WE COME TO DO DAMAGEWhew! Whew! Wheeeewwww weeeeeeeeee!!!!! Yowza.
I don’t even need to say it, but 2017 was a year of tumult in the US of A, people. Man! To that end, it is said that conflict and turmoil generates great art, and for 2017, that proposition held true. There were a lot of great albums and a LOT of awesome shows this year. And I tried to do my share in contribution. In 2016, I said I was going to swing for the the fences in 2017 and I really did give it my best.
After two years of work, I was able to release the long lost, unreleased Flames album from 1980. This was a really neat, very weird record that I found in the discount bin at a used record store! In the summer, I threw my first ever concert which was basically my dream bill. World Inferno, Posers, Crazy and the Brains, and Pushin’ It 2 the Limitkicked out amazing sets, Adam and I wore tuxedos, we played the Punknews trivia game live, and even gave out goodie bags! WOWIE!
Through my record label, I put out SIX different mixtapes and I was pretty proud of each of them. Also, Dom Davi of Tsunami Bomb interviewed me about my first, my favorite and my least favorite show ever on his cool podcast.
Journalism wise, I did one of my most extensive interviews ever- I spoke to that punk champion Jello Biafra about what makes him tick!(FYI- if you want the real deal in punk rock, Jello is THE MAN). I interviewed Osamu of Sticks and Stones about moving from Japan and starting a punk band with Jack Terricloth. Buzz Osborne made a connection between science and religion. John Joseph told me about A LOT of things. I got to interview the Coathangers and they are now one of my favorite bands of all time.
And so, without further adieu and forgiving my long winded intro, let’s talk about my favorite jams of 2017!!!!
Thee Top Twenty LPs of 2017 (Non-Melvins Division)
20. Queen Ifrica: Climb
VP RecordsThe Fyah Muma returns with her first album in eight years. But, whereas we expected the erupting, berserk dancehall attacker of "Me nah bleach," instead, we received two handfuls of soul and r & b. Where there once was holy aggression, there is now a spiritual peace. If anyone has the pipes to issue divine proclamations, it’s Ifrica.
19. Itchy-O: From the Overflowing
Anxious And AngryWe knew he had it in him the whole time- Ezra goes full on singer-songwriter. Whereas most punkers hide their hearts behind feedback and screaming, Kire puts it on display for all to see. It doesn't hurt that the exhibition is supplemented by Kire's unparalleled songwriting and those wonderful, soaring Whoooaaaaaaoooaaaaooaaas! Hall and Oats, y'all better go fill out Micky D applications.
15. Family Pet: Family Pet
Self releasedFamily Pet are masters of Lo-fi, buzzing, ragged punk. The band blends a sardonic take on socio-politics all while keeping a wry humor in the background and in doing so, make a mighty strong case for their point of view. Of course, the fact that it ROCKS THE HELL OUT is also very convincing.
14. Arnocorps: The Unbelievable
13. Hiccup: Imaginary Enemies
Father Daughter recordsCharging, three chord punk for adults! And by "for adults," I don't mean some anemic, toned down strumming- this band is kicking out the jams! But rather, while Hiccup storm forward, there is a certain reflection and introspection on this record that is heard so rarely in pop-punk this energetic. Have you ever moshed and thought about your place in the world... AT THE SAME TIME???
12. Nik Turner: Life in Space
CleopatraThe original space rocker returns to earth with a potent message for us all. Nik Turner, that trans-dimnesional weirdo, ain't gettin' any younger, so, in is infinite LSD-drenched wisdom, he takes a somewhat unexpected turn, looks inward, and shares with us the secrets to life. Turner has done it all and seen it all, and if there's one guy to listen to, it's this astral titan... comforting that he reflects, "somehow it will be alright."
ArgonautaSleep meets Hawkwind... WHAAAAAAAT?!!!! This album is HEAVY and TRIPPY. As you listen to it, it just gets more and more thunderous, but it makes you feel like as a feather as you soar over sonic valleys. It's probably against NASA regulations to fly a shuttle on acid, but that's what this record feels like.
