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January 15, 1998 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-01-15

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8B - The Michigan Daiy Weeken( Magazine - Thursday, January 15, 1998


The Michigan Daily Weekeni

ThVihia alyW ee








The Daily music
staff picks the
year's best and
worst albumS
Five Best Albums of 1997
1. Radiohead - "OK Computer"
2. Ben Folds Five -"Whatever and
Ever Amen"
3. The Verve - "Urban Hymns"
4. Oasis - "Be Here Now"
5. Yo La Tengo - "I Can Hear the
Heart Beating As One"
Five Worst Albums of 1997
1. Bush - "Deconstructed"
2. Spice Girls -- "SpIceworld"
3. Matchbox 20 - "Yourself or
Someone Like You"
4. Chumbawamba - "Tubthumper"
5. Aqua - "Aquarium"

Soggy recordings leave 1997 in musical limbo

By Brian Cohen
Daily Music Editor
Depending on who you ask, 1997
stood out as a rather significant year in
the music industry for a variety of rea-
sons. Some were convinced it was the
year electronica took listeners by storm.
Others maintain that it was the year
female musicians finally stepped into
the spotlight. And, going by chart posi-
tions and sales alone, hip-hop made the
most notable impression on 1997.
But as we look back on last year's
musical climate, it is safe to say that '97
was not the breakthrough year that so
many record companies and media
moguls hoped it would be. In fact, if
nothing else, 1997 showed the music
world in limbo, as both executives and
artists alike seemed more content to
release regurgitated material than to
push the envelope with original or cre-
ative means of expression. It was a year
that both performers and listeners spent
waiting patiently - waiting for the
"next big thing."
Many in the music business thought
that "thing" was electronica, a general
categorical term used to encompass
pretty much every form of music creat-
ed with a computer or keyboards,
including ambient, drum and bass,
trip-hop, house and techno. Things
looked good early on for this genre,
thanks in part to America's introduc-
tion to and increased familiarity with
England's electronic pioneers, The
Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy,
who had already made such a musical
menagerie in Britain's underground
rave culture.
The Chemical Brothers' explosive
"Dig Your Own Hole" first sparked seri-
ous interest in electronica, as it deliv-
ered thundering sonic booms of noise
and intensity early in the year. The
Prodigy 's highly anticipated summer
release "The Fat of the Land" followed
with a dizzying adrenaline rush and
debuted at No. I on the "Billboard"
charts. But despite its impressive begin-
ning and the strength of singles
"Firestarter" and "Breathe sales start-
ed trailina off and it soon became clear

that the album had failed to live up to its
advanced billing as "the sound of the
future." Although perfect for dancing,
electronica, like The Prodigy itself, sim-
ply did not have enough of an identifi-
able pop element to attract mass public
So if it wasn't electronic music, what
else was supposed to provoke wide-
spread media attention in the music
world of 1997? The answer arose when
rapper Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. Notorious
B.I.G., was shot and killed in early
March, sparking a trail of conspiracy
hypotheses trying to link Small's death
with that of rapper Tupac Shakur, who
was gunned down a year earlier in Las
Vegas. The death of Smalls left the
door wide open for his producer friend
Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs to move
from behind the scenes of his own Bad
Boy Records label
into the spotlight as
one of hip-hop's '97 ws
most versatile tal-
ents yet. breakth
Combs released
Smalls' previously t so 1
recorded album
"Life After Death;' record c
and then proceeded g. .i
to release his own hoped it
two-disc album,
"No Way Out," as
well as produce a string of top-10 hits
with the other artists on his own label.
Combs' biggest success came with the
Smalls tribute single "I'll Be Missing
You," which sampled words and music
from The Police's "Every Breath You
Take." Despite Combs' prolific prepon-
derance in the charts, the world of hip-
hop was still in need of a new shot of
life, and as with rock, a change could
not come too soon.
But leave it to the corporate rock
geniuses to try to speed things along by
coming up with another "new" flavor of
musical filler to attempt to hold alterna-
tive radio listeners over for yet another
year of stale reincarnations. This year,
radio delved into the land of ska; No
Doubt, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
and Sublime led the way, with sound-

alikes Smashmouth, Less Than Jake
and Reel Big Fish clinging tightly to
their coattails. To make matters worse,
just when listeners thought grunge was
dead and buried, its rotting carcass
arose to haunt the music world with
stale and lifeless guitar riffs in the shod-
dy forms of Matchbox 20, Third Eye
Blind and Tonic.
One positive result of these bands'
presence became clear once they started
grouping themselves together in the
ever-so-trendy summer festivals. Low
ticket sales and even lower talent levels
for events like the Furthur Festival and
the Vans Warped Tour allowed the all-
female Lilith Fair to stand out against
the rest, backed with sold-out crowds
and a massive media blitz.
The brainchild of Sarah McLachlan,

who both organized
not the
rough year
om panies
would be.

and performed in
the festival, the
Lilith Fair
allowed a wide
variety of female
musicians to
showcase their
talents in one
impressive set-
ting. In conjunc-
tion with the
release of solid
debut albums,
artists such as

