1982 (Rhino)
    Dick Curless — The Drag ‘Em Off The Interstate Sock It To ‘Em Hits Of
    (Razor&Tie)

    —————————–

    If I stuck to the Jane Dark Rule, and only voted for singles which
    were not
    already included on any of my top ten albums (as opposed to my own
    Whichever-
    Songs-Make-Me-Happiest-When-They-Come-on-the-Air-and-I’m-Behind-the-Wheel
    Rule), my top ten singles list might have included a handful of the
    following:
    “Nasty Boy” by Notorious B.I.G., “Sexy Boy” by Air, “Where the Green
    Grass
    Grows” by Tim McGraw, “Then What” by Clay Walker, “I’m Alright” by Joe
    Dee
    Messina, “This Kiss” by Faith Hill, “I’ll Be Back in November” by
    Wyclef Jean,
    “All the Kids Are Right” by Local H, and/or “Don’t Let It Go To Your
    Head
    Girl” by some new-jack falsetto person whose name I still haven’t
    figured out
    yet.
    Three Everclear singles were also in the running, but that’s not even
    really
    a 1998 album, so I figured naming it Album of the Year ought to be
    sufficient.
    I voted for their previous album the year after it came out too, so I
    sort of
    have a tradition going. (But *So Much for the Afterglow* was the
    soundtrack of
    my divorce, and I hope I never need one of *those* again. And Madonna’s
    CD was
    the soundtrack of my transcendently spiritual Shaktipat awakening, if
    anyone’s
    curious. No, really — I’m hoping Beck if I will let me enlist in his
    new new-
    age side project Dreamcatcher, so we can meditate 29 hours a day
    together.)
    I heard about 150 albums I liked this year — more than any other year
    ever.
    I have two albums in my top ten from Sweden (though they pretend to be
    from
    Mexico and India), one from France (partially sung in Japanese and
    German and
    Italian and English), and one from Germany (which actually went gold in
    the
    U.S., and for some bizarre reason the band decided to send me a wall
    plaque
    officially commemorating said precious-metal status, maybe because in
    my
    *Rolling Stone* review I didn’t wonder if der kommisars are neo-Nazis).
    But
    descendants of Boney M have been making wonderfully weird records for
    20 years
    now (may Falco rest in peace), so I don’t see how this so-called
    “International Club Pop Underground” I keep reading about is especially
    new
    — no newer than 1998’s alleged glam revival, alleged planet-rocking
    intergalactic electro revival, or alleged
    two-invisible-scratch-pickled-
    turntables-and-a-microphone-(or five) revival, anyway, all of which had
    their
    entertaining moments as well. And (despite enjoyable recent releases
    from
    Bloque, Karnak, Plastilina Mosh, Ninos Con Bombos, Los Amigos
    Invisibles, Om,
    and Molotov), I still think Rock En Espanol peaked at least a
    half-decade ago.
    1998 was, perhaps disturbingly, the year all my kids started thinking
    like
    music
    critics. It was the year my 13-year-old son Linus downloaded Harvey
    Danger
    songs from the Internet like people my age used to buy Grand Funk
    Railroad
    45s, heard “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins on the radio and told me it’s
    got the
    same guitar riff as “Rockafeller Skank”, and decided that all the
    tracks
    besides “Lullaby” on Shawn Mullins’s album prove “he’s just some boring
    folksinger always talking about his culture.” (In the land of
    eighth-grade
    Social Studies textbooks, the word “culture” is clearly a pejorative.)
    It was
    also the year I verified Linus’s theory that the best song you hear
    over the
    radio whenever you drive from Philly to New York will always be the one
    that
    comes on (and you immediately lose) just as you finally begin to enter
    the
    Holland Tunnel. Last time we drove in, the culprit was “Du Hast” by
    Rammstein,
    a band whose audience Linus smart-assedly defines as “Marilyn Manson
    fans and
    rock critics who used to live in Germany.” When I offered my learned
    opinion
    that Krauts seem to come more naturally and convincingly to ominous
    machine-
    metal muzik than Brits or Americans do, he shot back with “And that’s a
    *good*
    thing?”
    Speaking of machines, my outgoing voicemail right now has
    nine-year-old Spice
    fan Coco and seven-year-old Beastie fan Sherman squeaking “Right about
    now,
    the funk soul brutha! Check it *out* now, the funk soul brutha brutha
    brutha
    brutha…” I should confess here that I initially dismissed
    “Rockafeller
    Skank” as completely generic sub-Crystal-Method “Big Beat” crapola, and
    at
    first the “funk soul brutha” part seemed idiotic to me. And maybe I was
    right,
    but sometimes idiotic and generic can be funny if you’re idiotizing the
    right
    genre, and naming your genre after a Billy Squier song is a good
    headstart.
    Also, didn’t somebody called Root Boy Slim used to have a Sex Change
    Band?
    Were they in the Housemartins, too? And oh yeah, my girlfriend Amanda
    insists
    that she discovered the Fat Boy/ “Footloose” connection a month before
    Linus
    and I just forgot because I never listen to her, and she’s probably
    telling
    the truth. (But I really do listen to her, honest. And to prove it, I
    will
    hereby cite her description of Alanis Morrisette’s suicide-note- to-ex-
    boyfriends song “Unsent” as an inferior version of “Seasons in the
    Sun”.)
    Anyway, Coco and Sherman are also considering performing “Tubthumping”
    for
    their school talent show (leaving in the piss-all-night and
    cider-whiskey-
    lager-vodka references, and falling down and getting back up again on
    cue),
    but in music class their teacher just makes them harmonize on tediously
    unsubtle R&B mush where the singers treat every note like a solo —
    “All My
    Life” by K-Ci and Jojo, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, and R.
    Kelly’s
    unfortunately eternal “I Believe I Can Fly”, which Coco informs me has
    recently inspired the following morbidly political fourth-grade
    playground
    parody: “I believe I will die/I got shot by the FBI/All I wanted was a
    chicken
    wing/A bag of chips and some collard greens…”

