2010 continued 2009's heavy schedule of reissues, with release of spruced-up editions of Exile on Main St.
and the Apple Records catalog being flogged as mainstream news items. Geezer rockers of course take this as definitive proof that today's music sucks. Premature post-postmods like Patton Oswalt, writing at Wired.com, bemoan the seeming permanence of geek retro-culture generally
. But as the definition of contemporary music slips from something new to something new to you, the prospect looms that we may never leave the 20th Century alive. The year 2010 summoned the following worthy shades out of our rockist heritage.
Lothar and the Hand People, Presenting... (Mircowerks)
Cultural memory of this Theremin-wielding quintet never entirely died despite an almost complete lack of chart action for its two Capitol albums. This 1968 debut is often cited as one of the most bizarre major label releases of the decade. Mutant ancestor of Seventies electronic rock, this mix of Brill Building-pop and Beefheart Kool-Aid will likely be hauled up in the far-distant future as evidence postpunk preceded punk and everything everyone will know by then is, in fact, wrong.
The 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators (Charly)
The Druids of Stonehenge, Creation (Axis)
Roky Erickson's stupendous True Love Cast Out All Evil
from 2010 completes the resurrection of the Elevators' onetime frontman as recording artist, but this U.K. reissue of the 1966 debut by the Austin garage band he led carries almost as much weight for longtime fans. For one thing, the second disc is the first-ever release of the original stereo mix of the album, with the eleven hallowed fuzztone freakouts in intended running order. The impact on this canonical album is mindblowing.
How the Great Sixties Reclamation Project that's been going hammer-and-bong since Reagan's second term missed this 1967 minor masterpiece until now is mysterious. Rest assured, belated discovery of this NYC quintet's sole album not only restores to yobbish esteem this superior collection of hulking Stones-y maximum R&B, but suggests the grade of weed going around the Great Society at that historical moment was far stronger than is generally assumed by specialists.
Was (Not Was), Pick of the Litter 1980-2010 (Microwerks)
Nineteen tracks of discomfited Detroit funk await your acquaintance on this first-ever W(nW) comp. Tracks like "Wheel Me Out" and "Out Come the Freaks" remind us just how much dorks liked to dance back in that giddy era. "Walk the Dinosaur" was the 1988 clubland hit most casual punters remember them by, but "I Feel Better than James Brown" is the real keeper. Oldtime fans of Spike 'n' Mike's Sick & Twisted remember the animated promo film for "Dad I'm in Jail," but that cover of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" totally kills it.
X, Wild Gift (Porterhouse)
The deluxe vinyl rerelease of X's 1981 sophomore album arrived over my L.A. Record
transom about the time I decided to strike out for the Bay Area, and my review was nearly the last thing I wrote for the publication on my way out the door. I resisted the temptation to be elegiac, because, like rock 'n' roll itself, the L.A. depicted on "We're Desperate" and "It's Who You Know" will never die. As well-loved as they are everywhere else, X occupies a place in the L.A. sonic pantheon just below Brian Wilson and just above Randy Newman's idea of God, who plainly intended this album out on 180-gram vinyl, and last year got His wish.
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