Dr. Cynic's Revenge

Beat Angel Brian Smith's 10 Greatest Atrocities in '96

Five Good Country Albums You Never Heard on Country Radio
1. Ween, 12 Golden Country Greats
2. Steve Earle, I Feel Alright
3. Lyle Lovett, The Road to Ensenada
4. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Braver New World
5. Wilco, Being There

--David Holthouse

Galxy Grl's (a.k.a. Sarah Gianetto) Best AZ Rave of '96
High on the Vibe, November 8 through 10, United Positivity, Santa Fe Building in downtown Phoenix

A three-day (and -night) party that lived up to its slogan. The positive energy emitted by Dubtribe during its prime-time set was overwhelming. The promoter paid attention to detail--bringing the clown ride from the flier to the premises, providing trays of fresh fruit, hiring carnival games, etc. HOTV also had one of the most comfy chill zones of the year.

Ted Simons
1. Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor Appalachia Waltz (Sony Classical) The birth of another subgenre: classical twang. Concert-hall virtuosos Meyer, O'Connor and Ma fuse classical compositions with high-lonesome fiddle music. The results, at once stunning and engaging, are as distinctly American as the best of Copland and Ives.

2. Olivier Messiaen, Diptyque/Les Corps Glorieux (Milan) Two more keyboard epiphanies from a 20th-century biggy. Messiaen, who died four years ago, wrote Diptyque as an evocative compare-and-contrast between heaven and Earth. Les Corps Glorieux is even more fascinating, its conception of life among the angels replete with a fight to the finish between good and evil. Nicely performed by organist Jon Gillock.

3. Beck, Odelay (DGC) A loser no more, Beck now proclaims himself the "Enchanted Wizard of Rhythm," and proves it with sample-heavy hip-hop of amazing studio craft. His lyrics are little more than strings of slackjawed non sequiturs tossed in the air, but his music's mishmash of street beats and coffee-house sing-alongs says enough.

4. Fountains of Wayne, Fountains of Wayne (Tag/Atlantic) These two savvy New Yorkers play post-Weezer pop of insidious sophistication, matching melodies at once familiar and new with vocals that blend '60s AM-radio fluff with modern-day slack. At its best--"Everything's Ruined," "I've Got a Flair" and, especially, "Sick Day"--the group's results are some of the best songs the dB's never wrote. Bonus points for coolest cover art of the year.

5. Eleni Karaindrou/Kim Kashkashian, Ulysses Gaze (ECM New Series) Music of deep, reflective beauty, this soundtrack is essentially a myriad of variations on the little-seen movie's theme. Karaindrou's compositions are moody tone pictures, with colors enriched by Kashkashian's remarkably evocative viola. A beautiful CD and a real find.

Serene Dominic
1. Steve Earle, I Feel Alright (E Squared/Warner Bros.) All the honesty Steve Earle has accumulated since his incarceration for drug abuse is etched into every note of this superlative CD. The shocking candor of "Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain" would frighten off most pop performers. Even when the tone is less severe, as on "More Than I Can Do," Earle delivers a line like "You say you're gonna call the cops, but I ain't gonna run because you're the only one" and makes it sound like the noblest lover's prayer.

2. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Virgin) This was a late-'95 release, but so what? Since Blonde on Blonde, the White Album, Something/Anything and Exile on Main Street, it's been a pop tradition to underestimate double albums until a year or two later. Who'd have thought a sprawling, two-record set teeming with the adenoidal admonishments of Billy Corgan would become alternative's version of Thriller?

3. Garbage, Garbage (Almo Sounds) No guy in his right mind could refuse this refuse. When Shirley Manson turns on the Acid Queen charm like she does on "Vow" ("I came to tear your little world apart"), you're absolute putty in her hands.

4. Finn Brothers, Finn Brothers (Discovery/Warner Bros.) Crowded House may be leveled, but luckily, Neil and Tim Finn found a modest flat down the street and started mixing up voodoo music in the basement. Replacing the usual Crowded House polish with lo-fi homespun sounds, the Finns combine random experimentation with good, old-fashioned Tin Pan Alley songsmithin'. Pop fans, don't dream it's over just yet.

5. Beat Angels, Unhappy Hour (Epiphany) In my second life as a performer, there is only one 1996 song that I've jumped at the chance of covering live, "Hung Over With Jenny," and here's why. It's got cigarettes, whiskey and wild women tattooed all over it, and it makes a bourbon hangover seem as hopeful as the second coming of Christ. These punks sing about needle park shootists, trailer-park floozies and drunken reprobates like they're Up With People! And I'm not kissin' ass here, either.

Brendan Kelley (Punk/Indie purist)
1. Bikini Kill, Reject All American (Kill Rock Stars) Bikini Kill got its notoriety via riot grrl politicking. Now the members write incredible songs as well. A stellar album of melodic, estrogen-powered p-rock.

2. Superchunk, The Laughter Guns EP (Merge) Usually, when p-rock bands slow down and throw in experimental instruments (in this case an organ), the result is a horror show. This EP is the exception--Superchunk's best release ever.

3. F.Y.P, Toilet Kids Bread (Recess) F.Y.P has made wetting yr pants cool again. Kindergarten brat-core that makes you wanna lock yrself in yr room with some Cap'n Crunch and a bed to jump on.

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