The best singles of 2009: 41-50
41. Jesus Of Spazzareth / Hammers split (no label as far as we can tell, 7")
The JoS side of this split six-tracker, adorned with a snap of none other than Chas and Dave, just shades it: the fiery, fearless, indubitably sense-filled "This Is Existence Not Living" should be made part of the National Curriculum. Indeed, if it wasn't for the way our copy seems to have warped in transit, it would not only have been further up the list, but we'd probably have been putting it forward as the national anthem. Hammers' contributions peak with the bristling, equally antagonistic "You'll Be Clocking Off In Your Coffin", which thematically comes from very much the same angle.
42. Socialist Leisure Party "Tactical POP! for Coffee Cadets" (Shelflife, 7" and CD)
"Immaculately-clad in artwork by Andrew Holder, the 7" barks into life with the admirably original uptown 'A', "Head In The Hay", which ramraids straight melodic indie pop with nicely skewed post-AP! exclamation. The accompanying CD rates too, the combination of uplifting pop (sorry, POP!) and more cynical / throwaway lyrics, a cut above yer boy-meets-girl shtick, making for something rather refreshing all told: "Scented Crowbar" nicks in first, a cheeky quick kiss before things take off with the excellent "No Tattoos", a collage of spinning strumathons, of spiralling indie-licks. And after the studied shambling of "Mondayland", an inst. of which appears on the single 'B' for any Cloudberry-karaoke heads out there, the spirited "Down With The Kids" nods, at least, to AP!'s rockier past."
43. Hermit Crabs "Correspondence Course" EP (Matinee Recordings, CD single)
"We were probably a little unnecessarily ill-disposed to them for having had the temerity to enter, just as much win, a songwriting competition (with "Feel Good Factor"), because in our minds that brought up images of Rockschool or Orange Unsigned or every battle of the bands we'd ever suffered, and in any case we actually vastly preferred the album debut that followed, "Saw You Dancing", a frothy and clever brew of delicate folk-tinged indie pop, but now with the "Correspondence Course" EP... we have what we think is easily their breakthrough moment. "About You Before" is as warm, as cosy, as cuddly and catchy as "Eighties Fan", while the title track, which we found ourselves revisiting in earnest thanks to Sam's little review, repaid his (and our) faith, especially with the extra washes of guitar that intrude towards the end."
44. The Atrocity Exhibit / Magpyes / Jesus of Spazzareth split (self-released, CD-EP)
Three-way 14-tracker with rather fetching design from up-and-coming titans of UK "deathgrindoom" tAE, short-burst grind merchants Magpyes and riff-crunching speed crusters JoS. tAE launch a quartet of exocets into the murky ether, peaking during the sweaty breakdown of "Corpsehanger" and in the whole of the explosive "Assassination Template". Next, Magpyes spin half a dozen frantic, frayed webs of shoutcore, peaking title-wise with the minute of "Darling, You're A Fucking Sinking Ship" but in intensity with the briefer encounters of "Crashing And Burning" and "Lovers". It's then time for the Mansfield Town-repping JoS to round proceedings off with their longer and marginally less febrile, shambling grind tunes of which "Council Of War" would be our pick, although none of them quite make us pile around as much as "This Is Existence Not Living".
It's usually while reviewing records like this that we mention how they remind us of the venal, visceral high-speed punk white noise of Flyblown and Scalplock, and how brilliant those bands were, so for the sake of good order we'll do that again here too.
At £3 inc p&p, btw, this is a steal: go here.
45. Ital Tek "Massive Error EP" (Planet Mu, 12")
"More justified Mu... an elegant, warped 5-track 'step EP from Brighton's Ital Tek, of which it's the title track's slender burbles, draped in bite-size wraps of laser synth, which slay us most completely."
46. Sarandon vs. the Membranes "Spike Milligan's Tape Recorder" (Slumberland, 7")
There was a time (it was 1984) when every other indie single sounded as crashingly inventive, chaotic and irresistible as the Membranes' "Spike Milligan's Tape Recorder". Hard to imagine now, but everywhere you looked there was a future Ron Johnson band striking up gangly chords and frenetically annoying the neighbours - as Rhodri Marsden once said (to us!), "you should be able to bottle that feeling that you got, the excitement of a new Big Flame record when you were about 16...".
A quarter of a century on, bite-sized anti-twee angular post-post-punkers Sarandon pay tribute to every such single, as well as to the Membranes, by coupling their 2009 versh of "SMTR" with the original on a Slumberland 7" replete with Vinyl Drip (erstwhile Membranes/Bogshed label)-referencing sleeve. They do this despite the certain knowledge that it is not possible to improve on the Membranes' shrieking, Fall-happy, still mastered-from-vinyl original: a truly magnanimous act of evangelism. Sarandon's take is still (as you can see) in the top fifty singles released this year: from the opening Gedge / Salowka-speed strums, it refashions the original as a shorter, blunter, neater, ride, clanging with a need for speed.
47. Cappo "Unwritten Rule (Styly Cee Remix)" (Son Records, download)
On which Styly Cee reverses last year's splendiferous Caps EP out of the garage and does a cut-and-shunt on its final track, adding his own down-to-earth patter to the Condor's imperious flow and tacking on some sunny funk samples. You could say it comes to something when an inferior remix of a 2008 B-side still ranks in a list of 2009's best. But really, all it demonstrates is how superb "The H-Bomb" was the first time around.
48. Taggarna Ut / Madamm split (Cloudberry Records, 3" CD-R)
Taggarna Ut's scratchy, excitable, impulsive and joyous jangle (no plodding or going-through-the-motions a la a few indie-pop types these days) is *just the ticket*, and it was no real surprise to discover later that they include some ex-Faintest Ideas influence, as the Faintest Ideas, God rest their soul, were probably the best thing out of Scandinavia since Bathory. Their mates Madamm, also from Gothenburg, sparkle a little less brightly in this particular winter night sky, but their songs still pay faithful tribute to the purepop side of indie.
49. Rusko "Babylon Vol 2" (SubSoldiers, 2x12")
"Not only are lead tracks "Mr. Muscle" and "Go Go Gadget" especially the bouncing epitome of all that is good about wobble, but track three on the EP, "Soundguy Is My Target" is on another level altogether, being a mighty righteous to-date skeng reggae number (Jah wobble, anyone ?) on which Lutan Fyah lays down imperious vibes. More fire."
Speaking at the end of this long year, the wobblier tunes on Vol 2 have not perhaps aged too well. But "Soundguy Is My Target" continues to bristle with skanking menace and class. Lutan Fyah also managed an album of his own in 2009, which we ought probably to hunt down.
50. Skream / Benga "Trapped In A Dark Bubble" / "Technocal" (Tectonic, 12")
"An all-star double header... On "his" side, S manufactures a very deliberate, layered halfstep number, "Trapped In A Dark Bubble", all twinkle save for the slapped beats, with a melody of parcelled-up synth chimes emerging minutes in. Benga's "Technocal" on the other side of the 12" is a little feistier, a rash of swung dubtech and eerie syncopation that effervesces with a sweet kind of menace, like a bottle of home-made ginger pop that's about to explode."