A Year End Wrap-Up.

I know I’m a few days late here, but here goes:

I spent New Year’s Eve alone, drinking a single hot toddy and reflecting while listening to Trojan Compilation LPs and Cure records like the lightweight middle-aged punk rocker I am. A year ago, I ended 2021 feeling worn down and heartbroken. Thankful for friends, for surviving the hardest year of my life. I ended 2022 in the opposite place.

It was a year of ups and downs, personal and professional growth while continuing local, national, and global crises unfolded around us. I went to work every day with the growing reality of anti queer violence gnawing at the back of my mind. During the coldest months of the year, I began to thaw. I made friends, even developed very occasional crushes while the world held its breath over a long winter, with so many of us wondering if we were in the opening stages of World War III. Everyone I love exists in a state of constant anxiety. However, I am inspired at not only their ability to thrive, but at the lives they live in defiance of those who would see the world this way forever.

This year I worked hard at a job I love. I lifted weights. I spent time alone and with friends. Despite the struggle to find a place for my work, I became more confident as a writer. I don’t take the struggle to carve out a space for my voice and for my stories personally or see it as a deficit or reflective of the quality of my work the way I used to. For this small step, I am thankful. I know my value and know my voice. I accept that the distaste I have for maneuvering and accumulating social and cultural capital comes with drawbacks and I live accordingly.

The tradeoff of being able to walk through the world authentically and without apology is worth it to me.

My biggest victory this year was taking new and scary steps to manage the depression and mood swings that accompany living with borderline personality disorder. So far, those steps have been positive. I have been able to experience life in a way I’ve never thought possible. I smile more. I feel lighter. I laugh. It’s nice. If you are reading this, and you are struggling, I want you to know there’s help out there for you. You and your beautiful, complicated life are worthy of that help, even if it feels like you don’t deserve it.

I want to close this out by offering gratitude to the care exhibited by my friends Grier and Maria. The two of you were such solid and consistent voices of encouragement and reflection while I made important and hard choices. Thank you, Xy for being the best globetrotting adventure companion. Thanks to Molly and Teal, who I didn’t get to take pictures with this year for the decades of best friendship.

Thanks to Sweetpea the pup for being a continual lesson in patience.

Keep your head up. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Onward.

Now, for the cheesiest part of this post, physical media! Some of these records are from late 2021 and 2022. I wasn’t in good shape last year, so I didn’t write about music much at all in general, or at the end of the year.

