Top 50 Albums of ’00s (10-1)

Here’s a quick recap previous installments: #50-41, #40-31, #30-21, & #20-11.

Without further ado, here’s the very best of the decade…

10. With Love And Squalor – We Are Scientists

The brilliance of With Love And Squalor might seem confusing at first. Everything clashes, but it sounds like noting clashes. That is to say, none of the musical elements are similar parts; the drums tap a certain rhythm, which varies from what the bass plays, which sounds nothing like the guitar part. Yet, when all these pieces come together, the result is some of the most fun dance rock in existence. Over backdrop, frontman Keith Murray muses about the proverbial “scene” and all the troubles and hook-ups that go along with it. The album does have some moments of clarity amongst the late night antics, be it the sense of being slighted (“Inaction”) or the realization of a desperate need for companionship despite what others might think (“Lousy Reputation”). However, the album’s essence is really found in tracks like “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” and “It’s A Hit,” which are just too fun to ignore. With Love And Squalor is one scene that never grows tired.

9. Nightmare Of You – Nightmare Of You

On a list of overlooked gems from the ’00s, Nightmare of You’s self-titled debut has to rank near the top. The group delivered a blissful collection of jaunty tunes in the vain of The Smiths. There’s a certain pop sweetness that prevails throughout the album (especially on songs like “The Days Go By Oh So Slow”), but there is also nuance beneath the surface. Each song has a devilishly wry smile about it, as if its a little more cunning and devious than it want to let anyone realize at first glance. This aspect really pops out on ditties like “I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard” and “Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf.” The mix of atmospheric instrumentals and sharp lyricism really do the trick. Case in point, it’s to find a better lyrically simple chorus than “My Name is Trouble”‘s “This is the last time that I’ll hold your hand, I want to kiss you on the mouth an tell you I’m your biggest fan…” It is things like that that make new biggest fans out of those that listen to Nightmare Of You.

8. Stay What You Are – Saves the Day

Laying the direct groundwork for the emo boom, Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are is just about as much as anyone could ask from an emo/pop punk album. There’s well-worded hate (“At Your Funeral”), hyperbole of the pain a relationship can cause (“See You”), and tender shyness (“Freakish”). The emotions are all allowed to shine thanks to a sundry set of catchy instrumentations. By the time Stay What You Are burns out on “Firefly,” Save the Day’s Chris Conley manages to get the heart he wears on his sleeve to find a little place inside the listener’s own ticker. Stay What You Are is aptly titled. It would be foolish to want these songs to ever change.

(Full review here.)

7. Relationship Of Command – At The Drive-In

Aggressive and otherworldly, 2000’s Relationship Of Command is like a mule kick to the jaw (which appropriately enough is frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s signature moves in concert) Each song still feels like it’s way, way ahead of anything that’s currently being released, and it dropped in 2000. The band’s hardcore spirit mixes with instrumentals that manage to be simultaneously crazily cacophonic and yet smoothly grooving. As the guitars wildly cascade from track to track, Bixler-Zavala shifts his vocals from the hyper spoken word verses of “Invalid Jitter Dept.” to the aggressive yelps on “Enfilade” and “One Armed Scissor.” The bottom line is Relationship Of Command has an inherent life-force; an energy which makes it seem vital. With the At The Drive-In long since split, this station may be non-operational, but with the signals that people can still pick up anyone would be crazy to touch the dial.

6. Control – Pedro the Lion

Control is portrait of married life and accompanying adultery which makes the notion of wedded “bliss” sound like the worst thing imaginable. David Bazan takes this concept and runs with it, finding the sordid details of a relationship gone awry. The opener “Options” sets the tone, taking one of Pedro the Lion’s signature single note riffs and weaving it into a story of halfhearted love that both parties begrudgingly accept (“And I told her I loved her, and she told me she loved me. And I mostly believed her, and she mostly believed me.”) That moment of sad, solemn togetherness is quickly broken by “Rapture” and it’s unguarded words of infidelity’s physical bliss. As the husband’s cheating ways become more and more evident (“Rehearsal”), the tensions eventually escalate until the reach a tumultuous end (“Priests And Paramedics”). Even the couple’s children, and their brief period of youthful innocence, complete with blissful unawareness of the crumbing situation around them, is broached on “Indian Summer.” All of these pieces of the story are matched perfectly by each tracks instrumentals, from electronic hums to harshly plucked acoustic strings. But the thing that stands out most is not the tale itself, but the underlying question of “why” things like this happen. Is it lustful instinct? Sheer stupidity? An insatiable urge to simply escape the monotony of everyday life? And where is the supposedly loving God in all of this? Control leaves the listener with more than just intricate tunes, it leaves them with philosophical quandaries.
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Brain Thrust Mastery – We Are Scientists

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We Are Scientists’ debut LP With Love and Squalor sounded like a party. It was excellent; fast, frenetic, lively, and most of all fun. The group’s follow-up, Brain Thrust Mastery is the ensuing hangover. Everything that made the last effort seem so grad is now the forgotten past. What’s left are slurred ideas, painful noise, and a lost sense of humor. It’d probably be best to just take some pills and sleep this album off.

The record is a complete departure from the sound that the band had perfected in previous efforts (counting EPs). We Are Scientists had a fairly distinct sound based on the 3 main instruments (guitar, bass, drums) never doing the same thing in a rhythmic or stylistic sense. That’s completely gone on Brain Thrust Mastery. In its place is a far more generic sound with far more electronic touches (read: synths), that lacks any type of excitement. Tracks like “Ghouls” and “Let’s See It” showcase this digital sounding malaise. Probably the main reason behind this is the addition keys has make it so that guitar work doesn’t have to carry the music. Instead of great rhythm guitar force the the band is capable of unleashing, the guitar is left to add wimpy little touches that are soooooo boring (see: “Legal Enforcer”). Heck, the unspectacular “Dinosaurs” stood out simply because it seemed upbeat. It’s a sad state of affairs.
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