TO START with the obvious — the mighty Rancid’s Trouble Maker (Epitaph) is one of their strongest for years, with their catchily diverse punky/ska melodies well to the fore, with Telegraph Avenue and Farewell Lola Blue absolute anthems. Just a shame they hardly every play in this country. rancidrancid.com
The King Blues have come up with an absolute cracker in The Gospel Truth (Cooking Vinyl), in which singer/rapper/wordsmith Itch pours out his heart and tries to make amends for, as he confesses quite candidly, completely fucking things up in the past few years for himself and, more importantly, those he claimed to care about.
I’ve known him for 13 years — his talent is enormous and deserves more than being pissed up the wall and lost in welters of accusation and abuse. I really hope he can find the redemption he craves. kingbluesofficial.com
Getting less obvious, apart from for those few of us who have adored their work for 40 years, the retrospective Doctors of Madness compilation Perfect Past (RPM) is a lovingly packaged homage to one of the most original bands who ever walked the Earth.
Too early for punk and too scarily clever for everything else, they’ve an addled visionary stick-insect genius as leader and a genre-defining hardcore violinist as his sidekick. If you like the Velvets and the Clash, and you’ve never heard of them, just do it. richardstrange.com/music/doctors-of-madness
My two favourite albums of the year will surprise a few people because both are by reflective, non-shouty, self-effacing folk half my age.
Pog’s Little Trophies (Beside the Birdbath Records) is a beautifully crafted piece of orchestral-punk whimsy with a hard lyrical edge, especially on Three Bridges — it’s a place near Crawley and, no, there aren’t — and The Architects, which totally nails the wealthy DFLs (Down From London) whose money is pricing us Brighton residents out of our own town. pogband.bandcamp.com
By a country mile, though, my album of 2017 is Volcano by Gecko. I put it on for the first time stuck in a traffic jam on the M60 on my way to a gig, played it through twice (well over an hour) while travelling about four miles and arrived supremely happy and relaxed. Which, anyone who knows me and the M60 will confirm, takes some doing.
It’s a sumptuous feast of lovely melodies and cascades of sweet and clever words, superficially often seemingly inconsequential but with serious undertones. It’s a mix of rap, folk and, well, something akin to talkover, though Gecko has got to be far too young to remember reggae DJs like U-Roy.
Favourites are iPhone, Therefore I Am (“If you’re alone and out in public for longer than you’ve planned/Take your phone out of your pocket and just stare into your hand”), Library (about going to the library, sounds naff, is spectacular), End of the World (sung by an insect, the only survivor after we’ve destroyed the planet, sounds grim, is totally beautiful) and the title track, in which a bear waking from hibernation is compared to a man waking from a coma.
It’s a lovely record. In the panoply of rap, it’s the exact polar opposite of Home Invasion by Ice-T. Buy it! geckoofficial.com
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