Looking back on 2017
It is that time of year when everyone reflects on their “best of” lists for the past year. Why should I be any different? I may as well join in.
I’m not going to write lists as such, or limit myself to a top 5/10 or whatever. I’ll just go with the flow and shout out some of my personal favourites of the year…
I only started thegingerquiff blog in August and have enjoyed many albums, singles and gigs since then that have featured on my blog, but there were plenty from earlier in the year though too.
So, here goes in no particular order (apart from no. 1)
Album of the year – Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Debut album of the year for me and one of my most listened to of the year was by the magnificent Dead Hope. Their album “Songs from the Second Floor” is packed full of nihilistic post-punk scorchers delivered with passion and fervour. I reviewed the album and launch night gig earlier in the year. They were also the last gig of 2017 I attended, at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy in Glasgow on the 29th December. In fact that gig consolidated for me that their album wasn’t just debut album of the year but for me it is my ALBUM OF THE YEAR. The gig was a joyous occasion where a packed Sleazys greeted every song with enthusiasm. Despite my description of the band as nihilistic post-punk, the music is uplifting and gives great joy. The solid rhythm section on Andy and Keith on bass and drums respectively are complemented by the array of magnificent noise created by Scott on guitar with his selection of effects pedals.
And the Rest
Talking of album launch gigs, another album highlight of the year was The Red Eyes who launched their latest and most accomplished album “Man and Boy” in Audio. I thought they had reached their peak with “From the Outside In” with tracks like “This is My Life”. However, “Man and Boy” exceeded all expectations with tunes aplenty and provoking and passionate lyrics. The band were celebrating their 20th anniversary and played 2 sets in Audio – the first featuring the original line up from back in 1997 and a headline set from “Man and Boy” featuring Alex King from Hateful in the line-up. As mentioned, the album has some of the best song-writing I’ve heard in a while with thoughtful subject matter and accomplished musicianship. The support on the night came from Strung-Out Nights, who released 2 fantastic EPs this year and also the omnipresent Heavy Drapes. I may have seen them more than once this year…
Whilst on the subject of Hateful, I was late in coming to the party in buying “Noize from the Streets” but it is a fantastic album packed full of brilliant tunes and song-writing. It has everything from sub 2 minute punk songs, intro and outro instrumentals that had me reaching for & listening to the Skids “Monkey McGuire Meets Specky Potter behind the Lochore Institute” and epics tracks with strings and the works. I feel both this album and “Man and Boy” deserve a feature of their own on my blog at some point soon. Watch this space.
Tarbeach Showcase – Kiss This
Back to Heavy Drapes who also played as part of a Tarbeach Records Scottish showcase gig featuring label-mates, ReAction and The Zips. The gig was a triumph with people travelling far and wide to catch the 3 bands. ReAction threw in a handful of new songs which went down a treat and have whet the appetite for forthcoming sophomore album. Heavy Drapes introduced new bassist Paul Research in a temporary with in the band – with the recent good news that Jerry Dangerous has now returned to the fold to take up bass duties again. Paul has recently released debut single with new band Voicex – also featuring Richie from Heavy Drapes. The Zips played tracks from their extensive back catalogue including early single “Don’t Get Pushed Around”. The great news is that all 3 bands have EPs/albums due to drop in 2018.
Broadcast was also home to “Back in the Garage” earlier in the year. The gig had a stellar line-up including The Media Whores, ReAction & The Zips with a rare Scottish headline appearance by External Menace. Unfortunately I was …ahem… tired and emotional by this point and missed their set…
Back to debut albums, I also thoroughly enjoyed Delinquents debut “About Last Night” a fairly eclectic collection of pop-punk tracks that brought a smile to my face. You’re sure to catch them gigging around the UK in 2018. See my review of the album here.
Savage Cut released one of the songs of the year in “Andy from Accounts” featuring Leyla Josephine on vocals and followed it later in the year with a tremendous album of collaborations with a variety of vocalists. “A Ricochet off the Moon” doesn’t disappoint and due to the nature of the collaborations provides a great mix and variety of songs.
Another album that brings a smile to my face on every listen is the latest, and in my opinion one of his best, release from Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders. “Scenery for Dreamers” is an exquisite album of sublime melodies, memorable lyrics & hooks and lush guitar riffs. The album sees Daniel team up with some quality musicians well known in the Scottish music scene in Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie, Jim McCulloch to name a few and the result is exceptional.
