John Gentile is a staff reviewer. - ed.
Oh man, I don't know about you guys, but I had a phenomenal 2011! This past year I won twelve million dollars from a Nigerian lottery, got married to Scarlett Johansson AND Hoopz from Flavor of Love, ended world hunger, rode aboard NASA's last shuttle mission and got to punch Alex Trebek in his smug little face. Also, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Patrick Stewart called my cell phone to wish me a happy birthday! (He was two days late, though. Still, he made it up by singing "Happy Birthday" and instead of ending with "â¦And many more!" he proclaimed "Make it so!")
The punk rock side of my life was pretty fun, too. I went to a fight club with Black Face/Oxbow's Eugene Robinson, talked with Blag Dahlia about his legacy of debauchery, picked the mind of one of modern punk's most polarizing figures, got out-punxed by an emcee and thoroughly schooled The Huffington Post about copyright law.
While 2010 had a huge number of new acts pushing punk in aggressive and interesting directions, for me, 2011 was all about the veterans. This year, the old dudes returned from long term absence (in some cases two decades) and just completely schooled the kids in how its done, mixing the classic with the unexpected. I guess when Keith Morris screamed "Live Fast, Die Young!" he didn't realize that punk CAN matureâ¦ and still retain a nasty edge to it, too.
TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Ernest Jenning / Really
A + M Records
Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Damian Marley, Joss Stone and A. R. Rahman--it sounds like a lot to take in... and it is. Still, while the album may be a little cluttered, when the disparate pieces snap together, such as Stone and Jagger bouncing blues off each other, or Marley deejaying over Indian soundscapes, the group creates a genre that has never existed before through its utilization of genre stereotypes.
KRS-One and Bumpy Knuckles: Royalty Check
The past three or four years have found the Blastmaster releasing over eight collaborations with artists that didn't quite seem to "get" him (The Just-Ice and Truemaster releases notwithstanding). Because they come from a similar era of hip hop, KRS and Bumpy Knuckles aka Freddy Foxxx are the perfect yin to each other's yang, with the Teacha bringing in metaphysical musing with a hint of thug life and Foxxx bringing the street bangers with just a taste of conscious hip hop, all supported by modern beats propelled by a hefty 808.
Slim Cessna's Auto Club: Unentitled
The punk community could learn a thing or two from SCAC. While it seems that most punks think of country and bluegrass music as "I love God, my truck and 'Merica," SCAC, in their orchestra of banjos, organs, guitars and church choir quite directly say "God doesn't care about you and you are doomed." Heavy haunting from the heartland!
Zounds: The Redemption of Zounds
Simplicity has long been a hallmark of punk rock, but no one seems to quite harness the concept like Zounds. While their first LP in 25 years sounds modern, its classic in its punk meets post-punk clang. Plus, the lyrics of frontman Steve Lake masterfully explore complex concepts without seeming overwrought or heavy handed. This is what anarcho-punk should have become.
8- Three Way Tie
8 - Three Way Tie
8 - Three Way Tie
Fat Wreck Chords
Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Return of Sound System Scratch
Following last year's Sound System Scratch, The Return of Sound System Scratch shows that the mighty Upsetter has seemingly limitless wells of unreleased material. While SSS featured some of the Upsetter's wildest experiments, RoSSS retains his innovative streak but places it in the context of alternate versions of previously released songs. We all knew Perry could cut out there unusual songs, but here he makes it clear he can be equally weird in standard song format.
TOP 10 NON-ALBUM SINGLES AND EPS FROM THE YEAR
The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt: The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt
With the music industry on its death bed, the Flaming Lips have made the decision to get weirder and weirder both in song composition and delivery medium. Their collaboration with Lightning Bolt is their fiercest, and most discordant release in the past few years. But, as Wayne Coyne growls "I want to get high but I don't want brain damage!", with each refrain growing successively more distorted, the band's recent connection to punk extremism and blippity boop bleeping makes sense.
Kill Life / 33: Split [7-inch]
Dwid Hellion screaming "Humanity! Jihad!" over massive hardcore chugging which dissolves into the sounds of chimps screaming before cutting to a 911 call where a woman describes her friend's face getting ripped off. 'Nuff said.
