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Sep 20

#4: I cry when angels deserve to die

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One of the phenomena of the 1990 poll was that we managed to get an entire bracket out of baggy – the pie-eyed marriage of British indie and dance music. We haven’t managed to get an entire bracket of 2001’s great hybrid, nu-metal’s splicing of rock and rap. But we’ve got some, and I’ve put it together with pop-punk, just-plain-punk, the remnants of hard rock and whatever the hell Muse imagined they were doing.

And this is my first big surprise of the poll – this is a really good bracket! It probably helps that I don’t think the selectorate includes that many committed rockers, so people are picking the big popular numbers here and also drawing some lines (there’s a case that Limp Bizkit SHOULD be in the poll, but they aren’t).

The problems with nu-metal (and pop-punk, to some degree) haven’t exactly gone away. For instance, there are a few brackets in this poll which are very heavily gender-skewed – in some of them my preconceptions are partly to blame but not here, I think. This is an exaggeratedly, inescapably masculine set of tracks – men howling, men raging, men swaggering. But also men thinking stuff through, trying to raise people up, showing vulnerabilities (and covering them up). As a 28-year-old man all I heard in it was a pit of sweat and angst whose indie alternative I was trying to climb out of. As a 47-year-old man I’m struck by the variety here, the heart, and the occasional sweetness.

And the hooks! Linkin Park, Jimmy Eat World, Andrew WK, Sum 41, even Rammstein have killer hooks. (Alien Ant Farm too, though theirs are borrowed). Almost nothing is too sludgy or slow or using aggression as a cover for weak popcraft, which is probably why this is the most streamed (on average) bracket. This is a moment of peak catchiness for Kerrang! type music – you’d have to go back before grunge, I reckon, to pull a hard rock bracket together that can compete this well on pop terms.

That doesn’t mean it’ll get a positive response, of course. Warrant and Guns N Roses had hooks in the 1990 poll and were chased out of town in short order. Aerosmith’s gorgeous “Jaded” might meet a similar fate. So might Linkin Park’s cataract of rap-rock misery, “In The End”, or System Of A Down’s winking, tongue-twisting “Chop Suey!”.

Two acts appear twice, both preaching a gospel of positivity amidst the angst. Andrew WK I knew and loved at the time, and I’m interested to see if his turbo-pop-metal holds up to wider scrutiny: the concern back then from those who minded about such things was that it was all a put-on, though WK has very much committed to the bit ever since. Entirely new to me, and rather likeable, are positive punks Bouncing Souls, who most definitely do mean it and want to bring their audience up with them. One of the nice discoveries in a bracket surprisingly full of them for me.

POTENTIAL WINNER: It means not much to me, but I’d guess there’s enough affection – and good memories – around Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” for it to put on a strong showing.

BEST TRACK: It has competition, but the euphoria bullet that is WK’s “Party Hard” is a hardened favourite.

DARK HORSE: It seems weird to describe the most streamed track in the ENTIRE POLL as a dark horse, but Linkin Park’s “In The End” will have work to do with this audience to escape a disdain for nu-metal. I think it has the hooks to do so and push further into the competition.

DISCOVERY: It sticks out in the bracket as a relic of a former age, but Aerosmith’s “Jaded” is a great, rueful old-man’s song amidst a lot of young men beating their chests – it’s a sort-of cousin of the Elton, Dylan and Jarvis Cocker tracks elsewhere in the poll, but with maybe a better tune than any of them.

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