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[whitespace] Best of the Year

Outstanding albums by Fugazi, the Broke, Ozomatli and Hedwig lead the pack

By David Espinoza

SOME MIGHT ARGUE that newcomer the Broke really doesn't count as a local band since two of its three members live in Sacramento. Then again, SC resident James Simmons is a pretty essential member of the band. The lead singer and guitarist of the trio, Simmons is a chip off the old punk-rock block. Their six-song CD (seven if you count the goofy mock hip-hop ditty at the end), All or Nothing, is an amalgam of fast grungy guitar, mildly funky bass, adroit drumming and middle-finger vocals. The splashes of metal-funk and even ska keep the songs from falling into the predictable three-chord punk format, and the vocals are nice and raw. Since the live shows have so far only been held over the hill, the only way you can sample the Broke is at Streetlight.

It was an impressive year for underground stalwart Fugazi, its eighth album, The Argument, being one of its strongest efforts to date. Both lyrically and musically, Brendan Canty, Joe Lally, Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto have only improved since the band's 1989 landmark debut 13 Songs. The secret to Fugazi's longevity seems to lie in its ability to restrain and channel the passion in its music--that and the group has never budged when it comes to compromising integrity for commercial success. While so many punk bands have blown all their talents on one album and promptly burned out, Fugazi has meticulously paced itself over the years.

Right from the start of The Argument, Fugazi paints a sobering picture of class inequality within the United States. Ian MacKaye sings, "On the morning of the first eviction, they carried out the wishes of the landlord, talking about process and dismissal--Development wants this neighborhood gone." And though it would be the last band in the world to ever slap an anarchist logo from Hot Topic on its album cover, the lyrics say much about where the band stands ideologically: "I'm pissing on your modems, I'm shredding all the stock."

It's all too appropriate that the best glam metal album of the year (if glam-metal still exists) came from a fictional transvestite named Hedwig and her band mates the Angry Inch. Even without the Broadway rock & roll musical turned motion picture to back it up, the soundtrack to Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a gorgeous piece of work, filled with dramatic rock anthems and magnificent power-ballads a la David Bowie and Freddy Mercury. Given that glam metal during the '80s was terribly contrived, songwriter Stephen Trask practically redeems the genre single-handedly with his earnest tale of love, gender-bending and rock & roll. Take the glorious homage to the bigger-than-life attitude of rock stars on "Midnight Radio," in which Hedwig (Trask) sings, "You're spinning like a new 45, ballerina dancing to your rock & roll!" If there were a rock & roll Olympics, the Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack would score a perfect 10.

Though it doesn't quite compare to its debut, released in 2000, Ozomatli's sophomore album, Embrace the Chaos, is still an incredible representation of Los Angeles diversity. The guest appearances by longtime L.A. hip-hop queen Medusa and others round out the numbers, which are all pretty strong, save the less-than-inspiring tropical party-songs.

Coming to Town

Pick of the week goes to the First Annual SC Hip-Hop Revival with the Moonies at the SC Vets Hall Saturday (Dec. 15). Of course, if that gets boring there's always the punk show downstairs with Setacide, Abhorrance, Stalin's War and Entragian. Lesterjett and Tenth of Always play a 21-and-over show at Rosie McCann's on Saturday. The Lonely Kings, Jetlag, Downplay and the Policy play a benefit show at the Catalyst Friday.

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From the December 12-19, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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