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 (and have already covered) on this challenge, head over here.
As I stated before, I’m starting to run out of relevant themes shared by the remaining handful of albums I have slated from the year 2000. So since I previously covered albums that performed well on the Hot 100 and were generally commercially successful and well-known, I’ll take things a bit to the other direction. Yep, today I’m gonna cover some of the stuff that didn’t make the charts, isn’t all that well-remembered by most, or might not even entered the public consciousness at all. This will hopefully be an interesting mixture of a whole bunch of stuff – and here we go!
Superfast – Dynamite Hack
The name Dynamite Hack will probably not mean anything for about 99% of folks out there. For the one percent, though, the memory is hard to shake – that is, the memory of their singular minor hit, an acoustic rock-style cover of rapper Eazy-E’s “The Boyz-N-The-Hood”. While it only made it up to #12 on the rock charts upon release, I still somehow hear it pop up on alternative stations every now and then – or at least I used to in high school, when I actually still listened to such stations. Thus explaining how such a goofy cover made its way onto my music library; it was the exact kind of knee-deep, self-aware humor I found absolutely hilarious (as most kids do).
For those who haven’t heard the single, it really is as awful as it sounds. The novelty value of the song’s mere existence last about ten seconds before it gets really, really old, and age certainly hasn’t been kind to it. Fittingly, it is pretty much around the ten second mark when the (white) lead singer casually drops the n-word, which is… not good. And while the just as casual violence and racialized misogyny in the original track was always sort of unappealing, it’s all the more distasteful here. The band attempts to turn the early gangsta rap single into a sing-song anthem of sorts, which is just so ill-fitting and replete with lame, half-assed satire that is just not worth anyone’s time.
But why am I spending all this time and energy reviewing this single when there’s a whole album at my disposal? Well, it’s mostly because the album has next to nothing else to offer. I didn’t look into the band before playing this album (why would I?), so I actually expected something more along the lines of the chill demeanor that their famed cover had delivered. What I found out is that Dynamite Hack are actually a post-grunge band of sorts, with this particular album taking more of a pop-punk approach. Nonetheless, from song to song, the hooks are limp, the guitar chords are simple and ineffective, and the lead vocals are just so, so bad. They almost get it right with the song “Anyway”, which actually has a tight structure and should have been the single by all rights. Nonetheless, lines like, “I’m drunk, but I want some anyway / I just don’t care enough about you / So fuck you anyway” absolutely kill it dead. It also doesn’t help that the chorus of “Alvin” emphasizes, “Sitting back and drinking some beers / And go date-rape with the guys”. Classy.
While nothing on this record is as explicitly awful as “Boyz-n-the-Hood”, the remainder of the album is just as pointless and ineffective. It really could have been made by anyone, and nothing in this record tells me anything about Dynamite Hack that would convince me to seek out more of their stuff. Don’t waste your time with this one.
Best track: “Anyway”
Horrorscope – Eve 6
Like Lifehouse with “Hanging By a Moment” and Fuel with “Bad Day”, Eve 6 was one of the first rock bands that found their way in my cultural consciousness through a song that happened to get a lot of play in the radio stations I listened to growing up. This song was “Here’s to the Night”, which I discovered and enjoyed long before their arguably more famous single, 1998’s “Inside Out”. Even though it doesn’t get nearly as play from me these days, I will always remember this album – if only for its awesome cover art, which just looks like the coolest pseudo-anime I will never watch.
Those two Eve 6 songs I mentioned? They are literally the only two with which I were familiar before giving this album a play – I was just never motivated to look more into them. Nonetheless, I always thought they were pretty dissimilar, with “Here’s to the Night” being more of a slow, thumping ballad about the fleeting nature of time intersected with fading love. As I soon found out, though, this song is unusual in context of Horrorscope as a whole. Replete with chugging pop-rock guitars and idiosyncratic lyricism to match, the rest of the album basically coasts along this general vibe of casual distorted grooviness. It feels very much like an early 2000s rock album, for better or for worse – the mindlessness is all there, but so is the polished production as well as the positive attitude. Elements of synth are thrown in now and again, but the simple rock ‘n’ roll layout is far more pronounced, and all for the better.
