Best of 2023 - John Gentile's Picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2023

John Gentile's Picks (2023)

Staff picks

2023 blasted by in a blink. As you get older, time keeps speeding up and speeding up and speeding up! The lesson of 2023 is that there is no time like the present. If not now… then when?

I had a few supreme honors this year that for me, rank among the proudest accomplishments of my life. I got to design not one, but two special edition covers for the astoundingly good new Dwarves album. One cover was a Sgt. Pepper parody that was composed of references to the band’s nearly 40 year history. The other cover was a full on board game with 50 pieces where you got play as the Dwarves and try figure out who killed HeWho in reference to the band’s 1993 scandal. I also got to design 13 special legacy and tour edition covers celebrating the band’s re-release of all their albums, which parodied famous album covers, including my favorite- a parody of Sticky Fingers that included an actual zipper. The idea was that the Dwarves are as great as any other band you can name and if society won’t recognize it, the band will just repurpose the fame for themselves.

On top of that, I got to write the 10,000 word oral history of DFL as part of Trust Records phenomenal reissue of My Crazy Life which also included an entire unreleased live show. The music, the packaging, (the liner notes) all came out so great. It was awesome to see the band canonized with Circle Jerks and SSD.

Interview wise, I didn’t do as many interviews as I would have liked to. But, I did get to do a massive profile interview on [[The Melvins]] 40th anniversary. I also FINALLY got to interview one of my all time favorites the great [[Alice Cooper]]… though that coincided with a fair amount of controversy. Of course, Blag was as articulate and thought-provoking as ever.

And on top of that, I threw another installment of the Summer Soiree. Soiree 6 was was absolutely amazing. All the bands DESTROYED, giant robots came out and moshed, and it seemed like everyone just had ana amazing time.

Show wise, I got to see one of the best concerts of my life – Danzig doing all of Danzig 1 and he sounded phenomenal. I also got to see Melvins do all of Bullhead (without Dale, though, snff), and got to see Screaming females and Catbite DESTROY at The Garden Party, and I got to see Dwid Hellion to a totally freaked out but fun noise set as Psywarfare. (Though Dexys, Bauhaus AND Peter Murphy solo all canceled on me!) I also narrowly avoided going to Morrissey’s very expensive California show where he played for like 12 minutes. Record wise, I got a lot of cool records (and bought waaaay too many)… but I did score a Chumbawamba test press and an AC/DC Live from Atlantic Studios!... and I got the rare CLEAN version of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton that has new vocal tracks, including Eazy-E repenting for selling drugs on “Dopeman!”

I was feeling like I wasn’t focused enough this year, which is very true. But, on the other hand, it was nice to see my literal decades of unpaid music writing pay off in various ways, which would not have happened had I not been doing thousands and thousands of reviews, interviews, and news stories over the past 20 years.

Anyways, thanks for letting me pontificate. A lot of cool records came out this year. Here are the objectively best ones:

Objectively the best albums of 2023

20. Maura Weaver: I Was Due for a Heartbreak

Don Govanni

A little folk, a little dream pop, a little punk, a little indie, a little ‘90s style, a little of this and a little of that all tie together to make Maura Weaver’s debut solo record a masterpiece. Listen to “Languish in anguish”- I like how the title whimsically rhymes despite its bummer subject matter and I really like how it could have easily been a Cardigans tune. This record shows how Weaver is a master of songcraft and it also shows how she can take the norm and make it totally freaky. (Oh, also, Tegan and Sara should slid Maura about $25k under the table and use some of these songs because the are The Con level good).

19. The Bubble:The Bubble

Orang Entropy

A psyche record 30 years in the making... that rivals psyche records from the classic psyche era! This record is deep, dark, and freaky as hell. This brew took a long time, but it was worth the wait... and then some!

18. Mustard Plug: Where Did All My Friends Go?

Bad Time Records

I’m not gonna lie- I Was mustard Plug neutral before this album and this album made me a fan. It’s a mature ska album that is still really fun. Plus it has “Vampire.” If that’s all it had, it would still have made this list, but there are like 12 other tracks that are almost as good!

17. Vosh: Vessel


Vosh is the best goth-but-not-quite-goth, post-punk-but-not-quite-post-punk, industrial-but-not-quite-industrial, dark wave-but-not-quite-dark wave band today. Their debut album smashes like a sledge hammer but also has that ethereal quality of Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie Sioux. It’s a modern spooky classic not matter what category you put it in.

