ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY 1993 RECORD of the YEAR
Zooropa (Island/PLG) You’re bound to make a clanky, discordantracket when you’re stumbling around in the dark and groping fora direction. And if those sounds were recorded for posterity,they might resemble this magnificent blip and grind through theheads of pop’s most self-examining arena band. With Bono keepinghis Cliffs of Dover yelp in check, Zooropa scales down U2’santhemic-apostles side. In its place are electronic grunts,mantras, and melodies that, on first listen, seem half finished.Beneath the surface, though, those dark, bumpy songs dwellobsessively on the disconnection between people — and, in a largesense, on rock & roll’s murky role in a year that saw classicrockers and grungesters alike providing the entertainment atinaugural balls. Where does the concept of four men with guitarsfit in? And should they even bother? U2 doesn’t answer thosequestions, but their attempt to make sense of their place in popand the world at large is downright heroic.
2 P.M. Dawn
The Bliss Album…? (Gee Street/Island/PLG) Hammer gave theconcept of pop rap a bad name, but this duo takes the idea anddoes more than run with it — they’ve perfected it. With itsfluffy-pillow plushness and vocal harmonies that are morerelaxing than any down comforter, P.M. Dawn’s second albumreveals them less as rappers than as the natural inheritors ofpop soul men like Boy George (who, coincidentally, shows up fora cameo on ”More Than Likely”). Beauty and the beat.
3 Original Soundtrack
Sliver (Virgin) The best pop soundtrack albums grab hold of amoment and make listeners feel a part of it. In the ’90s, thatmoment is dance music, and the unrelenting soundtrack to thisSharon Stone vehicle tosses you headfirst into an invigoratingsea of diva dance pop, techno, industrial, and reggaedance-hall. Aftershock’s ”Slave to the Vibe” is the great, lostshoulda-been-a-hit single of the year.
4 Yo La Tengo
Painful (Matador/Atlantic) On this Hoboken, N.J., trio’s sixthand best album, the joys of life are simple: turning up thefeedback, banging away on a drum, harmonizing quietly,fantasizing about cranking up the amps, and playing an oldRolling Stones song. Yo La Tengo blend fragile, delicate beautywith raw, bash-it-out crudeness better than anyone.
In Utero (DGC) Even if Kurt Cobain’s leave-me-alone attitudecan be annoying and self-pitying, his band’s music never is.Scruffy, bludgeoning, and occasionally too noisy for its owngood, In Utero confirms both Cobain’s songwriting gift and theaural wallop of Nirvana itself. In unleashed wails that trulysound like someone giving birth, Cobain does more than wrestlehis demons in public — he strangles them.
6 Dr. Dre
The Chronic (Death Row/Interscope) Call him a suspect characterand a shrewd operator — and it’s easy to see him both ways — butthere’s no denying the endlessly creative layers of samples,those horror-flick keyboard hooks, or Snoop Doggy Dogg’ssnake-charmer voice. Even when it’s questionably violent orstupid, listening to this hip-hop standard bearer is likeoverhearing a siren on its way to an accident: You can’t takeyour ears off it.
7 Rosanne Cash
The Wheel (Columbia) Cash may have left behind Nashville and hercountry side for a career as yet another introspective, urbansinger-songwriter. But what a singer-songwriter she is. Thiscrystal-clear, intensely sung record rings startlingly true asit details the end of a marriage-and the renewal that can follow.
Eleven: Eleven (Matador) At a time when alternative bands led bywomen make a big deal out of that fact by screeching up a storm,this Boston-based band stands apart because it doesn’t make abig deal out of it. Come just happens to be a band led by awoman — in this case, former heroin addict Thalia Zedek, whosounds ravaged but progressively stronger with each corrodedguitar line. Tony Robbins might not agree, but it’s downrightinspirational.
9 L.L. Cool J
14 Shots to the Dome (Def Jam/Columbia) Rap reinvents itself sofast that last year’s innovators tend to be last month’s oldiesacts. This veteran (at age 25) overcame that obstacle on analbum of tough talk, loose talk, and an orchestrated,apocalyptic finale. New jacks on the block could still learn athing or two from that smooth, charismatic mouth of his.
Undertow (Zoo) Too soon to tell if the fledgling alternativemetal scene — led by the Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet, Pearl Jam,and this L.A. band — will reinvent the waning headbanger scene.But singer Maynard James Keenan and company give it their bestshot on this gristle-free slab of clenched-teeth metal.
1 Billy IdolCyberpunk (Chrysalis/ERG) We always suspected Idol was anuntalented dolt, but this bumbling attempt to appear relevant inthe ’90s merely clinches his status as First Cyberclown.