Nonetheless, as badly as these songs want to resonate, there is very little of that going on here. With the exception of “Here’s to the Night”, which is genuinely profound (though that may also be my nostalgia goggles), every song seems to exist simply to take up space on a record. It convinces me that this would be a good band to watch live, but I doubt that I would be singing their songs on the car ride home. As I mentioned earlier, some of the lyrics are legitimately crafty – “On the Roof Again”, for example, contains a bridge that states, “Your heinous highness broke her hymen, hey man, try to quit your crying”, which is clever assonance even if it amounts to nothing. But then there are similar lines, such as in the bridge of “Bang”: “Big bang, little girl, run away with me / And be my Thelma and Louise / Brush that sand off your ask your questions later / Love me long time”. Just… typical dude-rock awfulness.
This is where the album truly fails. It’s a whole lot of nothing, and there’s no reason to give much attention except out of boredom. Eve 6 has proven themselves, at least with this record, to just be a singles band, but at least the single is nice.
Best track: “Here’s to the Night”
The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone – The Apples in Stereo
I have no idea how I came across the Apples in Stereo, but it must have been more or less around the time when I discovered the indie rock radio station. Additionally, I also remember namedropping Apples in Stereo when naming off some of my favorite bands in an attempt to make my taste seem as varied, obscure, and cool as possible. High school was really weird for me. In any case, I’ve been really excited to revisit this band – I remember them being a lot of fun, with a sound that always seemed reminiscent of some of the most poptastic branches of 90s alternative rock.
The album immediately starts off on a high note, with the appropriately titled “Go” leading off the rest. I must confess now that I am only familiar with the Apples’ material from this album onward, and not so much their earlier stuff from the decade prior. Nonetheless, this album was widely seen as a departure from their more textured, layered sonic atmospheres into a sound that is noticeably rawer – a bit more in the garage rock vein of things. “Go” definitely showcases this, with much emphasis placed on its fuzzy guitars and loose-but-bubbly vocal harmonies. This general sonic relationship is demonstrated throughout the rest of the album, but it is never bring – rather, the consistency of its sound and ability to continue to bring something new and interesting to the table continue to be some of the record’s biggest strengths.
Fun is definitely the easiest descriptor I could give to this album, but I must also emphasize that there is a lot of depth to this record that would deem it deserving of the title. The melodies here are bright and charming, but so is the seamless relationship between each of the sonic elements. Sure, the sound is rawer, but that doesn’t mean that it had to be flat – on the contrary, the influences present here loom sky high. Songs like “Look Away”, with its friendly horns and pronounced poppiness, feel like they could have come right from the peak bliss portions of the late 60s. Same with “What Happened Then”, which feels like such a reminder of Lennon-McCartney’s moody ballads it’s almost jarring. Of course, this homage gets a bit over-the-top, both in title and in sound, with the psychedelic track “Submarine Dream”, but there’s enough pleasantries in there to make it totally worthwhile.
This is quite a pleasant album for sure, and every song comes across as the soundtrack to the happiest day of my life. “20 Cases Suggestive of…” lovingly gives the center stage to drummer Hilarie Sidney, who brings some warm and absolutely wonderful vibes to the record. Moreover, “The Bird That You Can’t See”, though one of their weaker songs, still uses its buzzy electronic influences to its advantage, implementing added bounce for good measure. I think what most impresses me, though, is how little effort it seems that the band members are taking to pump out such magical tapestries of sound. None of these songs are boring in the slightest, and each and every one is enjoyable to varying degrees. Overall, though, I’m just plain impressed by this album – I really wished I listened to this whole record as a teenager, as it would’ve been my favorite thing in the world at that specific time.
Best tracks: “Go”, “The Rainbow”, “20 Cases Suggestive of…”, “Submarine Dream”
Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia – The Dandy Warhols
The Dandy Warhols have always been on my radar through the years, but I never actually got around to listening to any full-length albums of theirs. This particular album is considered by most to be their breakthrough album, thanks largely to their single “Bohemian Like You” which entered the mainstream sphere about a year later. I definitely heard this song pop up on the radio from time to time, so of course it would become an iTunes purchase for me in an attempt to rack up the cool points in high school (this was a trend for me in those years).
