Staff top twenty of 2018: Tony Maher – LPs (#10 – #1)

I’ve probably spent the last few days or so dividing my time between bemoaning my toddler induced lack of sleep / house move related lack of employment and wondering whether what I’m doing here makes any blind bit of difference to anybody. But I’m stubborn as shit, so I shall persist with creating this list of my top LPs of the year, and hope that some of you already are or will become as enthusiastic about these releases as I am, and hey, maybe buy some of them.

Granted, anyone that knows me couldn’t seriously imagine me being enthusiastic about anything asides from lovely fuzz-buzz doggos, but the rest of you can surely suspend your disbelief, right? Again, any of you label cats and band cats that are overjoyed to be included here, in the unlikely (yet possible) happenstance that you should wish to send me mystery packages, hit me up on the contact page or through the Apathy & Exhaustion Facebook. I like records, and I wear a size large.

Anyway, enough of the banal clap-trap… I’ll tell you this. After struggling to pull these end of year lists together in the past, I decided that this year I was going to make a spreadsheet so I could re-arrange the contents by score, thinking I’d make my life easier. But what you think at the time doesn’t really match up to how often stuff gets played. So realistically these are the recordings that I’ve hammered this year.

10. Incisions – s/t (TNS Records)

The rhythmic backbone of this record is something to behold, featuring bombastic yet economical use of powerful drumming that ticks all the boxes for pace, aggression and innovative flair. This is absolutely essential for quality punk rock. If a band doesn’t have a great drummer, well, they may as well quit. This is all rounded out by a 4 and 6 string combo to evoke a mob of dangerous drunks powering their way through a sound that cherry picks the best facets of spirit of ’76 style UK punk, early US hardcore punk and a healthy slab of more contemporary influences such as Paint It Black, with a soupcon of NOFX at their prime.

The vocals are suitably chewy and scraped raw, and more than adequately serve to convey bitterness, anger and frustration in a thoroughly convincing way. In places the delivery puts me in mind of the better part of Henry Rollins’ stint in Black Flag (specifically Damaged and My War). This is coupled with a perceived persona stripped from the lower tiers of the UK class system, and I, brothers and sisters consider myself to be sold on this.

9. The Drowns – View From The Bottom (Live From The Rock Room / Bypolar Records / 1984 Records / Gunner Records)

If anthemic street punk is your thing, you’ll certainly want to be paying close attention. In a similar way, if hooky gruff punk along the lines of Off With Their Heads and Nothington is your bag, then I think you are also going to be down with this. Me, I like both of those kindsa things, and I’m feeling pretty stoked on this. The themes you hope for and expect are all covered here: finding escape in records, fallen comrades, friends fallen by the wayside due to addiction, living ‘the life’.

8. Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar (Deathwish Inc.)

Shit yeah. This is just the kind of kick up the backside the hardcore scene needs and deserves every now and again to stop motherfuckers getting complacent. Refreshingly though, this isn’t just fury and punishment and the spitting out of shattered teeth. It’s in tracks like Ghost, Stray/Burnt Sugar and Raw Blood that the off-kilter indie rock influence of Sonic Youth and their ilk shine through, only tempered by a vibe kind of similar to Sleater Kinney.

Although the composite elements of this joint have undoubtedly been done before, how they are presented here seems to me to be a volatile and refreshing reimagining demonstrated through a heady cocktail of beauty, violence and viscera. I find that I am unapologetically down with this.

7. Ogikubo Station – We Can Pretend Like (Asian Man Records)

These songs collected here are so good that it’s difficult to pick out favourites – different tracks stand out to me with each listen. So I’m going to go with the one’s I’m digging on today: I’ve Been Thinking of St Louis; Take a Piece of All That’s Good (which seems to channel the likes of The Weakerthans and Retirement Party); title track We Can Pretend Like / Standing Still ( the refrain of “when you can’t let go, it will eat you whole” puts me in mind of some of Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley’s solo work); The Prettiest One (with the sublime slide guitar parts); Rest Before We Go To War is just incredible; and of course the aforementioned Weak Souls Walk Around Here, which is my favourite moment.

6. ISS – s/t (Drunken Sailor Records)

I have no idea how I could possibly describe this in anything approaching a coherent manner, but here I am, typing away, and there you are – sat reading this, so I’ll have a go mate. It would be easy for the casual listener to dismiss this as an abandoned cauldron of any old shit left to boil over upon an open fire. However, what we are really dealing with is something that’s been carefully curated and crafted into something very special indeed. The overarching feel I get from this is kind of Paul’s Boutique era Beastie Boys fed through a Sleaford Mods combine harvester and hammered flat by a Big Black steamroller piloted by the Coneheads mate. So, er that’s kind of going on whilst a colossal swarm of locusts are devouring your fucking crops in the background, mate.

