TheBigBlack’s 2010 Non-Metal Top 10

10. KornKorn III, Remember Who You Are

I have never been the biggest Korn fan anyway, but I did find this a lot more enjoyable than most of their recent albums. It also felt a bit more genuine – like they we not trying to be trendy or chase sales – They were just making an honest album. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say it is ‘back to old school’, which was of course their claim, but it was certainly a lot more 1998 than 2010.

9. Jakob Dylan – Woman + Country

Jakob’s first solo album ‘Seeing Things’ will always stand alone as a one-off masterwork. A beautifully executed acoustic modern-folk album. This album immediately presents itself as something different, with a lot more instrumentation and an almost country tinge. It took longer to grow on me, and I will never like it as much as its predecessor, but it still has its merits – and a distinctly different vibe.

8. The Damned Things – The Damned Things

Having Scott and Rob from Anthrax in your band is obviously gonna bring some attention, but honestly – metal-heads are a very closed group when it comes to anything trendy. When the other half of your band have the pedigree (HA!) of Fall Out Boy, the concerts are more likely to be full of knee length denim cut offs, thin black ties, and square rimmed ‘for show only’ spectacles than leather and spikes. So, this was bitter pill to swallow. As a rock album, it is quite good. The vocals are a tad dull, and I only say that as they are that typical modern rock style that is just a bit tired (sickly nice with a long fringe combed to the side), but otherwise it has some surprisingly catchy tunes. As far as the Thrax connection, any guitarist could have played on this – there is no Scottisms to be heard. Anyhoo – I hoped I’d like it, expected I’d hate it, and ended up thinking it was not as good as I’d hoped but not as bad as I expected. Understand?

7. Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

Any Bad Religion fan knows that to make a new Bad Religion album, you just take the previous one, rename all the tracks to something slightly political and witty in its wordplay – and then stick your iPod on shuffle. Whoo-hoo! Must be the new album. I say this with appreciation, not resentment, as that is precisely what bands like Bad Religion are for. Some artists you want to hear innovation from, some you just want to slip on like an old pair of comfy underpants – and this band will always be that comfy latter. The best part is though, that after close to 30 years in the business they still do a better job of making punk-rock fun, catchy, melodic, and just plain infectious than any of the current bands on the scene. And most importantly, they do it with a belt on – so their pants aren’t around their fucking knees. Good luck to them. I hope they keep showing the 15 year olds how to wear a faux-hawk for some years to come.

6. Neil Young – Le Noise

This is such an odd album. Masses of distorted electric guitar, without bass or drums, and some of the most passionate vocals of Neil’s recent efforts. It’s not the easiest album to find the entrance to on first listens, but like most of releases it pushes the boundaries of want has and can be done. It is almost and electric folk album. I’m not sure if there is such a thing, so I’m going to copyright the term right after typing this. Not one for a quick listen – this will take repeated listens to really open up.

5. Slash – Slash

Slash’s first solo album (Seriously? Aren’t all the Snakepit albums solo albums?) is something of a mixed bag, that took quite a few listens to really unlock. With a string of different vocalists (and a mixture of styles) it leaves you feeling a bit like a 92 year old trying to work out how to use a mobile phone – confused, and a little bit like you are stupid. “It is obviously good, but why don’t I understand it?”. It just takes a few tries – and once the songs start to grow on you, it all sinks in. The only downside is that using well known vocalists often sounds like an album full of their own solo tracks, and that happens often here (the Ozzy or Lemmy tracks for example). I hate to say it, but the single featuring Pop diva Fergie is amazingly catchy. Miles Kennedy of Alter Bridge gets 2 tracks – I dare say because his voice is so Axl Rose-like.

4. Alter Bridge – ABIII

It took me a long time (and a lot of prodding by various people) to finally take the time with Alter Bridge. I think I get it now musically, although the vocals I’m still only buying on sale, as I’m not quite ready to pay full price for them. If nothing else, I gotta give these guys some cred for being one of the very few bands around still flying the true rock flag. It’s usually a good yard stick that they are loud and heavy, and won’t see much pop-FM air time anytime soon. Yeah, I know there are a couple of ‘hard rock ballads’ here that have been spit polished using the funky-spunk of the Sony Board Of Directors, but all-in-all it’s pretty solid. The riffs are a plenty (and Tremonti again proves himself to be one the current guitar greats), with plenty of hard rock chops to show The Darkness how it should be played. The dude was actually only born a couple of weeks before me, so when you really think about it I could actually be him (in guitar status that is), but maybe he was lucky enough not to start smoking hooch until AFTER he learnt to play guitar?

