150 Best Albums of 1996/’97

Me at the end of 1997: The old-timey and barndance-oriented cuts on Anthology of American Folk Music have way more eccentric pizzazz than the blues-and-gospel oriented ones. My favorites — “Peg And Awl,” “A Lazy Farmer Boy,” “Moonshiner’s Dance,” “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O,” the Uncle Dave Macon tunes — feel an awful lot like novelty songs. Even though they didn’t cross over to the pop charts, they were the “How Bizarre”s and “Tubthumping”s and “Wannabee”s of their day. And so I’m not comfortable with the mindset that dismisses “How Bizarre” et. al. just because they sound energetic and high-spirited and like nothing else on the radio — what they really are is great rock’n’roll records, pure and simple, and their success proves the public still recognizes an inventive and well-written song on the rare occasion it’s allowed to hear one. [24 Years Later: Think I might’ve been battling a bit of a strawman here, given that the three current hits I mention all finished in the top 15 of 1997’s Pazz & Jop Critics Poll singles balloting, and I doubt even people who dismissed them did so for those reasons. Also should confess that I’m actually not sure I’ve ever listened to Anthology of American Folk Music (which easily dominated the P&J reissue category, but as an archival set isn’t qualified for my personal list below) in its absolute entirety — I’ve never owned the box itself, just a couple sampler CDs and a TDK SAX-100 worth of selections that Frank Kogan taped for me and ad-hoc-titled Geezers on Acid way back in the late ’80s.]

Me again, also at the end of 1997: MO MONEY MO QUESTIONS: Is Biggie being self-effacing when he brags that girls ‘boo too much’ when he steps on stage? Is it good or bad to “blow like Hootie”? Do his roadies get upset when he throws them in the sky? Did he realize that Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” was a huge anthem for uncloseted gay people? Why does he want to be ‘flossin’ on the cover of Fortune,” instead of, say, Dentistry This Month? [I dunno, younger Chuck, maybe because there’s no such magazine? (I just googled to make sure. February is National Dental month, if you’re curious.) I’m still not sure I know all of the real lyrics, for what it’s worth. I kind of hated Biggie at first, thought he rapped like his mouth was full or something, but “Mo Money” grabbed me right away, and now I at least definitely respect his album even if I don’t love it. (Trivia note: March 9, 1997, when I learned he’d been assassinated, I was in a Florida hotel lobby with faux-grunge hitmakers Collective Soul, who I was about to interview for a long but perfunctory Spin profile.) More because he’s inconsistent than because he’s inauthentic, Puff Daddy didn’t quite make my album list below despite his impossibly wound-tight and Ilhan Omar-quotable “It’s All About the Benjamins”. Ma$e did, though.]

Me again again, same time same place, next four paragraphs minus the bracketed footnotes, sorry if this is confusing: The most notable thing about my album list, I think, is that nine of my top ten (all but London Suede) prominently feature electronic instrumentation, but most would never be considered “electronica”: Savage Garden would usually be classified as “pop,” Timbaland and Magoo as “hip-hop,” Tiamat as “metal,” Natacha Atlas as “world music,” Michael Jackson as “a demented pervert from Jupiter” or whatever. I checked my discography in the back of Accidental Evolution of Rock’n’Roll and figured out that my annual Top 15s usually run closer to 20 percent electronic than 90 percent, and only flirt with even the 50-percent-electronic mark for a handful of years in the Eurodisco late ‘70s and house-music/Mantronix mid-‘80s. My 1996 list was almost all guitar bands. So my listening habits definitely changed this year, whether the music itself did or not. Partly this might be explained by 1997 being one of the most stressful, exciting, depressing, rollercoaster-like years of my adult life (thanks to unresolved personal conflicts I’m not yet remotely comfortable writing about), and mechanically tranced repetition exerting a certain calming influence on my wracked nerves – I played my old Kraftwerk vinyl more than usual, too. [Weirdly, Pazz&Joppers determined 1996 was the bum year for guitar bands — yet in 1997, British ones mostly vaguely indebted to U2 wound up all over the chart, even if they shared their space with the Chemical Brothers, Portishead, Roni Size, Prodigy and Daft Punk. The Natacha Atlas I voted for turns out to have actually come out in 1995; not sure if I was aware of that then or not. The others I mentioned are not only all below, but all still among the 10 1997 albums I rank highest — as are, still, MTV’s electronic Amp compilation and Prodigy’s pretend-to-be-a-rock-band move. London Suede, interestingly, are much lower. As for real-life stresses, I was mainly talking about my first marriage ending. My ex-wife and I have both long since remarried different people and lived happily ever after. But I still wish I could find the poem built fully from 1997 lyrics that I attached like these comments here to my P&J ballot; captured my wobbly state of mental health quite worrisomely, as I recall.]

