Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite Songs of 2000
This time, we stop our time machine in the year 2000! There was no more spectacular New Year's Eve than the one that brought us face-to-face with the promise, and fear, of a new millennium! While some saw it as a fresh start for all humanity, others thought the world was going to descend into chaos, thanks to a lack of computer programming foresight. Of course, famously, nothing happened. But a lot of great music happened, so let's focus our efforts on that aspect of the newly born century. After all, by the time the year 2000 ended, we only had about nine months until our lives were really rocked to the core. But for one peaceful year, we had more great songs to put on a mixtape than we could handle.
Note: Our continuing series of old-style mixtapes highlighting our favorite songs from a given year is less a nostalgia exercise than it is a reassessment of how a particular year has aged. A list made at year-end is a valuable capstone event, but history is written over time for a reason. Lists made years, sometimes decades, after the fact usually feature the songs that have endured, while shiny, momentary thrills have dulled over time. Revisiting a year far in our rearview also offers missed songs a second chance at redemption and allows others to gain deserved stature. The year 2000 doesn't even seem that long ago to me, but if you were born shortly after the turn of the century you can already buy booze legally. So millennium babies, buy your old Priest a round and settle in for our recap of your birth year.
26 "The Return of Evil Bill" | Clinic
Clinic was a band ahead of its time. They wore masks onstage 22 years before anyone dreamed it would someday be a common practice in society. But they named themselves Clinic and performing in masks and scrubs was their corresponding shtick, as if an appendectomy ran overtime and they didn't have enough time to change clothes before the gig. It's one of those ideas that sounds good in the moment, but in practice wears thin very quickly. I don't know how long they carried on with the gimmick, but it lasted at least through their first U.S. tour. I saw them at the time and spent some time debating whether the idea was worth the effort. Final verdict: lose the outfits and focus on your mysteriously strange blend of garage and art rock.
The band's music was a bit of an acquired taste from day one. They were to the 00's alternative-rock scene what the Violent Femmes were to early 80s college radio—bizarre inventors of musical contraptions that slowly worked their way into your cranium. Like the Femmes, Clinic also featured an adenoidal lead singer whining and whelping in a nerdy, nasally voice while instruments sourced from a junkyard or charity shop dumpster wailed away in the background. The approach reeked of having a short shelf-life at the time, but miraculously the band's output over the next two decades (nine records and counting) has found a way to inject fresh life into an old formula, often abandoning the old formula altogether. "The Return of Evil Bill" is a perfect example of why Clinic was such a buzz band back in the day. It is so odd it demands your attention, unlike anything else from its time. It was the first track from Internal Wrangler, the Liverpool band's much-hyped debut record. Catchy and a little disturbing, too, but the perfect introduction to a band that deserves more appreciation from the indie-rock historical society.
25 "Swastika Eyes (Jagz Kooner Mix)" | Primal Scream
“Has anybody ever told you that you have the most beautiful pair of swastika eyes?” That pick-up line stopped working around April of 1945, but at least it's the basis for a provocative song title, even if that song comes to us on an album titled XTRMNTR. It's a fine line to tread for sure, but notably the song does not romanticize the Nazi agenda in any way, proven by lyrics like "I see your autosuggestion psychology / Elimination policy / A military industrial illusion of democracy." The album's lyrical content wasn't the main attraction anyway, but if you were in the mood for some confrontational assaults on our rapidly decaying society, you were in the right place. The album, an absolute sonic typhoon, was driven by an insanely propulsive maelstrom of industrial grooves and stuttering beats, and it strongly suggested that the rebellion and angst expressed throughout the album could best be vented on a dancefloor in lieu of the steps of a government building. Subsequently, "Swastika Eyes" is best heard as loud a volume as you can tolerate on the biggest speakers possible for max effect. That kind of stuff is said a lot, but this time we mean it. The band was really looking for maximum impact when they released the song, so they farmed out the end product for remixing in order to find the most in-your-face version for the single. They loved the results so much two versions. ofthe song made the record. One from England DJ legends, the Chemical Brothers, and one from the brilliantly-named producer Jagz Kooner. While some gravitate to the bigger name's attempt, I think Kooner's take benefits from a more sinister and propulsive mix, in the process creating a new wall of sound fit for the looming 21st century.
24 "Deception" | Blackalicious
If you think Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” was a scathing personal attack, then buckle up for this dressing down of flash-in-the-pan rapper Sisqo, who was made briefly (pardon the pun) famous by MTV via his once ubiquitous video for the smash (s)hit single “Thong Song” in early-2000. Blackalicious’s Gift of Gab rips his old peer a new one for selling out, “rapping about cars,” and going on “thousand-dollar shopping sprees”—in other words, selling his soul and craft to the devil in exchange for short-term rewards—over two merciless, yet insanely catchy, chapters packed with poison-pen verse. Coming from Gab, whose indie credentials were, and are still, untouchable, it’s particularly humiliating. But time has proven he was right. Sisqo’s career tanked as fast as it got started, and soon he was appearing on Celebrity Big Brother (UK version) and Gone Country, a show where non-country artists try to win country music recording contracts (he lost). The moral of this story comes in the form of Gab's chorus: “Don’t let money change ya!”
23 "Antennas" | Rancid
The back-to-basic punk of Rancid's self-titled 2000 album might not have featured the bouncing ska grooves the band rode to fame and fortune, but it was a statement of purpose—the band could go full Cali-punk if and when they wanted to and with 22 tracks locked-and-loaded tracks in under 40 minutes, only five exceeding the two-minute mark, they set out to prove it. To this day, it's by far my favorite Rancid album. "Antennas" has all the elements of a classic punk track, too: driving speed, irreverent message, shoutable chorus, and it comes and goes in a blurry, 71-second burst of energy. In the process, it even indicts the commerciality behind California's fake Hollywood culture, one willing to whore itself out to anyone with a fat wallet. The band has a solution, of course: "So with no evacuation / Let California fall into the fucking ocean!"
22 "Shake Ya Ass" | Mystikal
Have you ever toyed with the idea of shaking your ass, but couldn't seem to muster up the torque required? Perhaps it would help to have some motivation to push you over the edge. Well, Mystikal is here to raw dog your fat ass for free. He's positively salacious on "Shake Ya Ass," pacing around his house like a drunk bastard with nastiness on his mind and his dick literally in hand (I didn't say this was gonna come with no strings attached). This song is 100% attitude with a wicked ego like Wilson "Man-and-a-Half" Pickett was sporting in the late-60s. New York pimps have less attitude than Mystikal, but somehow he still makes us like him. Maybe it's because his groove is all old school minimalism with a serious trunk-rattling low-end. A Pharrell cameo on the chorus is just gravy. So less is more here, but buyer beware—Mystikal's universe is all moons, and he's just looking for the next place to deploy his landing gear.
21 "Frontier Psychiatrist" | The Avalanches
Remember when this Avalanches album came out? It's hard to believe 20 years have elapsed since this rock critic’s wet dream was released. The coolest (and seemingly only) thing to point out at the time was that the record boasted over 900 (uncredited) samples all spliced together to create brilliant songs, not just a mosaic of disparate elements. Admittedly, this was a juicy talking point for adjective-challenged music writers. But do albums like this last once the novelty wears off? Miraculously, to this day, Since I Left You is an engrossing work of sonic art front to back—revealing layers on every play and gaining even more admiration years later. There's been nothing quite like it since. “Frontier Psychiatrist” is a personal favorite, particularly every time they pull the reins on a team of wild horses throughout the song. It's the record’s most demented sample-packed masterpiece. I fucking hate watching videos and I almost never watch the ones I attach on this website, but this is one you should check out if you missed it the first go-round. It manages to convey the madcap inventiveness of the song's creation. Enjoy.
20 "The Professional" | Sleater-Kinney
I'm a sucker for a great TV theme song. It's a dying art. With that in mind, I also love when an artist records a song that would be perfect for the opening of a currently non-existent TV show. I’m not sure that was Sleater-Kinney's intent here, but that’s what they've accomplished. The only question is what kind of show would The Professional be? Maybe a scorned riot grrrl turned vengeful assassin who dispatches sexist douchebags with impunity every Friday night at 10:00 (9:00 Central)? People would watch that. Or, perhaps an ass-kicking, merciless DA with a bright mind, a dark secret, and a distaste for corrupt politicians? That might lure me in. I'd tune in to either show for at least the opening 90-seconds—an exhilarating fast-cut montage of the show's coolest moments spanning the length of this song. Each episode could start immediately after Carrie Brownstein calmly deadpans “...the Professional” at the song's closing seconds. Our protagonist, on that cue, will turn quickly toward the camera, cool as the other side of the pillow, and stare you down with an icy glare that will bolt you down—half scared, half turned-on—into your LazyBoy for the next thrilling hour.
19 "Dancing Lessons" | Sinead O'Connor
If you thought the “Nothing Compares 2 U” Sinead was gone forever, Faith and Courage, her gorgeous and underrated 2000 album, will prove what many already knew—that she remains one of the most powerful singers on the planet when she can get out of her own head for a while. "Dancing Lessons," a simple love song with a cliché for a chorus, is turned into something beautiful to behold with her guidance.
18 "Your Lies" | Shelby Lynn
I like the way "Your Lies" seems to start up in the middle of the song like a Victrola needed a few quick cranks to get going. Somehow this song has drifted from the mainstream over the last two decades, but in my mind, it's a modern country classic that should be permanently entrenched on every jukebox south of the Mason-Dixon line.
17 "Keeping the Sparks" | The Waxwings
Now known for being the prior band of Dean Fertita, who went on to join both the Dead Weather and Queens of the Stone Age in later years, but in my mind his contribution to the Waxwings' amazing Low to the Ground remains his finest recorded work. The entire album is amazing in a pleasing, understated way, and I'd rank it as one of the biggest sleeper albums of the 2000s so far. "Keeping the Sparks," just one of many possible choices, was the first single, a woozy little power-pop gem than carves out its own little niche in the corner of this new century just waiting for you to stumble upon it.
16 "Astronaut" | Ass Ponys
“Interstellar Overdrive” is playing on her phonograph /
She believes he’s still alive, out there in his hovercraft.”
What an intriguing opening. There’s a complete skeleton of a novel in those two deftly crafted lines. If I ran the creative writing program at some small Midwestern college, I'd come into class on day one, give them those two lines, tells them the assignment is to write a short story based on them, and then walk out, never to be seen for the rest of the semester. If you doubt that Chuck Cleaver is one of the most underrated American lyricists, look no further than the collected catalogues of both Ass Ponys and Wussy (his post-Ponys band). Or just listen to "Astronaut" and revel in its odd brilliance. Grade: A+
15 "The National Anthem" | Radiohead
Radiohead, a band with whom I've had a creative falling out over the years, is also responsible for two of the best concerts I've ever seen. The first, at the Riviera Theater in Chicago (August 7, 1997), was just as OK Computer was exploding worldwide. The venue had a capacity of about 2,500, which is indicative of where they were at the time of booking—an established band, but not yet a phenomenon. By the time they circled back to Chicago, for a magical lakefront concert for 25,000+ on the Kid A/Amnesiac tour on August 1, 2001, they were not only one of the biggest bands on the planet, they had also recently shifted their sound dramatically from guitar-focused to electronic-based. The combination of the two worlds made for a deliriously unpredictable experience that unfolded like a euphoric fever dream (some of that could've been due to the nearly 100-degree heat). "The National Anthem" opened that show, which seemed fitting considering its title, and it set a relentless pace for the whole evening. Electronic music could be exhilarating, challenging, mind-bending, and thrilling in the right hands and this was proof. From there, the show ebbed back and forth between "old" Radiohead and "new" Radiohead, each version feeding off the other. It was enough to fuck with your head, but in the best possible way. Sadly, when they returned to Chicago five years later, they were a one-trick pony—boring, predictable, and self-indulgent. The energy, and the thrill, was gone. At least for me it was. But for one hot night in Chicago, one song at a time, little miracles unfolded in front of me.
