The end of November looms, so it is time once again to review 2012 in music.
2012 has been a surprisingly good year for music, as evidenced by just how long my “shortlist” was for songs and albums to be included. However it has had a fair share of disappointing things, too, and here are ten of them (again, there could have been more but I deliberately limited it to ten).
Here is how the rest of this year’s roundup will work. Next week (04-Dec) will be the best tracks of 2012, the following week (11-Dec) will be the best albums of 2012, and finally (18-Dec, and after I’ve seen my last gig of 2012) will be the best gigs of the year.
Mondo Sex Head
A lacklustre remix album with none of the monstrous, dancefloor-slaying attitude of past remix albums, instead trying desperately to tack onto current trends and getting nowhere close. Ok, so there are a few interesting moments, but let’s be honest – the target audience for this remix album are hardly looking for chin-stroking IDM. What is required here are dancefloor anthems, and this doesn’t deliver a single one.
The Following Sea
Inexplicably rushed out just nine months after the last album, and this is perhaps the band’s first ever misstep, for me. None of the wiry, off-the-wall mayhem, just a collection of songs that are little more than aural wallpaper. This is dEUS sounding like everyone else, rather than the enthralling, bizarre melting-pot that their music has been for the fifteen years or more previous to this.
Theatre is Evil and Live Shows
Watching AFP hit the biggest (musical) Kickstarter number yet was, for me, vindication of her philosophy of going her own way after being burnt by record labels, and interacting directly with her fans. The outpouring of support – in monetary terms, and in other ways – was quite extraordinary, and I get the feeling that there are few other artists around right now that could count on those kind of levels of devotion. The problem was that this set expectations exceptionally high, perhaps, for the new album and tours.
The two gigs we saw this year were stacked with new songs (to the detriment of others) – a problem at the June show as it sucked atmosphere away, as there was little familiar for everyone to get excited about (and indeed felt like a normal rock show, rather than usual riotous entertainment we expect from her shows), while the autumn show was a maudlin, badly paced set that left us feeling bored, for the first time at a DD/AFP show. Ok, so it had an incredible close with unexpected special guests and The Time Warp, but the damage had been done by that point.
I’ve still not been able to get into Theatre Is Evil as much as I’d like, either. There are a number of great songs there, yes, however it is bogged down by too much filler – even the standard version of the album is seventy-one minutes long, with the bonus material on the special edition adding another thirty-seven minutes! There appeared to be a desire to get it all out there, when some of it should have been banished to B-sides. Maybe time will change my opinion, but I simply don’t love it as much as the previous material.
However, artists change, artists move on, and I can accept that. But I can’t help feeling that this year, AFP has lost a little of the stardust that seemed to be ever-present before, and that feeling of disappointment that accompanies this for me is the reason that this is here.
Two years ago, I featured a song from the last album in the best tracks of the 2010. No such danger of anything hitting the good lists this year from Faderhead, as this was simply more of the same formula, even re-using elements of songs released previously. Really, really lazy, this, and an album I listened to a couple of times before putting it on the shelf and leaving it there.
I feel slightly mean putting this in here, but after two (or perhaps three) outstanding albums since they returned, this felt like a bit of a letdown. A bit too much of sticking too closely to a formula, crucially though this time with none of the knockout punches like Hardman, Icon or Amnesia. Still punishing stuff, mind, just not at the usual high standard.
In some ways, Paradise Lost can’t win. Their doomy, gothic metal struck a chord in the early nineties, and their attempts to diversify their sound were met with howls of derision such that after a couple of poorly-received albums they eventually moved back to the same broad idea that they started with. The thing is, they are now trapped with this – and so this year’s album pretty much sounds just like the last two, with nothing for me that made it stand out over them. And for what it’s worth? I never had a problem with Host and Symbol of Life – in fact I still listen to those albums, and always quite liked the more electronic stuff. I’ve always thought that maybe it wasn’t the band that had the problem, but it was fans that couldn’t deal with a widening of horizons, and this later-career treading water is the obvious result.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this – not having two of the original members, for a start – but what I didn’t expect was for a band so clear in their anarchistic ways once-upon-a-time to suddenly becoming a band that follow rules, conform to the usual niceties of a gig…and most crucially of all, not be loud enough. Oh well, at least I saw them in their prime in 1999…
Talking of not loud enough…an album that actually appeared right at the turn of 2011/2012, but counts for this list (effectively my end-of-year lists run 01-December to 30-November, certainly for new releases if not live gigs), this album was a long, long time in the making and didn’t really hit home as hoped. Part of the problem was the production: after the thunderous sound of Medication for the Misinformed, this sounded rather thin in comparison, stripping away the impact that this album could have had – which was a real shame, as there were some cracking songs here just needing better treatment. A missed opportunity?
Another album where there had been a bit of a wait between releases, and this was another where I had high hopes somewhat dashed. When we first discovered Ash’s work, it was while trying to pick our jaws off the floor after their brilliant live show at Infest 2008. As it turned out, the best songs from that show were from his debut Gotteskrieger, and this album proves that maybe the theme has been dragged a bit too far. Yes, there are the medieval bits, but increasingly, it is stompy germanic industrial without much of the trimmings, which shows up the limitations rather too much. I think I’ll be sticking with the glorious, into-battle declarations of Deus Lo Vult and the like in future.
How could I not feature the only zero-rated album I’ve ever reviewed? I mean, I wasn’t expecting a great deal, but even I didn’t expect anything this bad.