Another blog is in the works (yes, very soon) but here's a long-overdue post of the Best of 2015. A few tweaks from the list I provided to Maximum Rocknroll because there's always some re-evaluation going on. Also, since Retox's "Beneath California" was on Epitaph Records, a label that's on MRR's "verboten" list for some reason, that was left off my list there. On with the show...
I’ll be blunt—a good chunk of this year completely sucked. I said the same thing about 2014 but this year was even worse. A close family member was seriously ill earlier this year but, thankfully, she’s recovered 100%. We lost a close friend to cancer in April and some other friends have had health battles, as well. And there were other obstacles, some of them quite serious, to overcome this year. I’m not going to go into any more detail because I prefer to keep a good amount of my private life just that--private. I will say that things have improved a lot the past few months.
As for music, there really wasn’t any one record or release that stood out from the pack. Lots of very good records but nothing completely transcendent. Many of the records in this list could be considered the best but I’ve put everything more or less into order. Today, anyway. These did all log a fair amount of time on my turntable and various other listening devices.
1. LA MISMA-Kanizadi (Toxic State, LP)
La Misma draw from the musical well of the Toxic State and Katorga Works bands--buzzing and pressing ahead at a steady but not-too-slow clip, adding post-punk touches on some of the songs A pealing and stinging guitar sound, underpinned by sturdy and versatile bass lines and drumming. High pitched vocals from Nay Rosario (ex-Eunuch), who sings in Portuguese and they’re a combination of abrasive and endearing. They do slow it down for each side's closer, "Martiz e Vidro" and "Afirmacao," with stick-in-head melodies emerging from each. Great packaging, as you’d expect from Toxic State.
2. DAWN OF HUMANS-Slurping At The Cosmos Spine (Toxic State, LP)
Although Dawn of Humans have been around for the better part of ten years, this is their first full-length. It’s got that same noisy, spazzed-out, fuzzed-out sound that’s also been utilized by Crazy Spirit (among others), with the strangled/nasally vocals. Shuffling, tinny drums and distorted guitar and bass, but varying in tempo. They slow it down to a dirge for “Grapitudonce of Hinsenctor” (I have no idea) and “Horse Blind,” the latter having the same feel as a song like Rudimentary Peni’s “Army of Jesus.” Weird and entrancing stuff.
3. CONEHEADS-L.P. 1 (Erste Theke Tonträger, LP)
I’m shortening the very long title, although it does make reference to ripping off DEVO for the sake of extorting money from impressionable midwest internet peoplepunks (that covers most of it). Anyway, the Coneheads play weird ‘n wonderful, minimalist new wave/punk that, indeed, has a pronounced DEVO inspiration, with even-more robotic vocals. It also features my favorite cover version of the year, their take on Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”
4. USA NAILS-No Pleasure (Smalltown America, CD)
Not a US band but a London one. This is their second album and it has a sound that will nail your head to the floor (sorry). Loud and heavy, with huge, ominous riffing that creates a powerful swarm from the outset. There are spacier effects here and there and the occasional Jesus Lizard lurch. A dark and menacing concoction and something you'll want to play at a high volume. Could have come out on Amphetamine Reptile in ’93. That’s meant as a compliment.
5. MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB-Human Exploration (Fashionable Idiots, 12”)
Or just the Uranium Club—I’ve seen them referred to by both names. Whatever the case, this band have an offbeat, jabbing sound that occasionally brings Eddy Current Suppression Ring to mind i.e. a collision of garage-inspired rock with '77 Wire-y impulses given a modern polish, along with occasional bracing, hard-charging bursts of punk energy and some industrial clatter. The lyrics are cheeky but in a dark way--a sinister undertow to what might be a stalker tale for "The Collector" or the murder ballad of "The Misadventures Of Prissy Chrissy." By the way, they pull a fast one by putting fake labels on the record and claiming that it was a mix-up at a pressing plant in the Czech Republic. They almost had me.
