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Words + Guitar (+ Beats + Skronk) 

What mattered and what splattered in pop, 1997

Wednesday, Dec 31 1997

Page 3 of 7

7) Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space This utterly pretentious, yet uniquely fresh and heartfelt approach to cover songs is an intravenous dose of every hipster record collection in the universe condensed into one album. Just as his former band, Spacemen 3, built its name stealing ideas from and nodding (off) to particular bands, Jason Pierce actually filters and interprets only the finest selections from his -- and probably your own -- record collection into an album that immediately sounds like a treasured classic.

8) Chrome Cranks live at the Kilowatt These bloated, middle-aged men can rock harder and slink sexier than bands whose child-support payments probably come from these curmudgeons' royalty checks.

9) Sunshine live at Kito Junction, Prague, Czech Republic Sunshine are a remarkable swirl of Joy Division's desolation, MC5's power-chord frenzy, spastic art-punk, Jimi Hendrix's free-form meanderings, and entrancing acid rock. The exhausting live show is well worth the trip abroad.

10) Bad ideas getting worse a) Electronica, Trip Hop, Drum 'n' Bass: Point me the way to any of the ilk with a fraction of the intelligence and craft of the now-ancient electro-groundwork of Throbbing Gristle, Kraftwerk, and NON. Likewise, increasingly annoying are those goddamn cutesy space-alien and UFO graphics. b) Victim Rock, and its indie offshoot, Emo: Fiona Apple, Smog, Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, Sebadoh, Modest Mouse, Palace, Boy's Life, Live, etc. c) Independent Rock: Justifying music that sucks, but thankfully isn't corporate, indie rock continues to muddy the gene pool with insipid "jazz is punk" (Tortoise), '70s clichecore (Royal Trux, Helium), and coterie-clustering platitudes (Pavement, Sonic Youth, and the bazillion bands who mimic their every move). d) Reunions, reissues, and hangers-on.

Robert Arriaga's Top 10

1) DJ Cut Chemist vs. Shortkut live at Future Primitive Soundsessions IV The Future Primitive parties put two DJs who don't usually play together on five turntables and wait to see what happens. Something did happen: The phat beats and deft scratching bled through the speakers like a hemorrhage, and not a head in the room remained still.

2) G.B.H., Punk Junkies Just when it seemed they had gone irreversibly cheesy, G.B.H. shed the metal overtones of their previous three albums and returned to the old-school sound of pure punk rock. The latest release by this British hardcore group showed why they are still one of the greatest punk bands ever to sport 2-foot liberty spikes.

3) X-ecutioners live at the Justice League Of the three best DJ collectives -- Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Beat Junkies, and X-ecutioners -- only the latter master the visual art of body juggling. From cutting records with chins, elbows, and feet to the facial gymnastics of Mr. Sinister, the X-ecutioners put on an unbelievably good show.

4) Jumbo Shrimp live at the Chameleon Jumbo Shrimp -- featuring ex-Dead Kennedys Klaus Flouride and East Bay Ray -- usually toss a cover of the DK's "Too Drunk to Fuck" into their otherwise surfy set. "We have a rock star in the audience," said Ray at the Chameleon. Up popped former DK frontman Jello Biafra, who belted out his nasty lyrics and took me back to the first punk single I ever bought.

5) Dick and Trotsky from Subhumans/Culture Shock/Citizen Fish Merging dub and reggae with political punk, the Subhumans paved the way for what would become known as ska punk. Citizen Fish's newest album, Thirsty, proves that after 15 years, Dick's political dissection is as wry as 1982's trio of Subhumans singles, "Demolition War," "Reason for Existence," and "Religious Wars."

6) World Groove This Quango Records compilation, which combines hip-hop groove and world music spirituality, has spent more time in my CD player than any other album released this year.

7) Toy Dolls live at the Trocadero Anyone who skated in the '80s most likely spent at least one day trying to pull an air to the sounds of Toy Dolls. I'd never seen the Dolls live until this May Troc stop. As Olga made his one guitar sound like three, visions of method airs and hippie twists danced in my head.

8) DJ Quest every day Carlos Aguilar (aka DJ Quest) is an inspiration: He's one of the best turntablists anywhere, he's one of the few Latinos on the DJ circuit, and he's dope as all hell. Quest made his name one party at a time, honing skills that make DJs drool with jealousy. But more importantly, he's reinventing turntablism by scratching with musicians in his improv jazz group Live Human.

9) Portishead, Portishead
10) The Accused, Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told After listening to this record for the past 10 years, I still grin at the slurred, maniacal vocals and the crazed riffs. Back then, when every band worth its amplifiers was trying to make the perfect crossover album, the Accused's fusion of punk and metal set the standard. In the words of a good friend, "It needed to be done."

Heather Wisner's Top 10 Music-Related Stuff of 1997

1) Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the Mexico City Metro loudspeakers Because unfamiliar surroundings can make old and well-loved music sound new and thrilling all over again.

2) The Mono Men live at the Kilowatt Grinning, sweaty drunks bounced helplessly around a beer-soaked floor as Olympia's finest ripped into one garage rocker after another from their '97 album Have a Nice Day, Motherfucker. A reminder to shut up and dance.

3) Beyond and Back: The X Anthology The rest of the unheard music -- studio outtakes, previously unreleased songs, live shows (Exene slags Debbie Harry!), funny liner notes, candid photos, and testimonials from people whose lives were transformed by the mighty power of X, including Joan Jett, Donita Sparks, Pat Smear, and Pee-wee Herman.

4) Elliott Smith, Either/Or Smith's bitter valentine to the scenic misery of Portland, Ore. You can almost hear the rain and the tears sloshing against the sides of a pint glass.


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