LPs

  1. Collision – I love this band’s whole vibe. A mixture of Oi/Street punk and post punk. It just works. To add the quality of the music, they have a schtick that adds to an air of mystery about them. Always wearing masks and Adidas Sambas and seemingly lurking about industrial parts of Paris.
  2. Criminal Outfit – A Million Saturdays: It took me a while to warm up to this. The vocals are a little rough at first. But the riffs are simple and infectious. The lyrical content sweet and wholesome, songs about building a nation accepting of everyone, and getting dressed up to go out on the town with the boys. More of this please.
  3. High Vis – No Sense, No Feeling, and Blending: My good friend Josef put me on to this band. Imagine a mixture of New Order style post punk and moshy hardcore. It’s fucking dope. For a long time, the No Sense No Feeling LP was hard to find in the States. When Xy and I were in England, I managed to track down two copies. One for Josef, one for me. When Josef and I lived in Olympia, his friendship saved my life on at least one occasion. No shit. One night when I was at the end of my rope, hyperventilating, feeling like I couldn’t go on, Josef was there. That’s one way to repay a friend, right? You saved my life, I stuffed an LP in my backpack, carried it across the Atlantic without it getting damaged, and mailed it to you. Even Steven.
  4. The Damned: Singles Collection Volume 1 & 2. I grabbed these on a whim in England. I don’t listen to The Damned as much as I did when I was a kid, but they were one of the first punk bands I ever heard. I will always love them for that. These LPs contain all The Damned’s singles from their early period, both punk and when they were going in a more Gothy/Post-Punk direction. All killer, no filler.
  5. Wolves in The Throne Room: Primordial Arcana. I connect with WITTR less than I used to, but this LP is still good. If you are somehow unfamiliar with this band and you like your Black Metal unambiguous politically, centered around nature and maybe a little less threatening than the genre’s progenitors, this LP is for you.
  6. The Bois: Rise Again. Anti-Racist Oi! from Singapore. I like The Bois’ previous output, but I love this LP. There’s nothing new or sophisticated about the music, but the lyrics and the vibe are so earnest, that I can’t help but love this. Songs about staying true to your roots, bashing the fash, and a better world.
  7. Syndrome 81 – Prisons Imaginaires: This LP comes in second place for my favorite record of the year. A blend of Oi, post punk, and dark punk. Many of us who grew up listening to the classic Street punk band Blitz, wondered at what might have been had the band not gone full New Wave with the follow up to their classic first LP Voice of a Generation with the synth heavy Second Empire Justice. Syndrome 81 may just answer that question.
  8. The Cure – Wish 30th Anniversary Edition: This is not a new record. It needs no introduction. The Cure is my all-time favorite band. While this LP may not be my favorite of their output, I love it all the same. I can remember with almost crystalline clarity the time and place where I first heard this album. Listening now, transports me back to a dirty teenage bedroom with blankets stuffed over the windows so I could sleep late after sneaking out to stay out all night skating. Before there was punk for me, there was The Cure. My entry point into the underground.
  9. Claymore – Crime Pays LP: Most ridiculous cover art of 2022, a skinhead on a moped with a sword and a bag of cash, riding over a landscape of cop skeletons. The music is hard as nails. The vocals took a while to grow on me, but once they did, this record was on my turntable for months.
  10. Converge – Blood Moon: Converge playing heavier sludgier material with a host of collaborators like Chelsea Wolfe – a venerable Goth institution at this point in her career. I love this LP. Maybe sometime I will see Converge tour on it, and it will be the first time I will have seen them without worrying about getting knocked unconscious by stage diving bros or seeing blood spilled all over the bathroom sinks when I go to piss.
  11. Slugger – EP: Hands down, my favorite record of the year. There is so much attitude, so much power packed in these six songs. The music is simple, driving. The vocals gruff and vicious. The lyrical content, spot on no lofty proclamations, no pretension just anti-racist Oi mixed with street politics, the way it should be. No mess. No fuss, just pure impact.
  12. Bishops Green – Dark Skies/Waiting. I grabbed both LPs either in late 2021 or early 2022. I don’t remember. I love them. Bishops Green seem to be moving into a slower, darker take on Street Punk, and I’m here for it. To me, both of these records ooze the sense of dread that so many of us felt in the earliest days of the pandemic.
  13. Violent Way – Bow to None LP: Knucklehead Skinhead Oi in the best sense. Heavy emphasis on the skinhead part. Seriously. These dudes are skinheads and won’t let you forget it for longer than a song. I like this LP just fine. I liked the debut EP better. There was a lot of hype around this record when it dropped. I mean, I bought the LP and the shirt, but still somehow felt underwhelmed in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on. Maybe it was the unnecessary Combat 84 cover.
  14. The Chisel – Retaliation LP: A classic. This LP dropped in late 2021, but I didn’t get my copy until 2022, and hardly stopped listening to it all year. The best blend of Oi and hardcore. The opening track, Unlawful Execution is up there with anti-cop punk classics like Dicks Hate The Police as far as I’m concerned.
  15. Castillo – Self-Titled – Melodic Punk/Oi from the city of angels.
  16. Mess – Intercity EP: Street punk in the vein of Blitz and other UK 82 classics from Mexico. This EP manages to pay homage to the classics while still sounding fresh and vibrant.
  17. Plizzken – Their Paradise is Full of Snakes LP: Street punk from Germany. Catchy, upbeat. Infectious.
  18. Liberty & Justice – Pressure: This was my favorite LP of 2021. I listened to it a lot, heartbroken and driving a rumbling U-Haul filled with my worldly possessions from Pittsburgh to Philly. This album played while I ran every toll. Meanwhile one of the best friends I’ve ever had drove ahead with my dying dog in his car, ensuring the most precious cargo made it safely to Philly. The opening riff of Halfway Home helped give me the strength to go on during the hardest summer of my life.
  19. Front Line Assembly – The Initial Command: This record is over 30 years old too. Front Line Assembly was my introduction to more hard wired, less accessible Industrial when I was 14 years old listening to The Industrial Revolution compilation in my bedroom. I still love this band, and grabbed this LP on a whim at Angry Young, and Poor. If you grew up listening to just one genre of underground music, you didn’t grow up a lonely weirdo in a small town, banding together with all the other lonely freaks. Sorry, while you maybe missed out on a particular brand of rural misery, you probably missed out on some good tunes, too.
  20. Lost Legion – Building Electricity: Oi mixed with darker Post-Punk influences. I love this EP and want to hear more from this band.
  21. The Partisans – Self Titled: I think this record is as old as I am. I have been listening to The Partisans since I was fifteen, yet somehow never owned a physical copy of this LP. Bouncy, full of youthful energy. It feels weird to listen to 17 Years of Hell at almost 42 years old. I listen anyway. I remember waiting eagerly for my 17th birthday so I could sing along with that song in earnest.