16. Creation Rebel: Hostile Environment.

On-U Sound system

The robo-futuro-dub champions return after like 3o years and pick up right where they left off… except they also resurrect Prince Far-I and have the cosmic philosopher speak to us from beyond space and time. This is the reggae of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

15. Kool Keith: Black Elvis 2

Mello Music Group

Kool Keith is a fountain of creativity. This year he released about five LPs and you’d think with that much material, it would mostly be throwaway stuff. So that’s why it’s almost shocking at how sharp Black Elvis 2 is. Keith revisits his crème-de-la-crème persona and winds rhymes inside of concepts inside of refrains inside of ideas and then twists all of that into his own private spiral galaxy all whole commenting on fame, space, beat construction, irrelevance, irreverence, money, and being the best wordsmith in Hip Hop still. Even when the beat is slow, Keith is moving faster than the speed of light.

14. Northern Liberties - Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe


Finally, Northern Liberties retain their mind-fracture freak core, but force the cosmic-explosion into a more digestible form. Yes, they are still singing about astral horrors to a marching band beat, but now I fold my laundry while I do it... and imagine I'm fighting Cthulhu with a sacred spear or something. That's pretty much exactly what I want from every record.

13. Doki Doki - Doki Doki

Asian Man Records

A member of Dog Party does a straight up punk record that verges on hardcore? Say no more! I'm sold. The first track has the refrain "Hey asshole!" I said I'm sold already! There's a secret ghostwriter that you all know contributing to this record that lets his nice guy persona down and goes full on fury?! FINE I'LL BUY IT AGAIN!

12. Dolly Parton - Rock Star

Butterfly/Big Machine

Not every track on this MASSIVE 4xLP platter is a winner, but the ones that are winners are grand champs. Unlike most people, I love 4 Non Blonde’s “What’s Up”… and I like Dolly’s new version even better! There are also some killer originals here, particular “Last Night I dreamed of Elvis” wherein she cuts one of her best songs ever and redeems Elvis for not doing a version “I will always love you.” Plus, duets with Joan Jett! Stevie Nicks! Debbie Harry! HALFORD?!!! This album is exactly what it is supposed to be- a replay n skip batch of really fun tunes. Plus, Dolly basically single handedly ended covid, so she gets bonus points there, too.

11.Chrome - Blue Exposure


Chrome's new record apparently isn't what Chrome mastermind Helios creed wanted. Apparently his mix was even further out. That's too bad except this record is killer. It classic Chrome- all raging guitar and screaming robots. I don't know how I could even handle the original Helios mix if it is even more whacked out than this.

10. Alice Cooper - Road


Alice is continuing his hot streak! Road follows the excellent Detroit Stories and kicks pretty much just as hard. The Coop details the bounty and perils of the road- at time issuing warnings and at others, reveling in the chaos. It’s fun, it has cool little references to the Coops massive history hidden throughout, and it’s waaaaay better than almost all of the modern albums by Alice’s contemporaries. Let’s keep him on the road.

9. Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds


Yeah, I miss Charlie, but what can you do? Mick, Keith, and Ronnie regroup and bring along a bunch of pals- Stevie, Paul, Elton, and even Lady Gaga, who helps the band cut one of their best songs since 1981! As this album proves, the Stones are eternal and will be kicking it out long after humans have evolved into reptoids and then floating balls of light. They’ll probably have put out at least two more albums by then, but until that time, this new LP does a great job of tiding us over.

8. Oxbow - Love’s Holiday


Love’s Holiday is about the destruction of a romantic relationship- is there any topic in music that is so hallowed but also so weatherbeaten? Oxbow finds the magic spark in divorce and craft an artsy, daring, infinitely intriguing album that not only challenges the listener, but challenges the band themselves. Plus “Icy white and Crystalline” had a kick ass riff and Eugene screaming.

7. Exbats - Song Machine

Goner Records

The last vestiges of the ExBats punk edge have been washed away and replaced by a full AM rock meets Velvet Underground sound. I'd complain except this record is perfect and it feels like the final evolution of the band. Sometimes you don't get what you want, but you get what you need.

6. Zorn - Zorn

Sorry State Records

FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!!! Zorn has capitalized on their promise! A packed LP of blackened punk metal that isn't exactly like the blackened punk metal that has come before. There are shrieks, screams, rumbling guitars and songs about zombies and fairies... and Delco (if ya know, ya know). I'd say it was spooky as hell if it wasn't so damn fun... and well done. All the other black leather and chains punk bands can quit. Zorn has assumed the Altar. This album RIPSSSSSSS.

