Agony Shorthand

Friday, December 30, 2005

I listened to a heaping helping of music in 2005, so much so that I can make a proper best-of list for the first time in years, and further break it down into microcategories like Albums, 45s and Reissues the way real music sites do. I blame the addictive obsessiveness on mp3 blogs, music blogs like the one, trading piles of CD-Rs with geeks the world over, Soulseek, and that old standby – the record store. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a life. I submit to you here the pieces of wax & aluminum/polycarbonate that most impressed me during 2005, with a caveat for the fact that some may have been technically released in “Q4” 2004 – but hey, you don’t mind, right? On with the dork-off!


1. JOSEPHINE FOSTER & THE SUPPOSED: “All The Leaves Are Gone” CD.....I wrote on 8/24, “Fuses twisted avant-folk with hard, squealing psychedelic rock...she has a singular set of pipes, well suited for both rock & roll and quiet balladry. Josephine Foster...has quickly become one of the standard-bearers for what modern rock music ought to sound like in 2004-05”

2. THE TIME FLYS: “Fly” CD.....I wrote on 8/4, “The Time Flys have immediately checked in with one of the most satisfying releases of PUNK ROCK MUSIC this past couple of years...Doubting thomases who scoff at moderne punk bands might be surprised to find they dig this one a whole hell of a sight more than most garage-based rock on the market”

3. MISS ALEX WHITE & THE RED ORCHESTRA: “Miss Alex White & The Red Orchestra” CD.....I wrote on 9/23, “I hear swaths and glimpses of underrated female-fronted punk bands of the first & second waves, most particularly Dee Dee Troit and UXA...begs for instant repeat play as soon as it’s over...Alex White comes from and resides within the modern 21st Century garage milieu, sure, but you can just see she’s going places fast that most of her older peers won’t”

4. A-FRAMES: “Black Forest” CD.....I wrote on 2/11, “…confirms once again why this is one of the more exciting, slashing post-garage noise bands of our time...(what) could come off as preposterous or just plain silly in lesser hands, the combination of these weary words and the icy mechanicalism of the music makes for a pretty smokin' bleak treat...I suppose they could have taken an easier route & put out something relatively easier to ingest for their big-indie debut, but they didn't”

5. LIGHTNING BOLT: “Hypermagic Mountain” CD.....I wrote on 10/27, “Rather than crap out into formless noise-clogged borecore irrelevance as I was afraid they would, Lightning Bolt have instead tightened up their attack and, with few exceptions, committed themselves to some pretty wild speedcore that sounds little like anyone before them....I still can't believe they can make a bass and drumkit sound like Motorhead, Black Flag and Teenage Jesus & The Jerks rolled into one fat-assed Sherman”

6. THE BLACK LIPS: “Let It Bloom” CD.....Gets hotter with every listen. I wrote on 12/7, “Totally drop-dead simple jangle guitar, muffled cheap-mic vocals and what sounds like a full on Sunset Strip teenage riot breaking behind times THE BLACK LIPS sound as exciting and wild as the CHEATER SLICKS did roughly 12-13 years ago, and that’s high praise that I definitely would not throw around lightly”

7. THE KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW: “The King Khan & BBQ Show” CD......I wrote on 7/7, “One of the most straight-up fun releases of the year....rollicking, R&B-driven gutbucket rock and roll, perfect for a Saturday night beer stomp where only 40oz. specials are served”

8. PISSED JEANS: “Shallow” CD.....I wrote on 9/2, “…very quickly among the USA’s top tier electrified, riff-heavy musclebound rock bands….if you can picture being all hopped up on goofballs at a 1986 “Day on the Green” stadium blowout starring final-LP Black Flag, the Laughing Hyenas and DRUNKS WITH GUNS, it might come close to where this record will settle in your noggin as well....louder than most anything I’ve heard this year and about two steps to the right of an all-out noise war”