6. G.L.O.S.S.-Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit (demo)
I imagine this demo (which has since been released as a 7” on Nervous Nelly and should have been repressed by now) will be on many year-end lists, as it should be. An onslaught of in-your-face hardcore punk, with equally in-your-face lyrics. Screamed in your face, in fact, by Sadie Switchblade and the overall sentiment for this band is stated in resounding fashion on "Outcast Stomp.” It’s a call to arms for those who have been rejected due to sexual orientation, gender identity or any other "norm" that is forced on people and, frankly, they don't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. I am still kicking myself bigtime for missing their two shows here.
7. HALDOL-s/t (World Gone Mad, 12”)
Haldol started in Nashville, then guitarist/vocalist Geoff Smith moved to Philly and retooled the lineup. Haldol have shed the earlier hardcore elements and gone for a dark goth/post-punk sound. Edgy and powerful songs driven by tribal rhythms, thick, fluid bass-lines and nightmarish guitar, coming across like a combination of Killing Joke and Part 1, most of it done at a healthy pace.
8. CUNTZ-Force The Zone (Homeless, LP)
“Force The Zone” is this Australian band’s third album (not counting a live radio broadcast 12”) in just a few years and it’s the best I’ve heard from them so far. Not that the other ones sucked or anything but this one seems more focused and has sharper production. Gnarled ‘n jabbing post-punk with a garage-tinged feel, taking some of its inspiration from X (the Australian one, of course). The earlier releases conjured up Feedtime and Pissed Jeans to an extent, but that’s largely absent on this disc. They’re really found their sound here.
9. INSTITUTE-Catharsis (Sacred Bones, LP)
I imagine it’s a sign of a good record when I can’t get certain melody lines out of my head. That happens with some of the songs here (as it did with “Salt of the Earth” on their previous 12” and their best song “Giddy Boys”). Mose’s vocals have a slurry flatness and detachment and it could be a deal-breaker for some but the musicianship is so strong that it compensates for any reservations. A mainly self-analytical lyrical bent, save the slowly-building 8 minute closer “Christian Right” (timely, sadly enough). What they do is so simple—a deceptively-catchy minimalism, percolating bass and steady drums mixing it up with guitar playing packing melodic nuance, as well as straight-ahead power.
10. SLUGGA-Parasite/Shaved Heads (Total Punk, 7”)
Just two songs and goddamn I hope they have more in the pipeline because “Parasite” is one of the best songs I heard this year. Both songs are snarling and mean and “Parasite” even has a bit of a hook. I can’t think of the last time I put a 7” with only two tracks in the top ten. This deserves it.
SOME MORE STUFF I LIKED IN 2015
CHAIN RANK-Up Against The Wall (self-released)
L.O.T.I.O.N.- Digital Control And Man's Obsolescence (Toxic State)
RETOX-Beneath California (Epitaph)
SUDOR-Ganas De Vomitar (Todo Destruido)
TØRSÖ- Sono Ponta A Morire (Agipunk/Sorry State)
VAASKA-Todos Contra Todos (Beach Impediment)
VIOLENT REACTION-Marching On (Revelation)
WOODBOOT-Crime Time (Erste Theke Tonträger)
BLANK SPELL-s/t (Cruel Noise/World Gone Mad)
IVY-A Cat’s Cause, No Dog’s Problem (Katorga Works)
LATEX-s/t and Losing Game (Sensual World/World Gone Mad)
LEATHER DADDY-s/t (Failure Recordings)
MYSTIC INANE-Ode To Joy (Negative Jazz)
NURSE-s/t (Negative Culture)
SNOB-2nd EP (self-released)
YOUTH BRIGADE-First Demo (Dischord)
ANCIENT FILTH-Eveything In The Void
CRUDE HUMOR-Jeri’s Grill
... in loving memory of Chelle LaBarge (1966 - 2015)