Rockin’ Thru the Aughts is my revisit through the rock music I loved as a preteen and teenager. For a full list of what I will be covering on this challenge, head over here.
Now that I’m making my way through the rock music of the year 2000, I’ve decided to keep things interesting by attempting to present the rest of the albums through a series of themes. While more likely these themes will fall more in line with genre (next post will be devoted to adult contemporary and soft rock!), I also think it would be cool to introduce some bands that released their debut albums in 2000. Some of these bands will almost certainly make their return at one or more points throughout the decade, and I think that tracking their progress from the very beginning would be pretty fun!
Anyway, I’ll keep this introduction short. Here are some debut records!
Swagger – Flogging Molly
LA band Flogging Molly (named after an inside joke regard a bar the members would frequent) wasn’t really much on my radar throughout high school, but I distinctly remember having at least a small handful of their songs on my iPod. As far as their debut album is concerned, I only ever listened to “Devil’s Dance Floor”, which I recall hearing for the first time on mainstream rock radio and falling in love with it instantly. I wouldn’t get into the Pogues until years later, but it’s clear now that the Celtic punk style of this record (and the band as a whole) has roots from deep within the sound of the classic punk group.
The first two tracks, “Salty Dog” and “Selfish Man”, kick off the record impressively well. Let primarily by Matt Hensley’s uptempo accordion and distinct vocals courtesy of Dave King (an actual Irishman!), these two rowdy tracks recount a rowdy night at a pub just as much as they do a punk show moshpit. Personally, though, I think the band is at their strongest when they tone things down a bit, as is the case with “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”, a midtempo number with some excellent tongue-in-cheek, melancholic lyrics (“Though these wounds have seen no wars, except for the scars I have ignored / And this endless crutch, well it’s never enough / It’s been the worst day since yesterday”).
While the production of this record is credited to Flogging Molly themselves, the mixing is done by the legendary Steve Albini. This must explain how the ragged, punk rock feel of this record works so well with delicate instruments like the tin flute and mandolin in “Life in a Tenement Square” and “The ‘Ol Beggars Bush”, as with the fiddle in “Black Friday Rule” (possibly the album’s centerpiece). Even better, the lyrics remain so completely real and dignified from song to song. I would give most of the credit to King’s consistently awesome performance, but I fear that it would diminish the credit that the rest of the band well deserves. The drum work, guitar solo, and violin solo in “Black Friday Rule”, for example, are all to die for.
While any number of these tracks would be excellent drinkin’ and partyin’ material, going back to “Devil’s Dance Floor” was really one of the highlights of the record for me. That flute/accordion/mandolin combo is absolutely fantastic and the chorus is anthemic as all hell. An even bigger surprise, though, was discovering the second-to-last track “Sentimental Johnny”, which is super reminiscent of “Fiesta”, one of my very favorite Pogues tracks. Overall, this is an incredibly solid debut record and I cannot wait to check out more from these guys.
Best tracks: “The Worst Day Since Yesterday”, “Life in a Tenement Square”, “Black Friday Rule”, “Devil’s Dance Floor”, “Sentimental Johnny”
The Distillers – The Distillers
Most of the tracks from The Distillers with which I’ve been familiar actually come from their 2003 album Coral Fang (which I definitely plan on covering). Interestingly enough, the one track from their debut that I played frequently back in the day was one that I wasn’t aware was a cover. Indeed, it took me an embarrassingly long time before realizing that “Ask the Angels” was a Patti Smith song – but boy, what an introduction!
The music of The Distillers in their debut is pretty standard punk rock – fast drums, repetitive guitars, simple chords. What makes their sound really pop, I think, are the totally fierce vocals from leading woman Brody Dalle. Once again, much better examples of such will be exemplified in Coral Fang, but I also think that the album’s opener “Oh Serena” is an excellent opener for that very reason. This is carried over to the second track “Idoless”, which is as energetic and passionate as they come.
For the most part, this record keeps up its general sound and tempo from start to finish, with little room in the way of down time. This isn’t to say that it’s bad – quite the contrary. If you’re in the mood for some mid- to high-tempo skate punk with some fierce melodies popping in every now and again (such as in “World Comes Tumblin’ Down”)… well, you could do a whole lot worse. Nonetheless, it’s clear from the first half of the album or so that it’s bound to get pretty repetitive from that point onward. This doesn’t exactly work to its disadvantage, but it’s nothing very cutting edge either.
The gears switch up a little bit with the aforementioned “Ask the Angels”. Here, Dalle is doing more in the way of singing and the melody in general is more pronounced and polished. It is in moments like these where this album feels more like a predecessor of what’s to come than its own totally unique end product. Nonetheless, Dalle steals the show from start to finish – just one listen to “Open Sky” automatically sells it. She and her bandmates are obviously having such a great time, which makes the listener want to join along. As unexceptional as the album may b e as a whole, at least this accomplishment is admirable.