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads continued to prove a treat to the ear-drums with third album “Bombs Away”. The melodic and sophisticated power pop/punk played by the band is second to none and builds on the quality of their previous releases. I had the pleasure of seeing the band live in Glasgow’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy with 3 Minute Heroes and Heavy Drapes. Like the last gig they played in the city (in Audio with support from the magnificent Media Whores and omnipresent Heavy Drapes) this was probably my GIG OF THE YEAR.
An honourable mention to The Media Whores here. Although “Dangerous Minds” was released in 2015 it was long-listed for this year’s Mercury Music award. To me, this is one of the most important albums of the last few years with its topical subject matters from police and political corruption to mental health and eating disorders, tackled in an eminently listenable way. The band have played some noteworthy gigs securing prime support slots along the way. See my feature on the band here.
LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Talking of Audio, Martin Metcalfe & the Fornicators recorded an acoustic live album in the venue. Unfortunately I missed the gig but the fruits of the evening’s labours have recently been released in the form of 10 track live album and it is my LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR. Tracks feature from throughout his career, from Goodbye Mr MacKenzie classics like Candlestick Park through to The Holy Brothers from last year’s brilliant Filthy Tongues album “Jacob’s Ladder”. The Filthy Tongues also played a storming support set to The Skids in the O2 ABC in Glasgow. A treat for anyone who turned up early. Which to be fair was a large chunk, the draw of the Filthy Tongues was apparent. The Skids also treated us to a fantastic show, proving that the old punks can still cut it. I also wasn’t disappointed as Jobson put on a great display of Dad-dancing as usual.
“Damage and Joy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain was a welcome album of new material for one of my favourite bands and they played a magnificent gig in the O2 ABC to support the album. Unfortunately that gig also goes down in my memory was the one at which I experienced the biggest number of knobs. I’ve still to publish a blog on gig etiquette if there is such a thing… That aside, some of the new songs like “Always Sad” and “War on Peace” stand side by side with the Mary Chain classics of old.
Two throwbacks to the 90’s saw releases that were a complete “pleasure” to listen to. Gun released their best album in years in “Favourite Pleasures” and perennial touring band, Shed Seven’s first album of new material since 2001 was exactly as described in the title an “Instant Pleasure(s)”.
The Fall have gone through an almost endless list of band members through the years. Some of the ex-members led by Brix Smith (ex in more ways than one for Brix), Brix and the Extricated released one of the albums of the year in “Part II”. With a classic indie-rock sound the album was for me a welcome return to the music scene from Brix whose previous incarnation, the more Voice of the Beehive sounding Adult Net, I also thoroughly enjoyed.
Legendary Kilmarnock goths Southern Approach finally got round to releasing their debut album “Restitution”. An accomplished album of massive soundscapes and powerful vocals from Davie, with beautiful harmonies provided by Shirley. Originally called Legion after the Theatre of Hate song of the same name, 2017 also saw them supporting said band at a cracking gig from both bands in the Bungalow, Paisley. Watch out for more rare gigs from the band in 2018. Also hoping for action from Outstandifold and the Wettygrippers in 2018 (One of the other projects including David and Barry from Southern Approach)
I enjoyed some US punk/ska-punk too this year in the form of Rancid’s new LP “Troublemaker” which was released without much fanfare. Being a Rancid fan it is no surprise that I enjoyed the album. I think I have only missed one Rancid gig in Glasgow, so I was also looking forward to seeing the band live on Glasgow Green in a line-up that included Green Day, The Skids and Slaves. Unfortunately due to “the weather” the gig was cancelled at the last minute. The less said about that the better.
Slaves second album was a major disappointment, but to make up for it Idles similar style in their debut “Brutalism” made up for it in waves.
I’ve also recently been introduced to Jason How and have been listening to his 4 albums with relish. More to follow on the blog…
There were a few re-releases/compilations of note this year too.
“Reissue, repackage, repackage, re-evaluate the songs”. The Smiths took their own advice with a CD and LP box set of The Queen is Dead, including alternative takes and live concert. In my opinion, it is still one of the best albums ever released. It’s a pity Moz is a bit of a tosser these days…
The Fall helped me keep up with their extensive back catalogue by releasing an extensive box set of all of their single releases and B-Sides. Until you see them laid out in front of you, you can easily forget how many memorable songs and hits the band have had in their history. I didn’t get to see the band live this year but it was a shame to see the way Mark E Smith is looking just now. Get well soon.
