1998 GRAHAMMY AWARDS (MUSIC)
In my multi-continent voyage to discover
the best music in the world...ever!, I inevitably hit some highs
and lows. For every Spiritualized album that rocked my proverbial
world, there was a heavy disappointment waiting around the corner
(U2's new album and subsequent tour were dubbed "Flop"
and "FlopMart", respectively, by Mr. Adam Graham). As
usual, radio was slow to catch on to what the truly great music
was, and when they did, they beat those songs over the head
repetitively until none of us could stand them anymore ("Brimful
of Asha" by Cornershop and "One Headlight" by the
Wallflowers, to name but two). 1997 provided some wonderful
moments, and it is your humble narrator's wish to tell all of his
friends (at least those who have email) just what he thinks would
make all of their musical hopes and dreams come true...
Top Ten Albums of
Honorable Mentions: Helium, "The Magic City"; Depeche Mode, "Ultra"; Cornershop, "When I Was Born for the
Seventh Time"; GusGus,
"Polydistortion"; Getaway Cruiser, "Phones Calling EP"
10) Ivy, "Apartment Life"-Breezy pop vocals from French ex-patriate
Dominique Durand makes every day feel like Sunday.
9) that dog!, "Retreat From the Sun"-Crunchy power pop with delicate female
vocals; perfect for bouncing around your apartment/house after
work/school on a Wednesday night.
8) Belle and Sebastian, "If You're Feeling Sinister"-Intricate melodies and delightfully silly
7) Beth Orton, "Trailer Park"-Imagine Joni Mitchell meets the Chemical
6) Bjork, "Homogenic"-Her role as a co-producer allowed her
unique musical vision to flourish like never before; her most
mature work to date.
5) Ben Folds Five, "Whatever and Ever Amen"-Taking the piano pop torch from Billy Joel
and running like hell, Ben Folds is a '90s Steven Sondheim.
4) Yo La Tengo, "I Can Feel The Heart
Beating As One"-Everyone
wants to nuke Jersey, but listening to this album just might
change your mind. Gorgeous.
3) Spiritualized, "Ladies and Gentleman We
Are Floating In Space"-Jason
Pierce and crew have made an album unparalleled in both despair
and hope. And Kate Radley wins the Best Indie Babe award.
2) The Verve, "Urban Hymns"-Climbing from the ashes of 1995's 89X Fest
like a phoenix, Richard Ashcroft's lyrical supremacy and Nick
McCabe's guitar soundscapes flow seamlessly together into sonic
heaven. Forget U2, Oasis, and REM; The Verve are the Best Band In
1) Radiohead, "OK Computer"-Radiohead doesn't disappoint. "The
Bends" was the best album of '95, and here in '97 they
reclaim the throne. There isn't a bad song on this album. My
favorite song changes weekly. Thom Yorke's declaration on the
opening track, "Airbag", that "In an interstellar
burst/I'm back to save the universe" says it all. Brilliant.
Best Singles of 1997
Honorable Mentions-Wallflowers, "One Headlight"; Yo La Tengo, "Sugarcube"; The Prodigy, "Breathe"; Ben Folds Five, "Brick"; Cornershop, "Brimful of Asha"; Dario G, "Sunchyme"; Trent Reznor, "The Perfect Drug"; Janet Jackson, "Got Til It's Gone"
5) Mariah Carey, "Honey"-As much as I hate the Puff, he outdid
himself here. Who else would've mixed the Treacherous Three with
Malcolm McLaren and pulled it off?
4) Olive, "You're Not Alone"-The best dance track of 1997 from former
Simply Red percussionist Tim something or other. A Scorekeepers
3) Catherine Wheel, "Delicious"-Still shoegazing, Catherine Wheel's latest
pays tribute to hedonism and almost equals their high water mark
of "Black Metallic", one of the best songs of the 90s.
2) The Verve, "The Drugs Don't Work"-Written when Richard was still off the
wagon in a BIG way, this paean to love and loss hits you where it
hurts -- your heart.
