Welcome to /Countdown/2022 – this year’s wrap-up of the best new music that I’ve heard across the year. I begin as usual, with the best compilations and reissues in no particular order, although it should be noted that as is the norm these days, there are a whole lot of reissues coming through.
The gigs round-up will return this year, seeing as I attended 36 shows – so at least I have something to write about.
Other things to note: to allow me a Christmas break from writing, my “year” covers 01-Dec of the previous year to 30-Nov of this one, and I try my best to stick to that.
I run /amodelofcontrol.com as what might be called a “labour of love”. I’ve written about music for twenty-five years, eighteen or so of those years under this website banner, and I continue to want to celebrate all that is great about this corner of the musical realm. So this site continues to exist – with no external funding and no paid-for advertising – and I will continue to do so as long as I want to do it, and as long as people want to read it.
So thanks for reading, contributing, offering comments, or being one of those people that makes the music I want to write about.
/Trapped Animal Records
A genuinely remarkable comeback story this year originated in a small corner of Facebook. Essex/London band Headswim – long since a footnote in the UK metal scene, really – has had a steadily growing group of fans gravitate to a Facebook group, and such was the love (and friendly discussion) of the band there, that it ended up with one member who owned a label, working with the band to remaster and reissue the debut album Flood from 1994 – with the pièce de résistance being the band reuniting for a (so far!) one-off Camden show back in October, that was quite the joy to attend and be part of. That album, then. It was a curious hybrid at the time, being hard rock/grunge with significant use of synths that resulted in a near psych-rock sound. The album has held up remarkably well, as it happens, and it says a lot about the quality of the production the first time around that not a lot needed to be done to it (the swirling heaviness of Gone to Pot and Dead in particular still rip). The extras are worth the time too, with a number of BBC session tracks and an assortment of B-sides that listened to together, give hints of where the band might have gone had fate not intervened.
/Girls Against Boys
/House of GVSB (25th Anniversary)
/Touch & Go
Like many other releases recently, a bit later than perhaps planned due to vinyl production delays, but Girls Against Boys marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of their most-celebrated album in some style. They’d been an admired part of the US alt-rock/noise-rock scene for a while by the time of this album (and had some wider exposure thanks to Kevin Smith being a fan, and using their songs prominently on Clerks and Mallrats), but this album seemed to take them further.
The album glowers with lascivious energy, frankly, and their trademark two-bass sound makes many of the songs sound really fucking down and dirty (such as the bruising lead single Super Fire and the charge of Crash 17 (X-Rated Car)). But it was where they took things into new realms that this album got really fascinating. Like the sleazy organ-led groove of Disco Six Six Six, or the industrial-tinged witchcraft of *Vera Cruz*, or the overwhelming roar of TheKindaMzkYouLike.
There was nothing wrong with Ted Nicely’s production on this, of course, so the remaster is really just to clean it up a bit, but the chief interest for collectors here is what else is included. As well as a host of b-sides and rare singles – Sexy Sam, for a start, has long been hard to get hold of, and the final four tracks come from the excellent and somewhat overlooked Disco Six Six Six EP – there are also a few discarded tracks from the album sessions that were never released.
This also marks a notable point in time, where GVSB and many other bands were swept up in a major label bidding frenzy (and just as quickly spat out the other side). GVSB went to on Geffen, and did the much-derided FREAK*ON*ICA, which leaned heavily into industrial electronics and divided fans to say the least. I personally think it’s not as bad as many make out, but it was notable than when they did release further new material, it was a route that was not taken again.
For those new to GVSB, start here. If this doesn’t move you, well…
Front 242 marked their 40th anniversary in some style, with a (delayed) tour that saw spectacular performances and a host of surprises in the set, with old deep cuts jostling for space alongside (very good) new songs – but as yet, no release of those songs. So this year we settled for a new remix EP, that saw the new generation of techno/body music luminaries take on 242 favourites with excellent results.
