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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #356  (Vol. 8, No. 3) This edition is for the week of January 15--22, 2007.

The Tampa Film Review For January  by Nolan Canova, Chris Woods, and Terence Nuzum
The First Fanboy Summit of '07 or ED Tucker's Giant Spider Invasion  by Nolan B. Canova
"Letters From Iwo Jima"  by Mike Smith
The Top 20 Albums of 2006  by Terence Nuzum
Putzo's Top 10 Worst Moments in Fandom....The Giant Spider Invasion starring Ed Tucker....Goodbye to Yvonne De Carlo  by Andy Lalino
Whatever Gets You Through The Night....Passing On....Movie News....Awards Time....Oscar Time....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 3: Dennis Christopher  by Mike Smith
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

The 20 Best Albums of 2006

Musically, 2006 was a year of high expectations, failed promises and the rock's old guard surprising us still after all these years. There were a lot of albums that should have been better (Pearl Jam, The Strokes, The Flaming Lips, Alejandro Escovedo) and others were better than expected. But the two most astonishing milestones were firstly the comebacks of some of the 60's and 70's rock gods. Dylan, Neil Young, The Who, and Tom Waits all made albums that were at least up to their best material and some that were better than younger bands' efforts. The second milestone was that it seems with the mainstream press trumpeting bands like TV on the Radio, Cat Power,The Knife and many others, that indie rock is just one inch closer to becoming a household name.

Now onto the list. Here they are in order of least to greatest....

20. Belle And Sebastian: The Life Pursuit - This time they let their hair down just a little more by dropping the twee folk almost completely and embracing the Motown and stax sound they obviously are lisitening to at home. One day they are gonna really let loose and give us that masterpiece we have been waiting a decade for.

19. Wolfmother: Wolfmother - In an age where hard rock is some lame band called Nickleback whining and mining '70s riffs, Wolfmother comes at just the right time. A mix of Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep prog keyboards, this Australian band sounds like the closest and funnest thing to rock and roll as we got. The Frazetta-esque cover says it all.

18. Beck: The Information - Going back to his his Whip-Hop roots (that's white hip-hop. I just coined that I think!) Beck may once again have "two turntables and a microphone" but he's not in it for the devil-may-care, throw-shit-at-the-wall aesthetic anymore. By adding the more mature and focused side he showed on "Sea Change", we almost have greatness once again. The folky rap beat of "Nausea" still hasn't exited my mind.

17. Robert Pollard: From A Compound Eye - So Capt. Bob broke up one of my favorite bands, Guided By Voices, to do what? Go solo and record the greastest Guided By Voices album in years. God I hate him but how I love him. With songs like "Love is Stronger than Withcraft" and "Dancing Girls and Dancing Men" he shows that no matter who's backing him, no matter what moniker he records under, GBV or solo, he still can pop out the indie hits.

16. Drive By Truckers: A Blessing and A Curse - After three albums of southern goth opera, the Truckers sit down to make just a damn good ol'boy country rock album. Cooley's "Gravity's Gone" steals the show along with Jason Isbell's stab at making a hit single, "Daylight", but it's still Patterson Hood's undefeatable booze-and-whiskey whine and crazy-horse guitar crunch that remains the backbone of this stellar band. They just get better and better.

15. The Fiery Furnaces: Bitter Tea - Taking Blueberry Boat's manic, Zappa-like epics and amalgamiting them into pop songs was something they hinted at on their E.P., but this album was something else. The closest they are likely to get to the mainstream with tales of spiteful families and police sweaters all backed by jittery guitar and '60s-ish girl group vocals make this otherwordly. The backward vocals are used too much to be effective or revolutionary, but they do have their moments. But it is increasingly evident that while this is a great album, it's as far as they can take this sort of thing. If they don't adapt soon they wont be on top 20 lists much longer. And that might suit them just fine.

14. Islands: Return to the Sea - After disbanding as The Unicorns there were all sorts of rumors as to what direction these guys would go in. At first it was a series of legendary gigs as The Corrn Gang, a rapper backed by members of the band, indie-rap if you will. Instead, that album was scrapped and their new band, Islands, appeared. On their debut they drop the Syd Barrett manics of The Unicorns and go for a mix of Bright Eyes and Belle and Sebastian. Thing is, it works. Like a charm. The legendary Corrn Gang line-up appears on one track, and hearing it, it's a shame that they didn't do more. Nevertheless, Return to the Sea, while likely to be a one-album deal, will go down in history much like Blind Faith. Sometimes one is all you need.

