By Andrew Mosley
It’s easy to become despondent at the state of music, what with fame-hungry talent show contestants a safer bet for any record company than some raucous indie rocker and cliched lyrics about believing in yourself, flying high and touching the sky as abundant as fruit flies in July.
- Read on for reasons including The Coral, Sleaford Mods, Redskins and Yard Act
All this means though — assuming that’s not your bag — is you have to search a little harder for what truly grabs you and, like the perfect present, it’s always better when you find that unexpected little belter that brightens a loved one’s life.
At the tuneful end of the pop-rock spectrum The Coral’s wistful Coral Island provided a rollercoaster — well, maybe something a little more gentle like a Ghost Train — ride through holidays of yore in seaside towns to which the term faded glamour is no longer apt.
Mixing spoken word vignettes with “proper” songs it probably owes a little less to the Small Faces’ Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake than I’m tempted to claim, but Lover Undiscovered, Mist On The River, Take Me Back To The Summertime and Land Of The Lost brought some much-needed sense to the end of spring.
If Sleaford Mods had arrows they’d be dangerous as their lyrical barbs rarely miss their intended and usually very deserving targets.
Spare Ribs wasn’t too dissimilar to what preceded it, but it didn’t need to be. A bit of old-school electro, punk, grime and scabrous (may they never not be) lyrics made for an urgent race to the finish line that reflected the crazy crazy world in which we live. Some top-notch guests such as Billy Nomates and Amy Taylor add some real quality to Andrew Fearn’s riffs and Jason Williamson’s never not amusing — even when at his most angry — vocal delivery. As always, a must buy — and play it with the car window wound down while driving through a posh town.
My reissue of the year would have to be Redskins’ Neither Washington Nor Moscow...
The 80s Marxist-Leninists blended northern soul, punk and politics on their only album which narrowly failed to put politics on Top of the Pops but did bring striking miners on to the Tube, and Chris Dean’s incredible voice and call to arms lyrics on the likes of Keep On Keepin’ On!, Kick Over The Statues!, Lean On Me! and It Can Be Done! were worthy of way more than the exclamation marks at the end of the titles that told you we needed to act and do so with real urgency.
Sadly, their workload trawling the country and playing benefits got in the way of recording and only yielded this album, which 30-plus years down the line re-emerges as a four CD box set with a book containing lyrics, tributes and memories.
Gig of the year? That would be Ian Prowse and Amsterdam’s 14-piece show at Liverpool’s 02 Academy, with violins, flute and horns adding grit and depth to songs of politics, hope and celebration.
It’s taken Prowsey 25 years to, as he put it, “climb the mountain” he first topped with a degree of major label success with Pele. Down and almost out after being dropped, the amiable Tranmere Rovers fan couldn’t find a deal, but along came the internet and new music with Amsterdam and as a solo artist and here he is belting out classics such as Home, Does This Train Stop On Merseyside, Raid The Palace and Fair Blows The Wind For France to 1,200 devotees on a cold December night.
Heaven 17 with Pete Wylie as support at Sheffield’s O2 Academy gets a much-deserved second place.
For next year? I’m tipping Yard Act, The young Leeds four-piece’s debut album The Overload is due in January and a couple of songs are already regular ear-worms including the acerbic Fixer-Upper and the title track. Think The Fall’s Mark E Smith, the aforementioned Sleaford Mods but with more than a splash of arty pop courtesy of Pulp and maybe Franz Ferdinand and you’d be heading in the right direction — and hopefully that’s the case for everyone connected with music in 2022. Well, maybe not everyone…