By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Sonically and musically, there's not much in common between the two solo acts posing as bands. Son Volt rides the open road where broken-down Gram Parsons and Neil Young are picked up by a trucker who only asks where they're heading before turning up the Lefty Frizzell tape. Foo Fighters, on the other hand, are an aggressive pop tangle of arms and legs belonging to Brian Wilson, Cheap Trick and, yes, Nirvana. The real commonality is music with the power to make a personal connection, so it doesn't need all that other rock-star crap.
In these days of success of "Hard Copy" and similar infotainment, the public has shown that it wants to--needs to--know about its favorite celebrities; but both Grohl and Farrar have seemingly gone out of their way to be as unintriguing as possible, with a Farrar interview akin to a talk-show host trying to loosen up a spooked 4-year-old. With trust constantly battling media paranoia, motive has become a big question mark, and both Trace and Foo Fighters sound absolutely pure--like they just had to be made.
It is said that after a head's been shaved clean, the hair on it grows back thicker. That's what happened here with Farrar and Grohl: They have started over, going deeper than the surface to see what they have. Trace and Foo Fighters sprang from trying emotional times, the birthplace of many records, but they show only the scars, never the wounds.
The best of the rest of 1995
3. (What's the Story) Morning Glory, Oasis (Epic). Singer Liam Gallagher resides in the same "in-the-pocket" region as Frank Sinatra and Johnny Rotten, plus brother Noel writes great melodies.
4. To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey (Island). The very thing that so charmed me about this LP in the beginning--it flip-flopped blues dynamics by being more about the tension and less about the release--is what ultimately kept this from holding up as the masterpiece it initially sounded like. It's a little boring.
5. Maxinquaye, Tricky (Island). Hard samples and tricked-out rapping remind me more of the first Public Enemy album than the rest of the "trip-hop" acts with whom Tricky is often lumped. Just when you thought you had heard it all when it comes to rap and dance music, this record repaved the street.
6. Friday Afternoon In the Universe, Medeski Martin and Wood (Rykodisc). Cocktail-lounge jazz with a sinister touch. There are jazz cats who can play circles around this trio, but few can get to the guts of the groove quicker and more thoroughly.
7. It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah, Black Grape (Radioactive). Goofy, groovy, druggy funk from Shaun Ryder, the former singer of the Happy Mondays, and a cast of like-minded crazies.
8. Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce Springsteen (Columbia). OK, so it turns out that there are only three great songs: To paraphrase one of the album's non-great numbers, Springsteen's mediocre is always good enough.
9. Terence Trent D'Arby's Vibrator, Terence Trent D'Arby (Work/Sony). The hard-rock numbers have got to go--TTD is no Hendrix reincarnation--but the ballads and funky numbers are amazingly good.
10. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Smashing Pumpkins (Virgin). Two hours of Billy Corgan's high-pitched voice has caused this LP to be the first stickered by human-rights organizations, but there are enough good songs here (especially "1979") to make you warm to the whine. Plus, you've gotta give credit to the stones Corgan carries around in his nut-sack.