Best of the Year 2016 (Part Three)

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Of my final ten tracks of the year, one is by Bowie and two by big pals of Bowie.

This might just be construed as sentimentality but really this isn’t remotely to do with the death of the icon. I happily included the track Blackstar in my best of 2015 list and while his final album probably wouldn’t feature in my list of ten favourite Bowie LPs, I reckon it displayed as much creativity as any album released in 2016.

If not more.


I’m sure I don’t need to explain the connections between Bowie and Iggy or Ian Hunter but you might not know that the ex-Mott singer was far from an Iggy fan, once putting the boot in by claiming: ‘I think Iggy’s the most overrated star ever. Iggy has all the attributes of stardom, except that he doesn’t deliver on any level. He’s the all-time ‘should-have-but-didn’t and it’s because he’s just not good enough.’

Well, Mr Hunter got that one spectacularly wrong but hey, Iggy fans were pretty thin on the ground back then.

The first two Stooges albums met with mostly scorn from critics and music lovers – well, the minority of them that had even heard the records, Rolling Stone, for example, branded their debut as ‘loud, boring, tasteless, unimaginative and childish.’

Sandy Robertson, the author and former Sounds journalist, once told me that when import copies of Raw Power first hit Britain, one guy serving behind the counter of a music shop was utterly flabbergasted that he wanted to buy a copy.

This might strike you as strange and I struggle to get my head around it myself having only discovered The Stooges later. James Newell Osterberg, Jr. was obviously out of sync with the pre-punk times and way ahead of the curve. Of course, nowadays he is enshrined as a music legend and just about everybody hailed his Post Pop Depression as a late period masterpiece. Which it might just be.

Incidentally, whether Iggy rates Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople I have no idea but I’m sure that he surely must harbour at least a soft spot for Dandy, Hunter’s tribute to David Bowie from his album Fingers Crossed. ‘This world was black and white, you showed us what it’s like to live inside a rainbow.’

Anyway, back to the man who I guess doesn’t have too many shirts hanging on  the rail of his wardrobe. This is Iggy and Gardenia live at some hall in London:


After their drummer Chris Acland committed suicide in 1996, the idea of the three remaining members of Lush continuing on as a band was too painful to contemplate and although there had been talk of a reunion for some years, it wasn’t until 2015 that they decided that they really should get back together.

A couple of months ago, Lush issued a statement that they would split up again after their Manchester Academy show. ‘It is now time for us to return to our families and homes, and bring our time together as a band to a close.’

So not one of the longer reformations in pop history.

Their time back together, though, wasn’t just an exercise in nostalgia and they recorded four new songs, released together as an EP titled Blind Spot.

From it, this is Out of Control, which resembled their early ethereal phase rather than their rollicking pop days of the mid-1990s:


Radiohead are always a band that put a lot of care into their promos, making sure they pick an imaginative director with a distinct vision. Just think of Michel Gondry’s Knives Out or Jonathan Glazer’s Karma Police for starters.

Last year they persuaded Chris Hopewell to produce the video for Burn the Witch and Hopewell certainly provided them with another classic with this tribute to The Wicker Man and Camberwell Green. Here it is:


These are my thirty favourite tracks of the year in no particular order:

David Bowie: I Can’t Give Everything Away
Ian Hunter: Dandy
Iggy Pop: Gardenia
Lush: Out of Control
Radiohead: Burn the Witch
Holy Esque: Tear
White: Private Lives
Dot Dash: Dumb Entertainment
The Eastern Swell: Run Down Country Palace
Ian William Craig: A Single Hope
Gabriella Cohen: Downtown
Steve Mason: Planet Sizes
Anna Meredith: The Vapours
Girl Ray: Trouble
Fat White Family: Breaking into Aldi
Rituals: Black River
The Limanas: Garden of Love
Stoor: Witchfinder General
Cate Le Bon: Wonderful
The Parrots: Too High to Die
Gold Furs: Nobody Knows
Honeyblood: Waiting for the Magic
Pixies: Classic Masher
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Amputation
Those Unfortunates: The Servant
Explosions in the Sky: Logic of a Dream
Chorusgirl: Chorusgirl
Lurkers GLM: Nearly Home
Miracle Glass Company: T.R.O.U.B.L.E
The Strokes: Drag Queen

And here I’ll give a special mention to Dot Dash, an act that have featured in all of my best of the year lists since the first in 2013. Why they aren’t better known I have no idea but they should be.

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As for re-issues, well, last year I tried to cut down on buying too many of those although I was tempted by a couple of Soul Jazz compilations that deserve to be highlighted, namely Venezuela 70, the first-ever album of its kind to concentrate on experimental rock music created in Venezuela during the 1970s and Les Punks: The French Connection, which examines the first wave Of French Punk.

