End of the year lists are ridiculous. Being in this business for as long as I have (15 years), I’ve seen quite a few of these published, and except for the bands that are mentioned, few people give a crap. Yet some critics think they’re doing the Lord’s work and will crank out reams on every second of music they enjoyed that year. It’s even sillier when you take into account that they’ve usually written about the bands featured on their lists already, so they’re just repeating themselves while filling the Internet with more opinionated dreck — the last thing we needs.
Yet here I am adding more junk to the pile. But I heard a lot of killer tracks this year from some local groups and I haven’t had an opportunity to write about any of them. So this is less a “Best Of,” and more of a “Before You Go” post, which makes it a superior product. (Thank you for agreeing with me.)
Flamin’ Groovies — Fantastic Plastic
During San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,” when everyone was expanding their minds and doing the “funky sun grope,” the Flamin’ Groovies were shoving Chuck Berry riffs up hippie asses. Yet by the early ‘70s they were already considered “legendary,” and were shepherding fledgling punk bands like the Ramones and the Vibrators around Europe. In a way, they were the Johnny Appleseeds of punk rock.
Fifty years later, the Groovies’ catalog is practically rock n’ roll canon. Songs like “Shake Some Action,” “Teenage Head” and “Slow Death” are unfuckwithable. But this year, the band took a big risk and released a NEW album. Already reunited with Shake Some Action-era singer Chris Wilson, the Groovies wrote new songs and brought back some older ones for Fantastic Plastic. It’s as solid as an album can get from a band that already has a dozen releases under their belt. In short, it belongs right up there with 70s-era Groovies’ albums like Now or Jumpin’ in the Night.
FNU Clone – Binary or Die / Computer – Internet
Jim Veil, the genius behind FNU Clone (formerly FNU Ronnies), is a walking riff factory, on par with guitar wizards like Tony Iommi. Not long ago, Jim bought a computer and it’s like it gave him super human recording powers. Whereas Saddle Up was lo-fi and brittle, Binary Or Die is all over the map, production-wise. Strange voices, space noises and other audio ephemera all dripped everywhere like a Pollock painting, and it makes for one of the most original sounding punk releases since.. well I don’t know when. The same could be said for Computer’s debut album, featuring Veil and John Laux of the uber experimental Slicing Grandpa. It’s a total headphone album — the production values alone would give Radiolab a run for their money. (Buy both now for $20 from Skrot Up. Paypal: jimzail(at)yahoo.com)
Street Eaters – The Envoy
When it comes to bass-and-drum combo, I have two priorities: distortion and grooves. Lightning Bolt, Big Business, GodHeadsilo — these are bands that exemplify the best of what a B&D combo can be, and the Street Eaters are on par with these titans of noise rock. Their sound is similar to GodHeadSilo’s but with much more emphasis on vocal harmonies and lyrics. The Envoy, a concept album based on the work of Sci-Fi novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, is full of fist-pumping rock jams embellished with a bouquet of glorious feedback. Those with developed noise palates will delight in the range of feedback used throughout the album (“Oooh, that’s a nice note of ’90s Nation of Ulysses feedback!”) It sat in my car stereo for weeks as it made for a great highway soundtrack as well as sent me on flashbacks to the days when I couldn’t just research music — I had to take a chance and let an album grow on me. This is an album you need to let breathe tho truly enjoy.
Nopes – Fun Limbo
Nopes make me excited about music. Their music is completely without pretension; they’re just writing songs they enjoy and letting loose when they play. Their references are all over the map, from Husker Du and the Dead Milkmen to Jesus Lizard and Pissed Jeans, and somehow it all just works. Personally, I think it blends together so well because they sincerely love what they do.
The World – First World Record
When Trump won the presidency, there were a lot of comments to the affect of “at least music will get better.” Some didn’t appreciate that sentiment, but dare I say the World is evidence in support of that hypothesis. The World play that early ’80s dancey post-punk so pitch perfect they should bring back Danceteria just for them. They even come complete with leftist lyrics, though the World’s take on politics is a lot more light-hearted than their predecessors.