    Pretty “I Believe I Can Fly” for a White Guy: “I Wanna Get Witchoo
    (and all
    Your Homegirls Too)” (or whatever it’s called) by Beck. Pretty Y2K for
    a fly
    guy: Busta Rhymes (whose growling I still can’t stomach, but then again
    I was
    never a huge Captain Beefheart fan either, and at least he seems to
    mean
    well). Pretty fly for a Waite girl: That cover of “Missing You” I kept
    hearing on R&B stations this fall (in the wake of “I’ll Be Missing
    You” by
    Puffy last year, which as Christgau has pointed out drew on the same
    Police
    song that John Waite did back in the day). Pretty pro-life for an Irish
    guy:
    “What It’s Like” by Everlast (and maybe “Brick” by Ben Folds Five too,
    except
    I’m not exactly sure of Ben’s nationality). Pretty Flea for a Spice
    guy,
    pretty Thai for a wheat guy, pretty shy for an impolite guy, pretty
    thigh for
    a megabyte buy, pretty eye for a sight guy, pretty bi for a Suge Knight
    guy:
    Nobody I can think of off hand; I just really like how they sound.

    Top Trends of 1998: (1) Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It; (2) Gettin’ Biggie Wit
    It; (3)
    Gettin’
    Ziggy Wit It; (4) Gettin’ Iggy Wit It; (5) Gettin’ Wiggy Wit It; (6)
    Gettin’
    Jismy Wit It.
    All the toeing-the-line-and-keeping-it-real rap ragazines obviously
    think Will
    Smith is too un-fly for an un-white guy (“White America’s favorite
    Negro,”
    *Blaze* or one of them dissed him), but I just wanna give him a great
    big hug
    — *Big Willie Style* sounded less scattershot to me than the Beasties’
    semi-
    overconceptual artistic comeback *Hello Nasty* (the only rap CD that
    sold a
    comparable quantity this year), and I’m both disturbed and perturbed
    by the
    fact that what few defenses of Will’s music I’ve seen in print have
    been
    backhanded to the point of paranoia about how he’s some kind of “guilty
    pleasure”, when really the high spirits and propulsive Sister
    Sledge/Whispers/Taana Gardner bass and guitar lines in “Gettin’ Jiggy
    Wit It”
    and “Miami” are closer to hip-hop’s long-discarded disco-party roots
    than any
    rap hits these past two years give or take “Mo Money Mo Problems”.
    Will’s damn
    near the only representative of his genre left who doesn’t mind getting
    stoopid fresh. But apparently the American Music Awarders who gave him
    all
    those soul/R&B and pop/rock trophies agree with my girlfriend: “I like
    him, so
    he *must* not be real rap.”
    As for the complex secret code that apparently governs more
    “hardcore” hip-
    hop these days, I’m not proud of my inability so far to crack it (maybe
    Wu
    Wear should mail me a decoder ring), but I’m still not convinced I’m
    missing
    much. Lately sometimes when I’m alone enough that nobody can complain
    about it
    I’ve been forecefeeding myself DMX and Jay-Z and Method Man (or whoever

