My 1995 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll Ballot

January 2, 1996

Hello Winnie-the-Poobahs,

What kind of year was 1995? One huge sigh.

For me, 1995 was summed up by its nadir -- the middle of a good, workmanlike concert by my once and future favorite band, R.E.M. I had gone to a place I absolutely hate -- the Shoreline Ampitheatre, one of Bill Graham's monstrous legacies, and a place that might be ok for a post-apocalyptic picnic (tickets sold by Ticketmaster and catered by Bill Graham Presents, natch), but is the worst place ever for a stadium rock show -- in the vain hopes that live versions of the Monsterosities that had left me cold for nearly a year would finally make sense -- in just the same way that the Green songs came alive for me in 1989.

After all, every single prior time I'd ever seen R.E.M. -- from a club date in 1984 to that Green tour in a basketball arena -- I'd felt like I made some sort of personal connection with the band. Not me personally, of course, but I always could see and, even better, feel them making their music. But not this time. This time I was lost in a huge writhing screaming bowl of endless high school students and frat boys who really didn't give a fuck that it was R.E.M. -- the most important American rock band of the last 15 years, at least -- up there, for chrissakes.

To most of the crowd, it could have been anybody -- Live, or Hootie and the Blowfish or Green Day or anyone -- they were there for the big show of the summer, and more power to them, I guess. But it just depressed the hell out of me, because, R.E.M. is still R.E.M. to me, and they always will be, I guess. I was there to try to reconnect with my favorite band, and the only way I could even see them was by watching the video screens. So instead of seeing an R.E.M. concert, I ended up paying 30+ dollars to watch an R.E.M. video with 20,000 other people. For the record, both my girlfriend and my roommate -- neither of whom had seen R.E.M. before and didn't have the history -- had a fine old time.

What totally sucks is that a) I knew it would be like this in advance -- I was hoping against hope that R.E.M. could somehow use the inherent hugeness of stadium rock to their advantage like U2 or the Rolling Stones had in the past (forgetting that R.E.M. has always been about the intensely personal, and not the whole wide world), and b) this is what I've always wanted for them. Popular acclaim to match their critical acclaim. And now that they have it, I feel great for them, because it somehow vindicates the scene I came from, but actually experiencing it in person just makes me feel blah, which is a pretty good word for how I feel about Rock and Roll 1995, even as the world R.E.M. influenced dominated rock and roll once again.

Nothing felt new this year: most of my favorite records were outright throwbacks to an earlier style. In fact, many of them could be seen as one-record summations of previously released box sets: Oasis -- The Beatles Anthology; Rancid -- The Clash On Broadway, Yo La Tengo -- Peel Slowly and See; etc. Sonic Youth, Neil Young and Guided By Voices all made great records, but they weren't that different from the same great records they've always made. There was no sense of groundbreaking. -- hell, even probable poll winner P.J. Harvey went back to the blues for inspiration.

Yet, weirdly enough, it was as tough as ever to narrow my choices down to ten.

So, here are my lists:

Albums:

Oasis(What's The Story) Morning Glory?25
Neil YoungMirror Ball10
Wilco A.M.10
Guided By Voices Alien Lanes10
RancidOut Come The Wolves10
Sonic Youth Washing Machine10
Son Volt Trace10
Yo La Tengo Elect-ro-pura5
Everclear Sparkle and Fade5
PavementWowee Zowee5

Singles:

Elastica"Stutter"
The Jesus and Mary Chain "I Hate Rock and Roll"
Goo Goo Dolls "Name"
Oasis "Live Forever"
Des'ree "You Gotta Be"
Coolio "Gangsta's Paradise"
Foo Fighters "This Is A Call"
Chris Isaak "Somebody's Cryin"
Pearl Jam "Merkin Ball"
Rembrants "I'll Be There For You"

Reissues:

The Velvet UndergroundPeel Slowly and See
Sam Cooke Sam Cooke's Night Beat
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Playback
The Who The Who Sell Out
Guided By Voices Box

Some Explanation:

Albums: