Necessary Evil 2021 (70 – 61)

70 Kings of Leon: When You See Yourself

(2016 #104, 2008 #17, 2007 #1!)

I’m allowed to still have Kings of Leon, right? You people will still consent to this? This is still OK, yeah? Nobody’s feeling mistreated in any way? I don’t want this to be one of those things where I was almost sure you were OK to me playing with my gross old man testicles while you watched holding back tears.

Remember that Simply Red song Holding Back the Tears? Well that’s what it was about. Mick Hucknall was so ahead of his time. He was trying to teach us, why did we refuse to learn? What’s that? It was actually called Holding Back the Years?? Well, shucks… Ah well, I’ve written it now.

I’ve done well, haven’t I? I’ve, like, mostly irradiated all the bullshit white guy rock that was honestly the entirety of all music I consumed before the age of about 19. I like to think that my end of year lists, while being a no way near exhaustive list of new music, is at least a forward thinking and progressive exercise in highlighting new and exciting progressions in style and presentation and in many different (and often new) genres. What’s your favourite Turmeric Trancotone album of 2021? Gotta be #26, right?

But, dammit, I do enjoy big dumb rock music, and KoL are quite often very good at big dumb rock. The once finished first on this list, which, almost fifteen years later, is not looking any less insane in hindsight. The thing about the Kings though, is that even in otherwise pish albums like 2016’s WALLS, they’re still capable of serving up certified bangers such as Find Mehonestly one of the decade’s greatest rock songs – so they’re always dangerous to take your eyes off.

It’s that motherfucking structure, man! You know the one: the song starts with a single lead guitar – de-de-na-na-na-na – that gets a couple of rounds, then the bass comes in – dum-da-dum-da-dum – for a go around or two, then the rhythm guitar starts to properly bring the song to evolution – chang-ga-chingy-chingy-ching – and we get to lie in that for a while and appreciate our luck before the drums kick in and the song penetrates your aural hymen for an experience you’ll be sure to gossip to your friends about – BADABAM! BADABAM! BADABAM-PU-DINKU-DINKU… Man, I always fall for that shit. You get extra points if you drop all other instruments except the lead guitar line for maybe half a second near the end of the song. Fucking catnip.

And ‘When You See Yourself’… doesn’t really have anything like that. Bandit gets close to the proper structure, but is far too restrained and second guesses itself before it has a chance to truly infiltrate your nervous system and execute a series of electric shocks down your spine. ‘When You See Yourself’, as you might guess from its infuriatingly meaningless but performatively deep album title, is an absolutely fine album that makes not a single stride in any direction musically or philosophically. There’s nothing remotely as good as Find Me, but it’s a (blegh!) extremely accomplished record, and I’ll probably get the next one as well, because I’m an absolute idiot.

Shit, I didn’t even mention NFTs, did I? Probably for the best, this way nobody needs to know how little I understand them

69 (dude) Avalanches: We Will Always Love You

(2016 #25)

This is a good album, isn’t it?

Good stuff.

Great entry to the canon from the Aussie hitmakers.

Seriously, am I the only one chronically underwhelmed by just how unimportant Avalanches’ third album felt? Still feels? We all remember how their debut was a near revolutionary addition to sampledelica and how naming it one of the most influential albums of the 21st century would not be a laughably invalid opinion. Their next album was roughly more of the same, but it was amazing and took, like, 50 years to come out or some shit.

Then… this.

Again, it’s very good. There are many good songs, including one that’s in serious contention to be the year’s best. It’s a welcome reminder of how much I love Perry Farrell’s voice. But, like, so what? What’s being challenged here? What’s being revolutionised? What’s being redefined? What’s even being created? There’s a long list of ‘Names’ collaborating – Vashti Bunyan, Mick Jones, Neneh Cherry, Denzel Curry, Blood Orange, MGMT, Leon Bridges (!), Smokey Robinson (!!!) and many more – but it just seems to be a guest list assembled merely to impress you with the band’s semi-famous friends and leads to a disjointed album with no obvious overarching philosophy.

