When I joined the staff of Punknews in 2014, I had a lofty goal. I wanted to write 250 reviews. At the time, that was how many it took to be considered one of the greats. Five and a half years and something like 420 reviews later, I’m somehow still at it. While I’ve been threatening to slow down for years, in 2020 it’s actually going to happen. I’ll still occasionally write about my adventures at live shows and cover the random classic punk or thrash album, but the days of me churning out 70 or 80 reviews a year are over. There are other things I need to spend my few precious minutes of free time on. There are other avenues I need to explore. The most exciting project is always the next one, the strange one, the one I haven’t experienced yet.
The new project I’m most excited about is Punk Till I Die, a new podcast featuring myself and my pal Liverpool Neil. We hope to cover all the old man punk topics that don’t fit into the format of the normal weekly podcast. You should definitely check it out. Don’t make me beg! So I’ll still be around. I still plan to be a regular on the weekly podcast, and even hope to step up my interview game. The truth is, there are a bunch of new, hungry young writers and reviewers that make me feel a whole lot better about stepping back a bit. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my sixth year end best of list might be my last. Anyway, I’ve never really been the sentimental type, so let’s get started.
Before I get into my top 20 LPs, I’d like to mention a few shows that stirred my soul. Sloppy Seconds headlining the Record Farm’s 3rd anniversary party in an old, restored theater in small town Indiana was a real treat. Seeing The Damned play the whole Machine Gun Etiquette album in Chicago, with X as support, was an old punk’s dream come true. Dummerfest in Milwaukee was a full day of fun from all across the punk spectrum. Overkill and Death Angel finally teaming up for a tour that made a stop in Grand Rapids was another headbanging highlight. I got to see a minor bucket list band when Sacred Reich played GR with GWAR, Toxic Holocaust and Against the Grain.
On to my top 20, but first, a brief disclaimer. This is not an attempt at a definitive best of 2019 list. I didn’t have time to listen to everything, and I’m sure I missed I missed plenty. This is based solely on my opinions and tastes. As usual, it’s midwest heavy. There are a couple bands each from Wisconsin, Indiana and my home state of Michigan. If two albums were about the same, quality wise, I always erred on the side of supporting the more obscure of the two. I’m sure that Direct Hit and Lagwagon will be on plenty of other lists. Let the arguing begin!
Plaza 8 recordsThese three old dudes from Wisconsin made a straight up punk record that this old dude from Michigan really enjoyed. You can tell when people are making music for the right reasons. Check out "Give it to the Man".
Failure Records & TapesThe Mound Builders are a heavy band from America's heartland. The sound on the band's self titled LP is a rumbling hellfire that will keep you warm on a cold winter's night. Check out "Hair of the Dogma".
Failure Records & TapesThis has got to be the most eclectic record on my list. Funk, punk, ska and metal are all combined in Downtown Brown's soup of the day. Detroit meets LA and the result is sometimes baffling, but always entertaining. Check out "Outta My Mind".
self releasedBenny and the No-Goods is actually a one man punk band from Indianapolis. Benny's catchy songs have something for everyone. Pop culture? Check. Nerd stuff? Check. Politics? Check. Check out "Saturday".
Creator Destructor RecordsThis is probably the most unpleasant record on my list. That's not an insult! It's heavy, fast, and the vocals are about as raspy as anything I've loved in recent years. Let Pissed Regardless melt your face. Check out "Hell's Coming With Me".
13. Sacred Reich: Awakening
12. The Proletariat: Move
boss TuneageThe first of two amazing comeback albums from classic Boston bands. The Proletariat were apart for over 30 years before reforming to make this record. Both their music and politics are as sharp and on point as ever. Check out "Bomb Throwing Practice".
11. Latte+: Next to Ruin
Phocomelic MusicIf you are at all into Ramones worship, you need to be listening to LATTE+. For more than 20 years this Italian trio has been cranking out catchy songs in that style. They are as good at it as anybody. Check out "Lost in Berlin".
Beer City RecordsBoris the Sprinkler was everywhere in the '90s. The Green Bay miscreants' albums, singles and splits were legendary. I never realized how much I missed Rev Norb and the gang until they returned earlier this year. This was their first full length in 19 years. It's as fun as you remember at a time when we could all use a little more fun in our lives. If you're as burned out on politics as I am, this will hit the spot. Check out "Gamma Ray Girl".
Slope RecordsI love The Freeze. I've always had a soft spot for Boston bands, and they're one of my favorites. This was a solid return after 20 years away from the studio. Depressing, hopeful, paranoid, and sometimes bitterly funny. Singer Clif Hanger's lyrics are as disturbing as ever, and guitarist Bill Close's riffs still drive the action. Mental illness and drug addiction have never sounded so compelling. Check out "World I Know".
Locket Love RecordsOver the last eight years or so, this Kansas City, MO trio has quietly been putting an impressive discography together. It's time for more people to take notice. Hipshot Killer is fronted by Mike Alexander, one time guitarist for third wave ska heroes The Gadjits, but this is a completely different animal. The songs are melodic and nuanced and far beyond typical three chord fare. Check out "Places We Want To Be".
Self ReleasedThe first solo album from the long time leader of The Tosspints can be a very difficult album to listen to, but it's so worth the effort. Masterful songwriting combined with gut wrenching emotion. You probably shouldn't listen to this if you're depressed. It might put you in touch with things that you'd rather keep buried. My words can't do it justice. Just listen to it! Check out "Turn Away".
Well, I guess that’s about it for 2019. I hope everybody has a safe and happy 2020, full of good friends and good music.