By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
3. KISS, Unplugged (Mercury) Weren't the lunchboxes, TV shows, comic books and tee shirts enough? Who the hell wants to hear this band's crass opportunism (on acoustic guitar, no less) now? Everybody, I guess. This KISS in '96 craze brought back hellish memories of Mrs. Hughes' fifth-grade class, where every suburban white boy spent a decade's worth of lunch money on KISS crap. I didn't. I hated KISS.
4. R.E.M., New Adventures in Hi-Fi (Warner Bros.) All right, isn't the statute of limitations up on Michael Stipe? And wasn't this band supposed to be the Great Pop Hope of American radio? Well, Mr. Stipe's melodrama is as defined as ever, and whatever pop R.E.M. had has been replaced with the dull thud of mediocrity we now call alternative.
5. Counting Crows, Recovering the Satellites (Virgin) Rock 'n' roll was never meant for your church lady, science teacher or old man. Your church lady, science teacher and old man all like Counting Crows.
6. Van Halen, Best of, Volume One (Warner Bros.) No matter how much jazz David Lee Roth added to Van Halen's jive, anything saddled with the weight of Hagar the Horrible will suffer accordingly.
7. Bush, Razorblade Suitcase (Trauma/Interscope) The snooty British pop press has always mocked America for its failure to embrace some of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time that were English (the Sex Pistols, Mott the Hoople, etc.). Now it's roaring (for good reason) over this country's love affair with Bush, an English band that couldn't get arrested in the U.K. What makes this even sadder is Bush nicked its whole shtick off a dead American junkie. Jesus.
8. The Wallflowers, Bringing Down the Horse (Columbia) In songwriting, Bob Dylan is not God. If he were, Dylan Jr. (Jacob) could walk across a swimming pool, guitar in hand. But here he sinks. Stinks. Whatever.
9. Jason Faulkner, Presents Author Unknown (Elektra) Big deal. Jason used to be in the Jellyfish or whatever. He still made a crappy, self-indulgent recording that sounds totally derived from Stephen Duffy. I couldn't get this one to the trade counter fast enough.
10. Hootie and the Blowfish, Fairweather Johnson (Atlantic) See Warrant, above.
Dr. Cynic's 10 Best
Miraculous flukes from a piss-poor year for rock 'n' roll
1. Slingbacks, All Pop No Star (Virgin Import) I'm biased 'cause I have a songwriting credit on this one, but who fuckin' cares? It's still an ace record. It's trashy, it's punk rock, it's way pop, and it's literate. Picture Chrissie Hynde with a slight Courtney growl, trading off between fronting the Attractions and Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers. Awesome.
2. Paul Westerberg, Eventually (Reprise) Sadly belittled by puny record sales, Westerberg is still one of the best songwriters alive. And if you think that's a pompous, sweeping statement, then fuck off.
3. Black Crowes, Three Snakes and One Charm (American) The last record I thought I'd like. My guitar player Keith wanted to beat me up when I told him this was great. The Crowes ain't a Faces tribute band no more. This thing is loaded with aching, haunted songs.
4. Pretty and Twisted, Pretty and Twisted (Warner Bros.) Johnette Napolitano rules--she's both heartbreaking and world-weary. The song "Ride" (co-written with ex-Saint Chris Bailey) simply shimmers. Almost no one bought this record. Of course.
5. NY Loose, Year of the Rat (Hollywood) Trite rock mannerisms aside, this still has enough of that CBGB/Max's Kansas City swagger to make me happy. Singer Bridgett West is a rock 'n' roll star in a real Richard Hell/Marc Bolan kinda way. Thank God, 'cause we need more of those.
6. Suckerpunch, Suckerpunch (MCA) The closest thing to Never Mind the Bollocks . . . I've ever heard. That's power chords and attitude, honey, and, oh, make mine with Absolut.
7. The Beatles, Anthology (Apple/Capitol) It's a reissue. So what. It's the Beatles. Duh.
8. Suzi Quatro, The Wild One: Classic Quatro (Razor & Tie) Suzi Quatro is the glam goddess of all time. Joan Jett's got nothing on her.
9. Serene Dominic and the Semi-Detached, Heathens of Vaudeville (Worrybird) Anyone who's met Serene knows he's armed with a few quirks--his songwriting is better for it. To hear pop songs that are brilliant both for their hooks and their unpredictability is stinkin' rare. And I'm not kissin' ass here, either.
10. Manic Street Preachers, Everything Must Go (Epic) Right after their guitar player vanished off the face of the Earth, the Preachers made a record that not only draws from the annals of pop history, but puts an original twist on it. This one sparkles.
10 Most-Returned Albums of '96
(List courtesy of Eastside Records)
1. Spin Doctors--You Gotta Believe
in Something (Epic)
2. Hootie and the Blowfish-- Fairweather Johnson (Atlantic)
3. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince--Chaos & Disorder (Warner Bros.)
4. The Cranberries--To the Faithful Departed (Island)
5. Neurotic Outsiders--Neurotic Outsiders (Maverick)
6. Various artists--The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack (Atlantic)
7. Metallica--Load (Elektra)
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers--One Hot Minute (Warner Bros.)
9. Black Crowes--Three Snakes and One Charm (American)
10. The Cure--Mood Swings (Elektra/Fiction)