Continuing from last week, it’s time to move onto the third stage of my rundown of the last decade. Also, as this autumn marks twenty years of my being “into” alternative music, after this decade’s rundown there will be a similar one to follow for the 90s (for which the “draft” list we pulled together over the weekend consists of nearly 300 tracks!)…
It’s going to take the best part of two months to post these on successive Tuesdays, but below begins my top 100 tracks of the past decade (and followed by the top 50 albums). There are very few tracks from this year in the list, simply because they may not have grabbed me enough yet. Indeed I may well revisit this list sometime and see if any more from 2009 should have made it in. But anyway, enough of that, let’s get started.
But first: you may disagree with items in this list this week and in the coming weeks, as I post the rest of it, but remember this – this is my top 100 tracks that are here for all kinds of reasons, and if you disagree, tell me what you would have put in, not what I shouldn’t have included.
[A final note: This was written in 2009, and aside from formatting updates to match the new website style, this is unedited.]
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Come To Daddy
Irony Is A Dead Scene
The only cover of Aphex Twin that I can think of, and who else but a band with the sheer level of technical ability that Dillinger have – with Mike Patton offering a truly demented and terrifying lead vocal – could even give this a go? Doesn’t add a lot to the original, not that it really needed to, but for the sheer gleeful malevolence of it, it is well worth a listen. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t have a video like the original…
Aimee Echo’s second band were something of an about-turn from the first – rather than the dark, grinding metal of Human Waste Project, theSTART were (and are) exuberant new-wave-pop-punk that seems to fit Aimee much, much better. This track – released on an EP after their second album, as I recall – is by far their best moment yet, a joyous explosion of lust apparently about a new boyfriend…of sorts.
Three Cheers For The Newlydeads
Probably not the first guilty please I’ll admit to, and it won’t be the last, either. A glorious piece of synthpoppy electro that introduced a new band that I’d never heard of (and subsequently went out and bought the album, and EP, that followed), this wasn’t anything particularly original, it was just done very, very well indeed.
A Greater Darkness
Red Harvest’s intense, brutally heavy industrial-black metal hybrid has left them a little bit on the fringes, perhaps, but latest album A Greater Darkness swept in a pitch-black, neo-gothic ambience to add to the brute force, to spectacular effect. However the standout track was something else entirely – a martial, march to war that nearly swept away everything the band had done before, and instead introduced sampled orchestras, tribal drumming and a climax that sounds like an entire army charging forward into battle – and it is utterly, utterly awesome (as always in these cases, listen to it very, very loudly for the maximum effect)..
The Negative Sex
It’s still bizarre to think that Chris Corner used to the shy one in the shadows of Sneaker Pimps, what with his outrageous flamboyance in IAMX. While the first album had a few good songs, second album The Alternative was absolutely stuffed with them, and the echoing, pounding, stadium-sized stomp of this track – with a killer chorus – was for me the pick. The only reason it falls down the list a bit? It’s cut too bloody short.
The Big Push
A wildly inventive second album, that certain brought JP Anderson’s latest project to a wider audience (his previous band The Shizit weren’t as, er, colourful as this), hurling in influences and genres to the mix as and when he sees fit. Other songs saw black metal, or cartoonesque themes, this mental track saw marching bands, punk rock, nursery rhyme-style verses, and a huge sing-a-long chorus. It sounds a mess “on paper”, but it’s immense fun when you listen to it…
All too frequently, I’m straining a little to work out what the hell Katie Jane Garside is on about, and here she appears to making things a little easier. A snapping, rough kickabout of a track, that bizarrely, is verging on the anthemic despite it’s raw sound.
Edge of Dawn
The Flight [Lux]
In Seabound, Frank Spinath sings about emotions, feelings, and creates atmospheres quite like any other band – and his work in Edge of Dawn seems to reveal a more primal, raw side, where the often only-implied sexuality in Seabound is laid bare. Nowhere is this more obvious than here, where he puts the female subject on a pedestal, the “mistress of elegance”, and invites her to do what she will with him. The, yes, elegant, electronics that back him up are simply the icing on the cake.
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
God, I was late to the party with this lot. I’d missed any mention or play of them for a good two years following the release of this, somehow, and I spent a while playing catch-up, and got my dad into them along the way. I’ve listened to this album a lot since, too – way more than Neon Bible, actually, as I prefer Funeral by far – but if I want one song to sum up why I now adore this band, it’s this song. The quiet-but-simmering yearning as Win Butler tells a tale of hiding in the snow with a young love, digging tunnels through it to hide from the parents. At once old beyond it’s years, and burning with young ambition, it’s life-affirming, elegant and something truly special.
