Survey Says...

New Times critics look back on the "oohs" and the "ughs" of pop music '95 (results tabulated from individual critics' lists and comments)

... And Who Could Forget About
These Great Hits?
(The Ten Best Albums of 1995)

1. P.J. Harvey
To Bring You My Love
(Island)

Britain's Gen-X version of Patti Smith gets gruff and bluesy on her latest set of psyche-aerobics. It's not exactly easy listening--first-person songs about drowning one's children rarely are--but a sense of storyteller's confidence keeps Harvey's excess grotesqueries in line. (Simons)

Creepy, crunchy and filled with sinister intimations, this smoldering scare fest is like something torn from the pages of a psychologist's case study and pressed on vinyl. (Golosinski)

Classic albums play like movies, and this comes off like a great, old Barbara Stanwyck flick directed by David Lynch. Whenever Polly Jean gets around to birthin' a baby, I want a bootleg tape of every moan. (Dominic)

2. Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters
(Roswell)

Dave Grohl and company reclaim all the great musical virtues of Nirvana and leave all the sensational shamanistic aspects of the band for Courtney Love to exploit. The year's most pleasant surprise. (Dominic)

He could have just crawled into a hole somewhere after Nirvana self-destructed. Instead, Dave Grohl got out from behind his drum kit to front the most dynamic new act of the year. Virtually every cut on this debut packs a powerhouse punch that'll have you humming along as you wonder what hit you. (Golosinski)

3. Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
(Virgin)

Roly-poly Billy Corgan can be hard to take seriously, what with his whining, adolescent brand of existentialism (see: CD title). Still, this double-disc set is an impressive piece of work in both scope and depth, and the music, which ranges from thud-metal to soft ballad with lots of stops in between, makes it clear that the Great Pumpkin is for real. (Simons)

4. Flaming Lips
Clouds Taste Metallic
(Warner Bros.)

The only place to hear songs titled "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles" and "They Punctured My Yolk." See these guys live, and marvel at a stage show that's not only startlingly psychedelic but damn tight. No easy feat considering that Ronald Jones slashes at his guitar with a violence normally witnessed in serial killers. It's not really a guitar, though; it's a jukebox stocked with samples of aliens squealing in languages that haven't even been invented yet. (Golosinski)

5. Cypress Hill
Cypress Hill III/Temples of Boom
(Ruffhouse/Columbia)

A wicked album that epitomizes the guilty pleasure of gangsta rap. BReal's crazy-eyed delivery and Sen Dog's Jamaican street-tough patois are the perfect media for the rap duo's cartoon-gangland fables (where the moral is always shoot first and shoot often). DJ Muggs lays down grooves and beats that are so phat, this album should come with a calorie counter. (Holthouse)

6. Guided by Voices
Alien Lanes
(Matador)

Low-fi postpop in glorious miniature, GBV's latest collection of bite-size gems is the band's best yet, a cavalcade of pointy, melodic hooks framed by a loopy sense of surrealism that keeps things perfectly off-kilter. (Killer lyric: "The closer you are/The quicker it hits you.") (Simons)

7. Throwing Muses
University
(Sire/Reprise)

One of the most critically overrated acts of the '80s finally comes up with an album to equal all the hype--and no one pays any attention. Too bad. Twitching chanteuse Kristin Hersh proves herself an inspired and innovative songwriter, as adept at melody (finally) as with meter and lyrics. (Killer cut: "Start.") (Simons)

8. The Presidents of the United States of America
The Presidents of the United States of America
(Columbia)

What a relief to hear a band come out of Seattle that doesn't have anything to do with the "G" word. The Presidents are fun, energetic and willfully goofy, a band of young, fresh fellows who might be giants. (Best track: "Lump.") (Simons)

9. Goldie
Timeless
(ffrr)

Could he be the one? Techno needs a better messiah than Moby, and when it comes to building bridges, Goldie has a Midas touch. Using jungle beat as a base of operations, he cuts a star pattern of swaths through the bullshit to unite allthecutting-edge electronic forms--jungle, acid, triphop, breakbeat, trance, etc.--inavast, vivid panorama of underground music that is authentic but accessible. Thisis it--tenyears from now, they'll say it all started here. (Holthouse)