3. Robert Plant – Band Of Joy

Robert Plant has become this amazing organic synthesis of earth and human and roots music. I can understand why he isn’t really into a Zeppelin come-back if this is the sort of music he enjoys playing. It is blues and folk and a whole pile of retro production chic all mixed into one great album. I love the way he takes parts of his previous album and blends them with something new on each release. His albums have an amazing narrative thread that connects them all going right back to 1982. I don’t expect we’ll see too much more of the ol’ blonde rock God now that he is reaching his twilight years – but as he winds to a close sometime soon he is ending it with class.

2. Stone Temple PilotsStone Temple Pilots

So first up let’s state that this is the not the STP that created Core, but it is a similar band to No. 4 and Tiny Music. Slightly experimental, a rock band – but not a hard rock band, and with the nuances that we have come to expect from Weiland’s roller-coaster vocal style. If you don’t want your rock too heavy, this is quite possibly their best album. The song writing is better than a soft-shelled taco, and there are some great STP style sing-alongs. But what is with that boring shit cover?

1. Devo – Something For Everybody

I know Devo have been seen as a bit of a joke in recent years, and a lot of that they brought on themselves with their silly outfit and videos, but in the 80s they really were WAY ahead of their time. A Devo album today actually proves that. This album (complete with amazing modern production) could sit with any of their others quite comfortably – but also with anything released by anyone else in the alternative rock genre today, proving that the world has finally caught up.

 

Honourable Mentions

Jimi Hendrix – Valleys Of Neptune / West Coast Seattle Boy [Boxed Set]

I’ll put these suckers side by side, although they are quite separate releases, and were even released months apart. Sony is now the distributor for all things Experience Hendrix LCC, which does mean we will be guaranteed a quality product – but I am already a little ‘unconvinced’ with the marketing. Valleys Of Neptune was marketed as the first ‘new’ Hendrix ‘album’ since First Rays Of The New Rising Sun in 1997. This isn’t an album at all – it is a collection of left overs, similar to every other Hendrix release in the last 14 years since the family took ownership.

Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings [Boxed Set]

Like most great albums of the sixties, Dylan’s albums were mixed for glorious mono by him personally – whereas the stereo versions (that are all we hear today) were done by the studio tea lady on her day off. Whether you prefer mono over stereo is a personal choice (and I even couldn’t give a definite answer, as different equipment reveals different shades of the personality of each), but the important thing about these 8 albums is that they are in places substantially different to the stereo mixes. The masterpiece that is Blonde On Blonde in particular has longer track lengths and completely different versions of some of the instruments (usually from alternate takes).

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos [Compilation]

These recordings (from 1961-1965) have circulated for years amongst collectors, so there wasn’t many surprises here. The true gem was the sound quality, near perfect for every track. Keeping in mind that these are near 50 year old demo recordings made on a reel to reel tape deck in a publisher’s office, and you begin to appreciate why that is so amazing. These are early sketches of some songs and hasty run-throughs of other well played material. Just another small piece in the puzzle of what drove the early Dylan to become the greatest songwriter of our time.

John Lennon – Signature Box [Boxed Set]

It was the year of the ‘old guy’ boxed sets really, but that is fine by me – as most of the music released in this box in particular far eclipses anything released today but any rock musician or band. John Lennon’s solo years were a rocky road, and not everything he released was by any means a masterwork – but listening to these remasters (done by the same team that remastered The Beatles last year) brings a new life and perspective to even some of his quirkiest work. I did think there was the opportunity to include a complete set of a/b sides of singles (and the 3 early soundscape albums), but unfortunately the estate only saw us as worthy of a handful of non-album tracks.

 

Dishonourable Mentions

Deftones – Diamond Eyes

I got nothing to say. I once took a shit, and when I looked at it I found more of interest than listening to this. I know they can only play 3 chords, but they could at least try to play them in a different order for each song – and at a different tempo.

Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 1 & 2 – Songs For A Sailor / The Solstice Bare [E.P.s]

I have no issues with artists being led by their muse wherever it wants to take them, but if you are gonna to veer this far off track change your name, or at the very least stop saying “this is the best thing the band has ever done”. These tracks are soppy (and actually quite boring), and apart from the vocals of Corgan lend very little to where the pumpkins began.

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

I have no issues with altering your style. Every musician has to grow after all. But seriously, what the fuck is going on here? This is like some sort of beats driven movie soundtrack for Taylor Swift fans. And what’s with all the 20 second songs? That sort of shit is reserved for grindcore and punk thanks. To use a phase both those styles are fans of, FUCK OFF.

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