During the polling for the Top 100 Albums of 2000-2009, 17 different Punknews staffers contributed, and we ended up with 17 different #1 picks for Best Album of the Decade. I engaged in "interviews" (more like conversations) with many of the poll's participants to talk about their #1 picks. These resulted in a discussions that are as varied and dynamic as the contributors themselves.
Over the course of the week Punknews will be presenting these interviews for your enjoyment.
Punknews writer Chris Kanner’s #1 pick:
Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go
JS: How's it going today, Chris? Looking at the Top 100 Albums of 2000-2009 poll of Punknews staff and reviewers, it looks like you chose Global A Go-Go, the 2001 album by Joe Stummer and The Mescaleros. What lead you to choose this album as your favorite of the decade?
CK: For me it’s a really strong album that’s held up amazingly well. Almost 20 years later, for a record to still sound so fresh, to still surprise me, to still be so wholly satisfying, it’s an incredible thing.
JS: I think that's one thing about Strummer is that the songs he wrote seem to transcend time. Were you a fan of JS&TM prior to this album?
CK: Yeah I remember grabbing their previous album, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, when it came out. I was so excited for new Joe Strummer music, as anyone would be. I think I was probably expecting it to be along the lines of a The Clash sound. Keep in mind, in those days, the internet wasn’t really the daily tool it is today, at least for me. I really didn’t get the barrage of advance information about new music that we see today. Although to be honest, I miss it being that way! Anyway, I was pretty surprised by that first album. It was so different from my expectations, however baseless they were. It was a good album, but I feel like it doesn’t hold up as well as Global A Go-Go or Streetcore, which was also a high pick of mine. I don’t think the structure is as strong, the arrangements feel a little sloppy. To be sure, having a band that blends all these different types of world music is a pretty heavy undertaking, and I definitely respect the effort. The second two albums really tightened up though.
JS: I can buy that. In some ways it feels like on Rock Art… they're kind of finding their footing. I also agree that, sometimes, the immediate availability of information takes some of the suspense about new music away.
CK: Again I’m not saying it was a bad album; just a little less refined. I get what they were trying to do though. And yeah, that suspense was really something special. I still avoid things like online streams before the release date if it’s something I’m looking forward to getting.
JS: I remember before Lagwagon’s Let’s Talk About Feelings came out they offered two songs for download, which was such a new and crazy thing. My friend worked IT at the oncology department for a hospital and had, for the time, access to blazing fast speeds. It still took him like three or four hours to download one of them. I was all like “This is never gonna fly…” Haha. Little did I know.
CK: Haha sounds familiar. Remember Limewire? Try to download an album and that window saying “Time remaining: 26 hours 32 minutes”
JS: I know, man…. how times have changed. So I guess this is a bit of an obvious question, but were you a fan of The Clash and Joe Strummer's work in the interim years before JS&TM?
CK: The Clash for sure. They were one of the first punk bands I ever got into, and they’re probably still my favorite to this day. I feel like they were the first to really give the genre a brain, you know what I mean? That was huge for me. At the time I got into punk, around age 11 or so, I had been mostly been listening to rap. Which, at the time, a lot of fantastic acts were emerging from the rap/hip-hop scene, especially coming from my own area (Wu-Tang Clan, Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature, Redman, etc) so it was hard not to get immersed in that. And not that I don’t still like that stuff, I do, but there was this big separation there between those artists and me. Punk rock to me was much more relatable. They were expressing things that I was actually thinking about and feeling and going through, and the Clash was at the top of that mountain.
JS: Oh yeah, The Clash were much smarter than your average punk act, at least in the late 70's/early 80's. Once could argue that by the time they were falling apart, some other punk bands came along that were pretty clever in their thinking too. I can totally see where you are coming from with that rap thing. The core group of guys who I got into punk from were running around listening to Circle Jerks or Pailhead or Embrace one minute (whatever the heck Ian Mackaye was doing at the time), Metallica (back when they were good) and Anthrax next, and then NWA's Straight Outta Compton after that. I mean, for a pretty much homogeneously white group of 13 and 14 year olds, the first two were kinda in our wheelhouse, but that third one… Man… for us NWA rapped about this exotic lifestyle that we really didn't comprehend. Maybe that's why we bought into it so much. I still like a lot of rap and hip-hop but, looking at my collection, even that is 20-30 years old. Haha!
CK: Exactly. Like it was good, really really good, that era. Much better than what’s out there today. But relatability is huge. Music is a really personal thing for me, and like you said, I don’t have any basis for comprehending what NWA or most other rappers are about. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s just not my world the way punk is. You make a good point though, about buying into it because it was so different from your own experience. I think that’s something a lot of people do, not just with rap but with almost any art form. Humans are pretty voyeuristic by nature. I think that’s a pretty normal thing, to be drawn to something that’s based on things you’d never experience yourself. And while I appreciate, respect, and enjoy stuff like that (musically or otherwise), it’s the things that feel like they’re speaking to me or for me directly that are closest to my heart.
JS: So true. So heading toward wrapping this up I have two more questions. Let's start with the first one: which song off of Global A Go-Go stands as your favorite of the bunch?
