24) The Prodigy -- The Fat of the Land: Anyone remember when electronica was going to be the next big thing? We all read about how the industry was ready to dump grunge and salute the new regime. It says on Wikipedia, everyone's favorite source for facts that may or may not be factually correct, that the album sold over 10 million copies. So it wasn't exactly the Bosstown Sound, but it stayed in the clubs and at raves, so folks could enjoy the Eagles' Greatest Hits on the radio without interruption.
22) The Notorious B.I.G. -- Life After Death: Only Ready To Die was released in his lifetime, with Life After Death being released 16 days after he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The career risks involved with having a Gangsta Rap career have oddly not deterred young people from attempting one. Despite Biggie's death, young people did not flee to a safer genre such as folk or bluegrass music, where violent deaths have dropped drastically in recent decades, despite the amount of death that appears in the songs.
20) Wu-Tang Clan -- Wu-Tang Forever: With enough members to make sharing profits a depressing exercise, Wu-Tang Clan successfully impressed suburban white people enough to bring the young men a Grammy nomination and positive reviews in mainstream magazines where hip-hop albums rarely are acknowledged. Not unlike this column, admittedly, where I confess to being no Billy Johnson, Jr. when it comes to music not made by Bob Dylan.
18) Elliot Smith -- Either/Or: Pure happenstance led me to see Mr. Smith when he played in New York City. It was in 1995, two years before this album, and Mr. Smith's performance was better than any of his records, quite honestly. He didn't need anyone's help and was, in fact, one of the few performers who could do it all with just his voice and his little folkie guitar. Hardly no one knew that night how soon they'd be crying!
16) The Hives -- Barely Legal: It's been frustrating for young bands. Whereas Crosby, Stills and Nash can tour the world and still find people rich enough to buy tickets and to buy Deluxe Expanded 37th Anniversary Reissues of even their least-noteworthy albums, groups such as The Hives and other bands not from rock's golden era pretty much end up in the "Where Are They Now?" pile even while they're still very much alive and doing stuff.
14) Seven Mary Three -- RockCrown: "Cumbersome," from their last album, had been so incredulously awful that it was actually good. So with that in mind, I ended up reviewing this follow-up for Rolling Stone, where the editors docked it a star, down to two, which I thought was unfair since they were doling out plenty of stars for bands that sounded exactly like this but who weren't so bad they were good. Ah, politics!
12) Momus -- Ping Pong: I beg to differ with "A Customer" from the Amazon site, who has this to say under the heading "Don't Be A Fool": "Lyrics isn't everything. Although they (sometimes) are pretty funny and smart, they will NEVER compensate the poor, poor quality of the music. Momus must have recorded everything on a cheap $20 keyboard. Everything is so pathetic…" Personally, I think it's pretty clear that the keyboard cost at least $99.
10) Richard Buckner -- Devotion + Doubt: For his major label debut and his second "official" album, Lord Buckner got weird. His music has at times bordered on the somnambulant, but there is a peculiar charm to his husky burr. His albums are more like letters from a cool beatnik friend whose sense of humor and good nature saves him from whatever pretensions might scare you away from writing back.
8) Hoobastank -- Muffins: The always semi-reliable Wikipedia claims "Muffins is a 1997 cassette tape by Hoobastank that is a very ska and funk themed release rather than their recognized post-grunge sound." The only reason this entry is here is because I wanted to type the word Hoobastank. I'm sure they suck.
6) Bob Dylan -- Time Out of Mind: As I stare at the extensive discography of Robert Allen Zimmerman, I am fascinated by how little I care about the albums released after Desire. I still like tracks here and there, but Oh Mercy aside there isn't a single album I need to hear in its entirety. Not even Love and Theft, which apparently is heresy, but as someone upthread said, "Lyrics isn't everything" (sic). Still, I take at least four songs here, so that's a higher batting average than most. But I do remember when Bob Dylan wasn't about the little things.
4) The Apartments -- Apart: While the entertainment business has continued to thrive on gossip and silly haircuts, musicians who sing and write music have fallen on tougher times. Sure, Adele has been acknowledged, but that still leaves a plethora of musicians who struggle to not make a living working in non-existent bookstores. If you don't own this album, your life is empty but can be quickly refilled for only $7.99! Please do so, before I lose all respect for you and myself.
2) Tindersticks -- Curtains: If you're a music fan -- and by that I mean someone who likes more than the four bands everyone listened to in high school -- then you're likely running out of patience with people who tell you it was all over by (their random, self-imposed expiration date here). It's a handy coincidence that music stops mattering just when people stop mattering. I sat through the 12.12.12 concert and while I mourn the idea that there will be no one in thirty years who can bring people together at a big event like Paul McCartney or the Who, I can't say I've ever liked these big events much anyway. As long as there's a singer with a way to record their music, there is hope. Though even I must admit there is less of it these days, despite there being more of it.
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