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Best of the 00s: Basement Jaxx, Black Mountain & Blur

Posted by February 19th, 2010 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 3: Basement Jaxx, Black Mountain & Blur
By Gabe Baker & Matt Ashworth co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s choices for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Basement Jaxx – Rooty
#33 on Pitchfork’s list

Gabe: I swear to god I tried to listen to this album of “house” music on three separate occasions, but failed to make it through a single track without hitting skip. I don’t know from house, but to my ear most of the songs on Rooty sound a little bit like Prince songs. Except, you know, without the Prince. One line even goes “She’s an angel/she’s a dove” in an echo of “I Would Die 4 U.”  That line is from the song “S.F.M.”, which is an abbreviation for “Sexy Feline Machine.” Roowrrr!

Interestingly, Pitchfork trashed Rooty upon its release in 2001, giving it a 3.8. I doubt the author of that review – Malcolm Seymour III – would agree with Pitchfork’s reassessment of Rooty as the 33rd best album the 00s. I think they got it right the first time. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Malcolm Seymour III is no longer associated with Pitchfork, although says someone with that name played the role of “Pete Meyer” in a 1998 horror short called “The Obsessive Love Theme.”)

Grade: Do Not Like.

Matt: Moving last summer shook up my music listening habits. With CDs loaded haphazardly in boxes and strewn across several rooms, I enjoyed randomly playing stuff I hadn’t heard in awhile or, in some cases, hadn’t ever played. Of the 15-20 on that list, the only one I disliked enough to trade in towards vinyl was Rooty. While I adore the single “Where’s your head at?”, I’ve heard it in enough television commercials to last a lifetime, and the rest of the tracks sounded like unmemorable faux-disco.

Grade: Do Not Like

Black Mountain – In The FutureBlack Mountain – In The Future
#24 on Matt’s list

Gabe: Do you know, way deep down inside, that the so-called dinosaur bands of the 70s were the greatest of all time?  If so, there’s a good chance you will love In The Future. The album opens with the Zep-style stomp of “Stormy High,” follows up with a better Tom Petty impression than even The Strokes have managed with “Angels,” and touches on Sabbath, the Stones, and even Heart before it finishes with Amber Webber’s beautiful, chilling vocal performance on “Night Walks”.

The amazing thing is that In The Future doesn’t feel derivative. Black Mountain reminds me of a character in Robertson Davies’ novel What’s Bred In The Bone. As a restorer/forger of classic paintings, Frank Cornish immerses himself in the tools and techniques of Renaissance painting. Ultimately, Frank creates his masterpiece, a painting that expresses Frank’s own vision while remaining so true to the Renaissance era that art critics believe it was done by an undiscovered Renaissance master. So Black Mountain could be the Frank Cornish of rock. Or something.

Grade: Love

Matt: This is perhaps the only album I’ve ever given a perfect 10/10. Granted, I didn’t write as many reviews in the 00s as I did in the 90s, but its still pretty telling.

Grade: Love

Blur – Think TankBlur – Think Tank
#32 on the NME list

Gabe: Track 3, “Crazy Beat,” is a party anthem that nicely bridges the gap between Blur’s “Song 2” and Gorillaz’ “Feel Good, Inc.” Fun song. Too bad the rest of the album’s mid-tempo bleepers and bloopers bored the piss out of me. Wikipedia says the album is “concerned with a sense with a sense of paranoia and alienation in British club culture.”  That may be true, but I would have preferred it to be concerned with “songs that are fun to listen to.”

Grade: Do Not Like

Matt: I actually get in to the “sense of paranoia and alienation in British club culture” on the first two tracks, which set a nice, eerie mid-tempo mood until the jarring fabricated sounds on “Crazy Beat” annoy me and break the mood. The album never recovers, settling in to snoozy, unfocused songs that highlight the fact that Damon Albarn isn’t that great of a singer. It’s probably no surprise that, after releasing a Brit-pop classic that rightly garnered comparisons to the Kinks (Parklife), Blur set off on an exploratory path to distance themselves from that sound, but that adventurousness fails here. Miserably.

Grade: Do Not Like
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