[Tom Crandle is a staff reviewer at Punknews.org.]
2014 was a good year for old men. Nine of my top 20 bands have been around for at least 30 years. So much for itâ€™s better to burn out than to fade away. This list is very unscientific and based solely on what I enjoyed listening to most over the course of the year. Here are my top 20 albums of 2014.
Sick Of It All: Last Act Of Defiance
SOIA continue to fly the flag for New York hardcore, as they have for more than 20 years. Jagged guitars, barked vocals and sing-along choruses. This is nothing new, but these guys are the best at it. Songs about the hardcore lifestyle, delivered with the utmost sincerity. This also has the best SOIA artwork that I can recall. Check out "Road Less Traveled."
Exodus: Blood In, Blood Out
Over an hour of new thrash from the long-running Bay Area band. This record features the return of fan-favorite Steve "Zetro" Souza on vocals. This probably also benefits from Gary Holt's increased exposure from playing in Slayer. Some old blood even turns up on this, as prodigal son Kirk Hammett contributes a guitar solo. This also has some gruesome zombie art. Check out "Salt the Wound."
Overkill: White Devil Armory
Another classic thrash band that added a solid new slab to its catalogue with their 19th LP. These guys have a work ethic like Motorhead, the band whose song gave them their name. The music is fast and heavy with screeched vocals. You will bang your head. You may get a stiff neck, but you will enjoy it anyway. Check out "Armorist."
The Hex Bombs: Everything Earned
East Grand Record Co.
Good album of Celt-flavored street punk from this Kalamazoo, MI band. Memorable songs and hooks on this collection of working class anthems. Despite more than half the band turning over at one point, these guys continue to persevere. If you like early Dropkick Murphys, but can't stand them recently, you'll like this. Check out "Defiance."
The Copyrights: Report
Red Scare Industries
Sorry Masked Intruder, but The Copyrights made the best pop-punk album of 2014. Loud guitars, big hooks and sing-along choruses. Poppy without being wimpy. Too many bands forget the punk part of the pop-punk equation. I've only recently discovered these guys, and regret that I'm late to the party. Two minute bursts of ear candy. Check out "Heart of Glue."
Nashville Pussy: Up The Dosage
Husband and wife team of Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys continue to crank out their Motorhead meets Lynyrd Skynyrd meets AC/DC meets ZZ Top style of rock and roll. Even after all these years it's still all about drugs and sex. When it comes to raunchy three minute rock and roll songs, few bands can do it better than Nashville Pussy. Check out "Pussy's Not a Dirty Word."
Supersuckers: Get The Hell
More than 20 years into their career, "The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World" has made another excellent LP. Eddie Spaghetti and company seem really in their element here, making three chord rock in 4/4 time, with a trace of country for extra flavor. Includes a surprising Depeche Mode cover too. Check out "Something About You."
Domestic Genocide Records
Impressive debut from this Grand Rapids, MI street-punk band. If you enjoy traditional working class punk, but can't bring yourself to listen to the new Rancid album, this is for you. It's a combination of American hardcore and British oi. Unfortunately, this little record may be all we get from this band, as they are no longer playing. Check out "Bombs Away."
The Independents: Into The Light
Great new album from South Carolina horror-punks. Most of the songs address heavy subject matter, but it never gets too dark. It's kind of like watching The Munsters. The common thread of the songs is the loss of loved ones, but I find it strangely uplifting. Only one ska song on this LP. This was funded by crowdsourcing and deserves your ears. Check out "Legion of Doom."
Stiff Little Fingers: No Going Back
New crowdsourced record from long-running Irish punks. Jake Burn's songwriting is very personal here. He wrestles with his inner demons of depression. He tries to come to peace with aging and his musical legacy. This album is old guys making fresh sounding new music. I hope the young kids don't miss out on this. Check out "My Dark Places."
Zero Boys: Monkey
Twenty years after their last, Indiana's finest come raging back with a new LP. Great stuff that exists at the intersection of rock 'n' roll and hardcore. This sounds both modern and classic. Zero Boys also put out an excellent EP in 2014, and seem to be on a roll. These guys are survivors from the original Midwest hardcore scene. Let's hope they've still got plenty of gas in the tank. Check out "Pro Dirt."
Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
If you can separate this from all the baggage that goes with it, It's a good, angry punk rock record. It's rough around the edges where the last two were too polished. When you add in the heavy subject matter and social significance, this becomes an important album too. Laura Jane Grace has forced a lot of us out of our comfort zones. Ten years from now, this may be considered the classic record of 2014. Check out "Black Me Out."
