2014 was the International Year of Crystallography, of Family Farming, of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, and of Small Island Developing States. So now you know.
Ebola broke out in West Africa, Belgium legalised euthanasia, Russia annexed Crimea, Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 Flight MH370 disappeared, Boko Haram kidnapped ~276 girls and women from a school and killed ~300 people in a single night in the towns of Gamboru and Ngala, another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over the Ukraine by a missile and there was generally a massive amount of unpleasantness between various groups all about the place.
Resting in pieces (among, as ever, many more) were Eusébio, Ariel Sharon, Trigger, PSH, Shirley Temple, Egon, Paco de Lucía, Tony Benn, Sue Townsend, Bob Hoskins, H. R. Giger, Rik Mayall, Tuco, James Garner, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Dickie, Joan Rivers, Jaws, Jack Bruce, Acker Bilk, Glen A. Larson and Joe Cocker.
I was a huge Skid Row fan back in the day, natch, but I've always found Seb's solo output extremely variable, to put it politely. This, however, is a fucking solid hard rock album. Some really catchy choruses ("Harmony", "All My Friends Are Dead"), a liberal bucketload of stomping riffs plus guest spots from Steve Stevens and good old John 5 all make for the best thing Bach has put out since Slave to the Grind back in 1991. Great. Top track: "Harmony"
I think it was my good friend Rick who introduced me to BVB, and I thank him hugely for that. Sounding not a million miles from some kind of weird bastard offspring of Mötley Crüe and Pantera, these guys stand for everything I stood for when I was young enough to still stand for it. Oh man, and that voice. That fucking voice. (…and the fact it's coming out of a beautiful child). Top track: "Last Rites"
It's no secret around these parts that I love me some Buckcherry, but I had found the quality control to be slipping a little in recent years (since the excellent 15, actually), so it was refreshing to check out this 6-song tribute to the good old F-bomb, as these are all great fun. Top track: "I Don't Give A Fuck"
Let me say first of all, that I hate all that Madchester shit. Honestly, take your Oasis, your Stone Roses, your Inspiral fucking Carpets and your Happy bastard Mondays, and fuck the fuck off. But it transpires that it is a city capable of making wonderful, intelligent – I'll go so far as to say occasionally transcendental – music, via the ever-ethereal Elbow. This is Guy Garvey's mob's 6th studio outing and it is very nearly my favourite, though Cast of Thousands does still just about pip it to that vaunted post. Top track: "Charge"
Slash's solo work has been a mixed bag – the first album (with a varied cast of guest singers) just didn't click, in particular. But this, the behatted Stokian's 3rd crack at the solo thing gels much better, and of course benefits enormously from one of the most incredible voices in rock, that of Myles Kennedy, throughout. It could do with losing about 6 tracks, but weight-loss tips aside, it's a good-un. Top track: "Withered Delilah"
And the winner is…
I honestly don't think these lads from Surrey can do anything wrong. Not a thing. I adore every track on all four of their albums, and await the forthcoming fifth one (January 2017, allegedly, he slavered…) with bated credit card.
I was enamoured with their sound as soon as I heard their first two albums – produced by good friend of the show, Mr. John Mitchell – and their songwriting chops have grown and matured heaps since then. There is always a level of dynamics in their songs that I find missing in so much new music. I can't recommend them enough.
I can try though.
Top tracks: "Fresh Start Fever", "Carpe Diem", "Lived a Lie"
Turkey of the Year
See, Winger were one of the hairspray and spandex brigade back in the day, but their USP was that their guitarist and drummer could really fucking play, and their singer could hold his own with the best and poodliest of the day. Their 1990 release In the Heart of the Young is a classic of the genre (though slightly hard to listen to now, because DATED). They disappeared during the Dark Times, but came back in the 2000s with a couple of pretty good, if po-faced, albums, and it seemed like they would bounce back and ride the resurgence like many others. But… this is just awful. It pains me to write that, but it is. OK, check this - the opening track is called "Midnight Driver of a Love Machine". I'll just leave that there.
My band almost got a slot opening for them on the launch tour for this album. We didn't get it. I'm sort of glad about that.
(Who am I kidding, I'd have been backstage with Reb Beach, it would have been fucking amazing… Doesn't make this album any better though…)