"Has the world gone mad or is it me?"
The world is as chaotic as it has ever been. Welcome to 2023. Let’s grit out teeth and march forward. I’m trying on my end.
I was not as prolific as I would have liked this year, writing wise. But I did get to do some cool articles. At Punknews, I was lucky enough to do an in-depth interview with OFF! about their kicking new LP. I also got to talk to with Blag of the Dwarves about one of the greatest punk records ever. At Bandcamp, I got to do two articles which are some of my favorite that I’ve ever done. One was an overview of Chumbawamba's early days and the other was an overview of Chrome’s classic period. I’m working on a cool Punknews piece now and hope to have some real whammers this year.
But enough with the self-praise. Let’s talk about something very, very, very important- MY favorite records of the year.
The Best Albums of 2022 (Non-Melvins Division)
20. Joe Jack Talcum / Spencer Moody: split
This n That
Joe doesn’t make a big deal when he releases stuff, he kind of just puts it out there and let it speak for itself. His newest release, a split with Spencer Moody, finds Joe crafting some of his most layered work. As always, its borne out of his earnest vision and sometimes biting take on the world. Meanwhile, Spencer moody counters with some dark country-folk that chills the spine. This is really two unique dudes cutting a really unique disc.
19. KRS-One: IMAMCRU12
KRS-One is the single greatest MC ever. The fact that he’s asking if YOU are an MC in his umpteenth album’s title shows just how deeply he believes in the religion of Hip Hop. Despite the fact that he has cut HUNDREDS of tracks (or even thousands) he is still sermonizing on this record like it’s his first day behind the pulpit… er… mic. He didn’t need to prove his greatness again, but he did it anyway.
18. Mikey Erg: Love at Leeds
Erg-Dawg is back with a new Lp… recorded with Steve Albini! This album is clean and perfect. Mike snaps out a bunch of high energy, but melancholy, tunes that hide references to other music like a Dancehall singer might bend phrases into his own riddim. “Caroline told me so,” which I think is a weird nod to the Beach Boys is as good as any Cheap Trick song you can name… actually, it’s better. How is this guy so clever, but so unassuming? He the hell did he fit the word “coterie” into a song? How did he even know what that word meant without looking it up?
17. Swamp Dogg: I Need A Job...So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune
Despite its title, this record is more traditional blues-funk than SD’s similar named synthetic album from 2018. Well, that’s just fine because the Dogg is in stellar form here. These hits could have been included on any 70s soul classic you could name, but they don’t sound retro at all. Is it because this is what bubbles from SD’s soul? Is it because these songs are so funny the record is almost a comedy record? Or maybe it’s just because Dogg’s earnest, but warped view of himself and the world is so transcendent and speaks directly to you, no matter who you are.
16. Julia, Julia: Derealization
Julia of the Coathangers cuts a solo record that pulls back on the zagged out ferocity of the CHs and lays into earlier Pink Floyd mind-tripping. I dig it. Boy, do I dig it! Coathangers have always had a certain self-reflection and astral contemplation behind their music, but here, Julia pulls it to the front in a wave of reverb and drifting vocals. I’m pretty sure that’s Syd Barrett calling out from across the cosmos on “Paper Cutout.” And if it’s not, it still is, ya dig?
15. Various Artists: Endless Possibility: A Tribute to Jack Terricloth
Jack Terricloth Foundation
A ton of bands of all types link up to record a tribute the what might be the greatest band of all time… as well as its precursor group. This all would be a lot of fun if it wasn’t built off such a sad base and if clips of a certain so9mebody didn’t show up across the record to remind us he isn’t here… but then again, “please my favorite, don’t be sad” and all that jazz so let’s just say this release is A LOT of fun.
14. Various Artists: Starstruck: A Tribute to The Kinks
Yeah, this is awesome. A bunch of cool bands pay tribute to one of the most enigmatic bands in music. Plus, if you listen reaaallllyyy carefully, there are a of inside references and jokes hidden in these tracks. THIS is how to do a tribute.
13. The Slackers: Don't Let The Sunlight Fool Ya
How is it that some 30 years into their career, the Slackers are STILL at the top of their game? And they’re still having fun. This LP once again finds the band embracing ska and rocksteady and soul and blues and silliness and it’s the exact perfect thing for a late night drive, the hour when one's soul connects with music directly.
12. Belly Jelly: merch community The Universal Language
Super chaotic, manic synth-punk. This sounds like a twelve year old ranting while Devo played at double speed whips by in the background. There’s a lot of synth punk these days, but this is among the best.