10. Supergrass
I Should CoCo
(Capitol)

The best of the Brit-pop renaissance lot, the lads in Supergrass cleverly pinch everything from Saturday-morning cartoon themes ("Strangeones") tothe Damned and Buzzcocks ("Caught by the Fuzz" is the consummate Singles Going Steady track that never was) to art-rock bands like Pink Floyd and Queen("Alright," "Sofa of My Lethargy"). The members of this trio would be teenidols in America by now if they didn'tall resemble sweaty fish onstage. (Dominic)

Hey, What's That on Your Shoe?
(The Ten Worst Albums of 1995)

1. Hootie and the Blowfish
Cracked Rear View
(Atlantic)

Anyone who bought this album should be yelled at and then fined. Everything on it is so formulated, it belongs in a baby's bottle. Wake up, you people! Can't you see The Devil is writing these songs?! (Notaro, from "Laurie Notaro's List of the Most Evil Things That Came My Way This Year, Aside From Planet Employees")

With close to 13 million in sales, this glorified bar band offers close to 13 million reasons the listening public deserves every hack artist it gets from safety-first record companies. (Simons)

2. Candlebox
Lucy
(Maverick)

Here's one Lucy nobody loves. America's favorite deceased redhead used to throw herself on conveyor belts, lower herself out of apartment windows, stuff chocolates and eggs down her pants and don a bottomless trunk of disguises to win her audience's approval. Candlebox seems content merely to sound like Bush meets the Black Crowes, except without the hooks. A pox on Candlebox! (Dominic)

3. Alanis Morissette
Jagged Little Pill
(Maverick)

The voice of a tragically clueless crowd, this overbearing Sinead O'Connor doll comes off like an actress playing the role of a singer. (Simons)

4. Dave Matthews Band
Under the Table and Dreaming
(RCA)

Mr. Matthews, you're under arrest for the impersonation of Blues Traveler. Officer Popper, read him his rights! (Dominic)

5. Soul Asylum
Let Your Dim Light Shine
(Columbia)

The curse of Winona Ryder strikes again. Dave Pirner should either a) quit letting her write his songs, or b) open up a swank nightclub posing as a seedy one and pay someone famous to die in front of it. (Notaro)

6. Better Than Ezra
Deluxe
(Elektra)

Ten things that are better than this lame bastardization of the Pixies' late, lamented sound:

1. Alien rectal probes
2. Dead puppies being scraped up along the interstate
3. Someone replacing the fine coffee you usually drink with rich, decaffeinated, purŽed monkey brains

4. More Suns coverage
5. A Kathie Lee Gifford boxed set with many never-before-heard tracks
6. Going in for a liver transplant and getting David Crosby's old one by mistake

7. A whoopee cushion that bellows, "Have you thought about your financial freedom in the Nineties?" whenever you sit on it

8. Watching Faces of Death frame by grueling frame while drinking bad beer with Bob Dole

9. Having someone named Fife balancing your checkbook
10. Searing molten lava being poured into both your ears (Dominic)

7. Michael Jackson
HI Past, Present and Future, Book I
(Epic)

Who is buying this album? If it's you, don't you see what happens when you encourage HIM? He pops up naked on cable TV with Elvis' daughter! (Notaro)

8. Filter
Short Bus
(Reprise)

Nine Inch Nails alumni Richard Patrick and Brian Lisegang hit the bull's eye with their single "Hey Man, Nice Shot," but the rest of this album is a cut-rate Trent Reznor imitation. You never should have left, boys. (Holthouse)

9. Silverchair
Frogstomp
(Murmur/Epic)

Three words come to mind while listening to this album: Got. Any. Milk? (Notaro)

10. Lenny Kravitz
Circus
(Virgin)

Squaaaawk. Lenny wants a cracker. Not since Whitesnake put violin bows back into guitar solos has Led Zeppelin's sound been so blatantly parroted. Kravitz didn't really think he could get away with this, did he? (Holthouse)

Oh, Just Reach In and Pull One Out.
(Superlative Grab Bag)

Best Trend in Band Names: The supersaturation of the word "super": Supergrass, Superchunk, Supersuckers, Supernova, and, of course, the Supersonic Soul Pimps.

