The end of ’18 also brought three outstanding albums that I’ve listened to in this year. They shouldn’t be left behind unmentioned.
Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace
Believe the (moderate) hype in this case. The festering psychedelic quality of “Laughing Death in Meatspace” deserves praises heaped upon it. It sounds mesmerizing despite being unpleasant and toxic in essence. — Losing your mind on the porch in hot and humid Australian weather unable to move, with worn out and scratched Neil Young & Crazy Horse records as only company (There are old Buffalo albums in the cupboard too, but you haven’t had enough energy for that kind of blues / doom for ages). — The visions of Gareth Liddiard are respected here. He could be one of the four honorary evangelists for this blog column.
You Let My Tyers Down
A Laughing Death In Meatspace
Wax Chattels – Wax Chattels
Just a thousand miles down south-east, in subtropical Auckland, youngsters flocked together in a power (NRG) trio of a different kind (bass / organ / drums). Such band format is not really extraterrestrial but it is uncommon and thusly more interesting. How many more great (debut) albums from Southern Hemisphere. Fantastic! Rated X.
In My Mouth
The Nightingales – Perish The Thought
I could easily recommend any of their post-reformation albums, not only “Perish The Thought”. Perhaps The Nightingales require few introductory lines. In the previous century they started as young ’76 punks from Birmingham (City of Black Sabbath) called The Prefects. Alongside Robert LLoyd as frontman, brothers Alan and Paul Apperley were crucial and lasting players in the band. The comparisons with The Fall are inevitable but The Nightingales obviously didn’t have work ethic on the same level as them. The three studio albums issued in the period 1982-85 are genuine post-punk / pub-rock classics, platinum certified on John Peel Show. The Nightingales’ German patron saint was Faust (rather than Can). After having been dormant for many years The Nightingales re-appeared in early 21st century and here they are with the latest line-up: Andreas Schmid as bassist and studio engineer, Fliss Kitson on drums / vocals and the new guitarist James Smith recently replacing Alan Apperley. As an uninformed and out of time person, I missed The Nightingales when they played in a lovely old fashioned club in Austrian village Ebensee few years ago. I also could not reach Belgrade nor Budapest last November. I wish I’d been there or some place else where they were touring. Give ’em a chance, and if you like their pop art you can buy their records (and CDs) or simply offer them drinks after the show. In an Austrian Gasthaus or an English pub, old man pop star Robert Lloyd is a people person. And the band plays on… Cheers.
Intro (from “Mind Over Matter” (2015)):
Perish The Thought (2018):
Enemy Of Promise
I’m A People Person
I am being loyal and boring again. What can I do? No time to mess around. Serious reviews of all these brand new albums you can read in proper English elsewhere on the infinite internet. This is not a “best of selection”, just a list of almost all records from ’19 that I’ve heard so far.
Test Dept. – Disturbance
Construction time again? Of course that Test Dept. went digital / techno right after the Thatcher era. Who needed metal / manual workers in post-industrial neoliberal Britain or anywhere else in EU for that matter. Do they owe them a living? Of course, they fucking do! Industrial culture is not luxury. “Disturbance” as a whole is a fine protest album with seething anger kept in check.
Speak Truth To Power
Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive
Well, since I’ve recently accommodated Pet Shop Boys (in the format of cheap ugly plastic compact diskettes on the CD shelves), there’s no reason not to support Sleaford Mods and buy their own vinyl products [Extreme Eating Records]. Hoarding stuff, it’s a sin! Unlike PSB, SM are minimal synth pop duo that mastered dirty language of POP (with plenty of local references which are hardly understandable to foreigners like me). Singer usually attacks in disgust, spewing venomous words at fake posturing and overwhelming stupidity. And with very special pleasure, at the R’n’R icons from the past! Change has come with “Eton Alive”.
The Young Gods – DATA Mirage Tangram
Swiss Air night flight. Mind numbed with whisky. Chill out grooves and nice guitar playing obscure traces of apprehension. What will come next?
