Columns - "Beat Your Heart Out" 12.29.03

Jeez, 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 Killers.  Wow!
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 Boy (KenRock)
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 LOUD!!!
6.  Neon King Kong – Get What’s Going Around (Vinyl Dog)
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 in 2004.
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 recommended.
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) (SDZ)
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

© 2003