The only other significant musical thing this year for me was after seeing Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Bolt Thrower (alas not on the same bill) I finally got to settle the question my teenage mind of many a year ago could not firmly decide upon: Jo Bench or Lydia Lunch?
It's that time of year when every pratt with a blog (like this guy) wants to share with you their top ten of the year and lo and behold doesn't everyone just love the same Isis/ Torche/ Deathspell Omega/ Mastodon/ Liturgy records?
Personally I've always been more of the "I can see a Kakerlak tape underneath a dog chew toy, there's a Nuclear Hammer CD in the mail that I know I'll dig and I listened to Nazi Dust on my iPod this morning on the way to work" school of top tens.
Definitive top tens aren't worth the effort; the best record of 1996 is not the one I thought it was in 1997 after all (it's probably Duh, The Big City by Hammer Head, but I could change my mind at any second).
My top ten of this decade goes something like:
Infest - No Mans Slave
Iron Lung - Sexless/ No Sex
Grunt - Seer of Decay
And then I start looking at Werewolf Jerusalem CDRs and thinking "fuck it, this one was pretty good" and the list turns to shit.
I used to write reviews for Short Fast and Loud magazine then had to stop for a number of reasons.
One of my reasons was that when it comes to music and art borne from a specific culture (punk, black metal, whatever) I no longer believe you can review the object in and of itself. You have to look at the other aspects of the culture that produced it or its relationships with other objects produced by the culture.
A Mayhem record as an isolated artefact is not 'black metal', it's an object created by a larger current known as black metal that Mayhem happen to be a part of. Mayhem records do not contain the defining essence of black metal.
And if you want to look at neo-power violence you can't just take Eric Wood's word on the subject or look at your local sloppy blast beat and weak screaming about pizza and circle pits band. You have to look at Iron Lung, Hatred Surge and Mind Eraser, three very different bands with very different forces that created them that when looked at together give a clearer idea of the culture they belong to.
Over the last few years I've pretty much come to despise the cult of the individual. Every single person knows exactly what's wrong with the world and how to fix it. I know the world would be a better place if people could understand their utter insignificance in the scheme of things and could accept that measuring time in minutes and seconds is inherently flawed. And my grandfather knew that conscripting young men into the armed forces would solve the world's problems.
Everyone knows everything, so fucking what.
Anyway, all this nonsense just informs my attitude to music; I don't want quirky stand out gimmick bands thinking they've reinvented the wheel. I like and demand bands that have a good sense of tradition in their approach and a sense of internal consistencies. I like bands that strengthen their genre, not those that try and rise above it. Fuck off all post-hardcore or avant-garde shoegaze black metal.
With that in mind these are the two releases that I can honestly hand on heart say are the two full lengths of this year that I can fully stand behind:
Hatred Surge, Deconstruct. Can we stop with the Despise You 2.0 idiocy now? It makes almost as little sense as the haircut in Providence that told me Blockade sounded exactly like a cross between Cryptopsy and Isis. Hatred Surge: "it got girl vocals like Depsise U!"
Clearly there's no great surprise that a guy from The Endless Blockade would pick this as one of his best records of the year, but it's fucking bad ass. Hatred Surge is finally a full band and if anything it's focused the approach even more.
And I'm jealous Alex wrote Infinity before I did.
And the other utterly predictable entry is Slogun's Bloody Roots CD. I've already mentioned it briefly before. The whole disc is perfect and we managed to get John on the Unearthly Trance split doing some vocals.
I like his smart guy approach to death and violence; reading interviews on his site shows he's clearly not the dumb power electronics serial killer fan boy it would be lazy to peg him as.
Music to put on when you're in a foul mood and scream "FUCK LIFE" to the world.
Two other acts i have to mention are Bastard Noise and Magrudergrind.
Bastard Noise for challenging their audience in significant ways. In this micro information era of Tweeting and instant downloads who the fuck releases a five disc full length? Let alone mere months after the truly inspirational Rogue Astronaut CD. Well, Bastard Noise did it and it and Our Earth's Blood IV is an incredible piece of work, all five discs of it.
Bastard Noise released more exceptional music in 2009 than i've been able to manage in the last fifteen years of playing in active bands. Perhaps that's not saying much?
Anyway, two stunning albums, one of which is five CDs long. Fuck, that's committal to the cause.
Magrudergrind for proving me wrong. Hmm, how to start? Fuck it, bluntness: Magrudergrind to me were the benchmark for circle pits and pizza party. In a word they were as lowest common denominator as it can get; the Labbatts Blue of Grindcore. Anyway, this year I finally said yes to Avi's annual request to play shows with them. Their newest LP is very good indeed (I also love the totally incongruous cover art) and live they were a blast and great guys to tour with.
Anyone who knows me knows this is probably the highest praise I can give someone, to publically state that something i formerly thought was terrible is now actually really good. I still haven't heard the previous LP but i'm sticking to my opinion that their earlier recorded output just wasn't worth much.
Anyway, Magrudergrind 2009, no longer the embarrassing little kids you'd run across all over the continent.
I doubt many of these were published in 2009 but of everything I read this year these are the books I enjoyed the most:
James Ellroy - Blood's a Rover
David Peace - 1974
Samuel Beckett - Stories and Texts for Nothing
GK Chesterton - The Man who was Thursday
Will Self - The Book of Dave
Howard Bloom - Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
Nicholas Schreck - The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema
Gary Lachman - Politics and the Occult: The left, the Right and the Radically Unseen
Dan Falk - In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension
Mark Sedgwick - Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the 20th Century
Charles Freeman - AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State
Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth