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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Null’s 2019 Musical Obsessions

Null’s 2019 Musical Obsessions

By Null

Unlike the last several years, I think this was a great year for me, musically speaking. I found some great record labels and some great punk rock bands. As usual, I followed my muse wherever it took me.
Nineteen Something/Twenty Something Record Label (France).
This label alone rejuvenated my belief in the old ethos of punk rock—diversity and solidarity. This is a record label that is named after Les Thugs’s Nineteen Something (1998). The name of the record label attracted my attention because of the Les Thugs connection. Les Thugs are one of my favorite punk rock bands. Really this is two labels in one. All of the records they release that were recorded in the twentieth century are on the Nineteen Something label, whereas the records they put out that were recorded post-2000 appear on the Twenty Something label. I thought that was pretty clever. Their prices are reasonable, their shipping is fast, and they put out a lot of great bands. SoDak (a reviewer from Tickle Your Taint) helped me navigate my first order. Considering that the website is in French, when ordering from the website it is necessary to open two pages, one translated to English and one in the original French. The orders must be made from the French site. I found many great records from Nineteen Something/Twenty Something label this year: Les Thugs reissues, LANE (a Les Thugs offshoot), Zero Gain, Foggy Bottom, Jive Puzzle, The Noodles, Fixed Up, and the label’s Sampler #1 that comes with a mail order. Check’em out at: https://nineteensomething.fr/.
Note: the following 7 albums are from said label.

LANE (Love And Noise Experiment), Teaching Not to Pray EP (2018) and A Shiny Day LP (2019) (Twenty Something).
Finally a few guys from Les Thugs decided to start a new band. Same romance, same politics. I love it.

Various Artists/Compilation, Nineteen Something: Sampler #1.
This is one of the best label samplers I have ever heard. It just kicks ass all the way around. In addition, it has a cool-ass album cover with Pierre-Yves Sourice, from Les Thugs, playing bass.  The album includes: Skippies, Les Maniacs, Dickybird, Shredded Ermines, Suba Drivers, Thompson Rollets, Les Thugs, The Noodles, Hydrolic Systems, Dirty Hands, Les Soucoupes Violentes, The Chasmbats, Sixpack, garlic Frog Diet, Casbah Club, Wild Child, Les Rats, Ravi, Burning Heads.
I received a few copies of this with my mail orders, but I think the digital version has a different track list. Digital music sucks. Get a real copy.

Zero Gain, Modern Blues: The First Five Years (Twenty Something, 2019).
Zero Gain sing in English and their lyrics are classic working class, pissed-off, left-wing pleas for justice. Classic punk rock with a classic punk rock sound.  

Foggy Bottom, Une Histoire à l'Envers (Twenty Something, 2019).
Foggy Bottom is more in the “My Bloody Valentine” realm of punk rock. I hear a little Jonny Marr in here too. Their music is romantic and dreamy. It is great for driving through the mountains. They are a three piece that sing in French. I have had a few interactions on line with the guitarist/lead vocalist, David Valli, and he seems like a great guy. I also picked their previous album, Sur Le Fil (2017), and it is great as well.

The Noodles, 1985-1988 (Nineteen Something, 2017).
I don’t know much about The Noodles, but this is a great album. They sing in English and have hints of new wave embedded in their particular brand of punk rock. The recording sounds great because it isn’t over-produced. I believe this is a collection of singles and EPs. Good stuff.

Jive Puzzle, Where Is Love? (Twenty Something, 2004).
Jive Puzzle appears to have been a one-off collective of various musicians in the French music scene. I was drawn to this due to the inclusion on Eric Source of Les Thugs (currently in LANE). This is a great album. It is part mellow jazz, part ambient, and part groove music. Some of it is sung in French and some in English. The lyrics I can make out are still punk rock, but this is defiantly a chill-out album. I love it. It reminds me of the days before the hegemony of “punk.” This stuff is so underground that no one has even posted a song on Youtube. That is why I don’t have a song for you to listen to.

Fixed Up, Who Is Innocent?: A Singles Collection 1983-1987 (Nineteen Something, 2017).
You guessed it, even more great garage punk from this amazing label. 

FTWNU2 Record Label (USA).
FTWNU2 is a record label out of Minnesota that signs local bands from around the St.Paul-Minneapolis area. It is run by a beautiful and kind man, who is also a great tattoo artist, Dan Dittmer. The label specializes in punk/hardcore/metal type stuff. This is a very small-scale DIY label that is very aesthetically old school with fold out posters/lyric sheets in its vinyl and CDs. Stickers. Patches. You get the idea. Check’em out here: https://www.ftwnu2.com.
Note: the next 3 bands are all on the FTWNU2 label.

Bonefire, Fade and Decay (FTWNU2, 2019), Murderapolis (FTWNU2, 2018).
For me, Bonefire are the punk rock offspring of Motorhead; they have that “sandstorm sound” that I equate with Motorhead. However, Bonefire are more of the mature punk rock types. The music is intense and the lyrics are great. For instance the song “Fade and Decay,” from the album of the same name, almost always brings a tear to my eye because it speaks of getting older and watching one’s life and loved ones fade away, as death is the ultimate end for us all. The song “Media Slave” critiques social media and its negative effect on individuals and the community. Great guys. Great band. Great t-shirts.

