Twenty Years On: Songs from the Belfry 2003, Part VIII

September of 2003 was a hell of a fine month for releases, as you can see below. It seems I was in a Loud Music mood, as most of the albums I picked up then certain made a noise. And it definitely made an impact on the scenes I was writing at the time as well, as this was Act 3 of The Persistence of Memories when the stakes were at their highest.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Take Them On, On Your Own, released 2 September 2003. Their follow-up album found them still in that dark and cavernous sound yet still sounding fresh and ready for more.

Soundtrack, Underworld, released 2 September 2003. This might have been yet another ridiculous Goth Vampire Movie With An Alt-Metal Soundtrack (and one with clearly the same color tones as The Matrix universe) but it’s surprisingly enjoyable and well-written. No surprise they made four sequels over the years…

Laibach, WAT, released 8 September 2003. What I love about Laibach is that they can sound and appear so incredibly SERIOUS yet fully embrace the humor lying just underneath. Only they could take what’s essentially a marching rally song and turn it into an infectious dance tune.

Andrew WK, The Wolf, released 9 September 2003. Would the Prince of Party pull off another record full of meathead metal? While this one wasn’t nearly as popular as his previous record, it was still fun and enjoyable.

Starsailor, Silence Is Easy, released 15 September 2003. I was never sure if I liked this band or not as I found some of their songs hauntingly beautiful and others kind of bland, but I’m glad I kept tabs on them over the years. This second album finds them a bit more cheerful than previous.

David Bowie, Reality, released 16 September 2003. Bowie’s last album before taking a well-earned decade off (he’d do a few one-off performances, art shows and recording cameos here and there in the interim) centers on winding down and getting older. There are some intriguing songs — and intriguing covers — on this one, written and recorded to be easily played live.

A Perfect Circle, Thirteenth Step, released 16 September 2003. I always felt this band was a bit like Tool-Lite…an easier project of Maynard James Keenan’s that’s just a bit easier to swallow, and a little less dire. There’s an interesting cover of Failure’s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” that introduced many Tool fans to that band’s Fantastic Planet.

Thursday, War All the Time, released 16 September 2003. I was never much into the Screamo scene, but every now and again a song would capture my interest, such as “Signals Over the Air” which I’d heard on WHMP once or twice.

Muse, Absolution, released 21 September 2003. This band did have a tight following from its first album in 1999, but wasn’t until this third album that they would finally break through in the US and maintain it for a number of years. This one’s got a lot of their best songs on it.

UNKLE, Never, Never, Land, released 22 September 2003. Five years, a few mixes and several singles after their insanely brilliant debut, James Lavelle finally follows up with a much darker and grimmer second record. With the departure of DJ Shadow, the band is less sample-heavy but keeps its chilly atmospheric sound.

Leaves, Breathe, released 23 September 2003. I first heard of this Icelandic indie band through the pages of CMJ, and I wasn’t let down. Very reminiscent of Doves, one of my favorite bands of the 90s-00s, they didn’t quite hit the same heights but they wrote some absolutely lovely songs like “Catch”.

Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, released 23 September 2003. I never got around to picking up this album, but you could not escape “Hey Ya!” that summer. You still can’t, as it still shows up on the playlist of several radio stations!

stellastarr*, stellastarr*, released 23 September 2003. An indie band from New York that had the flash of The Killers and the swagger of Suede, they didn’t quite hit the heights they deserved, but they did manage to get a brilliant one-hit-wonder out of the single “My Coco”.

South, With the Tides, released 23 September 2003. Another CMJ find, I didn’t really know much about this band other than that “Same Old Story” was a great tune that also popped up on LaunchCast. I listened to this one a lot during my writing sessions.

The Network, Money Money 2020, released 30 September 2003. Talk about obscure earworms! The guys from Green Day don masks, channel Devo and write some really weird yet catchy tunes like “Joe Robot.” Noted, in 2020 they returned with a new album: Money Money 2020 Pt II: We Told Ya So.

Ben Folds, Sunny 16 EP, released 30 September 2003. Folds’ second EP follows up with more of his signature piano-driven pop songwriting, including the fun “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You”.


Up Next: winding down but not cooling off just yet