14 "B.O.B." | Outkast
I don't think it's a stretch to compare Outkast to Parliament-Funkadelic. Similar creative drive, but from different eras. Both bands were ahead of their time, pushing the limits of genre, spinning off wildly into unpredictable directions. Outkast dominated the 90s and the first half of the 00s before imploding, but the music left in their wake is arguably more influential and important now than ever before. I know I have developed an even greater appreciation for them in recent years that I didn't quite understand back in the day. Perhaps I hadn't caught up with them yet. That's why I'm making a list of 20 year-old song now. To account for growth, change in musical priorities, and a diversifying palette. "B.O.B." has held up, too. It still sounds like it was recorded yesterday by aliens who landed in an Atlanta playground and then bum-rushed a hip-hop club for laughs. While they should really give some royalties to the B-52s for ripping their sound off for the chorus, all is forgiven, especially wen you're in need of a madcap jolt of sheer adrenalin at about 150 BPM.
13 "One-Armed Scissor" | At the Drive-In
If people didn't know what to make of At the Drive-In back in 2000, and they didn't, they would be even more confused if they emerged now. Rock and roll isn't in the conversation much these days, but then it still had legs. But At the Drive-In didn't need them—they existed in the stratosphere somewhere, trying to control their wayward spaceship without an instruction manual or any knowledge of the cosmos. Tuning into their frequency was an acid trip and "One Armed Scissor" was a desperate missive from a band seemingly swirling uncontrollably toward a black hole, "Self-destruct sequence / This station is non-operational / Species growing / Bubbles in an IV, loitering...." It is no wonder they broke up shortly thereafter; they weren't meant to last. Thankfully, that "species growing" turned out to Mars Volta and the subsequent ignition sequence launched an entirely new interplanetary craft into deep space. This time the trip lasted much longer. In fact, they might still be out there floating, waiting for the right time to return to Earth.
12 "Big Band Stars" | John Vanderslice
John Vanderslice's career got a momentary boost from the controversy surrounding his song "Bill Gates Must Die" from his 2000 debut album, Mass Suicide Occult Figurines. The song featured a pedophile blaming Bill Gates for making child porn so easily available to him via his PC ("So, for bringing me here / Bill Gates must die"). While it sounds suspiciously like a blatant bid to stir controversy, it was actually a great song built on an unsettling and audacious premise. It would've been a solid choice for this mixtape as well, but "Big Band Stars" is the song I've returned to the most over the ensuing years. It comes from the same album and I have lived vicariously through its sense of wide-eyed wonder for years, spiritually joining a couple driving through the Rocky Mountains as images flicker, lights flash, and deep thoughts emerge.
I looked out over the town
How I wish I had a whale to hunt down
I looked out over the sea
How I wish someone was waiting to bury me
The song doesn't give us the specifics, but that's just how I picture the scene in my mind. As they travel, their radio picks up a signal at just the perfect moment, perhaps captured from a different time, perhaps just a late night radio show being broadcast on the AM band somewhere; it's big band music. And the magic of suddenly hearing something unexpected at a vulnerable moment is captured by Vanderslice's poetic imagery. The song isn't big band, it's advanced indie-rock, created by one of the most original and underrated songwriters of his time. Not only that, the guy is a magician in the studio, operating primarily analog, and listening to his albums for subtle production touches is a pursuit well worth the time. "Big Band Stars" captures a moment in time that is strangely uplifting while also heartbreakingly melancholy. Any song that can do that is going to last a long, long time.
