Dusted’s Talya Cooper runs down her favorite punk records of 2008.
2008: Talya Cooper
Midyear, editor Hart admonished this writer for describing something as “trendy.” No, he said, the annoying vogue of 2008 was “modular electro-rock.” But let me propose a counter-trend: punk. True, it burbled up a few years ago circa the release of American Hardcore, but this year, raised fists and burly white dudes really hit it big.
As I write, former members of Aus Rotten are playing Art Basel Miami Beach. Fucked Up share a label with Yo La Tengo and have made multiple appearances in the New York Times. Dave Pajo and Jeff Lewis followed in the footsteps of Dirty Projectors’ 2007 Black Flag covers album by releasing records of, respectively, Misfits and Crass songs. Had it not been, according to an acquaintance, "worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space," the Darby Crash biopic What We Do Is Secret would have hit a theater near you (FYI, the Mae-Shi played the Screamers and the Bronx were the Flag). If you missed the Christie’s “punk” auction, potential holiday gifts for your surly teenage cousins include pricey detourned Ramones t-shirts, a coffee table book of ‘80s 7” sleeves, and, well, the newly repressed self-titled Die Kreuzen LP (Touch and Go), one of the greatest records of all time.
- La Caza
(La Vida es un Mus)
An abysmally recorded (in the best way) Spanish punk E.P., with enough feedback, garbage-noise, and general incoherence amidst the raging songs. It bring to mind ‘80s Japanese HC at its least music-like. The genuinely insane amount of reverb applied to the lead vocals really makes this record transcendent.
- Communal Living
As good (if not better) on this 12” as on any of their shorter recordings, Sex Vid play well-structured apocalyptic noisy disasters in the spirit of the inimitable Void. Overhyped or not, this music evokes the ‘80s’ wintry political climate without sounding overly derivative of the era’s jams. Recession-core!
- “Big Man Small House” b/w “Saints” (Deranged)
Late ‘70s Pacific Rim punk has made it back in a big way these past couple years but never in catchier form than on this brief, Birdman-via-early U.K. ‘77-influenced two-song EP. The blissful A-side harks back not merely to foreign parts and obscure comps but to the joy of teenage pop-punk—which is to say, the lead singer manages the line “get up, get up, get up now” in a way that makes a listener want to get up.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring
- Primary Colours
This is not to diss the wonderful, legit Aussies’ LP, which opts for fuzzier guitars and talk-howled vocals reminiscent of the (Australian) Victims or maybe the Stooges. Neither ECSR or Young Offenders represents a new paradigm for rock music, but both look backward with such energy and enthusiasm that they sound fresh.
- Straight to the Heart
Speaking of “nothing new,” old-as-the-hills Fred and Toody Cole switched Dead Moon’s drummer for a former member of Neurosis, renamed themselves Pierced Arrows, and recorded a record that sounds like a Dead Moon album. It’s alright, it’s ok, as Dead Moon once sang: the album sounds even more ragged than usual, the guitars still out-of-tune and badly distorted, the vocals still feral. The songs at once protest growing old while acknowledging the wounds that time has healed. No one else can combine music so wild with such moving, plainspoken reflections.
- The Nixe
Four girls from Utrecht, the Netherlands formed the Nixe in 1981 because they wanted something to do while their boyfriends’ band played. The resultant recordings sound like having fun the way few records now do. They shout sarcastically about cops and being bored, they clearly have no idea how to play their instruments, and basically sounds like the most straightforward, gleeful punk you can imagine, or perhaps like Kleenex with fewer quirks and a lot more after-school basement giggles.
- The Secret Life
(Kill Rock Stars)
Kill Rock Stars probably still generates most of their revenue from Dig Me Out
, but between Mika Miko and New Bloods, they’ve managed to revivify themselves with two of the best new all-girl punk bands in ages. Like Mika Miko, New Bloods draw from classic femme-post-punk (requisite Slits/Raincoats reference) but play inventively textured songs that exploit the possibilities of their adept violin-bass-drums lineup.
Best film appearance by a member of the Clash in 2008:
After years of bootlegging, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains – which features Paul Simonon as a member of the pseudo U.K. punk band the Looters, who serve as foils to the fabulous heroines of the title – saw legit DVD release. “We don’t put out,” say teenage Diane Lane and Laura Dern, as they scam, sass, and scowl their way out of Nowheresville and on to cult stardom—but at what cost?
Worst film appearance by a member of the Clash in 2008:
Joe Strummer: the Future Is Unwritten. That 101’ers song “Keys to Your Heart” remains classic, but any hagiography of a self-aggrandizing, womanizing, other-culture-hopping white dude that uses sappy drum circles as a framing device can seriously eat shit.
Woodsist/Fuck It Tapes, who consistently put out nicely packaged records by bands that don’t necessarily try to create new styles but rather to innovate spiritedly within existing genres.
Best Non-Punk Record of 2008:
The best record of 2008 is the CD reissue of Group Inerane’s Guitars from Agadez LP on Sublime Frequencies.
- Love Is Overtaking Me
- Life...The Best Game in Town
By Talya Cooper