REWIND DECEMBER: THE BIG AND THE BRAVE AND THE SUNN AND THE TOP AND A TEENYTINY LOOKBACK AT 2015
Festive salutations! How’s your end-of-year listmania? Drowning in the scale and volume of it all?
Me too, but more of that later when we get on to a super-slashed no-budget scrap of a list of twentyfifteen music highlights. First, a question:
What have ZZ Top got to do with Christmas?
On the face of it, beyond a pair of slowly whitening beards, nowt. No xmas tunes, no songs about ice or snow, nothin’. Sink a little deeper though and you find good-time vibes. Bar-room vibes. Infectious groove-time vibes and cheek-tongued naughties and, most crucial of all for the festive season’s softly softly low-light ambience … warmth. Not the warmth that comes from a Texas blue-sky beatdown – that would be horrific, this is CHRISTMAS fercrissake – but the warmth that comes from the fingers of a proper human person type being. We’re talking about the Un-Rivalled Guitar Tone of Billy Gibbons, pure as the last snowfall.
Yep, warmth is what we need at this time of year, or least it would be if it weren’t so maddeningly mild, but what the fork – we can’t let a little thing like temperature change our winter playlister habits, can we? So, along with the xmas tunes and the Scandi ice merchants and the vintage storytellers that keep us company on these long nights – Cave, Waits, Dylan, Young – we need some feelgood warmth and this year, it’s ZZ Top who are doing the job. Mebbe that’s just me ‘coz I’ve got a ZZ soft spot burned 30-years deep by a 7-inch Sharp Dressed Man and an Eliminator/Afterburner double dose, but even if you don’t have those Texan rocks buried deep from way-back at Woolies, you can do a lot worse than spin some Top this winter. Try Rhythmeen from 1996 and see where the Black Keys were getting ideas from. Thicker and phatter than those synth-edged ZZ blockbusters of the mid 80s, Rhythmeen’s blues-based robo riffs (see why Josh Homme’s a fan?) roll and flow as much as they rock, and the whole thing just makes you feel GOOD. Check the slow-bar crawl of Vincent Price Blues or Hummbucking Part 2‘s non-stop fills and see if they don’t put a guitar-loving grin on your frontal. Then have a(nother) drink. ’tis Christmas after all.
Right then: highlights of 2015?
Let’s have a little one that happened just a handful of hours ago on the December 23rd:
SunnO))) with Scott Walker were played on the radio just after midday.
MIDDAY SUNNO))), can you imagine? Was a great bit of listening and it came about because Mary Anne Hobbs had Stephen O’Malley guesting on 6 Music – well worth grabbing so you can hear his thoughtful reflection on the role of patience in the way we approach music. Also worth a visit, if it’s still available, is his Freakzone show from the other week. Top curating.
As for the records of 2015, were do you start? Catch up is the name’s game and there are tonnes of albums missed but if there are four that I’d want to share, it’s probably these:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. We all know what GY!BE are about but even by their standards, this is going some. Beefed up and warmer than previous outings but with zero loss of intensity, Asunder is an arthouse beast of a record.
Ryley Walker – Primrose Green. Acoustic songwriter in the Tim Buckley/John Martyn vein, blazing with a group of sharp-as-shit jazz musos who don’t smoothe the raw edges – check Sweet Satisfaction for evidence. Fiery folk, anyone?
Led Zeppelin – Coda (reissue). Always a much better collection than it’s given credit for – you can’t argue with We’re Gonna Groove, not ever – this 3-CD expansion is a gem, not just for the two Bombay Orchestra tracks but also the Bonham-does-Meters hard funk piledriver St Tristan’s Sword and the loping alt-Levee If It Keeps On Raining.
Big|Brave – Au De La. Only just got this so I’m in no way familiar enough but it’s making a pretty colossal impression with its, what would you say, Feedbacker Boris meets Thee Silver Mt Zion post/drone sprawls? Heavy and spacious, it’s on Southern Lord and was recorded by Efrim Manuel Menick so that probably tells you enough. Better go and play it some more
but not before some intoxicating late night ZZ.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS, MERRY NEW YEAR! Bowie Blackstar within sight now…
p.s. Old Man Lizard reviewed and profiled in this month’s Terrorizer, and Undersmile’s Anhedonia makes the Terrorizer Top 50 albums of the year. Not bad, eh?