10. Bloodclot: Up In Arms
9. Ariel Pink: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Mexican SummerNo, it's not the complex, schizophrenic puzzle of Pom, Pom. Instead, it's a more clam, nuanced look at fame and finding happiness within... but it doesn't hurt that Ariel still drips in some of his trademark weird goth tics. "Time to Live" sets the line "Time for death" to the rhythm of the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star" and time to meet your God is about getting whacked... I think. You can never tell when this guys is being serious or when he is laughing at you behind your back and that's what makes this record so fascinating.
Self-releasedAwwwwww yeahhhhhh!!!! Rubino, Yemin, Nelson, and Wilson team up for a record that sits between "hardcore" and "post-hardcore." Call it... pre-post-hardcore? What I am saying is this record takes the thoughtful aggression of Mackaye, throws in a splash of gleeful bleakness ala Ing & Dagger, and then spits it out in trademark mature-thoughtful-but-still-kind-of-an-angry-teenager Rubino/Yemin venom. What does it mean when a band sounds this furious and frantic after taking time to sit down and think about the state of the world?
7. KRS-One: The World is Mind
Self releasedLike clockwork, the Blastmaster comes back with another boom-bapping release that once again proves that he's the hardest working man in Hip Hop. This record kicks like a mule and KRS' sounds as huge as ever. And as always, he juggles street knowledge with metaphysical philosophy resulting a release that i both grounded and in the clouds. Once again, KRS-One... ROCK ON!
6. Morrissey: Low in High School
Self-ReleasedPE returns with their best album in ten years... and they give it away for free! In an ironic twist, the album was cut during a time of internal squabbles over financials, but they sound the tightest and fieriest they have in a long, long time. Despite apparently being unaware that he was recording an album when he was laying down vocals, the Flav not only turns in some of his finest performances, but ties this album together with his unique ability to spin silliness to seriousness to showmanship. And to boot, Ice-T shows up and turns in his best Hip Hop verse since the early '90s. This album is HARD.
4. Run The Jewels: RTJ3
Run the Jewels, Inc.Who said the third segment of a trilogy always sucks? RTJ3 is RTJ's best album and also their most consistent. Killer Mike and EL-P blend humor and philosophy like none other, and spitting out these deep thoughts with nearly unparalleled skill. For the life of me, I can;t fathom why people are freaking out about "Bodak Yello" when "Legend Has It" is the hardest hitting Hip Hop track of the year and could wreck a skyscraper... and then, just as the dust settles, they come back with "Call Ticketron!" THIS is modern Hip Hop.
2. Tau Cross: Pillar of Fire
Thee Top Ten Singles/EPs of 2017 (Non-Melvins Division)
10. Sneakers Award: Demo
self releasedPlow United's Brian McGee is back with a set of power-pop charged rockers. He can try to deny his scrappy, 90s punk leaning all he wants, but these tracks bear his trademark gruff all while being juiced up with a little Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello style sensibility. Ace.
9. Ellen and the Degenerates: Herb Alert
What's for BreakfastTHIS is what modern punk should sound like. Classic '77 bounce mixed with harder Amphetamine Reptile smash mixed with a touch of West Coast mania. It's rare that a band is so perfectly "punk" all while sounding so fresh, but EatDs found that sweet spot and cranked out five perfectly formed, edged songs. I want to hear music like this all day long.
8. Vice Squad / The Droogettes: Split CD
Rebel SoundSomehow, Vice Squad is releasing their very best material in their 39th(!) year! "Beautiful Toy" is an absolutely perfect, compact classic punk snapper, Meanwhile, newcomers the Droogettes are just killing it with their pogo punk meets Oi! style. "Bovver Girl" is as violent as it is fun and their acoustic cover of the Oppressed's "Hooligans" sounds like Peter, Paul, and Mary doing Oi! and it sends chills down my spine.
7. Abrasive Wheels / The Up! Up! Ups! : Split 7-inch
Rebel SoundUm... 2017 was the year of classics meet up-and-comers... and this was a mighty fine pairing. Long loved cult punkers Abrasive Wheels cut two jams that harken back to their classic LP and proceeds to go even a little further back with some power pop influences. Meanwhile, the Up! Up! Ups! mix classic 50s rock with the berserk mania of the earliest punk bands. Sometimes, straight up rock and punk are perfect matches- ask Mick Jones, Paul Weller, and Pauline Black. These four songs are PERFECT.