Oh, and the length (tee-hee) good God the almighty length (snort!)! I’m too busy writing this to check what it is exactly, but I’m pretty sure this record lasts longer than Wrestlemania 32 and is equally guilty of too frequent nonsense. Honestly, there’s a four hour record on this countdown that I’ve made it through all the way more often than ‘We Will Always Love You’.

Also, you know ‘Perry Farrell’ isn’t his real name, right? It’s a pun. On ‘peripheral’. Is it the lamest stage name in music? I would have preferred it if he referred to himself as ‘Herb Ease’ as a pun on ‘herpes’, and I thought up that in thirty seconds.

OK, I was up until four this morning working on it, but still, it shows how he could have easily bettered it if he thought about it for 12 hours or so.

68 Son Lux: Tomorrows I, II & III

(2018 #15)

Uh ah.

Uh ah.

Uh ah

I’m a-fraaaaaaid to let. You. Go.

Fuck me, I love Plans We Make so much. I named it the 56th best song of 2020, and the fact it’s that low is a testament to many wonderful songs were released last year. Last year. When ‘Tomorrows’ part 1 came. It was the first album in a trilogy. Back when I first alerted you plebs to the majesty of Plans…* I did try to warn you all that “there’s nothing else on the album(s) anywhere near as good as this“, which was a bold claim, since at that point I only would have heard part 1 and maybe part 2. Well, as with all my bold claims – such as predicting the last Star Wars movie** would make people angry, or that the scientific advice to only allow pubs to open if they offered ‘substantial meals‘ would not actually stop the COVID pandemic dead – I was proven spectacularly correct. That’s what all these Hot Take hacks in the media and online don’t understand – some people have earned the right to make these kind of claims through proven and consistent brilliance. Step aside, let the real click merchants speak, because Daddy’s cookin’ grits.

(*ah fuck, ‘Alerted to the Majesty of Plans’, I’ve just give Son Lux an idea to what they should call their next album)

(**what even was the last Star Wars movie?? Don’t they come out surprisingly and disgustingly at inappropriate times of every year these days, like flying ants? Was Jungle Cruise in the Star Wars cinematic universe? Was Jack Black that baby Yoda I keep hearing about?)

‘Tomorrows’ is ridiculous, an unbelievably ill-deserved and unearned vanity project, a self-indulgent musical fresco in honour of an Emperor most people would argue ever existed, and even if they did their work hardly deserves the size of the monstrosity erected in their honour. There is not as of yet recorded world that exists where ‘Tomorrows’ deserves to be a triple album. It barely deserves to be a single! I spent about £25 on all of this!! It’s often beautiful, well constructed in parts, and the call backs to part 1 in part 3 are a nice Easter Egg, but they’re really only appreciated because they remind you of a time where you hadn’t yet wasted almost two hours on a self-aggrandising piece of whimsy that exhibits little growth, takes the listener to so few different places, and is more a horror story regarding the dangers of neglecting to edit your own output. Three albums!? Jesus, guys, come on…

67 Yvette Janine Jackson: Freedom

OK, you see this, Son Lux? This is a fucking record, this is a fucking artistic statement, this is an important commentary on much that still moves important parts of the world we live in. It’s also over in 48 minutes. Oh, and it’s frequently overwhelmingly difficult to listen to, and almost never a pleasant experience.

