The Best of 2003

Ranking and filing our Local Top Ten

5. Michael Jackson, Number OnesBecause reports that Jackson faces allegations of child molestation were unveiled worldwide on news programs and front pages on the same fucking day -- November 18 -- that Number Ones was released. Disturbingly, conspiratorially Wonka.

6. Any emo CDBecause you cannot be that distraught if your band is selling out the Warfield or performing alongside Jane's Addiction.

7. Any punk CDBecause "commercial punk" is an oxymoron. Rebellion, priced to move at $16.95, is all kinds of Wonka.

8. P.O.D.'s Payable on Death, Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown, or any other album by a Christian rock band that subverted its religious undertones just enough to break into a larger marketLook, I have nothing against Christians (Mormons, yes; Christians, no), but if you're gonna stand for something, stand for something. Put Jesus on your album cover, a picture of Abraham getting ready to knife his son on the insert. Those Bible stories, with their whales and giants and miracles, are kind of cool anyway, sort of Dungeons & Dragons, no? But don't try to turn your music into some sort of propagandizing, we-can-sneak-this-on-the-airwaves bullshit. That's so utterly Wonka.

9. Any country music CD that used patriotism to move unitsSince I suspect that a lot of New Times readers don't know squat about country music, let me just tell you that Toby Keith's chart-topping Shock'n Y'all (it's a play on "shock and awe," get it?) includes "The Taliban Song" and "American Soldier." Sample lyrics: "Now they attacked New York City/'Cause they thought they could win/Said they would stand and fight until the very bloody end/Mr. Bush got on the phone with Iraq and Iran and said/Now you sons of bitches you better not be doing any business/With that Taliban." Yee-haw!

10. Any American Idol CDPeople, please! These CDs going quintuple platinum is one degree removed from a band called Coca-Cola or Sprint PCS spending ten weeks at the top of the charts. -- Garrett Kamps


Irony will eventually destroy us. Of course, I don't really mean that. In these media-saturated, hopelessly self-aware end times, we've developed a deep suspicion of sincerity. We dislike rock stars who mean what they say, which explains why most hipsters wouldn't piss on that Dashboard Confessional guy if he were on fire.

Perhaps it's just as well. Rock 'n' roll thrives on the larger-than-life ethos, the outsize persona, the Kiss-style theatrical absurdity. It's an act, a joke, entertainment. So as the New Times brain trust (myself included) pontificates on 2003's finest albums, let us now ruminate on the All-Irony Top Ten -- because either they don't really mean it or you don't really like it. Or worse yet, because you secretly do.

1. Mandy Moore, CoverageJust imagine eternally dour XTC mastermind Andy Partridge when he pops in this teen-pop cash grab and first hears his very own "Senses Working Overtime" recast as a demonic Jazzercise routine (One! Two! Three! Four! Five!) replete with turntable scratches and grandiose autotune aerobics. Dear Mandy wouldn't know half these artists if they bit her in the ass (which they might), but though her Blondie is unspeakably hideous, her Joe Jackson ain't half bad. Whoops! Just kidding! Never mind!

2. The Darkness, Permission to LandThey oughta set up a Betty Ford wing for rock critics who overuse Spinal Tapreferences (guilty!), but goodness gracious, do these English hype titans ever crank their amps to 11 and send you back to Bitch School with Stonehenge-caliber butt-rock that spontaneously combusts like a drummer choking to death on someone else's vomit in a bizarre gardening accident. You will weep openly upon hearing it, but instead of "Lick My Love Pump," the operative words are now "Get your hands off of my woman, MOTHERFUCKER!" Two words: "Shit sandwich."

3. MC Honky , I Am the MessiahIndeed, that last Eels album sucked. Yes, this burrowing-merrily-under-the-radar E side project redeems it. Freed of the squirrelly Eels frontman's usual cocktail of jet-black melancholy, this effervescent little instrumental adventure slaps earnest self-help gurus and cooing lovermen over goofy, ramshackle beats -- a welcome respite now that Beck is a heartbroken serious artist. Utterly insincere and strangely lovable.

4. Macho Man Randy Savage, Be a Man (convulsing violently)

5. Kings of Leon, Youth and Young ManhoodListen: Rock-crit chumps who fixate on hairstyles deserve to be kicked in the taco, but the coifs here are just fucking magnificent and far more evocative of that whole Southern rock-as-glorious-religious-conversion jive than this bandwagoneering sub-Allman Brothers hoo-hah. More songs about having just killed a man from absurdly rail-thin sensitive boys too squeamish to squash spiders with their dog-eared copies of The Idiot's Guide to Freedom Rock.

6. The White Stripes, ElephantIs this all starting to feel a little bizarre to anyone? Too calculated, too prefabricated, too doggedly and self-consciously weird? Could this all be a nefarious hipster marketing scheme -- ooooh, they're brother-sister/husband-wife, ooooh,they're from Detroit, ooooh, they reference obscurist art movements and cover Dolly Parton? The real White Stripes are butt-ugly 50-year-old shoe salespeople from Eugene, Oregon, right? This is the neo-garage Milli Vanilli, right? Has the whole world been Punk'd?

7. Electric Six, FireTo save disco, we must destroy it. Call this Saturday Night Herpes, a deliberately hideous cock-rock-with-a-drum-machine sonic atrocity that allows low-riding badasses the unique opportunity to blast tunes titled "Gay Bar," "Improper Dancing," and "Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)" without impunity or apology. Clothespin your nostrils closed, dive in, and learn why the funniest words committed to tape this year were Stop! Continue!

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