Iron Reagan: The Tyranny Of Will
These guys are probably the best modern crossover thrash band. It's a side project that threatens to overtake the bands that spawned it. The highest compliment that I can pay this is that it reminds me of vintage DRI. It's vicious, funny, heavy and fast. It's speed metal with a punk attitude and spirit. It's vaguely political and completely anti-social. This has the potential to turn the younger generation on to classic crossover thrash. Check out "Miserable Failure."
The Dwarves: The Dwarves Invented Rock 'n' Roll
Recess Records/Greedy Records
Dwarves records have become collaborative efforts, drawing great songs from members past and present. This album pays tribute to the early rock sounds of the '50s and '60s. It's fun to listen to just to try and pick out the small song fragments "borrowed" from the girl groups, Motown and even the Ramones. Lyrically, nothing is sacred, lust and drug abuse are considered virtues. Blag and the boys are firing on all cylinders. Check out "Trailer Trash."
Today is the Day: Animal Mother
TitD should be huge in the metal world. Steve Austin and company have been warping minds for more than 20 years, but still remain relatively obscure. This can be ugly music, Austin has a way of laying bare the depravity of the human condition. He conveys his hate and rage so effectively that you can almost physically feel it. This is a nearly flawless merging of artistic ambition and skull-crushing heaviness. Check out "Sick of Your Mouth."
Corrosion of Conformity: lX
Another great album from the trio of Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin. This veers away from the thrash of 2012's self-titled LP, back toward a more Sabbathy sound. This is a band that can do many styles well, and these three guys are really locked in musically. This effortlessly shifts from slow doom to fast thrash. COC has an impressive punk, hardcore and crossover pedigree. You can hear traces of that here, buried beneath the sludgy metal. Check out "The Nectar."
The Dead Milkmen: Pretty Music for Pretty People
These guys have always been much more than a novelty act. Upbeat music with downer lyrics. Frantic rhythms that make you feel tense. Caustic words and brutal social commentary. Wide-eyed innocence meets bitter cynicism in this great collection of songs. It's funny and it's sad. These guys have not lost a step in 25 years. This doesn't have the youthful spirit of early DM stuff, but it's become something equally enjoyable. Check out "Anthropology Days."
The Meatmen: Savage Sagas
The Meatmen were legends in Michigan when I was growing up. We loved Tesco Vee's politically incorrect ranting and raving. There were no sacred cows, and nothing seemed safe from his wrath. Now, nearly two decades after their last LP of original material, Dutch Hercules and his meatboys return. This album is either making you laugh or kicking your ass. This greatly exceeded any expectation I had for a new Meatmen record. Check out "I'm Gonna Fuck You Up."
7 Seconds: Leave A Light On
This has everything I love in a great punk record. The guitars are loud, the drums are fast and the lyrics are meaningful. This album can stand toe to toe with anything the band has ever done. Every song is good and Kevin and the rest seem to appreciate the fact that they're still playing music. Too many of the legacy bands appear to be going through the motions for a paycheck. These guys are the real deal. Check out "Slogan on a Shirt."
OFF!: Wasted Years
Keith Morris is 59 years old, and shows no signs of slowing down. His late career resurgence has produced some of his best music ever. The stuff he's doing with OFF! almost has the urgency of "Nervous Breakdown"-era Black Flag. That was 1978, before most of you were born. Short songs with razor sharp guitars and angry, venomous words. It's scary how good Morris is, even as he marches toward Social Security. This album should be multi-platinum. Check out "Red White and Black."
1. Cock Sparrer/Stiff Little Fingers- Live in Chicago. These geezers put most young bands to shame with their energetic, joyful performances. I feel fortunate to have seen it.
2. Sloppy Seconds/The Queers- Live in Louisville. For one night only, Kentucky was the center of the pop-punk universe. Great sense of camaraderie and fun.
3. The Tossers/Continental/The Tosspints- Live in Grand Rapids. St.Patrickâ€™s Day came to GR a couple days early this year. Everyone was Irish and everyone was awed by these bands.
The three best movies this year were (according to my son, age 15):
1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes â€“ An epic and emotional sci-fi extravaganza which contains apes dual-wielding machine guns on horses, riding through a wall of flame while fighting a tank.
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier â€“ The ninth, and greatest, film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes Captain America cool, with an interesting plot and great villains.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy â€“ The tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps things fresh with a great ensemble of characters in this hilarious space opera.
Overall, I would say that 2014 was an above average year for music. In 2015 Iâ€™m most looking forward to the first new music from DRI in 20 years, and the new LPâ€™s from Gallows and Break Anchor.