2004 with Dave Hyde

     In an effort to normalize my behavior and pass myself off as anything but the obsessive-compulsive list making freak that I am I decided a while back that I would not make any more “top ten…” lists. No more ranking alcoholic beverages (Mexican beer or vodka & lemonade come out on top) or Hüsker Dü releases (Zen Arcade, but I really dig the Ultracore bootleg). The sad part is that while I try to let myself think that I’d like to control my neuroticisms, the real problem is that I’m afraid I’ll leave something off.
     I don’t actually understand the point of year end top ten lists. Not much of an “in case you missed out” buying guide—half the records are impossibly out of print already. There have been a lot of low press-runs coupled with internet over-hyping lately. It’s not always unwarranted hype, but seems that most of the time it’s a decent record, but nothing that is likely to stand the test of time.
     On the flip side of the coin, I don’t even think early January is a good time to evaluate the best records that came out in the previous year. I’m positive that a few were released in small pressings by bands that just don’t care enough to try to get anyone outside of their scene to hear. You know, bands that pressed 300 copies of a record and are staring at boxes with half of the run wondering “how am I ever going to get rid of these?” It’ll take some time and a lot of digging around before those records cross my path, but I’m sure there are a few. This year I was hipped to some great releases from 3-5 years ago that went under the radar at the time.
     That said, it’s top ten time, and Rich wants to see something from everyone. There were more than a handful of decent candidates, but I’d rather only write about the ones that I think were the absolute best. No need to break it down into a list for each format, for each color vinyl, for each country—anything to include as much as possible and avoid being selective. I think that a three song 45 is the perfect format for a punk record, and that a record with one great song is better than one with two OK ones, so the list will reflect that.
     The list, in order:

1. FEELERS EP (Death By Noise) The Feelers were the band this year that knocked me out of my seat and became my new favorite band. While certainly influenced by the Oblivians and Killed by Death comps, the Feelers manage to write their songs in ways that are interesting and avoid clichés, unlike most bands with the same influences. The five tunes released in this calendar year (on this single and a split with the Blank-Its) are aggressive and melodic, which are terms that so often are thought of as mutually exclusive. Like Destruction Unit 7” a few years back, this is a record that I’ll end up buying every copy I see and giving to friends who slept on it. I’m glad to see it got reissued, and I am excited about the upcoming LP.

2. TOKYO ELECTRON EP (Solid Sex Lovie Doll) The Destruction Unit single may be my favorite record of the last 5 years, so it figures that Ryan Wong’s follow up would be on par. Tokyo Electron is a one man band whose mastermind has an unparalleled ability to write great punk songs. The 4-track recording is rough and matches the feeling of the songs. The records that Ryan has recorded by himself are better than anything he’s played on with other people, and deserve to be thought of as classic records. More than anything I’d like to see more of his 4-track Destruction Unit and Tokyo Electron recordings released in the future.

3. FINAL SOLUTIONS 12” (Misprint) First, yes, a few people got this record in late 2003, but not me and not anyone I know, so it’s in my list here. It’s a pretty hard task to write a full length that will hold your attention for multiple listens, but Final Solutions pass the test. There was a period not long ago where I listened to this about twenty times in two weeks. It hasn’t lost its charm yet. Cleaner sounding than the debut EP, but the recording still works with the songs, so there’s no room to complain.

4. CARBONAS - “Frothing at the Mouth” (Douche Master) The A-side here might be the single best song released this year. It’s so good, in fact, that it had me scrambling to re-listen to all the Carbonas previous records to see if I fucked up and overlooked something great. The other records—they’re OK. So are the two songs on the flip of this one, which were from a few different years back. But nothing can touch “Frothing”. It’s Midwest hardcore circa ’84—a classic that could have come off of one of the Master Tape comps. Either this song is a fluke or the upcoming LP is going to be unreal. Sadly, only 200 copies pressed of this one, but hopefully “Frothing at the Mouth” will make another appearance on a Raw Deluxe release.

