I’m busy, but I’ll always be able to find time for the obligatory
“year in review” schpiel, where you’ll get to read
my completely pointless (yet obsessively delightful to create) list
of the best releases of the past year. Don’t know about
you, but 2003 seemed to absolutely fly by for me. A shitload of
great records were released, the live shows were frantic and plentiful
(no thanks to Vancouver though; many thanks to Seattle, Olympia, Portland,
and San Francisco), and up here North of the border the hatred of good
ole’ “Dubya” and his quest for Empire became a national
sport (I’m also sorry to add that the opinion of the average American
has nosedived amongst the average (typically smug) Canadian. The
Bush approval rating and 9/11-Iraq connection polls aren’t doing
much to help that opinion, either). The “Rah Rah Canada,
Boo Boo America” chants will probably diminish in the coming months
though as our new Prime Minister has already made attempts to smooth
over US-Canada relationships which were roughed up by our departing
leader who became an incredibly candid and honest crotchety old man
in his last year in power. It seems as if our destiny to become
the 51st state will have to wait a bit. On to the records…
The 10 Best Full Lengths of 2003:
If I made these lists tomorrow, they’d probably be totally different
due to the sheer number of fab records put out in the past 12 months.
To further prove that 2003 was such a great year for music, notice how
killer albums by Final Solutions, Dirtbombs, Functional Blackouts, Clone
Defects, Zodiac Killers, This Moment in Black History and Henry Fiat’s
Open Sore didn’t make the list. That’s insane!
I almost feel guilty! And what about the other “really good
to great albums” like the Spits, Little Killers, Leg Hounds, Firestarter,
Flying Dutchmen, Tie Reds, Chop Sakis, Deadly Snakes, Erase Errata,
Gossip, Checkers, Kidnappers, Locomotions, Morticia’s Lovers,
Mistreaters, Sick Lipstick and the Knockout Pills? Holy shit!
10. Intelligence – Boredom and Terror (Omnibus)
To be honest, after the first two songs had played I thought that there
had been a mix-up at the pressing plant. The Intelligence on this
record (Lars from the A-Frames playing all the instruments recorded
onto an 8-track) sound vastly different from The Intelligence live (four
members pummelling their instruments in a frantic oblivion). Put
these songs through a bona fide punk producer to match the live show
and this could be record of the year. If ya dig the A-Frames,
you’d be a pud not to check this out.
9. Real Losers – Time to Lose (Squirrel)
Usually shit this lo-fi rubs me the wrong way, but goddamn if the Real
Losers haven’t pulled it off. RipOff Records + some groove?
8. A-Frames – 2 (Dragnet)
Not as good as the Dipers (see below) but still a well crafted album
lover’s album that once again proves that there’s gotta
be something in that Seattle water supply.
7. Fuse! – The Fisherman’s Wife (In the Red)
I’m with Mr. Cardwell on this one. It’s a totally
brilliant, soulful album with huge hooks buried beneath the seemingly
chaotic maelstrom of sound, that would have placed higher if it didn’t
start to lag near the end. Pretty much impossible to describe
properly, but here’s the band names that I jotted down for comparisons
on one complete listen through: Huggy Bear, Tricky Woo, PeeChees, Drags,
Le Shok, Scared of Chaka, Real Pills, Stooges, and Country Teasers.
None of those are really right. I think my local record shop clerk
said it best “The Urinals go hardcore!”
6. Tyrades – s/t (Broken)
Usually the words atonal, dissonant, and abrasive aren’t used
to describe great records, but here they are. I’m pretty
sure that 99.99% of all people in the world would hate this thing if
they ever heard it, but for the other 0.01% of us, it’s a classic.
Their cover of “Couples” by Volt is genius.
5. Nervous Patterns – s/t (Contaminated)
Lost Sounds didn’t put out a proper studio album this year, but
this comes close in spirit. Out soon on LP if you missed it the
first time around.
4. Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love (Columbia)
My token major label pick, from what I’m told is a completely
over-hyped Dutch duo (with plenty of backing help). Huge Everly
Brothers type harmonies, mixed with some Velvet Underground type drone
and skree, make for one damn catchy listen.
3. Marked Men – s/t (Ripoff)
Seems like this thing’s been out forever, compared to some of
the others on this list, which shows that it must be a keeper if it’s
held up that long.