Wisely, perhaps, no-one here tears the tracks apart. The Hacker does a great job in supercharging Don’t Crash, while Kant Kino fascinatingly uses the original of Take One as a base, it being noticably slower in tempo than the thrilling live version used by the band these days. Terence Fixmer turns No Shuffle into a minimal techno workout, but best of all is Radical G’s rollercoaster ride on Take One. A swooping and swerving electronic groove dominates, before seamlessly bringing in that epic chorus from time-to-time. Time has tought us that Front 242 were so far ahead of the pack that everyone is only catching up three decades on, and these remixes only ram that home.
/It’s A Shame About Ray (30th Anniversary Edition)
There was a feeling, for a while, that the understated brilliance of what Evan Dando achieved with The Lemonheads in the early nineties was drifting away, buried under the sheer weight of other releases that came out around the same time.
But the trend for reissuing and repackaging has been kinder to such releases in recent years, and so It’s A Shame About Ray got a thirtieth anniversary reissue this year, featuring the album and a number of demos and alternative live tracks – with, of course, their breakthrough cover of Mrs Robinson, that the band have so long shown disdain for, relegated to the second vinyl, separated from the album proper.
The thing is, the rest of the album is still absolutely fine without it. I’ve been listening to this album for all of the thirty years since release, I know every word, and it is still a glorious, feelgood album of US indie-rock, undimmed by time.
/This Is Glitch Mode
/Glitch Mode Recordings
To the outsider, Glitch Mode Recordings remained relatively quiet in terms of new music over lockdown, with only occasional releases breaking cover (in particular the excellent Robohop EP during the summer). But that seems set to change, with the latest in the line of label showcase compilations (which often feature like-minded bands being remixed by the Glitch Mode crew).
What’s really interesting is that quite a number of new names appear alongside some old favourites, and there are a few different styles here too. Living Room Project – one of the few non-male fronted artists to have featured in this sphere – bring a fascinating, grungy-industrial track, while the remarkable, downtempo industrial-soul of Cables & Lace is another unexpected highlight (and very much one to watch, I’d wager), while Raine Vivian’s grimy industrial-rock is one to savour too, and it’s great to hear from Erik Dusik’s Breath & Decay project for the first time in an age as well.
Label-head Sean Payne also uses the comp to unleash the latest Cyanotic missive, a mid-paced stomper called Sound the Alarm that sounds phenomenal live and makes clear there is no end to Payne’s inspiration yet.
Glitch Mode has never been about the “same old” when it comes to industrial, and this excellent compilation is more proof of this.
/The Others [Lustmord Deconstructed]
Part of a sprawling box-set for the die-hard Lustmord fan, but also released separately, this is a fasincating new vision of 2008 album [ O T H E R ]. At sixteen tracks and beyond two-hours in length, this requires quite a commitment, but it does pay off. Especially when German ambient/jazz group Bohren & der Club of Gore (with a glorious, after-dark piece) are present alongside an absolutely crushing piece by The Ocean. Elsewhere, Zola Jesus adds wordless vocals to a sinuous, rolling pulse, while Ulver provide twelve minutes of pitch dark tones. Not one for the casual listener, but quite brilliant all the same.
/Landscape Body Machine
/No Cable 2022 Remix EP
Back in 1996, Craig Huxtable sampled a furious cable customer’s sweary rant for probably his best-known track, an otherwise instrumental electro-industrial workout that hit a number of dancefloors. Fast forward to 2022, and the track was retooled, reworked and considerably powered-up for a new version that in almost every way was better than the original – although wisely, left the samples as they were. Other artists get involved with their takes, too – but most notable is the first release under the name of Urceus Exit in a long time, with Richard Duggan turning the track into a less confrontational, lengthy piece that has something of the measured restraint of UE of old.
