Words + Guitar (+ Beats + Skronk)

What mattered and what splattered in pop, 1997

8) DJ Quest every day Carlos Aguilar (aka DJ Quest) is an inspiration: He's one of the best turntablists anywhere, he's one of the few Latinos on the DJ circuit, and he's dope as all hell. Quest made his name one party at a time, honing skills that make DJs drool with jealousy. But more importantly, he's reinventing turntablism by scratching with musicians in his improv jazz group Live Human.

9) Portishead, Portishead
10) The Accused, Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories Ever Told After listening to this record for the past 10 years, I still grin at the slurred, maniacal vocals and the crazed riffs. Back then, when every band worth its amplifiers was trying to make the perfect crossover album, the Accused's fusion of punk and metal set the standard. In the words of a good friend, "It needed to be done."

Heather Wisner's Top 10 Music-Related Stuff of 1997

1) Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the Mexico City Metro loudspeakers Because unfamiliar surroundings can make old and well-loved music sound new and thrilling all over again.

2) The Mono Men live at the Kilowatt Grinning, sweaty drunks bounced helplessly around a beer-soaked floor as Olympia's finest ripped into one garage rocker after another from their '97 album Have a Nice Day, Motherfucker. A reminder to shut up and dance.

3) Beyond and Back: The X Anthology The rest of the unheard music -- studio outtakes, previously unreleased songs, live shows (Exene slags Debbie Harry!), funny liner notes, candid photos, and testimonials from people whose lives were transformed by the mighty power of X, including Joan Jett, Donita Sparks, Pat Smear, and Pee-wee Herman.

4) Elliott Smith, Either/Or Smith's bitter valentine to the scenic misery of Portland, Ore. You can almost hear the rain and the tears sloshing against the sides of a pint glass.

5) Lynyrd Skynyrd biography on VH1 "Free Bird" sounds so much more poignant after the gruesome details of the plane crash.

6) Portishead, Portishead Singer Beth Gibbons is possessed -- gorgeously, eerily -- by the ghosts of dance halls past.

7) Jonathan Fire*Eater live at the Kilowatt New York City showmen preach the gospel at a rock 'n' roll revival; the enthralled capacity crowd leaves feeling like they've been privy to something major.

8) Israeli singing sensation and swoon-worthy teen-age heartthrob Halil Elohev in Saint Clara at the Roxie Oh, to be 16 again, just for the weekend.

9) Jazz crooner Jimmy Scott live at Stern Grove Maybe it was just the afternoon sun that melted our butter.

10) Anticipation for the January release of the Donnas' American Teenage Rock 'n' Roll Machine, after tantalizing previews Teen gals plug in, get loaded, flip Mom and Dad the bird, stay out past curfew, and grab a piece of boy action. Excellent.

1997 Booby Prize "I'm very much against live music in bars" -- Chron staff writer Sam Whiting, approving the Kilowatt's decision to stop booking bands, in the execrable "What's Shakin' on 16th Street: A Guide to the Hippest Nabe in the City" (Datebook, Nov. 30-Dec. 6).

Paul Kimball's Best Music of 1997 (In no special order)

1) Shudder to Think, 50,000 BC Departing from the standard indie script on their second major label release (where you reach back to the fans who brung ya), Shudder to Think went from the art-punk weirdness of 1994's Pony Express Record to the strangest pop album of 1997.

2) Machine Head, The More Things Change The corpse of heavy metal twitches again, lunges forward, grabs you by the hair, and forces you to crank up this excellent disc from Oakland's Machine Head.

3) Pink Noise Test, Plasticized Pink Noise Test take the best of late-'80s goth-pop (the Cure, Love & Rockets) and mix it with teen-punk energy, New York cool, and bursts of squiggly electronic noise.

4) The singles from Sublime OK, the album's been on the Billboard charts for 73 weeks as of this printing, so it's pretty stupid to count it as a "best of 1997" anything. That being said, it seems like every month of the past year has seen the release of a new single from the record, each one a cheerfully intoxicating mix of tough-guy sentimentality and beachfront bluster. "What I Got," "Santeria," "Wrong Way," "Doin' Time," and "Caress Me Down" are all great examples of why some bands live forever on the FM dial, despite the brevity of their hit-making careers.

5) Old 97's, Too Far to Care Clever lyrics can murder a good rock tune. But the Old 97's manage just the right balance of cleverness and sincerity on Too Far to Care, turning thin-soled country-rock cliches into rousing sing-along anthems. Intense enthusiasm allows the sharp turns of lyrical phrase to emerge as signatures, not the ironic forgeries of novelty.

6) Built to Spill, Perfect From Now On Doug Martsch and his band, Built to Spill, show just how much can be said in the transitions between lyrical images, between musical phrases, and between parts of a song. Perfect From Now On is a collection of beautiful transitional gestures drawn in guitar, bass, and drums that confidently asserts the enduring ability of traditional rock instrumentation to communicate complex moods and thoughts. So far six songs have taken turns being my favorite on this record, and I'm still not done with it.

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