Anyway, to save you poobahs some work (though you might want to check my calculation), I decided to take a half-hour to track how well electronic music (calling itself “electronica” or not) has done in Pazz and Jop over the years. Turns out the first two synth-or-sampler-or-turntable-based albums to win the poll were Public Enemy in 1988 and De La Soul in 1989, but then unless Arrested Development in 1992 count (didn’t they play washboards or something?), no other electrolytes won until Beck in 1996. In 1991, three of the top five (U2, P.E., PM Dawn) were suitably technological; in 1993, five of the top 10 (Pet Shop, Dr. Dre, De La, U2, Digable); in 1996, at least seven (Beck, Fugees, DJ Shadow, Stereolab, Everything But The Girl, Tricky, Nearly God) and maybe eight (Pulp? – not Prince, right?) of the top 20. So the numbers increased over the years, and unless Third Eye Blind pull a come-from-behind upset, I’m sure ’97 will break all records. [I was wrong. Missy Elliott, Björk and I guess Cornershop and Radiohead count as electronic; Bob Dylan, Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, Belle and Sebastian, Pavement and presumably Erkyah Badu do not.]

What was most interesting to me however (hey, I gotta put my high G.R.E. math scores to use somehow) was that electropop muzik has always had drastically more success in the P&J singles poll than album poll – all the way back to M and Flying Lizards in 1979, and already at least half of the top ten (“O Superman,” “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel,” “Homosapien,” “Tainted Love,” “Controversy,” and conceivably “Walking On Thin Ice”) way back in 1981. Last year almost the entire top ten, including the top three (“C’Mon and Ride It,” “Where It’s At,” “1979”) were digitized. Since the singles chart is supposedly a bastion of “novelty hits” while the album chart is reserved for more high-minded pursuits, doesn’t it follow that this is yet another dumb example of an “amusing minor diversion” taking forever to earn stripes as an “important conceptual innovation”? [Top three singles in 1997 were by Hanson, Chumbawamba and the Verve — not ravers at all.]

My big hope for 1998 is to be bombarded with drunken midwestern Prodigy-wannabe oi!-lectronica bands. But already, the art-music calling itself techno has considerably more fun, silliness, catchiness, elegance and surprises in it than the art-musics that used to be called Kraut-rock, prog-rock, jazz fusion, dub reggae, new age, speedmetal, indie-rock, industrial, lo-fi or Tori Amos ever did. [Jazz fusion, new age, lo-fi and Tori Amos, sure. Dub reggae and speedmetal, probably. The others, I dunno, depends how you define them I suppose — even indie-rock could be pretty amazing back before anybody called it indie-rock. As for rip-roaring Prodigy disciples, Hardknox and Junkie XL both made my 1998/’99 list, but they came respectively from the UK and the Netherlands, not the American rustbelt.]