Having only been familiar with less than a handful of singles from the group before listening to this album, I was expecting an upbeat album in the vein of some polished, moshable pop-rock. Thus, it was certainly a surprise to hear that the opening track “Godless” as more of a mid-tempo, earthy-sounding piece. The guitars are fuzzy, Courtney Taylor’s vocals are soft and lilting, and the overall song is chill and dreamy, with slight tinges of psychedelic flair to keep things interesting throughout. And throughout the first few tracks, this album pretty much rides on this wave: from “Godless” into “Mohammed” and “Nietzsche”, the mild gloom of the production and instrumentation leads the way along this blissful shoegaze trail.
But then things are switched up a bit into “Country Leaver”, where the production incorporates more acoustic guitar, handclaps, and… chicken squawks? Additionally, Taylor’s vocals are twangier and the tempo becomes far more defined as a typical stomp-along country ballad. From this point on, this album delves more into the straight-forward garage rock style I was expecting upon entrance. Honestly, this album just overwhelms me with how sonically diverse it presents itself right off the get-go. If nothing else, it makes me eager to check out the rest of the Dandy Warhols’ dense body of work.
But (there’s always a ‘but’) given how diverse this all is, it’s no surprise that some aspects of it simply wouldn’t work as well as others. I noticed that the songs that highly emphasize the lyrics over all else are the ones that, ironically, are the weakest. “Solid” brags about the speaker’s “beautiful, new Asian girlfriend” who “hangs around for days in his bed”. Additionally, “Horse Pills” almost kills the vibe entirely by undercutting its fierce, raw production with inane lyrics about rockstar materialism and party drugs. This doesn’t have to be inherently bad, but there’s also a time and place for everything and with how promising the whole record seemed from the beginning, stuff like this sticks out like a sore thumb. Nonetheless, it’s also admirable how the album always finds a way to spring back up from its pitfalls; songs like “Get Off” and “Sleep” are very different in sound, yet find clever ways to demonstrate the best qualities of the band’s sound without taking it too over the top.
And yeah, it’s clear now how “Bohemian Like You” became the radio hit – with an album this wild, it’s so obviously the catchiest and easiest to consume in a broader sense. Of course, there’s a lot here to play around with, which makes me confident to recommend this to pretty much anyone who enjoys even slightly interesting rock music. It’s fun, playful, strange, and smartly balances out its failures with even more interesting strengths. Check it out!
Best tracks: “Godless”, “Country Leaver”, “Get Off”, “Cool Scene”
Consent to Treatment – Blue October
Okay, so here’s an interesting one. Blue October was a band that I got really into for about a year sometime in high school, around the time they broke through in the mainstream with their 2006 album Foiled. Looking back, I’m sure much of my interest with the band lay in their raw, earnest portrayal of suicidal depression through their sound and lyrics, coinciding with the age in which I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that I may be mentally ill as well. Generally speaking, Blue October is the project of lead vocalist and main songwriter Justin Furstenfeld, who speaks very frankly about his life with depression, intersecting with relationships he’s made through the years. I can’t lie – at times, I found myself in Furstenfeld’s shoes, heightening the emotional appeal that I had for much of their music.
It’s been a few years since I avidly listened to anything from Blue October, but I do have this lingering memory of Consent to Treatment being among the darkest of the band’s discography. I’d have to relisten to their stuff to confirm this, but yeah – this album is still pretty bleak. Stylistically, this album could potentially be shoehorned in the post-grunge, but the addition of instruments like violins and mandolin challenge this notion. It’s a very difficult album to sit through, not necessarily because the sound itself is challenging (it’s all pretty basic studio rock with slight symphonic inflections), but because of its subject matter. Furstenfeld clearly put his all into this record and the result is an emotionally textured, self-deprecating, utterly painful record. Anyone who has struggled with depression could certainly find something to relate to in this collection of tunes, varied in tone and textures. It’s all so achingly personal, it’s almost unlistenable. Although songs like “Independently Happy” and “Balance Beam” might seem upbeat and positive on the surface, there is always an undercurrent of sadness that permeates throughout all these tracks, whether it be from the weeping violin (traditionally an indicator of sadness) or from Furstenfeld’s strained vocals themselves.
Believe me – even though I frequently gave this record numerous plays as a teenager, it took me a couple of tries to relisten to it in completion, having gone through much of the awfulness that comes with depression through the years. Even though I could willingly pick apart this album all day, about how boring it can be at times and how some of the lyrical choices don’t often work… I think that is besides the point. Labeling this album as “good” or “bad” would minimize its painstaking efforts to make something that truly digs deep to the core of what depression really is (or specifically, how Furstenfeld experiences it). Though I think that two of the most important songs this record puts out are found in its final stretch: “Angel” and “The Answer”. Both of these compositions really cut to the ugly, unthinkable sides of depression and are far and away the most resonating tracks on the entirety of the album.
