College Countdown: CMJ Top 50 Albums of 2001, 26 and 25

26. The Living End, Roll On

In tracking through the top college albums of 2001, I’ve spent a lot of words–an embarrassing amount of them, perhaps–detailing how poorly informed I was about many artists before personally beginning the rediscovery process that particular summer. Generally, though, I wound up with a strong working knowledge before too long and many of these releases are now things I can discuss with some level of capability. That’s not the case with Roll On from the Living End. This is the one album and the one band in the Top 50 that, to this day, I have no idea who they are. I can look it up, of course. They’re an Australian rock band that started working together in the mid-nineties, getting their first big break when, as legend has it, Billie Joe Armstrong personally picked them to open for Green Day when they toured Down Under, doing so on the strength of their demo tape. Roll On was the band’s second full-length release. It was released stateside in the spring, so it theoretically could have been at the station when I arrived there, but there was enough snobbishness in the programming choices that its status as a major label release may have been enough to inspire the requisite level of kneejerk disdain to cause the Music Director to bypass it altogether. To be far, it also could have been the actual quality of the music that got it tossed in among the other discards. Still, they were clearly a big enough deal that plenty of other college stations were playing them. A song off this album even wound up in one of the iterations of Guitar Hero, which must indicate a somewhat broad-ranging popularity. The Living End is still active, releasing new music as recently as last year and even occasionally collaborating with indie luminaries such as Craig Finn. Even if I maybe should know who they are, after listening to a little of the music while writing the top half of this post, I feel perfectly fine that I don’t.

25. Spiritualized, Let It Come Down

By any reasonable measure, Let It Come Down must have been a difficult album to make. For one thing, Jason Pierce, the primary creative force behind Spiritualized, was following up Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, an album that was widely considered a masterpiece, the sort of work that the entirety of a band’s future efforts are measured against, the sort of thing that an artist knows they’ll never quite top. It took four years to create the album, from beginning to end, and relied on the toil of over a hundred musicians. As a result, the album has a definite lush and thick sound to it. Let It Come Down was well-regarded, but even the praise was often tempered with some synonym of the word “disappointed.” At the time I remember thinking that it was the sort of reception that could easily lead a performer to be forever stymied, turning into some modern equivalent of Brian Wilson, hermiting himself away because musical perfection was forever out of his grasp. Instead, Spiritualized has continued on, even persisting after Pierce’s severe medical issues. The seventh studio album under the Spiritualized name was just released a couple months ago, and it’s terrific, an early contender for ten best list status. Maybe it’s not as good as their very best, but the sneaky secret is that it doesn’t need to be.

An Introduction
50 and 49: Creeper Lagoon and Ryan Adams
48 and 47: The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
46 and 45: Spoon and Black Box Recorder
44 and 43: Rival Schools and Aphex Twin
42 and 41: Ben Folds and Superchunk
40 and 39: The Faint and Modest Mouse
38 and 37: The Shins and R.E.M.
36 and 35: Old 97’s and Red House Painters
34 and 33: Mogwai and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
32 and 31: Death by Chocolate and PJ Harvey
30 and 29: Rocket From the Crypt and The Donnas
28 and 27: U2 and Cake

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