2. Dipers – How to Plan Successful Parties (Omnibus)
Not a true full length (7 short songs, plus a shitload of feedback at
the end of the thing), but if you like the amped up, faster, noisier
A-Frames songs found on their demos, early singles and some of the hits
from the first album, then you’ll be all over this thing like
flies on hot shit. A complete surprise, but when the band is made
up solely of A-Frames and Intelligence members, it’s really not
shocking that it would be as good as it is.
1. Popular Shapes – Bikini Style (On/On Switch)
High fucking energy! Dunno what the drug of choice is for these
Seattle gents (my quick guess would be ultra-caffeinated crank pills)
but it’s gotta be something to produce sounds so fucked up.
The structure to these songs is totally unconventional, the dual guitars
often seem like they’re playing different songs, and the vocals
are yelped more than they’re sung, but it’s still the best
9 songs I’ve heard all year. The artwork is fantastic, the
clear vinyl looks amazing in the clear plastic sleeve and the Kurt Bloch
production is the best you’re likely to hear on any punk album.
Pretty much perfect from start to finish. Essential listening
for today’s modern punk.
The 10 Best Singles of 2003:
Same goes for singles. How could I not include singles by the
Fuses, Lipstick Pickups, Clorox Girls, Minds, Flip Tops, Nikki Corvette
and the Royal Routes? Am I an idiot? And there’s still
other good listens like the Havenots/Soviettes split, Distraction, the
other HFOS single, Lids, Rolling Blackouts, Deadly Weapons, and Little
10. Kill-a-Watts / Sweet JAP split (Nice & Neat)
Both sides are mint. The Kill-a-Watts are near their peak and
the two Sweet JAP songs are the best they’ve done so far.
9. White+Outs – Solid State (Shit Sandwich)
I was sad to learn that these Chicagoans are no longer after their two
song debut which did a good job of getting repeat plays on my turntable
with the A-side and B-side sounding like two very different bands.
8. Catholic Boys – Brainwash City (Kryptonite)
All of us internet nerds know how good their upcoming full length is,
but do you also remember that this single kicks total ass?
7. Henry Fiat’s Open Sore – I Was a Teenage Pretty
Their album (CD on Coldfront, LP coming soon on Raw Deluxe) almost made
my list, but I’ve always said that HFOS are a band that works
better in the short player format. Once again – PLAY IT
6. Neon King Kong – Get What’s Going Around (Vinyl
How sad is it that all we get from this short-lived band is two, two
song singles and a Redd Kross cover off of a comp? I’ll
tell ya – pretty fucking sad.
5. FM Knives – Keith Levene 7” (Dirtnap)
I wasn’t too gung-ho over this record until I heard the songs
live and realized that they were the best two songs in their live set.
Oh please, oh please, I hope we’ll get to see a new full length
4. Ponys – So Sentimental (Contaminated)
Ponys are definitely the pick for best new band of the year. I
have no idea whether their upcoming single and full length on In the
Red will feature the mesmerizing downer type songs heard here or whether
they’ll go for the poppier, more upbeat approach of the Wicked
Citysingle. Either way, I can almost guarantee a spot on next
year’s lists for their 2004 output. Once again, very highly
3. Volt – s/t 12”EP (Polly Magoo)
Technically this is a late, late 2002 release and it’s a 12”
instead of a 7” but big fucking deal, as this 4 song EP does a
perfect job of blending the punked-up, wave tunes found on the great
Lili Z. 10” with some flat out Ladytron style beats and rhythms.
2. Anteenagers MC – (The) Future (‘s Coming Tomorrow)
Their weirdo LP was a bit of a letdown after hearing this gem single
that sounds similar to the FM Knives (in that they reference the late
70s UK greats), but the Anteenagers also incorporate a fair bit of rockin’
swagger into their songs, as is proven on the Paul Revere and the Raiders
cover. Funniest thing about this single is that it took me at
least five times through the A-side to realize that the end of the song
is just really, really repetitive and not a locked groove! Best
sleeve design of the year too.
1. Ponys – Wicked City (Big Neck)
Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. It’s the single
of the year!!! What else do you need to know?
Jeff Greenback #803-822 Homer St. Vancouver, BC V6B6M3 email@example.com