Best of 2021 - John Gentile's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2021

John Gentile's Picks (2021)

Staff Picks

All The World is a Stage (Dive)

Yowza yowza yowza. What a year. There were victories and there were losses. There's a line in the World/Inferno Friendship Society live album where Jack Terricloth said "It's not a good time to question our values. It's not." That was more than 15 years ago and it rings truer than ever.

To that end, I'm trying to stick more closely to my values than ever. Two of those values are stay true to oneself and swing for the fences. So, I tried to do that. I opened my own law Office in January and it has been very cool so far (any of you in bands that want copyright, trademark, licensing, or contract advice, let me know *wink*). I also achieved a true life's goal. I got a for-real-deal book published by a for-real-deal publisher. I worked really, really, really, really, really, really hard on Architects of Self-Destruction: The Oral History of Leftover Crack (Brad Logan did too) and I am very proud of how it came out. To all of you that checked out the book or said something nice about it, I truly, truly appreciate it. The positive response has meant the world to me and it was so rewarding to have something so important to me be recieved so positively by the fans. So, thank you all for that.

Plus, we got to have a book release show in L.A. and at Punk Rock Bowling where I talked to a lot of you and it was a dream come true. Wowza!

I also got to do some cool interviews. I spoke to Buzz Osborne about his childhood. Dani Miller of Surfbort talked about her perspective on God. I got to look through the criminally overlooked discography of New Age Steppers. AND, I got to talk to Don Zientara and Ian MacKaye about the legacy of Inner Ear Studios. 

Still, we all took some losses this year. (More on that below). But before the sad stuff, let's talk about some of the AWESOME music that came out this rotation. 2021 was a GREAT year for music. Here are my favorite picks.

Top 20 albums of 2021 (Non-Melvins Division)

20. Sonny Vincent: Snake Pit Therapy


Sonny Vincent, the down and dirty blues rock punker has still got it. He's still down and dirty and he still plays blues based punk... except now, he's weather-beaten, damaged, and still brining the volts. Somehow, that makes his newest stuff all that much more powerful. 

19. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss: Raise the Roof


Yeah, yeah- I want Goldie to link back up with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and for them to smash thee hammer ov thee Gods down on our thick heads in one final lightning strike as much as the next guy- "In the days of my youth I was told what it was to be a man / ba dump ba dump ba dah dah dump!" and all that jazz. Well, listen here Potsie, it ain't gonna happen! Instead, what we get is four slabs that are about as good as Zep III side two as accentuated by folk-indie champion Allison Krauss... wait a minute... I... I think I can live with that.

18. Big Moose Manholington: Born to Die in Equestria

Captain Crook

The most messed up band out there these days trucks along and kicks out album number six... seven... eight? I've lost count at how many times these sickos have sung about being weird around cartoon horses. For a hot minute, I thought the production would improve ala their alter ego "Steel stud." (Yes, this band is so prolific that they even have alter egos). Instead, they flush themselves further down their tunnel of ick and sound gnarlier and more hopped up about equine rumps than ever. Grindcore isn't really shocking these days. Gangsta rap isn't either. Punk is about as safe a warm milk. Somehow, these guys are the last frontier of the dangerous.  I still don't know if it is a put on or if these guys really are as whacked out as their tapes suggest. That's art- un comfortable art, but art none the less.

17. Struggling Harsh Immortals: Death


The Zouo mastermind, Cherry Nishida, brings his long running band to Western shores with this release and it is the perfect evolution of his futuro-evil vision. Crust riffs crack alongside zagged out electronics for an album that is as ghoulish fun as it is truly dark. Death finds the band pushing even further into the future all while smashing Western and Eastern imagery into an imperfect collage. This is schizo art at its most expert level.

16. Dark Web: Decoy


As they are wont to do, Dark Web leaps out from the, uh, dark web, drops an killer follow up LP, and then flees back down the ISD line. This album is fast and harsh- it's garage punk as played by Martian robots. It's cold. It's mean. It's uncaring. It's a lot of fun.

15. Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort To Me

Rough Trade

I struggled with this one a little bit. I ADORED the first Amyl album and this sophomore LP seemed a bit more... restrained... to me. But, once I caught the groove, I realized the band is working off the hard energy of post-punk where each punch is a steady, tactical strike. Then it clicked. I admit that I still do miss the unrestrained furor. But, Amy's hyper-charged, explosive delivery makes this release leave a mark. It's NOT comforting and that's maybe the point. 