13. Destroyer: Destroyer's Rubies - The sticker on the outside of the CD made it clear...Destroyer is a band. Destroyer was originally Dan Bejar on guitar backed by wierd electro beats. Sometime after playing in his side band, The New Pornographers, he must have realized that full sound is the best, and one can't always do it alone. That being said, he has now, with a band, made the best album of his career. The full-on punch of the understated, almost jazz, backing group, mixed with his sneering-yet-poppy vocals is what he should have been doing all along. Finally, Destroyer is a band.

12. Califone: Roots & Crowns - Imagine if you will mountian music for the 21st century. Then you can understand Califone. Banjo and manodlins mix effortlessly with beats and electricity. "Spiders House", while nothing new musically, is sonically a different beast as they harness that sparse Robert Johnson echo to a indie pop and electronic beat.

11. Neil Young: Living With War - While hardly anyone in the music world stepped up to the plate to make a protest album, leave it to good ol' Neil. Mostly the lyrics are of a working man's view of the crime that is the war in Iraq, but they nevertheless hit home with lines like "Won't need no shadow men running the government," followed by the apocalyptic chorus, "After the garden is gone!" Even if you are Neil fanatic and aren't one for politics, this album delivered. Not since the distorted fury of the Ragged Gloryalbum has Neil rocked so hard. Working with one of his many backing bands this time The Restless (from the album Freedom) Neil pounds out his original sound of cow-punked fury. Recorded on the fly (like in less than a week), Living With War, while not a polished respectable Grammy-type effort, is a classic. New bands have nothing on the guitar crunch and primitve rock chaos on here. I mean take the album's most controversial track, "Let's Impeach the President", it has a sloppy, badly-recorded blaring trumpet. Punk Rock trumpet!!!! God Bless you, Neil. Not the best album of the year, but maybe the most important.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Show Your Bones - When you first hear this, your thought is gonna be "OK, so 'Gold Lion' could be a No Doubt song and 'Cheated Hearts' is just a regurgitation of 'Maps'." That's where the second and third listen prove you wrong. "Gold Lion" becomes an anthem for punk chicks to show they can sing just as good as any diva and "Cheated Hearts" becomes the indie-rock break-up song. The songs between the cracks are, if anything, testatment to this band's growth. "Mysteries" is an amazing exercise in restraint until the end where Karen O belts out her trademark screams and the closing songs reflect introspection that may be signalling the end of a band and the beginning of a solo act.

9. Tom Waits: Orphans - So the press is that this is nothing but Waits' leftovers from several albums. The liner notes point to nowhere. So instead of cashing in on the fact that these are outtakes mad ol' Tom does what every other band used to do in the old days...just release it as a new album. Consisting of three discs each with a theme. Brawlers has songs that are like creaky haunted house rockabilly, Bawlers consists of Tom Waits demented Louis Armstrong ballads, and Bastards are mostly insane poetry rants and beat jazz. Even with three discs you never feel like you've had enough Tom. It's that good.

8. Swan Lake: Beast Moans - Dan Bejar's other side project, with members of Wolf Parade, Swan Lake's cover art, reminicent of some halluciantory Hawaiian mural, told me one of two things. Either A) this is going to going to be some lame instrumental wananbe Mono cash-in band, or B) Bejar has been listening to unknown underground '60's psychadelia. The answer was B. Having recently come across an amazing online blog with rare '60s garage pysch gems, I completely got what Bejar was going for. That almost grungier version of Moody Blues and a more pop like sound of garage rockers Shadows of Knight. Why "All Fires" isn't a hit is beyond me. Maybe this is for '60s music fanatics only, or maybe everyone needs to be listening to some Fapardokly more often.

7. Secret Machines: Ten Silver Drops - Their debut was a revelation. That a band in this day and age could still record that huge exspansive sound that Led Zep and the Floyd got so often. But on Ten Silver Drops they choose not to return to past glories and instead enter the future. That future for a band who revels in past sounds is of course full-on Prog-Rock. Actually, more like Prog Pop, but terms mean little when you can create a drum beat and rhythm section that sounds like Can making the Billboard 100. What's next? Kraftwerkian soundscapes? I can't wait.

6. The Thermals: the body the blood the machine - Remember real punk rock? You know, the kind in the '70s where everything with a snotty attitude and quirky anti-rock guitar meant you were rebel? What happend to that? Now punk stands for everything that sounds like the three-chord ethics of the Ramones. Well, enter the Thermals. Mix David Byrne with some Fleshtones and Modern Lovers and a little bit of Television and you have it. The album's theme of religious hypocrisy is, of course, as punk as you can get. To modern ears it might be labled indie, or god forbid, emo, but to those who know better, it's like giving your old copy of The Vibrators' Pure Mania a spin.

