Gary’s albums of the year 2023

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As my choice of top albums of 2023 was slightly different from most contributors, I was tasked to write an article of my top 10. I have old artists, artists new to me, and some I have revisited after some time away from them.
Looking back on 2023 I think it was not a bad year for music at all and hope that this continues into 2024. If I could make a late substitution I would probably bring in 'The Devil Always Collects' by Brian Setzer, what I would take out I don't know!

10. The Bar Stool Preachers - Above The Static

(31/03 - Pure Noise Records)

Take a little bit of punk, a little bit of ska, some good old rock (‘n’ roll), mix it up with some social commentary, and you end up with The Bar Stool Preachers and their brand of epic, rousing, sing along sounds. I saw them live at Rebellion in 2023 and they just about brought the house down. Album opener Call Me On The Way Home sets a high standard that the rest of the album lives up to and contains a chorus that is just waiting to be belted out by live audiences.

Similarly, Flatlined is a killer song containing A “whoa oh oh oh” section that will have audiences singing and dancing all over the land. Amidst all the rousing choruses and killer tunes there come Lighthouse Keeper, a beautiful, heartfelt ballad which features singer T.J. accompanied solely by piano. Love The Love opens like an old school doo-wop track and contains a lyric that made me laugh out loud;

“Love and hate’Tattooed on her fingersLost a pinky in a street fightNow says ‘love and hat’ “

This album is great and just perfect if you want something that is going to get you moving, singing and thinking.

9. Public Image Ltd - End Of World

(11/08 - PiL Official)

I must admit that it has been a long time since I have listened to a Public Image Ltd. album. I loved their first two albums but gave up on them after their third album, The Flowers Of Romance. So it was with some curiosity that I approached this their latest offering and I am delighted to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Opening track Penge took me aback somewhat, as to my ears it resembled something that the Sisters of Mercy may have done. As I listened to the album I found myself being drawn into the musical soundscape of each song, the layers of sound crafted together to forge each individual track. I was also taken with Lydon‘s voice. I have not always liked his PiL “whine” but on this album he is on top form with both his singing and his writing. I never thought I would hear the phrase “wankers mac” in a song, but here it is in all its glory in Pretty Awful.

The last song on the album is Hawaii, the song John Lydon wrote for his (now sadly deceased) wife Nora who suffered from Alzheimer’s. A beautiful song that showcases Lydon‘s softer, sentimental side and a lovely way to end the album.

8. Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton - Death Wish Blues

(19/05 - Rounder)

Something a bit different here. A collaboration between Samantha Fish and Jess Dayton. What we get is a real hard edged blues rock album that is really likeable.

Deathwish opens the album in spectacular fashion with a nagging riff that you feel you have heard somewhere before. In fact, many of the tracks have a familiar feel to them that you can’t help but like them. No Apology sounds like it could have come off The Beatles Let It Be album. Both artists share the vocals and each track has a real intensity that draws you in to the stories they are telling. There are some beautiful tracks on here which are a credit to both artists, so give it a listen you might just like it.



7. Grade 2 - Grade 2

(17/02 - Hellcat Records)

If you haven’t done so already, buy this album! If you want some good old honest punk rock this album is for you. From the opening bass riff of Judgement Day we are off on a punk rock roller coaster spanning all15 songs on the album.

There are no experimental songs, no acoustic introspection, no unnecessary guitar solos, this is straightforward, no nonsense rabble-rousing fist pumpers such as Under The Streetlight, Don’t Stand Alone, Streetrat Skallywag and Doing Time.

There are obvious comparisons to Rancid because of the Tim Armstrong connection. But these three lads from The Isle of Wight are turning out very catchy tunes chock-a-block with hooks, riffs and catch choruses, so good luck to them and long may they continue!

6. Dropkick Murphys - Okemah Rising

(12/05 - Dummy Luck Music)

Okemah Rising is the second volume of the Dropkick Murphys versions of Woody Guthrie lyrics set to their own music. The album compares favourably with the previous one, and there is no sense that the best songs were used on the first album and these are the leftovers.

Lyrically, the album very much follows the same path as the first one, the trials and tribulations of the working class man, having to move around to find work for the capitalist masters, standing up for what you believe in and fighting the evils of fascism, sentiments that the Dropkick Murphys often express in their own songs.

There is still no Al Barr so vocal duties are once again handled by Ken Casey, there are some guest appearances from the Violent Femmes (Gotta Get To Peekskill), Jesse Ahern (Rippin Up The Boundary Line) and Jaime Wyatt (Bring It Home).

Rippin Up The Boundary Line, which features Jesse Ahern, is a standout example of why I love these Dropkick/Guthrie albums. The song sounds nothing like a typical Dropkick song, yet at the same time, is unmistakably them and sounds terrific! The start of the song evokes Sam Cooke’s Chain Gang and Ken Casey‘s voice is so suited to this style of song.

