2002 WAS A YEAR when music lovers did themselves an enormous favor by simply turning off the hype -- about the grim state of the music industry, or how every young artist represented a groundbreaking new movement, or whether or not they were worthy of assuming the mantle of Great Significance (rock or otherwise). It was a year that saw the release of an amazing number of good to great records in a wide variety of genres old and new, created largely by artists who got their music heard in spite of the mainstream media's failure to jump on their bandwagons. Here're some lists -- read 'em, burn 'em.
JAY BABCOCK'S 2002
1. DEBUTS Devendra Banhart, the Black Keys, the Streets, Interpol, the Polyphonic Spree.
2. COMEBACKS Solomon Burke, Wire.
3. OTHER FINE RECORDS Queens of the Stone Age, Super Furry Animals, Brendan Benson, Deerhoof, Radar Brothers, T-Model Ford, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Brother JT, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, Jah Wobble & Temple of Sound, Casino Versus Japan, Spoon, Fatso Jetson, Doug Martsch, Sahara Hotnights, Jah Wobble's Solaris, Weird War, Super_Collider, We Regazzi, Tinariwen, Beachwood Sparks.
4. AND AT THE (MORE) EXTREME END High on Fire, Non, John Zorn, Comets on Fire, Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, Khanate, Circle, Vajra, SUNN 0))), Masami Akita & Russell Haswell.
5. FINE SONGS "When the Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash; "You Know You're Right" by Nirvana; "House of Jealous Lovers" by the Rapture; "So Easy" and "Poor Leno" by Royksopp; "I'm Gonna Kick Your Ass" and "Black Train" by Moistboyz; "Every Season" by Tony Allen with Damon Albarn & Ty; "Time Changes Everything" by John Squire; Robert Plant's cover of "Morning Dew"; the Josh Homme compositions in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys; "Alibi" by Elvis Costello & the Attractions.
6. REISSUES/COMPILATIONS Junior Kimbrough's You Better Run: The Essential Junior Kimbrough, James Luther Dickinson's Dixie Fried, Tangerine Dream's Alpha Centauri, Black Sabbath double live Past Lives.
7. LIVE HIGHLIGHTS Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 30-minute show at the Palace was a phenomenal demonstration of shamanistic she-power, a giggling feral art-grrrl fronting the Birthday Party, singing the best Joan Jett songs Joanie never wrote. The White Stripes' spectacular performance in their second night at El Rey; The Who, widowed, at the Hollywood Bowl; Mercury Rev, dark-struck, at El Rey; Acid Mothers Temple turning it up to 28 at the Derby; Tony Conrad, Big Star, Merzbow, Califone and Stooges sets at All Tomorrow's Parties; Lift to Experience seamlessly segueing from "Kashmir" into their own grand, desolate work at the Silverlake Lounge; the Hives, the sharpest band alive, at the Roxy; Saccharine Trust and Fatso Jetson going for broke at a free Sunday-afternoon gig at Liquid Kitty; My Morning Jacket at House of Blues; The Soundtrack of Our Lives at the Roxy, at the Point Loma Quality Inn Cactus Rose Saloon and at the Troub; Future Pigeon, an 11-piece ensemble making live dub music so good it grants audience members telepathic powers; Michael Gira, so very alone, at the Derby; the Datsuns, flying the hair at Spaceland; the Kills' intense VU-country-blues battle at the Silverlake Lounge; the Fire Show doubling themselves on each song at Spaceland; the Greenhornes at Spaceland; Peaches & Queens double feature at the Palladium; the secondmen at Spaceland; Paul McCartney at Staples; Andrew W.K. and his Village-People-of-Oi/Slade-Party-Rock band; Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' searing encore of "Stagger Lee" at the Wiltern; Arthur Lee & Love's impossibly good comeback show at Spaceland.
8. MUSIC TV Scarface's "On My Block" video; P-Funk NBA commercials; Jay-Z, Lenny Kravitz Band and Beyoncé performing together live on SNL; the Courtney Loveathon on MTV2 (whip-smart, flippant, foul-mouthed and flat-out funny as she was eager to get her tits out -- a peroxide Elvira for the VH1 Classic set); Cee-Lo's whimsical "Gettin' Old" video; Hewlett-Packard commercial featuring the Flaming Lips.
9. BUMMERS The continued escalation of concert-ticket and CD prices; Slick Rick's imminent deportation; R.L. Burnside's retirement; Clear Channel; constant, illegal overcrowding of Hollywood music clubs; gangsta rap coming home to roost; and the deaths of Joe Strummer, Dudley Moore, George Harrison, Dee Dee Ramone, earthlings? member/Rancho de La Luna operator Fred Drake, Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay, Stereolab's Mary Hansen and Popul Vuh's Florian Fricke.
GREG BURK'S OVER-30 TOP 10
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around (American). At his absolute best, sounding like he's saying goodbye. And there are no more where he came from.
Bob Dylan at the Wiltern, October 17. When they didn't kill this guy along with Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin, they made a big mistake. He's the most dangerous of all.