on Saturday, December 25, 2021
Not quite the blogging year I'd hoped for. Not the anything year any of us had hoped for. Still, here we all are, limping to the end, gazing into the distance with hope only to see the oncoming train of Omicron. If there was any consolation this year, it was that it was an absolute ripper for literature. So many great books were published and, locked in as we were, we had the opportunity to read them... that is, when we weren't overcome with existential dread. I managed 190 or so. And a veritable fuckton of dread. I'm unlikely to be able to do the whole extended list thing this year because I've just moved home, am awaiting the imminent arrival of a baby and, to be honest, I'm just too munted. Still, I'll do my best. As always I start with the peripheral stuff.

The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey. There's not much I can say about this literary prize vacuum that hasn't already been said. Only that it deserved every accolade it has received. A modern Australian classic.
Brodeck by Philippe Claudel On the face of it a strange murder mystery fable, Brodeck is probably the greatest novel about French complicity in the Holocaust that I've ever read. Thanks to Ben from Burgers, Beers and Books with Ben for getting me to give it another go and then come onto the show to fawn over it for an hour.
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. I remember this as having been a brilliantly structured 17th century whodunnit, but I'd totally forgotten its incredible political dimensions. Yep, it's still my favourite book of its kind (sorry Umberto).
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Many years ago, when I first read it, I declared The Remains of the Day as close to the perfect English novel as has ever been written. I reckon I've read a couple of thousand books since then and my opinion hasn't changed.
Bear by Marian Engel. I would never have guessed that one of the greatest books about loneliness, existence, nature and companionship would centre around an ageing librarian who fucks a bear in a country cabin. But here we are. An absolutely clawesome classic.
The Most Precious of Cargoes by Jean-Claude Grumberg. A woodcutter's wife catches a baby thrown from a cattle train bound for hell. The child grows up, loved by her new family, while her father struggles to survive. A stunning fable, a moral reckoning, a balm for the soul.
Dangerous Men by Michael Katakis. Steinbeck in miniature, these very short stories of dustbowl America absolutely destroyed me.

One hundred and ninety books and I didn't manage to get to these. How lame.


Look, I'm gonna level with you. This was a pretty shit year for my favourite genres - punk, metal, hardcore (the real kind, not the lame 2010s variety) and indie rock. There were very few standout albums. Most of my favourites were anniversary edition rereleases of old albums (I'm looking at you greatest album of all-time, Propagandhi's Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes) and live albums. Of the new releases, for the first time ever I couldn't even scrounge a Top 20. Which made these sixteen records all the more amazing for me.
16. Crawler - IDLES. Loved Joy As An Act of Rebellion. Didn't like Ultra Mono at all. Wasn't holding out much hope for Crawler. Turned out one of the most pleasant surprises of the year; a dark, brooding, slow-burn of repressed fury.
15. Alone In a Dome - The Copyrights. Ramonescore pop-punk done right. Edgy, fun and criminally overlooked. In a year when their spiritual brethren put out a decent but samey record, only to be plagued by some pretty shitty controversy, The Copyrights really shone bright for me as the best in the game.
14. ULTRAPOP - The Armed. What is this fucking chaos? Glorious. That's what it is.
13. Kids Off the Estate - The Reytons. I was, at best, a casual fan of Arctic Monkeys. I did, however, like a bunch of those other Britpop bands at the time. Fast forward fifteen years and some smart cookie thought it would be a great idea to chuck them all in a blender and see what came out. They were right. It was genius. Derivative as all hell, but genius. What a fun record.
12. No Gods No Masters - Garbage. Who would have thought that Garbage could still be relevant in 2021? Not me. And then they come out with their best album since Version 2.0. What a weird world we live in.
11. How Flowers Grow - Scowl Ten songs. Fifteen minutes. Kick-arse, raging hardcore with touches of melody. Sublime.
10. I’m Sorry Sir, This Riff’s Been Taken - The Hard-Ons The Aussie rock equivalent of a royal marriage sees these punk legends team up with rock god Tim Rogers to someohow pull out the best record either of them has done in twnety years. It almost had no right to be this bloody good.
9. Bronx VI - The Bronx. I'm not sure when The Bronx became a full-on party band, but in a year of constant disappointment and anomie it was an absolute delight to have this ray of sonic sunshine.
8. OK Human - Weezer. It's pretty settled now that post-Pinkerton Weezer routinely bring the cringe. Still, I live in hope with each release that there will be something salvagable amongst the dross. Mostly, it's a song here and there. With OK Human they actually pulled off a really good record with only a couple of duds. Sure, it's not the first two records, but it might well be the best thing since.
7. Moral Hygeine - Ministry. University-era me is passed out in the corner of a dirty goth nightclub, dreaming of a post-apocalyptic future in which Ministry are actually good again. Wakey wakey. Get off the nangs. The future is here and it's almost as excellent as Psalm 69 or The Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste.
6. Milestones - Knife Hands. Easily the most exciting Australian punk album of recent times. A perfect blend of melody, aggression, awesome riffage and righteous anger.
5. 21st Century Love Songs - Wildhearts. As a long-suffering Wildhearts die-hard, I approach every new release with extreme caution. I've always been confused by their weirdly inaccessible industrial leanings, and hoped for a return to the melodic brilliance of Earth vs The Wildhearts, self-titled or Chutzpah. Here, we get a strange cocktail of all their incarnations and, who'd have thunk it, it works a treat. Ah, Ginger you unpredictable punk, never change.

4. Daggers - Jim Ward What can I say? This guy can do no wrong. Last year's Sparta record was awesome and here he comes, hot on its tail, with another solo record that's every bit as good as the bands he's played in. Thoughtful, propulsive, urgent and heartfelt, Daggers is another must listen from one of the most consistent artists in the business today.

3. Aggression Continuum - Fear Factory. I've never been a fan of that whole big metal-tinged-with-hardcore-and-industrial scene. Actually, I've never really bothered to give Fear Factory a chance. But in a year mostly devoid of standouts, I thought I'd check it out and... whoooooaaaaaah. Blown. Away. This album is a bloody monster. Everything about it is HUGE. Never has a musical implosion sounded so great.

2. Dreamers - Chaser. A perfect slice of mid-90s EpiFat punk goodness delivered with style, passion and a bucket or ten of fun. Almost an antidote to the shitness of the world right now, this was the album I most needed in 2021. Also, no song made me happier (or more nostalgic) this year than See You At the Show.

1. Now Where Were We - The Exbats
There's something I've always loved about daugher/father duo The Exbats. Every album has been a gem of retro-tinged rock, with killer hooks, goofily enjoyable themes and a palpable joy in the playing. But this album. THIS ALBUM. Holy shit, if you want to hear the most perfect garagey hymn to the late 60s classics then you have to get this album in your ears. From the moment it starts to the final fade, this is pure, unadulterated elation on wax. I cannot stop listening to it and, after one listen, I suspect neither will you.


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