Entre en matière
Figure sans nom
All My Skin Standing
Mekons – Deserted
I & I feel deserted while suffering series of heat waves in the big city, dragging overheated body through the dusty streets and hiding from the burning sun. Of all music only roots reggae (with small doses of funk & West Coast psychedelia added) can help I & I live through the hottest months of prolonged summers. As a matter of fact, music by The Mekons is a potent remedy too. During their latest joyful gathering Mekons even brought the rain upon the desert. I (♥) Mekons. Cheers.
Into The Sun
Lawrence of California
Sunn O))) – Life Metal
Between Sleipnir’s Breaths
Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
A Wretched Country Of Dusk
Saint Vitus – Saint Vitus
Scarred tissue all over but the vital force is still with them. Don’t worry, Saint Vitus are not zombies. Not yet. Original hard & heavy singer Scott “White Stallion” Reagers rejoined after Scott “Wino” Weinrich had left the band again. Great album.
12 Years In The Tomb
Hey Colossus – Four Bibles
This English modern rock band from the weird side of Great Britain is a fairly new name for me. But they struck a chord with me immediately through their previous album “The Guillotine”. [in the period between these two albums I checked Hey Colossus discography backwards album by album (studio stuff only) and reached “Happy Birthday”. and I wasn’t disappointed. they range from very good to great!] I didn’t expect any new recording thinking that Hey Colossus were over & out. And here they come. Eerie.
Babes Of The Plague
Drahla – Useless Coordinates
Useless!? The debut album by Drahla is very inspired interpretation of tired and often predictable post-punk formula. Sax (art) punk does me good. After half an hour of their music I am truly energized and stimulated for more. Erase Errata used to produce similar effect on me. Bravo!
React / Revolt
Stimulus For Living
Bill Callahan – Shepard In A Sheepskin Vest
What a breezy summertime double album! Unreal. Bill Callahan is an inexhaustible songwriter. So many things (albums) happened along the way. The scenes from the life of young artist — e.g. “37 push ups in winter rate motel (while listening to “Highway To Hell”)” — seem to belong not only to his distant past but a previous lifetime. That black dog could be a restless and shaggy Croatian sheepdog. For better or for worse, harmless and healing sunshine for all (and a clear body of water for me).
Here is a list of all the albums issued in 2018 which I’ve managed to listen to carefully. No ranking applied. Albums are listed chronologically, as they were dropping in my digital folder through illegal channels during the year. Don’t worry, I’ve already purchased few vinyls (some of them in unwanted colored edition, all of them more or less warped & pressed off-center). I bought one of them even on CD! Actually I would have bought most of them on CD for less money if it weren’t for loud / heavily compressed mastering with crushed dynamics (which for some reason, unfathomable to me, has been happening in the usually more reasonable and less trendy independent sector all these years as well). What a shame.
Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
Hyper enough? Oh, what a time to be alive! Any time. Short and swift barrage of concise pop-rock songs bordering on punk-rock from a super band whose albums I don’t like that much (exceptions would be their not-really-appreciated “college rock” issues: “Indoor Living” and “Come Pick Me Up” & lovely collections of early singles, b-sides and throwaway tracks). Reagan Youth! Thatcher Youth. Tito Youth. OK, in case of ex-YU the political icon wasn’t alive anymore. The youth of YU (at least some of them) were haunted by Tito’s ghost, annoying mythology of failed Communism and uncertain future.
What a Time to Be Alive
Break the Glass
Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
“Jericho Sirens” is a great return album by a veteran band in a long line of excellent return albums by veteran bands that happened this year. What can I say, judging on the level of kinetic energy only, these old dudes probably don’t need sports to stay fit. When it comes to guitar sound, I still love to hear guitar strings and manic strumming a bit more than powerful heavy metal riffing. Hot Snakes are experts in that field. Yahweh is angry. The sirens are giving off loud sound alarm and I don’t hear it. It’s clear that I need a doctor too.
I Need a Doctor
Death of a Sportsman
The Breeders – All Nerve
Here‘s another very nice band that never spoke to me on a personal level. I liked “Pod” when it came out and it still holds very well. That’s it. Hence I approached The Breeders’ new album as an accidental listener, without great expectations. I am glad I gave them a chance in the end. A couple of unconventional pop rock songs from “All Nerve” can really tranquilize raw nerves. There is also a cover version of “Archangels Thunderbird” from the early psychedelic repertoire of drugged-out Amon Düüll II. Geil!