Because why the fuck should it be? Well, I’ll tell you why: white people really don’t like it when black people are angry about past crimes against humanity or the repeated and associated trauma often associated with living with a skin colour that still carries negative subconscious (oh, and also, occasionally extremely fucking conscious) assumptions in majority white Western countries*. Yes, let’s all talk about how wonderful representation is these days, and how cute those little black kids are who got to see Black Panther were! Remember Black Panther? You people are superheroes now! You should all feel so happy in this new country we’ve allowed you to live in! But if black people bring up the horrors of the past – the nauseating creaking of the slave ship’s wood and the disembodied screams echoing throughout the astonishing 22 minute Destination Freedom – we kinda get a bit awkward. Sure, they’re only kneeling now, but what if they get angry? This is the same reason you feel on edge whenever someone brings up that time you broke your friend’s nose while dancing entranced by The Girl All the Bad Guys Want. You and that friend seem OK these days, right? Maybe you still feel a bit guilty. Maybe you’ve made your peace with it. Just don’t mention it to the friend, OK? Maybe, one day, that friend will get angry. And maybe that friend will look to even the score. And you’ll know that you deserve it. Us white people only want black people either keeping to themselves and politely keeping out of the way, or joyfully celebrating the country and culture that allows them to be black with no explicit repercussions. Our culture. That we allow them to occasionally exist within to an accepted degree of blackness. Please refer to the Zoe Saldana chart if you’re confused, and even in that case we’d honestly prefer you either green or blue, much less ‘political’ colours.

(*Jackson’s masterwork obviously centres around her home country of the USA, but I didn’t want to make it that specific and sound like one of those white Europeans scoffing at America “Goodness, isn’t it awfully unfair in the New World? Thank the Lord that racism hasn’t existed in Europe since we let Dave Benton win Eurovision in 2001″)

‘Freedom’ is a far wider reaching work than merely this though, and its second track, the no more pleasant Invisible People turns its focus to hatred and homophobia within the black community, overlaying Obama’s mealy-mouthed and handwringing, I guess, maybe, gosh, pathetically overdue acceptance of gay marriage with fiery revulsion spat out by black religious leaders. Y’know, the classic “Adam and Steve” playbook. Personally, I believe that Adam, Eve and Steve were all present at the dawn of existence, and they were having a bum happy polyamorous threesome. We only believe there to be a literal snake in the Garden of Eden due to a mistranslation from the original Hebrew, where the ‘serpent’ (חרוזיהישבן) is actually a six foot long set of anal beads popular in parts of Mesopotamia. It’s lucky that this masterpiece of intersectional human rights was released months before Dave Chapelle complained of how trans people have it much more easier than black people because… erm… something to do with Steven Universe, I think…? Anyway, such Big Brain debating power would simply pwn whatever woke bullshit ‘Freedom’ would throw its way.

You will not enjoy this album. You are not meant to. Art exists not just to make you smile.

It’s also not on Spotify either, which is a Chad Thundercock move. Buy it on BandCamp you cowards.

66 Wednesday: Twin Plagues

(2020 #53, 2018 #48)

More brilliance from Wednesday, who are lowkey one of my favourite bands and whose Karly Hartzman has one of the most interesting and rousing voices in modern garage rock music. That’s the good news. The bad(ish) news is that I think we’re still waiting for that absolutely groin-busting and era-demolishing record that the band are certainly capable of. I think we’re maybe it at the point where if you combined the numerous highpoints on ‘Twin Plagues’ and those moments of scorched Earth brilliance from 2020’s ‘I Was Trying to Describe You to Somebody‘ then you could perhaps make that record, but that would be interfering with a superhero’s origin story, which was labelled a War Crime in the 1954 Geneva Conventions. Why do you think nobody’s ever stopped Bruce Wayne’s parents being shot? It’s been done, like, a dozen times at this point.

What is technically legal, if you don’t mind bending the rules a little -you naughty minx, you! – is arranging for the inciting incident that propels the hero to greatness. This might be a band tragedy, a drug overdose, a split from a celebrity fiancé/spouse, being insulted by Kanye West, or being cancelled on Twitter because people are so easily triggered these days and can’t accept a difference of opinion regarding whether or not some ethnicities deserve to allowed to procreate. There you go. There are your only options. Good luck, Wednesday! Can’t wait to see what nightmarish situation a terrifyingly overeager fan decides to contrive for you!!

