Another quiet year on the blog, but at least I reviewed more stuff than last year. I’m still hoping to keep this running, but my current work/life balance is somewhat tricky at the moment, but for positive reasons, I can assure you all. Anyway, that’s boring, let’s talk music – here are my top 10 albums of 2022 and some choice words on several EPs that I have enjoyed over the last year or so. Let’s get our hands dirty.
10. Chat Pile – God’s Country
I imagine this will be appearing on a lot of end-of-year lists and quite rightly as well. I mean, this is, for all intents and purposes, FUCKING horrible to listen to at times, but you have to admire the dedication to the craft of making something so disgusting and difficult to experience. I mean, it’s noise rock Jim, but not as we know it. The drums are devoid of any feeling, just cold and calculating, the bass sounds so sludgy, murderous and coated in slime, whilst the vocals are that of a man having a possible full-blown breakdown for 40-odd minutes. Why is an incredible 3 and a half minutes of questioning everything from going outside to the fabric of reality whilst I Don’t Care If I Burn is a haunting spoken-word piece backed by the sound of a knife being sharpened, a crackling fire and broken glass being swept up, punctuated by a horrific scream that comes out of nowhere. It’s all about the 9-minute closer grimace_smoking_weed.jpg that cements this as truly one for the ages, harrowingly bleak, inventive and brilliant all in one.
Listen to: grimace_smoking_weed.jpg
9. Cassels – A Gut Feeling
This is an odd but brilliant record. It starts with an 8-minute track (Your Humble Narrator) that probably shouldn’t hold your attention as long as it does, but my god you better believe we’re listening to all of that. Tension is ramped up to the highest degree, with the intonation of guitarist Jim Beck something that really burrows its way into the core of your brain – part spoken word, part end-of-level boss gloating, all trepidation. The disturbing video of consumerism-bating Charlie Goes Skiing will make you feel uneasy, whilst the blistering post-punk will have you cutting some seriously angular shapes as you attempt to dance. Mr Henderson Coughs is another slab of meaty, scratching, bending noise, whereas Dog Drops Bone is so fucking heart-breaking and sad I don’t think I could listen to it again. A Gut Feeling is a beautifully constructed portal into a world populated by scathing instrumentation and broken, raw lyrical witterings.
Listen to: Charlie Goes Skiing
8. The Chats – Get Fucked
Now, I’m not convinced this is as good as their debut, but it’s bloody close. Get Fucked barely lets up, songs are splattered all over the road like messy roadkill; vocalist Eamon Sandwith seems to have such humourous contempt for his craft, which is quite wonderful to hear as he roars, shouts and belches his way through every track on this with barely contained fury. 6Ltr GTR is a masterpiece of 2-minute punk rock, The Price of Smokes is an almost wistful ode to the cost of ciggies rising, whilst Ticket Inspector is laced with pure spitting venom at not being able to pay your fare whilst I’ve Been Drunk in Every Pub In Brisbane is the age-old tale of going out on the fucking piss, something that The Chats excel at. Excellent party album, not big, not clever, but bloody good fun.
Listen to: 6Ltr GTR
7. Black Midi – Hellfire
We waxed lyrical about Black Midi last year and yes, we will do it again. Hellfire, the follow-up to last year’s Cavalcade and it’s even more bonkers, madcap, offbeat, experimental and chaotic, if that was at all possible. There’s an almost hypnotic flamenco affair to the cryptic-horror of Eat Men Eat, whilst Sugar/Tzu is a full-blown carnival mashed into a jazz-rock fusion number about a couple of boxers in the year 2163 and lead single, Welcome to Hell, is a barrage of off-kilter rhythms, antagonistic spoken word, Primus-esque delivery, rapid-fire hardcore and this big pompous, circus macabre to round it all off. That’s not to mention the second half of the album which is fucking bonkers (The 7 minute The Race Is About To Begin is a complete headfuck of noise and frontman Geordie Greep talking about horse racing) and 27 Questions rounds things off in a deliciously weird and odd-ball way, pounding keys, wailing brass, avant-garde pop rock and this feeling of growing uncertainly, angst and even delight.