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Other ’96/’97 trends of note, judging from my top 150 below:

Worldbeat! Or anyway, World Rock, often incorporating ethnic folk styles from across the globe: David Lowery-boosted/Mekons-inspired/Roxy Music and Amon Düül-referencing folk Munichians F.S.K. from Bavaria, Latin American-rooted Niños Con Bombas from Berlin, long-Iron-Curtained agit-prog Plastic People and their descendants Pulnoc from Prague, Chico Science and Carlinhos Brown and Karnak and Sepultura (whose Amazon-drummer-collaboration Roots I once likened to “throwing up with a National Geographic special on in the background”) from different corners of Brazil, Maldita Vecindad and narcobandacorrido goofballs Grupo Exterminador from Mexico, Jean Leloup from French Quebec and Indochine from French France, OMC from Maori New Zealand and Yothu Yindi from indigenous Australia, two bhangra sets from India, collections of Italian “hiphop-ragga-rap” compiled in Germany and insane Japanese noise compiled by an editor at The Wire, plus metal bands and jazz cats and Transglobal Underground working in sounds from wherever they’re from and maybe even from where they’re not.

Eurotrash and related bubblicious pop junk: THREE albums from those trashiest of Eurotrashers and happiest of hardcore Hamburgers Scooter, plus Bremen’s Mr. President (of “Coco Jamboo” hemi-demi-semi-fame but also a big pile of additional hits in German/Austria/Switzerland), Denmarks’s Aqua (“Barbie Girl,” duh), and Sweden’s Starlet (“one step away from the irresistible Norwegian boy pop of a-ha’s ‘Take On Me'” — Greil Marcus). Australia’s Savage Garden (not particularly silly but still), London’s Jimmy Ray (“Are You Jimmy Ray” — a ridiculous #13 electrobilly hit in both the US and UK), and heck even Florida’s Quad City DJs (1996 P&J singles champeen “C’Mon and Ride It [The Train]”) seem like they deserve to be honorary members of this club, at least.

Lots of Everything: Judging from the numbers, 1996 and 1997 were not-bad-at-all years for hip-hop (17 albums by my count), metal (21 even discounting several stretch-the-defintion-out-of-shape cases that I included in the late ’90s update of my metal-album book), or, uh, technotronica (23 including the three Scooters, 20 without ’em.) Not sure what genres were sacrificed to amass those quantities; there’s more indie-rock than I’d have guessed, for instance, and while five r&b albums (Michael Jackson, Tony! Toni! Toné, Curtis Mayfield, Somethin’ For The People, Mark Morrison) isn’t great, especially since those last two basically finish in the basement, the style has certainly seen far worse years in the ’90s. (For what it’s worth, Babyface, Erykah Badu and Mary J. Blige were all in the running but didn’t make the cut.)

Binders Full of Women: Or at least more than usual, seems like, which might just mean I usually don’t list as many as I should, but whatever. Alt/indie/modern/post-riot grrrl bands (Beezus, Fluffy, Kenicke, Mocket, the Need, Sleater-Kinney — whose ’96 Call the Doctor turns out to hold up way better for me than their ’97 Dig Me Out, honestly isn’t even close.) Country singers (Deanna Carter, Bobbie Cryner, Sara Evans, Mindy McCready, Jo Dee Messina, Shania Twain, plus Amy Rigby if mod-housewife Americana counts — all in years when male country starts and ends with John Anderson.) Girl-power pop (Spice Girls duh, plus Imani Coppola, Crush, Gina G, Aqua’s Lene Nystrøm, Stacey Q making a respectable if barely visible comeback, plus Sheryl Crow and self-proclaimed comic book whore Jane Jensen and Artificial Joy Club’s Louise Rene if organic instruments are allowed.) Plus the Belgian trip-hop Hooverphonic’s Liesje Sadonius, and German digital hardcore EC8OR’s Gina V. D’Orio, and British anarcho-drunk Chumbawamba’s Alice Nutter and Jude Abbott, and Danish goth-metal Gathering’s Anneke van Giersbergen, and Blue Öyster Cult-bred cerebrum-metal Brain Surgeons’ sometime-rock-critic Deborah Frost, and Detroit performance-noise Destroy All Monsters’ sometimes painter Niagara, and Chicago Latin-house rock-dance rapper and man-measurer Gillette. And beeping the keys to all of their jeeps Missy Misdemeanor Elliott, on her own debut album that you probably know but even better on Timbaland and Magoo’s debut album that you probably don’t. Hope I got all those names right, and I apologize for any I might have missed.

Micro-Indie-Label Art Punk Bands From Northern Ohio: Three prominently featuring singer-guitarist Jim Shepard (V3, Vertical Slit and Ego Summit — the latter a one-off local super-group of sorts, with Gibson Bro/ Great Plain Don Howland and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartment/ Great Plain Ron House also on board.) Clevelanders Cobra Verde and Cruel Cruel Moon, plus the half-old/half-new fanzine-compiled Cleveland: So Much to Answer For double-disc also fit the bill. Velvet Underground, early Pere Ubu and stranger strains of glam run through the veins of all these; most anywhere else, they wouldn’t.

Carters: Elders-conversin’ Jazz man James, legs-shaved-for-nothing country gal Deana, chroniclers of British social collapse the Unstoppable Sex Machine. Dwayne Michael aka Lil Wayne wouldn’t record solo until two years later, though apparently there was a Hot Boys album I’ve never heard; didn’t get around to Shawn Corey aka Jay-Z’s first two albums either, oh well. Same with two albums by Clarence I never heard of until just this second. Carlene took the years off, as far as albums go; her Family was kind of a moot point by then. Not sure what Jimmy was up to, but I bet he managed to keep busy.

  1. F.S.K. International (Sub-Up Germany ’96)
  2. DJ Shadow Endtroducing… (Mo Wax ’96)
  3. Scooter Wicked! (Club Tools Europe ’96)
  4. Plastic People of the Universe 1997 (Globus International Czech Republic ’97)
  5. Amp (Astralwerks/Caroline/MTV ’97)
  6. Jean Leloup Lé Dôme (Audiogram Canada ’96)
  7. Baader Meinhof Baader Meinhof (VC/Hut UK ’96)
  8. Pulnoc Live in New York (Globus International Czech Republic ’96)
  9. Chico Science & Nação Zumbi Afrociberdelia (Sony Discos ’96)
  10. Savage Garden Savage Garden (Columbia ’97)
  11. Tiamat A Deeper Kind of Slumber (Century Media ’97)
  12. Carlinhos Brown Alfagamabetizado (EMI Odeon/Delabel/Metro Blue ’96)
  13. Scooter Our Happy Hardcore (Club Tools Europe ’96)
  14. Prodigy The Fat of the Land (Maverick ’97)
  15. Timbaland and Magoo Welcome to Our World (Blackground/Atlantic ’97)
  16. V3 Photograph Burns (Onion ’96)
  17. OMC How Bizarre (Huh/Mercury ’96)
  18. The Gathering Nighttime Birds (Century Media ’97)
  19. Michael Jackson Blood on the Dancefloor: History in the Mix (Epic ’97)
  20. Lateef & Lyrics Born Latryx: The Album (Solesides ’97)
  21. Gillette Shake Your Money Maker (SOS/Zoo ’96)
  22. James Carter Conversin’ With the Elders (Atlantic ’96)
  23. Yothu Yindi Birrkuta: Wild Honey (Mushroom Australia ’96)
  24. Mindy McCready If I Don’t Stay the Night (BNA ’97)
  25. Vanderhoof Vanderhoof (Steamhammer Germany ’97)
  26. Fiji Mariners Featuring Col. Bruce Hampton Fiji Mariners Featuring Col. Bruce Hampton (Capricorn ’96)
  27. The Elevator Drops People Mover (Time Bomb ’97)
  28. Karnak Karnak (Tinder ’97)
  29. Opeth Morningrise (Century Black ’96)
  30. Yadwinder Babboo Bhangra Rules OK (Plus Music India EP ’96)
  31. Scooter Age of Love (Club Tools Europe ’97)
  32. The Conet Project Recordings of Shortwave Number Stations (Irdial ’97)
  33. Treponem Pal Higher (Mercury ’97)
  34. Shania Twain Come On Over (Mercury ’97)
