KILLING JOKE and EMPIRE STATE BASTARD: TUNES OF THE MONTH

APRIL REWIND: NOISE SUPERGROUPS, A LEGEND’S RETURN AND A BUBBLE-SWEET POP

Busy month, April. Record Store Day went back to its regular slot, Oxford stalwarts Desert Storm released Death Rattle and launched it with a gig (OK, that was March 31st but it’s close enough) and there was the tiny morsel of news that METALLICA DROPPED 72 SEASONS ON US.

But Metallica is too big a deal to blog share so they’ll get their own post another time.

Until then, some ugly beauties.

Like Empire State Bastard.

EMPIRE STATE BASTARD – Harvest

Let’s take a moment or ten to revel in the sheer class of that band name because it’s surely the best of the year, if not the decade. The track itself is pure Dead Cross on first listen – punk metal hardcore, jammed with tempo shifts and grinding riffs at pace.

But who’s driving Empire State Bastard? Only Mr Dead Cross Driver himself, Dave Lombardo. How good is that? He’s not the only big name either because Biffy Clyro and Oceansize are feeders for the rest of the line-up – Simon Neil and Mike Vennart do vox and guitar, just way harder than you’d imagine. Ace. Harvest video this way.

While we’re in a Lombardo state of mind, don’t forget his new solo album Rites of Percussion, just released on Ipecac.

JAAW Rot

Lurching noise rock for subterraneans, Rot sounds like the slow decay its title suggests. Driven by the kind of monstrous bass that the late Caleb Scofield laid down for Cave In and Zozobra, Rot neither needs, wants nor gives a fuck about air, daylight and all that other lovely stuff. Nope, it’s a grimy beating of infernal industrial sludge decomposed by assorted guys from Three Trapped Tigers, Sex Swing and, get this, Therapy? – Andy Cairns lends a buried howl. Jaaw Rot: yours if you want it.

KILLING JOKE – Full Spectrum Dominance

Released in March ahead of Killing Joke’s Royal Albert Hall gig, Full Spectrum Dominance is both exactly like any other recent KJ track and somehow new sounding. Don’t know how they keep pulling off this sleight of hand but they do. There IS nothing new. But it sounds so great. Dark arts indeed.

So, Full Spectrum Dominance churns that dense, deceptively heavy power we love so much and adds just a little more mid 80s throwback with ghost-ish keyboards and softer vocals in the verse. And though it’s a headphones track for sure – check that bass separation when you’re plugged in – the chorus is built for a slamming live audience. Is this the most pure distillation of modern-day Killing Joke into a single track? It might just be.

SILVER MOTH – Mother Tongue

Psych folk and fuzz guitar combine with piano, sax and multi-layered voices to lay painterly textures brushed with squall. Hints of Espers, perhaps? There’s a menacing edge to one of the guitars as it moves in and out of Mother Tongue’s intricate web and it all feels timeless/ageless, perhaps drawing on the Isle of Lewis spirit where it was recorded.

And though it doesn’t make you think of Mogwai – not this track at least, it’s much more in the electrified folk sphere – Stuart Braithwaite is in the band. Go check it out.

DAWN RICHARDS Bubblegum

Something completely different to finish with – an infectious, exuberant electro-dance soundclash that namechecks Beyonce and Prince with enough sex and attitude to outdo both. Reminds me of MIA’s Bird Flu but really, I have no frame of reference for this. Bubblegum bursts with filth-o perfection and unshakeable groove. As Richards says, POP IT. Or not…


’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

EXTREME – RISE: Tune of the month??? YES

MARCH REWIND: EXPLOSIVE PSYCHE JAZZ ON STAGE AND A SUPERNOVA SCORCHER FROM NUNO

Didn’t see that one coming. Extreme, creators of one of the most hated ballads ever to many a 90s alt-rock post-thrash industrial-crossover Seattle head (like me), flew in from nowhere and slayed the long-standing prejudice right out of us (er, me again). Their new track Rise is a killer, partly thanks to a stupendous Nuno Bettencourt solo that could just be a Moment for mainstream hard rock virtuosity.

But we’ll get to that soon enough. First, it’s a little late write-up of live new-jazz action that set a serious bar for all live music in 2023.

RUN LOGAN RUN – LIVE @ TAP SOCIAL, OXFORD, FEBRUARY 15

When you check Run Logan Run online, you’ll see the band listed as a duo of tenor saxophonist Andrew Neil Hayes and drummer Matt Brown. You’ll see they’re from Bristol and you’ll see tags like experimental, jazz, punk jazz, all that stuff.

