2004: Cream Of The Crop And Cream Of The Slop

by Chris Harlow

Realizing award lists should only be given to truly worthy albums -- err, CDs in today's terms -- I'm going to list the five releases from this year that have truly made a positive impact on me. I'll also grant other albums certain awards of note based off of my perception after giving them the necessary spins to warrant an opinion.

5. Silver -- White Diary

The only thing Silver did not do right in 2004 was to let their Scandinavian love-metaller neighbors H.I.M. get to the Hot Topic shelves first -- in an effort to generate the same major label interest and pre-pubescent adulation as their Nordic contemporary. That's probably a good thing, in retrospect, as Blanco Summer and his band can be left in an unencumbered state to create more albums for Bad Afro Records that provide the same dark and gothic urgency to the songs on this album.
4. Baby Woodrose -- Dropout!

The Danish label, Bad Afro Records, places their second album in as many spots on my top five list. While Baby Woodrose's Dropout! album is a release that is nothing but covers, the fact that the songs are rather obscure but undeniably solid garage act recordings from the '60s and '70s scores major points with me. As a reviewer that tries to stay caught up in today's musical world, it's always nice when an album in the form of Dropout! comes along to remind me of how good music from the past really was. Additionally, it's even better when a Danish trio can accomplish this through the ears of a musical heritage developed through exposure to bands that FM radio never touched in my youth as a kid here in America.

3. Gluecifer -- Automatic Thrill

If I were awarding a comeback album of the year, Automatic Thrill from Norwegian rockers Gluecifer would win the hardware hands down. Straightforward rock, mixed with a lyrical wit -- read brilliance, not juvenile flair -- that frontman Biff Malibu has always been able to create, makes for a very welcome return to form after 2002's lackluster Basement Apes recording.


2. Monster Magnet -- Monolithic Baby!

Dave Wyndorf and his New Jersey crew have done it yet again. Monolithic Baby! has it all. Bombastic rock in the form of tunes like "Radiation Day" and "Slut Machine," straightforward rock anthem sing a-longs like, "Unbroken (Hotel Baby)," and cosmic space rock in perhaps its most definitive form, "The Right Stuff," allow for this album to be perhaps the most diverse and important hard rock release of 2004.
1. Maryslim -- Split Vision

I have to admit, Swedish rockers Maryslim came out of nowhere to win my best album of 2004 award. I had only recently been turned on to this band by virtue of the addictive nature of a single from their debut album, "Quite Intoxicated." I scored mightily with my casual purchase of their Split Vision release on Wild Kingdom. Ironically the title of that first single proved to be quite prophetic -- I have been a borderline happy drunk ever since I have been spinning this release. This is a real rock effort with a true sense of purpose from track one to the very end. As good as the albums I have listed above are, Maryslim's Split Vision wins the best release in 2004 award hands down.


Most Disappointing Release Award

The Carburetors -- Pain is Temporary * Glory is Forever

I'll be the first to admit that this release was probably only disappointing to me as I was expecting - or rather - hoping that the Carburetors would become worthy stablemates to many of the action rock bands I enjoy listening to. This album proves that just because a band is from a particular rock n' roll hotbed -- in this case Norway -- all the rock and roll imagery and symbolism a band bestows upon themselves does not necessarily translate into anything resembling a worthwhile listening experience.

The Most Anticipated Import To Be Re-Released Domestically, To Be Followed By The Biggest Yawn Award

The Wildhearts -- Riff After Riff

This was one of the Wildhearts efforts that was billed as one of the bands more accessible releases? Not to these ears. Originally released in Japan back in 2002 (Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff), this album was one of the more inconsistent efforts I have ever been mistakenly led to believe was the real deal.


The Album That Will Unfairly Sink A Band Back To The Depths Of Also-Ran Award

The Hives -- Tyrannosaurus Hives

It's not that I don't find this album to be rather enjoyable myself, it's just that I think the Hives will find themselves wishing they never had their 15 minutes of bright light fame, as this album disappeared too quickly after a significant amount of major label hype. To the masses, the Hives will likely become known as a one-hit wonder destined for the humor that only a future VH-1 special can provide; to the fans they had originally culled from the underground, the question of the day will be….how long will it be before they are welcomed back?


The "Don't Believe The Hype" Award

Mando Diao -- Hurricane Bar

Some people are saying that Hurricane Bar is the Mando Diao album that is supposed to propel the band into the next big thing coming out of Europe following in the steps of another fellow Swedish band, the Hives. Hopefully you didn't know this, as I can tell you that the world already has David Bowie and has been graced by the Kinks, thank you. I can also tell you that there is nothing on this album suggesting that these guys will ever record anything better than the worst Bowie and Kinks material that's already been released. So hopefully, the guys in Mando Diao will be softened by my criticism after reading the words I've just laid down in my critique of Tyrannosaurus Hives above.


The Best Independent Record/CD Store Award

Considering how much of what I write for this site comes from one particular retailer, I'm creating an award for the best rock n' roll mail order shop on the internet. While Älmhult, Sweden may be best known as housing one of the more affordable solutions for better living in IKEA, it also is home to one of the more affordable solutions for music listening in Hot Stuff Mailorder (www.hotstuff.se). Advantages in shopping at Hot Stuff include an unparalleled selection of what are largely independent-label Scandinavian rock releases that are offered via an English-text website option and of equal importance, a checkout feature that automatically backs out the aggressive VAT taxes that Sweden charges folks in Europe. Top it off with the fact that they are highly reliable in their shipping and packaging duties only makes it easier for rock fans to find and enjoy music from bands they may have only previously heard about.

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