/Mentallo & The Fixer
/No Rest For The Wicked: 30th Anniversary
Long one of those artists cited as an influence by the younger generation of North American industrial artists in particular, it seemed rather fitting that Mentallo & The Fixer’s debut album got a lavish 30th anniversary reissue this autumn – and perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the vinyl releases sold out almost instantly. With the vastly better sound that this remaster affords, too, it becomes clear why the band are so revered.
One of the earlier artists to delve into the electro-industrial realm that was so prevalent in the nineties, they helped mark a step away from EBM where the rhythm dominated all – instead dialling back the drums for dense layers of synths, unusual melodies, samples and of course those heavily distorted vocals. That said, as the rampaging Breeder proved, they could do a heavier, more aggressive take on EBM if they felt like it. Still a game-changing release, and my tip with this excellent remaster? Listen on good headphones, as it sounds incredible.
/Neu! (50th Anniversary)
Marking fifty years since the release of this towering album was a sprawling box-set – not the first re-issue of it, either, but for an album of this significance, I’m going to let it slide. The work of early Kraftwerk members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother (they left before Kraftwerk became famous, for the most part, so I guess that’s the one rock’n’roll cliché that does apply) alongside producer Conny Plank, NEU!’s influence is absolutely enormous.
They stripped away all the rock trappings for motorik beats, endlessly repeating basslines and guitars that phased in and out, adding little more than texture. The ten-minute perfection of Hallogallo fades in (and fades out at the close), as if we’re joining the band in the midst of a never-ending jam session, and is pretty much the set text if you ever wanted to understand what kosmische musik (or better known in the UK by the appallingly xenophobic term “krautrock”, which I choose not to use) that bubbled out of Germany in the early-seventies really was.
It is also easy to forget how most of the rest of the album is actually experimentation with ambience and space – aside from the nervy, scratchy chaos of Negativland that picks up the motorik baton and twists it into jagged shards, as the track never settles and switches directions every few minutes.
The “Tribute” album that accompanied the reissue was of interest, too, as a number of current artists tipped the hat to the influence of NEU! by either remixing or completely re-recording their own versions of classic tracks. Some were that bit too reverential, but some were fascinating. Mogwai drenched Super 16 in layers of guitars to lovely, melancholic effect – while US-based experimentalists Man Man turn the same track into a wild party that I want to be at, and Stephen Morris (New Order) and Gabe Gurnsey (Factory Floor) tease out the techno influences of Hallogallo to make them more overt, and the result is a dramatic shift in tension for the track, it is now a euphoric dancefloor track rather than machine-like momentum. Well worth a listen.
/Crusher of Bones
Icelandic duo Reptilicus were formed back in 1988, and their debut album was this, in late 1990: and it was remastered for this reissue. Owing something to the industrial experimentation of the 1980s, particularly the rhythmic force of Test Dept. and SPK, to my ears, Crusher of Bones is to put it mildly a bracing listen. Things slow down somewhat after the scorching Snakes that opens the album – a lost industrial classic of pummelling drums and howled vocals – but then, most albums would. Another highlight, too, is the tribal bellow of Call Me Jesus, that appears to take in guitar solos and trashy rock amid the drumming fury. A fascinating look at a different era of industrial, through a different lens.
/Salt Peter 25
The original, remarkable Salt Peter was an album that saw Lesley Rankie completely confound expectations after her time fronting noisy punks Silverfish, and being one of the first albums recorded entirely digitally, apparently (I spoke about this and a whole lot more with Lesley in 2021. It took in nascent trip-hop, industrial, folk and electronics to create an album quite unlike anything at the time, and a sign of how loved the album is, that it justified a vinyl reissue and, as the first album to qualify for this list on 03-Dec 2021, a complete rework and rethink.
I’m often a little wary of these kind of releases, as too many of them dilute the power of the original and simply become a lesser thing. This is nothing of the sort: and indeed some of the material here has clearly come from Lesley’s occasional live shows over the past decade, where she was already drastically reworking old songs.
