Monday, January 7, 2013

BLAIR MENACE - Top Ten of 2012

   I think I've known this man for almost 20 years now. I met him at a punk show in a bar in northern Alabama that let underage kids in. He said he liked my homemade RIP-OFFS patch on the back of my jacket. I knew I had a new friend, but at the time I didn't know it would be a friend for life. Blair and I have seen a lot of rough times, but also a lot of good ones....but mostly rough ones for some reason. We're southerners. It comes with the territory. I've learned by example from Blair about the many ways that you can let the negativity roll off of you and keep moving forward. He's an inspiring man and a howling werewolf. Be sure to check out Menace for tons of his amazing art, writing, videos, music, etc....and he even tells you (well, sorta) how to make a microphone out of a beer can.


  • CHRISTIAN MISTRESS - Possession: It’s pretty reductive to describe a band by saying they're "like x singing for y" so I won't tell you these guys sound like Mia Zapata singing for DIAMONDHEAD. Instead I'll just say that while they are firmly rooted in the NWOBHM so many bands are mining these days, they have a punk energy and honesty that separates them from the cheeseball hipster-bait bands like THE SWORD and WHITE WIZZARD. There's not a drop of irony or insincerity here – just guts and soul and beauty (and guitar solos).

  •  THEE OH SEES - Putrifiers II: These guys still put out like two LPs a year, with astonishing consistency and variety. This one's a step away from the gonzo garage stuff of their last couple and toward a surfy krautrock vibe, with some weird bedroom mutant folk stirred in. Violins, flutes, and other non-rock stuff weave in and out with the guitars, and the multi-layered vocals sound both alien and inviting.
  •  FURZE - Psych Minus Space Control: Furze is a black metal expatriate who has evolved over the years into a sort of cosmic space-rock one man band. Most of the musical trappings of black metal are absent at this point, but the seething evil atmosphere and impenetrable distance are still there. There's nods to BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, and BLUE CHEER, but more than anything it sounds like what I imagine HAWKWIND would have played if they had hooked up with H.P. Lovecraft and moved into his mother's attic, instead of doing acid and shagging groupies with Michael Moorcock. It's almost entirely instrumental, making the occasional burst of gibberish or mad laughter all the more unsettling
  •  WITCH MOUNTAIN - Cauldron of the Wild: Bluesy, female-fronted doom metal with a kind of Old West swagger and bravado. Often this style of music will either be mostly instrumental with the vocals as an afterthought, or a strong singer will be backed by forgettable, repetitive Sabbath ripoffs. Not so with these guys – not by a long shot. The singer has an astounding weight and presence in her voice (maybe the loudest singer I've ever seen live), and the band is unusually tight, adventurous, and subtle in a sub-genre where these adjectives rarely apply.
  •  BURNING LOVE - Rotten Thing to Say: Gimmick-free hardcore that neither sounds like third wave TRAGEDY wannabes or BLACK BREATH d-beat clones. Similar to POISON IDEA or TURBONEGRO's adaptation of hardcore to the framework of so-called “classic rock,” these guys back off the speed a bit to settle into a kind of mid-tempo groove that's more crushing than fifty grind bands trying to out-spazz each other. The lyrics are thoughtful, dense, and abstract, too – this is one of those albums where you can sit and read the lyrics sheet along with it and get lost in the darkness, or put it on headphones and chop firewood in double time.
  •  MUJERES - Soft Gems: I don't really know much about these guys, other than the fact that I listened to their album every day for months. It's a bit of the old CRAMPS rockabilly, some BLACK LIPS hippie shit, maybe some HUSKER DU or REPLACEMENTS, and a penchant for writing songs that get stuck in my head even though I have no idea what they're about.
  •  CLAMS CASINO – Instrumental Mixtape 2: Hazy, cut-and-paste hip hop beats made from weird lashed-together elements that shouldn't work, but do. Humming ambiance, crackling static, and operatic vocal samples clash with cartoonishly outsized bass and janky, busted snares, all reverberating around like the inside of an oil silo. Weirdly meditative and tense at the same time, as if the listener is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It reminds me of the ENNIO MORRICONE spaghetti western soundtracks without sounding like them at all.
  •  Best Live Show DICK DALE in a tiny bar with like fifty people in attendance. I tried to stand close enough to absorb some of his mojo by osmosis. I don't know if it worked, but he gave me a pick! Narrowly beat out WANDA JACKSON and GRAVEYARD.
  •  Best Book: Loom of Ruin – Sam McPheeters: When I sat down to make this list I realized that very few of the books I read were actually from 2012, and of those only this one seemed worth talking about. It got a pretty mixed reaction, including some skepticism from Mr. Harvester, but look: I fucking loved it. It's an intricate piece of clockwork , carefully engineered to bring about destruction on a massive scale. Say what you want about the barely-developed characters (true) or downer ending (I think there's a glimmer of hope mixed in there deep down) – it's ludicrously violent, impressive in scope, and funnier than anything else I've read in a long time. Fans of WRANGLER BRUTES will recognize characters and themes from their albums popping up, and anyone who's survived the horror of modern city dwelling will appreciate McPheeters' ambition and attention to detail.

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