by Lang Thompson
For anybody curious here is the ballot I sent to the Village Voice's
Pazz & Jop poll for the year 2000.
PJ Harvey Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (Island) - 20 points
Sleater-Kinney All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars) - 14
Blackalicious Nia (Quannum) - 12
Sonic Youth NYC Ghosts & Flowers (Geffen) - 11
Christian Marclay / Otomo Yoshihide Moving Parts (Asphodel) - 9
Keith Rowe / Gunther Muller / Taku Sugimoto The World Turned Upside Down (Erstwhile) - 8
Matthew Shipp's New Orbit Matthew Shipp's New Orbit (Thirsty Ear) - 8
John Zorn Xu Feng (Tzadik) - 7
Outkast Stankonia (LaFace/Arista) - 6
Chumbawamba WYSIWYG (Republic) - 5
Chicks on Speed "Euro Trash Girl"
Offspring "Original Prankster"
Blonde Redhead "Et Particulier" (Touch & Go)
Rage Against the Machine "Renegades of Funk"
They Might Be Giants "Boss of Me" (Restless)
Jurassic 5 "Jurass Finish First"
Eminem "Real Slim Shady"
U2 "Beautiful Day"
REISSUES (I'm voting anyway)
Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music:
1948-1980 (Ellipsis Arts)
Songs in the Key of Z (Which?)
Faust The Wumme Years (Recommended)
Anthology of American Folk Music Volume Four (Revenant)
Fela Kuti - reissue series (MCA)
TARGETS FOR RIDICULE
Johnny Cash's "fans"
people who tell us *exactly* how the Internet will change music
2000. Weren't our ears supposed to be filled with nothing but electronica? Hadn't traditional songform seen its day, centuries-old ideas about music met their match, stars become just a relic of an outdated system? Remember kids, the Clash said it: "The future is unwritten."
I'm sure there will be a section about Eminem, to be called no doubt "Faut-il brûler Eminem?" He was THE music story of the year--Napster isn't really about music--and one that consistently produced the most ridiculous statements from all sides. Many of the people most loudly critical of Eminem clearly hadn't heard the album though certainly it wouldn't have made any difference if they had. (One exception is Salon's Eric Boehlert whose smart, well-reasoned pieces never resorted to hand-me-down ideas.) Still if Eminem was supposed to be the worst, what does that make Insane Clown Posse's truly foul "Nothin' but a Bitch Thang"? But that's clearly the point: Eminem sold millions of albums but this ICP track was only available from their website (or, needless to say, your fave peer-to-peer file trading service). Their whole wanna-be duel smacked too much of grade-school taunts to take seriously, especially when Eminem devoted more effort to dissing Christina and Will Smith and Carson Daly, y'know the cheerleaders and student government busybodies. As to Eminem and the society at large, well we've been arguing about the effects of art for 2500 years and none of us are going to resolve that issue anytime soon. (Though don't you wish you could fast-forward ten years to see whether Eminem lasted, physically as well as artistically?)
The other big story obviously was Napster, actually "Napster" as shorthand for sweeping technological changes (or perhaps it'll just be business as almost usual). Commentary on this was even more barren. People claiming that now musicians could cut out record labels and go directly to their audience some how overlooked that musicians have had this possibility at least for five decades or so since Mingus ran his own label. But that's the catch: how many musicians really want to spend more of their time fiddling with file formats and HTML and credit cards? I'm sure every P&J voter has some idea of just how evil record labels can be but on the wisdom of jettisoning them altogether what about these words: Blue Note, Sun, Motown, Duke, SST, Island, Rounder, Nonesuch, Savoy, IRS, Tzadik, Folkways. The most amusing part of the Napster story was the constant stream of people telling us exactly what will happen when of course--repeat after me--NOBODY KNOWS. Heck we can all guess: this may cause record biz profits to skyrocket or it may collapse the entire American economy. VCRs have been the most common comparison and some knowledgable souls even brought up the record industry's early attempt to prevent radio from playing records but this isn't a completely new story. TV vs. movies, movies vs. vaudeville, painting vs. photography, magazines vs. paperback books, sheet music vs. recordings vs live radio; there was even a Renaissance-era scholar who refused to read anything that came off a printing press. (The name slips me but he's mentioned in Corvo's History of the Borgias.) But you know, people reporting on what's gonna happen from their few weeks trawling Napster just aren't sources of any value. In all the commentary, has anybody pointed out just what a shoddy piece of software Napster really is? A barely usable search function, separated servers and limited number of matches were clearly left as some way to control some of the sheer volume but that still doesn't make it any more pleasant.
The removal of the reissues category is a major disappointment. (I voted anyway.) To make room for more singles? Is it just me or does anybody really care what's in spots 25-30 for singles? Maybe it's because I don't hear quite hear music in the way that singles are supposed to work: Most of the radio stations I listen to are college or noncommercial (bless you WREK and WFMU) and so aren't focused on pushing certain songs; at home it's albums not singles. Douglas Wolk's column on singles in CMJ is wonderful and makes me want to hear all these intriguing genuine-vinyl singles floating around but I really don't have the time or money to track this stuff down. Of course I only watch MTV for the spring break shows and so don't pick up singles that way. But even more than my personal listening habits I think removing the reissues category sends a message that history doesn't matter, to be grandiose about it. I write about reissues frequently so perhaps this means more to me than to somebody trying to discover the next big thing when it's still a little thing. Beyond certain outlets (which fortunately includes my editor at Creative Loafing) articles on reissues are a tough sell. And the companies putting this stuff out face the same struggle and could use whatever pitiful mention P&J gives them. Dusty Springfield moves fewer units than Britney don't ya know? Don't reissues deserve at least a couple of inches in the poll?
So one week I'm grooving on PJ Harvey, Outkast, the Hank Williams acoustic reissue and the Rough Guide to Cumbia and guess what? Christgau's new Consumer Guide gives each one an A rating so now I'd look like a dedicated follower of fashion voting for any of them. Never mind that I liked the Rough Guide to Indonesia better or that other current listening was Peter Brotzmann, that John Cage/Kenneth Patchen reissue and the "lowercase" collection of extreme minimalists, all unlikely to hit a Christgau column. Still, Harvey and Outkast were unavoidable votes. Another year, another Sleater-Kinney for the ballot. I suspect that predictability will mean their new album doesn't place too high though it's as good as anything they've ever done. You could say the same about Sonic Youth except that they've outlived their hipness potential and seem almost quaint. Except of course that they're not: The new album is corrosive and mature and their best in years. Did it even crack the Billboard charts? Chumbawamba's new one seemed to vanish into used record shops immediately, a shame because it's a fine example of that kind of political but not too specific pure pop that the Brits have a knack for. The rest is from the thriving avant underground(s) that I'll probably be the only person to vote for.
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