1*. Whatever Brains “Whatever Brains” LP (Sorry State)
*It should be noted that Wallers’ cover of “Girls Want You” is the greatest artistic achievement of 2013.
The third opus from my favorite live band in existence is their best yet. Overactive late-DC riffage has been traded for oppressive, hypnotic synthesizing and song structures best described as Rubikian. A bleak and dreary glimpse into the future as our particular state spirals into abandon, with wildly intelligent, mostly optimistic lyrics. Props for going for a somewhat sterile recording - the contrast between their live set and this LP is a lot like listening to the 'Les Bains Douches' bootleg immediately after 'Unknown Pleasures', or eating chicken shawarma after a handful of McNuggets. Walloping. The diversity of the tracks make this such a rewarding listen - “NPTO” is like Numan, Tomata, and the Nuns needed to write a dance hit together to save their lives. “Horse Complex 2” should be the replacement for the THX noise at the beginning of films. The most intense parts of “Elephant Gun” sound like a nightmare inside of a Dance Dance Revolution motherboard. Rich has such a handle on delivering his messages - whether in the raga-centric “Yellow Death 2000”, an eloquent ode to the detestation of pollen, or “New Drop”’s hope that the aristocracy will die off and be replaced during our lifetimes, nestled in a vocal line not un-reminiscent of En Vogue, always pointed and well-phrased enough to warrant analysis. A genuinely bizarre and wonderful record, the sound of a band hitting a stride that is now nuclear in person, the sound of the most innovative and worthwhile band to come out of the North Carolina in this millenium.
2. Long Knife “Wilderness” LP (Feral Ward)
I’m not usually up for something so derivative, but holy mackerel, this has probably been my most-played LP of the year. It’s well-known that with age comes more and more adulation and release through listening to Poison Idea, so the chance to get more is exciting. Indeed, there is very nearly nothing else happening on this record but unabashed PI worship, but it pretty much outdoes the source material over and over - it’s a welcome addition to the pantry of negativity that I want to raid in a post-shift haze. For whatever reason, I believe that their Portland residency legitimizes the operation. Every song on this is relentless and crushing, but the hit among hits is “Ghost in the Hall” - wondrously memorable riff stylings, the appropriately (rarely) tasteful application of sparse palm-muting, blazing solo a la the 'Official Bootleg' version of “Plastic Bomb”. The singer has boiled the mimicry of Mr. A.’s poetic style down to a science, and hearing that voice with updated material is just heartwarming - “fast and furious CIA / has done more damage than the KKK”. It strikes me differently than a derivative LP of the No Wayve would’ve because it’s just so barreling and accomplished - like a greatest hits recycled into new songs, or moreso like their forefathers recorded only one LP between Pick Your King and Feel the Darkness. Extra points were awarded for the correct spelling of “Dawg” on the insert and an artistic direction that made think of the posters for Drive.
3. Framtid “Defeat of Civilization” LP (La Vida es un Mus)
Entirely worth the long wait, we finally received a sequel to the indescribably important 'Under the Ashes', and it blew all expectations out of the fucking water. Framtid is truly the only band that can invoke the bleak, dark, and terrifying tone handed down to us on the first two Discharge 12”s, but phrased in their own modern black & white onslaught. The (entirely punk) mosh part on “Deceived and Abused” is this year’s equivalent of Kriesghög’s “Burn”, as far as moments I’ve been inspired to throw furniture across a room go. Hardest album title of the year. What a fucking band.
x. Quango “Fatality” 7” (FWP)
The best song of 2013. Hygiene fronted by a talking British computer, ca. 1978. Blissfully perfect amount of tape warble. In this (sadly) post-Black Time world, picking up the reigns of the British-accent-spoken-over-haunting-tone genre. The best song Crisis never wrote. A perfect single.
x. Una Bèstia Incontrolable “Observant com el món es destruiex” LP (La Vida es un Mus)
A great mix of Barcelona’s finest making innovative and blistering hardcore punk. Famously mining reggaeton beats on the third track, it’s a very welcome expansion of tastes. Destino Final focused and distilled the attack of Invasión to a very fine and lethal ether - any more would’ve run the well dry. It helps that they traded for a singer speaking in Catalan, but the new, weird, and exotic things they blend in here work to superb effect. Though it’s hard, they make it seem effortless to pull off a record like this nearly entirely in mid-tempo. Listen with headphones, and this almost sounds like last year’s awesome D-Clone LP played at a slower speed. Really superb art design, to boot.
Unable to pick from for the rest of a top ten: PROXY 7” (Discos MMM), LOVE TRIANGLE 12” (Sorry State/Static Shock), DESTRUCTION UNIT “Deep Trip” LP (Sacred Bones), DIE 7” (STD), Nemesis 7” (Solar Funeral), Gas Rag 7” (Beach Impediment), LAND OF NOD Comp LP (Scavenger of Death)
DEFORMITY’s 2013 cassette is a total ripper. I don’t know if the plan for this band was to repeat the first 50 seconds of a Pussy Galore set until it turned into a hardcore band, but I sure hope so. “Cracks” is some totally mental guitar playing, the whole thing is rife with rhythms best termed knife mosh. Do an LP, stat, fellas. VACANT PLANET’s Jerry’s Kids/Peanut Butter/Direct Control sundae of a demo tape gave me newfound hope in the resurgence of punk in North Carolina, and the new wave of bands here (Davidians, Skemata, YMCA, Untitled Daniel Lupton Band, Magic Attic) are going to do some serious damage in the new year. Keep an eye out for those tapes, fans of Punk. The IVY cassette makes the list for “Sumptuary Laws” alone, the guitars sound like they were recorded on a depressurizing zeppelin. NARCOLEPTICS tape set new standards in pummeling bass/drum attack, and the MERCENARY tape was a open shot, letting the world know the remaining Bukkake Boys in the band are looking to reclaim their throne as Greatest American Hardcore.
As previously mentioned, WHATEVER BRAINS are the greatest live band you can see in a 200-cap club, and every time I saw them this year was the best thing I could ask for. They are an unstoppable devourer of worlds, though slight edge can be given to shows earlier in the year when they still had my main man Hank “Eddie” Shore on double synths. An easy tie, though a much straighter affair was seeing CHARLES BRADLEY - a dude that just lights up a room with this genuineness, the realest man. The pseudo-Menahan Street Band played some breaks for about 10 minutes of warmup. As they wound down, the lights dropped, and the keyboardist walked up to emcee: “Ladies and gentlemen. I have someone I’d love for you to meet tonight. He is NOT just a purveyor of love. NOT just a practitioner of love, not only a giver of love, no, he is also a victim of love. Ladies and gentlemen… the screaming eagle of soul, Mr. Charles Fucking Bradley!” The lights burst, the horns hit high, and as he sort of moonwalked out (in a one peace pleather suit, complete with a bedazzled screaming eagle of soul on the back), I had already got my $30 worth. The rest of the night was worth exponentially more, as this 68-year old man broke out splits, dance routines, kiss blowing, a voice unlike any I will ever hear again in my life.. Just positively life-affirming to watch someone crack the fountain of youth open so late. He walked through the audience giving hugs to everyone available after the hour-long set had finished. Catch him at all costs.
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