    usually I have no idea who I’m hearing) over the airwaves while
    counting cars
    on the New Jersey Turnpike, and while some of their rhythms seem
    vaguely
    “interesting” in a vaguely
    post-Lee-Perry prog-dub-with-studio-sound-effects sort of way, almost
    all of
    their voices are really hard to take, clogged with the same
    oppressively ugly
    “look how angry I am” cliches that critics (in the pre-Korn era anyway)
    rarely
    tolerated in heavy metal (which genre incidentally seems to be turning
    surprisingly gorgeous and expansive nowadays, especially in the
    vicinity of
    Scandinavia, but it had to burrow its way through all the circles of
    Dante’s
    Inferno in the early ’90s before it could start heading back up toward
    the
    heavens, so with any luck that’ll happen to rap before long too.) I do
    like
    the goofiness of how gangstas all seem to be debating about who’s mo
    thuggish
    these days, Bruce Hornsby or Kenny Rogers or Little Orphan Annie (do
    true
    playas bet their bottom dollar, or know when to fold ‘em?). But it
    still
    seems, for the most part, that the more obtuse, insular, cluttered,
    clunky,
    and sluggish late ‘90s hip-hop is, and the more often its beat gets
    jerked
    around by rusted-out styluses skipping over phlegm-splattered
    cusswords, and
    the more it hits the palate like rotten spinach, the more likely it is
    to be
    celebrated.
    There are exceptions, of course — Lauryn Hill has “politically
    correct music
    for
    rock critics who appreciate Lucinda Williams more than I do” written
    all over
    her, and she raps lamer than she croons, but at least her tastefulness
    can be
    tasty. As can the avant-garde ruckus-juice-and-chitlin raps of Goodie
    Mob and
    Outkast, maybe, though I honestly think “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by
    Geto
    Boys and even “Ah And We Do It Like This” by Onyx a couple generations
    back
    were more realized hambone-hip-hop facsimiles of all that excellent
    early
    American rural stuff that Yazoo’s been reissuing lately. As for
    Timbaland, I
    mostly like the parts of his productions where he interrupts the lead
    artist
    and starts talking about himself for no apparent reason in that deep
    friendly
    grumble of his. I can’t wait ‘til country
    and rock guys start hiring him and letting him interrupt *them.* My
    kids dig
    him, too — they think he sounds just like Chef on *South Park* (and
    whenever
    I play them “Shaft,” by the way, they pretend Isaac Hayes is saying
    “Chef”!
    We’ve also figured out that precedents for Fat Boy Cartman’s snotty
    cheesy-
    poof whine include the vocalists for snotty ’60s Akron garage punks the
    Rats
    circa “Rats Revenge” and snotty ’80s L.A. teen-punks Red Cross circa “I
    Hate
    My School”). So it’s not like my offspring are anti-hip-hop or
    anything, but
    like I said, they’re *critics* — Coco told me last week that she
    finally
    figured out that Jay-Z’s own words in “Hard Knock Life” “are about the
    same
    thing the little girl’s part is about, except her part has a tune to
    it, and
    his part doesn’t.” Makes sense to my ears: once Annie’s cutesy
    bubblegum-on-
    Broadway interlude ends, the song goes completely limp. So like, does
    “having
    a wicked flow” just mean being lethargic and avoiding hooks, or what?

    I’ve also yet to hear a really good Clinton/Lewinsky anthem, unless
    the Next
    bragging about their boners and somebody named Monica inciting a
    catfight in
    the year’s two most popular (according to *Billboard*) songs count. But
    really, what meant most to me in 1998 was songs about starting over —
    my
    second favorite album, by Faithless, had plenty of marriage-collapse
    material
    just like Everclear’s disc did, and Madonna was lovely getting reborn
    as a
    Hindu-rocking cross between the Velvet Underground and Donna Summer,
    and my
    number-one single, Third Eye Blind’s predictably ignored “Losing A
    Whole
    Year,” was breakup sarcasm that stung like Mott the Hoople doing “Don’t
    Think
    Twice It’s Alright”. “I Will Buy You a New Life” and “Father of Mine”
    by
    Everclear and “Just The Two Of Us” by Will Smith constantly insured
    that
    divorced-dad lyrics were on the air, and they were some of my kid’s
    favorites
    of the year — figure that. And lots of my own favorites seemed to be
    about
    moving to where green grass grows or Miami or Malibu (though at first I
    thought Courtney was paying homage to Madame Roo, of “Love Potion #9”
    fame).
    All my indie-rock friends hated the Hole, Liz Phair, and Afghan Whigs
    albums,
    but I didn’t — in fact, as far as I’m concerned, by finally coming up
    with
    singing and basslines and words that sounded more like Curtis Mayfield
    than
    the Birthday Party, *1965* marked the first time Fat Boy Greg Dulli’s
    gang
    have managed a soul to match their black-love reputation for more than
    one
    song at a time. (More than one *original*, that is — I’ve always liked
    those
    EPs where the Whigs get whiggy on TLC and Stevie Wonder and James
    Booker and
    the Scarecrow from Oz.) But as somebody who once upon a time stopped
    caring
    about Elvis Costello and the Gang of Four and Husker Du as soon as they
    became
    slick enough for fans outside their early cults, it’s not like I can’t
    relate
    to my indie pals’ feeling of being let down, either. What fun is having
    heroes
    if you can throw a tantrum when they sell out?

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