Artists of the Year

Regardless of whether you share Springer's eccentric beliefs, you'd be hard-pressed to find another local filmmaker with as much frame-by-frame flair. And, overzealous as it may sound, this deeply religious auteur occasionally suggests a kind of holy cross between Flannery O'Connor and David Cronenberg. Word has it that Springer is halfway through production of "Heterosapien," yet another politically charged sci-fi comedy. In this one, however, the ever-oppressive state needn't worry so much about female impregnation, as heterosexuals are the outcasts, and homosexuals rule the day. Perhaps we can expect next year's body count, outrage, and laughter to rise again.

Jeremy Swanson is a writer and editor at The African in Tanzania.

 

The White Stripes
By Kate Sullivan

 

I was packing a suitcase last month when I heard some music that cracked my heart. It came on a white CD with no name or date on it, left over after a party. I put it on, and I hear this loose, dirty, bluesy garage rock, played by a clearly crazed young man apparently hitting a Stratocaster with one hand and a drum kit with the other. He stretches his voice into baffling shapes, so high that it breaks. He sorta growls, turning red-faced and breathless, frustrated with a mouthful of hot words and impossible feelings spilling everywhere. So many impossible feelings.

Obviously, this boy knows erotic love--of records, I'd guess. You can hear it in his voice: years of music consumed, stacks of black vinyl cherished, chewed up, smashed to bits, swallowed, and turned into fuel. It hurts him. It hurts to love records that much, to eat them. Your loins burn and your heart pops. Witness the sound of a boy exploding.

This is music from a time when musicians absorbed influences through their bodies, not their brains. It's not even remotely postmodern: It's just music. It sounds like a crazy-sensitive, crazy-deep person who has decided that if he's losing his mind, he may as well set it on fire and invite the neighborhood kids to come and watch.

Anyway, this anonymous miracle kicked my ass: I couldn't hear it for days, feeling nervous even to turn it on. Then I found out that the record is White Blood Cells by the White Stripes, those Detroit kids who wear only red and white. They recorded it in, like, three days. (I heard they turned down a Gap ad, too. Heroes.)

So thank you, you gorgeous monsters. And hail, hail, rock 'n' roll! I didn't think I'd ever feel this way again. I'm finding it hard to say that I need you 20 times a day.

Kate Sullivan is a Los Angeles-based writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.

 

The Moldy Peaches
By Robert Christgau

 

The Moldy Peaches is the most quotable album since 69 Love Songs (including Love and Theft), but that doesn't mean I think anyone will believe that the song of the year begins, "My name is Jorge Regula/I'm walkin' down the street/I love you/Let's go to the beach/Let's go sailing/Let's get a bite to eat/Let's talk about movies/Let's go to sleep." It does, though. Guitar and tuba intro, quiet piano and drums for a while. Adam Green talk-sings each line and then Kimya Dawson repeats it. You can hear her smiling. On the end lines they sing in unison. On the last verse they whisper. Does he love you/her(/him?) or is he just making time? Either way there's an innocence about it with no parallel I know of.

Right after, whap, comes something loud, a negligible ditty lasting a lovable 1:34--a take me to your leader with grunts, yowls, inarticulate guitar. Regrettably, space forbids my continuing the blow-by-blow. But I must cite a few titles: "Who's Got the Crack," "Downloading Porn With Davo," "NYC's Like a Graveyard." And a few lines: "We sure are cute for two ugly people"; "I wanna be a hippie but I forgot how to love"; "My girl's got a dick hanging out of her shorts"; "I'm gonna give you three chances/And then I'm gonna turn you into a goon." I must also mention that in the middle of the saddest song, a cellular rings.

Like the best finger painters, the Moldy Peaches understand the pleasures of pattern and the pleasures of making a mess. At first they seem engaging but a little cheap: Folk-punk minimalism is so easy to execute. But as you relisten, you remember that it's also almost impossible to bring off. And you might also realize that in a music whose great subject is growing up, by which I mean rock proper, no one has achieved such intimacy with the roller-coaster polarities of adolescence, or radiated so much hope about the end of its pain.

Robert Christgau is a senior editor at the Village Voice, and the author of Grown Up All Wrong (Harvard University Press).

 

The Langley Schools Music Project
By Jim Ridley

 

The year's unlikeliest rock 'n' roll heroes are 60 schoolchildren from the public-education system of Langley, British Columbia, recorded 25 years ago on a two-track tape recorder in a high school gym. Those ingredients may sound like a recipe for disaster, or at least for a good bout of contemptuous yuks--especially when the songs come from such dubious sources as the Bay City Rollers and Barry Manilow. But at a time when the national appetite for irony has scarcely been lower, the recordings preserved on Innocence and Despair are doubly piercing for their ghostly, unaffected sweetness.

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