Listen to: Welcome to Hell
6. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Whilst hype can be a dangerous thing, sometimes it’s entirely justified. Wet Leg’s debut self-titled album is a tremendous piece of work, mixing biting sarcasm with infectious-as-hell driving guitar rock, with elements of drawled post-punk (Angelica), slacker-pop sing-a-longs (Supermarket) and the absolute ear-worm forever one-two punch of Chaise Longue and Wet Dream. The melodies through these 12 tracks are dangerously addictive – any of them could be a hit, any of them could be your favourite song and Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, the masterminds behind the band, know that. They’ve crafted one of the breakthroughs and best albums of 2022 so just have a listen, yeah?
Top track: Ur Mum
5. Thank – Thoughtless Cruelty
Thank (the only good band from Leeds) make angular, angry, humorous and thoroughly disturbing music and Thoughtless Cruelty, their debut, after a string of well-received EPs, is bloody brilliant from start to finish. A sly dig at religion exists throughout this, making it a wonderfully macabre, sinister and cutting (Plausible Deniability, No Funeral) listening experience. Heavy use of electronics, alienating noises, brass and frontman Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe’s ranting, spoken-word diatribes litters this agitated, scything noise-punk spectacle making it one of the most interesting and daring albums of 2022, especially the track about Derek Acorda’s letting agent business (Dread). You know, there’s never been a good band from London.
Listen to: Dread
4. Martha – Please Don’t Take Me Back
Album four from the Durham lot and to these knackered ears, possibly their best. Not-so-hidden beneath the joyous pop-rock/punk rock sound is layers of scathing bile in the lyrics about how fucking shit everything is because of the Tories. “Drain the blood from every diamond/On this damp and hateful island” just about sums it up on the anger pot that is Hope Gets Harder; whilst FLAG BURNER gives two huge fingers to the flag-shagging public and politicians (“I smoked the cigarette that burned the flag/
And I loved you more with every single drag“) and Baby Does Your Heart Sink? might be one of the most perfectly crafted rock songs of the year with a wonderful guitar solo to boot. Fantastically pissed off, righteously antagonistic and fuelled with fervour, Please Don’t Take Me Back is a wonderful, cathartic experience. Fuck the Tories.
Listen to: Baby Does Your Heart Sink?
3. Viagra Boys – Cave World
Man, the swagger on this is ridiculous. From the opening scuzzy punk rock sass of Baby Criminal, which is all Stooges-esque horns, mixed with swirling, grunge rock, driving keys, all led by Sebastian Murphy’s evil-Elvis vocal drawl. Lyrical themes draw from prehistoric man ( the tuneful noisy punk of Troglodyte), to conspiracy theory-style ranting (the cutting and over-the-top sarcasm of Creepy Crawlies). It’s the slacker cowboy strut of Punk Rock Loser that really hits the mark for showcasing the skill with which Viagra Boys write such interesting and infectious melodies though. Ain’t No Thief is wonderfully obnoxious and antagonistic, with Murphy spitting his vocals in such an aggressive and fearsome way; it’s the angriest they’ve ever sounded on here and stands out as a clear highlight. Also, one cannot help but feel Glazed by Rocket From The Crypt was some inspiration for the chaotic noise-punk mash-up of Return to Monke that closes the album in a glorious ramshackle fashion.
Listen to: Ain’t No Thief
2. Carpenter Brut – Leather Terror
Leather Terror took the template that made 2018’s Leather Teeth so essential and upped the game, considerably. This is a darker record in places (see Greg Puciato’s fearsome contribution to Imaginary Fire and Gunship’s Blade Runner-esque The Widow Maker) but also retains some of the technicolour, danceable synth-worship camp that we heard on Beware the Beast and Hairspray Hurricane – take, Lipstick Masquerade which is an absolute dance-pop blast of fun featuring the superb vocal talents of Persha and the slow burn sorrow of …Goodnight and Goodbye from Norwegian’s Ulver, which is frankly, stunning. Leather Terror is a fantastic addition to Carpenter Brut’s arsenal of music and one you need to discover and worship if you’re a fan of synthwave, horror films and John Carpenter.
