"...we salute you!"
Welcome back on this dark Winter Solstice Eve, brothers and sisters! The year is winding to a close and it's time once again for me to rattle off my unqualified and absurdly self-centered "best of" list in no particular order. In the spirit of total transparency I should probably let you know that 2011 wasn't a good year for me. In fact, it was one of the lowest points in recent memory full of almost mystical fuck-ups such as my car breaking down and my inability to connect to the internet all month. There were many magical moments to be sure, but there was also an unprecedented level of bullshit that kept me out of the drawing dungeon for much of the year. I also didn't purchase a whole lot of new music this year and since I don't download new music I'm admittedly "out of the loop". But I've been out of the loop my whole life and I suppose that's where I prefer to remain. If I had it my way I would put my own Halloween Mix Tape on this list because to be perfectly honest I love that collection of songs and listened to it quite a bit. But I realize how disappointing that would be for some of you. Bah. Anyway, let's kick 2011 right out the fucking door and welcome in 2012 with a bang!
Athenar strangling a stagediver with his guitar strings at the end of the Midnight set at Rites of Darkness in San Antonio, Texas. Photo courtesy of Meadow's phone.
Royalty is a great word. Go ahead and say it out loud. The syllables roll off the tongue like war drums and you almost expect a gong to accentuate the pronunciation. Jeff Clayton employed this most powerful of words in what is possibly my very favorite Antiseen ditty. Remember NC Royalty? If not, youtube it immediately. The opening track on Midnight's latest full-length delivers all the power, glory and ROYALTY of rock 'n' roll and doesn't let up until the needle finally slides into the dead wax. Sure, Midnight got popular very quickly and it seems like everyone from the lady at my coffee shop to the janitor at my kid's school can be seen wearing a Midnight shirt these days, but don't hold popularity against 'em. When you write great songs you're bound to attract lots of attention. Just look at The Kinks, Kiss, Motorhead, Venom or Roky Erickson. Jamie "Athenar" Walters sure did (I’m no musician but Black Damnation is as elegant a homage to Roky Erickson’s Burn The Flame as you’re likely to ever hear). He has the unique ability to distill the best parts of the past 40 years of rock 'n' roll into his songs without ever sounding lazy, contrived or pandering. If you don't believe me just crank Violence on Violence or You Can't Stop Steel and try not to bang your fist like a fucking idiot. Just try. He also understands the essence of the less-is-more equation and deserves the goat crown for musical economy. No moody intros, bullshit samples, or even pauses between songs. Just straight to the kill. Everything Jamie has put his energy into from Boulder to Destructor has been nothing short of excellent and if Mach II had released a new record in 2011 you can be sure it would be on this list as well. I could have lived without the incongruous Black Axe cover at the end but, in a word, this is a perfect record for late night binges (pick your poison), strip club rituals and two-lane blacktop misadventures. Kiss the ring.