Rockin’ Thru the Aughts: The Year 2000 Pt. 9 – All the rest

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.

Also, if you haven’t read my recent note on the hiatus of this project, I recommend you do by going here.

Yes, it’s true – this will be my last entry on this challenge for a little while. I am as sad as you are (probably even more so), but I would also like to emphasize that last part. This challenge will be returning in the future! I just need to straighten some stuff out before then. And I apologize for not having finished this sooner. With everything I had going on around me, time seemed to have slipped through my fingers faster than anticipated.

But regardless of all that, the year 2000 has been so fun and enlightening to re/discover. Besides a handful of stuff that I know very well, it also gave me a whole bunch of albums that I would have never thought to give a spin before embarking on the challenge. While most of this stuff was honestly just forgettable, others were a real treat. I would definitely recommend at least skimming through all the posts I have done so far to find what could possibly be the next hidden gem to brighten up your life.

Anyway, mild spoilers here: some of these albums I will be covering here are ones that I am already familiar with to some extent, while most are ones I didn’t get around to in some of the earlier posts. Since I wanted this project to revolve mostly around new discoveries, ones I listened to in the past were definitely given lower priority. But anyway, as the title to the post promises, here are all the rest!

Parachutes – Coldplay

Yep, we’re starting this off with a big one. Obviously, Coldplay are one of the best-selling alternative rock bands of the 2000s, so they’ve definitely been on my radar for quite a while. Nonetheless, I never really became aware of them until their Grammy-winning “Clocks” caught my attention (even though “Yellow” was definitely featured on Now 6, which I definitely listened to back in the day). And even then, it didn’t take until their following album X&Y and its lead single “Speed of Sound” before I could really consider myself a fan. Nonetheless, sometime in high school I got more into the indie rock scene and thus started to look backward at the debut album of this hugely popular, largely influential group.

At the surface, Parachutes doesn’t have too much to offer. Its primary emotions are melancholia and bittersweet longing and the overall mellow atmosphere emitted by the gentle guitars, subtle keys, and Chris Martin’s shrill croon. Although later albums would emphasize more of the piano-rock angle of their sound, it’s all about the simple guitar-and-drums setup of this particular record. There’s nothing all too amazing about this album, but it is apparent that it rides off of very distinct elements (usually riffs) upon which the best songs tend to ride. “Shiver” has its primary jumpy, wavy, distorted guitar riff, with more punctuated chords in the verses. Meanwhile, “Trouble” takes on a sadder vibe with its lush piano chords washing over everything else.

I must admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Chris Martin’s vocals, especially with his particular penchant toward overdoing the falsetto. Nonetheless, I will stand on the opinion that many of this album’s best tracks are the ones that use his vocals as another instrument of the mix. The strongest example of such is with the track “Spies”, where Martin emits the titular phrase with a soaring edge. Of course “Yellow” is probably the one track here with the most distinguished melody line, and this is balanced by its lyrical simplicity which add to the universal quality of its atmosphere, molding the song into the album’s centerpiece. It’s this simplicity that I think results in this album not being as hard-hitting as I’d like it to be; nonetheless, it does have its moments, and I think these moments really elevate this album into something truly remarkable. It’s one hell of a solid debut, that’s for sure.

Best tracks: “Shiver”, “Spies”, “Trouble”

Rated R – Queens of the Stone Age

I’ve always remembered Queens of the Stone Age as one of those bands that was presumed as a mere flash-in-the-pan yet stuck around longer than anyone expected them to. While I was never too much of a regular listener of theirs, their singles got a lot of play on rock radio and thus ended up in my music library at some point or another. I always dug their pretty low-key sound that somehow always remained pretty catchy, even though I’ve never been compelled to check out an entire album of theirs until now. Still, there are three more of their records I’ve got on my schedule through this challenge, so expect a bunch more QOTSA once this gets back up and running again.

Rated R starts off with a bang and a half, with the one big song from this record, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”. The centerpiece here is undoubtedly Josh Homme’s guitars, which are rough, raggedy, and just totally wild. The song title is obviously a tongue-in-cheek commentary of its lyrics, which consist solely of the repeated line, “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol” with the stuttering climax of “C-c-c-c-c-cocaine” as its chorus. This was the one song that got a ton of radio play when I was growing up and the one from this record that I was the most excited to revisit. Nonetheless, it has aged pretty poorly in my eyes – as a teen, there was a certain shock factor in hearing all these drugs names so blatantly poured out with little rhyme or reason. Nowadays, it just comes off as eyerollingly try-hard and the lack of any other substance beyond this just makes this a total borefest in retrospect.