It won’t be me. Like, I’m saying it’s not me before anyone’s even planned it, so you know whatever happens isn’t my doing. This paragraph here is actually legal proof that it wasn’t me, soooooooo, move along police, nothing to see here. I don’t even know that Ms Hartzmen lives at 24 Oakland Drive, so how would I even learn her address? In fact, who’s this Katy Hartzmen you’re talking about? Sounds like a liar to me.

65 Pickle Darling: Cosmonaut

(2019 #16)

A difficult one to rate. Certainly a more expansive and progressive album that Pickle Baby Darling’s already amazing 2019 debut. It’s a noticeably better album than ‘Bigness’ using almost ever measure you might choose to measure it by. It’s certainly a softer and more reserved album, but that only means it has a far more subtle magic that demands far more than a few cursory listens to truly get a grasp on. But, fuck it, you won’t mind putting the workworkworkworkwork in as ‘Cosmonaut’ is above all else an absolutely delightful experience.

But…

Butbutbutbut

But. But there’s no Mouthful. One of the best songs of 2019 and one of the greatest God damn songs of the last five years at least, one that sounded like an obvious highlight and centrepiece on Darling’s debut but now, with nothing comparable on their second album, you worry that such a colossal achievement in pop music may prove to be an albatross around their neck.

I’m perhaps overexaggerating, maybe the next Darling LP will be of such quality (and it only really needs to be of comparable quality to the wonderful ‘Cosmonaut’) that we’ll forget that the song ever existed. Maybe we’ll forget Pickle Darling ever existed. In fact, who am I? Who are you?

And that, journalism school class of 21, *takes off spectacles* is how you end an article..

64 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Idiot Prayer

(2020 #1!, 2016 =#6, 2014 #45, 2013 #22, 2008 #12 (with the Bad Seeds) 2010 #11, 2007 #13 (with Grinderman)

Nick Cave number one!

Yeah, good stuff. A lot of Cave’s music and vocals generally sound better the more spacious and daunytingly echoed the arena is.

You know I payed to watch the performance ‘live’ at the time, and didn’t get a digital copy to take home?? I downloaded this illegally, because screw him, right?

63 St Vincent: Daddy’s Home

(2018 #23, 2014 #4)

All grass stains and chicken dinners

Milkful mouths and secret stitches

Half pipes and PlayStations

Suicidal ideation

The Laughing Man

Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! ‘Suicidal ideation’, you say?? Dude, I have got a lot to say on that subject! And ever since the pity party I attempted to contour when I attempted to merge my review of her 2018 album with lengthy details of my previous attempt, St Vincent has kinda been my go to artist for uncomfortably honest manic depression episodes! So, roll up, roll up, and let’s…

Sigh…

No, I’m sorry, I can’t.

I don’t mean I can’t talk about suicide, that’s like 40% of this blog, I just mean it kind of needs its own dedicated entry, whereas now I’d feel weird sliding it in between that nothing Nick Cave review and the horrendously offensive joke I’ve got planned for the next entry (seriously, forget everything you think you know about competitive cross stitching, I’m about to blow that racket wide open). I’m sorry, I know it’s disappointing, but take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask who’s really at fault here…

That’s right: St Vincent, for not making a better album. I mean, really, Vinnie? You couldn’t have bumped up it’s quality another 24 spots or so? Disappointing.

You have to credit Vinnie though, she reinvents herself both musically and physically for every release and goes walls to the balls with that gimmick. The wig is always immaculate, the fur coast always seems to shimmer in all the right places, and musically she achieves exactly what she wants. Even if, musically, what she wants is just ever so shit. Of course, we all compare her to fucking David fucking Bowie at this point, don’t we? Because all music journalists are talentless hacks who haven’t had one original cocking thought between them in around 40 years. David Bowie, you see, was and is the only person ever to make albums that sound different. I suppose at one point we might have been allowed to mention Madonna, but now she’s an old woman who less people want to fuck so we don’t care about her anymore. Really, if you were a little more imaginative, you could say that St Vincent’s proclivity to dress up her most personal thoughts within outlandish universe actually marks her out as a true contemporary of Janelle Monae, kind of soul bearing in dress up. We all love that, right? Ah, but no: Ziggy Stardust! Weow weow, weeeeeeee-oooooooooow!!

