GlassPipeMurder is a staff reviewer for Punknews.org - ed.
No, I didn't see Inception, so don't ask. I only saw one movie this summer, and it was Dinner for Schmucks. It was pretty good. More importantly, I quit
eating meat and my blood pressure went from 134/70 a year ago to 118/64 with no other changes in diet, exercise or stress levels. I'm not gonna use this space to platform for vegetarianism, but if you were looking for reasons other than saving the environment or "our animal friends" as Ted Leo puts it, the health benefits are bountiful and often
overlooked. Anyway, there was a lot of good music this year, huh? So much, in fact, that I feel like I may have missed something here and there in the midst of the busiest
work and music schedule I've ever maintained. So instead of focusing on what may be lacking in my list, check out some of my recommendations and let me know what you think!
Sick of it All, Agnostic Front and Madball have been among the most successful bands to bridge the gap between old-school NYHC and contemporary hardcore. Of those, Sick of It All has delivered the most consistent albums for the past 20 years, and continue to do so with Based on a True Story.
Even without a drummer, ex-Blood Brothers Johnny Whitney and Cody Votolato craft a dizzying blend of electro-punk. Whitney calls it "Daft Punk meets New
Order meets Black Flag," but most of Jaguar Love's music defies definition. Catchy, shrill, and aggressive, Hologram Jams leaves no doubt that Fat Possum has expanded far beyond its conception as a blues label.
Raw thrashcore that captures the spirit of American hardcore's early years without aping it. Contemporary and timeless topics, unrefined musicianship, and relentless energy give this album big replay value. Oakland has produced a plethora of quality punk acts throughout the years, and Short Changed is another solid contribution to
the DIY culture the Bay Area represents.
Anthemic punk rock with massive choruses that settle into a sound that challenges categorization. With thick production and urgently delivered melodies, The Dreams of Kids helps Born to Lose shake their reputation of a cliche-ridden street punk band without fully dismissing either crutch. Blemishes aside, "Last Chance
Boys" can virtually put criticisms to rest by itself.
Rebounding from the decent but somewhat filler-filled Living with the Living, Theo Leo and company deliver one of their most raw and punk-influenced releases yet. While it's certainly no Shake the Sheets, the gang adds another 13 tunes to their top-class collection of music.
One of the better modern hardcore albums of the year, Cruel Hand doesn't rely on an opulence of breakdowns or posturing to craft a record that's successful in their
scene. Dynamic riffs, grooving rhythms and a constant touring schedule put Cruel Hand at the forefront of contemporary American hardcore in 2010.
I listened to this album 15-20 times in the weeks before reviewing it, and every time after the first, the anticipation gave me a kind of unsettling chill. It's songs like "David Icke Was Right" and "Bad Man"–mixed with the band's deadpan early '80s delivery–that give this album an incredible vibe most bands could only dream of. It's by
far the simplest album on the list from a musical standpoint, but that's a good part of the charm Adams Dagger brings.
Despite being absolutely savaged in its review here, I thought the Hold Steady accomplished a lot in their first album since the departure of staple pianist Franz Nicolay. Craig Finn's storytelling is as insightful as ever, and the musical diversity is ambitious even if it doesn't always hit the mark. It may not be the best of what the Hold Steady has to offer, but it's still one of the best of the year.
Do you like Slapshot? Do you miss Slapshot? Do you wish a Boston hardcore band would carry their torch during their inactivity? Well, Refuse Resist packs the same gargly straight-ahead hardcore we've come to love from Jack Kelly and company, plus the band sports Steve Risteen–the original guitarist of Slapshot–to help continue the tradition. Let "One Life" be your new anthem and live happier guaranteed!
Holy crap, they're back and it's real. I guess frontman Jason Shevchuk had some pent-up energy that needed to be released after the slightly tamer LaGrecia came
to an end. Even after a five-year absence and with new drummer Richard "Horsebites" Minino, Icons catches NMB perfectly in stride.
Progression is a terribly tricky task in hardcore. It can be perilously polarizing, and most bands who make the attempt either just go metallic or exit the genre altogether. Symptoms + Cures isn't my favorite Comeback Kid album, but it might be the most impressive thus far in its ability to demonstrate a purposeful and competent progression from a band who has been a staple in hardcore since their first release.
When I saw the track listing, I didn't want to like this album. I wanted the Queers to say something slightly intelligent and maybe even political, like "Monkey in a
Suit" off their previous release. Instead, we get "Fucked in the Head," "Outta My Skull" and "Psychadelic Mindfuck." But Back to the Basement is so insanely catchy and fun–and with an affinity for Black Flag–there's really no way to avoid this infectious disease–I mean release.
I don't think it would be a stretch to call this the most unique Bad Religion album since Into the Unknown. It's different, it's quite good, and it's still inherently Bad Religion. I still like the tight, angry skatepunk of New Maps of Hell, but The Dissent of Man is a healthy progression from a band that can generally do no wrong.
Street Dogs' previous release, State of Grace was a nice little record–albeit perhaps overambitious at the hands of producer Ted Hutt, who's better suited for
bands like the Bouncing Souls and the Gaslight Anthem. Street Dogs is back to basics and essentially self-produced, returning to the earnest fast-paced punk rock energy the Street Dogs first brought with Savin Hill.
On first reactions, I thought American Slang was a little too ambitious and drenched in too many layers of production and guitar leads. I haven't entirely redacted that sentiment, but I've warmed up to American Slang as the logical progression of a band with the mainstream appeal of the Gaslight Anthem. It's got
nothing on The '59 Sound, but it's a great musical journey nonetheless.