It’s a good thing, then, that the remainder of the record is relatively stronger. More mid-tempo fare like “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and “Monsters in the Parasol” rely on prominently catchy riffs and delicious melodies to uphold their strengths. “Leg of Lamb” relies largely on a quirky guitar riff, while “Auto Pilot” is mostly chill and drifting in its sound. “Better Living Through Chemistry” further kicks this down a notch by splitting its nearly six-minute length into movements, with near-ambient tones balanced out by the rougher edge of the guitars. “Quick and to the Pointless” is pretty sloppy in its erraticism, but its got an energy to it I can certainly appreciate.

For the most part, the final stretch of songs tend to ride on this wild, hedonistic, yet strangely chill wave. I don’t know why the band decided to kick this album off with what amounts to a mindless jam session demo – nor why they decided that it was worth a 30-second reprise before the record’s final third – but I’m glad that this turned out to be just a fluke. I think that this band is generally pretty solid and consistent in their tricks, and this album is a perfect example of what they are capable of bringing forth, especially for those unfamiliar with them.

Best tracks: “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret”, “Monsters in the Parasol”, “In the Fade”

The Moon & Antarctica – Modest Mouse (I prefer the reissue album cover myself)

And now for a high school favorite of mine. Like most of the world, I was introduced to Modest Mouse through their mainstream breakthrough album Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and especially its lead single “Float On”. But it wasn’t until I was compelled to go back to their older material did I truly start becoming a fan of the group. Frontman Isaac Brock’s vocals were always so awkward and unusual to me, as if they belonged to someone from an entirely different century. Yet after connecting his vocals to the more interesting sound, lyrics, and melody present on their major label debut The Moon & Antarctica, I found that all these elements fit so much more smoothly and make for a more interesting listening experience altogether.

I’ve always called this record the band’s “space album”, and for good reason – Brock’s lyricism here is fully immersed in celestial themes and human philosophy in relation to this. “3rd Planet” is a terrific opener, balancing its wonky-yet-polished sound (only guitars and drums being the most prominent instruments) with a flurry of introspective lyrics about the world and the universe. I’ve heard theories about this song being about miscarriage and while I’m not fully convinced on this theory, it does make lines like, “Reminding you we used to be three and not just two” all the more devastating. “Gravity Rides Everything” is slightly more uptempo, with a strumming guitar and a blissful melody front-and-center; moreover, “Dark Center of the Universe” rides on a bit of an angrier edge, focusing more on the group’s garage rock roots. On an even more dynamic wave, “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” plays around with some subtle funk influences, led by a terrific bass riff and (of course) Brock’s jerky, eccentric vocals.

For the most part this album is pretty top-heavy. While many of these earlier cuts have distinct melodies and chord progressions, tracks like “The Cold Part” and “Alone Down There” take a more toned-down approach to the sound, certainly a testament to the group’s earlier lo-fi sound. I’m actually not too fond of “The Stars Are Projectors” which I find to be poorly mixed and just sound very cluttered and unpleasant to the ears. For the most part, though, the album is pretty smooth sailing, with polished production that gives just enough wiggle room with which the band could experiment. Additionally, this is a great example of the wide array of musical diversity this band could offer, from the mainly acoustic “Wild Packs of Family Dogs”, to the jangle-pop of “Paper Thin Walls”, to the eerie grunge influences of “I Came As a Rat”, even to the country tinges of “Lives”. Above all this, though, the vibe remains very distinct unique to Modest Mouse, and much of this is thanks to Brock’s important contribution as lyricist, vocalist, and guitarist. This is just a remarkably great album from start to finish (despite its hiccups) – seriously, give Modest Mouse a deeper look if you haven’t already.

Best tracks: “3rd Planet”, “Dark Center of the Universe”, “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, “I Came as a Rat”

The Art of Drowning – AFI

I meant to cover this album during my overview of the punk albums of 2000, but I ran out of time. So, anyone who is somewhat informed of the rock music scene of the aughts should know that AFI’s commercial relevance would only increase into the decade, especially around the mid-2000s emo boom. Nonetheless, I had a couple of their earlier hardcore punk tracks sitting in my music library back in the day, so I figured it would be fun to start with this one. By the way, The Art of Drowning is the band’s fifth album, which I was actually surprised to find out – I didn’t think they had existed for that long!

Upon playing the first few tracks, I gotta say… yep, this is a punk album. While Davey Havok’s voice has always been one of the more interesting elements of the group – and is undoubtedly solid as ever here – I must say that there really isn’t much else to work with here. For the most part, I find very little to care about in the more faster paced hardcore-influenced tracks, at least nothing that I haven’t already heard in many a punk album in the past. But then “Ever and a Day” happened, with its more prominent melody and horror elements melded into its sound. I realized now that the transition from this sound to the moody goth rock of Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground makes more sense than I initially thought. In fact, I think that it is this very transition that crafts them into a much more interesting band, instead of the cookie-cutter pop-punk that the majority of this album makes them out to be.

