Let’s get real. The story of the year was not, belie it or not, Ed Snowden (or Kanye West). It was Christopher motherfuckin’ Dorner. Blambo: The Revenge. A real-time terror spree, an epic statewide manhunt, an armed stand-off, a fiery demise. Brought to you in living (ahem) color by a slew of three-lettered acronyms and one pissed-off ex-everything. A man with a special set of skills. Twilight language. Ignore this at your own peril. Blambo was out for blood. In my heart of hearts, he’s still running free, lining up corrupt peace officers for execution. Every ‘80s actioner coming true all at once, forever. Strange how his “narrative” seems to have been excised from all major media, less than one year later. Why? It’s too fucking terrifying to contemplate, that’s why. One of “our own” turned inside-out by abuse and self-hatred, years of simmering rage, exploding in a cool, calm, and collected targeting of former “comrades.” It doesn’t get much richer, thicker, more desperate and dramatic. Did you forget? How about all those other shootings? Carried out by civilians, no less. Sorry to bring you down. Can I see both of your hands? I’m not sure I trust you. Don’t take it personally, it’s been a rough year.
If you didn’t give a slice of your (y)ear over to Cuntz, you must either hate to laugh or not enjoy getting your head kicked in. I can understand the latter, but I cannot forgive the former. If you ain’t a Solid Mate, say Aloha, baybee. Based upon the wake of their month-long US tour, in the modern parlance, Cuntz “won” 2013.
A case could be made that, in fact, Obnox won 2013, and that case would be hard to argue. Against. I’m wondering when Bim will catch up on jotting down all those names of all those asses Obnox kicked, live or on wax. He probably needs at least a few more weeks, it was a long year. Corrupt Free Enterprise (12XU) is the heavyweight, but that A Ragin’ in the Sun 7” (Anyway) is pure ‘scale. A double set, a maxi 12”er, a 2x45 and two 7” EPs. Hell, let’s throw the Bassholes platter Boogieman’s Stew (CDR) in there too. Game, set, match.
Have you heard Human Eye? Oh, finally! Thank you Goner Records, with 4: Into Unknown, the best band OUT THERE seemed to finally get some real notice outside of our little bubble. Couldn’t happen to a better band. No, really, it couldn’t; there isn’t one.
Destruction Unit put out two LPs and a couple 7”s this year. It’s all good, but I sure hope you caught them on their endless tour -- live is where their desert found its true voice, and it is a loud and anguished moan.
Hey shithead, Australia’s Homeless Records was the label of the year. Going from releasing one LP in 2012 (Bits of Shit’s debut) to ten this year, Homeless established itself as the go-to label for dirty, grimy real world rock music. Featuring a nice split between crucial archival releases (both Stabs LPs and bringing late 90s Tasmanian heroes The Stickmen to wider attention) and vital new Oz bands like the aforementioned Cuntz, the Teasers-meets-Killdozer grind of Sewers (Hoisted) and the corroded psych-punk of Gentlemen (Sex Tape). Homeless even found the time to squeeze out K-85, a lovely album by Dan Melchior that is like Dan’s miniature Another Green World. And for the finishing blow, Richie even snuck in first-time vinyl issues of Tasmanian local legends The Stickmen; I’m partial to the livewire postpunk of the ’98 debut. More meaty stuff is on deck for the coming twelve months. It’s a good time to be Homeless (??).
While I have nothing but respect for the Drag City label (I grew up indie-damaged in the early/mid 90s after all), not much they have released in recent years has pricked up my ears. That changed with the welcome Venom P. Stinger reissue campaign they embarked upon this year. Nothing fancy (tho a lil’ pricey), straightforward re-ups of classic stabs of anti-you Antipodean rockjazz. First, buy 1986’s scabrous, borderline psychotic Meet My Friend Venom, then pick-up 1990’s What’s Yours Is Mine, which is one of the more effectively portrayed descents into personal hell on a (ostensibly) rock n’ roll album. It sucks Lou died, and Berlin is a bummer, but this album will keep you comfort in your loneliness like a plague blanket and bottle of cheap red. The merely-good Waiting Room EP is optional IMHO, but the “Walking About” 7” is about as essential as they come. Total tornado, your life is not your own.
The Floor Above’s Bishop (Savage Quality) turned the whole “one-man band” equation on its head. No Hasil Adkins disciple, this fella continues to grind steel wool against the open wounds of society. Bishop sounds like one dude’s refusal to consent – a giant FUCK EVERYTHING communicated through caustic, blazing-fast punk with thrilling noise guitar taking place of done-to-death hardcore chord “progressions.”
Hardcore Devo – what else can be said? You’re all devo, volumes one and two. A doff of the clear plastic mask to our friends over at Superior Viaduct. Holy shit, what a year they had. There was no way in hell I could keep up. But I will tell ya that the remastered version of MX-80 Sound’s Hard Attack is fucking unstoppable; make no mistake, MX-80 is a force, and this is their finest LP. Anyone who tells you otherwise, while surely well-meaning, is still a liar and a fool. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it even after I’m dead: If you don’t own the Negative Trend EP in some form (no, digital files don’t count), then you are not, and never will be, punk. Is that annoying to read? Imagine how annoying it is to hear people blubber and blabber about punk, and they know naught of this record. Now you really have no excuse. SV gone and done made it easily available; I hear squares are even allowed to buy it (making them instantly cool, whatta deal!). Couple these significant victories with essential reissues that range from 100 Flowers, Martin Rev and Tuxedomoon to Heldon, Glaxo Babies and a cornucopia of obscure prog and lost soundtracks. One of my favorite things to listen to this year was Craig Leon’s Nommos, an intergalactic transmission from alien astronauts, recombo’d by futuristic Mayan priests floating on a cloud-like bed of glowing crystals thousands of years forward in the future-past. There’s an interesting behind-the-scenes conflict regarding this reissue too, but I’ll let our Goggle overlords direct you in the case you wanna know more.
