Jon Daley is a reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
How's it going? I'm Jon Daley. I'm the most recent addition to the review staff family here at Punknews but I have been a member of the community for the past few years under my old moniker of AlexPKeaton. I reside in Toronto where I study for my English specialist degree in hopes to one day become a bitter and disgruntled high school teacher. So if the old expression of "those who can't do, teach" holds any truth for me, then perhaps by the same token "those who can't rock, critique" finds a firm footing in these Chucks as well.
My musical expectations were somewhat hazy and nondescript at the outset of this year. In the end there was a healthy mix of pleasant surprises, expected consistency, mild disappointments, and trash, for what I can safely say was a great year for music.
While music takes up the majority of my living space, something happened this year that has left an inexplicable, unexpected and unexplainable void in my life that could not go without mention. That something is the passing of Lance Hahn of J Church/Cringer. Call me childish but I cried more when I found out about Lance (a man I had never so much as emailed) than I have in some of the worst times in my life. At first, I thought it was just because now when I walk into my local record shop there won't be that new J Church 7", which at times seemed like something you could really count on as endless, but it wasn't that. It wasn't even because somewhere out there, there is a group of people who have lost a man they deeply love. The reason was because when you listen to a J Church record you can just tell that Lance got a kick out of experiencing all facets of life. It was in the way he poured the little details of living from historical events on down to the minutia of everyday life into his songs; all of the laughter, anger, silences, jokes, awkwardness, love and hatred one experiences along the way. What means more is that he chose to share it with thousands of people he had never even met. The punk scene and world at large has lost a man who cared about it deeply, and that is why even self-important jerks like me should cry. There are rare individuals like Lance who come along and express their general feelings openly. But that type of person is rare, whereas you can spend the whole of your existence being a smug, unhappy and guarded human being, never letting anyone know you feel. I guess that is really what he meant by The Horror Of Life.
Top 20 Albums
#20. Smoke Or Fire - This Sinking Ship
If their last album was an indictment of the politics of Bush-era America with deeply personal touches, then I found this album to be a necessary examination of the day-to-day living of those coping with the results of those policies. The tightening of the band's sense of melody and lyrical abilities are enough to warrant praise; however, refusing to write the same record while still working within the context of the band's career is what warrants a placement here.
#19. Holy Roman Empire - The Longue Duree
One of my own personal surprises this year. Holy Roman Empire have put out a collection of thoroughly enjoyable, impeccably produced purist post-hardcore. The guitar sound of this record -- which I describe as a warm, full-bodied crunch -- is one of the finest I've heard since Hey Mercedes was making music.
#18. Capital - Homefront
This album is a baker's dozen of no nonsense melodic hardcore, as in, angry hardcore punk songs that naturally allow themselves to burst into melodic passages. In other words, this isn't pop-punk with silly breakdowns thrown in. It also has some of the best guitar work this genre has seen in awhile.
#17. The Ataris - Welcome The Night
Over the course of the year this album proved to be an immense tortoise of a record, coming from behind to really prove its worth. Maybe this shouldn't be considered an Ataris record, but it is the record Kris Roe wanted to make. At its core is a group of carefully written downbeat pop songs that finds Roe continuing to improve the lyrical aspect of his songwriting.
#16. Pissed Jeans - Hope For Men
Who knew fun could sound soâ¦well, not fun. Pissed Jeans have managed to create a light-hearted and yet heavy droning affair with Hope For Men. It channels the original primal subversive qualities of rock ân' roll so well that the very virtue of its abrasiveness give it a broad appeal.
#15. The Ergs! - Upstairs/Downstairs
While Dorkrockcorkrod was a fine pop-punk album, the Ergs!'s proper followup provides the listener with a unique cross-section of SST Records-inspired underground rock. It isn't just the content of the album that makes it one of the top albums of the year -- it is the care that went into the pacing of the album and recording quality of the songs themselves.
#14. Rocky Votolato - The Brag & Cuss
With one of the finest voices to grace the punk music scene, Rocky Votolato further embellishes the rootsier bent of his last solo full-length, Makers, only with a much stronger overall set of songs.
#13. Carol Bui - Everyone Wore White
54Âº 40' or Fight
While not containing any immediately standout songs, Everyone Wore White works so well as a whole that it is an achievement in the art of album creation. The songs feed off each other rather than blend together or rely on certain songs to carry the entire weight of an album. While punk music traditionally relied on building itself upon singles, Carol Bui rejects that reliance as well as the traditional sound of punk to craft a truly endearing slice of post-punk rock.
#12. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
We could sit and debate the definition of the word punk but I think what we'd end up with is a realization that the term punk has a perplexing duality of exclusionary vision and universality that leaves either position unable to properly defend itself without slippery slopes getting involved. That being said with Magic The Boss and The E Street Band have created a contemplative melancholic album that is dressed up as a goodtime rocker. As always Bruce Springsteen is more than some people give him credit for.
#11. Crime In Stereo - Is Dead
I never paid much attention to CIS's past efforts, although I thought they wrote some decent melodic hardcore numbers. Is Dead, as the name would suggest, marks quite a departure for the band who now sounds like a group of musicians that are informed by hardcore punk but also `90s alterna/indie rock rather than a band trying to fuse `90s hardcore and simple melodies.
