Friday, December 28, 2018

Audio Ammunition's Best of 2018

Every year I take a peek at major music publication's year end best of lists, just to see whats happening on the surface. Just so that I don't loose total connection to society. This year by far has been the worst year for rock n roll in the main stream. There was Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett who are alright but that was about it. Everything else to me sounded like the most trite, passionless, uninspired drivel I've ever heard. I want to personally thank each and every one of you out there that plays in a rock n roll band, that releases or sells records, and that help spread the word. Without you all, I'd be in a serious rut. This may sound like a big cheese wheel, but music gives me life. It's what helps me get by. Good music is still out there and I'll keep fanning the flames as long as I have to until more people realize it. Cheers! - Jay Castro

1. Tommy & The Commies - Here Come... LP (Slovenly Recordings)
This record pushed all the right buttons at the pleasure control panel of my brain, and I do mean ALL. These guys sound like they would have been right at home on the Good Vibrations label back in the day. But just because they’re influenced by older bands, it pisses me off when I see people call these guys “retro.” To me, this label just puts them in the “throwback, nothing new to see here” category and that’s total BS. Great Rock N’ Roll will always be relevant, especially since it’s in such low supply these days!

2. Fashionism – Come on My Baby 7” – (Drunken Sailor/Neon Taste)
Just a two banger but these songs are so good it still propelled this record to the top side of the list. How can ANYONE not like this band, I mean come on! Their brand of The Jam/Generation X by way of Teenage head style of music is delivered with such punch and charisma it’s almost too much, almost. This band has been one my radar since they released their first 7” back in 2015. I just wish they’d tour the states. I’d be in the audience looking like one of those screaming teenagers in those old Rolling Stones film reels.

3. Swingin’ Utters – Peace and Love LP (Fat Wreck Chords)
I honestly don’t know how these guys do it. Their 10th (or so?) studio recorded LP and it still has as much passion and gusto as if it were their debut.  The band has had lineup changes throughout the years but the Bonnel/Koski core has remained and apparently that’s where it counts. These two have been doing their brand of Billy Bragg meets Stiff Little Fingers punk for decades now but still manage to make it sound fresh with every release. Swingin’ Utters are Punk Rock’s true warrior poets.

4. Please Stop – Built to Die 7” (No Front Teeth)
This little 7” record actually contains 11 songs on it. Sounds kind of gimmicky I know, but it isn’t at all believe me! Former Ills members crank up the chaos with a blistering brand of minimalist Olympia style Riot Grrrl punk that’s so ferocious it’ll leave scorch marks on your turntable pad.  The songs are all just slightly over 1 minute long, but with this much explosive energy compressed into each one that’s about all you can take without properly hydrating in between each one!

5. Faz Waltz – Double Decker LP (Spaghetty Town/Contra/Gods Candy)
These guys have been around for a while now and have a number of LP’s under their belt. However I am of the belief that with this here release Faz Waltz have finally perfected their outstanding style of blusey/boosey glam and bovver Rock n’ Roll into weaponized form. I’m pretty sure every song on this record has crammed into it the maximum amount of guitar hooks allowed by the Surgeon General without needing a warning label on the cover. This album is just a good time pressed on to plastic and I appreciate that very much.

6. Future Girls – Motivation Problems LP (Dirt Cult)
This Halifax NS band refers to themselves as “bummer punk”, however I actually find them quite engaging. Hmm what does that say about me? This is Future Girl’s debut LP and they already sound like veterans. Their music is similar to bands like J Church, Jawbreaker, Weston, Superchunk and Discount. So basically like those high energy pop punk bands that were around in the late 1990’s who wore their hearts on their sleeves. I find Future Girls to have a refreshing sound for sore ears.

7. Freak Genes – Qwak Qwak LP (Drunken Sailor)
I haven’t heard this much satirical wit in punk rock since the heydays of Boris the Sprinkler (R.I.P.) back in the mid 1990’s. Freak Genes music is so wonderfully amusing, bizarre and irreverent that it sounds as if the Monty Python guys had formed a punk band instead of a sketch comedy group. The music I suppose can fall into the “Post Punk” pigeonhole if you need it to go somewhere. Most of the songs on this record fall somewhere between Mark E Smith and Billy Childish.  

