V.S. WRITERS Lucky 7 of 2017 – NICK HUTCHINGS
Everybody loves lists this time of year right, so who are we to buck the trend? Velvet Sheep asks it’s trio of writers for their Lucky 7 tunes of the year, and stepping up to the oche, into the breach, up to his neck, is VS fanzine creator and captain Nick Hutchings (seen above in his TV job – no it wasn’t a Kleenex commercial). And since that’s me, I will stop talking in the third person since that’s mega pretentious. Here’s my favs this year (which was a pretty good one musically).
1.Royal Trux – Sometimes
Obvs this one was originally on the 1992 “Royal Trux” album aka skulls, but it came back with a vengeance this year as part of the first new Trux release since 2000’s “Pound For Pound” (or technically the found sounds of 02’s “Hand of Glory”). This album “Platinum Tips + Ice Cream” was a live release, kind of, with splices between two comeback shows, and some studio tweakery-pokery, making it like a modern version of the Grateful Dead’s cut & shut “as live” classic “Anthem of the Sun”. This has nuff power, all the trademark swagger you’d expect from Jennifer Herrema and my initial namesake NMH (Neil Michael Hagerty) and it signals a whole new exciting chapter of one of my all-time favourite bands. I’m watching this space with considerable interest!
2. Nightingales – B-Side At Best
Tiny Global is my label of the year for sure, and here’s one of Britain’s best bands, Nightingales, with a curmudgeonly classic with a cool name. Their last full album “Mind Over Matter” was the VS Album of The Year in 2015, and this “Become Not Becoming” EP was a fitting follow-up. Here’s what I said about this song when I reviewed it earlier this year…
“…straight from the top, there’s that crisp vocal interplay with drum sensation Fliss Kitson, coming over like a modern day Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, a ball that starting rolling from “The Man That Time Forgot” and which has the same unstoppable kinetic energy as the ball that chases Harrison Ford down a cave and makes him grab his hat from under a closing shutter. The cat is well and truly out the bag, and the Kit(son). And it wears Lloyd’s songwriting very well, colourful like a vintage Boateng suit from Dalston Oxfam. Of course this is no “B-Side”, it’s every bit a banger as old Gales classics “Idiot Strength” or “Paraffin Brain” yet fuller sounding thanks to those signature Kitson tribal Bow Wow Wow drum rolls. Lloyd goes high, he goes off the wall, he gets angry, he changes pace (and let me just continue to put the “i” in cliche with my hack descriptions), until the song reaches it’s peak call & response “I wanna sign you baby because you look good” and perhaps this is Cowell style A&R through a force ten Gale?”
and here is a “song for ewe” chosen by Gales band leader Robert Lloyd also this year:
3. The Fall – Brillo De Facto
“New Facts Emerge” is a tour de force of a band that for me (and many others) is a religion. The Three Amigos of Peter Greenway, Dave Spurr and Keiron Melling are tight like a garrotte and comfortable in their own skin as the longest ever serving line up of a band that has traditionally had a revolving door policy thanks to its incomparable commander in chief Mark E Smith. Mark’s in great form here, even though he’s not at peak health, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’ve already had a few favs on this album, including the brash opener “Fol de Rol”, the Melvins-esque basses hard hitting heavy rumble of “Couples vs Jobless Mid 30s” (this album’s “Auto Chip 2014-2016”) and the rockabilly leanings of “Second House Now” with it’s casually tossed off “ba ba ba ba” scat at the top, but it’s the way that “Brillo” starts off all metronomic march and comes in heavy like a crunching midfield tackle and ends like a headless chicken throwing itself at an electric fence that has currently got my ear. Get well soon Mark, hope you know how much we love you, you bloody leg-end, I’m not ready to be a look back boy yet, I need more Fall! (when you’re better).
4. Band of Holy Joy – A Revivalist Impulse
From the Velvet Sheep album of the Year this year “Funambulist We Love You”, and also on Tiny Global, Band of Holy Joy have never sounded more strident, national treasures and yet national zeitgeist. Johny Brown is a lyricist and performer par excellence, a punk poet who comes in like a crossbow bolt into the bullseye of 2017 with “Scientific rationalism – bring back those days!” We don’t have to bring back those days of when Band of Holy Joy were great, cos they’ve never been better and more relevant. The whole album is a joy, but this one is a bittersweet joy, both lyrical lament and musical hope for the future.
Here’s the full review of the album from earlier this year:
5. Lee Ranaldo – Uncle Skeleton
I was lucky enough to interview my guitar hero Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth a couple of month’s ago as part of the Lee Ranaldo “Baker’s Dozen” for The Quietus
Lee couldn’t have described himself any better than in this couplet in SY’s “Skip Tracer” from the album I saw him play live “Washing Machine”:
“The guitar guy played real good feedback, and super sounding riffs
With his mild mannered look on, yeah he was truly hip”
His new solo album “Electric Trim” on Mute is fantastic, constructed in the studio by Raul “Refree”, Lee and with lyrics from the author Jonathan Lethem who wrote much of this song “Uncle Skeleton” with its visceral prose like this surreal yet ouch-some segment:
“You have to shake the flesh off to open up the body’s door
You have to let the skeleton breathe
That’s the thing the skeleton’s for
So use a scalpel, use a knife, shuck the flesh off in a pile
You need to keep the skeleton entertained”
Lee was always the truest, most tuneful and whistful voices of SY and he really soars here to heights hitherto undocumented.
6. Sleaford Mods – Moptop
SM are punk AF (as a millennial might say or not). And with an SM58 in one hand, Stella in another, Jason Williamson spits bars and beers as he pontificates about what might be right and what’s definitely wrong with this place and time (a lot), which is definitely aimed at someone like me, a privileged 40+ originally from the working class. Funny yet always fierce, this is a lighter moment from “English Tapas” an album criminally underlooked in the year’s MSM best of lists. Nothing Fake News about the Mods. And we’ve never needed them more.
Here’s the Lucky 7 that Jason chose for VS earlier this year…
The Lucky 7th: Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds – Spider Baby
Sneaking into contention circa Halloween, the time of the year tailor made for them, in this year of “Stranger Things 2” they don’t come 2 much stranger (or cooler) than Kid Congo Powers, formerly of the Gun Club, the Cramps and the Bad Seeds (three of the greatest bands of all time). This is another gothic shlock classic that could have come straight off the bone of a Cramps classic. There’s a new Pink Monkey Birds album on the way, and there’s never been a duffer, so I know it will rock my 2018.
PHIL HASTED, FELLOW OF THE VS. TRIUMVIRATE, AND WEBSITE CO-FOUNDER, AND VELVET SHEEP NIGHT MC TO FOLLOW WITH HIS LUCKY 7 SOON…
CHEERS! HAPPY XMAS, NICK