Friday, December 25, 2015

Trying To Sell Clan of Xymox From Your Car Boot: A 2015 Round-Up






















Spa Fields, December 2015

The first two awards are the most important – when/where else do you think we get to meet and write and add up the votes for all this stuff?

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Pub of the year:

The Compton Arms (a sometime Fortuna Pop! local) is back at the top of the tree, closely followed by the Old Red Lion, the Lord Clyde, the Peasant, the Hen & Chickens, the Hope & Anchor, the Nag’s Head, the De Beauvoir Arms, the Alma... even the Famous Cock (for playing "These Things Take Time" as we devoured a sneak-pint), and the New Rose (for managing to spin some early Wedding Present). The Duke of Wellington in Dalston is considerably less annoying than it used to be. Hell, even the Hunter S. is less annoying than it used to be, at least outside of Saturday nights.

A big BOO though to the pubs on this list (they know who they are) who have pulled Kozel, Veltins or Stella 4 during 2015. We're yet to be convinced that Krusovice is the future.

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(Veggie) fry-up place of the year:

Workers Café on Upper Street is still bossing it, though Gesya on Balls Pond Road and Angel Café on Essex Road probably outstrip it for authenticity, if not quite quality. Plus, props to Fifty-Six’s all-dayer veggie breakfast on Newington Green, and our longstanding record-shopping haunt Cotton Café, now the last man standing on Berwick Street. Coming up very fast on the rails, though, it’s Maya Café at Mount Pleasant (a welcome oasis, only a stone’s throw from the hipster-defiled hangouts of Exmouth Market).

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Albums of the year:

1. Napalm Death “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” (Century Media)

2. Scor-Zay-Zee “Aeon (Peace To The Puzzle)” (Gangsta Music)

3. Cappo and Nappa “Rebel Base” (King Underground)


Three incredible LPs, and it was very difficult to separate them. In the end, Scorz’s irrepressible positivity and humour lifted him above his former OutDaVille colleague’s MC skills masterclass. And then, the blistering onslaught of “Apex Predator”, as eviscerating as an album about man’s inhumanity to man should be, just nudged it in front.

“Apex Predator” essential listening (we do these roughly in order of aceness, in case yr time is short): Cesspits, Hierarchies, Stunt Your Growth, Stubborn Stains, How The Years Condemn, Smash A Single Digit, Timeless Flogging, Bloodless Coup, Metaphorically Screwed, What Is Past Is Prologue, Oh So Pseudo...

“Aeon” essential listening: Intium, Double Dragon, Love ‘Em All, Saturday, 1995, Equestrianism, I’m Not Bragging, RAF, Brain Tour, Live Free, Old School

“Rebel Base” essential listening: The Gift, The Man, Originate, Red Hot, Get Live, Rebel Base, Commitment Statement

4. The Fireworks “Switch Me On” (Shelflife)

In many years, this one would have been top of the LPs pile: it’s that rare thing, a complete indie-pop power album, which is such a pleasure, especially when so many stirring bands over the decades never quite got round to the long-player, or slightly missed their aim when they did.

Essential listening: Back To Me, Runaround, On And On, Corner Of My Mind, Which Way To Go, With My Heart, Tightrope, Stay Here

5. Jazz-T “Run The Changes” (Boot)

If you’re a fan of Gang Starr, then you are always going to fall for UKHH lynchpin Jazz T’s expertly executed, star studded guest-DJ and MC productions, the backbone of the marvellous “Boot Sound”. Great sleeve parody of Ice-T’s classic “Power”, too.

Essential listening: Legends Of The Decks (with Ramson Badbonez), The DJ (with Diversion Tactics), Jazz-T vs Godzilla (with Verb-T and Fliptrix), In The Attic (with Cappo), Ancient Scrolls (with Confucius MC), Something Strange (with Lord Rao)

6. Robert Forster “Songs To Play” (Tapete)

Clever, funny, witty, subtle, tuneful, elegant, erudite, dark, sarcastic, yes and surprisingly good.

