[Rich Cocksedge is a Staff Reviewer. He's done more for the American underground than most actual Americans.]
2012 has been an interesting year for me, not that many of you care and I fully understand that. I came too close to being made redundant for my liking before managing to retain a job in a sector I enjoy working in (Higher Education) although the (negative) financial implications have yet to have an impact, it will surely come. I saw my football (soccer for the heathens out there) team, Newport County, play at Wembley Stadium and also marked my second year as a staffer with Punknews by getting within touching distance of the revered 250 review mark. On top of all this, the people that have been at the forefront of my life are my wife and two daughters, who were responsible for keeping me sane during some dark months in the middle of the year: without these three people around me, life would be meaningless.
Music-wise, 2012 has been a year where Canada has been responsible for providing a lot of my favorite music, with the U.K. (and the Southwest particularly) following on strongly. My top 20 lists are both quite different: in terms of albums, I'm fairly confident that each album is in its rightful position i.e. 1, 2, 3 all the way to 20. However, when it comes to singles/EPs, the top five or six are correctly placed but beyond that it's a bunfight with positions 7 to 20 merely representing the fact that I needed to assign a number to each of them in the process.
In terms of releases there are still records that I've not got hold of, or have only just heard, and some of these would/might have been jostling for contention. These include releases by Dan Padilla, Wide Angles, Murder by Death, the Cut Ups and forgetters to name but a few.
On the live front Crazy Arm continued to perform wonders whenever I saw them but the more mild mannered Muncie Girls were the chirpy newcomers on the block, providing half a dozen great shows during the year. I also managed to see Bob Mould in London, performing Copper Blue plus some assorted HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ tracks as well as a handful of songs from the then-unreleased Silver Age: an excellent show. Other live highlights included Killing Joke, the Jerks (a manic duo from Plymouth), Lemuria and the Blacklist Royals.
Anyway enough of that preamble it's now on to the business in hand, the year-end lists.
Sometimes all I want to listen to is a bit of quality hardcore, without the chugga chugga guitars and without any kind of macho (or any other kind of) bullshit. No Mistake give me exactly what I like when it comes to blistering songs that tear paint off walls and scare old ladies in streets. A furious assault that carries a message as well as a rip roaring blast of guitars and drums.
Peachfuzz hails from Wales, my homeland. They crank out some serious riffs and come across a bit like Social Distortion at times. One of those records that you just let the guitars take you to another place. Some good melodic punk/rock here.
A top notch follow up to Transmit! Transmit!, with New Bruises displaying the ability to grow as a band and not sit back, content to rehash prior successes. I saw them live a few years ago and hope they return to the U.K. again–it would be good to hear these songs played live.
Just the name Todd Congelliere should be enough to set pulses racing. I do prefer Underground Railroad to Candyland but this latest Toys That Kill album is no slouch, hence its inclusion in my top 20 for the year. Some great songs and an awesome guitar sound. The mix/production is pretty awesome too.
Rockets On Wire: I Am Not Your Home
Indie rock with some gorgeous raspy female vocals from Marie Mayes, who pours her heart out in these songs. To be honest this album took me by complete surprise and I am totally hooked on it.
Not just from my homeland but from my hometown. Ken Moore's vocals are a joy to hear and his lyrics frequently take on a puzzling quality. This is just really relaxed indie pop rock that I find impossible to not enjoy on each listen.
One of the finest bands in the U.K. at the moment, and this album delivers some catchy punk rock tuneage that I can only imagine is excellent in a live setting (hint hint
head down to the Southwest guys and bring Low Culture with you!).
I'm sure that River Jumpers are probably the best exponents in the U.K. of the kind of melodic punk rock that is heavy on guitars and melody and which doesn't rely on any gruff vocals. Hats off to them for being one of the few bands playing this kind of music that I actually enjoy these days.
Following on from River Jumpers, Safety are the U.S.'s equivalent to that band. It's a crime that this group and record are not more widely acknowledged as this is a release that should be putting Safety up there as standard bearers for melodic punk in the States.
A Canadian band with dual female/male vocals (a married couple I believe) which provides some great melodic punk with a slight street punk vibe. High octane songs that set me in the mood for all kinds of energetic activities, all of which would be accompanied by a pint of Guinness.
Another Canadian band and one which is not too dissimilar, yet not really the same, musically as their fellow Canadians, White Lung. There are much more quiet, almost spoken/whispered word parts here, but these are accompanied by some female banshee style vocals to wake you from your reveries.
