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The Hives: A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T (Gearhead). No offense to the other bands on this list, but the Hives top my favorite acts of 2001. The Swedish band is a five-pack of sonic explosives that bring down the building from the first track. Their spazzed-out, smart-ass singer has a voice that cracks and pops like he's kicking and screaming his way through puberty, and the group covers hyperactive '50s rock 'n' roll, snotty '70s punk, and grimy '60s garage in the course of one CD. While the Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious has become the one disc I won't even lend to friends, it came out in 2000 so I'm gonna have to go with A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T here. The A.K.A. EP originally came out on small Swedish label Burning Heart, and Gearhead recently rereleased it in the US. The record is the brash, messy little brother of Veni, proving that even when the Hives are at their sloppiest, they're still a damn good band.

The Immortal Lee County Killers: The Essential Fucked Up Blues! (Estrus). Okay, so I'm going to cheat again. Sue me. The Killers and the King Brothers, on their new self-titled In the Red release, are gonna have to have to duke it out to settle who gets the distinction of craziest PBR (punk-blues-rock 'n' roll) band. Both groups accelerate through the blues like a condemned vehicle with no brakes and an asylum patient at the wheel, racing through red lights and screaming and hollering the whole way through. The difference is that Alabama's Killers are a guitar/drums duo that hollers in English and leaves a thick trail of noise in its midst, while the King Brothers are a Japanese trio that barks like rabid dogs, stuffing mikes into their mouths, and yelling some kinda fucked-up, incomprehensible shit. Hell yeah!

Les Savy Fav: Go Forth (French Kiss). This CD hit me through the skull like a ton of emo bricks, all intense feeling and sharp, cynical lyrics about the dumb happiness of ignorance. This Brooklyn-based foursome cuts jagged edges of aggressive force with traces of early-'80s art rock, making music with enough melody that you could almost dance to it (if your moves approximate a giddy seizure). LSF is wound tightly to the point of snapping, with enough catchy rhythms to cover its tracks once it blows the fuses.

Murder City Devils: Thelema (Sub Pop). Murder City Devils frontman Spencer Moody's melodramatic, gruff screams sound like they come from a man who's been stabbed through the heart and is now begging for redemption. On the Thelema EP, Moody runs himself through the wringer for a confused love affair, identifies with a lonely Santa, and strictly warns, "You better outlive your mother." Hands down, this was one of my favorite dark clouds of a punk band, mixing vivid visual imagery with a heavy-handed organ and tangled guitar growls. Sadly, the Devils were also one of 2001's major casualties (along with At the Drive In); the band parted ways a couple months back.

Peaches: The Teaches of Peaches (Kitty-Yo). When it comes to musical turn-ons, Peaches works better than a porno/Spanish Fly cocktail. Her raunchy talk and dominatrix attitude took control of my libido from the opening lines of "Fuck the Pain Away." The Teaches of Peaches is full of 3:00 a.m. one-night-stand demands, and this is one horny fuck of a record, with Peaches grinding away against a background of grimy whiplash beats. Makes me hot every time I hear it.
--By Jennifer Maerz


Despite the forlorn status of jazz on the major labels, which increasingly forgo any pretense of interest in the music, there have been numerous fresh, enthralling, and memorable jazz CDs released this year. Blue Note in particular continues to put out beautiful, challenging music, such as pianist Jason Moran's bracing Black Stars with multi-instrumental legend Sam Rivers, Greg Osby's trenchant jazz quartet/string quartet session Symbols of Light (A Solution), and Joe Lovano's endlessly inventive Flights of Fancy: Trio Fascination Edition Two. On the Brazilian front, Gilberto Gil's music from the film Me, You, Them is a deliriously ebullient tribute to the spirit of forró master Luiz Gonzaga, and Caetano Veloso's Noites do Norte brilliantly grapples with the country's legacy of slavery. This was a particularly tough year for sudden departures, and the loss of Billy Higgins, Joe Henderson, Susannah McCorkle, and Smith Dobson will be felt for a long time. When it comes to checking out new sounds, I'm convinced there's no better strategy than to listen global and buy local, so these are my favorite Bay Area releases of 2001.

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