Dissident Clone, Civilized (FTWNU2, 2018), Creating the Consumed 7” EP (FTWNU2, 2016), State of DysphoriaDigital EP (FTWNU2, 2014).
I’m not a big fan of death metal, but I love Cannibal Corpse. I think they are called “extreme death metal,” or something. There are so many subgenres in metal that I have a hard time keeping up. At any rate, I have had a difficult time finding another death metal band that I like…until I heard Dissident Clone. I don’t know if this is grindcore-deathmetal-rabbitskull-clustefuckironface or whatever ya call it, but I instantly loved it. They lyrics are political, which is a welcomed change compared to Cannibal’s cartoonish gore fest. Dissident Clone lyrics are great, but you’re gonna need the lyrics sheet. So many different voices. I laugh out loud in pure joy listening to how crazy some of this sounds. Only two people are in this band. They are extremely talented. This stuff is intense, but when all else fails, these guy scratch that itch. I love it.

Trinity Test, Trinity Test (FTWNU2, 2019).
Trinity Test is another great FTWNU2 band, except they are more of a traditional punk rock band than the previous two bands. The album sounds a little lo-fi, but that only results in a feeling of authenticity. Good lyrics and possibly the greatest album cover of the year. Keep your kids away from Catholic priests and Donald Trumps. 
Trinity Test has a new album coming out soon.

Prince, 1999 (remastered 6 CD Box Set) (WB, 2019).
When I was kid, this album changed my life. It was the first full-length album I bought with my own money; it was 1982 and I was 9 years old. I had never heard anything like this before. The album was weird, hyper-sexual, mysterious, dangerous, and futuristic. Prince played every instrument on all these studio recordings except for the guitar solo in “Little Red Corvette” and the some background vocals by Lisa, Jill, and Dex. Prince was on fire during this period. The unreleased tracks from the vault are great, and when they’re not great, they are at least colorful and interesting. I’m not saying I’m going to listen to this a lot, but when you are in the mood, it’s incredible to take it all in. Everything about this box set is cool. 

Shocking Blue, Blue Box (13 discs) (Red Bullet, 2017).
These guys were a band from Holland. They were around from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. You would know them from their big hit “Venus,” and Nirvana’s cover of their song “Love Buzz.” I was blown away by how good this band was; mainly due to the seemingly endless creativity of main songwriter and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Robbie van Leeuwen. The second to fifth albums are 60s psychedelic pop perfection. Included are two discs of a-sides and b-sides, most of which do not appear on any albums. Every song has a hook and some new sound to keep the listener interested. Their brilliance starts to fade near the end, but they were on fire for a good spell.

Bad Religion, Age of Unreason (Epitaph, 2019).
I love all of Bad Religion’s records, even the “bad” ones, which are still better than most people’s “good” ones. I have cried at Bad Religion concerts. So, I’m in deep already. However, I think Age of Unreason is exceptional. It is a just response to the world and times we live in. Get out your lyric sheets. Also, the new drummer, Jamie, is the shit. He’s not as “Neil Pert-y” as Brooks, but he is more punk rock.

Billy Bragg, Best of Billy Bragg at the BBC: 1983-2019 (Cooking Vinyl, 2019).
They called him “the one-man Clash” for a reason. This record is loaded with 38 reasons why I love Billy Bragg so much. He can be poignant and dark, or wistful and witty. With songs about love, life, death, and, of course, socialist revolution; he basically sings my life to me. I still can’t get through “Tank Park Salute” without crying. Play Billy at my funeral. 

Smashing Pumpkins, Gish, Siamese Dream, and Pisces Iscariot Box Sets/Deluxe Editions (Virgin, 2011).
I had the first two Smashing Pumpkins albums when they came out in 1991, 1993, and the unreleased songs on Pieces Iscariot when it came out in 1994. It was the third album released by the band, but it wasn’t officially their third album. I never thought I was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan; however, I always thought the guitar sound on Siamese Dreamwas fucking mental. So I guess I always liked these albums, but I haven’t listened to them much over the last 15 years. I lost interest in the band and just stopped caring. They stopped doing that thing I liked. Billy Corgan became very annoying as well. Earlier this year I picked up the Siamese Dream box set and loved it. The extra disc was great. Out of curiosity, I picked up the other two and loved them as well. I was reminded how much I liked the thick, romantic, psychedelic guitar sound and the great drumming by Jimmy Chamberlin. I still think “Mayonnaise” is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The Pisces Iscariot box set comes with an early demo cassette tape that is also pretty awesome. All the box sets come with DVDs of live shows that I have little or no interest in. Smashing Pumpkins were a great band at the time and made some great sounding records in the early 90s. I’ll put these away for a while, but I don’t regret picking them up. I guess I am a pretty big fan until about 1995. This song “Everything and Nothing” from the 1988 demo tape is pretty great. It kinda sounds like early Cult.