None of this is untrue. Except that, on stage, there’s a guitarist and bassist too (don’t know the names of the players, sorry) so any mild trepidation you might have had as to whether drums and sax alone can hold your attention gets fully obliterated by the trance groove, transcendent voodoo and rock-band physicality served up by a four-piece. And they LOVE what they’re doing up there – improvising, smiling and connecting with each other while locked on free-flowing psychedelic trips.

Points of reference? You need someone better versed in this field than me, but if you’re partial to Colin Stetson/Ex Eye, Melt Yourself Down and the outer limits of Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters then you’ll find much to like. A couple of tracks – Silver Sun was one – feature Annie Gardiner on vocals, who did the night’s opening set. Billy Fuller plays on Annie’s latest album so that’s even more evidence of a deep Bristol/Beak/Plant continuum at work.

Tracks played tonight include Give Me Back My Slippers, Project Pigeon Missile, Caveman Disco and a storming Searching for God in Strangers’ Faces. Whether or not listening to their recorded music matches up to the on-stage incarnation is something I’ve yet to check, but the live show is without flaw. Adventurous, highly proficient musicians fully immersed in the moment, Run Logan Run pull you in to the eye of their creative storm. And it’s a thrilling trip.

And now for something completely different …

AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Drone Carrying Dread

Slow, luscious, machine-beats metal mixing doom tones with euphoric splendour – think Type O Negative hooking up with Deftones or Chino Moreno solo and you’ve got the mechanised bones of this goth fix, chilled by 80s ice (but no Vanilla). It’s been out for a year so it’s not brand new but never mind, we’ve saved it for a gloomy day. Check it here.

HOLY FAWN – Void of Light

Enter the world of atmospheric post-metals, made for cold grey skies. Slow, soft beginnings mark this out as an atmospheric venture, and it absolutely is, but a change of beat brings an attitude shift. Voice harshens, rhythm skitters, layers amass. No rocking out to this, not that way, because it’s not riff music. It’s mood music: nature’s bleak call. Listen here and file somewhere near Cult of Luna.

ELDER – Catastasis

Heavy ecstasy from Massachusetts’s Elder. Catastasis packs an album’s worth of hardened prog and hypnotic riffage into a 10-minute joyride that’s both free-flowing jam and crafted orchestration. There’s an airy propulsion that adds 3D-space to knotty riffs and ground-level bass – check those spiralling, looping motifs at the start – as do the Yes-alluding vocals and fleeting keyboard cameos. Classy stuff. And while we’re in the company of Elder, let’s not forget about Delving either.

OK, then. Shock of the year:

EXTREME – Rise

I’m sure we’ve all got an opinion on Extreme. Or a physical reaction to More Than Words, a tune that undid the exuberance of Get the Funk Out and positioned Extreme as a permanent Musical Enemy of the early 90s.

But this new tune, Rise, is something else. It’s a beast.

Kicking off with a straight-into-it riff that could easily be the opening bars of a 2023 Metallica track, it hooks you and you keep watching. The band’s in great shape, turning in one of those old-school performance-style videos that we didn’t realise we’d missed. Gary Cherone’s voice is in top shape. Tonnes of energy and a Tool-ish riff fragment lurking under the chorus. So far, so unexpected, so good. And then…

…and then. Nuno Bettencourt’s solo.

And that’s where it all blows up. Honestly, the drop-jawed shock that comes from seeing and hearing this for the first time is enormous and it could be a re-defining hard rock moment. Then again, I’m no musician and maybe it’s a generation thing I’m feeling, wowed off-guard by a critical underdog. But something feels unexplainably BIG about this – some combination of nostalgia, big-name comeback, timing, viral potential, Eddie Van Halen tribute and Nuno showcase that lands like a celebration and a challenge. It’ll make a lot of others look tired in comparison. It’s exciting, it feels like it was needed. No wonder people like Rick Beato are all over it.

If you’re gunning for guitars and showmanship in a song you can sing along to, Rise delivers. Over and over.

