The Best Albums Of 2018: 10 – 1
Welcome, ladies and gents, to Pure Rawk’s end of year list, part 2! We asked the team at Pure Rawk HQ for their top albums of 2018, and when we bashed their heads together, these are the words that fell out. That and some mucus, eww.
So without further ado, here’s our Top Ten!
Words by Andy Close, Nick Spragg, Dave Ashworth, Ben Pollard-Mathias, Steve Brixey and Greig Clifford.
10. GINGER WILDHEART – “The Pessimists Companion”
Picking up where last years Ghost in the Tanglewood left off, The Pessimists Companion sees Ginger continuing to exorcise his demons on another sublime collection of folk-country tunes, delivered in his inimitable Geordie style. Mr Wildheart has made no secret of the fact that it’s been a trying time for him of late, and this confessional set of songs sees him detail heartbreak and mental health issues with unflinching honesty. It’s testament to Ginger’s skill as a songwriter that such heavy subject matter can ultimately sound so uplifting thanks to his unwavering ability to wrap darkness in glorious melody, and the songs here feel more relaxed and natural than on its predecessor. The Pessimists Companion isn’t an easy listen in places and won’t be for everyone, but for some it will be exactly the album they need (SB).
9. THE VIRGINMARYS – “The Northern Sun Sessions”
The Northern Sun Sessions is a wonderfully produced record full of raw emotion, natural feel and free-flowing grooves-a-plenty, all wrapped within an unbridled rock swagger that flicks one gigantic middle finger to anyone who doubted the Virginmarys distinctive talent. The gentler moments are soaked with Ally Dickaty’s warm Northern accent, that switches to throat shredding power when more noise is needed to drive home the very personal messages behind these songs. There’s a heartfelt purity to the playing throughout, loud and gritty one minute, tender and sweet at other times, all the while backed by Danny Dolan’s inventive and powerful drumming. Like the 3D cover, there’s thought behind everything here to create a fantastic guitar album with great depth, and all the hooks of a classic record (GC).
8. HAGGARD CAT – “Challenger”
Emerging triumphantly from the wreckage of the much loved Baby Godzilla / Heck, Haggard Cat’s debut album takes the almighty noise made by their predecessors and wrestles it into a more accessible, but no less brutal, shape. Heck were always an incredible live proposition, to the point that at times the songs themselves were almost a secondary consideration. There’s no such issues here, as Challenger places riffs and hypnotic vocals front and centre with a pared down two piece approach that allows each part to shine. That’s not to say messers Reynolds and Marsh have gone all White Stripes, and Challenger still makes the sort of noise that would make Jack and Meg shit themselves. From the opening blast of The Patriot through to jazzy, abstract closer High Roller, Challenger is a ferocious, fantastic record (SB).
7. GHOST – “Prequelle”
Becoming more and more polished since their retro and stripped-bare debut, Prequelle is the culmination of Tobias Forge’s vision for Ghost. Equal parts grandiose, intricate, melodic, comedic, and dripping with Hammer Horror kitsch, Prequlle is divisively overblown and all the better for it. Rats owes as much to Meatloaf as it does Blue Öyster Cult, whilst the crunchy Faith gives Ghost another live headbanger, and if you’re yet to witness the majesty of Miasma’s closing sax solo, then you’re missing out on one of the most surprisingly offbeat, yet brilliantly executed, musical moments of the year. There really isn’t any filler on Prequelle, and it veers successfully from rock opera to 80s cop movie soundtrack to Satanic ode to desolation brilliantly. Prequelle is only going to help Ghost hit even more stratospheric heights over the next couple of years (NS).
6. THE INTERRUPTERS – “Fight The Good Fight”
The Interrupters are a band with a few albums under their belt now, but Fight The Good Fight is surely the one that has really broken them, in the UK and Europe at least. Catchy and fun throughout, while still dealing with loneliness, suffering and alienation, The Interrupters have dealt out some of the best singles of their career this year, such as the bouncing She’s Kerosene and the uplifting Title Holder. Sure, it’s maybe not supremely original (yeah it sounds like Rancid, who guest on track Got Each Other), but nevertheless, this is Californian ska-punk at its finest. Their recent UK tour garnered glowing gig reports, not least from yours truly in London, so we look forward to see The Interrupters back on these shores soon (DA).
