I heard a whole lotta good stuff this year, like I do every year. Some of it old, some of it new. If it's "old" and I'm hearing it for the first time, it's new to me, so don't accuse me of being an old fogey caught in the past. I'm always exploring new avenues of sound, and sometimes I hit paydirt. This year, as I've discussed before, I found myself knee-deep in all manner of old-time rhythm & blues, jump blues, blues, soul-blues, rockin' blues and all combinations thereof. Listening to Bobby Bland, Big Joe Houston, Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn, Charles Brown, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Reed, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Slim Harpo, Jerry McCain, Ike Turner, Elmore James, Stick McGhee and countless others has been as exciting for me as was discovering labels like SST, ESP-Disk, Shimmy Disc, etc. all those years ago. The music might be old, but it keeps me young. Again, as I've said before, you can blame blogs such as The Houndblog and Be Bop Wino Done Gone for this obsession, as well as the belated discovery of the genius of Nick Tosches. His Unsung Heroes Of Rock & Roll book I wrote about here: along w/ Carducci's Rock & The Pop Narcotic, I rate it as the finest book on the subject of what makes rock rock. Every home could use a copy. Hell, every classroom could use a few.
But as for new releases... like I said, I hear a lot of good music on a day-to-day basis. I'm fortunate enough that my job affords me that luxury. But as for new music - recorded and released in the year 2010 - that I would rate as truly great, the kind of record I wish to play on repeat for days on end, that's a rarity. But they do come along. Two records did: Butterflies & Bruises by Elisa Randazzo and the Swans' My Father Will Guide Me Up A Road To The Sky. I wrote about the former here and the latter here. Randazzo's disc is a divorce-themed effort right up there w/ Dylan's Blood On The Tracks and Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear. You probably won't hear of it held in such high esteem by any major rock critics, but what the hell have they done for us lately? Do they even exist anymore? The internet has levelled the playing field to the point where just about no one seems all that important anymore: it's just another opinion in a sea of many. But that's another story. Whatever the case, Randazzo's debut definitely wins the prize as my totally uncoveted Album Of The Year. And before I forget, I'd like to throw William Parker's Curtis Mayfield tribute in there, too. I wrote about it here. There's a final three I'm happy with.
Reissue-wise, I'll vouch for the following...
The Soundway label hit paydirt w/ this comp' of Nigerian Afro-Rock, funk and psychedelia from the '70s, and I wrote about it here. More than just a cool package that looks hep on the shelf, it's worthy of repeat listens, the kind of which I granted it these past 12 months.
Spanish soul funkateers Vampisoul delivered the goods w/ their second volume of Peruvian soul, funk, psych, garage rock, boogaloo, sunshine pop and the uncategorisable (I'm sure you could categorise it, but I won't) on the imaginatively-titled, Back To Peru II: 1964-1974. As is the case with The World Ends, it's easy to get suckered into these things by the alleged exotic and unusual nature of the music and the swish packaging, only to find that the music within just sounds like a bogus African/Latin version of the terrible sounds which was all the rage in the West at the time. Such is not the case w/ both of these comps. Back To Peru II and the above-mentioned have the goods to prove that the hip 'n' happenin' sounds of their respective countries were not only as good as what was happening in the US/UK and the "developed world", but some of it was even better. There's nothing approaching the Godlike genius of the Stooges or Hawkwind on either record - don't get me wrong - but as mix tapes showcasing their best and brightest, they're both unbeatable.
I don't watch it. Don't have the time nor inclination. The only worthwhile event on the TV comes in the form of a DVD which you place inside a DVD player and view on a television set. Got me? But there was one show aired down here which I didn't dare miss, was not disappointed by and very soon thereafter purchased as a DVD anyhow: Dead Set. Made by Charlie Brooker, one of the people behind the ingenious Nathan Barley series a few years ago (NB is a merciless mockery of hipster fashions which nails the idiocy of youth culture in the 21st century like nothing else before it), it was a modern update on Dawn Of The Dead, though this time the survivors' refuge is the Big Brother house. Since George Romero has completely lost his mojo, judging by the last few embarrassingly bad entries in his seemingly never-ending Dead series, this UK production is the best thing to hit the zombie genre since Shaun Of The Dead. Dead Set also plays for laughs, but not belly laughs. It's smart, well written, well directed and occasionally scary as hell: everything Dawn Of The Dead was back in the '70s, or even its excellent remake from 2004. If television got better than Dead Set in 2010, I didn't see it. Made for TV, but better than most things you'll catch in a cinema.