5. Trash Knife - Weird Daze

Big Neck

FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!!! Trash Knife has capitalized on their promise! A packed LP of political party punk that is a hell of a lot more fun than the political party punk that came before it (if any?). Trash Knife took their sweet time getting here, but it is worth it. The band stitches hot topics with self-destruction with kickin fun time riffage. This band moves both body and the mind. That is, it really makes me think while I’m moshing to it.

4. Dexys Midnight Runners - The Feminine Divine

100% Records

Finally a reunited Dexys album that isn't dreadfully boring. In fact, this record is their most "dexys" record yet and, at the same time, their freakiest record yet. The A-side is straight up punk meets northern soul that rises to the great heights of their first two records. The flipside is a wigged out R&B record that ends with computer betas and an S&M session. Dexys, what has gotten into you?!

3. The Dead Milkmen - Quaker City Quiet Pills

Giving Grove

Quaker City Diet Pills is compact, tightly written, funny, political, and kind of weird- everything all the best Dead Milkmen albums have. QCDP really shows the band re-energized and focused and the results is their best album in about 30 years. Plus, they prove they still have some hidden tricks up their sleeve- check out the insanely good “Melt into the Night.” The DM take their time putting out LPs, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

2. Screaming Females - Desire Pathway

Don Giovanni

Noooooooo!!! Say it ain’t so! SAY IT AIN’T SO! Screamales, the third best band to come out of NJ (after Misfits and Samhain) are no more. Sniff, sniff… well, at least they ended on a high note. A REALLY high note. Have you heard “Mourning Dove?” It moves my soul as much as ”Wishing Well” and that’s really saying something. Screaming Females may have ended but their legacy is unimpeachable, imitable, and eternal. No band will ever replicate the visions, concepts, and sounds conjured by this band. Their final album, makes that all the more clear, which is somehow, massive gratifying, but also kind of sad. I don’t think you can find a better way to sum up this astounding band.

1. The Dwarves - Concept Album


The Dwarves are STILL the greatest band ever. For real. Concept album is a wide ranging, bold strike. The band takes on hardcore, pop, pop punk, soul… and even musicals. And it all works so well, combining into a massive album that goes all over the place and is surprisingly HAPPY sounding. This might be the most “fun” Dwarves album yet. Yet again, it proves that the Dwarves don’t put out okay, or even “pretty good” albums- they put out awesome albums where every release is essential and no two albums are quite the same. No band, NO BAND, has been this consistently awesome in the history of music every and no band has hit a high point (here BG&P) and then has stayed there for the duration. . The dwarves are constantly calling themselves “Rock Legends.” That’s because they are. HAIL!!!!!!

Objectively the 10 best EPs of 2023

10. Fishbone - Fishbone

Bottles to the Ground

This EP took like five years to come out. If you ask me, it’s the best thing they have ever done. Finally, I “get” Fishbone… all their classic albums are sunk by tin-y, terrible production if you ask me. This is Fishbone as Fishbone was meant to be. And, it’s also very Fishbone that when they finally get it together and craft some of their best stuff ever, they squabble and can only eek out a short five song snapper. Well, at least we got this!

9. Mikey Erg / Raging Nathans: Gauntlet of Knives

Rad Girlfriend

Miguel kicks out three snappers including one that references a Simpsons deep cut. The dude is a master class songwriter and he also rocks the hell out. The Natty Boyz crank out three melodic thumb snappers. One side is the dinner and one is desert, but which is which is arbitrary because they pair so well.

8. Scowl: Psychic Dance Routine


Scowl grows beyond the hardcore, while still being hardcore. This album rips and is also arty. Frankly, the transition from being “just” a hardcore band to being a BAND can be very tough- ask Ceremony, Code Orange… or even groups like SSD, Gang Green, and the most famous slip-n-fall of all, Discharge. But, if this EP is any indication, Scowl is keeping the rage and destruction in ART and are evolving into something wonderful. Hell, the title track is fricking amazing.

7. Fucked Up: Cops

Fucked Up have spent their career commenting on the punk releases that came before them. Now, they’ve been around so long that they are commenting on their own releases! “Cops” throws back to one of the all time greatest punk Eps ever, “Police,” and, um, it’s just as good! Fucked up is the true ouroboros.

