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The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999)

[Album 381/1001]220px-Soft_Bulletin_cover

Flavor Flav once advised, “Don’t believe the hype.”

At least with The Soft Bulletin, you can safely disregard this advice.*

This record is frequently cited as the album of the year/decade/generation/with some critics likely stopping just short of saying millennium/since the Mesozoic era…

Fortunately, it’s more true than hyperbolic.

Why is this Flaming Lips album is worthy of such accolades (at least the ones limited to single calendar-year time-frames)?

Many, many words have been written praising this record.  I do recommend reading such reviews as the enthusiasm of a really positive & thorough review can be contagious.

But if you’ve got places to be – I’ll give you the abstract in lieu of the lengthy dissertation.

Lending supporting evidence to my (Soft Bulletin = super) thesis, see my semi-relevant arts & crafts summary below!

soft bulletin


*Somewhat curious advice to begin with, considering his role in Public Enemy is best described as being the ‘Hype Man’

50 Book Pledge – 14% fulfilled



Because participating in just one ‘complete a specific quantity within a given time-frame’ project was simply insufficient.

2 months in, 7 enjoyable books down!

My only minor gripe with the 50bookpledge site is the lack of a 1/2 or 1/4 or fraction of a star rating of any kind.

I have to remind myself these star ratings are different than academic grades (3/5 would be 60% in school, less than ideal).

In the restrictive world of full-star-only book ratings (the hardships), if I give something 3 stars, that’s a favourable, if unspectacular rating.

Favourable & spectacular ratings were duly awarded to Margaret Atwood & Jocelyne Saucier, no half stars needed there.

Thanks again for all your suggestions, looking forward to checking many of them out as the year goes on!


I’ll probably update the 50 book project here once every couple months but if the suspense in between posts is unbearable, here’s my bookshelf:



Beth Orton – Central Reservation (1999)

[Album 380/1001]220px-Beth_Orton-Central_Reservation_(album_cover)

I’m getting worse at names.

I see former students in town from time to time, I recognize them, I can place the approximate year they graduated…and the names elude me.

It appears that song, album, and even artist names are starting to escape me these days as well.

I’m not terribly concerned but I fear Beth Orton will be this year’s Suzanne Vega.

I remember finding Vega’s self-titled record enjoyable, I recall it did not contain the single Luka, and it worked magnificently when played in the background.

Do I remember the individual songs?  Not a chance!

Years from now, I’ll probably hear the name Beth Orton and have nice, if unspecific, pleasantries to offer.

I’ll likely recall her having one of those voices that ‘sounds familiar,’ with song structures that felt like blueprints for future Dido or Colby Caillat hits.

Against all odds, I may actually remember that Central Reservation featured a title track, possibly because 2 versions appeared on the album.

But any other specific names?

I can confidently say, without reservation, not gonna happen.

Top 5 Tunes from the turn of the Century

When I reviewed Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, I bemoaned the state of music in the late 90s.

In preparation for my voyage to 1999, I looked at my CD tower and was surprised to see that a lot of my favourite groups released albums that year.

*Norm MacDonald voice & miming use of tape recorder* Note to self: In the future, before bemoaning, check CD tower.

Once again, it’s good to be wrong.

Although I wouldn’t say any of these 5 tracks represent the artists at the peak of their respective powers, as it turns out, the turn of the Century wasn’t so bad after all.


5. Tender – Blur
I like how the song doesn’t go anywhere in a hurry.  Unconventional opener.


4. Waiting for Slow Songs – Sloan
If you asked me in 1999 to name my favourite member of Sloan, I probably wouldn’t have said Jay.  But I’m not so sure any more, his tunes have a slow grower quality to them.


3. Wishlist – Pearl Jam
It appears I was into slow songs as Y2K approached!


2. Baseball – Ozma
Well now that I’ve started the slow songs &/or ‘slow songs’ in the title streak, I can’t very well break it here.  From reading online, this album seems to have been released multiple times by multiple labels in multiple years.  My CD says copyright 1999 so if there are no further objections, for the purposes of this countdown, it is hereby/conveniently deemed eligible as a ’99 release.  And speaking of baseball…


1. Major Leagues – Pavement
…bring on the Major Leagues indeed.

Top 5 Duplicate Digit Years

Otis B. Driftwood: Don’t you know what duplicates are?
Fiorello: Sure, those five kids up in Canada.
– Groucho & Chico, A Night at the Opera


When I was growing up (like those 5 kids up in Canada), many star athletes wore duplicate digit jersey numbers (66, 77, 88, 99, and somewhat less frequently, 00).

It appears these particular repeated digits also represented some good years for popular music.  Here they are, ranked no less!


5. ’99
My recent purchases from ’99 (Slipknot and Beth Orton) have reminded me it wasn’t all Britney, all the time as Y2K approached.