CK: That’s a tough one but I’m gonna go with “Bhindee Bhagee.” I think of this band as a continuation of The Clash in at least one way: The Clash blended punk with styles like reggae and ska, as we all know, and the Mescaleros took it several steps further, incorporating styles from South America, the Far East, Europe, etc. And I feel like “Bhindee Bhagee” is the perfect summation of that. One of my favorite parts is in one of the spoken word verses, where the man speaking to the narrator asks “What’s your music like?” and Strummer replies “umm…it’s kinda like…and it’s got a bit of…” Then in those pauses there are these wonderfully layered jams of guitar, violin, flute, and various percussion instruments. And you just go, Yes! Exactly! You can’t talk about this, you have to listen! I think the old cliche of music being the universal language is something Strummer really understood and took to heart. It’s as if he thought to himself “Well I can’t really make music unless I make ALL of the music”. And a big idea like that could’ve easily ended up being a giant tangled mess, but in the hands of such a genius, it works out really well.
JS: Wow. Excellent answer! OK, we're gonna take it a step further for the final question… Taking the '00-'09 limit out of the equation, for you, how does this album rank amongst the entirety of your music experience?
CK: Oh man. That’s a beast of a concept to think about. When I consider EVERYthing, if I were to rank my top albums from all decades, I could estimate this one landing somewhere in the mid 20s to low 30s. Honestly, it’s that good. When I think about what I listen for-musicianship, interesting arrangements, meaningful lyrics, solid production-this album hits every single base. The Mescaleros for me are a great bookend for Strummer’s time here with us. I like to think that if the Clash had stuck around, this is what they would have sounded like by the 2000s. It’s terrible to think about how much great music we’ve missed out on with Joe’s early demise. But with albums like this that he so graciously gave to us, we can at least cherish what we did get.
JS: Yeah… that answer wasn’t so good. I’m kidding!!! Chris, thanks for chatting with me about this album and the bigger idea of music!
Punknews writer Renaldo Matadeen’s #1 pick:
Thursday - War All The Time
JS: Hey there Renaldo! For your favorite album of the '00-'09 decade you chose 2003's War All the Time by Thursday. Why did you choose this album as your number one pick?
RM: Man, it's a tough one honestly because I'm from that old cheesy MTV generation that loved The Used and Jimmy Eat World, but in 2002 I was introduced to Thursday by a friend and it was my first real exploration of post-hardcore, with emo and scream mixed in. And between WATT and Full Collapse, I just couldn't get enough of them. WATT specifically stands out as it waxes on and on about love as a war, and how this reverberates through life. It's got a lot of Bukowski themes embedded in it by vocalist Geoff Rickly. And I adore his work as a poet and as someone who wasn't the best singer, because he found a way to make these songs resonate emotionally. They made you think and felt so relatable as WATT covers love, suicide, loss of friends, abortion and what's the kicker is each song sounds so unique to the next. They also sound different to the previous Thursday records and I think that's a rare feat to accomplish. To have music that differs drastically per album but you still capture a sense of beautiful chaos. I just love the messages because it's what 16 year old me needed at the time.
JS: One could reasonably argue that Rickly's singing ability may have been part of the allure, as well? You mention the differences between WATT and previous albums, were you a fan of Thursday prior to the release of WATT, or did you discover them through this album and then proceed backward through their discography?
RM: Definitely Geoff's singing made it felt so relatable. But you could tell it wasn't about making art or a product, it was therapy which is the foundation of that genre of emo/screamo/post-hardcore acts. It was cathartic and his bad voice really did make the music pop more, because when he took lessons and got better you did feel like something was missing. It felt more connective in that sense.
Of course, the band's technical ability and overall musicianship was fucking phenomenal. Their arrangement and overall style, Steve Pedulla and Tom Keely on guitars, Tim Payne on bass, Tucker Rule on drums, Andrew Everding screaming while playing piano… I don't think any band has recaptured those loud intricacies for me.
I honestly didn't know much about them until my friend dropped WATT into my lap in 2004 in my final year of high school. Seeing as Full Collapse was out in 2001 and WATT came out in 2003, he more or less gave me as a 1-2 package. And I started from WATT going right back to demos and singles and whatever live songs I could find. Before those 2 records there was only Waiting so it wasn't that much to backtrack, but their evolution just felt complete when I went front to back and capped everything with WATT. It felt like a movie coming together in a final act, think of it like Avengers: Endgame.
The other records were basically a new phase to me as that trilogy was done, and when I now catalog their music I could tell that WATT was the end of a specific chapter in their life, which makes it all the more special to me. WATT was the gateway to Thursday, but more so, it helped me unlock my critical writing, creative writing and professional writing. I became my school's best debater and writer, and teachers there who were teaching at university too often told me I wrote at a university level and that blew their mind. And it's because WATT taught me how to see from neutral, objective standpoints which has also influenced my journalism. Geoff's words help me write about abortion and social justice issues, and oddly enough, I would always straight up quote their lyrics as opposed to some historian and the teachers fucking loved it.