Best Jazz Album: (Editor's note: Yes, the John Coltrane Heavyweight Champion collection on Rhino is awesome, but it's a boxed set, so stop writing that letter in your head.)

Charlie Parker's Bird's Best Bop on Verve. Forty-five years ago, Parker was blowing people's minds with his alto sax, and he's no less impressive today. Bird claimed he practiced up to 16 hours a day, every day, to get the kind of chops that made him a legend. For this stunning album, Verve compiled some of the saxophonist's hottest small-group bebop sessions with monsters like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich and Max Roach. Today's young turks are still trying to figure out some of the solos here. (Golosinski)

Best Band Not to Be In If You Shoot Dope: Ministry. Bandmates Al Jourgensen and Mike Scaccia both were busted for heroin in separate incidents in August. Jourgensen was at home when the police came to call; Scaccia was shopping at a Wal-Mart. (Holthouse)

Best Reissue: "It's Hard to Believe It," The Amazing World of Joe Meek. All of the music on this album was made before 1967,but it's hard to imagine anyone making it in 1995--or any other year, forthat matter. Eerie and essential. (Dominic)

Best Follow-Up: Green Day's Insomniac. Like Nirvana with In Utero, Billie Joe and friends took the road less traveled--the one back totheir dirty roots instead of forward intomore polished commercialism--and ithas, indeed, made all the difference. (Holthouse)

Best Song to Shut Down a Party With: Duran Duran's abysmal cover of "Lay Lady Lay." Just put it on and stand clear of the exits. (Holthouse)

Best "Best of" Album: Louvin Brothers' When I Stop Dreaming: The Best of the Louvin Brothers. The pinnacle of high lonesome mountain music. Without the Louvins, there'd be no such thing as the Everly Brothers, the BoDeans, or any other harmony-heavy vocal act of the past 35 years. (Dominic)

Best Lounge-Core Album: Shadow of Your Smile, by Tucson's Friends of Dean Martinez. Makes you feel like you're a ghost-town gunslinger in a bright-yellow leisure suit. (The Friends, by the way, are playing Nita's Hideaway in Tempe on New Year's Eve.) (Holthouse)

Best Obscure Indie Releases: Model Rockets' Hi Lux and Zumpano's Look What the Rookie Did. Model Rockets lead song scribe John Ramberg is a crafty pop songwriter in the vein of Elvis Costello and Paul Westerberg. He sings about daredevil girlfriends and unglamorous day jobs where the only thing to look forward to is the UPS man giving you a bottle of booze on Christmas Eve.

And, with Cocktail Nation still so prevalent among you youngsters, surely those bent on emulating their parents have room in their hearts for a band like Zumpano, which goes out of its way to pay tribute to Jim Webb with obscure cover versions and originals that follow the same ornate pop credo.

Each of these albums is truly one of a kind and worth hunting and clawing to get a copy of. (Dominic)

Best Last Album: The Ramones' Adios Amigos. The band's best effort in the studio since Rocket to Russia is a fitting adieu for punk's progenitors. Standout cuts: a blitzkrieg cover of Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" and the Spiderman TV theme as only the Ramones could slice and dice it. It's time for the band to hang it up, but it will be missed nonetheless. (Holthouse)

Best Classical Album: Ancient Echoes. With Górecki getting old and the mood for monks fading, the closest thing to a trend in classical music this year was choral music--specifically, Russian choral music, with its edgy Eastern mysticism (like Górecki) and monkish male-choir drone. This anthology of nine spiritualist composers beautifully illustrates the music's magic.

Best Evidence That New Times Critics Do, Too, Have Respect for the Dead: We kept our opinions about Jerry Garcia to ourselves.

Contributors: Matt Golosinski, Serene Dominic, David Holthouse, Laurie Notaro and Ted Simons

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