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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best Records & Shows of 2013

The Best Records & Shows of 2013

11) Hero Dishonest – Alle Lujaa (If Society)
 A year ago I visited Helsinki, and stayed in the flat of the bass player, Lasse. I slept on the floor of his kitchen, and it was a total fucking mess. Taking a look at the front of this record cover, I see someone else sleeping on the floor and the kitchen has finally been cleaned! Well I must have slipped down to the Z list of punk-rock stardom. Don’t you know who I was? In all seriousness this is another blistering, relentless, and insane piece of punk wax. 11 tracks and side A, and 2 tracks on side B – what has always made these Finnish freaks stand out is that fact that they try out different styles in their songs, without loosing the quintessential hardcore punk sound. Fourteen years is a long time for a band to be around, especially a hardcore punk band, so you’ve got to be on top of your game to be around this long. The hourglass still runs for these Helsinki Hobos. 
10) Iron Chic – The Constant One (Bridge Nine)
Back in the late 1990’s we used to head out to local squat parties to catch bands playing live. The post gig techno party saw many a gurning face wobble along to bass lines, and smiles erecting as if they were attached to an invisible fishing hook sent down from the holy spirit jah. This is how I feel every time I listen to Iron Chic, releasing positive endorphins and radiating a warm sense of joyful reflection. I wrote lovely things about them when I saw them play live earlier this year (See here), yet who would’ve thought that a balding American man with no fashion sense, can once again produce such spiritually uplifting pop-punk anthems that drive ones soul into a positive sense of euphoria. This record is just as good as their last.

9) Criminal Damage – Call of Death (Feral Ward)
If one has ever been a victim of slander; having their name scraped through mud, being casualty to hidden gossip and lies, then you will no doubt grow an affection to the bitterness, hatred, and dejected lyrics that come out of a Criminal Damage record. Thankfully so, is a bell that once chimed so loud, is now unheard in that corridor of uncertainty, and forever banished to the Boora bog. Dark melodic oi punk, ala BLITZ in the year 2000. Not as good as their first two records, yet still displaces most others in the genre. The soundtrack to alienation.
8) Pet Shop Boys – Electric (x2)
You are probably thinking ‘what the fuck is this doing on an article about punk music?’ Well this is the synth-pop duo’s first release on their own label (DIY!) after finishing their career-spanning contract on Parlaphone. Stuart Price produced it with the specific aim of getting them back to their roots, and making a pure ‘dance’ record. They have done just that. Tracks such as ‘Thursday’, ‘Electric’ and the queer 8-bit cheesiness of ‘Love is a Bourgeois Construct’, prove just that. We were so excited for this release that Heather, Mike from Owlbot / Norman Records, and I went to see them at Manchester Arena, and it was indeed ‘Electric’! 
Mike wouldn't normally do this kind of thing
7) Caves – Betterment (YoYo)
Heather approves
One of the best things about Caves is that my girlfriend likes them. I mean actually likes them. So it’s one of them rare opportunities for us to share a love for a band other than Green Day, Against Me! or Alkaline Trio. As well as this release, which is their second LP, the band also played three (?) shows in Leeds this year, which makes us northerners a little more cheerful. They play fast, melodic, and driving pop-punk, full of infectious positivity. This record is a continuation of their awesomeness. And just to prove how awesome they are, lead singer Lou, was featured in Vice Magazines’ top women in punk for 2013. Go Caves! 

6) Murderburgers – These Are Only Problems (Asian Man)
For a band that come from a country that produces Macaroni Cheese Pies & Deep Fried Pizzas, it’s a little disappointing that they have managed to get so famous with a uncultured name. For a bunch of scrawny pasties to get signed to a big DIY pop-punk label is worthy of putting Scottish music back on the map.  They played in Leeds recently and impressed me enough to write even more about them (See here). I think you should relish the opportunity to enjoy these non-cheesey, meaty riffing, pickled face pop-punkers by ordering their record from your latest drive-thru record store. Totally awesome songs! 

5) Various Artists – A Tribute to Tony Sly (Fat Wreck)
I’ve spent the last two summers in Istanbul, sitting topless with Turkish men, singing along to No Use For A Name songs on Youtube. A joyful tradition that came about due to the unforeseen death of front man Tony Sly. He was an influential writer in the pop punk scene, and is responsible for so many classic songs in his time with the band, and his time as a solo artist. This tribute record is marvellous, and features covers of his classic songs, by bands and artists that were close to Tony, and who you’ll know if you have any interest in pop punk. What makes this compilation interesting is that all of the artists have given their own twists to the songs they have chosen. This is such a fitting tribute to a great man, and it’s easy to forget how many awesome songs he wrote. However (I hate myself for saying this) there is a distinct lack of songs from the early No Use For A Name Days (see graph). How did they not find anyone to cover any song off the Daily Grind, which is a ground-breaking and seminal pop-punk record that in 1993, saw the band move from the traditional hardcore sound of the era, to a more original pop-punk sound. Despite this, the record remains 98% awesome, and is a must own item for pop-punkers around the world. RIP Tony ‘Invincible’ Sly.