Not convinced? Watch the video and see. I’m all in.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

JAMBINAI: POST-ROCK EXCESS OF THE MONTH

JANUARY REWIND: KOREA BRINGS THE NOISE, ELLING PUSHES THE FUNK

Bit slow off the mark with new sounds because, honestly, the post-Christmas deep winter hibernation is still going strong which means…loads of old stuff, over and over and over. 80s hair rock heroics, trad-metal excavations, 70s guitar excess, you get the idea. Might share a bit about these old-school revelations in another post but, in the meantime, three actual current tunes

to get going in 2023.

KURT ELLING – Wrap It Up

Jazz FUNKED. Those who know stuff know Kurt Elling to be a pre-eminent jazz vocalist and a Grammy-winning legend.

But some of us don’t know that. Some of us don’t know shit. Some of us first heard Elling by chance last week but felt the juice in Wrap It Up‘s squelchy, sinewy, ultra funk muso grooves that we drank it up fast. Every note, beat and break is a mini explosion and the whole thing POPS. No idea if the Guilty Pleasures EP will be equally sticky when it comes out but let’s see.

SOFTCULT – Someone2Me

Dreamgaze drift and guitar shimmer, cloaked in thick, voluminous fuzz. If you like the idea of early Smashing Pumpkins being pushed through a goth-ified grunge filter, check Someone2Me by Phoenix and Mercedes, aka Softcult. Music with a message too, listen up.

JAMBINAI – Once More From That Frozen Bottom

A cacophonous GY!BE/Thee Silver Mt Zion climax – and that’s just the beginning. From there we get swept into a softer break and multi-tracked voices before hurling back to harshville and the screams of a soul tormented. Who Jambinai? A South Korean collective mixing electrified rock and noise with Korean instrumentation to create colossal waves of beauty and destruction, if Once More From That Frozen Bottom is anything to go by.

What else this month? Bristol oddrock merchants Franklin Mint put new album Hoo-Ha out yesterday and multi-media firebrands Algiers announced new album Shook, out later this month. Check the pulsing urgency of Irreversible Damage with Zack de la Rocha for an incendiary sample…as ever, Algiers don’t mess about.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

F*CKED UP PIGGY POP: TUNE OF THE MONTH

NOVEMBER REWIND: IGGY, PIGSx7, F.U. – RAUCOUS ROCKS AFORE FESTIVE NICETIES

Cramming a few blinders into a November Rewind before the end-of-year madness kicks off (like it hasn’t already) but … we can’t get straight into it because of some very late, very huge news.

Metallica.

They dropped a brand new single on us yesterday, which you’ve surely checked and got giddy with its old-school speed – very much a Garage Inc cover vibe – like the rest of the world. New album announced, too. Who knew??? This is way too much excitement for one day. But, having fallen into yet another Metallica phase my very self last week, it’s strangely timely.

Right then, back to the Rewind with some brand new beasters to see November OUT.

FUCKED UP – Strix

This is nasty. Like, demonic nasty. There’s something un-right at the ruptured heart of Strix and, not knowing much about Fucked Up beyond a few distant spins of The Chemistry of Modern Life, it’s a total head-turner. Metallic punk yes, but charred, blackened metallic punk. Hardcore diabolus. Check it right here.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS – Mr Medicine

Did anyone else not quite feel it for 2020’s Viscerals as much as King of Cowards and Feed the Rats? Was it the concise tunes, shorn of sprawling damaged excess? If so then Mr Medicine won’t really change things as it’s at the bouncier end of All Things Pigs and has no length, but let’s see. It’s still a mighty slab and Pigsx7 always punch big. New album Land of Sleeper due out in February.

IGGY POP – Frenzy

More tales of the unexpected – new Iggy Pop tune, new album due in the new year. This one’s a filthy throwback to the Beat ‘Em Up/Skull Ring days, all pissed off attitude with music to match. Raging and unsophisticated, Frenzy hits like a cathartic vent from a guy who’s got the fidgets for a fight after a few years of respectability. Pop at full tilt.

CATHERINE GRAINDORGE – Iggy

More Iggy? YES. And no. At the same time. Composer and violinist Catherine Graindorge made a four-track EP The Dictator with Mr Osterberg and this is the closing track. But Iggy’s not on it. Iggy is instrumental – and it’s a beguiling, seductive mix of emergent drones, strings and ascendant swirls. Stunning.

CROSSES – Vivien

They’re called Crosses but how do you type the name out in symbols, as it’s meant to be? The best I can do is +++ , but that would be Pluses, which is shite. Anyway, in contrast to this month’s mostly grubby expulsions, we have Chino Moreno’s electro euphorics in Vivien. It’s all very catchy and clean and, if we’re honest, a bit too reminiscent of The Matrix BUT… it’s a slick mood shift, it climbs like a club anthem and Moreno’s yearning vocals fit those fulsome beats pretty well.

