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Best of the 00s: Muse, My Morning Jacket & The Notwist

Posted by February 22nd, 2014 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century 
Part 29: Muse, My Morning Jacket & The Notwist
By Gabe Baker & Matt Ashworth 

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.

Muse – Absolution
NME’s #49

Matt: I had to consume this one in small doses.

Night 1: British band Muse does operatic hard rock, so let’s just get the obvious Queen influence out in the open so we’ve got a clean mind. I like the intro and first song on their 2003 album Absolution, but by the second track they get kind of wimpy and whiny and it all goes downhill from there. This is clichéd hard rock with hackneyed vocal affectations.

Night 2: There’s talent here, but even Muse’s best songs, like “Hysteria,” are ruined by the awful vocals and corny production. But those aren’t even Absolution’s biggest problem. Absolution’s biggest problem is that it has absolutely no edge. None. “Falling Away With You” is a full on 70s metal ballad with guitars that sound like lasers. It sounds like how the Disney channel might portray a modern rock band on one of their sitcoms.

Night 3: OK it’s official: Absolution is awful. – Grade: DNL

Gabe: Eventually, I began to imagine that Muse was actually the guys from Queensryche fronted by a decent Freddie Mercury impersonator who was scatting nonsense over some pretty badass metal riffs. Which almost made it bearable. Take away the vocals and the lyrics and squint your ears, and you can almost hear some At The Drive In. Less charitably, this is like a summer blockbuster action flick that flops. All tedious bombast and comic book stylings. Grade: DNL

My Morning Jacket At DawnMy Morning Jacket – At Dawn’s #47

Gabe: I should probably love My Morning Jacket. The band sounds to me like Neil Young and Wilco, and when they hit their rambling stride on mid-tempo country rockers like “Lowdown” and “Xmas Curtain” they sound pretty damn sweet. The problem from my perspective is too much of a good thing. Too many stoned shambling ballads. Too many songs, and too many long songs. Altogether too long at 74:21. I’m half tempted to slap the seven best tracks on the A side of a ninety-minute cassette. And back that with Zuma, which is only 36:34, despite seven and a half minutes of “Cortez the Killer.” Grade: LIKE

Matt: A decade later I still love the line “They’ll hall you out to the streets / they’ll burn your papers in your empty trash can” that starts “At Dawn,” the opening track on the 2001 My Morning Jacket album of the same name. I’m not sure what that lyric means, but it sure sounds like someone doesn’t like my ideas and may want to control what I’m thinking! The whole album has a very mysterious, open sound to it (as the album art would portend) and it’s definitely got some stoner hippie tendencies, but those can be overlooked for the great songs and cool guitars. And ballad “Hopefully” is so good it hurts. In hindsight,  At Dawn really is kind of boring though. (It also turns out that my favorite MMJ song, “O Is The One That is Real,” isn’t even on At Dawn. It just happened to be in the same set of songs I downloaded off Napster when I first discovered this band.) Grade: Like

The Notwist – Neon Golden’s #50                

Gabe: It’s always awkward disliking an album on the Nada list due to my fear that the Grand Poobah will take offense and then explain to me why I’m stupid and old and irredeemably mainstream. Unfortunately, this album reminds me of Deerhunter, another band near and dear to the heart of good ole @ashmatty. Put another way, it sounds like New Order’s gentler moments with more electronic bleeps and bloops. Or like Ben Folds without the killer melodies. Snark aside, the music itself is frequently intriguing, but I can’t stand the wispy, airy, precious vocals. If we could get Neko case to sing over these backing tracks we might be on to something. Probably not though. Grade: DNL.

Matt: I’m sure I’m due some good natured chiding from my critical sparring partner when it comes to German folk techno outfit The Notwist, whose 2003 album Neon Golden is part of this exercise mostly because I made sure it was on the list of “Best Albums of the 00s,” one of seven inputs for this project. Neon Golden feels intentionally pretentious and arty, but damned if I don’t adore it to this day. There are lots of plaintive techno sounds with soft folk guitars here but it’s got a groove and a spirit that’s undeniable. I picked it up again in about 2009 when I had the shingles, and it reminded me to include it in our summation of the previous decade. There are these gentle little melodies, so subtle you almost miss them, running throughout the album’s best songs, like “Pilot.” Plus “Pick up the Phone” is a perfect track…and Notwist were amazing that summer I worked security at Chop Suey and they toured on this album. So yes, Gabe, you’re stupid and old irredeemably mainstream. Grade: LOVE

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