9. TIMES NEW VIKING: “Dig Yourself” CD.....I wrote on 9/6, “Take some of the more cacophonous moments during "Sister Ray" -- maybe about 1/3rd of the way in, when it's still a rock song, and liberally shmear it over a sputtering quarter-inch tape full of very raw male/female organ grinder pop. That just might sound like Columbus, OH's Times New Viking....The band do a superlative job trading off shouted vocals and caking everything in a warn glow of fine crud”

10. ALUMINUM KNOT EYE: “Trunk Lunker” CD.....I wrote on 2/8, “....fantastic -- raw & weird panic rock that just about busts a nut on every chord. Singer also has that crazy hot-oil-just-fell-on-my-foot caterwauling vocal style, and when he's not drowned out by an acre of feedback, he's pretty damn riffs (that) are very big and often very disjointed…”


1. JOHNNY BOY: “You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve” / “S-H-B”.....Didn’t actually write a review of this one (yet?), but “You Are The Generation” just might be the single boldest, most thumping wall-of-effects pop song of the millennium so far. Just about perfect, and hopefully indicative of more genius to come. I probably listened to this one track more than anything else in 2005.

2. A-FRAMES : “Police 1000 / Traction”.....I wrote on 10/14, “'Police 1000' is a rollicking, carnival-like romp with obscured vocals and a big-ass bass bringing the low end noise to your living room loud-n-fast. “Traction” is booming 1974 T.Rex/Slade glam panic mixed up with an early-SPK level of screech & feedback whine, a total winning mix that I haven’t heard them tackle before quite this well”

3. BLANK-ITS : “Johnny’s Tongue / I’m OK”.....I wrote on 4/25, “....super panicky, up-tempo and razor sharp garage stupito ignoramus rock, in the best sense of the term – just wind it up & let it fly fast, hard and waaay loose”

4. LONG BLONDES : “Separated By Motorways / Big Infatuation”.....Just got this, their 4th single, this week and it’s great! Review to come early next year.

5. HOT MACHINES : “Hole In My Heart / Draw Your Face”.....I wrote on 5/18, “SCIENTISTS-style knockout blues-drawler....a loose, dirty crawl through a thicket of slow, fuzzing ooze and combo sweet/spat vocals”

6. NERVOUS PATTERNS : “Beautiful Brutal / You Can’t Change”.....I wrote on 5/13, “Nervous Patterns are this twitchy, fragmented post-punk duo that have written two top-drawer movers, one sung by him (quite well) & the other by her. Think MISSION OF BURMA's "Max Ernst" or THE FUSE! for a more recent example”

7. PISSED JEANS: “Throbbing Organ / Night Minutes”.....I wrote on 6/14, “...(relies) less on sheer aggro wallop & screams, and more on the propulsive churning and sludgy rolling of guitars & thudding bass...Outstanding record”

8. TIME FLYS : “The Wet Ones / Christine (Humble Warrior)”.....I wrote on 4/11, “a no-frills, no-bogus-attitude trip back to what some folks like to call “real” punk rock. The fidelity is just about perfect for a Killed By Death volume with both tracks parked between some knockout no-brainer from SHIT DOGS and another from VAST MAJORITY or whatever”

9. PIPETTES: “I Like a Boy In Uniform / Really That Bad”.....I wrote on 6/7, “Who says pulse-rushing, mindless 60s-style girl pop is dead….I love it -- both tracks are 90 seconds of fast-moving pure saccharine, not that wimpy Splenda rock the twee kids are always pushing”

10. LONG BLONDES: “Appropriation (By Any Other Name) / Lust In The Movies”.....I ended up liking this better and played it more than the review I wrote about it on 9/16 indicated, “....weird, complex rhythm patterns; a sultry female vocalist; and moves gracefully copped from so many 1981 British acts you can smell the musty copies of MELODY MAKER and SOUNDS under the bed”.


1. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “American Primitive, Vol. 2 : Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939)” 2xCD.....I wrote on 11/2, “...some of this stuff unearthed by Revenant this time is going to blow you clean away...“American Primitive, Volume 2” is an honest-to-god event worth celebrating and rewarding with immediate purchase, and another deep belt-notch for a label that’s just about run out of room on the belt.