LEATHERETTE – Dead Well

Dead Well lurches like a jazz-punk sax-topped dirt-fuzz goblin, luring you towards carnivalesque madness where bad things happen … messy and low-budget hallucinogenic, this is Leatherette from Bologna. A wayward trip for sure.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

DELVING: TUNE OF THE MONTH

MAY REWIND: JOHN PAUL JONES ON A REBUILD OF LED ZEP’S LEVEE.

Been a while since we did a little Rewind (hello again! Anyone there? No? OK…. ) so a couple of these tracks are merely quite new instead of shiny sparkly new.

Like that matters. Let’s dig.

DELVING Delving

Much like Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and the daren’t-look-it-up Cock and Ball Torture (thanks to Dan or Danny’s list at rateyourmusic.com for that gem), Delving have done a song named after themselves. Nice. Delving’s the solo project of Nick DiSalvo from Elder. Haven’t heard Elder either till now, which is probably a chunky oversight, but if they’re half as awesome as the track Delving by the band Delving then they’re going on the Must Check list because this is everything you need from a guitar instrumental IF …heavy prog-tinged rock shakes your beans. You get a bit of taut, non-quirk Tortoise pushing hypnotic rhythms on repeat and some Porcupine Tree clean/heavy duality. But with fatter, groovier wheels.

That would probably be enough but Delving says no. How about a subtle but crushing post-metal drop near the end??? ‘kin ‘ell, YES. Shades of Isis, just for a sec. Monu-bloody-mental and highly addictive, check Delving here.

AQUARIAN – Death, Taxes and Hanger

Drum’ n’ bass backbone. Airy textures. High-speed motion. Fierce yet uplifting. Yep, I have no musical references to write about this stuff, but Death, Taxes and Hanger is a hell of a ride and if you’re of a certain vintage it’ll take you right back to 1997. Maybe. Aquarian himself, when he introduced the track to Mary Anne Hobbs, said: “Death, Taxes and Hanger is probably what you could consider atmospheric drum ‘n’ bass but with a bit of cheeky 90s tech step breakdown stuffed in for good measure … and classic progressive classic trance probably imprinted itself on there too.” There you go.

PLAYING FOR CHANGE – When The Levee Breaks

Change of pace now with a Zep-faithful rendition by a global cast of many for the Playing for Change Foundation, which aims ‘to connect the world through music’. Watch it and feel the optimism: music, beauty and good vibrations pour out of every performer on this clip. It transcends borders. And the bass being in the originator’s hands – a lean, lithe John Paul Jones – is the Levee cake’s icing as you can see.

Anything else? Downtuned nu-metal filth adds extra drag to the crawling beats of Tether by SCALPING. Dense subway darkness and pulsing momentum make strange euphoria in War Priests by The Allegorist.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

ILL CONSIDERED: TUNE OF THE MONTH

NOVEMBER REWIND: Attention-worthy sounds from the last month or so, spanning noise rock, ice pop (?), machine punk and full-throttle jazz.

ILL CONSIDERED – Dervish

Full-flowing fast-flowing freewheeling jazz action with a shitload of rock attitude, Dervish explodes with energy. It’s the kind of thing that pricks the ears of uninformed non-jazzers like me because of its vaguely Comet is Coming intro, but then ups the thrills by dismantling all brakes and going for the burn. Never-resting drums promise a sweaty, over-extended jam in a packed room (one day). Don’t yet know if Dervish is typical of this fiercely prolific band, but it’s more than enough to warrant a look-in.

M(H)AOL – Gender Studies

It’s pronounced MALE. They’re from Dublin. Gender Studies is from their debut EP. Songs about misogyny and violence against women. There’s a hard, machine-like intensity about the rhythm … Send-era Wire, maybe. Words spoken, not shouted. ‘Why don’t you study my gender?’ – a challenge more than an invitation. Heavy broken bass. Head nod groove. Post patriarch punk?

AGABAS – Children of Adam

Noise rock with hardcore vox and thrash ‘n’ roll pace. You might think it’s some kind of Entombed-Huntsmen-Cave In face peeler – and it is. But Agabas call it death jazz and sure enough, buried in the tumult, there IS wind instrumentation. Check the breakdown then wait for a bigger blowout while beaster chords pound the background. Noisy non-4/4 from Trondheim, Norway.