5. FRANK TURNER – “Be More Kind”
Let’s be honest; from wotsit Hitler in the White House to the complete omnishambles that is Brexit, 2018 has been a monumentally fucked up year. With this in mind, Frank Turner’s simple message to Be More Kind could not be more timely. The great thing about Turner is that his lyrics have the uncanny knack of sounding like they were written by a mate sitting across from you in your local boozer, rather than a Big Rock Star. On his seventh album, Turner turns this easygoing charm to current events for the first time in a while, and the results are stunning. Be More Kind is political without ever feeling preachy, and musically sees Turner adding an experimental edge to his familiar folk punk sound. An essential album for troubling times (SB).
4. TMTWNBBFN – “Double Negative”
Double Negative proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have well and truly grown beyond any accusations of being a novelty band with a ferocious mix of punk rock, goth and metal converging to create the album that I’ve come back to more than any other this year. While there’s still a sense of humour at play on the likes of Supply And Demand and Obscene Fucking Machine, it’s definitely got much darker over the years. However, Double Negative has an punky energy and snappiness that, on reflection, was slightly lacking on its predecessor Not Your Typical Victorians, while keeping the musicianship of that album intact. Add to this a set of songs such as Baby Farmer, God Is In The Bottom Line and the sinister closer There’s Gonna Be A Revolution which veer into much darker and angrier but no less addictive territory, and this is surely some of their best work to date (AC).
3. RICH RAGANY & THE DIGRESSIONS – “Like We’ll Never Make It”
Following three excellent albums with the Role Models, Like We’ll Never Make It saw Rags assembling a new group of gunslingers, including Shush’s Andy Brook and Gaff from the Dedwardians, to create an impressively varied album which was different enough to be distinguishable from his day job, but with the killer riffs and hooks very much left intact. More laid back than the Role Models’ output, Like We’ll Never Make It had hints of everyone from The La’s (That World) to Elvis Costello (title track) and the Dogs D’Amour (Lose With Me). Crucially though, every song here had a killer chorus and hooks which stuck in your head for days. Proof that Rags is one seriously talented guy, who can turn his hand to pretty much any style of music he feels like and still come up trumps (AC).
2. EUREKA MACHINES – “Victories”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since perennial Pure Rawk favourites Eureka Machines released their debut album. Bands always tend to bring out the old “this is the best thing we’ve ever recorded” chestnut whenever they release something new, so it’s always quite exciting that in Eureka Machines case it’s actually true. Five albums in and Chris Catalyst and co. are still pushing themselves and breaking new ground, whether it’s on sprawling, psychedelic tracks like House of Butterflies or the simple, acoustic The Next Line. Lyrically too they continue to challenge themselves, with Catalyst’s increasingly personal approach to songwriting adding even greater depth to their magnificent pop-rock. Put simply, Victories is one of the best rock bands in the UK at the top of their game. Here’s to the next ten years (SB).
1. THERAPY? – “Cleave”
Cleave may be a relatively short record, but the 10 songs on offer are some of the most biting the band have ever released. From mental health to the environment and homelessness, no issue is too big for Andy Cairns to lyricise about, spitting venom at the UK government as much as he does at the rest of the world’s supposed leaders who are dragging us further and further into oblivion. The album’s first single, Callow, along with tracks like Expelled and Success? Success Is Survival hark back to the band’s most successful period, but do so with wiser eyes. It’s here where the returning Chris Sheldon’s production really shines through, encouraging the band to strip things back so they sound like a proper three-piece; no rhythm guitars taking the listener off on a tangent, just a supremely focused lead, bass and drum-driven assault on our senses, that helps to get the message across perfectly (NS).