5. Sparklehorse: Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain - Five years in the making and all the better for it. Having already established himself as the modern Todd Rundgren, sole member of Sparklehorse Mark Linkous has nothing to prove. This time, he collaborates with DJ Dangermouse and his usual bevy of friends (Tom Waits, etc.), but like usual, if you hadn't been told, you would never know. The Dangermouse tracks do have a little more of a beat then usual, but Linkous had been doing that already for years. His music a bizarre mixture of '70s rock riffs via lo-fi, indie-pop, drone, and alt-country hasn't changed since his last three efforts, but it has gained scope. The album ends with a glorious psychedelic guitar solo that's a Voodo Childe ending to this, his Electric Ladyland.

4. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife - Am I the only one who thought Picaresque kinda sucked compared to their other albums? It basically was nothing more than them pandering to their new acceptance into the indie-rock world with boring wannabe Belle and Sebastian rip-offs and lackluster Smiths retreads. I didn't think that they could come back this strong. Boy, was I wrong. The album opens with the magnificent acoustic "Crane Wife" which leads into the first sign of greatness, the prog-pop epic "The Island". They invoke their inner Jethro Tull in this three-suite song and come off more prog-rock than so-called proggers like Mars Volta. The album is full of the pirate and sea shanties we all love but this time they add more maturity and polish. No, not major label sell-out polish, but refined, masterful, full-on playing polish. One of the few indie-rock bands to show progress in their muscianship. I should say they can only get better, but this one is going to be hard to beat.

3. The Knife: The Silent Shout - Where on earth did this band come from? And where on earth have you been all my life. First off, they don't exaclty get points in the originality corner. I mean, the synth work is pure Kraftwerk, and the vocals are all Bjork, except on helium. Somehow, though, they manage to put their stamp and atmosphere into it and that makes it all come out sounding more alien than both Bjork and Kraftwerk, if that's possible. A eerily European album that has been making the rounds on indie rock dancefloors all year. Now if only the masses will accept it we can get rid of booty music all together. Not since Radioheads' OK Computer has an album sounded like its own world. Now we just have to figure out what planet that is and colonize it.

2. Bob Dylan: Modern Times - Like The Knife's Silent Shout, Dylan's new album doesn't break any new ground. The title, Modern Times, speaks volumes. As Sci-Fi writer Philip Dick once predicted, past fashions and art and music will dry up and then we re-mine the past. Just look around, this has been going on since the '80s. Dylan's album is steeped in the music of the '40s, from Louis Armstrong ballads to Tin Pan Alley, to the blues and western swing, but the beauty of it is that somehow Bobby D makes it all relevant. Imagine a western swing song by Bob Wills mentioning Alicia Keys. Yeah, it's a mindfuck. The biggest achievement of this album is that, lyrically, Dylan is back. From lines like "some lazy slut has charmed my brains" to "one day you too will burn" to "I'm gonna raise me some tough sons of bitches". Yes you know what I mean. That contempt and vitriol is back. The album tells of a post-catastrophe America whose levees have flooded, whose poor are no better off, and, oh yeah, there's thunder on the mountain. Of course, Dylan doesn't out right come out and say any names or current incidents, but the clues are there. Or maybe it's like he always said, he just writes it as it comes out and things get shuffled in the mix that could or could not relate to current events. Remember, he has stated "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" wasn't about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but we sure all thought so. An absolute classic in the Dylan canon, and that's saying a lot. He has achieved the impossible. He has grandparents, parents, and grandchildren as fans. George Harrison had it right when he said that years from now, that even when the Beatles are forgotten, Dylan will stand out in the rubble.

1. TV On The Radio: Return To Cookie Mountain - How did this beat Dylan? Simple: it sounds like nothing out there today. Vocals that sound like Peter Gabriel backed by a punk band which are then awash in My Bloody Valentine shoe-gaze reverb and lost even more in the mix by electropops makes for an album that will be dissected for years. I've heard it roughly 12 times and I'm still finding something new to listen to every time. TVOTR's songs have also gained that epic scope and a U2 studium grandeur that they seemed to strive for but always lacked on previous outings. "Wolf Like Me " was hands down song of the year. An infectious driving guitar following an R&B punk vocal, it shattered the notion of what could be a hit single and was one more sign that indie rock is almost there at the doorstep of the mainstream. Though listen to "Blues Down Here" with its tribal chanting and "Tonight" sporting the most late night/early morning comedown atmosphere in rock history and you'll know that this record is too good to be on MTV, too good to be used on commercials, too good to win a Grammy. This is the thing they all strive for. It's not the pot at the end of the rainbow. It's not the Holy Grail. Instead, it's the gem that has no monetary value...it's original.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2007 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.