That doesn’t mean that every by-the-numbers punk track on here is not worth a listen – there’s some really great infectious energy present here and consistently so. “Sacrifice Theory” and “The Days of the Phoenix” are prime examples of this; they aren’t great by any means, but highlight some of the most exciting elements of this era of pop-punk (the latter may actually be the strongest track on the album as a whole). The one weird one (there’s always one, isn’t there?) is “The Despair Factor”, which begins with this industrial drum machine at the start, which is so ill-fitting from the rest of the record. In retrospect, they seem to sound all the more comfortable engaging in their straight horror-punk cuts. Maybe these are my own biases speaking, since I did play “Silver and Cold” and “Miss Murder” repeated times a day back in my time… but I think there’s some truth there.

Best tracks: “Ever and a Day”, “Of Greeting and Goodbyes”, “The Days of the Phoenix”

Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – PJ Harvey

I must preface this by stating that I am very, very, very late to the PJ Harvey train. I really don’t know how I skipped over her in my formative years – I was an avid listener of Hole, Bikini Kill, and other wild ‘n’ angry female artists of her heyday. While I have caught up with some of her stuff through the years, it wasn’t until the start of this year that I finally gave a spin to Rid of Me, which totally blew my mind. As such, upon writing this review, this is my first time ever listening to the entirety of Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – yay!

But I should specify that this is the first time I’ve listened to this album in its entirety – in high school, I had “The Mess We’re In” and “This Is Love” swimming around in my iPod for some time. While I’ll have to admit that I lean more toward the looser, more avant-garde offerings of Dry or Rid of Me, this is not without its charms. The opener alone demonstrates Harvey’s skill for fierce, jagged instrumentals set atop more pronounced melodies and introspective lyricism. Further on, tracks like “Good Fortune” and “A Place Called Home” give us even more of this PJ Harvey sound which basically perfectly exemplifies the best parts of the wildly angst-ridden 90s alt-rock scene.

I think if there are any major faults with this record, it’s the fact that these songs are significantly less catchier than Harvey’s very best output. Especially around the mid-point of the album, things start to really move at a snail’s pace, and while she is no stranger to the slow, brooding types of records, the sleek and polished production here undercuts what had previously made such tunes interesting. Nonetheless, there are always going to be qualities to her music unlike anything else of her contemporaries, such as the erratic yodeling at the end of “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” and the crazed falsetto of “Kamikaze”. Regardless of any faults, she always finds ways to bounce back and things certainly get kicked back into gear with the first dreamy chords of “The Mess We’re In” (featuring the equally dreamy-voiced Thom Yorke).

I think what is most admirable about this record, though, is its accessibility. Although I could see some snobs marking this particular quality as a fault, I think it makes it all the more relatable. The urban quality of this record is absolutely infectious; I feel if I had discovered this record when I had first moved into the big city, it would be an all-time favorite. Additionally, I was also very surprised at how quickly this record flies by. I felt like I could live in songs like “The Mess We’re In”, the beautiful “You Said Something”, and the excellent closer “We Float” for a whole album’s length of time. One thing is for certain: I doubt I’ll ever underestimate PJ Harvey ever again.

Best tracks: “Big Exit”, “Good Fortune”, “The Mess We’re In”, “You Said Something”

Renegades – Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine are probably most well known for their groundbreaking of angry, fiercely political albums from the 90s – at least that’s where I became most familiar with them as a high schooler. Nonetheless, they did release an album in the year 2000, and”Renegades of Funk” also got a fair bit of radio play around these parts. I actually meant to cover this album at an earlier date, but I was just dreading listening to this one for some indiscernible reason. Before pressing play, though, I set aside all of these anxieties to give this as objective a listen as possible.

So this is a bit of an unusual introduction to Rage Against the Machine onto this site. For one thing, this is actually the fifth and final album from the group. After this release, vocalist Zack de la Rocha departed the band to start a solo career, upon which the remaining members collaborated with Chris Cornell to form Audioslave – a band that will be more deeply covered on this challenge (once I jump back onto it). Additionally, this album is comprised entirely of covers of artists that I would guess had inspired the band’s sound and substance to some degree. Since their rap metal style is one of their most distinct qualities, there’s bound to be a mixture of traditional rock covers as well as some rap-oriented cuts. And indeed, the opener introduces us to a rendition of Eric B. & Rakim’s classic “Microphone Fiend” that breathes enough new life into it while also respecting its timeless legacy.

