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The Kirbinator Ten Spot: Top records discovered in 2000
By Mark Kirby
(more articles from this author)
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It's December 1982, and I'm freezing my balls off in a piss poor house in the country. I'm depressed, and feeling like an alcoholic red neck. No mean feat for a 26-year-old black dude. After reading the newspapers for the forth time, I pick up the Village Voice. In the "Critics Choice Top Ten of the Year," the late great rock 'n' roll writer Lester Bangs, has his top picks. Along with the usual suspects like The Clash, Black Flag, etc. he picks The Stooges' "Fun House" record. To quote Lester: "I know this record came out in 1970, but it blows away anything that came out this year." Wow. A top ten record of the year from a past year. My life changed at that moment. I went out and got the record and my pals and I rediscovered the life enhancing power of rock, and saw a brighter day.

In that loving spirit I submit my top ten discoveries of the year, in no particular hierarchy of order.

Anti-Pop Consortium: "Tragic Epilogue." This record truly served all the hip hop I heard in the double ought. These block rockin' avant garde MC's brought rap back to the heady days of its creative peak in the late 80's, then zapped it through time to the present through an alternate reality stream. Rappers Beans and Priest, and beat meister E-Blaze weave creative imagery, rapid fire advanced rhythmics and eurhythmics, abstracted phat jams, and guest soloists into a reminder of where the art form should, and is, going: against the mainstream. Contact

Angel Idealism and the Horny Spawn: "Aggressive Cheesecake." Jazzy, psychedelic trip hop. Electronica with a human face. Sexy and intense music that breathes and bleeds. This band features Angel, a torch singer channeling Nina Hagen and Diamanda Galas, singing adult songs of desire, loss and combat over hip hop and soul music inspired drum beats, slinky phat bass lines, tripped out guitar and sample/sounds. Another futuristic look at pop gone horribly wrong, yet, in the best of all possible worlds, oh so right. Contact

Between Green. This self titled record is only available at their gigs (with rumors of a release sometime this year). Led by saxophonist/composer Michael McGuinnis, this quintet is harmonically and melodically rooted in the Wynton Marsalis inspired, post bebop, jazz restoration of the last ten years (the mid-sixties Miles Davis wing). And yet spiritually and emotionally, the group is steeped in the downtown New York jazz underground, which is the step child of the seventies and eighties avant garde. The songs dance and fly one minute, then lope and roll majestically the next.. A name to look out for in the future.

Clyde Wrenn: "Long Day's Journey Into Night." The best example of American roots rock this side of Wilco. Clyde's songs and the killer musicianship of his comrades, makes this a joy. His unique voice and style of blues-folk-country rock are like a young Neil Young. His songs still ring with pathos even when they rock hard. With the subtle use of studio effects, liberal use of lap steel guitar, mandolin, and organ, this record is sonically rich and tasty. And it's all in the service of taking the listener on musical and poetic journeys. To make it country simple, it's the songs, stupid! Contact

Perforated Head: "Maybe I'm Mayonnaise." Four song EP. These guys do what Le Tigre is attempting to do, but without the latter's earnestness and politics: reinvent synth-tinged 80's new wave-ism. These songs tend to be about the rock and roll existential moment, the passionate expression of life's simple realizations and problems. Relationships, work, friends who are fucking up - these are the record's concerns, along with crisp playing, cool pop hooks, and fun. Contact

Robert Burke Warren: ". . . to this day." The best country blues rock record this side of Clyde Wrenn. This is what new country music would sound like, if it wasn't all about the benjamins and infected by the rock and roll swindle. Great playing, cool singing, and dig that drum machine on the first cut, "Dark Angel Eyes," one of the best songs about that bad girl that's no good for us guys - and we go out with them for years. Then there's the neo-spiritual, gospel rock classic "Falling into Grace." But seriously, on this CD, it's all good. Contact

Jay Z: "The Life and Times of S. Carter." This is record is chosen because, to my hip hop attuned, yet old school ears, it's seductive, yet represents everything that's wrong with rap music these days. Turgid tales of sex and violence, the worship of greed and materialism, the usual boasting. There's nothing new here, the same ole same ole. And that's why it's a big seller, especially to the little white kids in the heartland. Its after the end of the world, don't you know that yet?

Curtis Mayfield: "Curtis Live." Recorded live at the Bitter End in New York in 1970, this record features some of his best work, and therefore some of the best songs. Ever. Ever played, ever written. Soul, funk, loosey-goosey jamming, sensitive balladering: it has it all. It's a shame that more people, especially rockers and R 'n' B singers don't know and worship this man and his music. The band grooves and rocks the way bands oughta. You can focus on the bass, or the drums or the percussion and find your jaw dropping. Or just bug out on the voice and words. A genius record, reissued on vinyl and CD by Curtom Records.

Various Artists: "Beat at Cinecitta, Volume 3." Volumes 1 and 2 aren't bad either. This captures Italian film soundtrack music from the seventies at its best. Why is this important? Because this time and genre has everything that's cool about film music: groovy beats, clashing instrumentation (i.e. guitars over orchestral strings, harpsichord riffs over rock drums) histrionic singing to grade B spy movie themes. It's a window into what creativity can occur when there's no accountants and marketing people checking up on what the musicians are doing. It was a time of "anything goes" musically and these joyously whacky composers do just that. Highlights include the title song to the film noir "Kill Them All" ("they bought the law/ bought it bought it/sneak free on bail/laughing, laughing, laughing / they feed on your gizzard/ go forth and find them / kill them all!), and the theme to "The Archfiend," starring Mickey Rooney, which is what James Bond dances to at the end of his movies when the girl he's with goes to the bathroom. Contact

Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Max Roach: "Money Jungle." Three great American masters, at the top of their game playing primarily Ellington - America's premier composer - tunes, and doing their best to out do each other in musical brilliance. Go and find this record.

Extra Pick

Duke Ellington: Anything you can find. Black and Tan Fantasy, early swing records, Live at the Newport Jazz Festival (several volumes), whatever. It's all good, so buy some, and discover, like I did, how major his stuff is.

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