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SHANE PINNEGAR’s BEST MUSIC OF 2023

| 1 January 2024 | Reply

SHANE PINNEGAR’s BEST MUSIC OF 2023

1. Extreme – Six

Nobody expected an album this good, of this searing intensity, from a band who hadn’t been a full time thing (let alone bothering the charts) for almost thirty years – but here we are, and their recent Australian live shows were nothing short of incendiary. If Rise and #Rebel weren’t enough to thrill you, semi-acoustic Other Side Of The Rainbow will take you to an uplifting and positive place.

2. The Hives – The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

The Swedish quintet burst back on the scene ten years after Lex Hives with this stormtrooping album, accompanied by their signature, quirky, promo campaign and excellent horror- and office-themed videos for Bogus Operandi and Countdown To Shutdown, manic energy and manic sense of humour both firmly intact.

3. NoBro – Set Your Pussy Free

Montreal quartet NoBro have shown a lot of promise in recent years – not least on their infectious, amazing 2022 single Better Each Day. On Set Your Pussy Free they rock hard and pull no punches, staking a strong claim to be one of the finest new rock n’ roll bands in town – and racking up serious girl power points in the process. Check out the sarcasm of Let’s Do Drugs and the gritty Where My Girls At for proof.

4. Raven – All Hell’s Breaking Loose

Another band with serious pedigree (in this case dating back to the late ‘70s NWOBHM movement) who have hit a fresh and impressive stride in recent years. Raven never went away, but their last handful of albums just get better, and this one takes no prisoners from Medieval and Surf The Tsunami to the molten (should be the next Olympic theme tune) closer, Go For Gold.

5. Foo Fighters – But Here We Are

It breaks our heart that The Foos had to experience such tragic loss to make this album – their best in years. A tribute to fallen drummer Taylor Hawkins and to main man Dave Grohl’s mother, it’s an emotional tour de force with opener Rescued and ten-minute epic The Teacher amongst their career best, while daughter Violet’s gorgeous vocals on Show Me How breaks hearts from twenty paces. Grohl was consumed by grief, and surely this dredged up feelings of another former bandmate lost to misadventure. To be able to properly convey his sadness, loss and rage into a career highlight collection of articulate and meaningful songs is nothing short of staggering.

6. Hard-Ons – Ripper ‘23

We saw a Hard-Ons show after their first album with You Am I vocalist Tim Roger as lead singer (I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Taken) where a belligerent ‘fan’ yelled “you ruined The Hard-Ons!” Ripper ’23 told a different story: this is a band on fire, a meeting of minds and souls and pure rock n’ f’n roll. Single Apartment For Two is just one of the highlights.

7. Sick Fizz – We Fucked This City On Rock n’ Roll

Mike Foxall – artist, muso, director, madman – took a break from communing with the cult of The Neptune Power Foundation to go full low-fi fuzz-max with Sick Fizz. Harkening back to his Nancy Vandals punk days (but with a perpetual bogan rock blood infusion drip) and Fox just can’t help but write infectious, anthemic, madrock – not least of all on dilated-pupil mania-ride Pills Pills Pills.

8. The Damned – Darkadelic

Right now we’re all excited that The Damned’s classic, raucous line-up of Vanian-Sensible-Scabies-Gray are touring Australia in March 2024, but Darkadelic is the latterday prog-punk alter-ego of this band who have traversed so many genres – helping to not only create acerbic punk and moody goth rock, but who also rebooted groovy ‘60s garage rock and more. On this 2023 instalment there are hints of all their previous incarnations: the post goth rock of The Invisible Man, the scathing pop punk BoJo-taunting Beware Of The Clown, and the why-pretend-otherwise Gary Glitter-lambasting Leader Of The Pack.

9. Voyager – Fearless In Love

Fresh from representing Australia at none other than Eurovision 2023 with the infectious instant classic Promise – and doing very bloody well while they were there, thankyou very much – Voyager’s latest album is a synth pop rock meisterwork. Resolutely uplifting and positive sonically, this is far more pop rock than metal, but the guitars are as present as the keytars, and what a heady mix it makes.

10. Tim Rogers & the Twin Set – Tines of Stars Unfurled

Not content with fronting You Am I AND Hard-Ons in recent years, Timmy Rogers has revisited his 1999 album with The Twin Set (What Rhymes With Cars and Girls) and the joint results of these three projects have been nothing less than startling. (To think, he’d all but given up music for the life of a barkeep just a few years ago!) Each track here is an answer or sequel to the What Rhymes With… tracks, but more than that, this is the sound of a classic artist blazing with talent and confidence rarely seen.

11. Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton – Death Wish Blues

Take two respected modern blues artists, put ‘em together and in this case they burn like a magnesium strip hitting oxygen. It doesn’t hurt that Jon Spencer (he of the legendary Blues Explosion) produced this amazing record. The blues are the thing here, but they are as dirty as bathtub bourbon, as addictive as bathtub speed, and as real as Wolf or Muddy would have been back in their day.

12. Last Quokka – Red Dirt

Perth, Western Australian suburban punk agitators Last Quokka distil their anger and social conscience into a finely honed weapon on this 26-minute serve of what’s wrong and what’s what. Songs Gina/Rupert and Eat The Rich aren’t messing around: Last Quokka know who the problem is and aren’t afraid to say so. Say hello to the new Midnight Oil.

13. Metallica – 72 Seasons

Poor ‘Tallica haven’t always coped well with fame and fortune, as their post-Load albums and doco Some Kind Of Monster have highlighted – but 72 Seasons (18 years, frontman James Hetfield explains) is a return to the band we know and love. Sure, it’s no Ride The Lightning, but it’s as good – and as heavy – as we could hope them to be in 2023. Lux Æterna, If Darkness Had A Son, and the epic Inamorata are all longer than they need to be but can still teach The Kids a thing or two.

14. The On & Ons – Let Ya Hair Down!

Whether you call it power pop or something else, The On & Ons do it as well or better than anyone else. Featuring ex-Hoodoo Gurus bassist Clyde Bramley, and lauded by such luminaries as Stevie Van Zandt and Lenny Kaye, their fifth album is a simply excellent trippy accompaniment to your next psych-retro shindig.

15. The Struts – Pretty Vicious

Skewing less like Queen and more like Def Leppard with this fourth long player, The Struts songwriting and tarted up glam rock delivery are on point on an album which sees them more lyrically vicious than sonically, and just as poutingly, prancingly pretty as ever. Opener Too Good At Raising Hell turns everything up to eleven, and if Hands On Me, Rockstar and Bad Decisions hint at the grubby underbelly of rock stardom, they do so in simply FABulous style.

16. Jen Mize & the Rough n’ Tumble – All Riled Up

It’s a rock n’ soul kinda feeling permeating Queenslanders Jen Mize & the Rough n’ Tumble’s debut album, in a ‘70s chart-topper sort of way. Think Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt & co for the kind of dedicated, living-the-rock-n-roll-life sort of vibe, then record that on tape (analogue, of course) and allow the sweetly infectious West Coast grooves to seduce you.

17. The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds

Nobody thought The Stones would sound this vital and rocking on their first album of new material in donkey’s years – especially after the passing of mainstay drummer Charlie Watts. From the ‘70s pastiche of lead single Angry to the supercharged hyper-soul of Lady Gaga & Stevie Wonder-boosted Sweet Sounds Of Heaven – an instant addition to their greatest tracks – this is the Rolling Stones album the band deserved to make as much as we deserved to hear.

18. Buffalo Crows – Blood

Buffalo Crows are a troupe of heavy boogie blues and hard-as-nails rock players who would have been Viking marauders back in the day, but instead are semi-domesticated purveyors of monolithic demi-psych riffs and obsidian aural damage. Fourth album Blood sees the band again delving into their unique sonic brew – influenced by fellow Oz Rock outcasts Buffalo’s megariffing boogie, Monster Magnet-esque psych, Sabbathy ultradoom and much more – and it’s a heady, raucous, essential mix.

19. Dolly Parton – Rockstar

Dolly didn’t want to be inducted into the ROCK N’ ROLL hall of fame – she’s country, after all – but since they and her fans insisted, she thought she’d best play the part and record a proper rock n’ roll album (staggeringly, her 49th studio album, by the way – by comparison, the new Rolling Stones LP is only their 31st). With guests running the gamut from John Fogerty, Ann Wilson, Joan Jett, Peter Frampton, Melissa Etheridge, Nikki Sixx, Kid Rock, Rob Halford and many more, PLUS surviving Beatles Ringo Starr & Paul McCartney – and clocking up a massive 30 tracks – it is overlong, indulgent… and great! Best consumed in smaller portions, it’s uplifting to hear her out of her comfort zone and sounding like she’s truly enjoying herself and this rock n’ roll sidestep.

20. Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman

After a couple of annus very horribiluses, Josh Homme is back from his world caving in on him and pulling no punches as he rages against his travails, not least of all taking blatant swipes at his now-ex wife, purported gold digger Brody Dalle. It’s a mess of sludgy blues and snarling crooning – not so much the ‘Ginger Elvis’ as a hard rock Bowie, and after repeated listens will undoubtedly rise in our already-strong estimation.

