Top 10 of 2002 - Adam's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Top 10 of 2002

Adam's Picks (2002)

staff picks

2002 was a great year for me that concluded tragically with Joe Strummer's passing. There are far more eloquent writers than I to eulogize this revolutionary and visionary musician. Suffice to say, I'll be spinning my Clash and Mescaleros records long into the future. Strummer will be immortalized not only though his recorded works, but through the major influence he and the Clash have had over just about every band in punk music today (and beyond). Death Or Glory 1952 - 2002.

This has been a year of changes in my life. I'm moved away from my hometown Niagara Falls to settle more permanently in my university town of Guelph. There's a great scene there with a regular shows at the Trasheteria (thanks to J Cloth), a great community radio presence and numerous music festivals. Living on my own all summer long was fantastic, despite the math and long nights of programming. If anything got me through the times when the workload became overbearing, it was Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" and Bo Diddley's "His Best." Great records that I highly recommend to everyone. Sadly they don't qualify for this year's list. Speaking of which...

Who Rocked The Casbah in 2002
(the order of these 10 change with my mood from day to day, so don't hold me to it)

This year saw strong efforts from the Fat camp with THE LAWRENCE ARMS' "Apathy and Exhaustion" and DILLINGER FOUR's "Situationist Comedy." THRICE continued to turn heads with their powerful "The Illusion Of Safety" on Hopeless and THE GADJITS took the road from Kingston to Nashville with the soulful "Today Is My Day" on Thick Records. SPARTA's "Wiretap Scars" helped the band step out of At The Drive-In's imposing shadow and my old friends the REEL BIG FISH finally returned with "Cheer Up!". The late PROMISE RING, whom I've never liked as an emo band, made me a fan with their layered indie guitar-pop on Anti Records' "Wood/Water." BYO also released a ton of great efforts, including MANIFESTO JUKEBOX's "Remedy" (full review) and SIXER's "Beautiful Trash" (full review). Why aren't any of these in my top 10? It mainly boiled down to how much I've spun their disks. While certainly deserving lots of praise, they just didn't demand as much of my stereo's time as the below list.

10. COMMON RIDER - This Is Unity Music (full review)
(September 3, 2002 on Hopeless Records)
This record just oozes with a positive, introspective, almost spiritual vibe. Jesse Michaels, two albums into his return to the scene he helped establish, matures the ska-punk sound and pulls it out of its stylistic rut. Another great example of how reaffirming your musical roots and progressing your sound are not necessarily different directions. 

(full review)
(July 9, 2002 on SideOneDummy Records)
I started my musical journey with ska years ago and I failed to get the memo that it was no longer cool. The Bosstones return to the indie world rejuvenated and deliver the strongest set of their signature sound in years. The instruments are firing on all cylinders and Dicky shows his hidden talent as one of the most bluesy, soulful vocalists in punk today.

8. JOEY RAMONE - Don't Worry About Me (full review)
(February 19, 2002 on Sanctuary Records)
Better than many of the latter day Ramones albums and bubbling with more REAL emotion than the sweater crowd would care to admit, Joey's last release is a poignant and fitting epitaph. Beneath all of Joey's light-hearted lyricism and vocals, there's the unease and fear of a man who knew his cancer would not leave him much time in this world. With the help of his friends, Joey's skill as a pop songwriter shines as bright as it ever has.

7. PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES - Good Health (full review)
(April 9, 2002 on Lookout! Records)
A lesson in intensity. A swirling wall-of-sound blast of post-punk noise coupled with Andrea Zollo's cathartic vocals. If you don't feel inspired by "Speakers Push The Air" there may not be any life left in you. The most exciting band Lookout! has introduced in years.

6. RED ANIMAL WAR - Black Phantom Crusades
(September 17, 2002 on Deep Elm Records)
Shit. It happened again. In my haste I failed to check up on a release that my peers have raved about, only to play catch up later and find one of the best releases of the year. Fresh, inspiring and surprisingly powerful indie rock. This band has an amazing career ahead of them.

5. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE - Songs For The Deaf
(August 27, 2002 on Interscope Records)
Scott: Wow, how trendy and predictable. Why don't you write for Spin?
Adam: Har Har, Mr. System-Of-A-Down-Top-Album-2001
Scott: Shit…
That's a paraphrasing of one of the several attempts by my fellow editors to convince me that this record isn't as good as I think. I still don't like the production but I can't seem to stop spinning this album. If only all mainstream hard rock was this well written, addictive and fun.

4. AGAINST ME! - is Reinventing Axl Rose
(April 1, 2002 on No Idea Records)
Taking what is basically an intense hardcore band and giving them mostly acoustic instruments shouldn't work, but it does. Far from being gimmicky, Against Me! convey a sense of unpredictability and confrontation that's been elusive since the early days of punk. A volatile mix of acoustic folk, anarchist politics and punk energy.