4. ’00
The albums that worked in 2000, such as Stankonia and Heartbreaker, really worked.

3. ’77
Any single calendar year featuring two Bowie records (Low & Heroes) is easily Top 5 material.

2. ’88
A great year for chatty album titles, including If I Should Fall from Grace with God, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room.  Fortunately, each backed up its verbosity with solid music.

1. ’66
Pet Sounds? Face to Face? Revolver? Yes please.

I think I’ll spend a week in each of the duplicate digit years listed above.  Might as well go in countdown order to see if the rankings should change after further exploration.

Therefore to start this time-travel-series within a time-travel-series, and to modify a Prince lyric beyond recognition, this week I’m gonna party/listen to music analytically like it’s 1999!

The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)

[Album 379/1001]

I read a nice post at lyriquediscorde’s site this week, Smashing Pumpkins: My Top 10.

There was some overlap with our personal favourites and it got me thinking about my own up & down listening relationship with the band.

Whereas her reasons for listening/not listening to the Pumpkins were more personal, mine had more to do with its personnel.



In the captioned interview, David Spade was of course speaking about an artist who refers to himself in the abbreviated 3rd person.  Now I don’t think Billy Corgan tends to publicly call himself ‘Ly but I don’t think many would accuse him of having a deflated sense of self-importance either.

As a result, I’ve struggled separating the singer from the songs when listening to the Smashing Pumpkins.  Fortunately, plenty of time has passed since I’ve heard him interviewed (and I’ve intentionally avoided reading any quotes this week) so I was able to fully enjoy them again.


The Pumpkins are best suited to the studio.

Corgan’s one of those singers that walks the 220px-SmashingPumpkins-SiameseDreamirritating/effective vocal line and the scale tips the wrong way in the live recordings I’ve seen.  With the studio recording, there’s also the benefit of layering guitars and some of these tracks sound like they have dozens of ‘em!

Though for all his grand ambition, the best moments on Siamese Dream are often the simplest or the quietest.

There’s the outro to Hummer, where the song changes gears & the distortion disappears for a bit.  The guitars stay clean on the intro to Mayonnaise, a song that would likely land on top of my Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins list.

Has there been a more effective or easy guitar intro than Today?  If you were learning to play guitar in the 90s, this high-pitched hook was a staple in the repertoire.

Disarm‘s recurring 3-note (G-F#-E) walkdown was equally effortless & excellent.  And for name-that-tune/impressing-friends-despite-limited-skill-purposes, easily identifiable too!

The lyrics on Siamese Dream weren’t always as easy to decipher.  That being said, I have fond memories from the Pre-Google Era (nearly as archaic as Precambrian?) of trying to figure them out, repeatedly rewinding tapes to scribble down the lyrics.

I’m surprised my cassette wasn’t noticeably worn at this point in the album; thanks to its novice-friendly guitar chords (no barring needed), Disarm was among those tunes.  Due to the imprecise nature of cassette rewinding and my lack of speed as a scribe, I have also heard the Rocket outro countless times!


It was good to be back, I’d certainly recommend a Siamese Dream revisit.

Although for maximum enjoyment, make sure the only time you hear Billy Corgan’s voice is on the studio album.

PJ Harvey – Rid of Me (1993)

[Album 378/1001]Rid_of_Me

From what I gather, many have complained about Rid of Me‘s production values; I will not be joining the queue of complainants.

Instead, I found I took a shining to the complete absence of polish.

It’s rough & tough, ragged & jagged, and even if it’s not actually entirely the case, it feels live off the floor (in the best way).  Credit to Steve Albini here: not all of his associated recordings have been universally praised (see discount re-sale bins lined with Razorblade Suitcase) but I think his deliberately abrasive sound complements these 14 tracks nicely.

On the subject of second-hand stores, I’m surprised I was able to find this used.  I can only imagine it was because someone was finished with the cd medium, as opposed to the music/message it contained.

There’s a pick up & go quality to the record that I really admire.  The chord-driven, palm-muted verse/big chorus structures remind me of the songs that inspired countless people like me to form bands and write our own tunes.

While the methods & the music are certainly worth acknowledging, it’s the messenger, PJ the performer & her performance, that leaves the lasting impression.

I realize I’m only really scratching the surface with PJ appreciation.  Last year, my sister told me about a philosophy professor of hers that was so enamored with PJ’s lyrics, he found ways to incorporate them into his lectures.

I’m a bit late to be joining, but after being so impressed by Stories, Dry, and now Rid of Me, I’m getting my self-addressed-stamped-envelope ready to join the Polly Jean Fan Club.

My thanks to the person who exchanged this at The Beat Goes On.  I think it’s safe to say this copy is now out of circulation: I don’t see Me Rid of this CD anytime soon.

With apologies for the Cookie-Monsterish-closing-sentence-mangling-for-the-sake-of-attempted-wordplay.


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