Sunday, 3 January 2010

Albums of the year 2009 "From Years Gone By"

This blog should be bleeding obvious in its title. There's a whole world of music out there from the past to be discovered. Here's what I stumbled upon that tickled a lot of my fancy in 2009:

10) THE AUTEURS - New Wave (Hut, 1993)

Vocalist Luke Haines recently wrote a book about Britpop-come-autobiography. It was very good so I listened to his old band's first album. That was also rather good, and I then wondered why they were never that big in the mid-1990s. Then I remember Luke saying in "Bad Vibes" it's because everyone listened to Suede instead. D'oh.

9) THE SMITHS - Strangeways, Here We Come (Rough Trade, 1987)

As a swansong, you can't complain. Veering from jaunty to fey to the somewhat overwraught, Morrissey lets it all out one last time before ditching the "hangers-on". That it also contains some of Johnny Marr's finest riffs as well is an added bonus.

8) NEW ORDER - Technique (Factory, 1989)

Even though they were never that "rock 'n' roll", the Mancs had one of the harshest rides in music. The tragic end to their preceding band Joy Division; The record-breaking single; The funding of a historic nightlcub that never made any money at all; Still, they recorded some classics along the way, thank goodness, and Technique is probably "the one".

7 ) MANIC STREET PREACHERS - Gold Against The Soul (Columbia, 1993)

Big whoops. There I was focusing on the acclaimed likes of debut Generation Terrorists and immortally scathing The Holy Bible and I practically ignored the frequently maligned album in- between, only to find out it was actually rather unfairly maligned. Maybe it doesn't have as many great tracks as other albums, but history now proves it to be a shiny vibrant rock gem as opposed to the corporate cock-suck it was made out to be at the time by some. Idiots.

6) TUBEWAY ARMY - Replicas (Beggars Banquet, 1979)

Young Gary was jamming with his so-so punk rock band one day and started dicking about with a synthesizer that some muso geek had left behind in the studio. Awesome then followed.

5) ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT - RFTC (Interscope, 1998)

Rocket From The Crypt were the best Rock 'n' Roll band in the world to never have a Number 1 hit. They were never huge, and for this reason alone, human society should hang its collective head in shame.

4) DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (EMI, 1980)

Weddings and cheesy nightclubs have a lot to answer for, ensuring that most people will only ever remember a great band's "big hit", and maybe even think of said band as a "One Hit Wonder". This is unacceptable. Searching... was the Northern Soul debut from Dexys that precede Come on Eileen by two years. It included the marvellous single Geno as well as justified classics Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and There There My Dear. Listen to it. Dance. Feel Good. Pass it On.

3) VITALIC - Ok Cowboy (Citizen, 2005)

When folk consider what the French are good at, they normally think of the obvious: Red Wine; Kissing; Revolutions; Whimsical movies about benevolent cafe-workers...but no-one ever thinks of synthesized pop, unless they know what they're talking about. Pascal Arbez is up there with Jean-Michel Jarre and Air in conjuring up pure magic with the keyboard, as well as keeping plenty of variety in the mix. No track sounds the same and the whole thing effortlessly flows. From the Motorcycle digital Metal of My Friend Dario through the analogue stutter of Repair Machines to the introverted pulse of Trahison. A ruddy pleasure from start to finish.

2) THE KNIFE - Silent Shout (Rabid, 2006)

It's entirely feasible that Swedish sibling duo The Knife are actually from another planet. There's plenty of electronica out there, but no-one sounds as damn unique as these two. Silent Shout doesn't follow the same blueprint as previous effort Deep Cuts and was probably conjured up during a field trip to the Astral Plane. Iincredibly inhuman and intensely gratifying, when the restrained chill-out likes of Forest Families and The Captain get the adrenaline rushing as much as the extra-terrestrial pop of We Share Our Mothers' Health, you know the world is so very right in parts.

1) CRYSTAL CASTLES - Crystal Castles (Last Gang, 2008)

This may set a precedent in future years in that my top album of "years gone by" is only from the previous year and was discovered ever-so-slightly too late. Had I came across this dazzling belter just a month earlier and it would have certainly made my Top 10 of 2008. As it was, no dice, but the praise is understood. Taking digital "nintendo-core" as far as possible without making it unlistenable, Crystal Castles is a shining tribute to the infinite possibilities of what throwaway computer sounds can actually offer the world of music. Courtship Dating (Pop); Air War (Digital Prog); Xxzxcuzx Me (Rave/Heavy/Bleeding Mental); Tell Me What To Swallow (Ambient) and everything else in between. If The Machines really are winning, they're certainly pacifying us well.

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