5. Morrissey: Spent the Day in Bed
EtienneMorrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side. Morrissey covers the Ramones on the B-Side.
4. Fucked Up: Year of the Snake
TankcrimesFucked Up go on an acid trip and contemplate death and then rebirth at the other side. If it all sounds kinda karmic to you, it might be because guitarist Mike H went on a trip to India before recording this. More then ever before, Fucked Up are combining their far out experimental side with their love of classic rock/punk and the results are as grand as we all hoped they were. It's difficult to be both hard and trippy, but here we are... or there we were... or there we will be... life is like a cycle or something, maaaaaaan...
The Dwarves are going to their extremes- pure pop perfection and hella herculean hardcore. Julio, which serves as a precursor to their upcoming album, proves that they have mastered both forms like no other band before them, and to that end, they are interested in elevating both styles from chewing gum to food for thought. Fewer and fewer bands are willing to stray outside the norm these days and in these times, the Dwarves are proving themselves as fearless as they have ever been.
2. Gnarboots: F.O.R.E.V.E.R.
self releasedGnarboots at the end of time. On their most complex release to date, the G-boots mix punk with electronic with acoustic with sound clash with musings on death and cults and life and control and the contrasting feelings of freedom and slavery when staring into the face of the void. All bands wish they could be this incredible. Sadly, only one is: Gnarboots. The good news is, WE ARE ALL GNARBOOTS.
Thee Top Five Melvins Releases of 2017 (Melvins Division)
5. Dale Crover: Thunder Pinky
Joyful NoiseThe greatest drummer in modern rock cuts a 107 second heavy rumbler that slithers like Sabbath and swaggers like Judas Priest. Also, it is literally pressed into an actual cymbal, so you can both play it and play it. Genius.
4. The Melvins: Steven McDonald
Amphetamine ReptileFinally completing their KISS inspired quadrilogy, the Melvs push newest bassist, Steve Mcdonald of Redd Kross/OFF! and let him do his thang and, apparently, his thang his busting out KICK ASS rockage. Famously a fan of the history of Rock n Roll, Stevie nods to AM pop, Cheap Trick, Southern Boogie Woogie, and quite tastily, the nascent stage of west coast punk rock. This release is the band just having a ball and McDonald's inherently likable personality shines through- he's grinning along with the rest of us and the fun is infectious.
Joyful NoiseAfter 25 some years of teasing us with a solo slab, DC comes out swinging with this spinner that slides between classic rock styling and total weirdo freakouts- check out the crunched, processed, warped drum solos that punctuate the proper "Songs" on this record. Deftly, Crover doesn't focus on his drumming so much as his warped view of strange song composition. This isn't a drummer's record, this is a master musician's record. The fact that the world's bets drummer is also on it is just the icing on the cake... and if that's the icing, just think how amazing the main course is.
1. Melvins: A Walk with Love & Death
Thee Top Five Narmer Records Releases of 2017
5. The Bullshit Collector Mixtape
Narmer RecordsMost of Narmer Record's releases balance big name, heavy hitters, with medium size bands, with unknowns, with totally left field picks. As a way to get involved in Cassette Store Day, I had the completely original idea to rip off Crass and put out a comp of mostly unknown bands. Honestly, I was blown away with how good all these little known bands were. Don't let anyone tell you "there's no good music these days." Also, I think most people missed the Crass reference with this tape...
4. The Punknews Holiday Spectacular Mixtape
Narmer RecordsThis one was so cool to do. Both Cassie Ramone and Colleen Green were so cool AND they each contributed some exclusive recordings. WHOA. And then... the people's champion, Joe Jack Talcum contributed THREE unreleased songs including one recorded waaaay back in 1979. They say never meet your musical champions for fear of meeting the "real" person, but in my experience, my music champs are even cooler once you get to know them.