While I would hesitate before playing this album again or recommending it to anyone, I mostly admire Furstenfeld’s strength to put all these feelings into words and releasing it to the public in such a manner. Much of these songs play out as a kind of dark poetry and it takes a certain amount of pushing past these negative feelings to release such an intimate work of art. It’s not perfect, but it’s actually kind of beautiful.
Best tracks “Independently Happy”, “HRSA”, “Conversation Via Radio (Do You Ever Wonder)”, “Angel”, “The Answer”
Wheatus – Wheatus
The last couple of reviews on this week’s post went on a little longer than originally intended… so I’ll make this one relatively shorter. Wheatus is probably best known for their hit single from the summer of 2000 that many confuse for a 90s song: “Teenage Dirtbag”. Admittedly, it’s one of my big guilty pleasures, even to this day. I never listened to it much during its peak popularity, but it was among my most played tunes in the later years of high school, when I begun to lean back into pop music. Nowadays, it’s fun for a round of karaoke or two, but it will always remind me of the carefree summers of those days.
With the album’s first two tracks “Truffles” and “Sunshine”, I am surprised to realize that the band tends to lie more in the pop-punk vein than I originally realized. While the melodies are bright and singable and there is a noticeable amount of studio mixing apparent through these tracks, the music still retains a certain amount of edge that prevents it from veering too far into the pop sphere. It’s basically along the same sound of early Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, with more of a slight punk rock sensibility than either of those two every had. Far and away the most interesting aspect of the band, though, is Brendan B. Brown’s vocal delivery, which is delicate and pleasant in ways I never quite expected.
Unfortunately, what really bogs this album down are its lyrics. One of my favorite elements of “Teenage Dirtbag” is the way that it balances its naive emotion conflict and conventional narrative with slightly more darker undertones (such as how Noelle’s boyfriend, “brings a gun to school”). This is heightened by Brown, who just sounds like the epitome of teenage innocence and confusion. As for the rest of the songs on here, though, nothing ever quite matches this same vibe – on the contrary, most of them just come off too cocky and try-hard to ever be at least a little bit charming. Sure, some of these melodies really stick (such as in “Hump’Em N’ Dump’Em” and “Love is a Mutt From Hell”) and might be good for mindless listening, but nothing ever sounds quite so timeless.
On the plus side, there is a cover of Erasure’s “A Little Respect” on here. Although it really doesn’t match with anything else on the record and is a huge step down from the original, the song is one of my all-time favorites and it’s always nice to hear a different take on the sound. Additionally, as poor as this album can come off at times, it flies by without so much as a moment’s notice – so at the very least, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Still, “Teenage Dirtbag” is probably all you need.
Best tracks: “Teenage Dirtbag”, “A Little Respect”
Okay, there’s only one more week for the year 2000 and then I’ll be totally done with the year. It’s actually kind of bittersweet leaving this year behind. Generally speaking, it’s been an eye-opening experience seeing just how different the rock scene was nearly two decades ago. It usually takes the music of a certain decade a few years before it finds its definitive footing; as such, the year 2000 feels more like an extension of 90s rock music than anything else. Nonetheless, there were some pretty interesting material released this year, both in the positive and no-so-positive sense.
But I can’t say goodbye just yet – I’ve still got a handful of albums from 2000 to get through! Thanks for reading, once again. Seeya on the other side.
I love the thorough and personalised reviews that you do. This era has a lot of hidden gems. Harvey Danger was always a big one for me from the early-to-mid aughts.
Thank you! I probably won’t get around to covering Harvey Danger, but Merrymakers is a great album.
Yeah, can’t really cover everything of course. Actually, I really think Little by Little is their best album overall. That was really a big era for West Coast indie music. Death Cab for Cutie’s most iconic albums; Transatlanticism, Plans, and Narrow Stairs. The Shins and The Decemberists out of Portland area, and John Vanderslice down in SanFrancisco with his solo albums, and with starting Tiny Telephone studio. The Long Winters, Viva Voce, The Helio Sequence… Lots of great bands were popping up during that time.