8. Crom/Dam – Black Nylons 7” (Screen Test)
I was a huge fan of this band when they were Line Traps and now that they’re a duo, they’ve morphed into the dystopian Chrom/Dam (short for Chromosome Damage). This band has a dark, anarchic feel to their music which reminds me of groups like Stalin Video and Lost Sounds. Imagine if you lit a pile of your Devo records on fire then ran them over with a tank. That noise coupled with the sound of your nerd friends screaming in agony will get you close to what the mighty Chrom/Dam will do to your soul.

9. Velveteen Rabbit – Mind Numbing Entertainment 7” (Hozac)
Do you guys remember that band The Jeanies and how marvelous they were? Well now they’re Velveteen Rabbit and the parade of splendor continues!  First of all, just the amount of swagger and charisma that radiates off this record is unbelievable.  If you can try to imagine a band that’s equal parts Bowie, Bolan, Faces and Kinks, then you get a partial idea of what this band is capable of. There are nods to all of those bands I mentioned above but these guys have a walk all their own and it’s something to truly behold. 

10. Cold Stereo – Demo 2018 (Self Released)
One of the coolest parts about having a blog is that people send you their songs that you otherwise wouldn’t get to hear. Cold Stereo’s amazing demo shouldn’t be a demo at all, and I’ll bet it won’t be for very long. This Cincinnati OH band sounds like they could have been from NYC in the mid to late 1970’s. They don’t sound like any one particular group mind you but on the fringe you can taste Television, Talking Heads, Heartbreakers, Suicide, artsy, grimy stuff like that but with hooks and personality. Sounds pretty good? Well it is! 

Honorable Mentions!  

Other releases that came out this year that brought me happiness in my life! I only had time to write about so many, otherwise I would have given all of these phenomenal records their due!  

Number Ones - Another Side of... 7" (Static Shock) 

Telephone Lovers - Two Dollar Baby 7" (Disconnected)

Maniac -  Dead Dance Club LP (Dirt Cult)

The Whiffs - Take a Whiff LP ((Drunken Sailor) 

ANMLS - S/T LP (Slovenly) 

Ravagers - Drowning in Blood 7" (Spaghetty Town/No Front Teeth)

The Sueves - R.I.P. Clearance Event LP (Hozac) 

Bad Sports Constant Stimulation- LP (Dirtnap)

Morons Morons - Indecent Exposure 7" (Slovenly)

Neighborhood Brats - Claw Marks LP (Dirt Cult)

Nasty Rumours - Straight To Your Heart LP (Wanda) 

After much debating, I came up with this list. As usual, I picked from the band and label submissions that we received at the Audio Ammunition compound. I also didn’t put my choices in any numerical order ranking from one to ten. While we were not as active as years passed, I am grateful for all the bands, labels and PR personnel that take their valuable time to actually send us their songs and releases to review. - Ed Stuart

Dee Rangers – No Need Tonight LP (Low Impact)
This LP was sent as a submission from the band and I’m glad they decided to send it in. Dee Rangers, from Stockholm, Sweden, play a pop melodic brand of ‘60’s garage pop/R&B/rock n’ roll mixed with ‘70’s era Flamin’ Groovies. Dee Rangers is like a modern day Sonics. Yes, the band has been plugging since the early ‘00’s, but if you’re new to them No Need Tonight is a great place to start. Dee Rangers play fun upbeat ‘60’s garage that even though it’s not reinventing the wheel; you won’t care because you’re too busy dancing along.

Hakan – III LP (One Chord Wonder)
Hakan, a Turkish word, is the name for this Italian punk-garage-pop band. Hakan has been putting out steady releases since 2015. III is not radically different from its two predecessors, which is a good thing. Hakan plays punk-pop that relies heavily on Ramones meets Marked Men catchy ’77 style harmonies, melodies and songwriting. This band does play in a crowded space dominated by more popular bands, but Hakan easily holds their own.

Neighborhood Brats – Claw Marks LP (Dirt Cult)
You knew it would be here so don’t act so surprised. This LP will be on many year end lists and that’s it’s because it’s good. Jenny and George rallied the troops and returned to their own band’s roots to create the stunning Claw Marks. Neighborhood Brats have lost none of the power and gained a little bit of pop (check “Night Shift”) in the process. Claw Marks proves you can be tough and aggressive sounding without posturing attitude and ridiculous amounts of power distortion. 