Siltbreeze’s Scorched Earth Policy & Victor Dimisich Band collection LPs + Captured Tracks/Flying Nun reish campaign (Toy Love! Snapper! Clean! Verlaines! more!) + 540 Records’ Peter Gutteridge Pure vinylization x Peter Jefferies’ Last Great Challenge in a Dull World (De Stijl) = NZ DUZ IT. Evverytime.
One more thing from Down There: The Division Four 1983 Demo Cassette 12” (Smart Guy) was one of my favorite releases of the year, new or old. An absolute must for any self-respecting post-punk enthusiast.
S-S Records had a bit of an under-the-radar yet stellar schedule: the open up n’ bleed Slavic punk of Satan Panonski collection Hard Blood Shock, Banque Allemande’s Gordons-gone-Velvets (or is it the other way ‘round?) Willst Du Chinese Sein Musst Du Die Ekligen Sachen Essen, a coupla quality Spray Paint albums, and other stuff like neg-vibe “merchants” Life Stinks and decades-old Italian HC demos. Bravo.
Toronto’s Teenanger continue to make very cool punk rock music. Singles Don’t Sell (Telephone Explosion) is another winner, 12 infectious cuts with a few new wrinkles. Consistently excellent band.
Liquor Store went big-time on In The Garden (Almost Ready), and they have the songs, balls, charm, guitars, and guitars to back it up. “I’m just a pile of dirt” is one of the year’s more succinct and right-on statements. Write on, ride on.
There was some really great stuff this year that I only heard via demos or bandcamp, or demos on bandcamp. Like Taiwan Housing Project (Kilynn from Little Claw + Mark Feehan from Harry Pussy), or School Girl Report’s Success is Dating or just new bands with hard-to-find albums (Quttinirpaaq are cool). Blogs like Terminal Escape and the Urbankill tumblr are rife with all kinds of cool international sounds discovered via either dusty tape or easily-clickable streaming pages. Even if the tech is new, the game is the same: the constant hunt for that next band that locks you in, dredges up more than just “Oh cool, it sounds like X crossed with Q.” One band I listened to this a lot this year (courtesy of TE) does both of those things (ie. fulfill both trainspottery and engage my actual remaining emotions). A demo called Yeah I Know by a trio from Atlanta called Dasher got stuck in my craw almost instantly. In a current climate of ‘90s revivalism, Dasher gets “it” right, while also sounding vital and contemporary. Singer/drummer Kylee has a rasping voice that I initially mistook for a person of the male persuasion. She has a knack for welding intense, almost Jap HC vocals to big, thick anthems of strangled noise rock. MBV, Sonic Youth and Archers of Loaf steeped in a lifetime of Southern crust. Spring brings us a 7” on Die Slaughterhaus.
Other musics [good to great/new and new again]: Pampers s/t (In The Red), Counter Intuits s/t (Pyramid Scheme), TV Ghost Disconnect (In The Red), The Haxan Cloak Excavation (Tri Angle), The 39 Clocks Pain It Dark (Luxury Products), Circuit Des Yeux Overdue (self-released), Joel RL Phelps Gala (12XU), Pop. 1280 Imps of Perversion (Sacred Bones), Giant Henry Big Baby (Numero Group), Murderedman Love in Danger (Soundesign), Sightings Terribly Well (Dais), Pussy Galore Groovy Hate Fuck (Shove), The Invisible Hands s/t (Abduction), Run The Jewels s/t (Fool's Gold), Afflicted Man I’m Off Me ‘Ead (Permanent), Bone For Want of Feeling (Tenzenmen), 15-60-75 (aka The Numbers Band) Jimmy Bell’s Still In Town (Exit Stencil), True Sons of Thunder Stop and Smell Your Face (Little Big Chief), Tar 1988 – 1995 (Chunklet), Moonrises Frozen Altars (Captcha), Androids of Mu Blood Robots (Water Wing), Dan Friel Total Folklore (Thrill Jockey), Cut Hands Damballah 58 (Blackest Ever Black), Orchid Spangiafora Flee’s Past’s Ape Self (Feeding Tube), Bona Dish The Zaragoza Tapes 1981-1982 + Earth Dies Burning Songs From the Valley of the Bored Teenager (1981-1984) (Captured Tracks), Shocked Minds s/t (Hozac), The Zingers s/t (Million Dollar), The Love Triangle Clever Clever (Static Shock/Sorry State), Matmos The Marriage of True Minds (Thrill Jockey), Tiger Hatchery Sun Worship (ESP-Disk), PYPY Pagan Day (Black Gladiator), Dirty Beaches Drifters/Love is The Devil (Zoo), The Feeling of Love Reward Your Grace (Born Bad), Rodion G.A. The Lost Tapes (Strut), AANIPAA Through a Pre-Memory (Editions Mego), Fuzz s/t (In The Red), Bad Noids Everything From Soup to Desert (Katorga Works), Rodan Fifteen Quiet Years (Quarterstick/Touch & Go), Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin + Moon Sick EP (Castle Face), Joint D Satan is Real Again, Again… (Sorry State), The Gotobeds 7” (Mind Cure), Cellos 3-song 7” (Doormat), La Luz 45 (Water Wing), Livids various singles, Cosmic Psychos reissues on Goner (and live, it’d been awhile).
[originally published on Terminal Boredom, minus the last bit]