Joe Brown is the O.G., the Original Guest contributor to our end-of-year blogs. It’s not just because the bassist of Bam Bam & the Calling & of the Gatefolds is my good friend he is also a man with impeccable musical taste. Joe & his lovely family have had a tough end to the year & it’s very kind of him to take the time
I will not forget 2018 for a long time, in fact I never will. I lost my father at the end of August & you just cant understand the impact that has until it comes your way. I didn’t understand…I do now. All I have to say here is that folk are fantastic. As a very big hitter, Joe Strummer, once said “Without people you are nothing”.
My first selection from the year’s best is from Brooklyn’s favourites, mine too, Bodega & their fantastic debut “Endless Scroll”. The record takes inspiration, without copying from Wire’s “Pink Flag”, a Post-Punk classic & a shoo-in for inclusion in my Best Albums Ever if we ever get round to doing that thing. The 5 members of Bodega have been around in other bands & this time they drew up 12 commandments to keep them on the right path. These include “no fluff”, “no vocal effects” & “no pizza-core” (an ethos of playing rock music that’s like, ‘We’re drinking light beer, eating pizza, and we’re going to rock’ ”). With all that you know it’s going to be serious & it’s going to be original.
Sticking to this “route of honesty” the record is a collection of personal songs reflecting their life in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “Name Escape” nails the local bars & music scene where trying hard to be different and unique, everyone ends up looking the same. Produced by Austin Brown, off of the great Parquet Courts, Bodega’s short, sharp songs of gentrification, technology & city life is as good as 2018 got.
Courtney Barnett needs no introduction from me. Back in 2015, when I included her debut “Sometimes I Sit & Think Sometimes I Just Sit” in my “best of” selections, she probably did. That record gained the Australian a world-wide audience, even a Grammy nomination. Last year’s collaboration with Kurt Vile, “Lotta Sea Lice” was a fine pairing, a couple of friends jamming & finding some good songs. This year’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel” includes the song “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence”. There was a lot of expectation around this record & Courtney, always self-aware, knew it.
Pop on its own and Grunge on its own doesn’t cut it much for me. Put em together and what have you got…bibbidi bobbidi boo! Courtney and her band tip their hats to bands like Nirvana & Pavement & still have enough spiky riffs of their own to keep it fresh. Her conversational lyrics are concerned with her new standing but she ain’t complaining, just concerned about doing it right & she does. On “Nameless Faceless” she recalls an internet troll’s taunt “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you”. “But you didn’t” is the reply & she’s right. The album includes guest appearances by the Deal twins, Kim & Kelley, from the Breeders. They joined her onstage when I saw Courtney play live this year…a fantastic gig.
Lastly but not at all leastly Viagra Boys exploded into my ears a few months ago, Their album “Street Worm” is probably my favorite of the year along with Idles “Joy as an Act of Resistance ( I’ve stepped aside on that one to a fellow Viagra Boy, there’s two of us you know). The six-piece, from Stockholm, Sweden, are up there with The Fall, Sleaford Mods, Moon Duo, y’know all the top acts. Vocally I hear a John Spencer/Bill Callahan crossover then there’s the sax appeal, I became instantly addicted. In a year we lost game changers Aretha, Pete and Mark E some come along and provide inspiration. Innovation is the key, Viagra Boys ooze it, we’re off to see them in the capital, Dublin, in 2019. I’m already counting the sleeps. In the meantime how about the brilliant & hilarious putdown of misdirected masculinity that is “Sports”. Until next year…Peace.