11. Vixen 77: Easy Access
Underneath the wild thrashing and howling of this album is some biting political and social commentary. At times, this band embraces tradition while also spitting at it. This album challenges the concept of what any type of person “should be” in rock and proves that a lot of this-or-that arguments actually fail to account for a spectrum of manifestation. If that’s too academic for you, how about this: Hell yeah this album ROCKS.
10. Suzi Moon: Dumb & In Luv
The cool thing about Suzi Moon is she’s genuine. Yeah, she wants to rock. Yeah, she wants money. Yeah, she wants to be famous. Yeah, she wants gold records. I’ll take that honesty every day of the week over some cliché, self-serving proselytization. Also, I really like how the album kicks ass. Also, Suzi kind of has a ‘tude and I like that too. I mean, honestly, I don’t want my favorites bands to be “nice.” I want them to destroy. This album destroys a lot of punk cliches while embracing the core of what rock n roll actually is.
9. King Mike Entertainment System: King Mike Entertainment System
Despite the stately name, King Mike is usually the quietest member of the Screamales. Marissa rips it up and howls while J.D. exists as a whirlwind of drum sticks and cymbals. But meanwhile, the regal bass player cooly, but confidentially, anchors down the low end. It's been said that when those of few words do speak, it counts. Well, it sure counts here. Mike smashes out a high energy LP of pop meets punk meets indie and it is a slam-kicker and frankly, one of the most invigorating short-n-punchys I've heard this year. Long live the King!
8. Abi Ooze: Forestdale Sessions
Every time Abi Ooze cuts a record, I’m like, “how can she write songs that are so classic sounding yet are so unique?” For this album, Abi snatches from Motown and charges it into her first wave punk attack and writes edged songs that are honest, moving, and, frankly, fun. Here voice cracks once or twice on the record and it’s little pops like that, that make this record moving. Will Abi Ooze remain a secretive, cult artist forever? I hope not. This is the kind of music that can move masses.
7. Suck: Ribbit
La Pochette Surprise
HIGH POWER punk meets thrash. This album just SHREDS. Singer Isabel howls and shrieks while the band walks the line between Damaged and Kill em All. And then, they throw in some Halloween Adventure synths. This is aggressive as hell, but still has a certain swing. I hate to be corny, but this album does anything but Suck. In fact, it RULES.
6. Horace Andy: Midnight Rocker
Um, who would have thought that in his 50+ year career, Horace Andy, reggae’s most iconic crooner, would cut his best album yet? With Adrian Sherwood supplying tasteful, but futuristic robo-reggae, Andy has the room to do what he does best. And while he does singly sweetly, when he gets angry on his re-cut of Massive Attack’s “Safe from Harm,” it sends chills down the spine. You ain’t safe from this.
5. L.O.T.I.O.N. Multinational Corporation: W.A.R. in the Digital Realm
Yet again, L.O.T.I.O.N. keeps me on my toes! While the band’s last album of crust-punk-meets-synth-punk packed every sonic inch with sound and noise, here the band goes for a simple, spartan strike. It really lets the band’s genius (and fun) concept shine through the and the programs their best release yet… and then you get hit with the surprise ending track, which could be a massive dance club bopper! If robots make music this good, maybe having AI overlords isn’t THAT bad…
4. Froggy: Harmburger
There was a lot of buzz following Froggy’s first few singles and the question was whether their debut LP could match the hype. Oh it did. And then some. And then some more. This album is twenty minutes of perfect poppy punk. It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s meaningful. Also, it is really, really, really catchy. All that and they didn’t even have to fall back on their viral hit. I’d say “this band is really going places” but they’ve already been there and are on their second lap~
3. Christian Blunda: Funky Punks in Space
Christian Blunda’s “aww shucks I hope it’s good” demeanor INFURIATES ME because this album is a masterpiece! 1/3 of Mean Jeans has done something never done before- he has merged 80s dance with Ramonescore and then slid in a fatalistic view of existence all while being funny. That’s no easy task. The concept of this Ramones-as-Dead-or-Alive album is clever and witty. The execution is sublime. And despite this masterstroke and ingenuity of design and creation, Blunda kind of just shrugs in his leather jacket and says “uh, I hope, uh, people like it… I guess?” ARRRG!!!! THIS is the music that should be beamed out into the cosmos to prove to aliens that there is intelligent life on Earth.