Basically all of the great parts of RATM’s sound is ever-present here, namely de la Rocha’s distinct vocals and Tom Morello’s bonkers-as-hell guitar work. I’ve always loved the direction they took Afrika Bambaataa’s “Renegades of Funk”, giving it an added texture and life I think the original could have really benefitted from. I don’t want to speak blasphemously by stating that this is better than the original… but Morello’s guitar licks are just phenomenal and I’ve always enjoyed this version more, personally. The other big single from this album is their version of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man”, which is also adequately energetic and takes the tone of the song to a totally different level.

Some of these covers, though, work significantly less well. Their rendition of Volume 10’s “Pistol Grip Pump” is embarrassingly clumsy (and yeah, de la Rocha’s rapping the n-word on this and their equally-as-clunky cover of EPMD’s “I’m Housin'” don’t help). Moreover, their covers of Devo’s “Beautiful World” and Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes” bring so little to the table, they might as well not even be here. Their version of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” is also pretty sluggish and probably more polished than that song really deserves. After all, it is widely known as being one of the first mainstream examples of punk music, so it getting the “radio-friendly” treatment almost feels insulting.

It’s tempting to say that there’s more bad than good here, but I don’t think that’s totally true. Morello’s guitar, after all, is consistently awesome and makes the record worth a listen almost on its own accord. The final third of the album also switches things up to take on more traditional cuts from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. Considering the risks that this album took for the vast majority of its run, though, I think the end result could have been so much worse. Sure, it’s not the most dignified note for the band to end on, but it does make for an interesting end to an exciting, varied career.

Best tracks: “Microphone Fiend”, “Renegades of Funk”

Black Market Music – Placebo

And now to end this year in rock music… on a relatively anti-climactic note. See, there’s a probably a good reason why I left this album last. Nothing about it really interested me much – I’ve only listened to about two or three Placebo tracks before this album, and nothing about the band’s sound compelled me much to seek out their other stuff. As far as I know, this song didn’t fit any of the themed weeks I had planned for the challenge, so each and every week I just sort of passed it over. But it’s possible that I was judging a book by its cover the whole time – for all I know, this was to be a life-changing album and I was only prolonging its amazingness. There’s only one way to find out, though…

And after a listen… well, it’s not life-changing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good record. One of the primary elements that always had me going back to the few Placebo tracks in my music library was Brian Molko’s uniquely androgynous vocals. While I’ve always seen it as more of a cool gimmick than anything else, Black Market Music shows the potential it possesses and the unsurmountable energy it brings to the band as a whole. In songs like “Taste in Men”, “Special K”, and “Passive Aggressive”, there are pronounced qualities of anguish and melancholic pain to Molko’s delivery that really elevate the material. Yes, much of it is about drugs, but dark, menacing vibes of the band’s sound really bring some much-needed texture to the thematic material

While it’s clear that “Special K” is probably the most accessible of all these tracks, I do think that the group is at their best when the instrumentals are given room to shine. This is especially notable in the dreamy, drifty “Passive Aggressive” as well as the higher-tempo, guitar-heavy “Slave to the Wage”. Songs like this definitely make the best of the album’s potential, even if the record is a tad uneven overall. Of course, while there isn’t really a lot of bad here, there is a whole lot of just plain “meh”. “Days Before You Came” is a bit of a stumble, “Blue American” is dull and awful lyrically, and while I dig the electronic phasing effects in “Black-Eyed”, there’s nothing else it really brings to the table. The nu-metal rapping on “Spite and Malice” I’m sure sounded like a great idea at the time, but only just reminds me of how weird the alternative rock scene of the year 2000 was overall.

This being my first full Placebo album, I am aware that I went about this the wrong way – I probably should have just gone chronologically, starting with their self-titled debut and this album’s predecessor Without You I’m Nothing, both of which are generally more well-received. Nevertheless, I think this introduction was still a success, considering that I’m more interesting in checking out more of Placebo’s music than I ever had been before. Sure, this album isn’t perfect by any means, but I see that the potential is very present. I could see other directions with this sound to be far more successful – so overall, I’d say this is a win!

Best tracks: “Special K”, “Passive Aggressive”, “Slave to the Wage”

And that’s that – I am done with the year 2000 in rock music! Even though it took me longer than expected to finish this post up, I’m both happy to have successfully accomplished it and sad to know that this year is now behind me (at least until I reach it on my Billboard challenge!). As noted above and elsewhere, this will be my last Rockin’ Thru the Aughts post for a while, which makes finishing this all the more bittersweet.

Anyway, I hope while reading through this, you found something cool music along the way – I know I sure did. I fully intend on returning to this at a later date, so even more 2000s rock goodness will be coming this way hopefully soonish! Anyway, thanks a whole lot for following me on this journey. I’ll see ya next time!

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One Response to Rockin’ Thru the Aughts: The Year 2000 Pt. 9 – All the rest

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