2016 was a great year for new music and a dangerous year to be an old musician. So many important artists left us this year that most of us canâ€™t wait to flip the calendar over. Maybe a new year will end the carnage, but I doubt it. I suspect this death toll is going to be the new normal. Anyway...it was also a busy year for your senior (based on age not tenure) Punknews correspondent. I did about 70 reviews, tons of podcasts, a couple Sonic Reducers, a couple interviews and contributed to several features. (For the record, 70 reviews is too many. Next year Iâ€™m shooting for 50-55.) I went to 30 plus shows, and wrote about many of them. (I even went to 3 arena shows!) I got to see some old favorites and knocked a few bands (Poison Idea, Stryper, Subhumans, Ultraman) off my bucket list.
Before we get to long players, Iâ€™d like to share my 10 favorite live shows, unranked and in alphabetical order. (Unranked because Iâ€™m sick of ranking things.)
Agent Orange/Counterpunch in Grand Rapids - Fun night of punk rock with my 15 year old daughter. It featured our first father-daughter mosh. I never seem to get sick of singing along to Living in Darkness.
Garth Brooks in Grand Rapids - I was never a fan of his music and Iâ€™m still not. Mrs. Trauma is, so I surprised her with tickets for Motherâ€™s day. I have rarely seen a performer work so hard to give an audience their moneyâ€™s worth. I had to appreciate his effort.
Poison Idea/Child Bite/Braidedveins in Grand Rapids - We donâ€™t get a ton of classic west coast punk bands coming through GR. I had given up on seeing Poison Idea and was thrilled to finally get the chance. Support came from one of my Detroit favorites too.
Screeching Weasel/Bowling For Soup/The Ataris in Chicago - SW might have been my favorite punk band of the 90â€™s. I was glad to celebrate their 30 year anniversary with them in their hometown. No matter what you think of the current scab line up, they are really tight live.
Sloppy Seconds/Parasites in Chicago - A couple of my favorite bands at Reggies, which happens to be one of my favorite clubs. Two of the greatest pop-punk bands of all time, and they did not fail to deliver.
Sloppy Seconds/Ultraman in St. Louis - We saw Sloppy on three consecutive nights on their late summer tour, and this was my favorite of those shows. We got to hang out with the boys and saw Ultraman for the first time.
Stryper in Grand Rapids - Hair metal was my first real musical love. 30 years later I could still remember almost every word of the 1986 classic To Hell With The Devil.
Subhumans/PEARS/Break Anchor in Detroit - This was my favorite show of the year. All the bands and the crowd were great. One of a handful of shows I went to with my daughter Alex Trauma. A nearly perfect night of punk rock.
Suicidal Tendencies/Madball in Grand Rapids - This was the social event of the season for aging punks and headbangers. It was a great, energetic show that left many of us old timers sore the next day.
TSOL/The Scandals in Detroit - This was the first time I took my daughter to a true dive. We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
There were also some really great EPâ€™s, singles and reissues in 2016. Here are my 10 favorite things that donâ€™t belong on my LP list, again unranked and in alphabetical order.
Antilogical - Politilies [7â€ EP] Cool new 4 song 7â€™ from the Grand Rapids based old school punk trio. These guys do it for all the right reasons.
Bad Mechanics - Must Be a Suburb [7â€ single] Off the wall new wave/industrial/punk song about the absurdities of modern life. As silly as it is catchy. B-side is a cool cover of fellow Chicagoans Sidekick Kato.
Blâ€™ast!/EYEHATEGOD [split single] Any new Blâ€™ast! song is reason for celebration. Pairing it up with with New Orleans sludgemasters EHG was an inspired idea.
Circle Jerks - VI [reissue] The â€˜lostâ€™ Circle Jerksâ€™ album still sounds great after being out of print for many years. I never seem to get tired of Keith Morris.
The Dwarves - Are Young and Good Looking [reissue] The Dwarves attempt at pop-punk might be their best album overall. The reissue is loaded with bonus tracks too.