3. SOLOMON BURKE - Don't Give Up On Me
(July 23, 2002 on Fat Possum / Anti-Records)
I love soul and blues music and Solomon Burke's new record is nothing short of phenomenal. The very concept amazes me: Brett Guerwitz's label Anti- offers to release an album from the old master, only the songwriting is covered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Van Morission and other renouned songwriters. The whole album was recorded much like a punk record, with sparse production and with only four days in the studio. The results are simply stunning and you'd be a fool not to check this out.


(October 8, 2002 on Epitaph Records)
This band stopped being anything close to "emo" years ago. Shedding the weight of that categorization they've become one of the tightest punk rock bands in the world. With layered, intricate guitar work, a driving rhythm section and vocals that range from passionate to vicious to inspiring, Hot Water Music deserves every bit of success they get. Their most complete album since "Hate Game" and under the capable hands of Brian McTernan, their best sounding recording ever.

TIE 2. HOT HOT HEAT - Make Up The Breakdown
(October 8, 2002 on Sub Pop Records)
This Vancouver four piece is probably the catchiest band I've heard in years. I can't believe how fun the Hot Hot Heat's new-wave inspired rock is. Sure they owe much to the Cure, but they execute their sound so perfectly everything is forgiven. I've probably spun this more than anything else this year.

1.5. THE CONSTANTINES - The Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP (full review)
(April 16, 2002 on Suicide Squeeze Records)
The Constantines fascinate me to no end. They manage to play progressive, innovative post-punk in Fugazi's vein and mix it with country, blues and roots rock. They amalgamate these influences so seamlessly and skillfully that it never looses its cohesion or believability. This is really all I could ask for in a band. Their upcoming full length will destroy worlds.
(Yeah, this is 1.5 because it's only a single/EP and I didn't feel like making a separate list for those)

1. BAD RELIGION - The Process Of Belief
(February 12, 2002 on Epitaph Records)
You don't get a lot of second chances in music. For whatever reason the planets aligned and not only was an amazing song writing team reunited, but they did so on the label they founded, all the while rediscovering the energy of their classic albums. The developments that lead to this album were my favorite stories to report in the past few years. As cliched as it sounds Bad Religion got me into punk music, making their rejuvenation all the more satisfying for me.

2002 Mix Tape

Side One
1. Blind Luck - The Constantines
2. Speakers Push The Air - Pretty Girls Make Graves
3. Alright For Now - Hot Water Music
4. Epiphany - Bad Religion
5. Perfecting Loneliness - Jets To Brazil
6. 45 - Elvis Costello
7. No Not Now - Hot Hot Heat
8. Everybody's Better - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
9. Optimism - The Gadjits
10. Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious - Against Me!
11. None Of Us Are Free - Solomon Burke

Side Two
1. Don't Worry About Me - Joey Ramone
2. Blackbirds Vs. Crows - Common Rider
3. Diamonds and Guns - The Transplants
4. Mye - Sparta
5. Betrayal Is A Symptom - Thrice
6. Your Gravest Words - The Lawrence Arms
7. Noble Stabbings!! - Dillinger Four
8. Friendly Fire - Jawbreaker
9. When Fat Pigs Fly - Red Animal War
10. God Is In The Radio - Queens Of The Stone Age


GOLDFINGER - Open Your Eyes
(May 7, 2002 on Mojo/Jive Records)
Can anyone pin-point the moment when Goldfinger stopped being a clever and catchy pop-ska band and became a preachy generic punk-pop band. Bid for credibility my ass...

H2O - All We Want EP
(October 29, 2002 on MCA Records)
Toby, you still put on a killer live show but somehow I doubt it was your intention to play pop-punk tours to 14 year old girls who just want you to get off stage so the heartthrob bands can start. Despite my bitterness about H2O's change in sound, MCA still fails to market them at all.

(January 26, 2002)
No! I refuse to let this band die and will continue to drop their name to whoever will listen. This Nerve Agents, in a few short years, had developed one of the most unique and well rounded sounds in hardcore/punk today. I really hope we hear from Eric Ozenne again soon because this is truly a loss. "The Butterfly Collection" is a brilliant album.

DRIVE THRU RECORDS - Stealing Our Virginity
(for a few months in late April, 2002)
You all know what happened. Time may heal the grudges we hold but that was the moment when our little music website was pulled kicking and screaming into the reality that the music industry sucks.

Anticipated Albums of 2003

(2003 on Three Gut Records)
See my above comments on their recent EP. Repeat with anticipation.


(spring 2003 on Hellcat Records)
I loved their last record, which channeled Black Flag and Youth Brigade rather than The Clash and the Specials. I trust in Rancid's grasp of the core elements of the original punk bands and their ability to reinvent their sound with each record.


(2003 on Mint Records)
Their debut album is one of my favorite records of all time. Indie pop at its finest.

(2003 on an unknown label)
Punk music needs Mike Ness to step in an give it a collective kick. Is there anyone who's not waiting for this record?

(2003? on G7 Welcoming Committee Records)
I'm assuming this band will release something in `03 but despite rumors, nothing's been formally announced.