I’m not sure I’ve heard that song, actually…

The problem with ‘Daddy’s Home’ isn’t the stylistic choice per se, nor is it the slightly problematic and awkward feeling associated with discussing Big Daddy Vinnie‘s incarceration for white collar (white person) crimes during the current climate, nor is it, hilariously, Pitchfork’s question if Vinnie can call herself a true ‘ally’ of some sections of society after she not once but twice includes lyrics referencing calling the cops/911. It’s more that the music she’s successfully aiming to pastiche, 1970s ultra commercial adult contemporary, is a pretty awful genre to listen to at the best of times. If she’d taken more of an inspiration from the source and attempted to either update or improve upon the original, that might be one thing, but a whole album of songs that so closely ape a genre you’d otherwise pour gasoline in your ears to avoid listening to is a big ask.

And also, the melody to My Baby Wants a Baby is just 9 to 5 (Morning Train) by Sheena Easton. That wasn’t released until 1981 for a start.

62 Phew: New Decade

(2020 #84, 2017 #72)

It’s been over 40 years, and I’m still making music the same way. I have not grown at all. I think this is a terrible thing.

Hiromi Moritani (aka Phew)

I love that quote, given by Phew in a recent interview. It’s a joke, of course, she has obviously changed and bent her sound into a million different ways even in the three years she’s been represented on Necessary Evil (and two of those entries were technically from the same album), and since making her recorded debut in the late 70s she’s found thousands of different definitions for what could now apparently be released as ‘music’. In 1982 she teamed up with a Colombian farm hand to record the week long staring competition she had with one of the yaks on their ranch over several cassettes . In 1986 she asked the wind what makes it think it’s so fucking special and released its answer as a double LP. In 1990 she recorded a duet with Shaun Ryder that was released on digital compact cassette but whom neither singers remember for the life of them. I could go on. So I will. In 1994 she released the map to a tiny village in Belgium on 8 Track. In early 2001 she released detailed plans to fly aeroplanes into the Twin Towers, but it was on MiniDisc, which was pretty much over by that point, so she got away with it. In 2010 she released Waka Waka, the theme tune to the 2010 World Cup, on a singular compact disc, which she later consumed in a mukbang video. In 2015, she just took a photo of a Sony DualDisc and said it was her new album, charging people £15.99 for a black and white photocopy. Aaaaaaaand, that pretty much takes us up to 2017’s ‘Voice Hardcore’, so you know the complete history now.

What makes the quote funny though (as apposition to, say, anything in that last paragraph), is that you can kinda see where she’s coming from. No two Phew albums (songs??) sound in anyway similar, but everything she releases is so unavoidably Phew that it’s actually ridiculous. And long may it continue. The big news for all you Phewheads is that the impossible to find 1979 debut album by Aunt Sally – the punk band formed by Phew after she travelled to England in 1977 to see the Sex Pistols live – is being rereleased in early 2022, and I think it’s the album I’m looking forward to most next year. I mean, can you imagine…?

61 Yeasayer: All Hour Symbols

(2020 #69 (dude), 2019 #21, 2016 #11, 2010 #14)

And we’re done. All five of the much missed Yeasayer records are now logged on Necessary Evil with the inclusion of their raw and far more openly ‘world music’ inspired debut. And, yeah, it turns out the three I originally featured (albums number 2, 4 and 5) are actually definitely the best three. I might do a ranking one day, but just to spoil it now, ‘Amen and Goodbye’ will almost definitely be top, but this album would absolutely be bottom, as good as it is. Seriously, I’ve listened to this album for 12 months and this is all I can think to say about it.

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