Honourable mentions:

21. The Church’s Hypnogogue is a druggy trance du force – the aural equivalent of a floatation tank.

22. Ash’s Race The Night does what they do best: combine brightly lit pop melodies with crunchy riffs.

23. Gonzo rock cult The Neptune Power Federation’s collection of non-album tracks, Hidden Hymns of the Underworld, is another slab of OTT must-have madness.

24. Teutonic Metal Queen Doro Pesch flex’s her impressive vocal power on Conqueress – Forever Strong & Proud, a riff-laden minor modern metal classic full of her trademark uplifting exhortations of self-belief and ecstatic sturm und drang.

25. Wolfgang Van Halen proves again that he can fit into similarly sized shoes as his late rock god father (and original music teacher) with a second Mammoth WVH album which makes Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ seem like a chicken wire fence. Everything on Mammoth II sounds massive, all played – again – by Wolfie himself. Undeniably great, and wonderfully realised though it is, we can’t help but wonder what he might make with a real band around him – until then, more of this will do nicely, thankyou.

26. Perenial UK biker denim rockers The Hip Priest’s Roden House Blues kicks down the door and just keeps stomping on it until it’s matchsticks.

27. Alice Cooper’s Road sees the old rock warrior (what? He’s 75! It’s no insult) reflecting on many decades touring and having a blast while doing so.

28. Mariachi rockers The Mezcaltones’ Agave Soiree sticks true to their template of good time twangin’ grooves that would fit perfectly on any Tarantino/Rodrigues movie soundtrack.

29. Ginger Wildheart’s Teeth is a vitriolic old school punk blast which could peel paint off The Man’s polished veneer from fifty paces – that he only made it available on Bandcamp for 24 hours makes it even more essential.

30. The soundtrack to TV series Daisy Jones & The Six – Aurora – will be seen as a cynical pastiche by some, but this collection of 70’s-alike hits (performed by the actors after Covid-19 delays gave them time to learn to play well enough) is simply irresistible and oh-so-true to the actual era and style they’re emulating.

31. Their Mongolian biker folk metal pushed The Hu into the world spotlight on debut Gereg, and this year’s Rumble of Thunder not only repeats that bold, swaggering form but also broadens their palate with Bii Biyelgi, Teach Me and more sounding directly designed for radio play. Again, they have crafted a set of tracks which English speakers will have no problem headbanging to and (phonetically) singing along with, whilst ensuring that their cultural touchstones remain strong.

SINGLES & EPS

1. Rose Carleo Band – Line ‘Em Up

Harkening back to the best vintage Oz Rock, Rose Carleo and her crew play a blinder on this ode to enjoying a convivial tipple after a great gig. It’s bands like RCB who should be playing festivals and groomed for future headlining, because the currently favoured 70s and 80s bands won’t be around forever.

2. The Volcanics – Saturday Night

The Volcanics rock – melody, riffs and a raucous good time guaranteed.

3. The Datsuns – Ugly Leather
4. Sebastian Bach – What Do I Got To Lose?
5. Tropical Fuck Storm – Submersive Behaviour
6. Neptune Power Federation – We’re Gonna Die


7. Danko Jones – Guess Who’s Back
8. Dennis Cometti – Bloke on the Run
9. Ghost – Spillways (with Joe Elliot)
10. Mick Thomas & the Roving Commission – Back In The Day

LIVE

Another year living remotely meant another year of not enough live rock n’ roll – but maybe that’ll change in 2024…

1. Extreme & Living Colour – 6 September, Perth

Photo by Damien Crocker

Two legendary groups doing what they do best, and if Extreme’s Six album wasn’t enough to convince anybody, their live shows were jaw-droppingly good.

2. Del Amitri – 15 February, Perth

Photo by Stu McKay

There’s a warmth, a deep soulfulness, which sets del Amitri above most of their contemporaries, and there’s nowhere that is more evident than when seeing the band live. The musicians and even their road crew are so well-honed they hit the sweet spot where being well-rehearsed and also spontaneous co-exist in perfect harmony, and if we could have gone back for night two, we would have.

3. Culture Club & Berlin – 5 September, Perth

Photo by Damien Crocker

If you’d told sixteen-year-old me that I’d not only be AT a Culture Club show, but also really enjoying it, I’d have been aghast – but it was undeniably great and I’ll see them next time they tour as well. Berlin are old favourites, and wow, they were also brilliant.

4. Datura4 – 8 September, Fremantle

Photo by Tia Pinnegar

Fremantle’s own heavy boogie merchants never disappoint, and fifth album – rarities collection Invisible Hits – continues an unbeaten winning streak.

5. Me First & the Gimme Gimmes – 14 February, Perth

Photo by Karen Lowe

Spike Slawson lead the demi-super-ish covers band through a crowd pleasing set that is nothing more or less than FUN, and with members of Rocket From The Crypt, The Damned, and The Ramones on board it’s also a night of great rock n’ roll.

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