  35. Cleveland…So Much to Answer For (Cle ’96)
  36. Grupo Exterminador Dedicado A Mis Novias (Fonovisa ’96)
  37. Tony! Toni! Toné! House of Music (Mercury ’96)
  38. Riot The Brethren of the Long House (Rising Sun Germany ’96)
  39. Make ‘Em Mokum Crazy (Mokum/Roadrunner ’96)
  40. Maldita Vecindad Y Los Hijos Del 5º Patio Baile De Mascaras (BMG US Latin ’96)
  41. Rudimentary Peni Echoes of Anguish (Outer Himalayan UK EP ’97)
  42. Thee Hydrogen Terrors Terror, Diplomacy & Public Relations (Load ’96)
  43. Moonspell Irreligious (Century Media ’96)
  44. Sara Evans Three Chords and the Truth (RCA ’97)
  45. Rammstein Sehnsucht (Slash/Motor ’97)
  46. Cornershop When I Was Born for the 7th Time (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros. ’97)
  47. Trainspotting (Capitol ’96)
  48. Pharaoh Sanders Message From Home (Verve ’96)
  49. Komputer The World of Tomorrow (Mute ’97)
  50. The Future Sound of London Dead Cities (Astralwerks ’96)
  51. David Murray Fo Deuk Revue (Justin Time Canada ’97)
  52. A(LABAMA)3 Exile on Coldharbour Lane (Geffen/Elemental ’97)
  53. Weezer Pinkerton (DGC ’96)
  54. Local H As Good as It Gets (Island ’96)
  55. John Anderson Takin’ the Country Back (Mercury ’97)
  56. Robert Wyatt Shleep (Thirsty Ear ’97)
  57. Buck 65 Vertex (Metaforensics Canada ’97)
  58. Dhol ’N Da Mix (Music Waves Canada ’97)
  59. Everclear So Much For the Afterglow (Capitol ’97)
  60. Best ’96 Vol. 2 (Avex Trax Japan ’96)
  61. Bobbie Cryner Girl of Your Dreams (MCA ’96)
  62. Mr. President We See the Same Sun (WEA/Club Culture Europe ’96)
  63. The London Suede Coming Up (Nude/Columbia ’96)
  64. Starlet >From the One You Left Behind (Parasol ’97)
  65. Will Smith Big Willie Style (Columbia ’97)
  66. The Brain Surgeons Malpractice (Cellsum ’97)
  67. Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine Proudly Present a World Without Dave PG/The Mini Album (Cooking Vinyl EP ’97)
  68. Spring Heel Jack 68 Million Shades (Trade 2/Island Independent ’96)
  69. Tomasz Stanko Leosia  (ECM Germany ’97)
  70. Transglobal Underground Psychic Karaoke (Nation/MCA ’96)
  71. Destroy All Monsters Silver Wedding Anniversary (Sympathy for the Record Industry ’96)
  72. Parole Italiane (Trikonkt Germany ’97)
  73. OutKast Atliens (LaFace ’96)
  74. Cobra Verde Egomania: Love Songs (Scat ’97)
  75. 16 Horsepower Sackcloth ’N’ Ashes (A&M ’96)
  76. Ornette + Joachim Kühn Colors: Live From Leipzig (Harmelodic/Verve ’97)
  77. The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death (Bad Boy Entertainment ’97)
  78. Ego Summit The Room Isn’t Big Enough (Old Age/No Age ’97)
  79. Jurassic 5 J5EP (Rumble EP ’97)
  80. Artificial Joy Club Melt (Crunchy/Interscope ’97)
  81. Faithless Reverence (Arista ’97)
  82. The Dandy Warhols Come Down (Capitol/Tim Kerr ’97)
  83. Sepultura Roots (Roadrunner ’96)
  84. Placebo Placebo (Caroline/Elevator ’96)
  85. Jo Dee Messina Jo Dee Messina (Curb ’96)
  86. Night Ranger Neverland (Legacy/Sony ’97)
  87. That Dog Retreat From the Sun (DGC ’97)
  88. Neurosis Through Silver in Blood (Relapse ’96)
  89. Underworld Second Toughest of the Infants (Wax Trax!/TVT ’96)
