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Top 10 of 2001 (more or less in order)
1. Rocket from the Crypt- Group Sounds (Vagrant) "Break dance with knives stuck in your back"
Hands down -- the winner in my book. I'll rescind my original statement that this could be their best record yet. No, a review of their discography showed this to be their best. Repeated listens only confirm --- this is a first-rate rock record with hooks out the wazoo, plenty of swagger, and the tightest horns they've had yet.
2. Strike Anywhere - Change is a Sound (Jade Tree)
"Inside us there's a nation hidebound and unaware.a people's insurrection of the soul to kill despairrelease us now!"
Maintaining a non-stop presence on the frequent listening stack here at Rockist H.Q. is the first full-length release from this Richmond, VA band. The first thing one notices about the record is just HOW HUGE the guitars sound. The second thing you notice is the inspired and uplifting vocals that make this an incredibly fun and empowering sing-a-long album. Punk rock that drives musical inspiration from New York H/C of the late 80s and early 90s, the melodic H/C of bands like Lifetime, and their contemporaries Avail and Hot Water Music and lyrical inspiration from the need to live better lives than what we're handed.
3. Pilot to Gunner - Games at High Speeds (Gern Blandsten)
"We'll make the math work, if it's the last thing we do."
An incredibly impressive first full-length from a relatively new band, GHS is the sound of a band well aware of its musical predecessors but sounding like no one else in particular, a band willing to push the envelope and combine tricky verses with big sounding choruses. And they're just getting started
4. American Steel - Jagged Thoughts (Lookout! Records)
"Light some spark in a sluggish mind. And all the world is a powder keg I remember you loved freedom too."
From my review of this album for All Music Guide: " From the opening staccato chords of Jagged Thoughts, one gets the sense that this is a giant step forward for these Berkeley punks. The one-two-three-four punk of their self-titled debut and the urgent feel of the songs on Rogue's March are still present, but they are subverted to the substantial expansion of the band's sound. Reggae and Latin-influenced rhythms mix with Clash-style anthems, raucous punk, and choruses that sounds a mile wide to form a picture of a band hitting their stride. What's more, the crisp production of Kevin Army (Green Day, Mr. T Experience) brings the gravely voices of American Steel's two singers more to the forefront than their previous releases. All of these elements serve as the backbone behind the band's knack for writing lyrics that are wistful and hopeful at the same time. A strong, strong record reflecting tremendous growth."
5. Hot Water Music - A Flight and a Crash (Epitaph)
"To know. Know before I act, act before I grow. In control, with fear on hold. Cutting me loose from old rules."
Hot Water Music took a giant risk in 2001 by choosing to release this album on Epitaph and by choosing to mix up their sound a bit. But the variety of tempos and melodies are only a backdrop to the cohesiveness of this album and the strength of their songs, which plough deeper thoughts and more intense feelings than past releases yet somehow come across just as anthemic and powerful.
6. National Skyline - This = Everything (File 13)
An odd choice, only because it can hardly be called a "rock" record. But knowing the bands (Hum, Castor, Compound Red) that these guys came from and hearing their evolution (both from their prior bands and from their EP) has to give one pause. The soundscapes and beautiful pop that these guys create is nothing short of majestic.
7. Fugazi - The Argument (Dischord)
"memo to the partnersI'm changing all the locksI'm pissing on your modemsI'm shredding all the stockchoose a color for your ceilingI'm waiting for the bottom to drop"
Argument may be a slightly more difficult album for people to latch onto than their previous albums, but the rewards are just as great. Fugazi seems to have found a place that many aspire to - the two-headed beast of comfort within one's skin and a desire to push the envelope of melody and sound in new directions.
8. Propagandhi - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes (Fat)
"Conclusion: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down"
The evolution from Less Talk, More Rock is so pronounced that this record should not be ignored. The lyrics are likely the smartest critiques of American imperialism, misguided foreign policy, false idols, and consumerism in the realm of music and short of a Noam Chomsky work. So intelligent they silence the critics that label "preachy" any punk rock that dares to question.
9. Anti-Flag - Underground Network (Fat)
"They try to blind us but wee..
Stand up and fight! Stand up and fight!
They try to keep us ignorant but we
Stand up and fight! Stand up and fight!
They want to take our rights away so
Stand up and fight! Stand up and fight!"
Pittsburgh's Anti-Flag issue a call to action to the nation's youth with a series of street punk anthems in the manner of The Clash and Rancid. The reality of post-September 11th America is the Left has been pushed out of the picture by the galvanization of the nation in our war efforts. And it is tough to change our American policies in such a culture. But this album serves as a potent reminder that we have to know what we're fighting for (are you so sure anymore?) and that's tough to do in the current culture. Anti-Flag takes a stand for and against a number of different issues all of which are no less relevant today than they were in August, the over-ridding theme being the calculated disenfranchisement of a vast majority of the nation's citizens and the suppression of information need to make informed decisions. The songs are not just blowing in the wind, however; they are grounded in information and research, the sources of which are provided throughout the liner ! notes. And you can be assured, that these words are backed up by catchy melodies and razor-sharp riffs. Extremely potent stuff here.
10. Blueline Medic - The Apology Wars (Fueled by Ramen)
"you say I have to get a real life but I'm not sure how that in making someone or other rich is any more real than making the niche for yourself"
All the kids that miss the introspective lyrics and aggressive yet catchy pop-punk of Jawbreaker should sell their Jets to Brazil albums and pick up this one instead. These guys are from Australia, but you get the sense that they've listened to their fair share of American 'college rock' (in addition to a healthy dose of The Smiths). Anchored by the incredibly intelligent, wholly self-aware, and occasionally dramatic lyrics of singer Donnie Dureau, this is a truly terrific record.
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