DORCHA – Honey Badger

It’s not the moto-rific intro and freaky oscillations that hypnotise (great though they are). It’s the cool, swirling avant-pop perfection of the switched-up second half. This is where Honey Badger ascends from earthly form into something icy yet warm. Resist? You won’t. Sublime cold weather listening, it’s over here.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

THE ARMED: TUNE (IS IT?) OF THE MONTH

AUGUST REWIND: Experimental punks, Norwegian fusion and a St Vincent Metallica stunner – let’s check some musical heat from a cool summer.

THE ARMED – Faith in Medication

WOW. Chin up now, off the floor… there’s so much overdrive on every bit of this OTT attack that you’ll melt yourself trying to make sense of it, so don’t bother. Just marvel and be withered by the sheer insanity of The Armed’s total hyper-ness. Progressive hardcore noise with hooks buried deep in overstimulation, it’s a mind-bending blast of brutal chaos. Be scared. And happy. And scared again. Faith in Medication right here.

SPECIAL INTEREST – Street Pulse Beat

These New Orleans avant punks have just released their 2016 demos as an album. But this track, from last year’s The Passion Of, leapt out when 6 Music superfan Mary Anne Hobbs aired it the other week. Vocalist Alli Logout introduced it, saying she’d written the song ‘while feeling very lost and in the clutches of co-dependency, and realising that no-one could save me but myself. It’s a love song to the lost.’ Her narrated intro gives way to industrial windscreen-wiper beats where a thick bass throws up a wall of tone more than notes, and deft synths soften the edges to pull you in. Sparse, intense, literate, impassioned: Street Pulse Beat awaits.

HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO – All Flights Cancelled

With moto-riffic pulsations from the off, this track is definitely going somewhere. But where? All Flights Cancelled can only mean one thing: ROAD TRIP – and this is the soundtrack. But when the riff drops out and Mollestad’s solo guitar moves in, it becomes a trip with tone and class and a fiery yet tasteful virtuosity. A new-psyche jam with prog-jazz muscle.

ST VINCENT – Sad But True

What do you make of Metallica’s Blacklist? Curious and wary is the early verdict here, though this is without knowing exactly what it all sounds like. Wary of the number of Enter Sandmen for sure. Wary of all the Nothing Else Mattresses, too. Wary of way too many straight covers … 53 interpretations of 12 tracks is a lot and there’s bound to be some uninspiring duds. Probably from the world of metal.

But St Vincent’s version of Sad But True is bang on. In keeping with her shapeshifting wont, it’s not like the warm 70s analogue of her (excellent) Daddy’s Home album. No, this Sad But True struts a seductive industrial funk groove like a sexy Nine Inch Nails. And the guitar solo? Owned. More like this please. Looking forward to whatever Kamasi Washington does as well.

Don’t forget BANDCAMP FRIDAY

It’s this week, September 3rd – a great chance to support our musicians even more.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

OWLMASK: TRACK OF THE MONTH

APRIL REWIND: A CHASE THEME FROM OWLMASK

Been a long time, hello again. Are we well?

This blog is getting a bit of a rethink so these new-sounds Rewinds might not feature much more – changing perspectives and all that. Not sure. But until then, here’s a trio of underexposed catches.

OWLMASK: Gesh Uru

You’re on the run. This is the music that’s over your shoulder.

Like a systematic raygun attack wrapped up in rigid retro electronics, Gesh Uru emits paranoia. Anonymously mechanical – think Portishead’s Machine Gun but strip out all vocal and bottom-end – and awash with electro vibrations and pulses, it expands while you listen. Gets bigger. Creeps up. Or is that the paranoia??? Check it right here. And Boo Cook, aka Owlmask, is half of Forktail too so give them a go for an occult folklore fix.

BORED LORD: The Weapon of Sound

Ah yes … righteous digital artillery from the church of rage – kneel before Bored Lord and submit to a RATM vocal sample pushed through a megawatt drum ‘n bass beat. Perfect for metal heads (sorry…).

LILITH: Deliciously

If things are going a little too well in your world (said no-one, 2020-21), Lilith will put the stoppers on it. Slug-tempo despair and spectral goth, right outta … Arizona. Yep. The desert. Admittedly, funereal punishment ain’t really working for me in these COVID-heavy times, but this airless hole struck a chord – maybe even two – and a track’s worth of oppressive crush is just about do-able.