Walking With a Killer
Dawn: Making an Effort
And there is also one song that I’ll dedicate to all the ghosts of this website:
Preoccupations – New Material
Being preoccupied with the past isn’t good for mental health. Neither is headless rushing into the future which has been approaching the speed of light in recent times. Fuck off, future! Disarray. Disarray. Disarray. Preoccupations dropped their original band name “Viet Cong” just like that (principle of non-attachment to win over tiresome political correctness?), adopted a new moniker and moved on. “New Material” turned out to be upgrade on previous self-titled record & a well-rounded album with lots of angular guitar playing. They have finally won me over.
The Ex – 27 Passports
For my quasi review of The Ex’s new album see the blogpost from merry month of May. I didn’t mention Andy Ex (ex Dog Faced Hermans; a great band, by the way) in there so here is an appreciation for his furious guitar playing and persistent activity. Cheers Andy.
The Messthetics – The Messthetics
“The Messthetics” is instrumental jazz-rock album that SST record label could have put out in 1987. Expertly played and nicely recorded by DC senior punk-rockers. I mean the rhythm section comes from Fugazi. However, spotlight is on lead guitarist Anthony Pirog who proved that vocals and words are not always needed. No mess to be found on this pedantic album. I’ve always loved surprises from Dischord.
The Inner Ocean
Once Upon a Time (Sonny Sharrock)
Sleep – The Sciences
Sleep woke up from marijuana induced coma, went into studio with their new drummer (and old friend from Neurosis), and recorded a new double album which could have dropped directly from the 1970s, those orange & brown tones and all. It worked out.
E – Negative Work
“Negative Work” is as good as E’s exceptional debut issued less than two years ago. The songwriting angle didn’t change one bit because there was no reason for it. E are fit and working. It surprises me that I still don’t miss bass guitar. But I missed reportedly great show in Zagreb last summer, played for two dozen people in audience.
A House Inside
The Chills – Snow Bound
Martin Phillipps’s music channeled through unstable and unlucky The Chills will always be welcomed here. On “Snow Bound” his soul-searching is matched with baroque style of songwriting. Due to slightly more complex and ornate use of keyboards, the album can sound stodgy, especially when moodiness takes over me. In that frame of mind “Snow Bound” reminds me of an album by a prog-rock band in New Wave clothes or maybe of a tribute to Split Enz clowns circa ’78. Living ain’t easy. Thank God I like keyboards a lot.
The Greatest Guide
Gnod – Chapel Perilous
“Chapel Perilous” is one more noise-rock album that underwent subtle dub sound treatment by Gnod. Clattering train of trebly sound on the collision course with near future is deafening. It hits hard. All the noiseniks of this world should get it. Turn it up, mate!
Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down
Low – Double Negative
As much as I conservatively love the beginning and the first creative peak (or rather plateau) of Low, I appreciate changes that they undertook after “Trust” to move on, straying away from the trodden path of righteousness and opting for variations in sound production since the drastic changes in songwriting are almost impossible. For what is worth, the new approaches applied to “Double Negative” brought unpleasant side effects too. It truly bugs me to hear a couple of really beautiful songs ruined on purpose with dubious choice aesthetic that mimics recent trends in POP production (= digital rubbish bin effects). Electronic demolishing of rhythm tracks on “Double Negative” sounds cheap and ugly to a pair of average rock ears but probably that was the point, to connect Low and something desperately modern like… Burial. (pardon my ignorance of digital electronic music, my capacity for consuming is limited). The overall effect isn’t on the level of Jamaican dub studio treatment which will always sound otherworldly to me. But those minimal songs on the album without distorted beat/percussion in the background, which hover and chime in the darkest digital chasm, are truly arresting. Lurid. “Double Negative” is saved by pop-art context of imminent decay. Sound imprint of a degenerative brain disease.