  90. Deana Carter Did I Shave My Legs For This? (Capitol Nashville ’96)
  91. Aqua Aquarium (MCA ’97)
  92. Daft Punk Homework (Virgin ’97)
  93. Stacey Q Boomerang (Eno ’97)
  94. Indochine Wax (BMG France ’96)
  95. Sleater Kinney Call the Doctor (Chainsaw ’96)
  96. Solitude Aeternus Downfall (Pavement Music ’96)
  97. Redman Muddy Waters  (Def Jam ’96)
  98. The Need The Need (Chainsaw EP ’97)
  99. Source Lab 3 X (Source France ’97)
  100. David Holmes Let’s Get Killed (Go! Beat ’97)
  101. Coolio My Soul (Tommy Boy ’97)
  102. Niños Con Bombas De Tiempo En El Momento De La Explosion (Grita! ’97)
  103. The Chemical Brothers Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks ’97) 
  104. Hepcat Right on Time (Hellcat ’97)
  105. Grotus Mass (London ’96)
  106. Amy Rigby Diary of a Mod Housewife (Koch ’96)
  107. Beezus Lives of the Saints (Mud ’97)
  108. Death In Vegas Dead Elvis (Concrete ’97)
  109. Kenickie At the Club (Warner Bros. ’97)
  110. Prolapse The Italian Flag (Jetset ’97)
  111. Spice Girls Spice (Virgin ’96)
  112. Quad City DJs Get On Up and Dance (Big Beat/Atlantic ’96)
  113. Camp Lo Uptown Saturday Night (Profile ’97)
  114. The Auteurs After Murder Park (Hut ’96)
  115. Caroliner Rainbow Our American Heritage Volume One (Caroliner ’96)
  116. White Noise (City of Angels ’97)
  117. Crush Crush (Robbins Entertainment ’97)
  118. Vertical Slit Twisted Steel and Tits of Angels (Spirit of Orr ’97)
  119. Tokyo Invasion Volume 1: Cosmic Kurushi Monsters (Virgin UK ’96)
  120. Fluffy Black Eye (The Enclave ’96)
  121. Jimmy Ray Jimmy Ray (Epic ’97)
  122. Amorphis Eulogy (Relapse ’96)
  123. Sensational Loaded With Power (Word Sound ’97)
  124. Ma$e Harlem World (Bad Boy Entertainment ’97)
  125. Imani Coppola Chupacabra (Columbia ’97)
  126. Missy Misdemeanor Elliott Supa Dupa Fly (The Ghost Mind/East West ’97)
  127. Delinquent Habits Delinquent Habits (Loud/RCA ’96)
  128. The Queers Don’t Back Down (Lookout ’96)
  129. Pet Shop Boys Bilingual (Atlantic ’96)
  130. Curtis Mayfield New World Order (Warner Bros. 96)
  131. Cruel Cruel Moon Still Life (Moonbase ’96)
  132. Gina G Fresh! (Eternal/Warner Bros. ’97)
  133. Pressure Drop Elusive (Hard Hands/Higher Ground ’97)
  134. EC8OR Spex is a Fat Bitch (Digital Hardcore UK EP ’96)
  135. Überzone Space Kadet (City of Angels EP ’96)
  136. Mocket Bionic Parts (Punk In My Vitamins EP ’96)
  137. Chumbawamba Tubthumper (Republic/National ’97)
  138. Galactic Cowboys Machine Fish (Metal Blade ’96)
  139. Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow (A&M ’96)
  140. My Dying Bride Like Gods of the Sun (Peaceville ’96)
  141. Hooverphonic A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular (Columbia ’96)
  142. Lifter Puller Half Dead and Dynamite (No Alternative/TRG ‘97)
  143. Lucifer Lucifer (Lucifer ’96)
  144. Sheavy Blue Sky Mind (Dallas Carr Canada ’96)
  145. Jane Jensen Comic Book Whore (Interscope/Flip ’97)
  146. In Flames Whoracle (Nuclear Blast ’97)
  147. Mark Morrison Return of the Mack (Atlantic ’96)
  148. Pastilla Pastilla (Aztlan ’97)
  149. Stuck Mojo Pigwalk (Century Media ’96)
  150. Somethin’ For The People This Time It’s Personal  (Warner Bros. ’97)