That album was also tied directly to a Bukowski book, which is one of my most important reads too, so it introduced me to literature I never would have dove into otherwise. WATT is a bible and a course in life experience for me, and the fact it sounds so musically versatile and no one -- not even Thursday -- has come close to replicating it shows it's timeless. Every song rips and it's something that changed my life forever and actually encouraged me to switch from engineering to writing in 2013. Like I said, it's more than a record to me.
JS: It seems like the album had a significant impact on your life. Like, I know a lot of people say that, but what you've said here makes it seem like it inspired a period of personal growth and, maybe, a better idea of how to see and interact with the world?
RM: Well, it helped define my career and me as a person honestly. And it's stuck ever since. It equated love and life as a war, and we're footsoldiers living it everyday. And I buy into that. The messages are really open too. It's a record about love and acceptance. I actually did the first LBGT documentary in the Caribbean, and it was inspired by "M. Shepard".. track 10 off the album. It's about Laramie and the Matthew Shepard hate crime. The stars lined up and his parents were actually interviewed too in Trinidad by me. Fate I guess. The lyrics from the song actually open up the documentary. So it did teach me about the concept of the other, and that's something I think all art should do. Break borders down with love.
JS: That's well… that's pretty damn cool. I feel I'm learning so much about the PN team from these little interviews, and I'm just floored by a lot of it.
What I DO know is that, in your typical verbose Renaldo fashion, you answered a whole lot of my questions before I got to ask them. You gotta learn to hold some cards close to your vest for a little bit, man!
RM: Haha, I don't want to take up too much of your time is all. esp. as my schedule gets way messed up. I am so out of it on the blurbs picking etc etc. this project got away from me so bad You asked some great questions though, and I've never really spoken of the responses, so you got the classic Renaldo 5 star exclusive.
JS: So, I've been asking this question to a specific subset of respondents: like six of us who participated in the poll, your pick for #1 didn't get any other votes from any of the respondents. It doesn't show up anywhere else on anyone's Top 100 list. Why do you think that is, and what do you think about it?
RM: Well, now we've got a totally different cross section. I'd say there are more straight-up punk fans, whether it's old school like John or Tom, or new wave like Eric. PN seems more punk oriented, and I chip in along with Eric on the indie front. It was way more diverse in terms of hardcore and post-hardcore bands back in the day but now these bands like At the Drive-In, Thursday don't get much pull with current writers or even current readers. I don't think Thursday in particular aged well apart for diehards like myself. Heck, even American Football and Mineral don't get much traction, so I think WATT was an album for "middling" fans like myself and for a very niche genre. I don't think that genre exists much in PN staff (apart from Max Power and in the old days, Brian Schulz and maybe Bryne Yancey). And who knows maybe if the punk bands I listened to before really sunk their fans in me then I might not have Thursday up there. Not that those bands were bad or anything, but it comes down to impression. And when you saw Thursday on MTV2 in the 2000s it was only at 1am. So it was like the outsider band of outsider bands. What I can say is that I'm pretty sure if I throw any rock fan WATT, they'll at least connect to half the record, and that to me is a win.
JS: OK, we're getting down to the final two questions, which everyone is getting. The first is, if you had to pick, hand's down, your favorite track on the album, what would it be and why?
RM: Hahahaha dude… you're killing me. It's one that wasn't released as a single and which they only play when they do full album shows (which sadly is rare and which I've never seen). It's called "Asleep in the Chapel" -- and it's an acoustic-based kind of alternative rock song which is so rare from them. It's their most dynamic sound though and super melodic and catchy, but most of all, it talks about religion and faith. Which are things I've never had a problem with but as someone who's got Hinduism, Islam and Presbyterianism in my blood, when exposed to all this and seeing mankind's hypocrisy and how it uses religion conveniently, it leaves you wondering. And this song in particular connected with us and how we rank sin, how we run to God to confess or ask for help, when really and truly, we should hold ourselves more accountable. Religion is a beautiful thing and I've see so much good come from it, but I've also seen a lot of hatred. And while this song didn't turn me into an atheist or agnostic, it helped me understand life is about one fundamental philosophy: help your fellow man and do unto others as you want them do unto you.
Three chalk outlines sleep in the dirty street
And in our beds, under the sheets
They're the halo of guilt hanging around your neck
Next to the rosary you count, falling asleep
And we're praying
to treat the symptoms
of letting go of all our hope
are the opening lyrics and they imprinted on me like a gunshot because it encapsulated a lot of my thoughts on religion in my formative years and its role in my life moving forward. I don't think God or the creator is a concept for us to understand, we were never meant to. We were simply meant to understand each other and the truest way to do so is via love, and this song is all about that.
JS: And the last one… this may a bit easier, or it may break your brain, hah! So taking the decade restriction out of it, how does this album rank for you of all time?
RM: Oh, still #1. I've had some good ones – Red Hot Chilli Peppers, even Linkin Park, Guns n Roses, Eminem etc -- but old or new school, WATT is untouchable. It transcends eras for me, it's just raw power and emotion and a true testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
It easily remains my favourite of all time.
(here’s that short, 12 minute, documentary Renaldo made, for those who are interested. -ed.)