1) The Verve, "Bitter Sweet Symphony"-Richard was trying to "Hear some
sounds that recognize the pain in me...But the airwaves are clean/And
there's nobody talking to me now." From the moment the
thumping double beat lays down on the sweeping orchestral melody,
I knew that this song would see no rival - maybe ever. Playing
this song on an endless loop one weekend at Wartinbee's former
Chicago flat when it first came out (mid-June 1997) is a great
Best Compilation CDs of 1997
Various Artists, "Random"-As lame as a tribute to Gary Numan sounds (what,
twenty-seven versions of "Cars"???), this album
showcases the state of electronic music and its' influences on
some indie bands. There is only one cover of "Cars" on
Moby, "I Like to Score"-From the techno classic "Go" (which
melded "Laura Palmer's Theme" with a dance Thump) to
his work for "Heat", this album compiles Moby's scores
for films. Essential. If you're going to own anything that has
anything remotely to do with the horrid MTV film, "Joe's
Apartment", this should be it.
Various Artists, "Super Discount"-If you think French music sucks, take a
listen to the creme de la creme of French dance pioneers. Si vous
parlez francais, je pense que vous avez amour pour cette disque-compact.
Best Videos of 1997
Chemical Brothers, "Elektrobank"-Sofia Coppola does her best Kerri Strug
impression in another Spike Jonze masterpiece. When is Hollywood
going to let him direct films?
Prodigy, "Smack My Bitch Up"-Best ever? Full frontal nudity and drugs
never looked like so much fun.
George Michael, "Freedom"-I know this was released in 1990, but c'mon,
this video rules!
Best Concerts of 1997
GusGus (8/97, St. Andrew's Hall)-Mr. Techno and
the eight other members of GusGus busted some mad beats and got
St. Andrew's boomin.
Luna (10/97, The Magic Stick)-Dean Wareham's
gravel voice and frog-style delivery chased Glinka away after
only 4 songs, but those who persevered were rewarded with "Fourth
of July" and "Season of the Witch" and musical
The Verve (11/97, St. Andrew's Hall)-Not as good
as their July '95 show, but their closing version of "Come
On" scaled the sonic heights and refused to come down. You
haven't lived until you've seen The Verve live.
Sensitive Clown (10/97, Griff's Grill)-Local
faves rocked Pontiac with their original power pop songs and
classy covers. This band has up-and-coming written all over them.
Pick up "Oh, Rock", their sophomore effort, NOW!!!
Biggest Disappointments-U2, "Pop"; Oasis, "Be Here Now"; Portishead, "Portishead"
Best CD Innovation-Flaming Lips, "Zaireeka"-The recommended usage for this CD is to get
4 stereos and play all of the 4 discs at once. Next time we're
all Stateside, we'll have to have a Zaireeka party.
Oldies But Goodies (old school CDs you need to add to your
5) Beat Happening, "Beat Happening"-These Boston pioneers took lo-fi recordings
to a new level; immature lyrics about love and relationships make
this a must-have.
4) This Mortal Coil, "Blood"-Members of the Cocteau Twins get deeply
morose. Better than the Smiths for the mastery of depression.
3) Golden Palaminos, "Pure"-The Golden Palaminos have switched
vocalists more than Van Halen. Lori Carson's delicate vocals
dominate this recording which blends acoustic rock with mild trip-hop
and world beats.
2) Cocteau Twins, "Blue Bell Knoll"-The ethereal vocals and swirling guitars
started the whole dream-pop/shoegazing scene.
1) Television, "Marquee Moon"-Tom Verlaine is to Television as Billy
Corgan is to the Smashing Pumpkins. If you were to analyze the
family tree of Television, Lou Reed would be Tom's brother, and
Dean Wareham would be Tom's son.
Looking for Big Things in 1998 from...
Mogwai-Taking notes from post-rock groups such
as Tortoise, Mogwai's members are all teenagers and ready to take
the post-rock throne. Check out their new album.
Bernard Butler, "Stay"-The new single shows is the first recording
with Bernard doing lead vocals. He sounds a bit like a girl, but
there is no denying his guitar mastery.
Well, that's all that 1997 had to offer. Hope you enjoyed this as
much as I did. Until next year...
P.S. The 1998 Grahammy's (Film) will be out during the week of
January 19. Hold your breath until you turn blue and pass out.
When you recover and awake from your self-induced staredown with
Death, the list should be ready.