I've started to believe
On concrete, we scattered our seeds
11 "Come Pick Me Up" | Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams released his debut solo album, Heartbreaker, on Chicago's legendary (and sadly, recently sold) Bloodshot label in 2000. I still consider it his best album despite the fact he's been very prolific ever since. He has worn out his welcome in my world by being an asshole for much of his career, and lately an accused sexual abuser. It's a lot to digest. Hence, I'm not conversant in a lot of his later albums, instead preferring to ignore them out of spite. Actually, being an asshole isn't the problem, of course. Lots of rock stars have egotistical personalities. But when you think you're a genius, and that the world revolves around you, things can go south fast (see Billy Corgan). Of course, there are still great moments throughout his career, making up a solid concert setlist in the process, but there's also a very strong case to be made that he's been a musical disappointment, too. That said, "Come Pick Me Up" is my favorite Ryan Adams song and has been since I first heard it. It's a musical sigh lamenting a relationship gone bad and the feeling is palpable. And you know you’ve got a musical addiction when, in a song so full of emotional cruelty, the only part that makes you truly shudder is the part where the singer gets his records stolen.
10 "A Break in the Clouds" | The Jayhawks
“Every time that I see your face / It’s like cool, cool water running down my back.”
Personally, that’s not the feeling I’m looking for when I see my soul mate—especially when the water runs into my butt crack—but to each his own. This is a gorgeous song whose chorus captures the mirthful feeling you theoretically should get each time you see the one you love walking toward you. Apparently, the feeling is so powerful you'll want to take a mental picture so you never forget it. Until the divorce papers are filed, that is.
09 "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" | The New Pornographers
If this is the slow descent, I’m not sure I want to hear the fast descent. A head-wagger with killer Neko Case backing vocals, this makes the road to rock bottom sound almost inviting.
08 "New Drink for the Old Drunk" | Crooked Fingers
Following the slow descent into alcoholism is the long residence at rock bottom. At least for some. Here we see a tragic figure tucked away in the darkest corner of a bar—unredeemed, relapsed, beaten, abused, and begging for a fresh drink to drown compiled sorrows. Eric Bachmann has always had the voice to carry a classic drinking song, but it only came post-Archers of Loaf with his new band, Crooked Fingers. It's a staggering performance, pun intended. The song is carried by a great melody that could distract your from the reality of the situation. But, in the end, Bachmann's gruff vocal (Tom Waits-esque) makes sure that this bleak photograph of the bottle and the damage done doesn't lose focus.
07 "The Stars Are Projectors" | Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse became much more popular after The Moon & Antarctica, but they never made a better album. And they made some great ones, of course, but nothing with quite the same ambition. Back in 2000, we thought so highly of it that we made it our #1 record of the year.* My selection to represent the album has, in the past, been "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," a demented road trip to hell both frighteningly maniacal and weirdly humorous in unequal measures—like some sort of absurdist Cormac McCarthy novel come to life. But stepping back to look at the big picture, the heart of the record for me emerges during the sprawling "The Stars Are Projectors," which unlocks, potentially, the very key to our existence if you're willing to go along with its convoluted premise. Could Earth's existence be attributable to the inner workings of highly complex constellation of stars beaming our every move here from celestial projectors? I really hope so. But would it help or hurt knowing we could shut it all down with one guided missile?
*I'm not sure if it would still keep that ranking in 2022, as a couple other albums have likely pushed it down a spot or two, but it would easily be Top 3. Someday, when I'm done with this song project, maybe I'll rework my album lists in similar fashion.
06 "Salvation Barmy" | MC Paul Barman
Funny songs do not often stand the test of time, so it’s a tribute to the demented genius of Paul Barman (know any other rap songs that reference Polish film director Krysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy?) that 22 years after its release, “Salvation Barmy” still cracks me up, eliciting gleeful delight every time the opening plays ("I am a pretty little Dutch girl...."). Who doesn’t want to hear how a story ends that starts “I was walking down the street / Looking at boobs, asses, faces / Went in the Salvation Army / For some used glasses cases.” Every moment of this song is sheer comedy gold until the final ejaculation and beyond. Pass me my rain hat.