14. Chrome: Scaropy


The inventors of acid-trip-evil-robot-punk are still the champs. This album continues founding member Helios Creeds' new golden age and finds the galactic weirdo twisting out riffs so evil they'd make Black Sabbath do a hail Mary while the rest of the band submerges the music in black tar, feedback, and screaming androids. All of you kiddies that think you know horror, you know nothing. Bear witness to the prophet's sounds!

13. Alice Cooper: Detroit Stories

Ear music

The Coop's post Nightmare output is very hit or miss and let me tell you, this one is a HIT. (Ignore the weird photoshop style cover). In fact, it's probably his biggest swing since 1983's Dada. Vincent goes back to his birthplace to re-invigorate himself and he links up with some local legends- Wayne Kramer, anyone? Or maybe Mark Farner? Or how about the original Alice Cooper Group, baby. This album is loose and it swings and it's more rock n roll than most albums of the last 30 years. There might be a few mis-steps where Alice comes off as "Get of my lawn, you kids" (see "Shut Up and rock"), but the clever deviations ("Our love could change the world") and the high points (a KILLER cover of "Rock & Roll") shows that Alice's halo still has plenty of flies to go 'round. The rest of you "classic rock" dudes- Alice is putting you to shame.

12. Silicone Prairie: My Life on the Silicone Prairie

Feel It Records

This record is lo-fi and hi-tech at the same time. It's synth punk reduced down to a few bonks and plinks and the occasion sample and it's one of the most expertly executed releases of the year. It sounds like SP is ready to shamble apart at any second but somehow the albums collapse just across the finish line. All the while, an askew perspective sings about weird things. I have no idea what most of these songs are about and I love it.

11. The ExBats: Now Where Were We


The ExBats shed their punk side and go full-on psychedelic summer and they are masters at it. Honky tonk intertwines with Mama and the Papas and Nuggets- but the trick is, the band doesn't sound retro- they just sound like they sound. It helps that each of these songs are classes in songcraft. This band just gets better and better. Now that the ExBats have basically reached the final level of their AM radio side... how about a hardcore punk LP next...?

10. The Mimes: Plastic Pompeii

Let's Pretend

The thing with Neutral Milk Hotel is that I'm like "oh man, this is so good and complex and weird and..." until track six or so where I want to strangle Jeff Mangum and scream "I GET IT DUDE! YOU'RE ~~SAD~~!" The Mimes are like that except instead of me wanting to strangle them, I'm like "give me more, baby!" Also, the album sounds a goth cassette tape left in the sun too long and it's one of the most sensitive, most daring, and most dark records of the year... or even of the decade.

9. Scowl: How Flowers Grow


Woo hoo hoo! This album is a RIPPER. Everyone is talking about the masterful alt-rock centerpiece "Seeds to Sow," and yes, that is a masterstroke. But, um, let's also talk about the OTHER nine tracks that are some of the most skull-kicking hardcore of the year! Let's be real- a lot of hardcore is stale. Not only is Scowl certifiably fresh, they are artsy-farsty- which I like because I am artsty-farsty too. In fact, I'd argue artsy-farsty people make the best mean music and this album is proof of that, exactly. So ha! 

8. Culture Shock: Mandemic


Culture Shock is my favorite Dick Lucas band so it's no surprise that their surprise album is a thumb snapper. Plus, it makes ya think. Dick directly addresses climate change- but this time, he does it from a political AND a sort of cosmic scale. Plus, the band has some of their sharpest, neo-dubbiest slashes to date. I just love that silver guitar slide in the title track. Who would have thought that the end of the world as we know it would sound so good. I guess I'll be skanking my way to the apocalypse.

7. Hawkbaby: Stupid Music For Stupid People

My Mind's Eye Records

I knew nothing about this band and they just came along and whipped me across the room! It pulls from early Devo, Dead Kennedys, and Geza X and it sounds like some crazy dude running around the room banging on keyboards and whatever else is around. Of course, it pulls the great trick of appearing stupid on its face, but it is actually full of clever commentary and high concepts... at least that's what I tell myself to make me feel better.

