2008 was a year.
In it, Cyprus and Malta joined the Euro, Iran launched a rocket into space, Northern Rock collapsed, Fidel Castro and Bill Gates resigned, Falcon 1 made orbit, over 69,000 people were killed in an earthquake in China, the Large Hadron Collider had a "quench incident", Barack Obama was elected, the QE2 was retired, and Bernie Madoff was arrested for the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
The world said goodbye to Edmund Hillary, Heath Ledger, Roy Scheider, Jeff Healey, Gary Gygax, Arthur C. Clarke, Charlton Heston, Yves Saint Laurent, Bo Diddley, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Paul Newman, Michael Crichton, Mitch Mitchell, Majel Barrett, Harold Pinter and Eartha Kitt, among others.
Musically it was a year of comebacks, with return albums from AC/DC, Extreme, Guns N' Roses, It Bites, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Portishead and Whitesnake, almost all of which were disappointing.
Black Stone Cherry - Folklore and Superstition
Black Stone Cherry are an awesome young rock band from Edmonton, Kentucky, and this - their second album - is the sweet spot of their output to date. This album is packed with cracking rock tracks, and Chris Robertson's voice has no right to be issuing from one so young. Cracker. Top track: "The Ghost of Floyd Collins"
Dan le Sac vs Scroopius Pip - Angles
I've mentioned Scroobius Pip before but this was his first album, a collaboration with his erstwhile partner-in-rhyme (sorry) Dan le Sac. Worth the price of admission for the sublime "Thou Shalt Always Kill" alone, this album should be of interest to anyone with a mind, whether they like hip-hop or not. (I don't.) Top track: "Tommy C"
Johnny Flynn - A Larum
The Nu-Folk thing was only brought to my attention by Mumford & Sons in 2009, but I later discovered the splendid Mr. Flynn and this, his debut album, has some truly wonderful songs on it. Check out "The Box" on that YouTube and see if this might tickle you pink as it did me. Top track: "The Wrote & The Writ"
Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy
When Duke Nukem Forever was eventually released in 2011 after 15 years in development hell, there was no possible way it could live up to its own hype, and so it is with the comeback album from GNR, the long-awaited Chinny D. The chief problem most people have with this release is that it is nominally a Guns N'Roses album, while the only original member of the band is the much-maligned lead screechwarden, W. Axl Rose. "Shame! Boo! This should be an Axl Rose solo album, not a GNR album! Where is Slash, where is Duff, where is Izzy? Boo! Shame!" these people trumpet, and while they are at least partially right, that doesn't tell you anything about the album, chiefly and crucially failing to answer the most vital question "Is it any good?"
I can do better than that though, and while this is certainly no Appetite For Destruction, nor is it really even a worthy follow-up (What could be? AFD remains a perfect album and the toughest act to follow in rock history) to that or to the unnecessarily bloated Use Your Illusion combo, I can definitely and definitively give you an answer to the question "Is it any good?"
Ready? Here is your answer:
Yes it is. Top track: "Better"
It Bites - The Tall Ships
It Bites are a funny one. I liked them back in the early 90s, but then Francis Dunnery's ego appeared to go mental and they disbanded. Then, decades later, the guys in the band told me they reformed and played me a couple of tracks off The Tall Ships, and I took an immediate dislike to what I heard - but over the months since then I've totally come back round, and have concluded that this is a great album. His Holiness John Mitchell is certainly a brilliant replacement for Mr Dunnery, and I hope they keep writing new stuff. Top track: "Ghosts"
And the winner is...
You Me At Six - Take Off Your Colours
Again, I've written a little about You Me At Six before, and it pleases me greatly to say that this - their debut - doesn't have a bad track on it. Catchy rocky tunes that will lodge in your mind, great choruses and lovely raw production (recorded at His Holiness John Mitchell's Outhouse Studios, and co-produced by HHJM too, funnily enough)... what's not to love?
Top tracks: "Save It For the Bedroom", "Tigers and Sharks", "Call That a Comeback?"
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