Joe Brown’s Hit Parade (2016)

Joe Brown has supported & encouraged this blog since the very beginning. When I wanted other voices to contribute their end-of-year stand outs he was the first person I asked because he got good taste. It’s a tradition now, the 5th year, that Joe points us to his favourites so, without further ado, it’s that man again !
Image may contain: 2 people, outdoorThere’s not an end of year “Best Of”, broadcast, in print, written & talked about anywhere on the planet that doesn’t acknowledge 2016’s Haul of Fame, I can be no different . When the indestructible Lemmy left us at the end of 2015 who could possibly have imagined who would have followed him by the end of 2016. I know it’s life and what can you do, but to see so many big hitters depart in an unreal succession was difficult to comprehend. Personally, Bowie,Prince,Leonard Cohen and Gene Wilder’s leaving shook me the most… what more can be said…so it goes.
OK, my top 3 musical highlights of the year in no particular order. In the words of Willy Wonka (via Oscar Wilde), “the suspense is terrible, I hope it’ll last”…on we go!
“Skeleton Tree”” is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ follow up to 2013’s “Push The Sky Away”. The album, his 16th with the Bad Seeds, bears all the Cave hallmarks, masterly crafted songs concerning doomed romance & foreboding fate. Only this time Art & Reality have collided to add a unique poignancy to the record. “Skeleton Tree”  was written & recorded around the time of the tragic loss of his teenage son Arthur. With that in mind listening to it had me in awe! For the man to continue on with day to day life must have taken some strength but to complete an album and pour his heartache into it takes a person with unimaginable courage and commitment and love. This is not a record for all occasions but you should find the time to give it consideration. It’s a mesmerising listen & will stop you right in your tracks.
Image result for parquet courts 2016From early this year Parquet Courts’ “Human Performance”  was, for me, their best since 2012’s “Light Up Gold”. After the improvised experiments of “Monastic Living” (2015) New York’s finest (really)  return to the stripped back post-punk, anxious lyrics combined with irresistible, melodic hooks, pure & simple human performances. Its an easy option to throw out the Modern Lovers/Velvets/ Pavement comparisons. Parquet Courts have a lot more going for them than their influences. Lyrically the album is packed with “what did he just sing?” moments but it’s tough to choose standout tracks such is the quality & consistency of the whole. “I Was Just Here” deals with displacement and the dreadful situation when you return home you find your favourite Chinese restaurant/chip shophas shut down..a horror I am familiar with.The title track, a great pop song, has a melody faintly reminiscent of Wire’s “Outdoor Miner”..wonderful!
Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” is an album that shows you something new on every listen, As Thom Yorke sings in “Daydreaming”…”this goes beyond me, beyond you”. Often described as a band in constant motion, they’ve shifted again. Sustained experimentation is probably their only familiar theme. Their skill lies in tweaking levels, dropping in signals, making serious music that is still bright & uplifting. “Ful Stop”, a tour-de-force, is up there with my favourite musical pieces of the year. The Latin shuffle of “Present Tense” counters the natural melancholy of Yorke’s lyrics. There’s so much to admire & discover on this record, Radiohead are operating in Miles Davis country, making records that are innovative artistic statements. “A Moon Shaped Pool”s musical journey has been my choice to accompany my own journeys this year.

Image may contain: 1 personThanks Joe, you’re the 2nd friend this week to endorse the Radiohead record…that’s enough to put me on to it. In 2017 I look forward to new music from Joe’s band the Gatefolds &, you never know, a reunion of Derry legends Bam Bam & the Calling (Joe is the bassist) on the occasion of your upcoming big birthday would be the very thing.

You’re On Ten On Your Guitar. Where Can You Go From There? Where?

I’m still buzzing from the brilliant clips of last weekend’s show by The Everlasting Yeah. There was an agglomeration of anticipation from a lot of people who knew that musicians they had respected for so long won’t , like an old raincoat, ever let you down. Now there is genuine exhilaration that the new tunes absolutely hit the spot, are exactly the racket you require from an imaginative rock & roll band in 2013. So, apologies to friends who have been pointing me towards music which seems a little more delicate because this week I need the drummer to hit things as hard as Ciaran McLoughlin does while some noisy boys take charge of the guitars.

This is Parquet Courts based in Brooklyn, New York City. They have a new EP, “Tally All The Things That You Broke” & are in the UK at the end of this month. They will hit the right radio stations but if they get in the TV then they could become this year’s Strokes. It really is that easy in this country for a young, energetic, cool American band to become the flavour of the month. You have to be careful, there are people who used to think that the Kings Of Leon were half-decent. I’ve wanted this clip on loosehandlebars since this Spring, it is a proper noise & marked them as a band to watch. The boys wear their influences on their sleeves, Pavement, Sonic Youth & (I’m sure) That Petrol Emotion. All new bands do this, the trick is to get enough of yourself into it & I think they’re pulling it off. The track is from 2012’s LP “Light Up Gold”. “Stoned & Starving”…well, we have all been there. Some of us will be there again at the weekend.

The Flamin’ Groovies…hold me back. It’s a Flamin’ frenzy round here at the moment, exactly how I want to a rock & roll band to sound. I know that the band’s reputation hangs around the double whammy of “Teenage Head” (1971) & “Shake Some Action” (1976) but I have a more than sneakin’ suspicion that 1978’s “Flamin’ Groovies Now” is not far behind the 2 classics. It’s a record that I played constantly, a shake me, wake me collection, a Groovie situation is a good place to be.

“Take me Back” is a “Shake” re-write, that same lovely big Byrds guitar build, no heaving rush trying to impress with pace & bluster. The whole LP, produced by Dave Edmunds, is an affirmation that all the band want to do is rock as if the Summer of Love never happened. Their Anglophile leanings are indulged with a bunch of covers (Beatles, Stones, even Cliff Richard) of varying quality but all raucous & energetic. “Don’t Put Me On” is another Jordan/Wilson cracker. “Flamin’ Groovies Now”…recommended.

So last week I was introduced to the debut single by Dublin’s the #1s. The splendidly titled “He’s Too Good For Everyone Else But He’s Not Good Enough For You” may have been the B-side but it’s a pop-punk powerhouse that you think you have heard before because it is straight outta 1977/78. In fact the band’s cover versions are from the top shelf of powerpop, the Rubinoos & then, from the properly respected New Zealand Flying Nun label (Chills, Verlaines) the Clean. This month sees the release of “Sharon Shouldn’t”., another hook-filled, pogo-inducing, shouty singalong with an admirably lo-fi video. It’s a cracker & next week our Irish correspondent is being dispatched to check for the quartet. There are a couple of other young groups pushing the retro rawness rush who were contenders on this post. I prefer the #1s, let’s hope we need to hear more of them.

Apologies then are owed to friends waving shiny new music created from 2 turntables & a microphone in front of me. I’m sure, Danny, that the Outfit have a contribution to make to our culture but I will have to consider it some other time mate. This week if it don’t rock then I ain’t rolling with it. Now I’m sure that the Dictators’ LP is somewhere at the back of the stack Jack.