Cream Of The Crop And Cream Of The Slop 2005

A look back at the year in rock

by Chris Harlow

2005 was the year of the unexpected. Generally speaking, it was the new artists I discovered and found myself listening to that genuinely impressed me, while some of the old guard are finding themselves perilously close to being replaced. Nevertheless, these tales contribute to what is known as the magical world of rock. The top five releases of 2005, in my opinion, were:


5. Backyard Babies -- Live Live in Paris

By reinventing the overproduced studio hits from the Backyard Babies two previous albums into a sound more signature and representative of them, the BMG label gives true meaning to a live album with real purpose. Now, if only they would back off and let the band go back to doing what they do best in proving that excess in the studio is actually less, these Swedish punks can go back to defining their path of heightened legacy which seemed to be a route so obvious back in the turn-of-the-century Total 13 days.

4. The Turbo A.C.'s -- Avenue X

Veering on as reckless a path as the sounds Avenue X give us, it's important to note that New York City's Turbo A.C's masterfully keep their board afloat. Surf-driven punk rock has never been a commodity by any stretch of the imagination, so the commitment, energy, and passion found on Avenue X were as good of feelings as any cool morning breeze felt all year.

3. Mustasch -- Powerhouse

The words Mustasch and powerhouse are becoming increasingly synonymous with one another after every release. So much so, that when the band named their fourth album Powerhouse, I knew exactly what to expect from this rock quartet from Sweden. Needless to say, it's a great feeling when you can lock onto a band and know that they will deliver the goods even when figuratively thinking that the band found their creative "zone" back in the day, recorded 100 similarly inspired and sounding tunes, and are seemingly releasing them in increments of 11 - as done on the last three Mustasch releases.

2. Crucified Barbara -- In Distortion We Trust

Mia Coldheart renders as much substance vocally as her name stylistically suggests ensuring Crucified Barbara's debut album, In Distortion We Trust, solid positioning on my Best Of 2005 listing. Better yet is the fact that the band is responsible for all the music and lyrics performed suggesting that a no nonsense, old-school-sounding metal act can not only exist but thrive in today's world with plenty of intelligible lyrical attitude, distorted riffing and percussion to go with it.

Cream Of The Crop Award

1. Mohammed -- Blackbomber

I've just mentioned my previous picks as being an acts you can count on (Mustasch) and ones that do justice to throwback metal sounds (Crucified Barbara) evidenced by their recent releases. Where Mohammed separates itself from these earlier traits lie in the fact that Blackbomber builds in sound from their debut album Hyena while creatively bobbing and weaving through the different tempos of thrash and traditional riff metal. As a result, Blackbomber ended up being the most complete, interesting, and inspiring release my ears heard all year.


Most Promising New Act

The Chelsea Smiles -- Nowhere Ride (EP)

Veteran punk n' rollers Todd Youth and Christian Black put Hollywood back on the rock n' roll map in ways far more credible than the Sunset Strip has generally been associated. For starters, the three original tracks on the Nowhere Ride EP prove the antithesis to a lot of the dumb rock tracks the 80's L.A. Strip scene once gave us finding the Chelsea Smiles developing shout-along choruses to song titles which are anything but cliché. The band's debut L.P. hits the streets in early 2006.

Comeback Album of the Year

Hardcore Superstar -- Hardcore Superstar

A promising hard-rocking debut album, Bad Sneakers And A Pina Colada, gave Hardcore Superstar a taste of mid-major label exposure that resulted in all the studio fluff you'd expect to result in mixing their last two albums. Those results were less than inspiring, as this Gothenburg quartet now finds itself revisiting its indie-label position in 2005. Credit the band for returning to its punk n' roll roots as this year's self-titled release proves that the band's initial hard rock instinct trumps the last five years of recording output hands down.

Most Disappointing Release

Turbonegro -- Party Animals

In the weeks leading up to the Party Animals release, I literally thought Turbonegro were pulling the ultimate prank on their "jugend" (youth) with an album that was dumbed down so much that the mere album cover and title brought a smirk to my face. Never mind the song titles included buffoon-laden titles such as "Blow Me (Like the Wind)" and "Hot Stuff/Hot Shit." Well, I guess the joke was ultimately on me, as Turbonegro stumble their way through their most uninspiring release with songs that sound like 101 other bands could have written them.

Nail in the Coffin Award

The Hellacopters -- Rock n' Roll Is Dead

Back in the day, creative genius was associated with Nicke Andersson in ways far too numerous to count, as the Hellacopters were the band that brought action-rock back from the dead. History shows that never had a band mixed heavy death-metal type vocal distortion and guitar hooks in such an appealing manner. Nowadays, Andersson has figuratively sold his soul for throwback rock n' roll with an album that does nothing but bore one senseless with its homogenized recording process and generic riffing.

Cream of the Slop Award (aka the Most Self-Indulgent Piece of Crap Award)

The White Stripes -- Get Behind Me Satan

It must be because they think they can. Well, in one sense, Jack White can write fantastic guitar-driven throwback rock tracks which are coincidentally the singles the label feels wise to release on the public. "Blue Orchid" fits the bill suitably, as it was a catchy enough track that I went out and bought Get Behind Me Satan on the strength of that track alone. From there, the mere fact that triangles, bells, pianos, and tambourines become the instruments of choice on the rest of the album can't help but leave me with the taste of a bait and switch operator at play. A strategy such as this one will generally work only once on most souls.

Realizing award lists should only be given to truly worthy albums -- err, CDs in today's terms -- I'm going to list the five releases from this year that have truly made a positive impact on me. I'll also grant other albums certain awards of note based off of my perception after giving them the necessary spins to warrant an opinion.

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