By the summer of 2020, the year had totally gone off the rails. The world had been almost blindsided by a global pandemic; cases of the bubonic plague were being reported in the far east; Australia had already been ravaged by bushfires; a strain of killer hornets had been discovered in the US and, by the end of July, Donald Trump was spoiling for a war with China. He’d already failed to have one with various other countries under dictatorships and – still running the country as if he were a sheriff in a TV western and the planet were his plaything – was obviously getting desperate. 2020 was dogged by so many disasters that it seemed nothing could actually surprise us any more.
It’s that time of year again when Real Gone takes stock of all of the great music that’s been sent our way over the last twelve months. Changes in how people consume their music has meant shifting from providing a free download to offering an album length stream, but the variety and quality of the new music remains very high.
In terms of split releases, this EP from The Jasons and The Black Russians ranks among the most high octane discs ever. With three songs apiece, the US horror punks and the ragged “Sovietcore” troupe do battle across a blistering fifteen minutes where classic Ramones obsessions sit beside sharper punk influences, and by the time The Black Russians go all out punk ‘n’ roll on an old Jasons tune, there’s even a suggestion that this could be just a little broader in appeal than your average Ramonescore record. Okay, maybe not that much broader, but it’s always a pleasure to hear a great band branching out a little.
By the end of 2019, few people would have suggested we’d live through a year any more devastating than 2016. That year, famous musicians seemed to be dying on a weekly basis. 2020 had even more of a drastic effect on the music industry with a global pandemic putting a halt on gigs and forcing various small, grass roots venues to close their doors forever.
On the plus side – and you always have to look for a positive, even in the most dire of circumstances – a dramatic change in circumstances has forced musicians to change their way of working. For those with home studios, it’s meant we’ve seen an increase in output. We’ve even been given unexpected albums – right at the end of the year, there were surprise releases from Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift and various other interesting albums were put together remotely. …And as we take stock on a terrible year, it seems that the gift of recorded music has been one of our only constants: 2020 may have been an absolute bastard in so many ways, but we’ve all found new music to love.
For a lot of musicians, 2020 became about making the best of a bad situation. With a global pandemic putting gigs on hold and stopping bands getting together in dedicated rehearsal spaces and studios, people began to work in isolation. That’s easy enough when you’re someone like Jeff Lynne, a multi-instrumentalist with a state of the art home setup and a loyal audience who’ll wait years for your new record, but not quite so convenient when you’re a punk musician who’s used to having close buddies and the interaction with a small crowd in small basement venues.
The lack of outside world didn’t stop Glenn Robinson. The prolific punker went into overdrive throughout the year and with his one man band, Pavid Vermin, set about creating a string of releases that called back to a classic 90s sound. Having already released ‘Throw Me In The Trash’ before lockdown hit, he kept up momentum with the largely excellent ‘Cutting Corners’, a classic pop-punk disc calling back to the glory days of Lookout! Records, and ‘Lookout! Pavid Vermin Ruins Some Songs’ – almost the very thing Pavid Vermin was created for: a covers album featuring material written by many of your favourite bands.