In 2016, Scandinavian garage rockers Nightmen dropped one of the greatest musical surprises of the year. Exploring various elements of garage rock and proto-punk, ‘Fifteen Minutes of Pain‘ delivered a short and sharp aural assault of a record that was not only loving of the past, but also keen to bring such sounds kicking and screaming into the present. It was also the kind of debut that sounded like the work of a band who might burn themselves out too quickly. For this second release, the band could’ve decided to churn out more of the same and that would’ve been great, but being smart cookies, they’ve avoided that inevitable burnout and adapted their previous sounds to allow for growth. Amongst various garage rock and proto-punk staples, this time around, they also show more of a talent for classic power pop.
If 1972 were the year where the 1970s took on its own distinctive image with glam rock flaunting its majesty in a peacock-like fashion, then 1973 was the year the beards fought back. Every up has its flipside and so it goes here. The polar opposite of Bolan’s optimism, 1973’s biggest selling albums included Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ (a lavish concept album about depression and mental stability), The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ (a concept album about angst, youth and mental stability) and Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’, arguably the biggest foray into self-indulgent prog rock this side of Yes’ double platter bore-fest ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ (also released in 1973).
That’s not so say the great and accessible pop and rock had been swept away, of course. Nor that glam was dead – far from it, in fact. Sweet scored some big hit singles, Bolan told us the ‘Children of the Revolution’ couldn’t be fooled and one time hard rockers Slade escalated in popularity on the back of some great singles.
It very much seemed that by the end of 2016 there were very few places across the globe that hadn’t been affected by a plague of black metal. Bands were springing up in some very unlikely places and seemingly on a weekly basis. No longer just the product of various Scandinavian territories and a few other places, for such a niche genre, black metal seemed to be big business (relatively speaking, of course). While many bands seemed happy to screech and hiss their way down a familiar path, there genre still had other avenues to explore.
In an age of digital music and at a time when so many listeners seem to be cherry picking bits of albums from streaming sites as opposed to viewing a piece of work as an artistic whole, the long player format sometimes seems to be floundering. This fact hasn’t escaped Seattle’s Devils Hunt Me Down, who’ve chosen to release their 2017 album ‘In Medias Res’ as three four track EPs as opposed to saving it up and putting it out as a whole. Sometimes this approach can be interesting (see Joshua Ketchmark’s trilogy of releases in 2012, where the singer songwriter used each one to explore a different style), but sometimes, it just leaves the listener wanting more with works that seem fractured.
1972 AD. The year that bored suburban teens attempted to resurrect Dracula, in a much maligned Hammer film that’s actually quite good fun. The year that Bolan’s musical craft was at its most perfect; the year Ziggy Stardust came to Earth and changed Bowie’s fortunes forever.