(while you’re scrubbing about Lilith’s pit, check Oxford’s Undersmile for similarly brutal slo-mo kicks. Just make sure you let a crack of light back in your life afterwards, eh?)

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

WU-LU: TRACK OF THE MONTH

JANUARY REWIND: WU-LU STOPS YOU DEAD

What day is it? What month? Oh yeah, Lockdown 2021. Time as we once knew it has been rubbed out.

Anyway, VERY short Rewind to kick off the new year coz full lockdown has drained all time and energy and this post really should have 1) been posted in January, and 2) included more stuff. BUT …. what a tune, if you’ve not heard it yet.

Bandcamp Friday is today, don’t forget. Support somebody if you can.

WU-LU: South

There are great tracks. And there are great tracks that stop you dead. South is very definitely the second type. Producer-instrumentalist Wu-Lu’s restless beats are hyper-charged and on the move, loaded with pent-up energy … you just know something’s gotta give. And it does. It explodes in a harsh primal scream you can bodyslam to. Terrace Martin’s Pig Feet was the track of the year in 2020 no question, and South’s street action is already in the running for 2021. FEEL IT. South is this way.

HOLY FAWN: Candy

This is a year old but popped up last week and struck a chord or six so here goes. Cold Mogwai post-isms with dream-state vocals floating/drowning all around, you’d put money on a black metal scream and pace change to rupture the serenity. But Candy doesn’t do that. It just teases it in the background, instead pushing a martial rhythm to up the power. Get their Black Moon EP right here.

What else happened in January? Bowie five years gone, of course, but we don’t have time to reflect on it here. Hopefully a Bowie post soon. And Melvins and Tomahawk announced new albums – Working with God (Melvins, Feb) and Tonic Immobility (Tomahawk, March).

2021 already getting better.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

2020 MUSIC: 4 MORE ALBUMS

Did you check these three beast albums of 2020 in a previous post? Feeling stuffed? Nah, course not. IT’S CHRISTMASSSSS…. so here’s some extra musical scoff from 2020. Non-metal this time, but still rocking hard like Rudolph on ‘roids.

JEHNNY BETH: To Love Is To Live

Savages’ Jehnny Beth out-savaged her band with I’m the Man‘s distortion fest, the first single from her solo album. No wonder Atticus Ross pops up throughout. No wonder she was down to support Nine Inch Nails this year. But, as with NIN, there’s a ton more variety and nuance here, from the icy sky-scraping opener I Am to the heart-acher piano and hushed breeze of The Rooms. But it’s Heroine that steals it, the kind of skitty jazz flutter that could have blown out from Bowie’s Blackstar band. A soulful, magnetic trip.

WIRE: Mind Hive

This could be a companion to Jehnny Beth’s album. Articulate, artful and fully capable of menace but opting for classy restraint, it’s well clear of one-dimensional ruts. But this is Wire, so this is obvious. Biggest surprise? The addictive Cactused, whose backing vocals make Wire-y pop perfection.

GIL SCOTT HERON & MAKAYA McCRAVEN: We’re New Again

Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here is so good that its 10th anniversary spawned two new collections. One is an expanded version of the original with an extra disc of tracks. The other is this, We’re New Again: a re-imagining by jazz drummer Makaya McCraven. And if that’s not the perfect frame to look again at Gil’s poetic street wisdom, I don’t know what is. The original’s cool electronics get switched for organic beats and tough swing, especially on New York Is Killing Me and Me And The Devil. I’m no jazz buff and hadn’t heard McCraven until this. But it’s a very smart reworking of an already great album.

JULIAN COPE: Self Civil War

Yeah, this was a welcome start to the year. Back when lockdown hadn’t been invented, the Arch Drude dropped Self Civil War and, cliche alert, it was a return to form. Cope is always essential, but not all of his recent projects sustained longer interest beyond the first fawning, as noted here. But this one does. Bookended by a couple of stretched out guitar sprawl epics like wot he used to do, Self Civil War earns repeat listens. Puts a smile on, too – see You Will Be Mist and Berlin Facelift. Much needed this year.

So that’s that for another year, a few highly nutritious non-pork scratchings from 2020. And I couldn’t even write words for Clipping’s album Visions of Bodies Being Burned, because I don’t know how to.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! And check these other 2020 records and music highlights if you haven’t already.