Critical Mass 2000

Our panel of writers offer up their takes on the top discs of Y2K

It was the best of years; it was the Durst of years.

Of the latter, well, Jim Dandy once had his moment in the sun, too, and the critics were right all along: Black Oak Arkansas sucked, the stoned morons who were into the band eventually grew up (or died in horrible Camaro crashes), and today the band is fondly remembered as nothing more than a punch line to musical jokes about the '70s.

In the spirit of the former: As a prologue to our Top 10 lists and a rare glimpse behind the veil of critical omniscience, consider this preliminary early draft, penned to formula. (Feel free to clip 'n' mail to the Village Voice as your ballot in the paper's annual "Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.")

Steve Earle's Transcendental Blues: The record a '90s Beatles reunion might've spawned.
Steve Earle's Transcendental Blues: The record a '90s Beatles reunion might've spawned.
Marah emerges from the City of Brotherly Love with the big tableau rock 'n' roll of Kids in Philly.
Marah emerges from the City of Brotherly Love with the big tableau rock 'n' roll of Kids in Philly.

1. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol) Postmodern, postliterate post-Aphex Twinesque whimsy that circumvents agitpop for artistry blah-blah-blah.

2. U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind (Interscope) A brilliant return-to-roots song cycle that thankfully eschews the techno-hooey of Pop while biting the "pop" charts in the arse, yammer-fawn-yammer.

3. Rage Against the Machine, Renegades (Epic) Still, what a swan song! Ratcheting up the revolutionary quotient of MC5, Stooges, Stones, et al.

4. Various Artists, Now THAT'S What I Call Music Vol. Whatever (Universal) Bubbling over with Britney's baking, chock-full of Christina's cookies, this yummy millennial platter of goodies munch-gobble-chew-swallow.

5. Beatles, 1 (Capitol) Barring the criminal omissions of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Please Please Me," the industry's first credible threat to Michael Jackson's sales-chart supremacy gurgle-chortle-gag.

6. PJ Harvey, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island) Even though Liz Phair's in exile, Mary Lou Lord's in rehab and Courtney Love's in litigation, 2000 was still the Year of the Woman thanks to Polly Jean's existential wail.

7. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath/Interscope) Or was it the Year of the Bitch You Cut Up and Dump? As Em's sly word play and deft comedic touch sailed over the heads of uptight feminists, fags and etc., etc., etc.

8. Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water (Flip/Interscope) Despite critical comparisons to Grand Funk Railroad and accusations of waving the banner of artistic mediocrity in an aesthetics-free null zone, the Bizkit, along with Godsmack, Linkin Park, Cold and others, still racked up platinum (insert the sound of a statistical clicker ticking, cash register ringing).

9. Paul Simon, You're the One (Warner Bros.) Shrugging off accusations that he got his pal/Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner to shitcan an unfavorable review (which led to a prominent journalist turning in her notice), Simon once again reigned supreme as a melodicist and lyricist of deep something or other.

10. Jets to Brazil, Four Cornered Night (Jade Tree) Even as fans pathetically clung to the withering creative vine known as Emo -- some going so far as to name their children after their favorite artists -- Jets took off amid manifesto-like ruminations that wheeze-pontificate-gasp-thud.

That was fun! Practice some of those catch phrases and you, too, can be a critic. Remember: "postliterate, post-Aphex Twin," "existential wail" and "withering creative vine" always impress editors and your readership. Okay, here are the real lists.

Fred Mills

1. godspeed you black emperor!, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (Kranky) My obligatory "wow, I'm cool 'cause I dig an avantish Canadian band on a tiny indie label" entry. A vibrantly technophonic, stereodelic excursion into the cinema of the mind: Harry Smith Rock for the Millennium.

2. Various Artists, Almost Famous Soundtrack (DreamWorks) True story: A chick came into the record store where I work and asked if we had any records by Stillwater, and I was less amused by her naiveté -- it's a fictional band with several cool songs in the movie, one on the soundtrack disc, all penned by either Nancy Wilson or Peter Frampton -- than by the sheer rock 'n' roll power of suspended disbelief. So by default, Almost Famous becomes the standard-bearer for this annum's theme: 2000 was the Year the Rock Geek Broke -- with additional mainstream validation arriving by way of the High Fidelity film, a biography of late rock critic Lester Bangs (Let It Blurt, by former Jann Wenner gadfly Jim DeRogatis) and assorted earnest missives from rock's hoary, hectic, hirsute past courtesy old-schoolers Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, Greil Marcus and Stanley Booth. (Someday we're all gonna be sitting on the highway to heaven tour bus, singing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," huh, guys?)

3. Radiohead, Kid A (Capitol) See listing in the intro, minus any contextual sarcasm. And the band is able to pull off those icily vertiginous soundscapes live, too, as anyone who saw R-head's appearance on Saturday Night Live will testify.

4. PJ Harvey, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island) Likewise, see intro listing. Anger and angst slowly dissolve in the face of a Zenlike fortitude, yet she didn't wind up making a mature/adult Sting record, either.

5. Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues (E-Squared/Artemis) Nor did Earle, despite his showing all the impending signs of maturity and adulthood: political activism, a book of essays and poetry en route, hanging out with Sheryl Crow, etc. This is a classic, "deep" rock 'n' roll album, one that some wag described as the record a '90s Beatles reunion might've spawned -- not that far-fetched.

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