The Son, The Sun
Dancing and Fire
Viagra Boys – Street Worms
Thanks, The Quietus! A very good pick indeed. Viagra Boys, Swedish “scum” rock group of sorts, play post-punk influenced garage-rock with sax whose filthy echoes and mocking blare won’t reach clean-shaven and respected high cultured Swedish society but they do resonate well over here, in ex lumpenproletariat areas. Since I don’t dig death / black metal (corpses), this entertaining Swedish import of another kind will suffice for the sake of global balance. Slow learner, he is relaxed.
Down in the Basement
Just Like You
The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
Is The Body’s music metal? Not quite, but certainly it is HEAVY. “I Have Fought Against It…” has some things in common with Low’s “Double Negative” as well. “Digital garbage” sound effects have been integral part of The Body’s work of art for some time now, perhaps even from their earliest days. Truth be told, I am not very familiar with their prolific output. On several occasions I stumbled upon a very moving recording from their already broad discography. Listening to The Body can be healing experience when applied in moderate doses. Audio homeopathy of sorts. I was deeply impressed with “I Shall Die Here” few years ago. If Low circle in limbo like moths, then these two guys reside in a truly hellish place on Earth.
The West Has Failed
The Last Form of Loving
High On Fire – Electric Messiah
Yet another return to form. High On Fire are not flogging tired horse on “Electric Messiah”. They are indeed on fire with malocchio gestures high in the air. Not all the songs are precious enough to be included on double LP, in my humble opinion, and better impression would give regular album length. In other words, I am too feeble to endure this merciless album in one listening session. HOF’s Thanatos force tramples over my Pathos. The sound formula accomplished together with Converge’s guitarist seems to be optimal solution for forward motion of High On Fire’s style of metal. But I will always return to the odd one produced by Jack Endino – “Death Is This Communion” – a firm favorite to this very day.
Spewn From the Earth
The Pallid Mask
Steps of the Ziggurat / House of Enlil
Mudhoney – Digital Garbage
“Digital Garbage” is kinda funny and sad trad rock album. It’s easier to deal with this world reading comics and listening to rock music. Digital garbage will ruin my hearing and my mind. Corporate garbage will mess with my source of income and affect my material existence. Here comes Mudhoney. (I missed the show in November ’18)
Next Mass Extinction
Portal – Ion
The trap-door that leads to big black nothingness has been unchained by Portal for almost a decade now. Just like the things in life that come when (and where) least expected, the key moment of entering a parallel universe didn’t happen in a cottage in wooded Nordic hinterlands but down under, in sun-scorched Australia. Portal’s audacious art-rock take on death metal / black metal pummeling is so good and weird that some artfags (including me) might try to claim them from metal hordes.
ESP ION AGE
Šumski – Ostrvo ledenog kita
Izvrstan povratnički album grupe Šumski za sve fanove iz Zagreba, Hrvatske, šire jugoistočne regije te za ponekog slučajnog međunarodnog slušatelja. Šumski se ipak nisu zgubili. Vrnuli su se jači i profinjeniji nego ikad prije. Sveprisutni zagrebački gitarist Franjo Glušac je novi član.
Prijatelji se sele na selo
A note for an intrigued foreign visitor:
Ostrvo ledenog kita, the long awaited new album from the incredible Šumski is out now! Described as a kaleidoscopic blend of kraut, pop, afro, psycho and comic-strip sounds from the heart of the Balkans. Check it out!
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – King Of Cowards
Over three decades of listening I’ve heard more than enough rock music based on Ramones template (updated mid-1960s US garage-rock). I am still not bored or fed up with sudden surge of bands that took Black Sabbath as a role model (but I might be soon). I am not sorry that nothing seems new or original anymore. I don’t care. Malevolent Sabbath spirit cannot be exorcised easily.
The Sea and Cake – Any Day
The sea (Adriatic Sea!) and cake for me any day. (hmmm, maybe not at the peak summer season and during winter months). I can see it clearly in my mind’s eye – a cup of good quality coffee while sitting at peace on a terrace in the sun overlooking the secluded inlet & enjoying autistic American blue-eyed soul songs by jazz-pop group The Sea and Cake. Perfect background for leisure and drifting off… Cluttered storage space I am going to leave behind… I will. It’s gonna be escapism par excellence. Any day now. Ciao.