Best tracks: “Oh Serena”, “World Comes Tumblin’ Down”, “Ask the Angels”, “Open Sky”
Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
Arguably, Linkin Park are one of the most important mainstream rock bands of the 2000s and their appeal shines through right from their debut. Spearheaded by Mike Shinoda’s rapping and programming, as well as Chester Bennington’s more melodic yet rough vocals, this was the album for many of my generation. I first heard of the band through some older cousins of mine who were raving about them, “In the End” specifically. Nonetheless, it took me far too long to actually listen to this album in its entirety – 2016, to be exact.
From the first couple tracks of Hybrid Theory, it’s clear that this band is the real deal. “Papercut” deals with the issue of paranoia and distrust (“It’s like I’m paranoid lookin’ over my back / It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head”), while “One Step Closer” kicks it up a notch with a healthy dose of pure unadulterated angst (“I need a little room to breathe / ‘Cause I’m one step closer to the edge and I’m about to break”). The latter song especially demonstrates Bennington’s unparalleled penchant for effective emotional outburst during the, “Shut up when I’m talking to you!” section.
Nonetheless, I think the production earns a fair bit of praise. While I’m not the biggest fan of “Crawling”‘s overdramatic chorus, the synths in the verses are some of the purest, most beautiful sonic moments of the whole album. I find “Runaway” to be kind of underrated, with a nu-metal sound that works surprisingly well. And then, of course, there’s “In the End”, with its gorgeously melodic keys at the intro, terrifically rapped verses, and, yes, an amazing vocal performance from Bennington in both the chorus and middle eighth. It must be said, though – this album is significantly less fun to listen to as an adult (i.e. a non-teenager). So many of these lyrics read and sound like they come straight from the pages of a high schooler’s private diary, which isn’t necessarily to its detriment. Still, it does get tiresome after a while – “Points of Authority” and “Pushing Me Away” are so lyrically similar, it’s a tad ridiculous.
Nonetheless, I’d be wrong not to mention that these lyrics hold an intrinsic value to listeners who could relate to the themes laid out here – which inherently makes this a worthwhile listen. Ever since Bennington’s suicide nearly a year ago, it’s been really hard to go back and listen to Linkin Park’s music, least of all their earlier stuff. Bennington’s pain, depression, and trauma are so concretely realized song after song and it hurts to realize that the very gift that caused so many people, young and old, to connect with their music is the same that would lead him to end his life. Still, this album was one that became the voice for many who were voiceless – and I think that’s kind of beautiful.
Best tracks: “One Step Closer”, “Runaway”, “In the End”
Mer de noms – A Perfect Circle
A Perfect Circle is yet another band that has always just kind of been around. When I was listening to a lot more harder rock (most likely between ages 12-15), A Perfect Circle always felt to be a band that remained ragged around the edges, yet still inexplicably calming to listen to. It doesn’t hurt that vocalist Maynard James Keenan was previously leader of Tool, which embraced a relatively rougher progressive metal style, as opposed to A Perfect Circle’s emphasis on slightly more polished alternative rock tones.
Mer de noms was, of course, the band’s debut record and the one that has generally garnered them the most acclaim. Much like Deftones (whose album White Pony I covered in The Year 2000 Pt. 1), it’s tempting to conclude that the atmosphere formed in this record stands in priority over the lyrics themselves. Just take a listen to “Magdalena”, which emphasizes a moody bass line and dark, moody guitar aesthetics to create the record’s unique sound. This is carried over into “Rose”, a more explicitly hard rock number that, nonetheless, uses its abnormal time signatures and variety of instruments (including strings and unique percussion) to set itself apart from others.
Nonetheless, this is also the kind of record that I, personally, could really only find myself admiring from afar. Once I look a little closer, it seems that the lyrics themselves, though decidedly vague and often emitted powerfully by Keenan, leave much to be desired. “Magdalena”, for example, concerns itself with with a stripper as the subject, with lyrics that are as male gazey as they come (“So pure, so rare / To witness such an earthly goddess”). While “Judith” was a personal favorite of mine as a teenager, the lyrics of concerning atheism and intense distaste for Christianity seem unnecessarily cruel in retrospect (“You’re such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be / Oh, so many ways for me to show you how your savior has abandoned you”).
These are just a sampling of the lyrics that rubbed me the wrong way – I could go more in depth, but I want to keep these reviews short! Overall, the best word I could use to describe this record is “bitter” – which I could see befitting the needs of many, but does not particularly suit my own tastes. Still, I’ve got to give it up for the polished production on a good many of these tracks, including “Rose”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Thinking of You”, and others. If anything, it was really nice to find out that “3 Libras” holds up, with its magnificent melding of intricate strings and melodic vocals that sounds just as good now as it did when I was younger.
Best tracks: “Rose”, “3 Libras”
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence – Glassjaw
Unlike many of the other bands that I’ve been covering on this challenge, Glassjaw is one that has been relatively unfamiliar to me pretty much all the way to the present day. My guess is that they just flew under my radar on account of them not getting a lot of TV play (since that was where I found the vast majority of alternative rock). Still, I had a couple of their songs in my music library, thus making them eligible for this challenge.
