By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
4. Van Der Graaf Generator, The Box (Virgin) Curiosity compelled me to splurge on this multidisc retrospective of the U.K. prog-rock act. Compiled by front man Peter Hammill and fellow band members, the set is a comprehensive document of the group's 10-year run from 1968-1978. It presents an amazing overview of the band by pulling together material from various BBC sessions, studio albums, long-deleted singles, "bootlegs" and Virgin Records archives. For diehards, The Box provides a trove of previously unreleased material and hard-to-find cuts, while casual fans will marvel at the impressive sound quality of the remastering as well as the elaborate and informative packaging: 48-page booklet, previously unpublished photos, a reminiscence by fellow prog rocker Tony Banks of Genesis, a comprehensive gig listing, discography and memoirs by the four main group members -- Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, David Jackson and Hammill -- themselves.
5. Various Artists, The Xfm Live Sessions (Select) This disc is the cheapest one in the bunch, as it actually came along free with the purchase of the January 2000 issue of U.K. music glossy Select. The 14 tracks here are culled exclusively from in-studio appearances on London's cutting-edge radio station 104.9 Xfm. Among the many fine cuts is a beautiful acoustic rendition of Guided By Voices' lighter-waving ballad "Hold On Hope" and an equally elegiac turn from the Flaming Lips, who weave through a stripped-down version of "Waiting for Superman." But the hands-down highlight of the disc is Sebadoh's take on "Cold As Ice." Listening to indie-rock godhead Lou Barlow rework the Foreigner classic is the kind of stuff that great import dreams are made of.
6. Thee Headcoats, Elementary Headcoats: Thee Singles 1980-1990 (Damaged Goods) Another terrific singles comp, and fortunately none of the tracks were previously in my possession. Pulling together a decade's worth of sides from Billy Childish's main outfit, Elementary offers up 50 tracks of retro pop, garage and rock goodness, along with an exhaustive discography. As irresistibly entertaining as the songs themselves are, the titles do you one better. "(We Hate the Fuckin') NME," "The Day I Beat My Father Up," "I've Been Fuckin' Your Daughters & Pissing on Your Lawns" and the closing "Art or Arse?" are among some of the more engaging selections.
7. Vic Godard & Subway Sect, What's the Matter Boy? (Universal) The reissue/repackaging/remastering of What's the Matter Boy? marks the 20th anniversary of the punk/New Wave classic. A fixture at early Sex Pistols shows, Godard was encouraged by the group's manager Malcolm McClaren to form his own combo. Though he was heavily connected to the punk scene (Godard was a protégé of Clash impresario Bernie Rhodes and opened up on the group's 1977 White Riot tour), he had little in common musically with his anarchy fueled contemporaries, instead combining everything from Northern soul to French pop and angular rock with his own writerly style on this 1980 debut. The 2000 anniversary edition boasts a vastly improved sound quality over the 1996 domestic release, plus expanded packaging and liner notes by Edwyn Collins, who praises Godard as "the best songwriter of his generation."
8. Teenage Fanclub, Howdy! (Columbia) Glasgow's finest release their first disc since 1997's Songs From Northern Britain, and their first since the band's former U.K. label home Creation closed up shop. Taking the happy, chiming, Byrdsy tone of the last disc even further, the band delivers 12 solid testimonies to the merits of multilayered harmonies, sun-kiss lyrics and ringing 12-strings. It's not clear when, or even if, Howdy! will get a stateside release, so sinking $28 into this one seems like a good investment. (Side note: The first European single from Howdy!, "I Need Direction," features a smashing, gender-bending B-side take on the Pixies classic "Here Comes Your Man.")
9. Liquor Giants, Up With People (Rubber Records) It speaks volumes about the sorry condition of both major and indie record labels in the U.S. that Ward Dotson (Gun Club, Pontiac Brothers) had to venture Down Under to get his band's latest album released on Australia's BMG imprint Rubber Records. Why, say, Matador couldn't have put this disc out -- as it did with the band's 1996 self-titled effort or 1998's Every Other Day at a Time -- and saved fans of clever Beatlesque pop and dirty, Stonesy rock 20 bucks is beyond me.
10. Paul Weller, Heliocentric (Island) While the former Jam front man's sixth solo album doesn't quite rank up there with In the City or All Mod Cons, Heliocentric is a stirring return to form after the brooding, boring traditionalism of 1997's Heavy Soul. Unfortunately, Weller's planned fall U.S. tour was canceled as he faced a scurrilous rape charge at home. Whether that had anything to do with it or not, Heliocentric has yet to see an American release. This, despite raves in the international press and better-than-expected sales numbers abroad. Here's hoping that the Guvnor and his music make their way to American ears in 2001.
Top 10 Thrift-Shop Treasures
I stopped finding the albums I'd always wanted to own at thrift shops years ago. Now the habit of buying records for a quarter has led me to acquire all the records I never wanted to subject myself to. Sure, for the same loose change I could probably feed a child in Somalia for a week, but where's the fun in that? Give a kid a cup of rice and he's licked hunger for a day, but teach that child a little something about thrifting and he can keep a whole village fed up with his stack of useless vinyl for a lifetime. Here are 10 of my priceless purchases for 2000.