6. Colleen Green: Cool

Hardly Art

Colleen took a tactical approach to this album and boy did it work. The entire release is driven by a methodical, throbbing beat that reminds me of krautrock. And then, on top of that, Colleen drops lyrics about paranoia, relationships, and not existing. It seems simple at the surface until you realize how many twists and turns write about in this compact spinner. I love music that is cold and paranoid and freaked out, so naturally, I loved this, like, a lot.

5. Fucked Up: Year of the Horse


This album is massive and it is massively GREAT. Fucked Up is at their best when they swing for the fence and here they knocked it out of the park. Horse is a multi-part epic about a murder and a horse that dances with witches and a whole bunch of other stuff. It shifts from pure on hardcore to trippy King Crimson planes to the artiest of art-rock. 20 years on, the band is still growing and still taking chances and putting out what might be their best stuff ever! Fucked Up have transcended being a "band"- now, they are now a philosophy. Also, they are a really good band.

4. Surfbort: Keep On Truckin'


Surfbort's second LP is a little more glammy, and little more melodic, and a little more life affirming than the first LP... even if Truckin' opens with a line about singer Dani Miller wanting to kill herself. This record is exactly what I want out of modern punk. it calls back to the first wave of West Coast hardcore, pinches a little bit from Ziggy Stardust, and spits out a modern scream against existence... except, well, this album embracers existence despite all of its nihilistic claws and fangs. Surfbort have made an album that is as reverent as it is refreshing. This is one of the most exciting bands out there, anywhere. Now, uh, WHERE'S THE PHYSICAL VERSION?

2 (tie). Marissa Paternoster: Peace Meter

Don Giovanni

I said it 137 times before and I'm sayin' it again- this is Marissa Paternoser's "Stevie Nicks Moment." The guitar powerhouse/vocal angel cuts an electronic/dance influenced album all while dripping her surrealist paint over the driving beat. At times it's sad and at others it's metaphysical, but it is always BUMPING. They really should make these songs mandatory for "da club." (Note, I am not cool enough to get into most clubs, so I don't really know what goes on inside). At any rate, Paternoster just EXPLODES with talent and genius, be it channeled through metal strings, vocal chords, or a beep-beep computer. Here, the compact disc just radiates with awesomeness. It's rare an album makes you want to shake your booty as much as it makes you want to shake your brain cells, but here we are. "Free your mind..." as they say.

2 (tie). Catbite: Nice One!

Bad Time

I was scared. I was really scared. Catbite's debut LP was so perfectly formed, how could they possibly follow it up? Here's how- by sharpening the production, deepening the songcraft, and just by kicking out one hell of a JUMPING record! This album is fast, it's fun, and it flips between be super serious and just whimsical. "Call your bluff" snatches from Malcolm in the Middle and Tragic Kingdom and it's one of the most popping songs of the year. Meanwhile, "Bad Influence" sets a rocksteady band into a smoky jazz club while detailing a toxic relationship without saying "that's bad" ala those '70s soul classics. This is high literature level conception bolted into the perfect pop three minutes. I can listen to this album over and over and over and over and over and....

1. Rudimentary Peni: Great War

Sealed Records

So what if this was recorded like 13 years ago?! So what if it might be a demo or something?! So what if these tracks sound kind of blown out and distorted?! THIS is RUDIMENTARY PENI and THIS is AMAZING. Blinko brings his vision to sonics like none other while grinding the lyrics of Wilfred Owen over a self-destructing guitar. This album is yet ANOTHER Rudi P release that builds upon the band's core concept while introducing a new twist that is just... well... perfect. The twist this time? Using only the lyrics of a dead poet who wrote about WW1 to detail the chaos and madness of this CURRENT existence. So many artists speak about the horrors of war- and even the horrors of existence- and make it seem performative. But Blinko, in a rarified existence, speaks from the heart without any intended reaction. This is what he is. The fact that this album is yet another turn in the pike of Rudi P with its own eccentricates only makes it that much more interesting. Who but Blinko could take the words of horror from another and make it seem like they are pouring from his own psyche? This is as pure as music gets. It sends chills down my spine. It chills the soul.

Top 10 EPs of 2021 (Non-Melvins Division)

10. Tsunami Bomb: Still Standing

Alternative Tentacles

The T-bombers take two of their oldest hits and re-cut them with a modified version of their original lineup and make them a little more punker. These tunes charge forward with renewed vigor and it's a blast.

