Countdown: 2013: Disappointments

Regular readers will be well used to this by now – at the end of each year, I round up my year in music over the course of successive weeks. This year there will be five posts, the dates of which are shown below. I’ve not had the time to write as many reviews as I’d like to have done this year (the second half of the year in particular has been horrendously busy and stressful), which means that perhaps I’ve not been able to do justice to what has been released or played this year. In addition, this is the tenth year of my end of year lists, so at some point I’ll be having a quick look back at what has topped the lists over the years.

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2013 in review:
today: Disappointments
03-Dec: Best Compilations and reissues
10-Dec: Best Tracks
17-Dec: Best Albums
24-Dec: Best Gigs

Needless to say most of the roundups are positive – picking out the best of each category, if you will. But to balance that – particularly as I don’t mention the flipside too often – first up this year is a quick look at a few releases or gigs that disappointed me in 2013. This isn’t just what I thought was “bad” – this is me taking a critical look at releases/gigs that I perhaps had higher hopes for. Not everything can be great, of course, and it might be that the next release or gig by any of these might well be brilliant. In some cases, frankly, I live in hope.

What is coming up over the next few weeks is in the box. In the meantime, here we go with what didn’t work out so well this year.

Let’s rewind a bit first. KLOQ came from the ashes of Oz Morsley’s original (trailblazing) group Empirion, and released a quite great electro-industrial album Move Forward back in 2008, which gained attention initially through a couple of fantastic singles and vocal assistance by one Douglas McCarthy. The whole thing trod the fine line between the dance music scenes and industrial/EBM, and was well-received. In the years since, nothing much else was heard from the project, and indeed Oz resurrected his Empirion project too for a set of live dates at least.

But now in 2013, KLOQ reappeared, and I honestly would love to know why Oz Morsley thought the new KLOQ direction was a good idea. Pretty much everything that was good about the project in the first place has gone, replaced by a laughably poor electro-rock direction that might have gained traction when nu-metal was popular, but right now seems terribly dated and, lacking as it is in tunes and hooks, I’m struggling to see who this would appeal to. The titke of the album, Begin Again, seems apt – maybe Oz Morsley needs another rebirth here, and quickly.

I didn’t review this, but I Die: You Die‘s review says pretty much all you need to know.

After the glorious, pop-rush of It’s Blitz! (the blistering lead single Zero was the track of the year 2009), this was the sound of a band on a comedown, out of ideas and seemingly distinctly bored with what they are doing. The gospel-infused charge of Sacrilege great, granted, but that’s about it – the rest of the album is half-baked, half-arsed and in some cases (Area 52 in particular), reaches a nadir that hopefully the band won’t ever come near again.

Suicide Commando
When Evil Speaks
Out of Line

I knew when I first heard the chugging harsh industrial tones of lead single Attention Whore that it was going to be more of the same from Johan Van Roy. OK, so maybe he has earned the ability to not have to push his sound into new directions – after all, the whole sub-genre of harsh, evil-sounding industrial pretty much started with SC – but yet another phoned-in, by-the-numbers album is still disappointing. Especially as his recent “retro” shows have actually been pretty damned thrilling (and the rework of Time appears here), but it seems that the look back to the past hasn’t inspired his new music too much after all.

Mindless Self Indulgence
How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence
Metropolis Records

You know what? I really, really did try to follow the lead of the title, and I wanted to like this more than I did. Yeah, it has a couple of absolutely killer tracks (Witness, Kill You All In A Hip-Hop Rage), but the rest of the album, much like If, had zero staying power and I’d forgotten much of the rest of the album by the time it had finished. Back in the day, MSI were enormous, bratty fun, but now, they have grown up, got bored with what they were doing – and maybe I’ve grown out of what they do too.

In one respect, KMFDM’s rigid adherence to their sound and concept is admirable – I can think of few other bands with such a reliable sound, in that you know what you are going to get each time a new album arrives (every two years, like clockwork nowadays). But this time, it didn’t even have a killer opening track, and live the set was pretty much the same as it has now been for some years (just with a handful of new album songs squeezed in). There’s the thirtieth anniversary coming in 2014, though, so I’m not expecting any changes for the future. The ultra-heavy beat will continue, I’m sure, I just wish there was something more.

A great idea that never really delivered the potential it had, I got the distinct impression that Trent Reznor’s attention was quickly dragged away from this project before the album was released. The downbeat, pitch-dark ambience fitted Mariqueen Maandig’s smoky voice well, but when the album came around it suffered from too much noodling, and nowhere near enough in the way of tunes to keep things interesting. Not only that, the announcement (and subsequent excitement) around the return of Nine Inch Nails seemed to kill the momentum stone dead, too – and while Hesitation Marks was by no means a career highlight for Reznor, it was certainly better than this.

The once-promising – and hugely entertaining – Gothminister seem to have been suffering the law of diminishing returns in recent albums. While their striking monster-mash image (and dark sense of humour) has been retained, the songs simply haven’t kept up the quality of before – just pale imitations of the monstrous, hook-laden and guitar-heavy industrial rock that they seemed to be effortlessly releasing in the first place. Saying that, though, the “deluxe” version of the album came with an entertaining live DVD, with a plot based around a zombie takeover and a crowd made-up accordingly, while the band bring out all kinds of props for a pretty spectacular-looking show.

What a difference a couple of years makes: in 2011, I made Frank Turner’s track One Foot Before The Other my track of the year, for a multitude of reasons but more than anything, it was an astoundingly good song, one burning with inspiration and drive, and it was perhaps those qualities that made England Keep My Bones the success that it was, catapulting Turner from being a well-kept secret to a nationally known figure that even played live at the Olympic opening ceremony. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this album, but something somewhere was lost along the way. Nothing seems to have the drive, the hooks, the emotion of what came before, and instead I found myself profoundly bored with Tape Deck Heart. Did England Keep My Bones just catch my attention at the right time?

Daft ‎Punk
Random Access Memories
Columbia Records

Well, that ran out of steam quickly. Get Lucky was inescapable over the summer, one of those bona fide summer anthems that seemed to appeal to everyone. Not only that, but this album was marketed as an album, promoted as a proper event, and they damned well nearly pulled it off…until we listened to it a second or third time. Rather than being the epic, trailblazing electronics that Daft Punk managed for some time, this was an album heavily reliant on collaborators – the two best songs being the aforementioned Get Lucky (Nile Rodgers can take a lot of the credit for that), and then the tour de force of Giorgio by Moroder, where the titular producer gets to remind us once again how brilliant he is. But other than that? It’s too long, too overblown and just not good enough. The greatest Daft Punk work has incredible staying power, this doesn’t appear to have much at all. We waited so long for this?

Lee, you were right all the long.

Depeche Mode
Live at The O2, 29-May 2013 review

Finally, the one gig that really, really disappointed me this year – and one that I was really looking forward to, too. Like, I’d waited years to see DM live, and judging on friend’s comments from other nights on the tour across the year, maybe we caught them on an off night. What was wrong? The set was horribly imbalanced, it seemed, drawing far too much on slower songs, killing any momentum time after time, while the crowd was a boorish, drunken horde that at least in our area of the arena wouldn’t shut the fuck up (including one idiot crowing for Personal Jesus all night…even after they’d played it). There were a few jaw-dropping moments, but they became little more than relief from the tedium. It really wasn’t meant to be like this.

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