Sharon Signs to Cherry Red is another goodie, a compilation of British female acts from the post-punk era. It maybe isn’t as consistently strong as the two Soul Jazz comps but it was very enjoyable to hear Strawberry Switchblade, The Twinsets and Sunset Gun again.

Also recommended is the 4 CD boxset, Action, Time, Vision (another Cherry Red release, this time of British independent punk releases of the 1970s) which had many a good track on it including our own Subs, Skids and Johnny and the Self Abusers.

I was tempted by the Alex Harvey The Last Of The Teenage Idols 14 CD box-set too and I’ll maybe add it to my collection in 20017, although as I already own so much of the music collected in the boxset I’m finding it hard to justify the cost. Lastly, it was fascinating to finally hear The Gouster on David Bowie’s (that man again!) Who Can I Be Now?

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West Coast, East Coast (Cool Ghouls & The Eastern Swell)

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San Francisco is one of those cities synonymous with a genre of music – psychedelia – but it’s what came afterwards that has always interested me more, when gentle people no longer wore flowers in their hair, having decided that grit was good; The Flamin’ Groovies, Tubes, Avengers and Dead Kennedys being just some of the acts from the Bay Area that found their way into my record collection as a teenager.

More recently I’ve been enjoying A Weird Exits, the new album from Thee Oh Sees and my current playlist has had Cool Ghouls’ Animal Races on heavy rotation ever since I penned an introduction to the band for this month’s Shindig magazine – available in yer local WH Smith and bucking recent publishing trends by upping the number of issues published each year.

End of advert.

Animal Races is a collection of tracks that often bring to mind the flower power heyday of their hometown but while singer/guitarist Ryan Wong told me they’ve been listening to a lot of Pigpen-era Grateful Dead recently, they’re just as likely to listen to something very different, bebop pioneer Max Roach being one of their current faves.

Inevitably, a little of this jazz influence has seeped into the band’s latest music and they also regularly display a distinct Flying Burrito Brothers influence too.

There’s some top-flight tracks here, Spectator comes across like an American Stone Roses, The Man and When You’re Gone are heartbreaking country rock numbers; best of all is Material Love, a great slice of hook-laden pop with the highly unusual subject matter of Jung’s theories of self-actualization. Or so I’m told.

Brimming with jangling guitars and dreamy harmonies, this is Sundial:


Cool Ghouls are coming to Britain shortly, where they are going to play six dates, the potential highlight being a performance at Liverpool’s International Festival of Psychedelia on 23.09.16.

For more on the band, here’s a link for their Facebook page and here is where you can find them on Twitter.

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Stereogram is as near a guarantee of quality as it is possible to get on a small Scottish independent label. So far they’ve released music by For Malcontents Only favourites Lola in Slacks, the rejuvenated James King and The Lonewolves and The Cathode Ray, three acts that have all made recent appearances in my end of the year best of lists.

This impressive roster has recently been bolstered by two highly tipped new acts, Those Unfortunates – a London band I intend to feature in the coming weeks – and The Eastern Swell, an Edinburgh based four-piece consisting of Chris Reeve, Lainie Urquhart, Neil Collman and Andy Glover – whose debut album, a selection of songs about love and loss called One Day, a Flood is just about to be released.

Like Cool Ghouls, there’s an element of psych in the sound of The Eastern Swell, although on the spectrum of that genre, they veer much closer to the pastoral folk end of the scale rather than to the classic California variety.

Run Down Country Palace, which is perhaps their finest song, reminds me of Espers at times, as does 1000 Yard Stare, while on Temples, they stray into Shelagh McDonald territory with Lainie Urquhart’s fragile vocals sounding exquisite.

Traces of West Coast America are, though, discernible in a couple of their songs; What’s Done is Done and Too Little, Too Late both incorporating that laid back mid ’70s LA feel, best epitomised by Fleetwood Mac.

Admirably, The Eastern Swell aren’t scared to throw a real touch of unpredictability into the equation though, and this comes here in the shape of Dancing Zombie Blues, a frenetic sub-three minute blast that somehow resembles Eugene Reynolds of The Rezillos covering The Living End by The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Appropriately enough for an album that often seems infused with a real autumnal feel, One Day, a Flood is out tomorrow, just as leaves are starting to fall (my birthday too incidentally but don’t feel you have to bombard me with lavish presents, folks). It will be available on CD or as a download.

A single, Rattling Bones, is already out and The Eastern Swell launch the album at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms on Sunday 18th September with support coming from Candythief.

Penned by guitarist/vocalist Chris Reeve and with string arrangements by producer Pete Harvey, this is Rattling Bones:


For more on The Eastern Swell:

Official
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Stereogram Page
Twitter