DRI - But Wait...Thereâ€™s More! [EP] The crossover kings took more than 20 years to deliver this 5 song 10 minute EP, and 2 of the tracks were re-recorded versions of songs originally on Dealing With It! (1985). That being said, I loved every note of this. I hope thereâ€™s a lot more to come.
Hipshot Killer - All the Hell in the World [7â€ single] The Laura Jane Grace inspired A-side is one of my favorite songs of the year. Extremely melodic and catchy punk rock.The Samiam cover on the B-side isnâ€™t too shabby either.
Integrity/Power Trip [split EP] Old hardcore weirdos combine with young retro thrashers for one of the year'sâ€™ best EPâ€™s.
Murder Party! - II: A New Batch [EP] One of my local Grand Rapids favorites finally put out their second horror punk EP. Seven killer new tracks for the Halloween lover on your Christmas list.
The Uncouth - Jonesyâ€™s War [12â€ EP] My favorite EP of the year. Excellent, driving street punk and Oi from Kansas City, Missouri.
When it came time to pick my 20 favorite records of 2016, I started with a list of almost 40. (To put that into perspective, last year it was less than 25.) I could not find room for several very solid new albums. There were several others that I never had the chance to fully check out. Hopefully Iâ€™ll get to them during the slow early months of 2017. This list was also due only a couple days after the highly anticipated new Metallica double album. That may or may not deserve a spot on this list. Iâ€™m not claiming theses are the best LPâ€™s of 2016, but they are the ones I enjoyed the most. Itâ€™s very democratic, with relatively unknown local bands rubbing elbows with huge established acts. Thereâ€™s lots of old punk and thrash favorites, and a couple of debuts too. Thereâ€™s quite a bit of metal, but the top 5 are all punk. Overall, Iâ€™m pretty pleased with this list.
nuclear blast america
Very solid new album from the band that inspired a million thrash and crust punk bands. In 2016, their message is as relevant as ever. It's sad to say that the same problems they screamed about 30 years ago are still problems today. Check out "The Broken Law".
HEAVY new album from Kirk Winstein and company. The New Orleans band wallows in misery and despair, but also gives you just a glimmer of hope. Down tuned guitars and guttural vocals drive the point home. Check out "Embrace the Light".
It's strange to watch your favorite bands age. Fortunately, the Bouncing Souls have done it more gracefully than most. This record is a return to the musical basics, even if the lyrics show an undeniable maturity. I'm about the same age as these guys, so unfortunately I get it. Check out "Rebel song".
Nuclear Blast America
This is the first of four golden age of thrash bands to make my list. I never really listened to Death Angel as a kid, but I have every intention of going back and doing so. Every song on this is good. Check out "It Can't Be This".
NOFX is a band that I've grown up and grown old with. Their 90's records are some of my all time favorites. I love a lot of the later stuff too, but it's far less consistent. This is solid front to back. It manages to be a little more mature while remaining mostly obnoxious. Check out "I Don't Like Me Anymore".
The concept of dystopia has become all the rage lately, but Dave Mustaine has been singing about it for years. This record is dark, nuanced, technical thrash, and a return to form for one of its founding fathers. This set the early tone for a very good year in classic thrash. Check out "Post American World".
One part stoner metal and one part skate punk. This SoCal trio cranks out awesome and memorable songs about Vietnam, biker gangs and half pipes. They even got punk legend Keith Morris to join them for a jam. Check out "Never More Than Now".
I've always loved ST, from their early hardcore roots to their later funky thrash. They're one of most important crossover bands of all time, and Mike Muir and Dave Lombardo are still relevant. Albums like this will keep them from becoming a nostalgia act. Check out "Get Your Fight On!".
For years now on the Punknews podcast, a certain managing editor has been cramming bands from Ontario down our throats. This is the first one I've ever really taken to. Punk, grunge and bluesy garage in a typically modest Canadian package. Check out "Zombie Eyes".
More Bay Area thrash. Testament has been on an incredible career roll since Alex Skolnick rejoined the band in 2005. The Formation of Damnation (2008) and Dark Roots of Earth (2012) are both modern thrash classics. This isn't too far behind. Check out "Stronghold".