The Number Ones – Another Side Of The Number Ones 7” (Static Shock)
Writing an EP of numbers ones isn’t easy, but the Numbers Ones did just that and made their three year break between recordings seem like an extended holiday. This is Good Vibrations 2018. This band mixes classic UK power-pop with Northern Ireland influences (looking at you Protex) with bits of Exploding Hearts. Another Side Of The Numbers Ones will go down as a classic and if you’ve been listening to the band, you’re not surprised.

The Ravagers – Drowning In Blood 7” (Spaghetty Town/No Front Teeth/Gods Candy)
Some bands only need two songs. Atlanta’s Ravagers, featuring members of RMBLR and Dino’s Boys, is another punk rock powerhouse from a city that keeps putting out some of the finest bands of the last decade. “Drowning In Blood” is the rocker and “Suzi (Has An Uzi)” is the punker of the two. Backyard Babies/Black Haloes meets the early Biters.

Ruler – Ruler 7” (Secret Mission)
Ruler rules. Yes, I went it there. Sadly, the Raydios are gone, but Ruler has arisen in its wake. Just like a western myth of the cowboy returning to his roots, Fink has come home. Ruler is Fink and Co. doing what they do best; playing and writing raucous ’77 KDB meets Saints songs that are catchy as hell. Fink is a pro, been doing it for years, but still makes it sounds fresh just like he just figured out this songwriting. Yes, Ruler had another 7’ this year too, but I went with the debut that signaled Fink’s homecoming and new arrival.

Sore Points – S/T LP (Deranged)
Canada, oh Canada has done it again. Sore Points featuring members of Nervous Talk, Isotopes and Pure Mania take punk back to its rudimentary first wave status. Stripped down ’77 KBD meets DOA meets working class UK punk like Cockney Rejects/Blitz. These Vancouver boys may look too cool for school, but they have cut the fat from their punk diet to give us listeners this catchy, no frills, lean, mean blasts of ’77 to ’80 punk.

Sweatshop Boys – Two Men LP (Rockstar)
When I say Israel, what comes to mind? Is it punk-pop? Probably not, but it should be should be thanks to Sweatshop Boys. Two Men is the right blend of punk and pop. It’s heartfelt, a little messy, a little sloppy, but genuine enough to make it one the favorite releases of the year. Sweatshop Boys has more in common with bands like Steve Adamyk Band and Sonic Avenues who both draw on a mix of Ramones meets ’77 UK punk. One of the great things for the global meeting place is to be able to find out about little gems of bands like this.

Tommy and The Commies – Here Come LP (Slovenly)
I know the turntable purists will hate this, but I’m glad for the digital age. This way when I press repeat, it means the computer will do it for me and I don’t have to physically turn the record over. Lazy, yes, but I would have spent most my of time doing this flip and repeat like deranged short order cook flipping burgers while listening to Here Come. Tommy and The Commies were definitely on repeat many times a week, day and hour this year. Here Come is amazing, ’77 punk like Buzzcocks, and The Jam with a healthy mix of pub rock. So many good songs drenched in ’77 glory.

The Whiffs – S/T LP (Drunken Sailor)
Yes, the first thing you’ll notice when looking at the Whiffs logo is how eerily similar it to the Stiffs records logo. Homage? Nostalgia? When listening to their S/T LP, you’ll notice The Whiffs LP is easily one of the best of the year. These eight songs would have placed the band firmly on the Stiff roster in their heyday. A mix of ‘70’s American power-pop ranging from Big Star/Dwight Tilley to Nerves. Their three part harmonies are magical and melodic all at once, but that is just one key component of their deceptively simple yet subtle songwriting that both nods to and references their heroes.

Honorable mentions:
Black Heart Breakers – Rotting Out EP (Self-Release)
Corner Boys – Love Tourist 7” (Dirt Cult)
Dark Thoughts – At Work LP (Drunken Sailor)
Dusk – The Pain of Loneliness 7” (Dirtnap)
Knifey – Beached LP (Self-Release)
Maniac – Dead Dance Club LP (Dirt Cult)
Telephone Lovers – Two Dollar Baby 7” (Disconnected/Burger)


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