2. ANIMALS & MEN: “Revel In The Static” CD.....I wrote on 10/17, “The 1979 sessions from this exurban British lark of a band are among my favorite ramshackle DIY recordings anywhere, ever...pulsates with basement-bred glee and the lessons learned from a hundred sloppy punk bands”

3. THE EX: “Singles. Period. The Vinyl Years 1980-1990” CD.....This is the disc that made me an EX fan, something I resisted for years. I wrote on 9/29, “...skittering, creepy-flesh punk act that used a thudding, funked-out bass like other punk bands used guitar, and moved that guitar to a supporting role for pure noise damage and swirling, clanging effects...A more worthy reissue may be hard to come by this late in the game in 2005, and it’s so ace I’m newly invigorated to take a fresh look into those 80s albums again”

4. JOHN FAHEY: “The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick” CD.....I wrote on 11/17, “When JOHN FAHEY stepped onto the stage at San Francisco's Matrix club in 1968, I think it's fair to say that that could have been the very moment when he was at the absolute peak of his game...Fahey takes his ringing, intricately constructed acoustic songs and transports them in real time to someplace warm, lovely and complex”

5. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “Keats Rides a Harley” CD….I wrote on 9/15, “...laden with joyful experimentation from the scene that formed in the small clubs and cramped garages around Los Angeles....It's a great thing to again have this glimpse of 1981 LA bands independently operating far below the radar of those whom themselves operated below the radar.”

6. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “Ghana Soundz 2” CD......I wrote on 12/14, “…I think they've done themselves one better with this second offering of collected rare 45s and LP tracks from deepest Ghana, circa 1969-1973 or so....It's a CD that invites continued play, over and over, and it gets kids of all ages hopping around the living room. How does ironic detachment and hipster skepticism compete with breezing farfisa organ, an acre of drums going off in every conceivable direction, thumping P-FUNK bass, trumpets and screaming horns everywhere and rhythmic tribal chanting that you can't help but take up in your own special gibberish?”

7. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “Good For What Ails You: Music of The Medicine Shows 1926-1937” 2xCD.....I wrote on 12/29, “The Old Hat label is quickly becoming the chief “rival” to Revenant Records for incredible archival releases of pre-WWII blues, hillbilly and string band material...the two discs are a hoot...This one is just more about relaying some good times & providing the non-collector with some 78s that have rarely been heard before, and as such, it's an excellent companion to have humming in the background on "repeat" as you go about your day & consuming your own medicines”

8. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “One Kiss Can Lead To Another – Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found” 4-CD Box Set.....Review to come in 2006.

9. VARIOUS ARTISTS: “The Socker” CD.....I wrote on 7/11, “…weighing in at 28 boss cuts, there's over an hour+ of ass-rattling entertainment to be had….”The Socker" is as hot as it comes. Listening to (this) I can only semi-wistfully picture myself frantically flipping through boxes of unmarked, no-sleeve 45s in some musty record store to secure these gems…”

10. TAR BABIES: “Face The Music/Respect Your Nightmares” CD.....I wrote on 4/1, “Long overdue reissue CD from Wisconsin's TAR BABIES, who, when they really let it rip ("Confusion", "Be Humble" and especially "Native Son") were one of the most explosive and berzerk American hardcore bands of the early 80s”

Honorable Mention: There’s a hot, brassy new pop band out of Sweden called LOVE IS ALL who put out two of the absolute best weird, hooky songs of the year on different 45s – “Motorboat” and “Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up”. Had these two numbers been on the same record, it might’ve been my top single of the year. Unfortunately, the band’s quality control appears to be pretty lacking & the other tracks of theirs on both the singles and some leaked mp3s from their upcoming CD are limp alterna-pop. But if you can procure these two numbers in any way, shape or form, you will most certainly be the better for it & will be pleasantly acquainted with one of the new vanguard of loud-ass European pop bands (LONG BLONDES, JOHNNY BOY, PIPETTES) who will undoubtedly go on to riches & stardom far beyond the garage, punk & raw musics we normally cover on this site.

Happy New Year & come back in 2006, OK?