Wavves: Life Sux
I wanted to hate this release so much. My preconceived ire which transformed into begrudging acceptance and then finally straight up thumb snapping is proof of this release's merit. Combining classic punk riffs with a mellow atmosphere and surf guitar makes this release as kicking as it is listenable.
Oops Baby! Records
Melvins / The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Black Betty [7-inch]
The Melvins know that admiration doesn't come from pure copying. So, they take the pre-war blues classic "Black Betty" and jack it up so much that they crush through it in about a minute. It doesn't sound like Leadbelly, but the underlying dread, woe and fear heard in the back of Leadbelly's throat finds itself vibrating through Buzz Osborne's guitar strings.
TOP 5 RE-ISSUES OF THE YEAR
Queen: 40th Anniversary Re-issues Set One
So Queen DID have more rarities hiding in their vaults! Frankly, after The Game, the band didn't really cut a good album, despite the fact that all the ones previously had been mindblowingly amazing. Here, each album comes with about five bonus tracks from their prime in the form of alt-takes, live cuts and demos. It seems Queen was amazing even when they were just fooling around in the studio. I'll take what I can get.
Iggy & The Stooges: Raw Power Legacy Edition
For years I wondered what was all the big fuss about Raw Power. It seemed to have no dynamics and drearily monotonous. Then, I picked up the re-issue, which replaced Iggy Pop's â90s mix with David Bowie's original â70s mix. The difference is a clear as night and day. With the Bowie mix, the band stays as fierce as they were before, but instead of being covered in a sludgy wall of white noise, the band crackles with energy, running up and down the knobs like a carnival Hy-stiker. Plus, the bonus CD, a live show from 1973, is a boon to fans as it's the ONLY good sounding live show from the band's original runâ¦ and of course, the band is on fire.
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Deluxe Re-issue
In 1978 the Stones went punk and it might have been the best decision of their career. On Some Girls, the band tears through tune after tune with the energy of Johnny Rotten (and Chuck Berry) while retaining their genuine song craft forged from session after session of jacked up blues. Interestingly, the bonus CD includes 12 unreleased tunes, a good 3/4 of which are country takes. What used to be the Stones' take on punk now seems to be the Stones surveying disparate genres, and of course, it's the Stones, so they pull both off like they invented them.
Crass: Crassical Collection
The cliche about Crass is that their lyrics read better than they sound. While that might be true for the â80s CD issues, the same can not be said for the Crassical Collection. The band doesn't so much clean up their sound as make it more apparent of what they were trying to do. Where Stations of the Crass used to have sheets of white noise screaming, now the exchange between different actors in the play becomes apparent. Plus, all the re-issues have some tasty bonus tracks, including an incendiary BBC performance where Eve Libertine screams "SHAVED WOMEN! DISCO DANCING! SHAVED WOMEN! ARE THEY TRAITORS?!" Maybe all the anarcho/crust punks could learn from this: a little cleaning up and sprucing up isn't always a bad thingâ¦
For me, 2011 will be hard to top. Still, I'm looking forward to releases by Black Face, OFF!, Melvins, Ceremony, Rats in the Wall, Fucked Up, Passage Walkers, Personal and the Pizzas, KRS-One, Public Enemy, more Crass re-issues, maybe Rudimentary Peni re-issues, Shrinebuilder, Nobunny, and !!!!!CLASSICS OF LOVE!!!!!
It's also important to note the unfortunate passing of Poly Styrine. While she wasn't the most prolific artist, the X-Ray Specs' discography still rocks like none other and remains entirely unique. Tell me, who else could scream "Oh! Bondage! Up Yours!" like that little five-foot girl in lycra and an army helmet? Poly this year, Ari Up last year, sheesh! I guess it just means that we need to focus on our female musical innovators here and now instead of leaving the burden to agenda-minded rock journalistsâ¦ *ahem*
In 2012, I'm looking forward to doing some more great interviews with Punknews, and may perhaps branch out into more feature style and on-site interviews. Plus, my goal for 2012 is to interview Danzig, John Lydon, Joan Jett, Billy Idol and at least 1/4 of the Clash. We'll see how that goes. So until next year, my friends, do onto others as you would do to yourself, seek revenge when appropriate, buy crust-punk records and treat your mother right.