Best Albums 2001 (11-15)

15. The Moldy Peaches — The Moldy Peaches

Sure you’ve had it with the cutes, but Juno is hardly their fault, and if the deadpan verbosity that still gives me sophomoric giggles makes you want to smack ’em, well, like they say, there’s no such thing as a harmless joke. Bold and nerdy, they exorcised childhood insecurities that the sleek pessimism of Interpol and the well-tooled punk revivalism of tour mates the Strokes were too cool to fess up to, and after all these years, this initial juvenile outpouring still tickles me as consistently the Viking kittens. Somebody still loves you, Kimya. (Adam, you simmer down and keep your feet off the furniture.)

14. De La Soul — Art Official Intelligence: Bionix

The middle-class/ square/ suburban aesthetic that proffered a cute, if arch, escape when P.E. reigned now takes root in the everyday life of family, church, and community that pulp cliché has come to evade. “Baby Phat” cajoles full-sized gals, Pos goes Cos on the crochety “Held Down” (“Dedicated to all my folks/ Diagnosed with a bad case of that proper upbringin'”), and they’re not above Wings interpolations when in need of a hook. “Dad Rap,” whippersnapped indignant ageists back when, but unless you believe ghetto thuggery is an unmitigated social good, you quit on ’em too soon. Especially, I bet, if you’ve become a dad yourself.

13. Drive-By Truckers — Southern Rock Opera

A prime indicator of how consistently great a decade the Truckers had is how rarely I’ve revisited their old records. There was always a new slab to grapple with just around the time I’d played the last out–I’ve no idea when I heard this two-disc Skynyrd tribute last. Unlike too many roots-rockers (and Southerners), Patterson Hood prefers history to myth, or at least insists on contextualizing the latter within the former, whether castigating George Wallace not for racism but opportunism or noting the respect between “Ronnie and Neil.” And when all three guitars rev together, it’s enough to make you think maybe Steely Dan wasn’t the greatest American rock band of the ’70s after all.

12. Tom Zé — Jogos de Armar

Unlike the two big Luaka Bop releases that followed in the wake of the Brazilian genius’s Byrne-born ’90s resurgence, this French import-only offers no grand narrative concept. Instead, the most playful of all Tropicalia kingpins plunges brain-first into sheer jouissance. Homemade instruments plink and squawk, clamorous tunelets taunt whoever thinks the avant-garde must be severe and forbidding, and anyone who digs the Dirty Projectors’ vocal tricks should track the circuitous patterns these girlie choruses chirp back at the bandleader. Plus simulated donkey grunts, car horn call-and-response, and a bonus CD of the tracks from which Zé’s compositions draw–how come Danger Mouse never picked up on that? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

11. Blink-182 — Take Off Your Pants and Jacket

Rock ‘n’ roll was born when adults learned to make a buck by impersonating capitalism’s latest invention: the teenager. A couple decades down the road, TRL‘s token punks, having bonded with younger fans over a shared fondness for Parental Advisory stickers, do Chuck Berry proud, their response to sweet little sixteen more gulp-in-throat than bulge-in-crotch. Even if I have reservations about “Kids are victims in this story,” I resent Boomer supremacy enough to cosign the “If we’re fucked up/ You’re to blame,” and observations like “Oh no it’s happened again/ She’s cool, she’s hot, she’s my friend” prove that arrested development doesn’t preclude a sense of perspective. Oh, and the drummer fuckin’ kills.

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