Best of 2002
Rather than focusing exclusively on albums, here's my list of my greatest
musical experiences of the past year:
Elvis Costello When I Was Cruel and Chicago Theatre, October
17. What an enviable career he's had. Focusing on being a musician, his craft,
rather than on being a rock star, always the center of attention, has allowed
him to take risks. He's worked with an impressive and varied set of collaborators
and taken on artistic challenges. He still has the dignity to perform his
"angry young man" songs without looking like a washed-up buffoon. And his
new material has a lyrical precision and vitriol that comes from wisdom rather
than youthful brashness.
David Lee Roth once commented that rock critics preferred Elvis Costello
to him because rock critics look like Elvis than him. While I have certainly
taken more fashion cues from Elvis, it's actually because Elvis has depths
of talent and, at this point, David Lee Roth is a washed-up buffoon.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Chicago Theatre, April 26. It was
worth the wait of several years since having last seen Nick perform, perhaps
not since Lollapalooza 1994. It was worth the wait of several months, the
tour postponed after September 11. The man is an astonishingly intense performer,
seething with the emotion of fictional Southern gothic tales. Plus, it was
great to see the audience prove that some goths age quite gracefully.
The Hives Veni, Vidi, Vicious and Metro, June 5. Their album
is wildly raucous, with appropriate song titles like "The Hives-Declare Guerre
Nucleaire." And what enthralling performers! Yeah, it's shtick but the Swedes
have charisma to burn, and boy, do they burn it. For the first time in ages,
I left concert believing that a band was sure to be huge and I was thrilled
to have witnessed them in front of a small crowd.
The Mooney Suzuki Metro, June 5 and October 9. Another charismatic
garage band. A surprise discovery opening for the Hives, they were more fabulous
given the time and space to headline a few months later. They were in town
at the beginning of a long streak of great concerts. Other bands like
Sleater-Kinney may have had stronger songs, but no one put on a better show.
Anthony Kiedis inducting the Talking Heads into the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame I was already thrilled to see high honor bestowed on the Ramones
and Talking Heads. Then I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers front man's introduction
speech. He said that when he first heard the Talking Heads, "I wanted to have
sex with a lot of librarians." As a music librarian, I was amused and flattered.
Although in telling other music fans, I was surprised how many were unfamiliar
with the nerdy image shared by the Talking Heads and my current profession.
Chameleons UK playing "Swamp Thing" Metro, October 14. In 1987, I
couldn't get into their sold-out show at a tiny club. Their grandiose and
glorious LP Swamp Thing was one of my favorites at the time. Today,
it is one of the few pieces of vinyl that I still play, and I play it regularly.
"Swamp Thing" was the mesmerizing pinnacle of the album. I finally heard it
live, their set opener. I was delirious.
Future Bible Heroes Eternal Youth and Schuba's, November 6.
The synth-pop was like 1982 all over again, especially Claudia Gonson's droll
delivery of "I'm a Vampire." Live, the synthesizers were joined by acoustic
instruments that further emphasized Stephen Merritt's sharp lyrics. "I'm Lonely
(And I Love It)" made me wish I had a friend who'd recently gone through a
break-up because it celebrates the process so beautifully.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Once More, with Feeling" Speaking
of "I'm a Vampire," a song crying out to be used on the Angel or the Sarah
Michelle Gellar series, the show had its own impressive CD this year, the
soundtrack to last year's musical episode. Show creator and novice songwriter
Joss Whedon could have created a mere novelty. Instead, the songs have an
insidious way of burrowing into your brain. But I'm still not sure if lyrics
like, "His penis got diseases/From a Chumash tribe" are quite appropriate
for a family sing-along.
Radio 4 Gotham It's impossible to criticize a band for aping
Gang of Four since that's not exactly a proven path to fame and riches. And
unlike shameless Jesus & Mary Chain rip-off Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, at
least they bring something new to the mix with more complex percussion.
Badly Drawn Boy About a Boy So liltingly melodic that I forgave
the filmmakers for excising the Nirvana/Kurt Cobain references that inspired
the novel's title.
Coldplay/Ash UIC Pavilion, September 24. Coldplay's songs took
on a new level of resonance live. Ash, with a few years of experience under
their belts and the addition of second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley,
finally made their anticipated transition from a band with some great songs
to a great band. And "Kung Fu" left me giddy.
The Police Message in a Box Yes, it came out nine years ago,
but I just got it as a birthday gift. It made me feel like I was 16
again, but only the joyous parts of being 16, not the insecurity and trauma.
The Cynics Double Door, December 14. Years since I've seen
them, but they've lost none of their verve. See my December 16 post
for more verbal swooning.
David Bowie "Cactus" Bowie's cover brought out the obsessive sexuality
of the song in a way that the Pixies' original never did. Not only was it
a great version, it got a Pixies songs played on radio stations that wouldn't
play the Pixies.
Pink "Get the Party Started" My guiltiest pleasure of the year, but
the tune is so damn catchy.