Essential listening: Learn To Burn, Let Me Imagine You, A Poet Walks, I’m So Happy For You, I Love Myself And I Always Have, Disaster In Motion

7. The Declining Winter “Home For Lost Souls” (Home Assembly Music)

Bloody marvellous.

Essential listening: Around The Winding Roads And Hills, This Sadness Lacks, Home For Lost Souls, The Right True End

8. Various Artists “6” (ON Records)

Double-12” octo-artist vinyl brillfest celebrating ON’s sixth anniversary, starring genii from the Netherlands, France, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and Germany as ON host this suite of diverse techYES cuts by Milton Bradley, Jeff Rushin, Aiken, Mörbeck, Nicole Rosie, Yan Cook, Terence Fixmer and Unbalance. Nicole Rosie track-related fact: as we discovered on our summer hols this year, there is a chambered nautilus in Southend-on-sea Sealife Centre.

Essential listening: Yes.

9. The Declining Winter "Endless Scenery" (Sound In Silence)

Oh, hello again tDW. This outing, a CD-r on Greek boutique label Sound In Silence, and a touch subtler than its sister LP at #7, feels as wintrily English as the FA Cup third round.

Essential listening: Alsager Commerce, ...On The Mantle, Tokmak, No Stalgia

10. The Charlie Tipper Experiment “Mellow On” (Breaking Down Recordings) 

Charlie big time.

Essential listening: Rock N’ Roll Dreaming, Shine (Like A Star), Hypnotised, The Boys From Frampton Cotterell

11. Violent Reaction “Marching On” (Revelation Records)

Straightedge heaven. The ‘new’ Super Hans would surely approve.

Essential listening: Leave Me Out, Impact, Disorder, Marching On, Direct Action

12. The Hermit Crabs “In My Flat” (Matinée Recordings)

They’re BACK. Incidentally, when just south of the river on our day off earlier in the week, we spotted that Emin's Bed has just turned up at the Tate Britain, in a timely but no doubt expensive piece of LP promotion.

Essential listening: Stuart Murray, Tracey Emin’s Bed, Bravado & Rhetoric, Should I Drop You Off?

13. Milky Wimpshake “Encore, Un Effort!” (Fortuna Pop!) 

They’re BACK, too.

Essential listening: You Don’t Look Twice, Ping Pong Lovers, Sexual Deviant, Putting Things Right, Coming Soon

14. Lightning In A Twilight Hour “Fragments Of A Former Moon“ (Elefant Records)

He’s BACK.

Essential listening: Starfields, The Memory Museum, Unanswered, Taking The Figure Out Of The Landscape

15. Bishop “Everything In Vein” (DTR)

They’re, er, BACK.

Essential listening: Infinite Confinement, Huey P. Was Right, Status Quo Hardcore, American Straightedge?

16. Strawberry Whiplash “Stuck In The Never Ending Now” (Matinée Recordings)

They’re BACK.

Essential listening: Halycon Summer, Never Ending Now, Every Day The Sun Shines Brighter, Fly Me Over The Rooftops

17. The Fall “Sub-Lingual Tablet“ (Cherry Red)

They’re… actually, let’s face it, they never went away, did they? The hardest working band in showbiz.

Essential listening: Venice With The Girls, Quit I-Pod, Facebook Troll, Pledge

18. Agnostic Front “The American Dream Died“ (Nuclear Blast)

Yes, these are back too. And they’re every bit as sincere, passionate and honest as Keris, Harvey or Bobby, you know. We genuinely enjoyed this a lot, much more than we thought we might and more than some past outings. The ‘longer’ (2 mins plus) tracks lose focus slightly, but the circa one-minute ones are real pocket rockets.