A thunderous cacophony reminiscent of bands that you would find on labels such as Touch and Go and Homestead back in the 1980s and 1990s. A complete aural assault that nonetheless is extremely listenable and sounds fresh each time I give it a spin.
Bob Mould. When on form this guy can provide some top notch punk/indie rock. Silver Age proves that Mould is in the right gear again and still has the ability to write some memorable songs and guitar riffs. From the moment I heard the first chord on the opening track, I was sold. Thanks Bob!
More Canadian goodness, although this is more visceral and in your face than some of the other bands featured here (apart from Nu Sensae of course). Any band with a shrieking banshee on vocals is going to stand out and here it's all for the right reasons with some really wonderful musicianship to back it up. There is a primitiveness to the sound much of which comes from the scratchy guitar
I love it.
Hands down my favorite album of the year. This is just ballsy punk rock with great guitars and an element of tongue in cheek. Let's not forget that there are some serious issues addressed by the band too but essentially these guys want to rock and have fun. The tunes lack any kind of frippery and distraction, delivering some excellent songs from start to finish. Once again this provides proof that Canada is a rocking country indeed.
Here there are a number of notable exclusions as the deadline for the completion of the lists precluded me from featuring forthcoming releases by the Woahnows and Stay Clean Jolene. Nevertheless, both are cracking releases with the former being another quality Plymouth-based band for me to enjoy and the latter, a sound which (unsurprisingly) combines elements of HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ and Leatherface with some strong results. Additionally I have only just succumbed to the wonders of Occult Detective Club and their release Alright Gentlemen, which would have placed highly here.
Local trio come good. Yes, As We Sink is another Plymouth-based band (lucky to live in an area with a thriving scene) and I always find their live shows enjoyable. This 7" release isn't too shabby either.
This wins the prize for package of the year. A one-sided 12", from a band with a massive social and political conscience, featuring some rough and ready hardcore. All in all, a really thought-provoking and enjoyable release.
Snotty punk rock that at times is reminiscent of the Circle Jerks
simple and uncomplicated. Yes, I've heard those chord combinations before but it's well done and still manages to sound relevant today.
Bangers. What's not to like about these Cornishmen? They play mid-paced punk rock with crunchy guitar and some interesting lyrics. Let's not forget a cracking rhythm section too. Excellent live band as well.
Arctic Flowers: Procession [12-inch]
Part goth, part punk and part post-punk. Five tracks, all relying on a sound that is both backward and forward looking in musical content. This contains some quality musicianship throughout which helps makes this such an enjoyable listen.
With everyone getting more retro these days (cassettes are back) it's not out of turn of the 7" to return to featuring just two tracks rather than being EPs. Whilst not as good as the debut self-titled release, the Brats still manage to whip up a storm with two beach/sea themed tunes.
Released early in 2012, this EP gave notice of what was to come in terms of a long player (see the album list above). It's been a while since I'd heard a U.K. band churn out such strong pure melodic punk rock and it was a pleasant surprise too.
A two-track digital single featuring the first offering from the excellent Woahnows (their newest release, a five-track cassette came out too late for inclusion here) plus the latest single from the PJP Band, which is a belter.
An early contender for single of the year which has subsequently been relegated to fifth position but which still is a mighty fine record. An album is in the can I believe and a U.K. tour is being booked for the spring, so all is good re: Low Culture.
This three-track digital release, from perhaps my favorite current band, goes to prove the variety in both the songwriting and musical ability of this Plymouth (U.K.) roots-punk band. "Bandalito" is probably the band's most frenetic track and despite its manic pace, the song is held together impeccably. Added to that are "All Men Are Butchers" and "Fossils," tracks that display the variety mentioned above and which further highlights how impressive this band gets.
(Due to the fact that I'm limiting my top 20 to one release per band, Crazy Arm's previous single "Little Boats" does not feature in the list but should not be ignored as it's a quality song, once again highlighting the fact that few, if any, bands around these days are able to match their versatility.)
In five tracks, the Muncie Girls manage to deliver the perfect single/EP. There is no filler here and each song surpasses its predecessor with hooks and catchiness aplenty. Lande Hekt's ability to handle four strings and sing some of the best lyrics of the year is something to marvel at. Live, she is shy and doesn't seem comfortable with being a front person, but she is hard to tear one's eyes away from, such is her vulnerability. Backed up by Dean McMullen on guitar and Luke Ellis on drums, the Muncie Girls are a joy to behold and never fail to put a smile on my face, live or on record. Now, please get on and record an album.
And that is it for 2012. Bring on 2013, especially with long players from Low Culture and Bad Religion due in January. Here's wishing you all a Happy 2013.