5A (Tie). At Night - At Night


At Night- were the political meets the witchy. They have a sing called “Haunted House”… but is it REALLY about a haunted house? Yes, but also, no. You see, you have to watch for contradiction and duality as one force- at least that’s what Wicker Man told me when I saw the edited for TV version in 1993. What I am saying is I like punk that has members that claim they have mystic powers and this band does that match up better than almost any others around.

5B(Tie). The Dissidents / Vitriolic Response: Split EP


Dissidents play full on blazing, boom boom boom hardcore political punk. But, they elevate themselves above their compatriots when they take slight diversions, such as the icy “numbers station” that dresses up the concept of “ask a punk” as a cosmic force that fights oppression. Plus, I like how the singers shout.

4. Candy Now: Karmel Knowledge

Rad Girlfriend

Blag the ripper teams up with Lisa of the Bellrays, Stacey Dee, Andy Carpenter, and the drummer of the Foo Fighters and creates a soul/funk record that salutes the marginalized and underrepresented. I bet you didn’t see THAT coming. And if you’re not into the political angle, the music itself is so good it could fit on the Stax label. Blag Dahlia- the dude contains multitudes!

3. Abi Ooze: Julia’s Apartment


Well fine. If Abi Ooze doesn't want to put out a full album then I'll just have to pretend her demo cassettes ARE proper EPs. SO THERE! This "demo"... I mean fully formed EP or even LP, is Abi's best work yet- spastic, weird, and funny... and kind of dangerous... and suuuper catchy. It's everything I want out of punk. If the demo is this good, I can only imagine how good a proper studio EP or LP would be.. oh wait, I forgot, this IS the album.

2. Joe Jack Talcum: Record Store


I’m constantly gushing about how great Joe is and it’s probably cliché by now but I don’t care! Every six months or so the dude just straight up drops sonic bombs like most of us discard chewing gum. Have you heard “Record Store?” IT SPEAKS TO ME, MAN! And then, for every whimsical cutsie-wootsie track, the dude look into the void and draws out the blackest, most dark concept you have ever heard… or sometime just a twisted bathroom joke. Did you write “Rock n roll in my butthole?” no, so just shut up, sit down, and bask in Joe’s greatness.

1. Dani Miller: “Hard Way”


I was blown away, just blown away at how this simple little song is so insanely TITANIC. Dani Miller strums some soft chords and then issues the most biting, sarcastic take downs ever- “I know you’re a tough little cookie and you made it out her eon your own / and I know you’re wounded little pony and you ain’t got NOTHIN to show…” The crazy thing is, for all the song’s venom, I think Dani is singing to… herself?! If you put this on the radio in the ‘70s with Fleetwood Mac, in the ‘80s with Cyndi Lauper, or in the ‘90s with Tori Amos, it would have been the biggest song of the year. Um, actually, I think if you put this on the radio right now it would be the biggest song of the year. Right now, dani seems spread between various projects -Surfbort, solo stuff, ghostwriting, Trash world… DANI, JUST PICK ONE AND FOCUS! Whatever you put out, I am sure it will blow our collective minds!!!!

Objectively the 5 best Melvins releases of 2023

5. Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends: Adult Prom

Learning Curve

Dale links up with Conan Neutron and bangs out an off-kilter, challenging record that calls back to ‘70s riff-rock all while diving deep into weirdness! Say no more!

4. Matt Cameron - Gory Scorch Cretins

Keep It Trippy

The Melvins and Matt Cameron bag out five hard rocking tracks! Say no more!

3. The Melvins: The Devil You Knew, The Devil You Know

Amphetamine Reptile

As a way to nod slightly to their 40th anniversary, The Melvins recut their earliest recordings with Stevie M on bass… here’s the weird part… I think… I think I like the new versions better!

2. The Melvins: Controlling Data for a Better Feeling Future

Amphetamine Reptile

A Scorpions cover? A head banging version of a Husker du track that comments on the horror of AI? An EP that just WHIPS? As Melvins go forward, they are speeding up and speeding up… no band can compete with this onslaught!

1.he Melvins: Throbbing Jazz Gristle Funk Hits

Amphetamine Reptile

In true Melvins style, the band records a FULL tribute album to Throbbing Gristle (even though they previously have recorded three OTHER TG covers)… but some of the songs on the album are originals! The Melv-TG connection makes sense if you think about it, but the Melvins are just constantly keeping me on my toes! 40 MORE YEARS!

