04. The Ex & Brass Unbound – Enormous Door (Ex Records)
30-plus years in, The Ex are still finding fresh ways to be fantastic. This album of brilliantly uplifting punk jazz skronk feels like the ultimate iteration of what the Ex of recent years has been about: celebratory, angry, angular and joyful.
Fuck it, have an entire gig.
05. Low – The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)
The Invisible Way sees Low moving further than ever from their ‘sadcore’ reputation and lot of that seems to be down to working with Tweedy. “We went through to Chicago last spring and stopped by and he was working on some tracks for the new Mavis Staples record, and hearing the tracks – how raw and minimal the arrangements were – that brought it all together. And I asked him right there. It’s kind of a recording trick to keep something truly as it was and not have to mess with it too much. Not a lot of engineers can do it.” I suggested that, to very different effect, previous producer Steve Albini works in a similar way. “Definitely. It’s very much that idea of capturing the sound the way it really is, and as much as Steve comes across as an extremist about that, it really is a beautiful aesthetic. And once you have that as a basis, you really have a lot of freedom and can be really creative.”
– my Narc interview, March
And then later in the year, the kind of validation that must make any songwriter feel on top of the world, this happened:
06. Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident (Prescription)
(another signed copy, biatches)
All the best reviews tend to start with a grandiose statement, a gauntlet thrown down. So how about “Future Of The Left are the best guitar band in Britain and the best Welsh band ever”?
Somebody once asked me to describe what Future Of The Left sounded like and, being drunk, the best I could manage was ‘a cross between Shellac and Half Man Half Biscuit’ and I’m not sure that’s so far off the mark. Their new, brilliant, crowd-funded fourth album How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident is full of songs that are exactly that: taut, precise, bass-heavy hardcore tracks married to some of the most splenetic, witty and brilliantly furious lyrics I’ve ever heard. They’ve been a powerful, blistering four piece for the last couple of albums, with Julia Ruzicka’s bass a highlight ever since, achieving that perfect Bob Weston low end rumble. But of course, Future Of The Left aren’t content with being just a top notch hardcore band (although they definitely are that). As ever, the album is packed full of odd touches and curious tangents: the sweet harmonies of I Don’t Know What You Ketamine, the almost Mogwai-esque ballad French Lessons, the newsreader delivery of state of the nation address Singing On The Bonesaws, which is the centrepiece of the album – 5 minutes of loathing, sarcasm and scathing wit delivered in Falkous’ best RP diction. Kicking off with swipes at the music industry (a regular FOTL target), it takes in celebrity paedophiles, Daniel Day Lewis and Kim Kardashian being chased by an angry bear. Half Man Half Biscuit have recorded some similar list-songs in the past, but whereas Nigel Blackwell tends towards petty frustrations and irksome minutiae, Falkous sounds like he’s ready to lay waste to the fucking lot and start over. And of course, Half Man Half Biscuit don’t rock this hard.
Joe Orton once said “cleanse my heart – give me the ability to rage correctly”. I have no idea about the condition of Falkous’ heart, but by God his rage is perfect. 5/5 – Narc Magazine
07. Sleaford Mods – Austerity Dogs (Harbinger Sound)
“The original blueprint (of Sleaford Mods) from 2006 still stands and I have adapted it from album to album. It helps that Andrew sorts the music. His tastes are different to mine but I like what he brings to it. It’s given it a new life. We aren’t a hip hop act at all. We are closer to rap I think, and rap’s got a planet all of its own.. Hip Hop relies on a stern beat structure and it’s become an historic medium. Rap, for me, is still fresh – it looks after Grime and the Rant and still has uncharted territory.” As for comparisons for his vocal delivery, names like John Cooper Clarke, Mark E Smith and Steve Ignorant from Crass get bandied around a lot. Just don’t compare him to Mike Skinner: “I don’t like the Streets comparisons much, a lot of Mike Skinner’s work has dated really badly… he didn’t take care of it very well. People always use the excuse that when you make it you run out of things to say. I disagree, I ain’t made it so to speak, but the struggle never ends. No amount of reward can bury that surely? There is hell in everything and it needs to be pointed at.” – Narc interview, November
08. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed)
I didn’t get Push The Sky Away at first. I liked it, but it seemed like a minor Bad Seeds album. Only when I saw the songs performed live this year – at Glastonbury and Edinburgh – did it fall into place. Especially Jubilee Street – very good on the album, absolutely fucking raging live. This still isn’t in the very top flight of Cave’s work but it’s magnificent nonetheless.
09. The Devil – The Devil (Copy)
Bad Ben Waller. I once saw him, or them – the Country Teasers – support Mudhoney at the Astoria and play a version of Pink Floyd’s Nuremberg Rally hit In The Flesh that appalled as many people as it made laugh in uncomfortable recognition. Ben Waller is that kinda guy.
But his new band The Devil is a different matter – musically amazing, lyrically slightly less bilious than usual. It calls some of the GREATEST guitarrorists from the late 80s / early 90s (you know the list – Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, Big Black) and finishes with a fantastically intense cover of Kool Keith’s Girls Want You, Keith’s priapic swagger rendered flaccid and empty by Waller’s arch delivery.
10. Frontier Ruckus – Eternity Of Dimming (Loose)
Over the course of 20 songs, 90 minutes and around 5000 words, songwriter Matthew Milia and his utterly beguiling band take you back to their 90s Michigan childhoods and you simply won’t want to leave. This third album is getting much-deserved exposure courtesy of Loose and songs like Black Holes and Dealerships have enough melodic shimmer for the radio. As ever, the songs are driven by banjo and musical saw and Milia’s astonishing words – full of small sweet details and a hazy summer’s end melancholy that manages to be deeply personal in its specifics and yet universal in its emotional impact. Almost overwhelming in its beauty and lyricism, this album will burrow into your heart and stay there. 5/5 (Narc Magazine review)
Yep. I fucking love this band