2. OFF!: Free LSD
After numerous starts, collapses, and re-starts, OFF! Finally, finally release the long awaited LP #4. It was worth the wait. The band keeps its core three-chord punk slammm, but as accentuated by a new rhythm section, delve into avant-garde, experimental, and art rock. And it rocks. And it slams. This album might not be as catchy as previous OFF! Entries, but it is also deeper and there’s a lot more to pick through While Keith Morris was an architect of hardcore some forty five years ago, he is STILL at his creative peak. How can an album be so whacked out, so far out, so zagged out, and yet so tasteful and delicately rendered at the same time? Somehow, OFF! defied and surpassed everyone’s expectations at the same time.
1. Blag Dahlia: Introducing Ralph Champagne
I mean, I’ve known it the whole time but it’s night to have clear, tangible evidence: Blag Dahlia is a songcraftsman of the highest level. Pick any, ANY, icon in rock, folk, or country, and Blag’s new record has the songwriting to go toe-to-toe with any classic you can pick. Blag skips through various shades of country here, sometimes plucking along to 80s pop country, like “It’s over,” sometimes going full on outlaw, like “contraband,” and sometimes going full on earnest, like “Summer rain.” Throughout the release, though, Blag is self-aware of what he’s doing, reveling in the form as much as winking at it, just like Johnny Cash, or Willie, or even Mick Jagger. While a lot of Dwarves songs appear to JUST be about fighting, drugs, and girls, what they are really about is the human experience and mankind’s struggles with its own limitation. This LP brings that concept to the forefront and in doing so, pulls back the curtain on the so-called Blag the Ripper- underneath the rage and fury and debauchery and excess, he’s really just a sensitive guy. This record is a masterpiece.
The Best EPs of 2022 (Non-Melvins Division)
10. Bite Me Bambi / Lee "Scratch" Perry: Crazy (Remix)
Bite Me Bambi is laying claim to the last ever song Lee Scratch Perry worked on… but a lot of people are making that same claim. But, that’s irrelevant because at least BMB showed props to the legend while he was around to appreciate it, and frankly, of the “last LSP” songs, this one is by far the best. Upsetters touches might be subtle, but this simple, but snappy jam is a great homage to where reggae/ska is now on the A-side and where it came from on the b-side. It’s reverent without be exploitative and it sounds really good.
9. QWAM: IDC
I was worried that QWAM was over! I’m they’re back! This new two track popper again finds the band putting an upbeat, sunny façade on some dark material! Where is Lp number two?! I demand it!
8. TrashWorld: Don't Look at Me
Dani Miller of Surfbort trades guitars for a dance synth and cuts a Halloweenie club bumper. I feel like I’m in a Madonna’s "Holiday" and Halloween at the same time! I mean, what good is shaking your booty if there’s not at least a small chance you might get knifed? Weirdly, Dani has discovered that terror and fun are on the same string.
7. Crazy and the Brains: East Side
The Catbs just KEEP kicking out the slamming jams. They’re getting quicker, wilder, and freakier. “East Side” is the end of the older era of the and the beginning of the new, and let me tell you, this is one hell of a rebirth.
6. Corroded Spiral: Ancient Nocturnal Summoning
Dwid Hellion with Iggor Cavalera with Cardopusher? Sign me up! And it is actually far more “listenable” than I thought it was going to be? Sign me up twice. Sure this is spooky and mean and industrial, but it kind of has the bounce and energy of Psychic TV at its most dancey… Hell, it’s even sort of dark New Order-ish. Hell, one track even has a faint trace of Phil cCllins’ “In the air tonight”. But yes, there also is some brain-blender stuff too. I thought I was signing up for a head splitter, but I was pleasantly surprised to get one of the year’s best thumbsnappers.
5. Trash Knife: Hungover
“Yeah I’m down to fuck… fuck shit up!” That’s off Trash Knife’s new single. I don’t need to say anything else but I will. The sardonic but funny lyrics are driven by slamming, exploding Stooges-meets-Dangerhouse punk and this is exactly what I want from a punk band.
4. Catbite / Mike Park: Wavebreaker #2
Four crackin’ tracks by two bands with one song written for one artist by the other. This is an equation for success. Mike’s lead track is a slow burning soul number with a nice surprise guest. Meanwhile, Catbite take Mike’s composition and whip it into a typhoon spinner and then take an indie-pop track and make it a ska blaster. The veteran meets the newbie and each rises to the level of the other… or something like that.
3. Steve Ignorant: The Kids Was Just Crass
Here’s something I did not expect- because Bowie is so iconic, it’s not easy to cover his tunes. But, out of nowhere, Steve Ignorant, who pioneered the barking rat-a-ta-t-tat vocal attack in punk pretty much does four Bowie covers better than anyone else. Somehow, Steve zeroes in on the sensitivity and subtle inflection behind Bowie’s delivery and at once demonstrates how great Bowie really was and how great Steve currently is. It takes a first wave punker to really definite Bowie’s connection to punk and Steve explains it all across four perfectly captured tunes.