Son Volt, Union (Transmit Sound, 2019).
Much like this year’s Bad Religion album, the new Son Volt album has its sights set on our lives and times. This album is a masterpiece and both devastatingly powerful and sad. Could Jay Farrar be the missing link between Robert Smith and Woody Guthrie? Underneath it all one can’t help but hear the rumblings of revolution.

Talking Heads, The Best of the Talking Heads (Rhino, 2004).
I picked this up on a whim. I have a Talking Heads box set and the masterpiece Remain in Light, so I’m pretty sure I already have all of these songs. Still, when I put it in my CD player, it stayed there for a very, very long time.

Grateful Dead, Cornell 5/8/77 (Live) (Rhino, 2017).
When the Grateful Dead played live it could be amazing or it could be a train wreck, circus, dumpster fire. This live show from 1977 is one of the best. They actually sound like a rock band. I read somewhere that they rehearsed before this tour. Yes, I said rehearsed. It is amazing what a band can do when they rehearse. Even “Dancing in the Streets,” which usually makes me want to put an ice pick in my head, is blazing at this show. It even has some kind of syncopated Fugazi breakdown in the middle. If you don’t like the Dead, then you will hate it anyway, but if you are Dead-curious this is one of a handful of shows that illustrate what they were capable of doing. As far as live stuff, this is up there with Europe 72 and Without a Net, except this is like their funk/groove live album.

Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (The Original Soundtrack) (Hollywood, 2018).
I think Queen was an immensely talented band. I’m sure this is beyond dispute. Yet, for some reason I always tend to tire of them before a record’s end. I grew up with the News of the World album with that sinister giant robot dude on the cover. I can listen to that one without a hitch, but when it comes to other albums, even their Greatest Hits, I become fatigued before the end. After seeing the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, I picked up the soundtrack. Hooray for me. I found another great Queen album, that, for some reason, I can listen to in its totality with ease and enjoyment.

Sacred Reich, Awakening (Metal Blade, 2019).
When I first picked this album up after SoDak suggested it, I didn’t realize this was the first new record by the “Arizona Thrash Legends” in 20 years! Before owning this new record, I only had their very first record, Ignorance, from 1987. Where Ignorance is more thrash-punk, this album is more groove oriented and laidback. It still blazes with some fast tempos, but it also settles into some deep pocket grooves that the band drives home. In general, I’m not a big fan of thrash, but I love this album, and it doesn’t really feel like “thrash” to me. The political lyrics are still left-wing with a defiantly heart-on-sleeve delivery. This band is not trying to impress anyone, which could be why it feels so honest and real. Fuck Trump.

Willie Nelson, Stardust (2 CD 30th Anniversary Legacy Edition) (Columbia, 2008).
With every year that passes, I become more of a Willie Nelson fan. He is a great songwriter and I love hearing the beautiful songs that he writes, which is why I never picked up this classic album of standards. Having listened to it a million times this year, I can honestly say that if people had this album and listened to it daily, they wouldn’t need anti-anxiety pills. Like Billy Bragg, Willie sooths my soul without necessarily lying to me. This 2 disc version is the cure for most ailments. I love it.

Leaving Neverland Documentary, Directed by Dan Reed.
This was a fucking rabbit hole of pain, childhood memories, fascination, horror, and disgust. I thought this documentary was very well made, and the subject matter was disturbing on more levels than I can count. It’s like an onion that you keep peeling, but no center is revealed. Though it isn’t about music, it did send me back to the Jackson 5, Jacksons, and Michael Jackson albums I loved in my youth. After watching this documentary 4 times over the course of 2 months, I asked myself. “I wonder what it will feel like to listen to Michael Jackson after watching this.” Well, it was uneasy, sad, and intriguing. In my obsessive, compulsive way, I actually completed my Michael Jackson collection. Much of it was creepy and not very good. However, I was reminded of the great gems that are found throughout his entire career. This whole endeavor was slightly uncomfortable. I feel sad for the victims, and even though it made me hate Michael Jackson, it also made me realize that he himself was a victim. I guess I don’t really hate him. I mean, even as a child I knew he was fucked up. Didn’t we all? Still, to hear the manipulation and power that he used to get what he wanted was sickening. To see the star-struck parents who lose any sense of normalcy was also disheartening. This is how the super-rich maneuver their way through the world. For Michael Jackson, though, the complications are endless. It’s complicated. For me, this documentary was also about class. Jeffery Epstein and Harvey Weinstein anyone? This whole world of wealth and Hollywood is all full of fake and phony lives. It’s all a deceptive lie. America laps it up at every turn.

Motorhead, Overnight Sensation (Steamhammer, 1996).
Let’s end on a good note. I could not stop listening to this kick-ass album. It made me very happy.

1 comment:

  1. That song by the Noodles sounds great. Thanks for finding this band and sharing with us!