9. Croy and the Boys: Of Course They Do


Croy and da boyz take six punk classics and re-cut them in a honky tonk style thereby showing how seemingly disparate music genres- country and punk- really sprout from the same source and the only really difference is table dressing. It could come off as too cute or even been-there-done-that except the band knows both sides of the equation here like the back of their hands. The tribute is completely genuine, while still being playful. Who knew that the only difference between line dancing and moshing was what company manufactured the boots- Lucchese or Doc Martin?

8. Billy Idol: The Roadside EP


Billy does what he always did and cut some kinda pop, kind punk (but definitely not pop-punk) tunes about girls, rocking out... and the pervasiveness of sexism... WHOA. Never count Billy out. These tunes are some of the catchiest and sharpest tunes he written in decades, and he makes some really insightful points while hiding them behind those classic Idol hooks. This was the surprise medal winner of the year for me.

7. Froggy: Sopa de Elote


These three young ladies are just totally smashing up the Philly punk scene. The exist somewhere between so-cal hardcore, grunge, and 90s weirdo-rock and it is sonic damage. Just listen to them howl on "Machete." Oh, also, they sing about how much they love nachos. Who can't relate to that?

6. Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine: Blunder Blubber

Alternative Tentacles

Though I cannot condone celebrating the death of anyone, I CAN candone making fun of Rush Limbaugh in general- and here J-man really gives it to him. The GSM charge forward with their fanastic brand of space-rock-hardcore while Jello howls and spits with unmatched furor. Even in times of chaos and tumult Jello is able to have fun and there's a lesson for all of us there. Also, the refrain- "Flush Rush!" That is just straight up hilarious in of itself.

5. Suck: Copkiller

la pochette surprise

With a hardcore crash, Germany's best new band blasts out a sub two minute track about how much they hate cops. I don't need to say anything else, but I will. This band takes the skeleton of hardcore and interjects some psychic freakiness. Also, singer Isabel Rutz sounds like a banshee. Also, the side B is the best Metallica homage ever (and I don't even really like Metallica). Where's the full-length you Kasselfornians?!!!!

4. Abi Ooze: R.I.P.

Aklasan / Ketchup and Mustard

Is this the final Abi Ooze release? I hope not! But, if it is, what a way to go out! Abi takes her classic songwriting and locks it on top of a driving drum machine and some guitar feedback. Despite the red-line fever of this release, if you force through the bombast, there is some real soul bearing here which underscores just how great Abi is at storytelling and kicking out the jams. This is one of the few truly unique voices in punk. If Abi Ooze really is dead, I'll light a candle for an Easter-rebirth, and if that doesn't work, I'll throw some wine into the ocean and demand an Abi-metamorphosis from Jupiter himself. I need more of these jams!

3. Suzi Moon: Call the Shots

Pirate's Press

After bouncing around a few different bands, Suzi Moon has found her station. The Suzi Moon band draws from Joan Jett, Iggy, and general insanity to kick out a sharp, three-song fist slammer. Live I saw her smash a glass bottle on her guitar and then kneel down into the glass. It was gnarly and this EP is the sonic equivalent of that. This shot hit the bullseye.

2. Joe Jack Talcum: Record Store


Joe is the TOP RANKING CHAMP. This dude has been cranking out the jams for over 40 years and he is STILL on fire. Such wit. Such whimsy. Such sly commentary. The latest exhibit? "Record Store" Across a mere three-inch record, Joe salutes the Joe of digging through the crates and ALSO dismantles Flat Earth conspiracy theorists without insulting them- in fact, he simply seems to say, "well, can you explain the holes in your 'theory'?" It's lovable and hilarious and Joe is deftly able to shatter opposition with 100 times the efficiency of any big-n-tuff hardcore or metal band you can name. Not only is Joe an amazing musician, but he is national treasure. Be sure to HAIL this walking gem the next time you see him making his way to the record spot.



After a 24 year absence, DFL returns with a MEGA BLAST that is some of their finest work ever. It's fast. It's raw. It's ragged. It's straight up hardcore that speaks in riddles. Sometime the meaning is opaque and sometimes it is straight up screamed (but even them it's open to interpretation). I think most people knew the new DFL was going to be good, but no one knew it was going to be THIS good. THIS is hardcore at its finest. THIS is why I'm DFL.