It’s absurdly bonkers, preposterously more-ish, and oh so compulsively danceable. Or it would be if I was a dancer. Which I’m not. Nobody needs to see that shit, mate. Anyways, my favourite cuts here are Back Taxes & Anaphylaxis, Die Mierda, What Should’ve Been (which is some kind of next level visceral revenge fantasy or something) and Today’s Active Dads (which features some sweet sweet references as mentioned earlier).

5. Canadian Rifle – Peaceful Death (Dead Broke Rekerds)

The sound here is searing, the instrumentation is tight. The tension is high, but all caution has been thrown to the wind. This is the canned essence of a gnarly basement show – hot, sweaty, drunk, mesmerising, spirit lifting through the raising of ones’ voice and fists and exorcising them demons, brah. These guys describe themselves as “chainsaws fighting in a dump truck/ melodic” on their page.

I guess in common parlance, this breaks down as having a vocal sound similar to Ryan Young from Off With Their Heads and the dude from The Slow Death. Musically, this lot clearly pay homage to Sunderland’s finest sons, Leatherface. In fact, I’d throw it out there that they (along with Medictation – although they don’t really count as they had two dudes from Leatherface including Dickie Hammond (R.I.P.)) are one of the US bands that have come closest to carrying off something I consider to be a very British sound. Obviously, their sound takes in that of other mid-west luminaries like Pegboy, Dillinger Four, Arms Aloft, but mercilessly bolts it on to that of RKL.

4. Somerset Thrower – Godspeed (Dead Broke Rekerds)

Anyway, the construction and composition of these songs is just incredible. The songs seem to naturally power themselves along. I don’t think I could possibly recommend this record enough. It’s an end to end barn burner that has simultaneously got me right in the feels but has also filled me with what I guess is about as close as I ever get to ebullience, whilst simultaneously reminding me that life is also dragging me through the dirt right now. It’s a heady concoction, and one which I think is gonna make Godspeed a contender for album of the year. If this shit doesn’t make people’s end of year lists, then they need to be having strong words with themselves.

3. Denim & Leather – Sacred Autism (Drunken Sailor Records)

Imagine if Pulp had never gotten famous, and Jarvis Cocker had divided his time equally between getting razzed on cheap cider under a bridge, huffing lighter fluid, and baking his head on crack rocks in a Longsight shooting gallery (whilst not attending group work sessions for an out of control sex addiction) – these are the type of seedy, filth-caked vignettes of social observation and tales being told here,only in the semi-coherent vocal delivery style of the late Mark E. Smith (R.I.P) of The Fall. This stands as a stark counter point to the savage belligerence of the ‘screaming at the front row at uncomfortably close range’ type yelling. First class, mate.

Somehow Denim and Leather manage to bring these elements together as a thoroughly coherent whole. Where you’d maybe expect this to sound haphazard and sloppy, in fact it’s deceptively tight as fuck and impeccably controlled, whilst still oozing the evil menace of a violent staggering drunk. So what’s not to like? My top cuts here are opener Scran (which leaps straight into the action, no holds barred), Grave 99, Cathedral Gardens and Hatchlings. This record will leave you soiled, battered, bloody and grateful for it, too. Brutal, squalid and invigorating.

2. The Raging Nathans – Cheap Fame (Rad Girlfriend Records / Plasterer Records)

The sound here is best summed up having the all hallmarks of classic Lookout! Records bands like The Queers and Mr T Experience, with the acerbically sardonic edge of Red Scare Industries bands such as Arms Aloft and The Falcon. Throw in the winsome appeal of Masked Intruder and Teenage Bottlerocket, and it’s a winning combo that these guys have got going on here. There’s also key elements of that snotty, furious punk rock that Dillinger Four used to do so well (see Vs. God and Midwestern Songs… for example) in evidence here – and although often imitated (more often than not, badly), it’s pulled off with aplomb here. In places, the vocal sounds very much like that baseball playing dude Scott Radinsky from Pulley.

1. Beach Slang – Everything Matters But No One Is Listening [Quiet Slang] (Polyvinyl / Big Scary Monsters Records)

Absurdly enough I awarded this record 1,000,000/10 when I reviewed it. Preposterous as it may seem, nothing has changed.

I think in many ways that this record is perhaps superior to the original recordings (which I love dearly). It’s achingly beautiful, and emotionally raw. Some people view Beach Slang as overly earnest, many think James Alex has his heart pinned too firmly to his sleeve, and I can understand why. But in a subcultural music scene that’s renowned for being full of posers, fair-weather supporters and general posturing fakers with next to zero integrity to share between them, well, sign me up for a bit of honesty mate. I don’t care whether people agree with me (if you don’t, you ARE wrong by the way), but this record is some transcendent, next level shit, mate. Not only has it made me feel both overjoyed and forlorn in equal measure, but it’s also jostling for position to become my favourite record of all time. THAT is how strongly it’s affected me.

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