Maybe it’s me, but it’s an odd-ish year musically. I’ve gone through dull spots when I’ve convinced myself that 2012 mostly sucked or was very average at best — and then *bam* something comes along and knocks you over again. And like last year I noticed a filling of the wow cup as the year draws to a close.
I liked lots and lots of records this year but — perhaps appropriately as you get older, a pretty good percentage were records from past ages. However, it amazes me just, despite hunting and buying vast amounts of music over the past forty plus years, there is still so much old stuff to still discover. Murray Cammick turned me on to my current favourite from years past, the George Faith album Super Eight produced by Lee Perry. I mean, I knew and loved his cover of Diana, but never looked beyond it. Likewise the two incredible Philadelphia International collections, the 4 CD Tom Moulton remixes and the 10 CD 40th Anniversary box set have never been away from my player.
I really liked the last three tracks on The Beach Boys album and kinda dug much of the rest of it despite the fact that these tracks were deemed uncool, even the Mike Love track (I didn’t say that). I thought the criticism pointed in their direction vis-a-vis surfing/beach lyrics was at best disingenuous — really what on earth do you expect The Beach Boys to sing about? Third World debt? Especially with an odious old prick like Love at the financial tiller, a man whose relentless greed driven thuggery would cower emotionally far stronger souls than Brian Wilson. It was the most surprisingly lovely record of 2012.
I bought loads of old NZ 45s, on labels like Zodiac, Peak, Impact, and La Gloria. Some I bought just for their sleeves and accidentally discovered they were quite good (The Howard Morrison Quartet — yes, seriously — the live routines are absolutely hilarious and John Baker pushed me towards a really passable ’67 cover of The Spencer Davis Group’s Keep On Running on a Howard (that’s SIR Howard to you boy.… as he once instructed me and Paul Fuemana) Morrison solo album on arguably the most reliably awful label in NZ ever, Joe Brown — would you really call a label that unless you were being somehow ironic?). Many were not.
I found an almost perfectly preserved, including paper sleeve, copy of an HMV Max Merritt & The Meteors 45 from 1959 and thought I’d found a minor pot of gold. It was a good day.
I bought a copy of the first Johnny Devlin album, also from 1959. It was battered but that was part of the charm. I also bought old go-go records (not The Go-gos, the Washington R&B genre), large amounts of very old but scarily contemporary sounding house music — all on vinyl; two copies of the live Toy Love album and a single copy of the recent TL compilation, there was a fabulous double Lee Perry disco-mix collection, I bought just to have them all in one place, as I own many of the tracks already on other records. That is dumb but it’s also addiction. So be it.
I gathered in, from the mighty Vinylicca in Bangkok’s Fortune Town, various Japanese pressings of old Ramsey Lewis albums on Argo, Billy Paul on TSOP, John Taverner and the Modern Jazz Quartet on Apple, both to replace typically limp NZ pressings.
It was neat to reissue the debut 3 The Hard Way album, after 15 years unavailable, and also the first Nathan Haines album, deleted for over a decade. And then, a few days back, for the video from that album, long thought lost, to be rediscovered by Peter McLennan.
I probably bought fewer new albums than any year since — well since I started buying albums. Blame Spotify, as the urge to buy on whim has more or less passed. Now I save the playlist. I buy if the playlist remains on rotate after a few weeks.
I bought the Homebrew album and loved it, but on reflection, a few months later have decided it would make a hell of a double EP — a double album it is not. So I program and exclude.
The SJD album is insanely great. It’s called Elastic Wasteland and opens with a wistful song about a human reptile of sorts. At least I think it does, but it matters not to me. I sometimes take years to work out lyrics, often because I don’t listen, which perhaps is an insult to the writer of said words, but I’d rather see it as a compliment to the enveloping nature of the attached soundscape. Or something.
A friend explained the lyric to Pete Townshend’s I’m A Boy last night. After 40 years, I had no idea…
The SJD album — love it — is the best Kevin Ayers album since Joy Of A Toy. There can be no higher compliment.
The Goat record, World Music, occupies a similar space to Tame Impala but does it with more dark grace and gnarly substance I think. It has na-na-na-na lyrics in the killer second track, Goatman, rather like The Stooges meets The Honeys and I’ve always liked artists with the uncowered determination and drive to proceed with a song despite the lack of a fully formed lyric. The Fourmyula — the wonderful 60s New Zealand psych-lite popsters — made unfinished songs an art-form, as did Paul McCartney (Hey Jude’s first half of semi-baked lyrical nothingness is only justified by the 4-minute fade out unsurpassed in its confident and arrogantly delivered lyrical inanity).
You can almost forgive (sorry I’m back to Goat now) the sub-Steppenwolf/Sabbath riff on Run To Your Mama. Almost. Ok, I can, partially, but not only, because the brief but mighty solo in the next track, Goatlord, somehow sanctifies the rest of this extraordinary but crazed Swedish oddball album.
Cooly G made Playin Me and released it on Hyperdub. It was perfect UK pop. No, it was perfect pop full stop, albeit perfectly British, and casts a careful longing glance back towards 90s UK lover’s derived street soul and Bristol pre-bass. It stumbled (slightly) in a couple of places but songs like What This World Needs Now and Playin’ Me meant each time it was only momentary. A wonderful record.
I didn’t quite know what to make of Le1f’s Dark York when I first heard it. It’s perhaps the most intriguing and instantly addictive record of 2012.
And then there was (and is) Traxman. Da Mind Of Traxman was the moment when Chicago’s Footwork scene took leave of its booty-hop roots and enveloped itself in the ghost of Sun Ra, the spirit of early DJ Shadow, and the harmonic soul of Steve Reich. I suspect there may be more than a few who think I’m mad here. Once again, so be it.
So that was part of my 2012, and, aside from Mike Love, who we can happily ignore, nary a beard in sight. Yay.