The Verve, Oasis and Radiohead.
Having reformed after a previous split,
The Verve's confident swagger finally
cracked America with the single
"Bittersweet Symphony" off its latest
album, "Urban Hymns." Radiohead
proved that a band could rock and be
clever at the same time (and get nomi-
nated for a Grammy in the process) with
its expansive, multi-instrumental mas-
terpiece, "OK Computer."
Oasis might not control the planet,
but its imperious appeal has reached
even larger numbers, thanks in part to
anthemic singles like "Don't Go Away"
and "All Around The World" from its
latest album "Be Here Now." Gene,
Spiritualized, Jamiroquai and Blur also
turned in more than noteworthy efforts,
as did The Charlatans UK and newcom-
ers Geneva and Travis.
As in several earlier years, 1997 was
not without its own batch of musical
comebacks. Fleetwood Mac and The
Rolling Stones donned tights and
stitched up their laces one more time
while launching two of the year's most
successful tours, while Jane's Addiction
reformed (with help from Red Hot Chili
Pepper bassist Flea) and Bob Dylan
released "Time Out of Mind," which
showcases some of his most profound
work in recent memory.
If 1997 left a bad taste in your
mouth, then '98 might just deliver the
extra minty roll of Certs necessary to
relieve this misery. Pearl Jam will
release its fifth album, "Yield," on Feb.
3, containing a superb mix of harder-
edged Who-tinged rockers ("Brain of
J," "Faithful") and moderately paced
melodic gems ("In Hiding," "Wish
List"). Pearl Jam has also recorded its
first video since 1992's "Jeremy" to
accompany its first single, "Given To
Fly." Sonic Youth, Phair, Nine Inch
Nails, Hole and post-rockers Tortoise
will also have new material out this
So as 1997's reheated-versus-freshly-
prepared approach to music has now
come and gone, we can only hope
things will be a little less soggy and a bit
more crisp in the new year. Bon appetit.

- Compiled by the Daily Music Staff

Daily Music Staffers' Top 10 Lists
Con Bartos
1. Catherine Wheel - "Adam & Eve"
2. Radiohead - "OK Computer"
3. Pennywise - "Full Circle"
4. Sloan - "One Chord ToAnother"
5. The Promise Ring - "Nothing Feels
6. Discount - "Half-Fiction"
7. Foo Fighters - "The Colour and the
8. Smoking Popes - "Destination
9. Superchunk - "Indoor Living"
10. Green Day - "Nimrod"
10. Hoarse - "Happens Twice" (tie)
Brian Cohen
1. Radiohead - "OK Computer"
2. The Verve -- "Urban Hymns"
3. Oasis - "Be Here Now"
4. Gene - "Drawn to the Deep End"
5. Sarah McLachlan - "Surfacing"
6. Mark Eitzel/ Peter Buck -
7. Geneva - "Further"
8. Blur - "Blur"
9. Spiritualized - "Ladies and
Gentlemen We Are Floating In
Gabe Fajuri
1. Ben Folds Five - "Whatever and
Ever Amen"
2. Pietasters - "Willis"
3. Mr. T Experience - "Revenge Is
Sweet, And So Are You"
4. Hoarse - "Happens Twice"
5. Bouncing Souls - "The Bouncing
6. Ben Folds Five - "Naked Baby
7. Sicko - "You Are Not The Boss Of
8. Stubborn All Stars - "Back with a
New Batch"
9. The Humpers - "Plastique
10. Telegraph (The Skolars) - "Ten
Songs And Then Some"
Robert Mitchum
1. Ben Folds Five - "Whatever and
Ever Amen"
2. Radiohead - "OK Computer"
3. Yo La Tengo - "I Can Hear the
Heart Beating As One"
4. Phish - "Slipstitch and Pass"
5. Chemical Brothers - "Dig Your
Own Hole"
6. Poster Children - "RTFM"
7. Neil Young - "Year of the Horse"
8. Various Artists - "SubUrbia

9. Guided By Voices - "Mag
10. Pixies - "Death to the Pixies"
Aaron Rennie
1. Radiohead - "OK Computer"
2. The Verve - "Urban Hymns"
3. Led Zeppelin -"Live at the BCC"
4. The Pixies - "Death to the Pixies"
5. Oasis - "Be Here Now"
6. Supergrass - "In It For The
7. Primal Scream - "Vanishing
7. James - "Whiplash" (tie)
9. Bob Dylan - "Time Out of Mind"
10. Yo La Tengo - "I Can Hear The
Heart Beating As One"
Anders Smith-Lindall
1. Richard Buckner - "Devotion +
2. Son Volt - "Straightaways"
3. Built to Spill - "Perfect From Now
4. The Jayhawks - "Sound of Lies"
5. Blue Mountain - "Homegrown"
6. Bob Dylan - "Time Out of Mind"
7. Pavement - "Brighten the
8. Sleater-Kinney - "Dig Me Out"
9. Yo La Tengo - "I Can Hear the
Heart Beating As One"
10. Will Oldham -"Joya"
Ted Watts
1. Faith No More - "Album of the
2. KMFDM - "<Five Dingbats>"

Jewel, Paula Cole and Fiona Apple
joined McLachlan and her sensational
"Surfacing" album in the limelight for
much of 1997.
With Lilith dominating most facets
of the summer media and music mar-
kets, women seemed to have made a
tremendous impact on 1997's musical
mainstream. But to call 1997 "The
Year of the Woman" would fail to rec-
ognize more than three decades' worth
of previous female pioneering efforts,
ranging from Janis Joplin to Liz Phair,
and therefore such a moniker is useless
and inaccurate.
Despite all the listless uninventive-
ness of 1997. not everything was quite
so bad. Once again, England provided
some of the year's most catchy and
impressive music, most notably from

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