I've asked a bunch of people to contribute some lists for our end of year blog. What floated their boats this year, records, EP's demos, rare finds, late passes, whatever's good.
First up are a couple of chaps, Thomas Dowse and Rob Tyers.
Thomas has, for the last ten years or so has flicked from Pariah to Sans Pareil. He has consistently put out some of the most engaging material I've heard, occupies a similar literary territory to that of Mark E Smith or Daniel Higgs, but has a musical and aesthetic vision that is more akin to the more sick side of Post Punk and Garage Rock, shades of Chrome, Bardo Pond, Rites Of Spring and EVOL era-SY permeate his tales of small-town woe and smut. All these recordings are accompanied by meticulous illustrations and recently, animations that further the poor characters short-comings and bad luck.
We're putting out his next record. Thank Christ........
Sun Ra- Lanquidity
100 year anniversary this year. Should take about that long to dig through half of what he made. I started here.
J.G Ballard on vocals. Recorded over Skype from his coffin. BUY NOW
Yob- Clearing A Path To Ascend
Favourite Doom singer since Edgy 59.
10 years old. Just swaggered into my all time faves.
The Ukiah Drag- In The Reaper's Quarters
Slime. Swamps. Dirges.
Primitive Man- Scorn
Makes my chin jut out involuntarily
Bursts irony's testicles with one flick.
Sunburner- United Waters
Like having melodic snot in your ears
Charlatan- Local Agent
The universe left a voicemail. Says "You're dumped"
Cosmic Thoughts- S/T
Don't really like it but thought i better put it in.... BUY NOW
Rob plays in Perspex Flesh. They put out a record this year that featured heavily in both mine and Thomas's top record lists, and along with such groups as Lowest Form, Mob Rules, The Flex, Good Throb and a few more, have rejuvenated my enthusiasm for punk, particularly in this country. Their self titled record is a brash, fast and uncompromising take on an SST sound, with undertones of metal and post-punk that deliver sparseness and despair in a kind of blown-out, apocalyptic 80's Cronenberg way. They have something coming out next year, and we can't wait. Rob was polite enough to indulge my request, I know from internet stalking that he has stellar taste in music and a penchant for the more obscure record-shopping trip, so was keen to find out his highlights this year....
Top 10 (No order)
GUTTER GODS: Innersense LP – Aussie Rules, OK. A+ hardcore with mutant vocals and chorus-drenched guitar, combining thug-stomp with memorable song writing in a brew that brings to mind your favourite Italian hardcore smashers (with a dominant CHEETAH CHROME MOTHERFUCKERS flavour). It’s basically why I listen to the genre.
PROTOMARTYR: Under Color Of Official Right LP – One of Detroit’s dominant exports (since jarred pickles became a bigger business than car manufacturing), Protomartyr took me by surprise with this collection of post-punk bangers; a firm favourite of the decade, not just the year. Comparisons can be made (STOOGES, THE FALL, other Midwest neo-garage bands), but it’s the individuality and song writing that really sets it apart. And it remains essentially PUNK; a kick-in-the-teeth to all the weak-willed ‘indie rock’ bands who namedrop post-punk classics in an attempt to mask the fact that their music sounds like overheated COLDPLAY. After only a couple of listens I was hooked. Seeing them live in late summer confirmed my feelings - this is IT.
CRISIS: Kollectiv 2xLP – The best reissue of the year, courtesy of the best label in Europe. All 3 CRISIS singles in one place, alongside late '70s demos and a live set from Norway. Militant post-punk from a moment in time, the power and melodies lasting longer than the slogans (did they manage to stop Southwark town hall move from Peckham anyway?) Also one of the heaviest, sturdiest gatefolds around.
INSTITUTE: Salt 12” – While I preferred the singer’s delivery on the demo (less lackadaisical, more direct), this is still great. Post-punk from Austin, Texas that sounds like an American cousin of CRISIS with hints of slightly more experimental stuff like CRAWLING CHAOS. It avoids both the goth route taken by so many others, and the thin and spindly sound of modern bands who wish they were WIRE/Go4, taking instead a more muscular approach that relies on catchy, doleful melodies.
VA: Killed By Deathrock Vol 1 LP – The best compilation of the year. Obscure late '70s/early '80s dark post-punk from across Europe, and mostly pre ‘goth’ (by which I mean when it became more codified and plodding by the mid-‘80s). Reminiscent of how every band on Nuggets compilations based their sounds on distinct templates (pick a British Invasion band), the bands here wear their influences on their sleeves, most trying to be either JOY DIVISION, BAUHUAS or THE BANSHEES (Hook-style basslines abound especially). But there’s nowt wrong with being derivative; this is quality stuff, full of marginal hits for marginal people.
THE LOWEST FORM: Negative Ecstasy LP – The best UK hardcore record in years, and really one of the UK’s best historically (if thinking of ‘hardcore’ as a distinct entity from UK82 or even Discharge). A bold statement maybe, but this ticks every box, reminding the listener of how energetic and forceful the style can be. Pure vibe with songs to match, it’s reminiscent of VOID but also INFEST and CITIZENS ARREST, all with a swirling distorted sound like something on a DEAD C record. A psychedelic tendency also seeps through, the band obviously wise to the importance of sonic textures. Power for power’s sake.
HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS: Stay Home LP – Not as immediate as the debut, but the definition of a grower. NY’s favourite scum punks continue to combine the best elements of garage punk (think DWARVES ‘Horror Stories’) with hardcore stomp in an infectious mush. They also add in a bit of GUN CLUB swagger and melody into the mix, with the guitar leads a lot more dominant than previously. The whole thing is energetic, rhythmic and ‘fun’ without being at all whacky, and they’re also probably the best live band on the planet.
MYSTIC INANE: Deep Creep 7" – New Orleans hasn’t produced much notable punk, despite dominating other genres, but this little platter managed to crawl out of the swamp. It’s one of the best recent hardcore records from the states, sounding arguably like SACCHARINE TRUST meets early CAREER SUICIDE with a bit of NO TREND stirred in. Lurching and a little diseased, it’s the only recent 7” that deserves a place in this list.
SIEVEHEAD demo tape – The only demo on this list, from a Sheffield power trio playing a solid blend of classic post-punk and ‘not-shit’ garage (the caveat needed because so much of the genre is indefensible turd). It brings to mind a few different bands (VEEDEE, THE SOUND and WIPERS), but it also has a vibe enough of its own; catchy, powerful and full of non-saccharine melodies. They’re also excellent live.
TOTAL CONTROL: Typical System LP – I’ve come full circle on this record, realising after initial disappointment that it’s the best thing the band has done, and better than the first album (which remains on heavy rotation in my abode). ‘Post-punk’ of the highest order, pushing in multiple directions; from DEPECHE MODE/FAD GADGET dance moves, through to RIKK AGNEW punk smashers and brooding electronic psychedelia, all with those signature guitar lines that can’t help remind me of Mikey Young’s other band-of-the-highest-order, EDDY CURRENT. As miserable as it is joyous, it basically exudes effortlessness. The best.
LIVE SHOWS: HANK WOOD & HAMMERHEADS/THE LOWEST FORM in Leeds. KATE BUSH in London. PROTOMARTYR in Leeds. CONDOMINIUM in Sheffield. UNA BESTIA INCONTROLABLE at Means to An End, Bradford and Xerox Music, London. ORDEN MUNDIAL at Xerox Music, London. FOOT HAIR in Newcastle.