Salt Peter 25 in some cases flips songs on their head entirely. Like the downtempo, almost jazzy take that Flippin’ Tha Bird (Birdy Flippin’ Hood mix) becomes, and the thumping, dizzying loops that make up Pine (Bang Bang mix) as it opens the album. Tiny Meat (Meat Sweats mix) is another that gets stripped bare, and feels oddly claustrophobic in doing so.
All told, though, this feels like an entirely new album, using fragments of the old. Some feat for an album twenty-five years old.
/Killing Joke (2003)
The ferocious, raging return to life of Killing Joke in 2003 was certainly something to celebrate, especially with Dave Grohl joining Jaz Coleman, Geordie Walker and Youth. As the story goes, Grohl’s work was done for free, as something of a penance for Nirvana liberally borrowing from Eighties, but as a lifelong KJ fan, his thunderous drumming gave the band new life and astonishing power.
The sheer force of what’s to come is made clear from the first minute, as The Death and Resurrection Show crashes through the door, walls and floor, and a bit later on, Asteroid is probably the most thrilling call for armageddon ever committed to tape. Needless to say, while the album was well-recorded in the first place, this remaster on vinyl just sharpens the edges that bit more. An album that is well worth returning to.
/Godspeed You! Black Emperor
/all lights fucked on the hairy amp drooling
Pretty much the post-rock holy grail for well over twenty-years, a copy of it finally surfaced earlier this year – and was swiftly “officially” reissued on Bandcamp by Godspeed You! Black Emperor confirming at last the existence of this early work. Mostly Efrim Menuck’s work with the assistance of a handful of others, there are twenty-seven tracks that compared to the lengthy, multi-part works that they are best known for, are for the most part snippets and parts of ideas – which a couple may have been used later (after more work), it seems.
It’s not hard to see why GY!BE were not especially keen to release this, as it is barely representative of what they became (especially the vocal pieces), but for those interested in modern musical history and the development of this band in particular, it is a fascinating glimpse of their evolution.
/Past Imperfect – The Best of Tindersticks ’92-’21
The singular Tindersticks marked thirty years as an active band last year, and to mark that milestone, the band collated twenty of their best songs – split equally between the line-up of their first decade, and then the second line-up that has been together most of the rest of the time. Keeping it to twenty songs means that some songs are missing, but then we’ll always argue about that kind of thing with such best-ofs, and there’s so much to cover across the Tindersticks’ career that it is perhaps understandable anyway. That said, the opening quartet is nearly as perfect an introduction to the band as you could wish for (City Sickness in particular remains a shining jewel of jaded city living), while their brief flirtation with soul influences is nearly as good. Later material may divide some fans, but that the band have continued to explore new territory while staying true to themselves means they remain a cherished band to so many (including this writer).
/The Young Gods
/T.V. Sky (30th Anniversary)
Another 1992 landmark marked a 30th anniversary with a reissue late-on this year. Swiss band The Young Gods have been innovators for pretty much their entire career, an industrial rock band (well, kinda!) that for the most part, replaced guitars with a sampler and ended up as one of the most thrilling live bands, period. T.V. Sky was the album that saw them burst through to a wider audience, as they incorporated more straightforward rock and industrial influences (the mighty 12-bar blues base of Gasoline Man, the anthemic, evergreen Skinflowers, the scorching, star-lit Night Dance) as well as really diving into their love of The Doors with the epic, twenty-minute closer Summer Eyes, but generally, this has an immediate accessibility that perhaps none of their other albums ever quite had.
David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Tool and even U2 saw them as an influence (as well as a great many more bands besides since), and this fantastic reissue tidies up the edges of the mix and makes it that bit brighter, as well as featuring a handful of remixes and some of the Live Sky tracks, reminding those that don’t already know just how good their live shows are. Some of the remixes are fascinating – the Brain Forest mix of Skinflowers is pretty much a mash-up of The Orb in their early nineties pomp and the original track – at least in part signposting the future ambient albums The Young Gods would investigate, while the Courtney Speed Love Mix is a faster, rougher take that doesn’t quite suit the melodies.