The multi-talented Alex Lusty (Happy Martyr, Rats from a Sinking Ship) released a compilation songs from his hip-hop/rap incarnation Frigid Vinegar. Titled “Lou Ferringo” the album is lyrically eccentric, think of a hip-hop Half-Man Half-Biscuit and you’ll get the idea. I shudder to think what goes on in his head! Look out for a longer feature on Alex and his various projects as Rats go on tour again in 2018.
Also worth your time is The Membranes 5 CD box set “Everyone’s Going Triple Bad Acid, Yeah!”. It is a completist’s dream as it compiles all their releases and documents the bands journey from 1980 to 1995. The band continue to record and tour with more recent album “Dark Matter/Dark Energy” becoming their most successful. I look forward to future planned dates as I missed their December Glasgow gig.
Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave compilation is a superb listen. It takes a different direction than many other punk/new wave compilations which churn out the same tracks over and over again. This 3 CD box set features many lesser known acts interspersed with a few bona fide classics – among them Altered Images best song, the Siouxise and the Banshees-esque “Dead Pop Stars”, 999’s “Emergency” & The Boys “First Time”. The compilation also features Glasgow punk legends and one of the hardest gigging bands in Glasgow, The Zips with “Take Me Down”.
Tarbeach Records continued to release some gems this year, releases by GIFTSHOP, Monkey Don’t Care and The Pepper Kings to a stripped back acoustic “19 Forevva” by Jonzip (of The Zips) and the magnificent “Old School Rules” EP from ReAction. The EP shows all the sides of the band, from the old school(!) punk of “Out of My Head”, the sophisticated 2 part “Street Fight” and the dub of “Crystallised Radio” (remixed from the album Accelerator) to their version of the External Menace classic “Someday”. It was a striking appetiser for the forthcoming second album (did I mention that already?).
Tarbeach also released a brilliant compilation CD (“No Animals Were Harmed”) to raise money for Sonny Vincent’s family (more about this here), but is also a great introduction to various bands on the labels roster (the only place you can currently get Heavy Drapes “Nightrippin’”) and others mentioned here and on my blog previously – such as Thirteen, Hateful, Texas Mod Crushers and so on.
And to the singles of the year
Some of the other singles/EPs I’ve been listening to time and time again this year have included what can only be described as feel good song of the year “Ehm Feelin’ Teckle” by Cundeez. From the opening cymbals all the way to the end I defy you not to smile. You’ll want to jump up and skank.
Single of the year – GIFTSHOP
Back to Tarbeach and GIFTSHOP who released my single of the year, a double A sided blue vinyl single featuring two different but equally stunning tracks. The in your face 2 fingers romp that is “Despicable” and the more restrained almost 50’s rockabilly crooner “Dontcha”.
An enormous slab of industrial strength post-punk came on the form of Drunk Gods double A single “Found the Lord and Lost Ma soul”/“Pet Hate” with its Killing Joke-esque sound and Ewan’s unique vocals.
As well as publishing his debut novel “A Rainbow in the Basement” Ian Donaldson has previewed his solo album due to hit the shelves in February with top track “Ticker Tape Parade”. I’m looking forward to the album and live launch dates.
Albums of the Year
Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads – Bombs Away
Daniel Wylies Cosmic Rough Riders – Scenery for Dreamers
Delinquents – About Last Night
Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Crimedesk – Louder…..Faster
Red Eyes – Man and Boy
Hateful – Noize from the Streets
Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures
Gun – Favourite Pleasures
Martin Metcalfe and the Fornicators – Live
Brix and the Extricated – Part II
Savage Cut – A Ricochet off the Moon
Southern Approach – Restitution
Rancid – Troublemaker
Singles/EPs of the year
GIFTSHOP – Despicable/Dontcha
Cundeez – Ehm Feelin’ Teckle
Reaction – Old School Rules EP
Drunk Gods – Found the Lord & Lost Ma Soul/Pet Hate
Jonzip/The Zips – 19 Forevva/Barbara Wire
Strung Out Nights EPs
Ian Donaldson – Ticker Tape Parade
Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Bombs Away/C’mon Josephine
And so to 2018, and loads to excite. The Skids “Burning Cities” is due in January, albums and EPs are due from Heavy Drapes, ReAction, The Zips and Ian Donaldson. There have already been too many gig announcements to mention, filling the calendar and making it hard to choose.
An intriguing announcement is due from Brian Setzer/The Stray Cats on 2nd January – do I look forward to a Glasgow re-union gig to make up for the cancelled farewell gig? Fingers crossed.
A massive thanks to all those who have read, supported and contributed to my blog in 2017, feel free to share far and wide.
All the best for 2018.