Andy Close’s Top 5 albums of 2011
It seemed like an easy task when Nix asked me to do it – “Just pick your best five albums and best gig of 2011”. Oh but it wasn’t. Just when I thought I’d got the list sorted, someone reminded me of something else I’d forgotten and I had to start all over again.
Anyway, after a day’s worth of head-scratching, I’ve finally come up with something I’m happy with – ladies and gentlemen, I give you my highlights of 2011.
I really can’t argue with our esteemed editor’s choice here. I wasn’t sure if the Machines would be able to top an outstanding debut like “Do Or Die” but in truth they did it comfortably. A classic case of chucking every influence imaginable into the pot (seriously, who else could mix the Smiths-style distorted angst of “Professional Crastinator” and put it on the same album as the pure Beach Boys pop of “Best Night Of My Life”?) but keeping the killer tunes and choruses intact all the way through. And believe you me, that’s no easy trick to pull off. Pretty much faultless – if they continue on this trajectory for album number three then goodness only knows what they’ll be capable of.
Another band who turned a lot of heads with the sheer variety of their debut album a couple of years back but followed it up without any hint of the dreaded “difficult second album syndrome”. For what makes it great, see pretty much everything I wrote about the Eureka Machines and their knack to mix a willingness to experiment with killer tunes but particular highlights were the desolate spaghetti western atmospherics of “I’d Rather You Shot Me Down”, the spooked “Alone In The City” and the full-on blues-punk assault of “Cheers For The Tears”. Really, if you still haven’t checked this band out then you need to do so.
Back in the day, I always had Wolfsbane pegged as the happy-go-lucky class clowns of the first wave of Britpop, good fun and always good for a killer riff and big dumb singalong chorus but never really likely to be heading up the brigade. Which was what made this such a pleasant surprise when our very lovely photographic wiz, Trudi passed it on to me to review. It’s very rare that you’ll find a band 20+ years after their debut not only trying new stuff successfully but also putting together arguably their best album to date. From the pounding riffs of “Smoke and Red Light” to the wonderfully OTT Meatloaf-style bombast of “Illusion Of Love”, this one definitely covers all the bases.
I’ll admit to being slightly biased here as I’ve been a die-hard Coop fan for over 15 years now but hand on heart, I can definitely say that this is probably his strongest album since at least 2003’s “The Eyes Of Alice Cooper”. Varying from full-on rock assaults like “Caffeine” and “Runaway Train” through the Stonesy rock ‘n’ roll of single “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” to the vaudeville theatrics of “Last Man Alive” and “I Gotta Get Out Of Here” and featuring guest turns from Rob Zombie, Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson and the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band among others, this was Alice on top form and showing just why he’s been king of the shock-rock castle for so long.
It’s probably a sign of just how many good albums there’ve been in the last 12 months that I was convinced this had come out in 2010 until reading Nix’s list earlier today reminded me that it was actually back in April this year. “Sensory Overdrive” was pretty much everything you’d expect a Hanoi Rocks/New York Dolls/Wildhearts supergroup to come up with and then some. Full of blazing riffs, killer singalong choruses, shedloads of attitude and top lyrics, it’s proof that all concerned have very much still got it and can congratulate themselves on a job well done.
GIG OF THE YEAR
The Wonderstuff (Holmfirth Picturedrome, 22nd July)
Just because of what an unexpected triumph it was. I’ve been a huge Wonder Stuff fan ever since my early teens but having seen a few very hit-and-miss gigs since they made their comeback a decade ago, I was just hoping they’d play a few songs I’d recognise at least. As it turned out, they did all that and more – pretty much all the hits and best album tracks were ticked off with the crowd really getting into the gig and creating an absolutely awesome atmosphere (look up the Youtube footage of them opening with “Red Berry Joy Town” and “On The Ropes” at this gig if you want to see for yourself) and for one glorious night it was like being 15 and going to my first few gigs all over again. Top stuff.