By now everyone must be aware that the best rock 'n' roll records of 2010 were those by Dry Rot, Home Blitz, Tyvek, Homostupids, Folded Shirt, UV Race (the EP anyway), Rot Shit, Drunkdriver, Sightings, Condominium and a couple others I'm forgetting. Crazy Spirit. The OTAN 7" was incredible too (came out in '09, though.) The Chinese Restaurants, of course. The rest either ain't rock 'n' roll or they ain't so good. (Or I didn't hear 'em. Sue me!)
Irrespective of genre, the best album of 2010 was 'Funeral Mariachi' by Sun City Girls. I imagine most Termbo readers have already heard plenty about this record and made up their minds. Still, almost nobody gets it right with these guys, so why not add another megabyte or two to the shitstream and hope some clarity rises to the surface? Sun City Girls were a product of the early US HC scene, though they weren't exactly "kids" even then, but three grown men with punk-rock chops, a deep knowledge of American and Eastern musics, and a gift for twisted, anarchic satire, stationed in the middle of the Arizona desert during the Reagan era. They traveled the world, lived like paupers, and soaked up the folkways and shitways of people on the margins of Western empire, including the low-lying denizens of America's own rotten heartland. They turned a cynical eye on the tragicomedy of life under late capitalism, soaked in its beauty and depravity, ventured into its dark heart and came away with a few devils clinging to their bazaar-bought pan flutes and hash pipes. Along the way they got really fucking good at their instruments, producing an imposing discography that gives the lie to the liberal West's pious notions of musical syncretism and "Fourth World" koombayas -- a sprawling, sometimes vexing, often unsatisfying body of work that gives the middle finger to our Peter Gabriels, Ry Cooders and Paul Simons, to the superstars of the World Music circuit. They captured better than any of their peers the paranoid schizophrenia of life in the waning days of the twentieth century. Someday, some Internet wiener half my age is gonna pull a helluva burning nerve-ending magic trick and compile a thousand-gigabyte file called Songs the Sun City Girls Taught Us, and thus reveal once and for all the depth of this difficult, often assholic band's learning (and their perversity). The lesson, or of one of the lessons, anyway, is that authenticity is a sham, a myth of capitalism, that music is largely a matter of thievery in the end, especially when it is born at the intersection of technology and indigenous cultures. Their most unlikely hybrids will turn out to be faithful covers (the hindu mambo "Apna Desh," for instance); their most lyrical instrumentals, straight adaptations of TV jingles for Malay dildo wax. Drummer Charlie Gocher died in '07, and with it the circle was broken. This record is an epitaph for Gocher and for the band, and it is as elegant and elegiac and "straight" as the Girls ever got. Even so, the brothers never let an excess of dignity get in the way of the occasional howl of laughter, irrevernce and plain old vulgarity -- I mean, "funeral mariachi?!" The band loved shitty puns to the bitter end. Fuck you, too.
The UK magazine The Wire isn't completely useless. Amid David Keenan's knobgobbling paeans to the US underground's lowest common denominators, Savage Pencil's praise of "witchhouse," and sundry attemps to "properly" "contextualize" and/or "problematize" this or that pithy, neurally challenged subcultural phenomenon that read like B+ term papers for an intro to cultural studies seminar, there's the occasional kernel of insight, the occasional Coleyan bon mot, the rare discovery of someone I might have otherwise overlooked. Take, for instance, Clive Bell's profile of Helena Gough, whose Entr'acte CD 'Mikroklimata' was one of the best and most challenging records I heard this year, a real signpost of progress 'mid a field otherwise rife with wankery and tail-chasing. A welcome stimulus to the brain and one of the finest examples of musical microscopy I've heard since first tilting an ear to Xenakis' Electroacoustic Music rec on Nonesuch. Entr'acte is a tiny and highly discriminating label that packages their CDs in funny little wrappers. You may purchase Ms. Gough's disc through their website.
The Rebel made at least two brilliant records last year: 'The Race Against Time Hots Up', which is his best pop record to date; and the widely (maybe rightly) maligned 'The Incredible Hulk', which might be a prank or something but I couldn't care less. The world's lousy with Mysterious Guys these days, few of whom could dream up a product as downright headscratching and unsettling as 'The Incredible Hulk', inside and out. (www.junioraspirin.com)
At spitting distance from Msr. Wallers we gots Graham Lambkin's KYE label, which issued another of the year's best records in the Tim Goss LP Call Back the Giants, an uncanny and mesmerizing crabwalk from the screwed-up puzzles of Shadow Ring's 'I'm Some Songs' and into a pancake of domestic intrigue. Lambkin's one of a handful of guys whose every move one had better keep an eye on, as he and a handful of consorts are reinventing musique concrete as we know it, punching out strange, hermetic documents that, pawadoxically, let all the air in and commit it to tape along with plenty of hiss and the hum of TVs and intimations of country life.
Reissues? Lotsa great ones, too many to mention (and what for, anyway?) Rats off to Harry Howes.
Shared beers with plenty of friends last year. Thanks for the good times. Thanks always to Rich K. for making all of this possible. And warm congratulations to M. and L., who released a beautiful baby daughter in Spring 2010.
Goodnight, Captain, so long, Sleazy, and rest in peace, poor Jay.
Complaints? Meh. You already know what they are. Suck a dick, son! Oneohtrix Forever. (Goober.)
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