Top Melvins releases of 2021 (Melvins Division)

5. Dale Crover: Christmas Time is Here

Joyful Noise

Dale takes the Peanuts classic and warps it wonderfully. Somehow, it's psychedelic and trippy, but it's not mean spirit. If anything, it suggests a wonderful time on some other planet where asll the aliens are tripping on LSD and being nice to each other. Is this the TRUE spirit of the season?

4. The Melvins: Five Legged Dog


Yes, that's right- this is a FOUR LP release that finds the Melvins doing mean, acoustic versions of four dozen of their songs (and a few choice covers for good measure). What's surprising (or not if you know the band, really) is that while the tunes are acoustic, they are played with the same unforgiving intensity of the electric stuff. So, instead of getting "Melvins soft," we get "Melvins spartan and harsh." 

3. Dale Crover: Rat​-​A​-​Tat​-​Tat!

Joyful Noise

Edgar Winter style boogie woogie! Straight up punk pummeling! Weirdo sonic trash grinding! Dale's second solo album is both more accessible and more daring than his first. Dale confidently kicks out classic rockers and broken pro-tools abortions. Oh, also, "Stumbler" sounds like evil Roxy Music. Because Buzz is so weird, you sort of expect Dale to be "normie." Well, this album proves that the Melvins asylum is all inmates and no doctors. 

2. The Melvins: Live Stream Obscene Vol. 1-3

Amphetamine Reptile

The Melvins made great use of quarantine and recorded three live, in studio performances. They put them all together for this AMAZING in-studio set. The Buzz-Dale-Steven version of the band is among their best and this set shows the gang playing with as much gravity as they are enthusiasm. Melvins studio albums are so great, it's hard to believe the songs could be topped in a live setting. But, here, the gang does it YET again. 

1. The Melvins 1983: Working with God


First of all, this album opens with a cover of Beach Boys' "I get around except it's "I fuck around." This is middle school humor at its finest and that's because it's the incarnation of the Melvins from when they were pals in middle school and high school. Melvins 1983 is usually punchier, punker, and faster than "standard Melvins" and I love how the band is willing to get stupid... and they also get really clever too- check out the futuro-metallic clank of "Bouncing Rick." Though, there is a well-placed "motherfucker" in there, too. The Melvins are always trying something new and, honestly, it works every time. The band has found a way forward by looking at the past and the future is brifght indeed. 

Please My Favorite Don't Be Sad

Well, one silver lining is that a lot of bands made the most out of quarantine. A LOT of good music came out in 2021. So, I have very hopes for 2022... There have been rumors of a Dwarves or Dwarves related project. Fucked Up have already said they are working on a new album and apparently Damien is writing lyrics for the first time in years. KRS-One has a new album coming out, which is rad. OFF! said they have rebooted and are working on new stuff which I am VERY psyched about. Melvins always have something in the cooker and have already alluded to a NEW album (fyi- there were three Melvins or Melvins related albums in 2021 and live album and a comp, too). Eugene of Oxbow has said new Bunuel stuff is in the works. I really hope Suck release a full length- it's the right time. The same goes for Philly death rockers Zorn. I hope Suzi Moon has new stuff planned. Oooh! Also, the Dead Milkmen have been alluding to a new album for a few years now. 2022 may very well be a VERY GOOD year for tunes.

That being said, there was also a great deal of sadness this year. Out of the blue, the mighty upsetter Lee "Scratch" Perry suddenly passed away. I guess I sort of thought he would be around forever because at 85, he still seemed to have the steam of a 25 year old. 

More immediately to me, we very tragically lost Jack Terricloth. The fact of the matter is the world will never be the same. Halloween will be less fun from here on out. I'll never get to have World/Inferno headline a summer soiree ever again. I'll never hear new World/Inferno music ever again. I'll never get to see that cat-who-got-the-cream smile ever again. I don't have any magic words to make it better. It just sucks and that's all there is to it.

I suppose what I can say is that Jack would not want us to wallow in self-pity for too long. (I think he'd say a little period of self-pity is acceptable and would even be a form of respect). So, let's keep a little Terricloth, and a little bit of other ones that we are missing, in our hearts and let's keep the spirit of Hallowmas with us all year 'round. 

To that end, let us never give up the fight. Let us celebrate out family and friends. Let us revel in the joy of life and have as much fun as we can. Let's help each other out and always step one step ahead of our enemies. To 2022, I say bring it on! And to all the dangers and thretas and foes and dangers which doubtless are working their way down the pike, I say two words and two words alone: WE KNOW.