In my last list, I looked at my favorite albums from the 90s, my favorite decade of music. Now, since I’m bored over spring break, I’ve decided to take on 2000-2009 (I refuse to call this decade “the oughts” or whatever horrible name people came up with for it). I wasn’t originally going to, because the 2000s is probably my least favorite of music despite the fact that I grew up during it. But I just can’t resist a good list, and even in the bucket of crap that was this decade there were a handful of great albums that I treasure, each of which provided something that was missing in the general lameness that I associate strongly with the period they came from. My hope with this list is to study why I love these albums and to see where things went horribly, horribly wrong in these ten years.
The most obvious way the 2000s sucked is the decline of rock music, or at least the kind of rock music I enjoy. At some point in this decade, rock music seemed to lose what made it great in the first place. Bands like Arcade Fire, Wilco, Modest Mouse, The National, and The Strokes reign supreme among “rock” bands on the top of most end-of-decade lists, but they all feel lacking compared to how alive and essential it felt in the 90s when outspoken, aggressive rock ruled the landscape . Most rock stopped being exciting and freeing like it was in the years before and started being stodgy and limp, lacking in personality and energy.
Which finally gets me to Mclusky, and their 2002 album Mclusky Do Dallas, a rock album that in many ways is the antithesis of the decade it came from. It’s loud, aggressive, and overflowing with charisma thanks to lead singer Andy Falkous and his howling vocals. It’s also hilarious, with some of the best misanthropic one liners ever committed to song. Mclusky rock at a higher volume and with more swagger than just about anyone else did at the time and sound like they’re having a party doing it.
Sonically, Mclusky don’t do anything too groundbreaking. Their dedication to abrasive noise (along with the album being engineered by Steve Albini) created obvious comparisons to 90s noise rock bands like The Jesus Lizard, while their darkly humorous lyrics and big hooks brought to mind the Pixies. Mclusky breaks out of the shadow of those bands through sheer force of personality, as Falkous and the band seem to have a whale of a time making an unholy racket and singing ridiculous non-sequitur lyrics like “All your friends are cunts. Your mother is a ballpoint pen thief.”
Mclusky Do Dallas is so relentlessly cacophonous that at times it feels like a satire of rock music one-upsmanship, with each song trying to top the previous one in terms of insanity. It’s most evident on album highlight “To Hell With Good Intentions”, where Falkous howls out increasingly silly, hyperbolic boasts about the band (“my band is better than your band, we’ve got more songs than a song convention”) with each punctuated by the band chanting “sing it!” as if urging other rock bands to come up to their level of badassery. Based on the output this decade provided, it seems that few bands took them up on the challenge.
The band’s songs never stray too far from their formula, but they find ways to mix it up to prevent the album from becoming too repetitive. “The World Loves Us and is Our Bitch” has a funky guitar lead while keeping up the band’s hyperbolic sense of humor, while lead track “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” has a call-and-response between Falkous and noisy guitar to go with its lyrics of paranoia and sex that are handled in typical Mclusky fashion. The closest the band comes to a ballad is “Fuck This Band”, which has lyrics that sound like what a parent whose kid listens to Mclusky might think about the band: “fuck this band because they swear too much, it’s an obvious ploy and irresponsible.”
Above all, Mclusky Do Dallas is a fun album, in a way that most acclaimed albums of the 2000s aren’t. It never takes itself too seriously, but also never has fun at the expense of providing the vital rush of excitement that only great rock music can provide. The fact that the music around them was so dull and serious made Mclusky’s back-to-basics rock feel that much more important. While I personally think rock declined in this decade and hasn’t really recovered, Mclusky Do Dallas shows that there is still always a home for it, even if it’s a smaller niche than it should be.