Top 10 Rediscoveries Of 2012
If you’re anything like me you often find yourself thumbing through your intimidating collection of albums and saying to yourself “nah…nah…nah…don’t feel like listening to that…nah…nah…”, more often than you’d like to admit. Every once in a while you make the decision to revisit some old friends and pull the trigger by choosing to listen to one of them over a newer, more shiny one. And sometimes, when you do, you rediscover how magnificent and amazing they are and they remain in heavy rotation for a considerable amount of time. Well, here’s a short list of 10 albums and bands where that happened to me during the year. Here, then, are my top 10 rediscoveries of 2012. There were more, but these were the top. They are in no particular order.
Tusk, Fleetwood Mac: I don’t know why but it’s taken me decades to listen to this album in its entirety. It’s reputation as a bloated, coke fuelled mess that essentially destroyed the band clouded my instincts, I guess. It shouldn’t have, though, as I’ve always been attracted to giant messes when it comes to music. Sandinista, The White Album, Exile On Main Street, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, the list goes on forever. I finally listened to it during 2012, many times, and I have come to think of it as the perfect ending to the Fleetwood Mac success story of the mid-late ‘70’s, ending a magnificent 3 album run with a supersonic bang. The creativity runs rampant here and only a few songs could have fit nicely on those other 2. This is Buckingham’s homage to Brian Wilson, with a nod in the direction of the punks and the wavers that were slowly taking over the airwaves. Long live the king, the king is dead, that kind of thing. Bottom line: it’s a fascinating listen and will keep my interest for years, I reckon. Their secret weapon here? Christine McVie. One listen to Brown Eyes will be enough to convince you of that.
Funkadelic, Motor City Madness: I own Maggot Brain, Free Your Mind and America Eats Its Young, but nothing after that, so I thought it was time to pick up a sampler from this most psychedelic of ‘70’s funk groups. Don’t hold it against these guys that they pretty much invented The Red Hot Chili Peppers, ok? They were the originators, the magic makers, the dreamers of dreams, as Mr. Wonka is wont to say from time to time. They had the best players in the world as part of their collective, with Eddie Hazel (guitar) and Bootsy Collins (bass meister) leading the pack. Imagine Hendrix fused with James Brown circa 1971 and you’ll get the picture. This comp, if you can find it, is amazing, not a dud in the lot. These guys never gave a shit about the status quo, and were all the better for it.
Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen: I’ve always loved Folds, but for some reason or another I always find myself going back to The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner. That’s such a great, mature effort, but there are charms aplenty in this second album by the trio. The Battle Of Who Could Care Less, One Angry Dwarf, Fair, Song For The Dumped, Kate…virtually everything here, actually, is pretty great. I didn’t mention the sole ‘hit’ from the album, Brick, ‘cause I don’t like it. Too maudlin for me, I guess. But the rest is primo angry pianist stuff. With melody.
Cheap Trick, the first 4 albums: I admire this band greatly. They were uncool, not hip in the least, looked weird, wrote punky tunes that were beholden to the ’66 Beatles and Big Star, and hit big in the unlikeliest of ways, by turning a cheap, Japanese market only live LP into a #1 album Stateside. That albums pretty good, but these first 4 albums are simply incredible. Pure power pop, the very definition of power pop, in my opinion. They should be bigger than they are, but like The Velvet Underground before them their influence will always far outweigh their sales. Pity, that.
New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies: New Order was a gateway band for me. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Power, Corruption And Lies way back in 1983, when it was released. I was 15 years old and was blown away by these new synthetic, yet totally organic sounds coming from my cassette deck. It’s the album where New Order found their own identity, and while there are still some faint echoes of Joy Division in here the sound, by and large, has been reinvented, re-imagined and re-purposed for ‘the next generation’ of indie kids. Dance rock starts here, and nobody has ever done it better.
The Stooges, Raw Power: I’ve always been partial to Fun House, but Raw Power is currently making a run for my #1 Stooges album. I am partial to the David Bowie production, the original, as opposed to Iggy Pop’s more recent reissue. It’s raw, it’s naive, it’s amateurish, it was obviously a rush job, but it’s magnificent in it’s raw-ness. The production, the playing and the songwriting inspired the first generation of punks and still sounds dangerous and exciting today as it did way back then. If you can, get the deluxe edition package.
Pulp, His ‘n’ Hers: Different Class gets all the kudos but no one should forget that that album wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for its predecessor, His ‘N’ Hers. DC remains a great album, but this one beats it…just…in my humble opinion. Especially when you listen to the B-Sides that come with the deluxe version of this album. They are, in almost every way, the equal to the original album tracks, and in the case of a few they’re even better. It’s more intimate and, ultimately, more fun that DC. This Is Hardcore has been in heavy rotation this year but that’s an album I can only listen to a few times a year. This one, well, anytime is a good time.
The Who, Quadrophenia: Everything about this album is great, even the ‘story’. Townshend wrote the entire album, and sings more here than on any other Who album, I believe, which gives it a sense of intimacy lacking on some of their other records. Musicianship is top-notch, especially Entwistle’s bass playing. I’ve been in a Who mood for the last 3 months, and even the Who By Numbers and some Townshend solo stuff have been occupying the stereo, crowding out some of the new guys. With The Who, like The Kinks, there’s always something new to discover.
Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump: These guys from Northern California (the armpit of Northern California, actually: Modesto) made one perfect album (this one), a couple of really decent ones and a couple of sub-par efforts. Unfairly and irrationally compared to The Flaming Lips, Pavement and even Radiohead, The Sophtware Slump is a perfect 10/10. The album can be sad and hilarious at the same time, and that brings up Grandaddy’s biggest asset, and biggest failure: they never took themselves too seriously. The rest of their discography is wildly inconsistent, but all the stars aligned for this one. Get this immediately.
Queen, Hot Space: What can I say? I’ve always been a fan of Queen, as you all know by now, but it took last year’s remasters to reignite my interest in their later work. Hot Space was the last remaster I purchased, and to tell you the truth I was a little worried about revisiting this one. I thought I kind of dug it, but remembered that it was the Queen album that made me give up my passion for the band and move on to other things. Well, it sounds like nothing else in Queen’s catalogue, that’s for sure. ‘Da Funk’ was amped up here, but it’s not ‘70’s funk, it’s early ‘80’s synth funk. The strange thing is that this particular album seems to have dated the least out of all of their albums. The production, the synthesizers, the overall sound of the thing is echoed in bands such as M83, Neon Indian, Here We Go Magic, and many others. There are some cringe worthy moments in here, but the curiosity factor and the balls it took make this is worth a second look.