25. The Hives–Veni Vidi Vicious
These nattily suited Swedes and their imaginary svengali may never have dropped le bomb or converted Yanks to kilograms, but they did as much to k.o. “pure” garage revivalism as Jack White’s left hook. Realizing that rock-is-back hype could never be justified, the Hives reveled in it instead. Their Sonics-Stooges-Voidoids trajectory allowed for a Jerry Butler cover, which had Chris Dahlen in Pitchfork warning the youth, “Your parents might dig this album as much as you do.” (Those old people with their soul music.) When the Hives failed to change the world in some unspecified way, true believers got the feeling they’d been cheated, never realizing that was half the fun.
24. Missy Elliott–Under Construction
Who else could’ve jammed corny-ass stop-the-violence/come-on-people rhymes as hard as this? Who else could make like a spokesperson for hip-hop without looking like a swole-headed tool? Who else could have pulled off a song called “Back in the Day” in 2002, for cripesakes? “Work It” still puts in overtime, “Gossip Folks” brushes off haters without resorting to that tired epithet, and “Can You Hear Me” is a less-than-gag-inducing tribute to R&B’s fallen princesses. For once, the guest spots–Jay, Luda, Meth, Beyonce–signify not commercial desperation but community outreach. Also, that Timbaland guys makes real good beats. No, Missy’s not the most consistent hip-hop album-maker of the decade. But that’s only because Ghostface finished stronger.
23. Pretty Girls Make Graves–Good Health
Every cynical shit should have a go-to set of earnest punks to keep him honest, and for a spell these Seattle kids were mine. Less tight-assed (looser-assed?) than Fugazi, less prone to boy-rage than At the Drive In, and though you probably liked both bands more than I did, you’ve got to admit that both left room for growth. As Nathan Thelen’s guitar worked the postpunk changes the times demanded, Andrea Zollo’s riot grrowl resisted them. And like all the best earnest punks, they mistook their bad vibes for cynicism, rather than impatient idealism. Do you remember what the music meant? Well, do ya punk?
I don’t know much about sha’bi–certainly not enough to distinguish this Cairo star’s streetwise jeel from its more genteel forbears. But I do know that jizz-flunk maestro Narada Michael Walden wasn’t exactly born to break Egyptian pop stateside. (He was born to produce Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” God save us all.) And yet. This crossover bid lacks the non-stop thrills of the two-disc The Lion Roars-Live in America, but Hakim compensates with outreach, bridging worlds old and new with little more than accordion, percussion, and enthusiasm. (Oh, and maybe some help from Trans-Global Underground.) The cultural hybrids aren’t always as perfect as the duet with merengue star Olga Tanon on “Ya Albi.” But sometimes imperfection is just what global fusion needs.
21. Silkworm–Italian Platinum
Because they sing what they know (“I never thought I’d leave this place/ It has so much storage space”). Because bassist Tim Midgett consistently voted for his band in Pazz & Jop. Because his ballot never placed their records above a suitably modest fifth or sixth. Because Steve Albini was put on earth to record this particular strain of plod ‘n’ bash. Because one of the 90s’ most adequately middling bands got their asses in gear once they realized no one made records they liked anymore. Because drummer Michael Dahlquist is in the cool part of rock and roll heaven, where they don’t let the annoying famous people in. Because indie used to sometimes rock, dammit.