2. Fucked Up: Oberon
Yessssss. THIS is what I’ve wanted from FU for a number of years- pummeling hardcore with an artsy-fartsy bend! And it even twirls in Shakespeare and a Dwid-esque contemplation of the cosmos. Fucked Up is peerless. This is probably their best EP yet… no wait, that’s Year of the Dragon… no wait, that’s Police… no wait, that’s Year of the Pig… no wait…
1. Screaming Females: Clover
How does this band JUST KEEP DOING IT? Their new EP is literally the best SOUNDING thing they’ve ever released. Where they used to paint a color with a thousand brush strokes, now they are painting an entire work with a single stroke. The latest era of Screamales is big, broad, daring, and spacey. Every time I think this band has mastered “what they do,” (see Rose Mountain) they loom up and find ANOTHER mountain that is higher and was previously obscured by the clouds. I’d say the sky is the limit but this band is already in outer reaches of the solar system. Where will they head next? I don’t know but I am excited.
The Best Melvins Releases of 2022 (Melvins division)
5. Dale Crover: Wood & Diamonds
Dale and crew cut three lives tracks on a medium that is basically impossible to play. It’s far out just like the DC solo band. You can judge a band by how good they are live and live DC band is kick ass.
4. King Dunn: I'm Afraid Of Everything
Buzz and Trevor Dunn team up for more mean, acoustic creepiness. I’d say it’s short and sweet but really, it’s short and scary.
3. Melvins: Lord of the Flies
As a teaser to Bad Mood Rising, the Melvs released an EP that had non-lp tracks including the best Led Zep/Devo mashup that you’ve ever heard. It’s daring, it’s a risk, and it is perfect.
2. Melvins and Dumb Numbers: Broken Pipe
Slow, low, and evil. This is Melvins at their most sinister and it has that classic tar stump that only they can master. Also, they cover “If I only had a brain” by the Scarecrow. You either get it or you don’t. I think I do…
1. Melvins: Bad Mood Rising
So yeah, the Melvins open their new album with a SIXTEEN MINUTE smasher. The band is always consistently excellent, but here they are excellently excellent and cut their best recording of their Steve McDonald era. What can be said about the Melvins that hasn’t already been said. They are one of the very greatest bands ever. EVER.
"I can't get no peace until I get into motion / Sign my release from this planet's erosion"
Quite sadly, we did lose some true music champions this year. Nik Turner, my favorite part of Hawkwind, who with Nicky Garrett and Hedersleben, played one of my favorite shows ever, crossed into another dimension. He started that show by marching into the room, blasting on his sax and honking people out of the way. They put on an AMAZING show that mixed Hawklassics with Nik solo and it only ended after the power was pulled due to curfew, with Nik being forced out of the room, still playing “Tequilla” over and over on his sax. hope he can hear us singing his praises in whatever galaxy he is in. As I always say, see ‘em while you can.
2023 does look promising. There is a lot of neat stuff on the horizon. The Dwarves and Melvins have hinted at stuff and I am very excited as to whatever that might be. Will screaming Females follow up their fabulous EP. I sure hope so! Crazy and the Brains have said they are recording stuff, which will be awesome for sure. I hope we get some more Rudimentary Peni reissues this year as Sealed Records has been doing a great job. I really hope Integrity releases some new stuff, as they’ve been referencing a follow up to the astoundingly good Howling LP immediately after that album came out. Maybe the Rolling Stones will keep putting out more archival material, which has really been one pleasant surprise after another.
As for closing and opening words for 2022 and 2023? I don’t know… how about this. Punk is as vibrant as it has ever been and I am really excited. Time moves REALLY fast and speeds up as you get older. It’s easy to “relax” at the end of the day and unwind. But, you’ll be dead before you know so it’s important to strike hard and move with purpose while you still can. But, that doesn’t mean beating your head against the wall in hopes that it will break. It means striking tactically and with as much precision as you can… I think. I’ve found that different philosophies and mindsets work for different people. Do you, but whatever you do, do it with zest. My 2022 was not as productive art/writing wise as I would have liked, so here’s my public dedication to amp it up, baby. To quote the great Jack Terricloth, “Don’t lose your nerve, Don’t go straight.” To quote the great Nik Turner, “Has the world gone mad or is it me?” Let’s rip it up. Hey ho, let’s GO!!!!!!!