- I chose albums which show drive, grit and passion and yet, rarely grace best-of-the-year lists.
(Living in the past makes such a post an arduous task, but with ever more delicate, woozy indie-ness dominating year-end lists someone must highlight albums that kick ass.)
1. Ergs - Hindsight
For their swansong, the Ergs laid out their 7" history in inverse chronological order. Pop-punk is usually determinedly simple but there's a prickly, challenging side to these Jersey boys who throw out Miles Davis, Steely Dan and Black Flag in-jokes, while covering The Beatles, the Apers, Vince Gauraldi and Nirvana. Sadly, it's thirty-three track epitaph as the band is calling it quits. (Live)
Listen: It's Like I Say, Y'know
2. 241ers - Murderers
Folk-punk that is by turns The Jam and by turns the Dubliners. That might come across as Dropkick Murphys'-ish but instead by adding the political fury of early 80's hardcore and the mad acoustic strumming of the early 60's folk bands this New York band creates their own bracing noise. (Live)
Listen: Little Town of Bethlehem
3. Sloppy Seconds - Endless Bummer
As with their last album*, too many songs (i.e. throwaways like “Achy Breaky Skull", which grafts Ice Cube level misogyny to a Billy Ray Cyrus allusion) are not up to this Indianapolis band's junk culture standard. While the surfeit of songs hurts the flow a bit, it's still great to hear what is only their fourth album in twenty years. Ace Hardware's Chuck Berry-isms rock but it's B.A's lyrics, which at their best (and only then), exemplify pop-punk's mix of clever and stupid in ever-shifting proportions. Check out "Shut up and Pour Me a Drink" to hear this dichotomy at full blast.
(*Video for "Fifteen Minutes or it's Free")
Listen: Shut up And Pour Me a Drink
4. Lenny + the Piss-Poor Boys - S/T
Can you handle hurtin' tunes about jukeboxes, whiskey and the wrong side of the tracks which also name-drop Motorhead and the Ramones? Yes, of course you can. (Live)
Listen: Cambridgeport Saloon
Gordon Gano’s Army - S/T
Indie-rock tainted English pop-punk akin to the Zatopeks. Check out Russ Rock with it 's sad chorus of, "We won't be here tomorrow, we're only here today - we'll fade away". (Live)
Listen: Russ Rock
7. TV Smith – In the Arms of My Enemies
Englishman TV Smith's song writing exists in a terminal present - all of his songs could have been written at any point in his career. This is far from a fault and, in fact, proves his genius. Arrangements vary from punk to new wave to folk to full on rock n' roll but they're always played full force - gritty vocals, strong words, charged guitars and - let us make this the official word of MRML - anthemic, anthemic, anthemic (spell check claims its not even a word!).
Listen: Weak Glue (Clone Town video)
6. Cute Lepers - Can't Stand Modern Music
Retro-minded, perhaps but this Seattle crew have their mind stuck in that sweet spot of 1979 - the Buzzcocks, the Rezillos, The Boys and the Circles - which makes for punk-mod-power-pop-new-wave joy.
Listen: Terminal Boredom (Video)
8. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons - Inside the Human Body
The "Dylan Was a Punk album" of 2008 and also the band who really deserve the name, "Gordon Gano's Army". (Perhaps, with all this attention, the Violent Femmes' frontman's cultural re-birth is at hand.)
Listen: Take off Your Sunglasses (Video)
*9.Steve Barton and the Oblivion Click - Gallery
Heartrendingly catchy power-pop from this resurrected former leader of the mid 80's San Francisco also-rans Translator.
Listen: Cartoon Safe (Video)
10. Kung Fu Monkeys - Christmas for Breakfast
Another single collection detailing a pop-punk band's erratic evolution, except this time it's all sunshine, lollops and la-la-la's as the Kung Fu Monkey (the New York twee-punk band not the Tijuana ska-punk one) prove why they are "America's Favorite Band". (Live)
Listen: America's Favorite Band
There, now you can ring in the New Year to the tune of 2008.