Top 100 Albums of the Decade (part 10)

The Flaming Lips—Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Warner Bros., 2002

There isn’t a whole lot that can be said about Yoshimi that hasn’t been said already, but one thing does have to be reiterated: it is NOT a concept album. It gets tiresome to hear people say something over and over again when it’s just inherently wrong—it’s been confirmed by Wayne Coyne himself, so just let it go already. Besides, it’s not like it has to be a concept album for it to be a great record. It doesn’t matter how many times we have all heard “Do You Realize??”, it’s still a great song and it always will be. The same goes for “Fight Test” (though it playfully rips off Cat Stevens, so much so that Yusef reaps benefits to this day) and the title track, all three of which have occupied “overplayed” status at one point or another yet never fail to put smiles on our faces when we need them the most. But for all its uplifting moments, Yoshimi has a dark patch or two—delightfully dark, as only the Lips can do it. “In the Morning of the Magicians” is one of the album’s high points, but also one of the heaviest. “What is love and what is hate, and why does it matter?” Coyne sings. If anyone is going to ask that question, it should be him.

Nada Surf—Let Go
Barsuk, 2002

“I miss you more than I knew,” sings Matthew Cawes in the final moments of Let Go’s exemplary opener, “Blizzard of ‘77”. Surely upon hearing this, many music fans were thinking the same thing about Nada Surf—how did this fledgling band, written off early as a one-hit-wonder, make an album so special and timeless? When they first hit big, Nada Surf were a band of rookies, and the kitschy value of one of their toss-off songs (“Popular”) happened to catch on with an audience. Of course, their label was quite persistent about having a similar song on their next album (which would become The Proximity Effect). They even went so far as to give the band a list of cover songs from which to choose a single (never mind that the song Nada Surf eventually picked and recorded—“Why Are You So Mean To Me?” by Vitreous Humor—was written by a Kansas native). If this nonsense weren’t bad enough, the label eventually decided the album was not bound for commercial success, pulled all funding for it, and dropped Nada Surf altogether. It took two years for Nada Surf to obtain the rights to self-release The Proximity Effect, but its follow-up only stands as proof that there’s nothing like a little trip through the wringer to get a band’s head on straight. Let Go is just one of those killer rock records that, even in its darker moments, puts smiles on faces—with the exception of a few certain ex-record execs, perhaps.

Superdrag—In the Valley of Dying Stars
Arena Rock Recording Co., 2000

Despite the fact that this album was virtually ignored and viewed as the last gasp of a desperate band upon its release, In the Valley of Dying Stars has proven over time to be a classic record. For die-hard Superdrag fans who stuck with them long before or after their one-hit-wonder status existed, it was quite apparent that In the Valley was the band’s best work yet. There is no arguing with an opener like “Keep It Close to Me”, especially when it so bluntly hits the rock music conundrum on the head: “I want rock and roll, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle”. Perhaps John Davis is referring to hassle from the major labels, and the interference that kept their previous album (Head Trip in Every Key) from being the classic it could have been. Fortunately, the freedom provided by an indie label finally allowed Superdrag to play to their strengths, and they do so with a raw, garage-like intensity on this record. It sounds as if these songs were all banged out in the studio in a day or two by a band still hungry to make the record of their career.

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2 Responses to “Top 100 Albums of the Decade (part 10)”

  1. Katie Says:

    I love all three of these records. “Keep it Close to Me” is my favorite Superdrag tune, but you know that!

    However, I do find it funny that you spend more time talking about The Proximity Effect than Let Go in your Let Go entry. 🙂

    • recordgeekheaven Says:

      You’re right, I probably should have focused more on the music in that review. I just find the story leading up to is very intriguing, because it represents almost all of the bullshit every major label artist in history has ever gone through. Then they became an indie band, and came out on top–it’s reassuring to know that a band can do what they did independently.

      I was just talking to Eric about this the other day. He was saying how he hates it when music writers try to cram the history of a band into one review and don’t even talk about the music. Lesson learned…

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