Essential listening: Police Violence, Reasonable Doubt, Enough Is Enough, I Can't Relate, No War Fuck You, Old New York

19. Extreme Noise Terror “Extreme Noise Terror” (Grind Scene Records / Grave Wax Records)


*back* (avec vengeance)

Essential listening: An Endless Cycle of Misery, No One Is Innocent, Dogma Intolerance Control, Cruel And Unusual Punishment, everything if you’re in the right mood. Except perhaps “I Love Coca”.

=20. Darren Hayman “Chants For Socialists” (WIAIWYA)

=20. Hard Left “We Are Hard Left” (Future Perfect)


Soundtracks to Corbynism?

“Chants For Socialists” essential listening: May Day 1894, March Of The Workers, The Voice Of Toil

“We Are Hard Left” essential listening: New Year, Red Flag, Imagination. And the remixes.

With apologies, we've only just picked up the Catenary Wires, Brideshead and Cinerama albums, so you might want to imagine those in the list too.

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Gigs of the year: A somewhat unholy range this year, from Obituary to Belle & Sebastian to Carmen at Glyndebourne, but the picks had to be the Royal Ballet “Connectome” / “Raven Girl” at the Royal Opera House; and, for the drama if not the quality, the Vanarama conference play-off final.

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Missed gig regrets of the year: The fact that the Declining Winter played their first London show in 7 years only a few bus stops from our place and that we couldn’t make it because we were on holiday… and that in the very same week away, Jazz T and Zygote were in Dalston too… there is a long tradition of top-drawer bands playing rare capital gigs near our gaff when we’re not there (one year it was A Witness, and back in 2011 it was even worse… we missed Insect Warfare’s European farewell). And then, as we told you, we were in London when this lot played in 2015, but managed to miss them too.

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Re-issue of the year: “Grind Madness at the BBC: Complete Heresy, Unseen Terror and Intense Degree Peel Sessions” (Earache), sessions we’ve written about before, just about heading off Close Lobsters’ “Firestation Towers”, another exceptional collection which has landed in at least one family member's Christmas stocking this morning. We've already got our tickets to see Close Lobsters in May, and we're really looking forward to it.

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Good sports of the year: the Very Most (previous winners of this award, granted for people being quite nice to us despite us having slighted them in our hamfisted way, include Caesar from the Wake and the friendly man from Saturday People, which is good company to be in).

There should be an equivalent award for people we thought we’d been nice to but that seem to have taken it very badly, but we’ve resisted that temptation. This year.

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'Thanks for trying' award: Nearly all our loyal band of followers stuck with us. We do appreciate it, because without at least the illusion of interest I'm sure we'd give up, and then we'd miss doing this terribly. So apologies to the ex-follower for whom our recent ENT review was clearly the final straw.

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Earworm of the year: This post's title. Oh, by a mile. We haven't been able to get it out of our head. And it all stems from seeing the poster for an upcoming Clan of Xymox gig outside Highbury Garage, when those bloody Half Man Half Biscuit lyrics shot instantaneously to mind. I loved the photo of the Clan on that poster, too; it looks like they are trying really hard to look 'goth', and to make us remember that they were on 4AD and everything, and to forget the fact that 9 out of 10 people who recognise their name will instantly just think of that HMHB song (it's "Faithlift") instead of any of theirs.

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Player of the year: Stuart Sinclair, possibly the only footballer in the world who really genuinely does "give 100%" rather than some still flatteringly high, but less round, figure. The new Ronnie Maugé, possibly (on the pitch, anyway).

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TV of the year: We're not so into TV, as you know. But let's be honest, "Wolf Hall" was next level, and Rylance was on another bloody plane. Happy enough with "The Bridge", too, though we did miss Martin. Luckily, Beck's sidekick Gunvald Larsson, a fellow Scandinavian on BBC4, is now filling that gap. And episode two of Mark Radcliffe's guide to indie music was a (nostalgia-riven) joy: it was like travelling back in time to our teenage existence for an hour.

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Book of the year: Soon. The runner-up, btw, was David Cavanagh’s typically epic treatise on Peel nights.

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DVD of the year: Soon.

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