Booze Up And Riot
Booze Up And Riot
Big, dumb, and bloody great fun, Matt Fanale’s Caustic is, frankly, a breath of fresh air in an industrial scene that is (rightly) castigated sometimes for taking itself far too seriously. A hugely popular addition to the Infest 2007 lineup with a great live show, the album that came out that year was stuffed with great tunes, in-jokes, funny samples, and was opened (after Jared Louche’s rant) with this three minute blast of industrial punk. Not suggesting insurrection, just a suggestion to get wasted and have some fun. Sounds a plan to me, Matt…
The changes in VAST’s output over the decade or so since they first appeared have been, er, vast. From the striking, sample-heavy-gothic-tinged rock of the first album, to the acoustic meanderings of the latest album Meandyou, Jon Crosby has certainly been prolific – and to his great credit he’s also been another trailblazer in taking his work directly to fans, releasing loads of collections of demos and works-in-progress for reasonable prices in advance of the albums proper. This release – a companion called Crimson also arrived – was a superb collection of songs that rather than sounding like demos, frankly sounded like the finished article, and the opening title track was a staggering statement of intent. A huge-sounding gothic-rock track with a killer chorus, it sums up nicely everything that has always been great about VAST. (It should be noted that a selection of tracks from these two releases ended up on the album Nude, although in some cases were somewhat over produced – and I don’t think it is an accident that Turquoise and Crimson were subsequently released properly as a double-CD set)
Six By Seven
Eat Junk Become Junk
The Closer You Get
I’m sure I’ve looked back at this not too long ago, but anyway, let’s recap. Six By Seven were one of the more interesting “indie-rock” bands that appeared in the late-90s, merging shoegaze, post-rock, and unbelievably intense emotions into a sound that made them somewhat unique, and rather underappreciated, too. For the second album, they added a pulsing electronic undercurrent, and this opening track was a short, sharp punch in the face that left you breathless and agape after it’s two-and-a-half minutes. An astonishing statement of intent that only got even more interesting as the album went on…
The Greater Wrong Of The Right
The jury is still out, perhaps, on just how successful the SP reformation has been since this, but at just the odd moment at least, it was all worthwhile. One of the first tracks to really catch the attention from the “comeback” album was this – a bass-heavy, dancefloor-bound track that to many listeners surprise, saw ohGr rapping. By far the most popular track from the album in the years that followed, and it’s not really surprising. The breakdancing video was good fun, too…
Harder Better Faster Stronger
Kanye ain’t got nothing on this one, that’s for sure. He may have appropriated it for a single a year or two back, but it’s the original that wins every single time. A brilliantly constructed track that adds everything a layer at a time, before having great fun deconstructing and rebuilding the sounds and vocals like a sliding puzzle by the end. For me, this album (and even more so Human After All) is not a patch on Homework as a whole, but moments like this run it close.
9mm High and Rising
Refining The Theory
Yet another UK metal band that just for a short while got the full glare of press attention, then were ignored while the next big thing took their place. Somewhat unfairly, perhaps, pigeonholed as the “British Tool”, on this first album they were awesome. Yes, a little like Tool at points, with lengthy, complex songs, but much less cryptic lyrically and a whole lot rawer sounding. This juddering, raging beast of a track was a perfect example of why they were so fantastic – and tragically ignored by many. Clearly keen on avoiding their pigeonhole, they followed this up by adding masses of electronics and heading down more mellow, trippy routes – but still with the savage riffs to remind us they were still metal every now and again.
I mentioned Seabound earlier, and the flipside to Frank Spinath’s work in Edge of Dawn is here. The gleaming, shiny electronics of this track provide a punchy backbone to lyrics riddled in metaphor, and yet again with a killer chorus. And as good as the album as a whole is, it can’t hold a candle to the majesty of this track.
Military Fashion Show
I’ve had something of a love-hate relationship with this band’s output, with some of their stuff being pretty abominable, as far as I’m concerned. But when they get it right…christ. As here – a track that doesn’t sound like much, to start with, other than the opening synth line that identifies it instantly. But by the time the second chorus comes around, the track is a skyscraping work of pop genius.
This was, let’s be honest, one hell of a comeback. Most of the original band were involved, with Dave Grohl lending a hand with a drumming performance that could only be termed “immense” (the B-side to one of the singles was a brutal rework of Wardance that Grohl finally gave the track the massive drum sound it always deserved). Probably the most immediate track was this, rather than initial single Loose Cannon. Yet more end-of-the-world theories from Jaz, but musically it fits this perfectly – this is the soundtrack as the world goes up in flames.
I was a little harsh on this album to begin with, and it took five or six complete listens before I realised that I was totally wrong. Ok, so there are a couple of duff moments, but the highs easily brush those away. Tracks four, five and six are the bulletproof centrepiece, though, and Giving Up is the track that begins this run. The harsh, unusual electronics that open it are a call to arms, before the stomping, marching beat kicks in and quickly gathers pace to form the backbone of the best track IR have released yet.
Tanz Mit Laibach
Laibach may have long since acknowledged that Rammstein helped themselves to Laibach’s sound and took into far more commercially popular realms than the Slovenians ever were willing to, but they did have a pretty good go at commercial success themselves in 2003 with WAT. Tanz… – itself a nod to D.A.F. (Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft) – was the bulldozing single, built around a simple 1-2-3-4 beat that made up for it’s simplicity with brute force, an ultra-catchy chorus, choral backing vocals that all resulted in one of the biggest industrial dancefloor hits I’ve ever seen. Proof of the track’s immortality, perhaps, came from some army-outfitted kittens…