3 comments

  1. Faves from these (I remember liking some others, but remember these thee best)
    “The Jimi Hendrix of the turntable,” cover sticker claimed, too much but understandably so:
    DJ Shadow Endtroducing… (Mo Wax ’96)
    these recall our strange venture into East Euro Rock+l my maiden Voice voyage, but would be awes even w/o that:
    Plastic People of the Universe 1997 (Globus International Czech Republic ’97)
    Pulnoc Live in New York (Globus International Czech Republic ’96)
    Chico Science & Nação Zumbi Afrociberdelia (Sony Discos ’96)
    Carlinhos Brown Alfagamabetizado (EMI Odeon/Delabel/Metro Blue ’96)
    Lateef & Lyrics Born Latryx: The Album (Solesides ’97)
    Spring Heel Jack 68 Million Shades (Trade 2/Island Independent ’96)
    Sleater Kinney Call the Doctor (Chainsaw ’96)
    Considering how much writing I did for Columbus OH papers, I should know
    Cleveland…So Much to Answer For (Cle ’96) But still need to check that!
    Suspect one couldn’t go wrong w any of your picks here, although some how I never warmed up to the um production of Amy Rigby Diary of a Mod Housewife (Koch ’96)

    Like

  2. via facebook:

    Alfred Soto
    heh — that Jimmy Ray song all over MTV (apparently) I only heard a few years ago. It’s cool! I love the number of excellent one-offs b/w 1996-1997

    Steve Pick
    So, this morning (I think it was this morning,) Alfred Soto mentioned Jimmy Ray in his #13 singles round-up, and now you mention him, and before today, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of him. Otherwise – many kudos on that Carter paragraph, which is almost like an ur-Chuck Eddy sidepath, making the connections nobody else in their right minds would think to make but which are a hoot and a half to read. As for the records you list – I never heard more than a dozen of them, and probably half of those I really only know the singles. I did discover Shania Twain in ’97 – I was so doggone impressed by “That Don’t Impress Me Much” that I ran outside and told everybody I saw, exactly none of whom gave a rat’s ass. And Spice Girls were very big for me at that time – though when I went to see them (unaccompanied because not even my wife would join me for that) I realized it was kinda creepy for a nearly 40-year-old man to be wandering around in that crowd all by himself, and besides, I’d seen Janet Jackson the night before, and the Brits weren’t quite good enough to stand that direct comparison.

    Chuck Eddy
    Sounds like “That Don’t Impress Me Much” impressed you much!

    Jaz Jacobi
    I’ve never heard of Scooter before and now I am mighty curious

    Jaz Jacobi
    I might only have about 10-15 of the albums on this list presently, which is somewhat surprising considering that I was buying SO much music at the time, I suspect I could make a list of 150 1996/’97 albums that I paid good money for, each of which might be worse than whatever is the weakest selection on this list!

    Edd Hurt
    I guess “Endtroducing” is one of those super of-the-moment records everyone says carries the zeitgeist that still sounds fresh, or weird and unsettling. Xgau has Arto’s “Mundo Civilizado” at the top of his 1997 list and I agree, it’s better than Carlinhos and Chico Science’s stuff and more to the point of any Braziloid-funk fusion.

