With America engulfed in righteous anger over police brutality, social media working itself into a frenzy over the rights and wrongs of the lockdown and tempers fraying in the blistering sunshine, it feels like we've landed in a sequel to Spike Lee's 1989 classic Do The Right Thing.
So I'm going to do a 180 and list the 20 records I've been playing the most over the past six months. I'm sure this list will change come December but, for the mean time:
20. Alphabetland - X
With their first release since 1993's Hey Zeus! (and first record with Billy Zoom since 1987), the Los Angeles veterans delivered one of the biggest surprises of the year by dropping this record on Bandcamp. 27 minutes of punked up rock n roll from Exene and co is just what the doctor ordered, and on the 40th anniversary of the Los Angeles LP as well. Good on them, and let's hope for more.
19. Inescapable - Godsticks
On the go since 2008, the lads from Cardiff retain their fascination with the heavier side of prog (with a huge dollop of alternative rock) with Inescapable. Elements of King Crimson, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree are in there, but the songs and the vocal delivery make this a genuinely exciting modern rock album that has a vibe all of its own. Tracks like 'Numb' should be staples on Kerrang Radio by now.
18. Sleepwalking - Marjana Semkina
The debut solo album from the lead singer of Iamthemorning, Sleepwalking is a gorgeous, lush and richly textured record, with 'Mermaid Song' being a particular highlight in terms of its grandiose orchestration and the ever-present sense of desperation as the music builds to a climax. One to play whenever chasing away the tigers with alcohol.
17. Blast of Silence - NoN
His first LP under the NoN moniker since 2012's excellent Back to Mono, Boyd Rice carries on with his return to noise/drone by utilising the vinyl format to its full potential. One side equals a twenty odd minute track and, with four tracks, it's not easy listening. But, for those who are prepared to devote time to it, Blast of Silence sees Rice being as evocative as ever with sonic landscapes.
16. Cold Case - Brainbombs
Opting for a more angular garage sound as opposed their droney, noise driven rock, Cold Case is a much more punishing spin because of this. A glorious, and seemingly incoherent, mess, it's another album that is not to be listened to lightly. But those who persevere are rewarded with an album that is akin to being hit over the head by a bunch of drooling perverts (and I mean that as a compliment).
15. Buried Steel - Khost
The term 'industrial metal' has been used to describe everything from the bludgeoning rhythms of Slab through to the happy hardcore for goths with guitar that is FGFC820. Buried Steel, however, is a different matter. You can't help but be blown away by the muscle of the music. It's an assault on the senses, which is what the likes of SPK , Nocturnal Emissions and Cabaret Voltaire wanted. So yes, we can call it "industrial metal."
14. 27 Miles Underwater - Higher Power
Originally part of the New Wave of British Hardcore that gave us bands like Arms Race and Violent Reaction among others, 27 Miles Underwater sees the guys from Leeds on a bigger label and embracing the sounds of Jane's Addiction, Deftones and Glassjaw to add a more commercial side to their brand of hardcore. Surprisingly, it works well.
13. Deep Web - Military Genius
Post punk is a much misunderstood genre. Most seem to think it's playing a choppy riff through a flange pedal while singing in a deep voice, with the bass up in the mix and a solid drummer. Thankfully, Military Genius have released an album that not only proves that they understand that atmosphere and off-kilter elements are essential, but also moves the genre forward in a way it hasn't moved for years.
12. Deleter - Holy Fuck
Never discussed as much as they should be, Holy Fuck's back catalogue is one well worth exploring and Deleter is a solid addition. Still playing live instruments over electronics, they're very much a band for a certain type of music fan (the type who get excited over motorik beats and references to Blue Monday in the bassline of a song), but Holy Fuck do it well and deliver here.
11. Sex With Dead Body - Shitfucker
Although the initial preview sounded nowhere near as murky as expected, Sex With Dead Body is a frantic blast of metalpunk (Motorhead meets Venom with some Discharge). The drums sound immense and the riffs brutalise. And while it's certainly not an album that reinvents the wheel, it is great fun and will get you thrown off a train for slamming into the conductor.
10. Resort for Dead Desires - Casual Nun
More psyched out noise rock from the London quartet. Often considered one of the incendiary bands on the live circuit (until COVID-19 put a stop to that), Resort for Dead Desires sees the band easily translate their live energy into a record that is full on, but also allows for moments of nuance here and there.
9. Mind Hive - Wire
Always the more critically acclaimed of the initial wave of punk/post punk bands, Wire continue to put out albums that remain true to their mission statement, while finding new ways to tweak the sound. Here, there is a focus on restrained aggression through the guitars and the collapse of modern society into a mess of contradictions.
8. Atomic - Helen Money
Another exemplary take on post punk, cellist Helen Money delivers an album of spooky ambience that could provide the soundtrack to a Cormac McCarthy novel. Tracks like 'Nemesis' and 'Marrow' are such examples of this lush, but sinister approach.
7. Folkesange - Myrkur
Jettisoning the black metal altogether for traditional Danish folk songs sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Amalie Bruun understands the dark lineage that links black metal with the sounds of native folk, as well as the ethereal musings of Dead Can Dance. Folkesange is a gorgeous record that sounds appropriate in rain, sun or shine.
6. Tub of Lard - Eye Flys
With a title referencing former Labour MP Roy Hattersley, and a name lifted from the Melvins, expectations were always going to be high for the debut album from Eye Flys. It's a masterclass in sludge, with the hardcore influences of main band Full of Hell showing up in there, as well as the Melvins' penchant for curveballs.
5. No Good to Anyone - Today is the Day
The best Today is the Day albums are the ones inspired by tragedy and this one is no different. Recorded during a period of loss and illness, Steve Austin channels the anger and resentment into his music, creating a doomy and off-kilter record that grows with freedom as the album progresses. Maybe not the finest TITD release, but the one we need for 2020.
4. A Situation - Wrangler
Returning with a third record, Stephen Mallinder post Cabaret Voltaire outfit have developed into a formidable outfit. Playing with sparse electronics, A Situation allows Mal to be more upfront with his vocals, rediscovering the sinister whisper that he used in early 80's Cabaret Voltaire. But this is no retread, more a collection of like minded individuals of a certain age soundtracking the modern age.
3. Alles In Allem - Einsturzende Neubauten
A new album from the industrial legends is always a treat, but when it's one as good as this, it's a cause for celebration. Still able to make the most amazing melodies out of found objects, and with Blixa still able to deliver caterwauling screams as well as deep crooning, Alles In Allem is proof how a noisy and destructive act can age gracefully without losing the revolutionary edge.
2. Surrender Your Poppy Fields - Guided by Voices
The 30th studio album from Robert Pollard and co, Surrender... sees the band on fine form, crafting songs like 'Cul-de-Sac Kids' which feel like ironic summer anthems, while also exploring their indie/garage punk roots and delving into nuggets of psychedelic pop like 'Andre the Hawk.'
1. Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh - Luminous Bodies
Record of the year by far. And it's not difficult to understand why when listening to it. Sludgy, garagey, noisey, punky and abrasive (as well as being immense on the live front), Nah Nah.... is a whirlwind of a listen. Probably the closest anyone has come to topping Funhouse by the Stooges. Oh, and there's a song called 'Fuck the Beatles.'
⏩Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.