5. The Darts - Snake Oil

(17/04 - Alternative Tentacles)

If you like fuzzy garage psych, then this is the album for you! Not so much music but a sonic assault on your ears, especially live! Take razor sharp riffs, giant slabs of bass, pounding drums, spot on vocals and a haunting Farfisa organ, mix them all together and the result is this album!

This really smokes, opening track and album title Snake Oil is straight out of the blocks, careering into the warped world of The Darts. Spy Girl goes all 60s kitsch on us with its incessant guitar and organ riff, we even get a song in French, Donne- Moi Tout. Love Tsunami just overwhelms you, as does every track on this album.

Every song here is top-notch, there is no filler on this album whatsoever. The tempo and intensity is maintained from first to last track. If you do get the chance to see them live, then take it, you certainly won’t regret it.


4. The Dollyrots - Night Owls

(13/10 - Wicked Cool Records)

Do the Dollyrots make bad albums? No. So if you are a fan you know what to expect and this album delivers in spades.

Opening track 5 + 5 is as good a slice of Californian pop punk you will ever hear. Pounding drums and sliding guitar herald a rousing tune that sets the blueprint for the rest of the album. Next track I Just Wanna Play Dead has a 50s vibe that makes it sound so familiar and recognizable that its very catchiness means you can’t help liking it.

The whole album is packed with infectious pop punk tunes and the band also have an eye for a song title such as the wonderfully titled Hot Mom With The Skinny Pants On which is typical Dollyrots, lighthearted, fun and infectious.

So if you want music that is catchy, upbeat, a little bit silly and downright fun then you can’t go wrong with the Dollyrots!

Read the full review here.

3. Young Limbs Rise Again: The Story of the Batcave Nightclub

(24/02 - Demon Records)

Young Limbs Rise Again is a compilation album that documents the rise of Goth through the music that was played and bands that performed at the legendary Batcave Club, London in the early 1980s.

5 CD’s make up the album, the first three cover the music that would be played on a typical night such as the obvious Sisters of Mercy (Temple of Love, Alice), The Cramps (Garbageman, Human Fly), Joy Division (Isolation), The Cult (Resurrection Joe), Siouxsie & The Banshees (Slowdive), The Birthday Party (Release The Bats) to the not so obvious Revillos (She’s Fallen In Love With A Monster Man) and B 52’s (Planet Claire).

The 4th CD covers the bands that played the club with tracks from the likes of Alien Sex Fiend (I.P.), The Specimen (Dead Man’s Autochop), Flesh For Lulu (Roman Candle), Marc & The Mambas (Sleaze, Torment) and Bone Orchard (Fats Terminal).

CD 5 completes the collection with the glam rock roots of goth, a wonderful collection that brings together such great artists as Lou Reed (Vicious), T. Rex (Telegram Sam), The Sweet (Hellraiser – what a song that is!), Suicide (Ghost Rider), New York Dolls (Jet Boy), Roxy Music (All I Want Is You), Iggy (Funtime), The Runaways (Cherry Bomb), Velvet Underground (I’m Waiting For The Man) and Mott The Hoople (Roll Away The Stone) amongst others.

This is a great collection and every CD is a treat to listen to, especially CD 5 which really brings back some great memories of times and music past.

2. Rumkicks - 反骨 (Born Rude)

(27/06 - independent)

Another straightforward, no nonsense, great sounding punk album from these South Korean girls. There’s not really much more to say, they sound like they had an absolute ball making this album, the songs are as catchy as hell, even the ones you can’t understand because they are sung in Korean!

This should be appreciated for what it is, good time melodic music a little Ramones, a lot of attitude and a good dollop of old time punk spirit.

With songs like Drinking Every Day, Fuck you, Rude Girl Oi, I Don’t Wanna Die, Punk Rocker and Goodbye Song all dripping with early British punk influences, it’s like a glorious trip back in time.

1. Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes

(02/06 - Hellcat/Epitaph)

Tomorrow Never Comes is Rancid‘s 10th studio album release and their first in 6 years.

The thing is with Rancid is that they are like a faithful old friend who never lets you down. You know what you are going to get, and they fully deliver.

Opening track and album title Tomorrow Never Comes is a frantic punk thrash that announces their return after 6 long years. This is quickly followed by more of the same with Mud, Blood and Gold which clocks in at 1 minute 13 seconds! In fact, the whole album runs for around just 29 minutes.

Devil in Disguise evokes the spirit of The Dropkick Murphys and has a great sing along chorus, the songs are relentless and come thick and fast and seem to flow into one another. This band is showing no signs of mellowing despite existing for 30 years or more.

The tempo just doesn’t drop throughout, indeed it seems to intensify as it hurtles toward the end, Magnificent Rogue, One Way Ticket, Eddie The Butcher, Hear Us Out lead to the final track When The Smoke Clears which brings the album to an abrupt end.

Rancid, still showing the rest how it’s done after all these years!

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