#10. Tranzmitors - Tranzmitors
This is just an extremely solid album of catchy mod/power pop/punk tunes that stay in your head long after the record stops spinning. However, nothing less should be expected from a group that contains such a fine punk rock pedigree as Tranzmitors have.
#9. Minus The Bear - Planet Of Ice
As you can surmise, Planet Of Ice is a a somewhat more serious effort from the hard to pin down Minus The Bear. The only thing that perhaps could leave one feeling cold is the bit of distance that is created between listener and band via MtB's constantly evolving and impressive musicianship on display.
#8. Double Negative - The Wonderful And Frightening World Ofâ¦
Double Negative succeeds in creating a gritty-as-it-gets, thrashy hardcore punk album that isn't just negative but seems to relish in its own filth for an energizing experience. It is noisy and suffocating for its under 20-minute duration, but after it is over it will feel like you crawled your way out of your own grave.
#7. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - Living With The Living
Touch and Go
Everyone I've talked to seems to like or dislike different things about this album. To me, that is the indication of the culmination of Ted Leo's unique talents to fashion some of his catchiest material ("Colleen") and his hardest, most abrasive material ("Bomb.Repeat.Bomb") and have it all work within the confines of a single album.
#6. Lifetime - Lifetime
Lifetime put out a reunion album that a decade removed from their timeline as a band still sounds like a natural progression. In doing so, the band has made one of the best pop-punk records of the year, and a release that is lighter than anything they have done before.
#5. Attack In Black- Marriage
Attack in Black have released one of the most promising debut albums in recent memory. Marriage is a blend of punk rock and folk rock that isn't genre crossover simply for the sake of it but a band showing a history equally nurtured by Neil Young and Dag Nasty and putting their own spin on it.
#4. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
I've told a number of people that, to me, this seems like the first album where it really seems like the Weakerthans are a true band rather than vehicle for John K. Samson's songwriting. They tone things down a bit and seem like they really took the time to let each song develop and experimented a bit more outside of their punk and folky roots.
#3. Filthy Thieving Bastards - I'm A Son Of A Gun
For all the Pogues namedropping bands like the Tossers and Flogging Molly get, the band that deserves it most is Filthy Thieving Bastards. I'm A Son Of A Gun manages to channel the spirit of the Pogues with a highly memorable blend of folk, pop, Celtic and punk songs without actually sounding like the Pogues much at all. Then again, the Pogues never restricted themselves to sounding like the Pogues.
#2. Career Suicide - Attempted Suicide
Although Career Suicide has been making good on reviving `80s hardcore punk for sometime now, this LP is first time the songs themselves have fully realized the promise of their sound. Attempted Suicide is the type of album that you play for someone that has written off hardcore punk. This is a beast of an album that manages to stay ferocious without sacrificing accessibility one bit; just listen to the title track.
#1. J Church - The Horror Of Life
Like I said in my review when this album came out, this is the type of forward-thinking record that any band that considers themselves a pop-punk band should aspire to write. Catchy, diverse, and relevant are the three words that best sum it up.
#2. Life Trap - Bleak Reality
Sure, there are quite a few bands championing the sound of early `80s hardcore now that it is the cool thing to do, but few do it with the sheer intensity of Life Trap. No Way Records has released a slew of this kind of material, but this is definitely the notable release of the year from them.
#1. Government Warning - Arrested
This is worth it for the title song alone, which is perhaps the best punk song I've heard all year. This sounds almost like a lost early Adolescents recording mid-paced, melodic, dark and full of anger.Disappointments
After a major return to form with last year's Sound The Alarm, Saves The Day seem to have taken a step back stripping the intensity they regained with Under The Boards even if it is a solid offering. It would be hard to follow up the lyrical and stylistic progressions made with Searching For A Former Clarity, and Against Me! did so with their weakest offering to date in New Wave, which aside from "Thrash Unreal" feels like either retreads or failed experimentation (I'm looking at you, "Stop" and "Ocean") and is the first time the band has really written a "bad" song. Say Anything's In Defense Of The Genre, while good, ended up being far too long and unfocused. Even naming their latest album after a fantastic hardcore band couldn't save A Wilhelm Scream from producing an album which is far less memorable than any of their past releases. The Flatliners' sophomore album just ended up changing genres on The Great Awake and sounding like a Fat Wreck melodic punk band losing some of their identity whereas before they held the position of most promising ska-punk act anyone had heard in some time.
This year saw the demise of one of my personal favourite bands over the past few years, Fifth Hour Hero. After releasing their strongest full-length to date, it was good to at least see them go out on top. If you search Youtube, you can find some fantastic footage of their final Toronto show in which you can see my drunken bald self rocking out in the front row.
Livin' In The Future
I rang in this New Year with a bus mirror colliding with my head and then spending the majority of the rest of the night in a semi-conscious haze as the victim of a roofie. I hope I can avoid one if not both of these things next year. Musically speaking, I'm looking forward to possible new albums by Bob Mould, Smoking Popes, the Loved Ones, Fucked Up, Dillinger Four, Teenage Bottlerocket, Drag The River, Paint It Black, Lemuria, and last but not least, Weezer.