Saturday, 6 January 2018

Albums Of The Year 2017

Over in our corner of the world, 2017's music can be pretty much broken down into two clear categories - the return of much loved bands and protest albums.

And feck, do we need protest albums right now.

There were some lovely deluxe re-issues kicking about, care of Marillion, Def Leppard and Whitesnake, while LA Guns, Vain, Warriour Soul, Alice Cooper, Mr Big (none of whom are hip or trendy) all returned with albums that stand proudly alongside the best of their respective back catalogues.

Also returning were Living Colour, with an album so strong it was a shame they ever wandered off.

Public Enemy also gave us a fantastic slab of vinyl (in old money), while Dua Lipa proved that she was able to live up to the hype.

Also returning after a long lay off were Life Of Agony, with an album that is as brutal as it is personal.

Then there was this little lot...

10) Deep Purple - inFinite

Purple have been around so long people seem to have almost forgotten they exist, but with inFinite they proved they can still hold their own. Blues-tinged rockers with infectious, catchy choruses caught us quite by surprise. We were even more surprised when we realised just how much we loved this album. Gillan has stopped screaming and sounds better than ever.

9) Roger Waters - Is This The Life We Really Want

The first of the protest albums to make the top 10, Waters is back to doing what he does best - making angry songs about the state of the world. Kicking out at the state of the Middle East and Trump among others, it's an album that recalls a certain band from his past - which given that they've now packed up, is no bad thing. Another that found itself on repeat...

8) Gun - Favourite Pleasure

When Glasgow's Gun first hit our ears, we were both a lot younger but jeez they were good. Their third album, Swagger, is still one of our all-time favourites. Sadly, they then went in a different direction and so did we. So it was with some reservations that we approached Favourite Pleasures. Reservations that disappeared within minutes of the opening track. An album full of the old swagger, giant choruses, lovely fuzzy guitars and a whole heap of joy and fun. It's simply a great rock album and needs to be played loud.

7) Maximo Park - Risk To Exist

While not obviously a protest album, the Maximo boys have clearly had enough of living in Theresa May's Britain. While the sound mixes the more recent electronic dalliances with their older style, lyrically the band are standing up for the little guy and highlighting just how shitty life is right now for those of us who don't have a spare house and buckets of wealth. While it doesn't smash you over the head it makes its point loud and clear.

6) Thunder - Rip It Up

While we can hear Father's eyes roll from here, Thunder are a bloody good band. They've had their ups and downs, sure, and other than the early 90s they've never been deemed trendy, but that hasn't stopped them and it shouldn't stop you. Having reasserted themselves with Wonder Days, Rip It Up sees them pushing things further and taking more risks, with tracks such as In Another Life crawling into your brain and staying there for days.

5) Body Count - Bloodlust

In case you've missed the memo, life for a lot of black people in America is pretty crap right now. Regular shootings, record numbers in jail, the rise of fascism - it's not really a shock that Ice-T is among those who's royally pissed at the state of things. Which in one way is a good thing, because we get albums like this. The venom pours from the speakers, the guitars rip your head off, the drums pound you into submission and over the top Ice-T snarls and rages about the injustices he sees every day. It's time we heard what he, and others, are saying. (Oh and watch out, the video has a few swears).

4) Therapy? - Communion: Live At Union Chapel

For those of a certain age, Therapy? were a great band who made a lot of noise on Top Of The Pops at a time when people thought Oasis were a rock band. And while the spotlight of fame may have moved on to lesser targets, Andy Cairns and the gang cared not a jot and carried on doing what they do - to great affect, too. Their last couple of albums have been among their best work, and now they've packed away the electric guitars and taken all those noisy songs you love and stripped them down to an acoustic set. What this shows is just how good their songs are, just how good Cairn's lyrics are (check out the opening line to Potato Junkie) and also just how frickin' funny a frontman he is. We've already got our tickets for next year's tour with The Stranglers.

3) Prophets Of Rage - Prophets Of Rage

Like Ice-T and Roger Waters, Tom Morello has had enough of what's happening in America right now. A clown is in the White House and it's time we all did something about it. Hence Prophets Of Rage. Taking three quarters of Rage Against The Machine and adding a hefty dose of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, prophets have produced a fantastic album of pounding rhythms and infectious chants to help us on our way to the barricades. And they're pulling no punches.

2) Linkin Park - One More Light

We'll be honest, despite all the great music that came out in 2017 it was a pretty shit year. First we lost Chris Cornell, and then we lost Chester Bennington. Even typing that now it still doesn't seem real. But if there's any silver lining to be found, it's in One More Light. An album that split the fans and saw LP branch off in yet another new direction, One More Light now stands as a testament to Chester's singing and songwriting. But this album isn't at number two out of any sense of tribute, it's here because it's up there with the best stuff LP have ever produced. It's deeply personal, highly infectious and after the third listen it's been on near permanent rotation ever since.

1) Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley

As I may have mentioned before, Public Service Broadcasting are a band that really shouldn't work. They take public archive recordings and set them to music. Doesn't sound much, does it? And yet, with every album they take things to another level. Having dealt with space, their attention has now turned to the mining industry of Wales - once a thriving, vibrant centre of a warm, loving community until the Tories decided buying it in from abroad made more sense. Over the course of Every Valley we get the full story - from the PR telling people they had jobs for years to interviews with those left wondering where their world had gone. It's beautiful, it's majestic, but it's also anger-inducing. especially when you realise that the publicity videos were shot in the 1970s, mere years before the mines were closed. It's a quiet protest album, but it's also an album about humanity, about community, and about how those in charge really don't give a crap when the chips are down.

Til next year (assuming the world hasn't burnt or blown up by then)...

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