Listen to: Lipstick Masquerade
1. Down I Go – Aum Shinrikyo
Only Down I Go would have the nerve to write an album about a (still active) Japanese Doomsday cult, and boy does it suit their sound. Embracing the love of brass that was ever-present on 2015’s You’re Lucky God, That I Cannot Reach You, Aum Shinrikyo is a jazzy, horn-laden, prog-metal, hardcore-meets-noise rock tapestry of infectious, jaw-dropping exhilaration and chaotic dark energy. From the gang-vocal chants of mining Uranium on opener Banjawarn Station, to the big-rocking hero-worship of Follow No-One Else to the crushing metallic Dillinger-esque onslaught of final track, Execution, this is simply a masterpiece of modern metal. Not enough people will know this or even buy it (it’s pay what you want on bandcamp) which, like the actions of the real Aum Shinrikyo, is absolutely criminal. Album of the year, as vital as the oxygen we breathe, fucking flawless.
Listen to: You Don’t Leave
Favourite EPs of 2022
Demons – Swallow
Do you want 5 minutes of caustic, angry, noisy hardcore done in 4 tracks? Of course, you do. Demons don’t mess around on this tape release on Knife Hits Records, smashing through these songs in the fastest way possible – maximum aggression, no frills, just damage.
Robot Death Monkey – Intergalactic Party Powder
Get out the bong, 12 beers, your Hawaiian shirt and shades, it’s time to riff, my son. Robot Death Monkey are back with more tales of drunken debauchery, excellent rhyming couplets and the kind of solos worth selling your soul for. Just glorious speed-stoner rock to kickstart the party – get some kittens and coke in, stat.
Care Home – Assisted Living Part 1
There’s something oddly morbid, uplifting and disturbing in equal measure about Care Home‘s sound. Made of ex-members of thousands of other bands you will love, this alt-punk, meets noise rock hybrid of churning riffs, slovenly synths and cutting lyrics is one I keep going back to and discovering new things. A real hidden gem for the year and one to definitely check out.
Henry Blacker – Where Is My Power?
Goddamn, I love these dudes. Giving a more groove-edge to their sludgy sound that was present on 2018’s The Making of Junior Bonner, this three-tracker is brilliant in execution, the title track talks of the best ways to defend a castle, through these driving post-punk riffs, whilst Lowering Mass is a slurred, key-led pound of morose grunge-infused noise rock and Breached is a scathing, sneering diatribe of hate. Lovely stuff.
Sugar Horse – Waterloo Teeth
Fucking. Hell. This collab-EP enters the hell-dimension in places for miserable-post-whatever types Sugar Horse. From the frankly horrible (i.e. excellent) sub-2 minute opener Disco Loadout which is all crushing riffs and a fucking cello, it goes into almost smooth jazz on the title track, before the deception kicks into the wall of caustic noise, whilst Gutted, featuring most of Conjurer is disgustingly heavy for 2 and a half minutes, before morphing into something fairly dreamy, before the nightmare comes crushing back with bruising force and trauma.
NOBRO – Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar
Probably the most fun EP you’ll hear this year I reckon. NOBRO make spiky, jagged, punk rock (with a sound that makes me think of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in places) that will leave a big stupid grin on your face with a twist. Take the opening bars of Better Each Day – the first minute of this is all handclaps, and gospel-style keys, before launching headfirst into this rampant beer-soaked joy of glorious keyboard-led punk excellence. No doubt, you’ll be chanting “Eat! Slay! Chardonnay!” in no-time – just the best fun.
Blacklisters – Leisure Centre
Because they’re fans of the Brittas Empire? No? 90s joke. Leeds oddball noise makers Blacklisters return with more obnoxious sounds in the form of this 4 track tape release and it mixes their trademark charm, wit and nonsense perfectly. It’s cacophonous as you would expect, with Why Deny It? The stand-out track, features hypnotic, layered vocal ramblings, (“I think I’m starting to enjoy this!”) whilst the off-kilter saxophone that blasts out of nowhere is really something. Fucking weirdly brilliant.