2 Original SoundtrackJudgment Night (Epic Soundtrax/Immortal) A promisingconcept — alternative rockers collaborating with rappers — ends upbeing a promise best left on paper, judging by this irritatinghodgepodge.
3 Ice-THome Invasion (Rhyme Syndicate/Priority) He’s smart, he’s onehell of a hustler, and as a public speaker he’s eloquent andsharp. Now if only he would back it up with music that does morethan brag about his studio skills and penis size.
4 Coverdale/Page(Geffen) Since the great Led Zeppelin won’t reunite, Jimmy Pagedoes the next best thing: recruits Robert Plant look- andsound-alike David Coverdale for this stairway to hell.
5 Garth BrooksIn Pieces (Liberty) Lazy arrangements, mannered singing, andsongs that shamelessly recycle earlier hits: guess he truly isjust another self-satisfied superstar now.
Toni Braxton ”Another Sad Love Song” Producers L.A. Reid andBabyface combine with Braxton’s simmering vocals to deliciouslyreinvent a pop cliche — hearing a song on the radio that remindsyou of that special, lost someone.
Duran Duran ”Come Undone” A sulking, enigmatic surprise that makesyou forget years of bad makeup and worse records.
Janet Jackson ”If” The remixed version unclogs the overproducedalbum track and leaves a whiplash crack of a song. — -DB
BEST COUNTRY ALBUMS
SHAVER Tramp on Your Street (Zoo/Praxis) The finest honky-tonk andgutbucket rock & roll blues of the ’90s, from Billy Joe Shaver,who defined the tender-tough modern-day cowboy during country’s’70s Outlaw phase.
WILLIE NELSON Across the Borderline (Columbia) After years ofhalf-baked projects, Nelson emerges with this stunning and deeplyaffecting masterwork, as clear-eyed a portrait of America asanything from John Dos Passes.
PATTY LOVELESS Only What I Feel (Epic) Loveless excels atcommunicating profound and unshakable emotional pain without atrace of sentimentality. This blend of bluegrass, ballads, andcountry rock finds her at the top of her vocal form.
— -Alanna Nash
BEST JAZZ ALBUMS
HENRY THREADGILL Too Much Sugar for a D/me (Axiom/Island) Wherewill the ”Body and Soul”s of tomorrow come from? Most likely fromcomposer-saxophonist Threadgill, whose endlessly adventurouscompositions have the body and soul of standards.
JOE HENDERSON So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles) (Verve) Whilehip-hop carries on Miles Davis’ badass sangfroid, this bebopsaxtrue blood has revived something deeper: the gorgeously,agelessly, tortured music Miles composed.
DON PULLEN & THE AFRICAN-BRAZILIAN CONNECTION Ode to Life (BlueNote) A lyrical homage to pianist-composer Pullen’s latecollaborator George Adams, and a good-night prayer in polyrhythms.
— David Hajdu
DEAD KENNEDYS MEMORIAL AWARD FOR BEST BAND NAMES
DEAD KENNEDYS MEMORIAL AWARD FOR BEST BAND NAMES
Death on the Installment PlanDinner Is RuinedEve’s Plum
THE GOOD NEWS: NO NEW MICHAEL JACKSON ALBUM
New albums by Smashing Pumpkins, Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, BlindMelon, and Blues Traveler all had babies or small kids on theircovers.
SONG TITLES WE WISH WE’D WRITTEN
Queen of My Double Wide Trailer, Sammy Kershaw; In My Role as theMost Hated Singer in the Local Underground Music Scene, AmericanMusic Club
WANTED: A SUCCESSFUL WANT AD
The Red Hot Chili Peppers advertised for a new guitarist in theLA Weekly, hired one, promptly fired him, and hired another.That’s four guitar players and counting since their last album.
PROOF THAT THE ’60S TRULY ARE OVER
Whole Lotta Lava: Make-Out Music from the Psychedelic Era (variousartists)
BEST SNOW JOB
We have no idea what licky boom-boom down means in Snow’s”Informer,” but that didn’t prevent us from singing along.
LINER NOTES ARE THE BEST REVENGE AWARD
Ted Nugent and Guns N’ Roses each ranted against ”assholes” inthe credits of their ’93 releases.
JEWEL BOXES OF THE NILE AWARD
Given the Pet Shop Boys’ orange manhole cover for Very and theColorforms-like, design-it-yourself one for the VelvetUnderground’s Live MCMXCIII, we don’t miss LP covers as much.