5. THE YOUNG ONES (Needle) I’m a cheater. I just noticed the 2003 copyright date on this, but I’ve already spent an hour or two narrowing down this list. This CD is the best Japanese punk release in years. Better than Firestarter, Slowmotions, Zymotics…better than anyone else. It seems as though all of the Japanese punks who were putting out those amazing Pagans influenced singles ten years ago got tired with the style and started paying more attention to their Flashcubes records. I can dig the power-pop styles when they’re well done (and they often are), but it’s a breath of fresh fucking air to hear a Japanese band put out a punk record this well done in 2004 (OK, 2003). This CD is as good as any Registrators release. I’ve been told that The Young Ones broke up, and even played CBGB when I lived in New York. That is all very depressing news. No vinyl on this one, so if you’ve got a label, please step up.

6. UPSTAB (bootleg) Cleveland hardcore in the past decade is untouchable. The H-100s, 9 Shocks Terror, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, and their pals all had an approach to their music that was deeply rooted in a love for punk history and a need for chaos. Influences ranged from the Pagans (incidentally, Wedge, who drummed for the three mentioned bands, lives a block away from “the street where nobody lives”) to international hardcore. Listening to old live tapes of the Japanese band Kuro you’ll not only notice where these Clevo bands stole riffs from, but also hear fireworks and see the inspiration for their chaotic live sets. I wasn’t around for shows at the Masque or Black Flag, so seeing these Cleveland bands was as close as I’ll ever get to a show where you really don’t know what will happen, whether or not cops will shut things down and a riot will break out. A few of these bands stopped playing for legitimate concerns for the band members’ health—to keep playing the way they were would surely kill one of them soon. H-100s were the first of these now legendary bands, and played only a handful of shows (more often than not getting banned from the clubs) before calling it a day. More than a half-decade later, the H-100s front man Chris Erba has made his return. Upstab continues the Cleveland hardcore tradition with two raw punk tracks. Totally abrasive, totally great. These songs were recorded as a demo to shop around to clubs, and a few months later a stack of these records was sitting on a band member’s doorstep. I guess someone thought it was too good to remain unreleased and took it upon themselves to boot it. Probably 300 copies pressed, since that was the amount on most of those old Clevo records.

7. KNUGEN FALLER - “Skellefte Stadshotell” EP (Cage Match Federation) This is A great four song EP influenced by old Swedish ’77 records. “Demokrati” is the best pop punk song I’ve heard in recent memory. Awesome.

8. BLANK ITS EP (Band Its) This is a pretty simple one all around—two short, minimalist, memorable songs. A very economical record. With their song from the Feelers split, the Blank Its have left an impression in their debut year, but not yet enough to be satisfied. I’m looking forward to hearing some more.

9 FUCKED UP – “Litany” EP (Test Pattern) Fucked Up is often completely ridiculous: they have released a “secret” 7”, a fake secret 7”, a double grooved record, a one-sided, silk-screened live 12”, a silly MRR interview, and so on (and I’m sure there’s more in the future). It would be easy to dismiss them as a gimmick band if not for one unavoidable fact—they’re writing some extremely good songs. After a handful of singles, “Litany” is their first EP, with four tracks. The music is incredibly well written, hook filled hardcore. “Reset the Ride” is a winner, and among the band’s best songs along with “Baiting the Public” and “Police” from previous releases. Ignore the silliness and play what records you can find—they’re great.

10. FRANTIC – “Attaque” (Die Slaughterhaus) First, I fucking love the artwork. Simple and effective. The same can be said for the music, which is distorted, dirty, lo-fi US hardcore. The songs are less catchy than their label-mates, The Carbonas, but where they lack hooks they make up with aggression. The two tracks on the A-side are good, but the flip is the standout, and is one of the better songs released this year.

     And that’s that. There were a handful of other great new releases that I feel I should at least mention, so here are some runners up: Gorilla Angreb, A-Frames, Fatals debut, River City Tanlines, HFOS LP. There were a million great reissues too, but I haven’t kept up on them as well as I should have since I’m the type of ass who’d rather track down all of the Monoshock EPs than buy a CD of them (I need the “Corney Weekend” 7” if you’ve got a copy to trade away). The best live bands I saw were the Gyro Boys, Dead Moon, Vee Dee, Miss Alex White, Tyrades, Observers, and Clockcleaner. The Catholic Boys were unreal the first time I saw them, but I should have stayed home the second. I loved the Rockening.
     As you see, I failed my attempt to stop the list making, so now I will pull out some Hüsker Dü records and grab a beer to take my mind off the fact that I forgot about the Holy Shit EP. Later, dudes.