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Best of the 00s: Elbow, Exploding Hearts & Green Day

Posted by November 18th, 2010 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 14: Elbow, Exploding Hearts & Green Day

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Elbow – Asleep In The Back
NME #30

Gabe: It’s been scientifically proven that all the worst songs are between 4:00 and 7:00 minutes long. Too long to be a punchy pop or punk track and too short to be a rock epic, these in-betweeners seem to drag on forever like a Genesis single from the 80s. (A little “Land of Confusion,” anyone?  Really? No takers? Weird) Nine of the twelve tracks on Asleep in the Back are in this musical dead zone, which is maybe why listening to this album feels like such a miserable slog. The songs remind me of Peter Gabriel or Brian Ferry or something, but mostly they remind me that I never want to listen to this again. Grade: DNL

Matt: We’re at the point in this exercise where I’m looking for ways to disagree with my literary partner in order to create some drama, but Elbow don’t give me much help with Asleep In The Back. Never mind the long, dull songs. The vocals alone – excruciatingly precocious and reminiscent of the worst adult-contemporary alternative arena-rock (Coldplay, The Fray) – are enough to turn me off. I’m actually kind of bummed I gave this nine full listens before giving up. I could have been listening to the Exploding Hearts record again. Grade: DNL

Everything about this record is perfectExploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic
Nada #17  

Gabe: Everything about this band – from its name to the album title to the singalong choruses and garagey guitar riffs – is a a celebration of being young and in love with life and with girls and with music. Some tracks sound like punk with a dusting of power pop. Others, the opposite. The best track (and one of my favorite songs of the decade) is called “Throwaway Style.” Although the subject matter is an impending breakup, the jaunty vocals and insanely catchy melodies are anything but somber. “Throwaway Style” is an absolute gem, reminiscent of some of the best pop/punk singles but none more so than Nick Lowe’s masterpiece “Cruel to Be Kind.”

Guitar Romantic is the band’s only proper album because three of the band’s four members (vocalist/guitarist Adam Cox (age 23), bassist Matt Fitzgerald (age 20), and drummer Jeremy Gage (age 21)) were killed in an auto accident after a gig. Makes me think life is like those lines from Elliot Smith’s “I Didn’t Understand” – “I guarantee you this/Is a cloud of smoke/Trying to occupy space/What a fucking joke/What a fucking joke.” Grade: LOVE

Matt: Here’s my blurb from our Best of 2003 feature, warts n’ all. Grade: LOVE

25) Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic
It’s a shame our review of the Exploding Hearts’ excellent 2003 album must be preceded by a disclaimer. Shortly after Guitar Romantic was released (and named “record of the year” by Maximum Rock’n’Roll Magazine) the band’s van crashed en route to their native Portland, Oregon, after a show in nearby Eugene. Only the group’s manager and drummer survived. Thankfully, we don’t need you to believe us when we say there’s not an ounce of pity or a single sympathy point contributing to this selection; all you really need to do is pick up a copy of Guitar Romantic and see for yourself. Unless you’re a complete idiot, you’ll immediately see this was a VERY talented young band. The record captures all of the raw production and punk fuzz of the Sex Pistols while simultaneously distancing itself from that comparison by showcasing a dozen songs better than almost anything the Pistols ever recorded, save maybe “Anarchy” or “God Save the Queen.” Given that the Exploding Hearts were all in their very early 20’s when their career abruptly ended earlier this year, it’s hard not to wonder how many great records they could’ve made. Preferably, just be thankful they were able to create such a brilliant swan song before they said goodbye.

I asked her to go to the Green Day concert, she said she never heard of them. How cool is that?Green Day – American Idiot
Rolling Stone #22    

Gabe: Having never owned a Green Day album, I can’t say whether they were always dull collections of generic arena rock anthems or whether this is a recent development. I’ve always enjoyed Green Day’s singles and the American Idiot singles (particularly “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends”) are no exception. But I do miss the sense of humor Green Day flashed on tracks like “Longview.” Call me pathetic, call me what you will, but songs about beating off are way more fun than political preaching. Overall, I give American Idiot a B for Boring. GRADE: DNL

Matt: No wonder American Idiot won a Grammy: it’s a well-done record by a band that’s become California pop/punk’s elder statesmen that doesn’t have a hint of punk’s visceral energy or memorable enough songs to make for a great pop record. I definitely dig the big single “Holiday,” but it would be great if they recorded a version with some balls. Grade: DNL

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