I’ll start this off by stating that I’m well aware of Glassjaw’s reputation as an important figure of the 2000s post-hardcore scene (especially this album)… and I get it. The intensity of Daryl Palumbo’s vocals is matched perfectly with Justin Beck’s erratic guitar work, both of these very prominently demonstrated from one track of this album to the next. “Pretty Lush”, the album’s opener, goes for the throat right off the get-go, with a blistering intensity that fires off like dynamite. While there are only a few other songs that match this level of unfettered intensity, the album is at its best when it demonstrates its diversity of sound. “Ry Ry’s Song” was the one track that I listened to the most in high school, and while its lyrics have certainly not held up so well over time, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that it’s still the most pleasant listen to come out of this album. And say what you will about this sound overall – it’s damn influential of what’s to come from the post-hardcore scene.
But anyway, let’s talk about these lyrics, shall we!!
So, the vast majority of this album deals with the inner turmoil that occurs when a relationship goes awry… and let’s just say it’s pretty bitter. Not to mention sexist as all hell. “Pretty Lush” contains the lyrics, “You can lead a whore to water and you can bet that she’ll drink and follow orders”. But it gets worse. “Siberian Kiss” has the speaker telling his dreaded ex, “Why don’t you sell yourself?”, while also using the typical emotional abuse line, “If I can’t have you, no one will”. “Lovebites and Razorlines” is arguably the worst offender, fully composed of egregious lines like, ” Fucking whore, you live in shit, and you will eat your own way out” (and that’s not even the worst line in the whole song!). “Hurting and Shoving” paints a cruel scenario wherein he states he’d, “hold his child’s head underwater… If it’s a daughter, I’ll say I did what I did because I had to”. “Piano” states plainly, “I only beat you when I’m drunk; you’re only pretty when you’re crying”.
Needless to say, as a woman, it’s clear that this album was not meant for me and is thus quite an exhausting listen. Still, it makes me wonder: who is this album for? Even one of the less obviously awful tracks, “When One Eight Becomes Two Zeroes” (awful title, I know) asserts that the subject is, “just another hobby for a guy like me”. I get that breakups are tough and the emotions coming from that are even tougher, but there’s got to be a better way to handle this kind of pain. I’m glad that the band have recently renounced this album’s blatant misogyny, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it has taught a full generation of boys and men that violence toward women (even if implied) is an adequate means of dealing with the struggle of heartbreak.
But I won’t put this entirely on Glassjaw’s back – after all, rock music has a long history of men’s entitlement over women that manifests itself in various ways. And lemme tell you, I’ve got a long, long road ahead of me.
Best track: “Ry Ry’s Song”
Good Charlotte – Good Charlotte
After the last listen, I needed a palette cleanser of sorts – music from a band that are just plain silly and don’t take themselves so damn seriously. Regardless of the quality of their music, Good Charlotte were a band that were always pretty persistent in my middle school and earlier high school years. While I would eventually grow out of their silly, knee-deep brand of pop-punk, I still get a warm sense of nostalgia when revisiting their stuff, especially songs from the sophomore album The Young and the Hopeless. With that being said, I never actually gave a listen to their self-titled debut – so, lucky me!
So, while this is far from a particularly strong album, it’s actually not to bad in terms of debut album quality. Two main elements of these songs hold the record down as a whole: the Madden brothers’ corny-ass lyrics and Joel Madden’s whiny vocalizations. The intro track “Little Things” (what would become one of the band’s signature tracks) immediately zeroes in on its target audience, being “dedicated to every kid who ever got picked last in gym class”. It then reflects on a bunch of tired cliches about the high school underdog experience, from being picked on by the popular kids to the speaker’s dad walking out on them. One thing that’s for certain about this band is that subtlety isn’t their strong suit – you know that “I Heard You” is about being laughed at by the cool kids at the t-shirt stand because this is literally stated in the lyrics! Nonetheless, the lyrical plain-speak also explain how this band was so big with really young kids (like myself), so there’s that.
Basically, this album is the best whenever Good Charlotte just decide to stay in their lane. Once they try to experiment with adding more hip hop elements to their sounds (such as in “Waldorf Worldwide” and “Complicated”), the whole thing just falls flat on its face. At the same time, though, I can’t hate it completely – the music of songs like “I Don’t Wanna Stop” and “Walk By” are totally competent, and even their slower songs like “The Motivation Proclamation” and “Seasons” are totally in their element. And I can’t deny that I’m a sucker for the album closer, the hidden track “Thank You Mom”, which is an acoustic-style ballad to the most important woman in the Madden boys’ lives. It’s corny, yes, but also fitting to the entirety of the album… and probably the band as a whole. While I wouldn’t recommend Good Charlotte to anyone over the age of fifteen, I can also see how this would appeal to the young and young at heart. It’s fine!
Best tracks: “Walk By”, “Screamer”
This was an intriguing section this time around. Perhaps not the most consistent in terms of quality, but interesting and eye-opening nonetheless! As I stated above, next week’s entry to the challenge will be devoted to adult contemporary, soft rock, and anything else falling under that relative umbrella. Think less guitars and more pianos. ‘Til next time!