3. The Punknews Summer Soiree Mixtape
Narmer RecordsWow, what a night! I am so glad we got to make this memento. Exclusive songs form World/Inferno dating back to their earliest days as well as brand, brand new tracks, Crazy and the Brains covering Lou Reed, plus amazing tracks by Posers and Pushin' It 2 the Limit. To me, this is what punk rock is all about- limitless whimsy, fun, and art appreciation.
2. The Punknews Banned from the P.C. Mixtape
Narmer RecordsI was very pleased with the My Org tape, but it had a few minor things that nagged me. For Banned from the P.C. I went all out and tried to make the PUNKEST tape I could- with "punk" being weirdo, daring, and totally rocking music. Honestly, with exclusive and rare tracks from Ari Up, Steve Ignorant, DFL (first new song in 17 years!), Chris Gethard, and more... an appearance by Jello... AND AN INTRO BY KEITH MORRIS HIMSELF, I will go ahead and pat myself on the back with this one. It's rare that a project comes out exactly as you envisioned it, but I am so proud of this release and don’t mind saying so. Of course, the most important thing is to thank all the bands that made this tape possible with their generosity. We literally could not have done it without you.
1. The Flames: The Flames
Narmer RecordsThis was one for the books, and frankly, a part of me is a little sad to be closing this chapter. In 2015, I found a cool used record at Jupiter records. It was weird and unique and really, really good. I called the 30 year old number written on the back and somehow wound up in contact with the guy who recorded the album, but never actually put it out! Thanks to Michael J. Richards generosity, I was finally able to put this record out into the world and boy what a thrill that was. THIS is what punk is all about- not worrying about how something will be received, not worrying about the business aspect, just doing it for the sake of art. Now, it's your turn! Go out and do something awesome!
YOU BET WE’VE GOT SOMETHING PERSONAL AGAINST YOU!
Even though 2017 was jam packed, 2018 already has an insane amount of cool releases on deck. First up, I am ULTRA-PSYCHED for the new Screaming Females record and I am TURBO-PSYCHED for the new The Dwarvesrecord. If their recent super-charged live shows have indicated anything, this record will be HARDCORE. Word is that OFF! is working on LP #4. Harley Flanagan has been hinting at some new stuff. DFL has been posting studio updates with Greg Hetson which is very, very exciting. Tsunami Bomb is working on their first LP in almost 20 years, including Dom Davi and Oubliette, and that will be a ripper, no doubt. Rats in the Wall have a new EP on the horizon which is sure to be killer. Jesse Luscious’ The Pathogens have been active and let’s hope they put out something as now is the time! World/Inferno and Mischief Brew have both been teasing at some reissues, which should be very cool. Op Ivy’s Dave Mello has joined Kicker so hopefully we get something from THAT killer combo. Let’s hope for some new Crazy and the Brainsmaterial. It’s time, boys! There will likely be some more The Rolling Stones archival material, and Eagle has been doing an amazing job with that curation. Of course, the reigning champs Melvinsare sure to put out an album or two or three… and JELLO, how about a new album, dawg? It is time!
For my part, I plan on doing more longer form interviews, though I’d like to also do some more unexpected, unusual interviews, too. So, for 2018, I will be going for super detailed, quality pieces, and not so much quantity. I definitely plan on doing some more Punknews shows- I just want to try to make every show special and unique. At Punknews, I think we have a good vibe going and have a good angle on things, but I’d like to tighten up the ship a little and widen our coverage a little bit. To that end, I will be bringing in a TON of new writers at Punknews in 2018, so if you want to join up, NOW is the time: johnG@punknews.org. Also, feel free to write to me with your thoughts.
I usually try to end my Best Ofs with some wisdom gleaned from the year or something inspirational. Unfortunately for me, more and more, I gravitate towards the nihilistic view of Early LA punk and the unflinching salute to the void a la Rudimentary Peni…
So, I will say this. Do what you love. Try to make the world a better place, Put out interesting art. Be nice to people. And, frikkin go for it, man. Who knows how much time we have left, so the time to do it is NOW. To quote the J-man, start a fire!
HEY! HO! 2018, LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!