05 "Twist the Knife" | Neko Case
I'm a sucker for that one perfect moment. The one where the weight of the whole song comes crashing down. Those unforgettable moments when you get absolutely nailed to the wall forever. I can forgive almost any lyrical and musical indiscretion in exchange for such a lightning strike of divine inspiration. Here, it’s the dispirited, resigned chorus: “You’ll be my guest / And I’ll let you stay / Leave me the check / I’ll pay with the rest of my life / Twist the knife.”
04 "Good Fortune" | PJ Harvey
As I mentioned in the Modest Mouse entry, I may do a similar project someday reassessing my favorite albums from each year. If and when I do, there's a very good chance PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea will be in the #1 spot for 2000. I loved it at the time, but it has become my most listened to record from the year by a pretty wide margin. It manages to capture both the magic of New York City and the thrill of a new relationship at the same time, one feeding off the other. "Good Fortune" is PJ at her most accessible and that's not a bad thing this time. Known as her "Patti Smith song," you can hear the venerable punk poet's influence throughout, from the music to the phrasing to the subject matter. If you're gonna make a New York album, it's never a bad idea to give props to the masters who preceded you. It also not a bad idea to be an accomplished poet yourself. Otherwise you may not arrive at pivotal moments like this one that always manages to stop me in my tracks...
Things I once thought
In my life
Have all taken place
03 "Lines in the Suit" | Spoon
So brilliantly minimal, you could write two or three new songs in the margins and still have room for a few doodles. I think this appeals to me because the older I get the more I like to keep things simple. Less clutter, fewer complications, less social contact. If I didn't like it before I'm trying to do even less of it now. It frees up space for what truly makes me happy. And for over 20 years, Spoon has made me happy.
02 "Junk Bond Trader" | Elliott Smith
Of all the musical losses since the calendar rolled dramatically into the year 2000, Elliott Smith’s suicide was perhaps the hardest to bear. In retrospect, we should've known things weren't quite right by the music on Figure 8, his first album of the new century*. Song titles such as “Everything Means Nothing to Me,” “Easy Way Out,” “I Better Be Quiet Now,” and “Bye” now seem painfully ominous. For me, the record has only become more powerful with age. “Junk Bond Trader” is the pick for the moment because it not only stacks one great line upon the last (“The first true love that folded at the slightest touch / Brought down like an old hotel / People digging through the rubble for things they can resell.”), but it also doesn't overtly remind me of his loss when I listen to it. It renews my awe at his talent.
*We use the year 2000 here as the visual start to the 21st century in most minds, realizing 2000 is actually the last year of the 20th.
01 "Hello Operator" | The White Stripes
It's hard to remember a time when the White Stripes were still an unknown commodity, but like every other band they took a little while to catch on. De Stijl is just one of the many rewards I’ve received during a lifetime of buying records with threadbare rationale. I'm particularly weak-willed when it comes to garage rock, and if it's garage rock from Detroit, the pull of the magnet gets even stronger. To this day, the persistent devil on my shoulder urges me closer to the cashier with comments like, “What if they’re the next Stooges?" or "What if they sound like the MC5?” I then stand there wondering, "What if he’s right?" and of course I buckle, partially converted by the low-budget DIY cover with artwork that reminds me of a red, white, and black version of Hans Hoffman’s painting The Golden Wall (I played Masterpiece a lot as a child). The record’s opening track immediately stoked hope for more than just another garage record. There seemed to be an original music perspective at work. “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)” was just enough of a bend in the staid garage-rock formula to perk up my ears, but it was “Hello Operator” that delivered my first taste of that patented Stripes’ crunch. From there, it was a game of ebb and flow. For every “Apple Blossom” there’s a “Death Letter.” And to be honest, once the Stripes convincingly pulled off the latter song, I had the immediate feeling that this band could do almost anything they wanted to. And I was right.
That's the end of our 2000 mixtape. Feel free to go back to the beginning and play it again. In the meantime we'll settle on our next yearly destination. No year will have the majesty of the year 2000, but it will have at least 26 songs we love. See you in the time machine...