A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Monday, December 15, 2003

Well, well, well..it's that time of the year--yep, I knew you were waiting for this--it's the annual Schizoid Man Picks Of The Year--where I list off my fave records and ephemera from the past twelve months--give or take..and this year, I'll have a guest contribution from my amazing fiancee, Ms. Flaming Pixie!!!!

So...without making you wait while presenters read silly banter from TelePrompters...the Top Ten Records Of 2002 (in ascending order):

10.) Spiritualized/Amazing Grace (Sanctuary Records) ~ This one just barely made it...I was hoping J. Spaceman would delve back into the dense, layered psychedelia of "Pure Phase" and "Ladies And Gentlemen..." with this follow-up to the underwhelming "Let It Come Down", released in Sept. 2001. Alas, no--just more of the same: electrified, psychedelic blues chants and urban secular gospel, even a revved-up '65 Dylan clone ("Cheapster"). It gets bonus points over it's predecessor for a rawness in the production, and it sounds like J. had been listening to latter-era Primal Scream records (hints of "XTRMNTR" are all over the opening track, This Little Life Of Mine)...better than "Amazing Grace" is the 2-CD collection of "A" & "B" sides, also released in 2003 called (surprisingly), The Complete Works--Volume One. It shows the band in their early stages--after Spaceman left the seminal Spacemen 3 in 1989. That was a band not afraid to experiment, unlike the 2003 model, which seems content to rest on it's psych-street-cred laurels. There's always the next one, I suppose.

9.) Super Furry Animals/Phantom Power (Sony/Epic Records) ~ I was as excited as every other S.F.A. freak to hear that their follow-up to 2001's masterpiece, Rings Around The World, would be released in the UK in spring 2003, and in the States a couple of months later. When I finally wrapped my ears around the result, well...I still think the Furries have yet to make a really bad record--but "Phantom..." hardly departed from "R.A.T.W."s formula of Beach Boys harmonies, techno freakouts and wry-humoured lyrics. That said, it has it's share of brilliant moments--the goofy lyrics of "Golden Retriever", the sedated majesty of "Hello Sunshine", the trippy coda to "The Piccolo Snare"...and of course, this album got the 5.1 DVD treatment as well. I haven't seen any of the vids for the tunes--but if it's anywhere near the quality of the "Rings Around..." DVD, it's probably something to view (while in an altered state of mind ;) ). It'll be interesting to hear what these Welsh wizzards come up with next--as long as it sounds different from this.

8.) The Flaming Lips/Fight Test EP; Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell EP (Warner Brothers Records) ~ The Lips established a holding pattern this year after attaining a new level of popularity with 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots full-length. They stuck to creating EPs from singles released to keep the "Yoshimi.." ship cruising along. Fight Test couples a few lacklustre re-mixes with two new tracks and a couple of '02 radio sessions..of the two originals, "The Strange Design Of Conscience" shows the most promise--an almost fully electronic track (I think a first for OKC's finest)--it moves along and doesn't do too much to wreck their cred (I mean mainstream cred--they left their indie-cred behind a long time ago). The other, "Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" is just a country-ish novelty ditty that will no doubt provide a moment of goofy hilarity amongst Wayne Coyne's more soul-searching tunes at future Lips' shows. The radio sessions are mostly forgettable (Radiohead's "Knives Out", Beck's "The Golden Age")--aside from the Wagnerian, over-the-top cover of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head"--*that's* good stuff!! I haven't heard the "Ego Tripping.." EP yet, as it's an X-mas gift from My Dearest...but the buzz I've picked up from the "General Lips" forum at the Lips' message board sounds familiar--the re-mixes are shite, the new tunes are up to their usual standard. Hang on for the next full-length, is my advice.

7.) Ween/quebec (Sanctuary Records) ~ Gene and Dean Ween return after a two-year absence (and being dropped from Elektra Records' roster)..recouping from the disappointing White Pepper album, which seemed to be tailored to get them noticed on mainstream radio, but had the effect of alienating a lot of their fan base. So they retreat a bit--bringing back Andrew Weiss, who was at the studio console for early triumphs "God Ween Satan", "The Pod"..and Ween-head favourite, 1997's The Mollusk. The result is more consistent than the last record, but not exactly a return to form--no matter how much praise is heaped on it by Ween-ers. There are certainly tracks which hold up to anything on the older albums--like the rocked-out opener, "It's Gonna Be A Long Night"...the Floydian "Among His Tribe", "The Argus" (which was actually demoed during the "Pepper" sessions) and the classic-Ween funny "Zoloft"--but other tunes start out with promise, and go nowhere--like "So Many People In The Neighborhood", which wants to sound like it belongs on "God Ween..." but doesn't quite make it. "The F**ked Jam" which is an apt title for this sprawling instrumental...and the closer, "If You Could Save Yourself (You'd Save Us All)", one of Ween's patented "cry-in-your-beer" tunes that could've used more editing. Still, with the obvious care they put into the production side of things--this records sounds better than 90% of the junk out there. I wouldn't recommend "quebec" for a first Ween album (I'd go to "Chocolate & Cheese" or "The Mollusk" for that)..but I do say "Welcome back, Gener and Deaner...we missed ya!"

6.) Shack/...Here's Tom With The Weather (North Country Records) ~ I know..no-one's exactly clamouring for this one--in fact, it probably sold just a few hundred copies..and that's in their native UK! Still, I was excited when I saw it on display in the HMV in Oxford Centre. The last words from these Scouser janglers were the two Oscar EPs in 2000. I'd feared they'd split, brought down by the needle and the damage done. Not so, they've returned to deliver this latest effort--and while it doesn't establish a new direction for them, it's the same gorgeous harmonies, tasteful string arrangements and pretty acoustic guitar-playing that made H.M.S. Fable (released in 1999) such a great record. Well done, lads! Let's just hope I don't have to wait another four years to hear a batch of new tunes from you. On a side note: I also picked up their 1995 album, Waterpistol, which is back in print on the Marina label. Now if I could only find "Zilch" and some Pale Fountains stuff....

There you have it--Nos 10 through 6..I'll be back soon with the rest of the list..as well as re-issues, live shows, Pixie's list and other gobbledegook I thought was Grade-A in 2003..stay tuned....