Finally into December, and I can start the process of seeing the back of 2014. But before it does end, here on amodelofcontrol.com it is time to run down the year in music, with the usual four Tuesday posts that begin with the year’s best compilations and reissues, then onto the best tracks of the year next week, the best albums after that, then finally the best gigs of the year.
What has been interesting about this year has been just how much good music there has been. There has been new styles, new trends abounding, alongside the now-normal glut of reissues, some just cheap cash-ins, others really quite worthwhile documents of years past. So, I’m going to have a look at a few of them…
dubnobasswithmyheadman (Super Deluxe Edition)
By miles the best of the reissues of 2014, Underworld’s electronic landmark turned twenty this year, and got a sumptuous five-CD box and glorious remaster to celebrate. With the band members reputation as digital artists probably as well known as their music, the box was appropriately beautiful and in keeping with the whole theme, but (as it should be) the music therein took centre stage. Even just listening to the freshened-up album is a revelation – everything is simply that bit clearer and louder, doing the truly epic, euphoric moments real justice at last. The haul of extras, though, made the box worth the money. All of the classic B-sides and reworks (Rez, Dirty Guitar, the killer Dark Train retake on Dark & Long…), a ton of remixes I hadn’t heard, and most fascinating of all, the fifth CD is effectively a jam session where some of the ideas for songs were worked out (the “jam” version of mmm skyscraper…I love you is worth your time alone). This kinda blew my mind. An electronic band that jammed for ideas in the early nineties? Something I never really thought might happen…
In Strict Confidence
Lifelines, Vol. 1 (1991-1998)
Lifelines, Vol. 2 (1998-2004)
A long-needed reappraisal, perhaps, of a band who have rather fallen off the radar in the UK in particular (I can’t remember the last time they played over here, which is a damned shame), and rather than single edits, they’ve gone the other way and collected together lengthy, extended versions of much of their best material – and hopefully there is a third collection to come to complete the story. Their darkwave/goth/electro-industrial hybrid has always sounded rather unique, and these two albums celebrate that brilliantly – the first showing their early development, as they began to gain confidence and spread their wings, the second showcasing a period where the band were basically untouchable (there isn’t a single track I don’t love on it). Now to find a way to see that “vintage (1998-2004)” tour they are doing…
Selected Songs 1994-2014
Released right at the end of the year – tieing in nicely with a short European tour, including a London date next week – this two CD compilation is less of a “best-of”, and more of a haphazard collection that somehow manages to pretty much pick the right material. Kinda like the band, really… The first CD is the “hits” – or more to the point fan favourites – structured almost like a live set, while the second CD is some of their more niche material, perhaps, complete with some of their darkest, bleakest ballads. Either way, as an introduction to one of the most adventurous and overlooked bands of the past twenty years, this is hard to top.
Troublegum (Deluxe Expanded Edition)
Yet another album getting the twentieth anniversary treatment this year (1994 was a great year for music, it has to be said) was Therapy?’s best album, an album of great pop-rock songs that benefitted greatly from being released at the right time – as despite the pop hooks, this was an album that points was really fucking heavy. It was also pretty dark, too, notwithstanding the various amounts of humour that thread through (particularly the clever lyrics of the punishing, brilliant opener Knives). Either way, the album has endured, as have the band, and seeing them live do the whole thing in the Spring seemed to suggest that the band had a whole load of fun revisiting it. The reissue itself is a brilliant remaster, with loads and loads of extra material, bringing together all the hard-to-find B-sides, rarities and EPs of the time too (which means a welcome chance to hear Opal Mantra and a great live take on Potato Junkie).
Stacked Up XX
…and here’s another twentieth birthday release. Senser’s Stacked Up seems like a unfashionable curiosity nowadays – a rap-metal album with a heavy political leaning, and links to bands like Ozric Tentacles. Despite a few bumps in the road (and line-up changes), the band are still going, and still kick ass live, and this is another to shed new light on an album that I’ve never really stopped listening to anyway. Once again what comes with the album is part of the attraction, with a few unreleased tracks in addition to remixes – and what was interesting is that I remember the band playing the great Tin Can Hurricane on a radio session, and having a taped-from-said-show copy for years. Also notable was that playing Eject at Monster Truck on Saturday night resulted in the busiest dancefloor in my set…
Wreath Of Barbs 13th Anniversary Gold Edition
I bet you didn’t expect to see Rudy Ratzinger in here. Yeah, so he’s been releasing just about anything and everything time and again (and this isn’t even the first re-issue of this), but this one was too good to pass up. Just cast your mind back – back before :wumpscut: became a byword for churning out the same-old ideas for album after album, Rudy’s project actually released fucking great electro-industrial music that others have been copying the ideas for ever since. In other words, there is a chargesheet waiting for Rudy to account for all the shitty industrial that has followed him. But then, there are dancefloor monsters like Deliverance, and bitter, downbeat industrial ballads like Wreath of Barbs, and I can’t help but think that a little forgiveness is in order. The last great :wumpscut: album, basically, and that is something to commemorate.
The return of Suede in recent years has seen something of a critical renaissance – particularly as their live performances especially have been every bit as brilliant as they were when they made a splash in the first place. Needless to say, there have been a lot of re-issues – everything has re-appeared at least once in one way or another, at least except Sci-Fi Lullabies, an album that I maintain is the greatest B-sides collection of all – one that easily stands aside their albums as a great release in it’s own right. Why they hadn’t touched that became clear at the start of 2014, with this exhaustive 24 CD box (and one DVD, with all the videos too) that featured every single, every B-side, lovingly recreated with the original artwork in a smart box, even including Stay Together that the band seemed to have disowned years before.
Jim Semonik has raised tons of money for cancer charities with his tireless work on the Electronic Saviors releases, and the third instalment this year was another sprawling compilation that wasn’t far off a who’s-who of industrial music in the present time. Once again covering all corners of the genre, with new songs, old songs, remixes, you name it, it is a treasure trove of music that is well worth investigating and coming back to – like the previous releases, I’ve discovered all kinds of bands I would never otherwise have heard, too.
CRL Studios Presents: The Fourth Wavelength (Lost)
James Church, take a bow – his CRL Studios label just keeps on releasing intriguing industrial music, and if this compilation is an view into his musical tastes as well as other releases to come, I’m going to keep on paying attention. Every time I dip into it I find something else extraordinary: there is Glitch Mode material I already know, many more things I don’t, and then discoveries like the pitch-dark, atmospheric industrial of Kold where I was instantly wanting more. Like many smaller labels, CRL Studios sit on the fringes somewhat. They deserve more attention, go take a listen.