My over-riding memory of Tony Sly will be when we went down to Sheffield in 1998 to see No Use For A Name & Lagwagon. We were only 17 at the time, and nearly didn't make it down as loads of lorries were blocking the roads in protest at rises in fuel prices. Anyhow after the show, we ended up playing a game of 5 a side football against Tony & the rest of the band, in which we won 5-4 in the end. They were sound lads, and really appreciated the chance to have a game of football against some real English people. 

4) Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film (Columbia)
‘One of the best ever’ and ‘Your singing will live in our hearts forever’ were two of the phrases Nicky Wire used to described the Manics’ performance at the Ritz in Manchester. The hair on my back still stand up when I think about how loud we were, it was an epic sing-along, and the first time in 22 years that the normally reserved drummer Sean Moore wore leopard print at a gig. I was so drunk, that I almost lost my voice, and had painful calves for days following the gig. Anyway, lets rewind this blog and talk about rewind the film. This is completely different from any previous output, much more chilled out, and a fair few acoustic numbers to boot. This time it comes with an even greater array of guest vocalists: Cate Le Bon, Richard Hawley, and Lucy Rose. It features a mixture of poppy (Show Me the Wonder), epic (Rewind the Film), and strange (I Miss the Tokyo Skyline) ballads to keep all sides of the Manics tripartite personality happy. It seems they’ll be back already in 2014 with another album and a show at Leeds Arena – tasty! Manic Ritz Preachers:
3) Masked Intruder – S/T (Fat Wreck) re-release
What’s more to be said about these reprobates that hasn’t already been said on a dozen other blogs? They are a big deal in the pop-punk scene at the moment, and their debut LP was re-released by Fat Wreck Chords this year, enabling them to tour extensively with many other big bands. This is a collection of slower and more melodic pop-punk numbers that the minions at Ont Road towers are used to, yet has remained on steady turntable play throughout the year. Lovely stuff. 

2) HDQ – Lost in Translation (Boss Tuneage)
There was only going to be one thing that could happen that would ease the pain of Leatherface breaking up, and even this seemed a long shot. However, Dickie Hammond & David Golledge have reunited along with Skruff Owen (Leatherface), Mick Jones (Leatherface stand-in), and Dean Liddle, to record a new HDQ album. At first I hated this record, it was too soft and brought tears to my eyes. However, after a few listens I was completely hooked: I started to understand the complexity to the lyrics, and Dickie Hammonds definitive guitar sound started to seep through. Songs such as ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘Room With A View’, and ‘Hand Me Downs’ can comfortably sit alongside any Leatherface classics. Having had a scan through the bands back catalogue this is quite different to the stuff they’ve released in the past, yet as a stand-alone record, this is one hell of a bag of cans to bring to a party. We even got the bonus of having them play at the Wharf Chambers social centre in Leeds. I hope to hear more from these Tigers!
1) Bad Religion – True North  (Epitaph)

The best selling Bad Religion record in history. No description necessary. 

And the best live show of 2013...
Well it’s been another awesome year for live shows. Highlights include: Pig//Control, Disguise, David Rovics, The War Goes On, 1981, Infernoh, Rocket From the Crypt, and Ovvl. Yet for me, considering all the different factors, the best show of the year has to be D.O.A. at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.  I’ve only recently discovered this band, and I wish it had of been sooner. They’ve been going for ages, 30 plus years, and they have produced a barrage of quality material. Even though this gig was on a Sunday night, the venue was rammed, and everyone was in good spirits – it felt like a Saturday night. This was a special night too for lead singer & guitarist Joey Shithead, as his relatives are from Ilkley, which is a village 20 miles from Leeds. The pit was wild throughout the whole set, old & young people going bezerk. Even the Scarborough gadgies from Active Minds were spotted in attendance, and that is a rarity these days. The defining moment of the set was when they played ‘General Strike’, I felt the rage of all the activism I’d taken part in over the times, and it reminded me why punk is such an important philosophical & political movement. 
Stand up, stand and unite, It's time for a general strike

© @Schwarzbrennen

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