By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
End-of-the-year/decade/ century/illennium lists are a worn-out excuse for music journalism, but—like John McCain and soft-money contributions —we can't stop being involved with them until everybody else stops first.We'll concentrate on 1999's best discs of the local crop, skipping the big-boffo national acts you're already reading about on a zillion other lists (if you really wanna know, we thought the Rage Against the Machine, Tom Waits and June Carter Cash albums were amazing; Beck was okay; but our copy of the Nine Inch Nails CD is still in its shrink-wrap, and the Flaming Lips disc really wasn't thatgood). Those guys don't need the press anyway.
Our Top 11 list, in alphabetical order:
DODGE DARTSo American (Raw Power)
A brilliant, balls-out rock & roll record, from the opening junkie joke of "911 (Who Is Gonna Dial . . .)" and the cheeky title tune ("Chicks . . . cars . . . so American! . . . Drugs and bars are . . . so American!") to "Jesus Ain't My Friend," with its bratty, finger-flipping swipes ("Jesus ain't my friend . . . and you ain't either! Gotta lotta friends . . . and you ain't one of 'em!") and "Gonna Fuck You Up," a perfect blast of angry, end-of-the-century, piss-taking, beer-swigging ecstacy pounded out in just under two minutes. Drugs, death, random violence, sloth, mayhem, anarchy, uprising, laziness and rebellion also make cameo appearances. So American, indeed.
FARSIDEThe Monroe Doctrine (Revelation)
A decade-old band that feels like it's just getting started. Easily the best thing Farside have done, this disc neatly fulfills their early melodic hardcore promise (though not without some major forays into black-hearted grindcore spittle, plus a Graham Parker cover), patched together with poppier stuff like "I'm Not Shy, I Just Don't Like You" and the acoustic "I Hope You're Unhappy," which sounds like something Bob Mould or the Foo Fighters might do.
An unashamed concept disc about touring, where the wondrous Havalina Rail Co. grab you by your ears and drag you through everything from gentle, Johnny Cash-style country pickin' to gritty Memphis garage-soul to Mississippi River harmonica romps to Acadian fiddle rave-ups to Georgia hippie-swamp grooves to Pentecostal Appalachian howlers to old-school urban hip-hop rhythms to smoky Manhattan jazz riffs to Midwestern roots-rock to Hawaiian slack-key guitar impersonations, all decked out with fiddles, mouth harps, banjos, lap steels, farfisa organs, washboards and the occasional clothes dryer.
PEEPSHOTWelcome (self-released; check out www.peepshot.com)
Perhaps the most evocative album of the year, one that conjures up images of nickel beer, bad cigarettes, fast highways and pockmarked desert back roads. Alterna-country that bleeds, rock & roll that's as gnarled and pissed-off as prime Crazy Horse. Like I've said, hear them or be laughed at and ridiculed by those of us who know.
THE PRESSUREThings Move Fast (Elastic)
Crash-bang garage-rock from the Sonic Youth/ Pixies/Nirvana school, but with a deep dose of '60s pop. The most intriguing track is "The New Commodity," on which drummer Jason Thornberry (who, incidentally, is now out of the hospital and on the mend after suffering a severe beating in July) pounds out a neo-disco beat that backbones what sounds like the hit single Sonic Youth never made. "Inside Out" and "Account Executive" lash out against robotic corporate-think—you can tell they're sick of their day jobs. "This Morning," though, is what really convinces you that the Pressure are a deep outfit, a dreamy, ethereal acoustic ballad that's equal parts the Stones' "Sister Morphine" and Sonic Youth's "The Diamond Sea."
Tension and dissonance, heartbreak, menace, uneasy near-Sabbath guitar grooves, pain, vitriol, and raps against bad, bad religion ("My dad put a Bible by my bed/It felt like I had a gun up to my head"). Relish are the collective anti-Alanis, and more convincing and honest to boot.
In the finest guitar-folkie, fascist-killing tradition, wired-up Fullerton warbler Rez is armed with smart, worldly, pointed lyrics about uncomfortable things nobody likes to hear (usually about the Man and all of its variations). But he's also got biting tunes about bands as marketing concepts ("Product") and a heartwarmer about having gooey oral sex with Queen Victoria ("Victoria's Orgasm"). "God" is an anti-organized-religion rant that he masks in a gentle, Franciscan-choir-like hymn. And "Jail Inc." goes off on the California prison industry from an inmate's POV ("Where would you be without this corporate slavery?/Where would you be without us working for free?/Where would you be without Pete Wilson's empathy?/Go on and build another jail"). Slightly dated lines—the governor selling out to the prison-industrial complex is now Gray Davis—but still vital.
STAVESACRESpeakeasy (Tooth & Nail)
This list's biggest seller, even though you've probably never heard of them. You should, though. Big, booming, passionate, slightly hardcore anthems, loaded with informed slams against Jesus Incorporated—a risky stance, since most of their market is in contemporary Christian music. But if they get knocked around for their POV, it'll only make them stronger.
STRANGER DEATH 19Jealous Robot (Elastic)
Amped-up, distorted, dive-bomber guitars and frenzied, spastic riffing; Thor-like backbeats welded to a numbing bottom end that could implode skulls at 20 paces. Not strictly a punk band, they definitely subscribe to the music's original fuck-trends ethos. The kind of art-punk album that the Minutemen used to whip up, a smart work perfect for people who are burnt-out on stale, by-the-numbers, onetwothreefaw! hardcore.