Objectively the best reissues of 2023

DFL: My Crazy Life

Trust Records

The reissue of My Crazy Life finally puts the album in the hallowed halls of punk where it deserves to be. The sound of the album proper is awesome and shows just how much DFL ripped and slammed while everyone else was “going pop” or worse… “pop punk.” The new live show recorded at Beastie Boys’ G-Son studio included is EXPLOSIVE. Plus all the extras- the zine, the oral history- just perfect. This amazing album finally gets saluted as one of the best hardcore albums of the ’90s AND one of the best hardcore albums ever.

The Dwarves: Entire Catalog

Greedy Records

The Dwarves reissued all of their albums this year and the re-issues are sublime. Beautiful packing, amazing sound, and bonus tracks. THIS is the way to do it. Finally these legendary albums get their due respect.

Integrity: First Five Albums


Integ Mastermind Dwid Hellion updates the sound and art of five of the most daring punk/metal/hardcore/whatever(?) albums ever releases. Bold new art and some bold new sonic choices. Like Bowie, Integrity is constantly shifting and morphing and these well doen reissues reflect just that. The only question... WHERE'S THE NEW ALBUM?!!!

Alice Cooper: Killer and School’s Out


How did THESE reissues take this long to come out? Finally, we get two of the best albums of all time with premium sound AND amazing live shows.

Oingo Boingo: Entire Catalog

Rubellan Remasters

Rubellan has been cranking out the Oingo Boingo reissues for a few years and they wrap it up with a deluxe version of the band’s very first EP. Thank you Rubellan for doing such an amazing job with this series. the only question… why did it take so long for someone to take up this project?! Kudos Rubellan for being bold!

Objectively the best Live Albums of 2023

Steve Ignorant Band: As It Is Now: Live in Bristol 2023


Steve has a lot of live albums but this one is the best! Crass presented in a hyper jacked up, hyper energy attack. There’s something about it live that gives it even more punch. Carol Hodge also does an amazing job with the Eve/Gee/Joy vocals. We need this music now more than ever.

Sublime: $5 at the Door


A decade ago, Sublime promised wealth of archive live albums. We got two. That being said, the new live album features the band in a loose, daring groove. They play some unexpected covers- “Prison Oval Rock”- and mix up some of the classics. Sublime might be seen as the archetypical frat bro band, but they are actually more informed, more daring, more clever, more interesting, more reverent to the first wave punkers, and more rocking than 95% of punk bands found at the local D-beat venue… or anywhere else.

Triumph of Death: Ressurection of the Flesh


Justice for Hellhammer! Tom G “covers” his own band puts out a fiery, hard smashing live record that is everything you want it to be… and one that demonstrates what Hellhammer could have been.

And thus we smash into 2024. The years are getting much quicker… a year now feels like what four months used to feel like… As I mentioned above, I haven’t been focused enough. I’m making it a real objective to strike hard in a few places music writing wise. We’ll see what happens. I’m already throwing irons in the fore for Summer Soiree 7, but, we will see. Depending on how things play out, my days of throwing shows may be winding down.

On a sad note, Screaming Females one of the best bands ever, ended in 2023.That was a huuuuge bummer. But, it looks like the individual members are moving forward with their own projects- NOUN already has two shows booked. So, maybe it will be like a Sleep/OM/High on Fire kind of thing- one amazing bland splinters into multiple ones, with each member’s unique contributions concentrated into one blast.

Though, 2024 does have some cool things on the horizon. DFL has been in the studio and Dwarves have alluded to a companion piece to Concept Album. Catbite have alluded to working on stuff and Melvins definitely have something in the works. Froggy have briefly mentioned new tracks (and have played some live). Kepi says there is new stuff in the works. I’ve almost given up hope for a full Abi Ooze album… but not quite yet. There’s a new Judas Priest album on the way and I get to see the Rolling Stones this year… will it really be the last time?! AND there are TWO Rolling Stones live albums on the way! Plus, this will finally be the year I get to see Madness… at PRB none the less!

I don’t have any words of wisdom for you… oh, wait, yes I do… do cool art. Write stories, record music, go to shows, draw pictures, don’t be a lump on a log, do reviews, do interviews, reissue rare records, mosh! Skank! Get down and funky! Just SMASH IT UP, BABY! Maybe I’ll see you at soiree 7… or maybe I won’t.

2024… hey, ho…. LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!