A lot of great music came my way in 2011. There were comeback albums from Anthrax, Mr. Big, Sebastian Bach, Electric Boys, Primus, and Vain, great new folk metal albums from Alestorm, Amorphis, Turisas and Týr, the long-awaited Aristocrats album arrived, Lady GaGa was Born This Way and Hugh Laurie Let Them Talk. So with no further ado...
"Have you got any grollings?" / "Flushed or galvanised?"
Yes, most people on this side of the Atlantic over the age of 30 will think of Hugh's comedy work with Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson, and those of an American disposition I'm sure can't help but conjure up the cantankerous Gregory House. But it turns out Hugh is in love with the blues of the deep south, and this album is completely magical. Top track: "St. James Infirmiary"
No disrespect to Richie Kotzen, but I for one was thrilled to hear that Mr. Big had reunited with the full original lineup. This album's a total cracker too. Top track: "Undertow"
Imagine if Dream Theater had all the annoying bits (i.e. Jordan Rudess) removed, they were all about 15 years younger, the singer had much more (i.e. some) charisma, and they were from Tunisia, and that was reflected in their music. In fact, forget Dream Theater - just listen to Myrath. Top track: "Braving The Seas"
I'll level with you, I don't like hip-hop. Eminem leaves me cold, Mos Def most definitely doesn't interest me, and you can keep your Snoop, Dre, Kanye, JayZ and whatever the hell P. Diddy is calling himself this week. But sometime in 2007 I happened upon a YouTube clip of a British rapper called Scroobius Pip and his brilliant "Thou Shalt Always Kill". I was immediately hooked and hoovered up his two album collaborations with DJ Dan le Sac as they were released. This is Scroob's first solo album though, and it is worth the price of admission purely for the sublime track "The Struggle". Yo, or something. Top track: "The Struggle"
These guys are so great it's sickening. Oh and they're probably really young, and good at sports or something too. [Checks...] Yeah the singer was born in 1990 for Christ's sake. That's just rude. I've no idea what to call the genre of rock they play, but Wikipedia gives me three: alternative rock, pop punk, and post-hardcore. Make of that what you will - it's loud and I love it. Top track: "This Is The First Thing"
And the winner is...
If I'm honest, it took me a while to appreciate the Steel Panther joke. Like, years. And yes, I'd heard "Community Property" and "The Shocker" and chuckled along with the guys in the car, but I dismissed the whole thing as a fad and left it at that. It was when I went back and revisited them once the hype had died down that I discovered 1) what great musicians they are, and 2) just exactly how perfectly the joke is pitched.
Many of the tracks on both Balls Out and the first album, Feel the Steel are expertly judged homages to classic rock tracks of yesteryear ("Girl From Oklahoma" = "More Than Words", "Fat Girl" = "Here I Go Again", "Party All Day" = "Livin' On a Prayer", "I Like Drugs" = "Kickstart My Heart" etc.) and the over-the-top lyrics are similarly well crafted.
Is it for everyone? God, no. I wouldn't play it to most of the people I know these days - and I'm not even going to touch the gender politics here. But if you happen to be a middle-aged rock dinosaur like me who can see the funny side of all that spandex and hairspray, this will probably raise a grin, and the guitar playing is awesome, dude. \\n/
Top tracks: "Just Like Tiger Woods", "I Like Drugs", "Tomorrow Night"