Throwing things records
I had never heard of Hipshot Killer before 2016. They came from out of nowhere and have continued to grow on me over the course of the year. HK is an extremely melodic punk trio from Kansas City, Missouri and this is their second LP. The band was founded by guitarist/singer Mike Alexander, formerly of The Gadjits and currently of The Architects. He's got a soaring voice that can reach up and get the high notes. Most of these songs will get stuck in your head for days. Check out "Celebrate Your Waste".
Add it up productions
Before there was such a thing as folk punk, there was Violent Femmes. As a kid growing up in rural Wisconsin in the 80's, they were the one band that we could call our very own. Their 1983 self-titled debut is still one of my records of all time. Their first new album in 15 years strikes a good balance between the teenage lust of their early material and the reality of middle age. Gordon Gano has still got that voice that drove my mother up the wall. Check out "Issues".
Child Bite is easily the most challenging record on my list. It's punk and metal and noise, delivered with an undeniable intensity. It's another unpleasant and unsettling album from the fine citizens of Motor City. For more than ten years, frontman/madman Shawn Knight has been perfecting this ugly, caustic sound. Pick this up to experience a little piece of Detroit in the safety of your own home. Check out "Born a Hog".
Red Scare industries
The Lippies were the biggest (punk) thing to come out of Grand Rapids in forever. This record came out in early March and was getting rave reviews. Their pop-punk with a feminist message really seemed to resonate with people. They went on a successful high profile tour with The Falcon, and had another planned with The Copyrights and Ray Rocket. A couple of months later it was over. I never really got a great explanation as to why. RIP The Lippies. Check out "302".
I've been wallowing in the retro thrash revival all year long. This is my favorite record of the bunch. There's plenty of speed and guitar crunch, plus Joey Belladonna's soaring vocals. Anthrax took their time and masterfully crafted every song on the album. The music is on point and the lyrics successfully walk the line between heavy metal fantasy and harsh modern reality. To me, this is a modern thrash classic. Check out "Zero Tolerance".
I wasn't really sure what to think about these guys at first, but this Grand Rapids quartet has become one of my very favorite local bands. I go back to this sort of accidental LP again and again. There's something undeniably catchy about it and I love it more with each listen. It's both celebratory and melancholy and has that good sort of sloppy tension. Check out "Don't Shred On Me".
A handful of my favorite 90's punk bands (see also Bouncing Souls and NOFX) put out new records this year. This is the one that really hit the spot for me. The return to Fat Wreck Chords seems to have breathed new life into the Trever Keith and the boys. Protection is sometimes angry, sometimes introspective and always catchy. It has the passion of a young man and the wisdom of an older man. Check out "Middling Around".
I really love this record. I think pretty much everybody loves this record. I assume this one will be on almost everybody's list. Most of us would have been content with another Cool To Be You (2004), but these guys absolutely blew away our expectations. It's old guys singing about old guy stuff and still manages sound fresh. It gives hope to all of us old guys out there. A couple of the songs definitely gave me the feels. Check out "Limiter".
This is what punk is supposed to sound like. These two bands of New Jersey miscreants teamed up for the best split, if not the best record of 2016. It's angry, snotty and antisocial street punk. Most of the songs are about getting wrecked and not caring about what proper society thinks. This is the album that I cranked up and sang along to in the car with the windows open to embarrass my kids. Check out "Up the Punks".
These Canadian dirtbags have been offending everyone and their mother for over 35 years. Their last couple of records had some good songs, but were generally in a state of decline. I never saw this coming. It's more of their classic, hostile punk with just a bit of speed metal thrown in for good measure. Murray "The Cretin" Acton and the rest definitely prove that they've still got it. No one alive or dead is safe from their wrath. Check out "Cockroaches".
Well, that about does it for 2016. Thereâ€™s a few things Iâ€™m already looking forward to in early 2017. New Lpâ€™s from Iron Reagan, Overkill, Power Trip and TSOL top the list. Iâ€™m also hoping for new records from Detroit favorites Hellmouth and Rebel Spies. (Iâ€™m pretty sure I hoped for those last year too.) Anyway, take care of each other and have a rad year.Â