There's really only so much you can say about the greatness of a particular Slackers album before sounding redundant. The Great Rock-Steady Swindle can't touch Peculiar or Close My Eyes in the height of Bush-era insanity, but the lo-fi production sounds appropriate and "Sabini" is one of the best songs they've
written, despite that it could hardly be classified as ska.
Moving ever-so-slightly closer to the mainstream hasn't hurt Off with Their Heads at all, as In Desolation combines some of the band's best tunes in "Drive"
with their biggest hooks like "Trying to Breathe." America's reigning road warriors have amassed a legion of followers over their years of touring, and In Desolation is the perfect album to introduce OwTH to all the rest.
Like the suburban skater gracing the cover of Ceremony's Rohnert Park, this album shreds. But it's also dynamic and unpredictable in a way that few hardcore
bands manage these days. Despite its polarizing reaction, Rohnert Park finally garners Ceremony the attention they've deserved.
Of all the releases on this list, from bands playing jazz, rocksteady or electronic post-punk, Volatile Molotov has to be the most eclectic. But it's so subtle and
devoid of attention-whoring theatrics that an undiscerning ear might miss the Pavement-like sensibilities of "Blank Slate" or rough-and-tumble swagger Ã la the Pogues on "The Dilemma." It's a shame that Chicago and Minneapolis are eight hours apart, because I would see this band every weekend if I could.
What the Hollowpoints have managed to do here is become relevant to the melodic punk masses without disengaging from their street punk roots, influenced by bands like One Man Army and the Swingin' Utters. Songs like "Shea Politika" and "Runaway" seem to channel as much C I V I L W A R as U.S. Bombs, while the sardonic dark humor of those like "Kitchen Punks" and "Falling Up Stairs" evens out the often-weighty political undertones of the album. After quality records on Dirtnap and Disaster Records, the Hollowpoints have made their biggest splash yet with Old Haunts on the Horizon.
The Mongoloids offer a fresh perspective on straight-edge hardcore, sounding more like MotÃ¶rhead here than xTyrantx, xBishopx or xLooking Forwardx. The
clomping swamp rock is sludgy and thick, but has the hardcore punch it needs to not get boring.
Hardside: Welcome to Hell
I'm not sure what I like about this guilty pleasure from San Antonio, Texas. It's goofy hardstyle hardcore punk with simple lyrics and riffs, but it has some nice grooves
and they've branded themselves effectively, aligning with skateboarders and graffiti writers alike.
Geoff Rickly and the mysterious members of United Nations bring together a chaotic blend of punk, grind, screamo and post-hardcore on this four-song EP. It's
musically challenging and lyrically incendiary, making for some of the best of what the rubes call "extreme music."
With their second release in as many years, the Manix prove Stay Low and Go was no fluke. Four new tracks including the brilliantly fun "Madmartigan," and
the Manix have another solid record in their name.
On their first new studio recordings in seven years, the Swingin' Utters masterfully chart new territory while producing an offering that is inarguably their own. Brand New Lungs is essentially a power-pop effort made by one of the best street punk bands of all time. On songs like "Lepers Thieves and Whores", the erudite punks craft one of their most melodic songs ever, but pack the snarling punch expected on a Swingin' Utters record.
I was a huge Elephant Shell booster (one of my favorite albums of the last five years), and likewise had big hopes for its successor. Is Champ good?
Yes, but it's nothing close to the band's Saddle Creek offering. Champ lacks the cohesion and genuine sense of wonderment, and the weird synth rock like "Bambi"
and "Gone" seem a little forced. Like the first spot on this list, the main reason this release appears here is because of the overwhelming brilliance of its predecessor and not because it's actually bad.
From the 15-year-old punks who put out their classic Posh Boy EP in 1982 to the 40-somethings they are now, Symbol Six has lost a step or two. may as well be from a different band entirely, because nothing is as good here as it was back then. Isn't that how it always goes?
Not to make light of a sad matter, but to say I had "High" expectations for this album would be a colossal understatement. After the modern-day classics
Alligator and Boxer, High Violet passes by like a light draft, whereas its predecessors pack the emotion and dynamics of a tempest. "Bloodbuzz
Ohio" and "England" could slip in among the band's best work yet, but there's nothing to match the raw feelings of "Abel" or the delicate disaster of "Start a War." High
Violet is not a bad album by any means; it's just the weight of the band's prior releases that lands it in this category.
Mike Muir and company have kept us waiting a long time for a new ST record, but tidbits like this help fill the void. Though some of the songs here are already well-
known by cyco devotees, the No Mercy tracks make this release exciting and worthy of adding to the Suicidal collection.
Five years of pop-punk goodness comprise this set of New Mexico's hardest-working band. Their lo-fi sound proves that production values can be meaningless with
enough high-quality songwriting, which is essentially what you get with the 22 songs of Collection.
Furious thrashing California hardcore from the mid-'80s through early '90s is collected here, exposing one of the criminally underrated punk bands of that era. Importantly, this album helps demonstrate some of the quality music coming out after the first wave of hardcore supposedly ended.
Compiling much of the 1991-1998 collection and a handful of stellar rarities, It's Been a Long Day brings together some of the Popes' best songs like "Brand New Haircut," "Writing a Letter" and "Never Coming Back." One the best, most underrated pop-punk bands of all time, the Smoking Popes unearth more than a few
A celebration of hardcore and the legacy it's wrought, Past Present brings together great covers by bands like Sick of It All, Set Your Goals and Down to
Nothing doing their takes on Judge, Warzone and Gorilla Biscuits, respectively, among a plethora of others.