    Chuck Eddy
    Arto almost always sounds too subtle and detached to my ears. Favorite music by him was when he was in DNA; favorite post-DNA music was his first Ambitious Lovers LP. Maybe I should revisit Mundo Civilizado though. (I’ve done so with one or two of his … See More

    Edd Hurt
    “Mundo” is as deep as prime Jon Hassell and it’s just kinetic and, not subtle, all-encompassing not a soundscape per se. One of my favorites ever

    Jake Alrich
    I think “Endtroducing” was my pick for best album of 1996 in the WNUR poll but the station ended up going with Gastr del Sol’s “Upgrade and Afterlife”. “Morningrise” was Opeth’s best record until they put out “In Cauda Venenum” a few years ago. (My last live show pre-COVID was Opeth and Graveyard at the Apollo.) I didn’t love “Straight to Video” as much as the first TJSA record. (RIP Bob Petric.) Your reference to MTV’s “Amp” threw me for a second cuz there was a very good band called Amp making electro-heavy psych-shoegaze-type rock around this time.
    Some of my faves that didn’t make your list or notes – mostly NUR faves that never made it out of Chicago:
    Built to Spill Perfect from Now On
    Aphex Twin Richard D. James Album
    Company Flow Funcrusher Plus
    Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst
    Lambchop How I Quit Smoking
    BR5-49 BR5-49
    Edith Frost Calling Over Time
    Smog Red Apple Falls
    Boris Absolutego
    Harvey Milk Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men
    The Dead C Tusk
    The Make-Up Destination: Love – Live! at Cold Rice
    Moodymann Silent Introduction
    Rachel’s The Sea and the Bells
    Rollerskate Skinny Horsedrawn Wishes (This was 1996’s best record. Shout out to Kenneth Griffin.)
    Yo La Tengo I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
    I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of them. These were pretty boring years for new music in my recollection. Mostly it seemed like a lot of bands that put out records I liked in 94-95 came back with records I liked a lot less.

    Chuck Eddy
    Only one of these I relistened to while compiling my list: Company Flow. One I’m most curious about, now that you mention them: Dead C, who I’m not sure I’ve ever heard, besides maybe a cut on an NZ compilation 7-inch.

    Kembrew McLeod
    Chuck, I recall you telling me that you got the OMC album as an import, before it got big in the US. Is that right?

    Kembrew McLeod
    Chuck Eddy it’s amazing what random things we remember

    Like

  3. via facebook:

    Phil Dellio
    Entroducing really surprises me…maybe you’ve mentioned that before and I missed it. (I like some of it a lot.)

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    I’m not sure whether I’ve ever mentioned it, one way or the other!

    Kevin Bozelka
    Phil Dellio it’s the best album of the entire damn decade!

    Phil Dellio
    It’s just not–do I really want to pursue this? no!–the kind of album I normally associate with Chuck.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Phil Dellio yes, you want to pursue this because even though it’s not the kind of album I associate with Chuck either, he listed it already in Accidental. So no surprises for you.

    Chuck Eddy
    Not the kind you’d associate with me because…critics liked it? Honestly, it never occurred to me that it’d be much of an outlier for me, tastewise.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy it’s serious, zeitgeisty, portending much (but delivering, sez I), and, yes, a dorky critic fave.

    ​Phil Dellio
    There you go then–I missed it in Accidental.

    Chuck Eddy
    That’s fair. (I just ignore the serious portentious zeitgeist, I suppose.)

    Kevin Bozelka
    See, how can you be so bitchy about the 1990s after an essay/list like that??

    Chuck Eddy
    Have I been bitchy about the 1990s lately? No, I have not. (Honestly, one reason I decided to *do* these lists was to figure out the ’90s!)

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy you’re *famously* bitchy about the 1990s. Scooter and Gillette are mad at you.

    Chuck Eddy
    BUT: Notice that most of ’90s years average 75 albums, not 150. So there.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy yeah but Scooter is better than Nazareth so 75 > 150.
    ·
    Chuck Eddy
    That’s….fuzzy math. As for Nazareth vs. Scooter, I dunno…

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy don’t make me call you Mr. Personality!

    Phil Dellio
    For the EW group, one of my favourite bits of silliness ever, from New Zealand’s Andrew Palmer, right in the middle of the maelstrom: “This is the biggest song out of New Zealand in years…for a couple of months everyone was saying ‘How bizarre’ at the slightest prompting. Someone would drop a pen on the floor and you’d say ‘How bizarre.’ They’d bend over to pick it up and you’d say ‘How bizarre.’”

    Like

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