I have approximately just the amount of spare time in a given year to get through roughly 5-6 books. The two non-music books I enjoyed the most were Rick Perlstein's Nixonland and Lamar Waldron/Thom Hartmann's Legacy Of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. Neither were released this year, but if you're into the idea of reading phonebook-sized tomes on American political history ca. the 1960s/'70s, you can't do better than these two. Read about them elsewhere; life is too short for me to divulge right now.
Music books? I wrote about 'em here and here. That'd be the Touch & Go compendium and Tony Rettman's Why Be Something That You're Not history of Detroit hardcore. It's not like the latter was a masterpiece by any stretch, but if you're into the subject material, it was a godsend to finally have elements of the story illuminated in book form.
Another book I only just received on Xmas day but which should also be added to the pile is the one below: Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly's Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide To Punks On Film. What a brilliant idea and what an execution. A book like this was long overdue. Ever since I was but a wee lad, my brother and I were quite obsessed w/ punks in movies, whether it was real punks, fake punks, real punk bands on a soundtrack or hack-job New Wavers playing the part. Now it's all been documented, from the obvious (Repo Man, Decline of Western Civilisation) to the obscure (take your pick, there's a ton of foreign films I haven't seen here, but will before I croak). There's great interviews w/ everyone from Dave Markey to Alan Arkush to Lee Ving to Ian MacKaye, the writing is uniformly smart & funny (with a level of smart-arsery often reminding me of Jim Goad's Answer Me!) and there's just enough ommisions for me to write them an email one of these days. They encourage it, and hopefully subsequent pressings will add and amend a few issues. Well... whilst I'm here: Hiding Out from 1987 is mentioned due to its inclusion of various high school New Wave/punker types in its cast, so why not also mention the fact that it features Public Image Ltd. and the Lime Spiders on the soundtrack? And 1985's Just One Of The Guys, one of the finest teen-angst pics of its day, just happens to feature The Stooges' "Dirt" in a crucial high-school cafeteria scene. Hell, if you're going to base an entire book on train/punk-spotting, you may as well get all the details right.
I saw exactly two films in the theatre this year: Toy Story 3 and Inception. The former wins the trophy; the latter was an overblown, over-hyped and over-rated pile of baloney lauded by those who apparently crave "intelligent action films". The last thing I want in an action film is intelligence. Inception's storyline tied itself in knots within 30 minutes, the characters were like cardboard cut-outs from a rejected Dan Brown novel and I have better things to do w/ what minimal spare time I have than watch mediocre cinema dressed up as something "important". Toy Story 3 was funny as hell, w/ characters which made more sense than Leonardo Di Caprio flicking his fringe out of his eyes in a CGI landscape, jokes which actually made me laugh out loud in the theatre, and a storyline which picked up the pace from the opening scene. Hollywood may be full of assholes, but occasionally they get it right. Toy Story 3 was such a film.
The Boredoms. I wrote about it here. Nothing comes close. Well, one did, and that was the Laughing Clowns and the Dirty Three sharing a bill at the Forum in January. I wrote about that here. I saw The Fall earlier this month, and whilst it was good, and indeed much better than anyone expected, Mark E. Smith's uncanny impresssion of a drunken, toothless vagrant isn't what brilliant rock & roll shows are all about. But for what it was, I'm not complaining one bit. Peter Brotzmann's solo show for the Jazz Festival should also be noted. I wish he'd backed it up w/ a hot rhythm section - and since veteran skinsman Han Bennink was also in town, I don't know why they didn't play together for the show - but the curio factor of seeing such a legend play in the flesh was rewarding in its own way.
I believe that sums it up. People still ocassionally write to me and ask me what I think about Chris Stigliano's sabre-rattling over at Blog To Comm, but I don't have much to say on the matter. His "Ordinary Guy" schtick got old about two decades ago, and given his fandom for classic underground rock, B & W avant-garde cinema, comic books and strange aversion to lesbian porn, I'd suggest that he has about as much in common w/ the average blue-collar slob as Quentin Crisp, but I doubt he'd listen. Let him enjoy his tantrums. I alluded to one such tantrum here last year, and his mindless hissyfit still cracks me up. Life is too short to wallow in the doldrums Chris seems to enjoy, and since I'm not yet convinced of anything happening on the other side of this existence, you may as well enjoy your time here while you can. And on that cheery note, I'd like to extend warm wishes to all the nice folks who write to me, contribute intelligent comments to the blog's message boards and especially those fine folks who send me free shit. Writing all this crap is a pleasure, believe it or not, so onwards and upwards for '11!