EPs

  1. Empire Down – Split.
  2. 2 Empire Down – Gallows of Winter. From the frozen northern reaches of the Midwest, Empire Down go hard. A mixture of Oi and Hardcore.
  3. The Templars – They Use Hate/5446 EP: The Templars need no introduction. Classic, Lo-Fi Oi! The Toots & The Maytals cover is a must hear.
  4. Violent Way ­– EP. Full of punch and attitude. Each song is more knuckle hungry than the last.
  5. Warrior Kids EP – Tough Oi
  6. Beton Arme/Violent Way Split: See above, but in French as well as English.
  7. Wired Up – Gets Rich on Rock N’ Roll EP: I love this EP. Bouncy and full of attitude while somehow still being both tough and fun.
  8. Totalitar – Heydays Revisited: For the charged up, shoestring headband crowd! Totalitar were classic D-Beat. I still have a ratty as shit Totalitar shirt that I’ve been wearing for 20 years.
  9. The Prowlers – Serial Pouesser EP: Fine. I’m gonan be honest. I don’t remember what this sounds like at the moment. The Prowlers play a tough, yet straightforward style of anti-racist Oi. Nothing original, but you’ll like it anyway.
  10. Sous Escort – Somehow can’t remember what this sounds like easier. I’ll listen to it and get back to you.
  11. Dusters – Siege Warfare B/W Kalishnakov. Tough as nails, Oi/Punk from Dirty Jersey. Can’t wait for another LP.
  12. Brigata Vendetta – EP: I grabbed this right as 2022 came to a close. Features ex members of Harrington Saints and have a similar sound.
  13. Tchernobyl/ Force Majure – Split: Two tracks each. Both in French, on band from Canada, the other from France.
  14. Collision – Immortels EP: See above.
  15. The Chisel – Deconstructive Surgery EP
  16. The Chisel – Enough Said EP
  17. Chisel – Come See Me EP: Come See Me is one of the hardest tracks about defending your friends from racist violence ever laid to wax.
  18. Squellete – Tentative Homicide – Low down and dirty as fuck Oi from the City of Lights. Lyrics in French, title track is about the time one of the members got their face slashed in fight and nearly died.
  19. Faction S – EP – See above, minus the attempted murder story.
  20. Mess/The Chisel Split EP: Both bands manage to sound so reminiscent of Blitz on this one without sounding derivative. Powerful, somehow hopeful.
  21. Beton Arme – Au Bord Du Gofre EP: Tough and dirty Oi from Montreal.

Old Favorites:

  1. Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities
  2. This Is Northern Soul. I listen to these records when I have to get up before it’s light out to go to work. If they don’t get you moving, you might not have a pulse.
  3. The Specials – Self Titled.
  4. The Specials – More Specials
  5. The Specials – Ghost Town – I love 2 Tone Ska. I’m going to put one of my oldest friends on the spot here, by telling you an embarrassing story of lost youth. When we were 14 years old, my best friend Forrest introduced me to the world of 2 Tone Ska, and later the dreaded third wave. Before any of us were old enough to drive, or when there weren’t any shows happening in our tiny corner of the world, we would gather in someone’s room and put on Specials or Selecter LP and skank and dance until we collapsed in a sweaty, smiling heap. Embarrassing, sure. But if you try to tell me you didn’t do something similar as a kid, I’m going to call you a liar.
  6. Selecter – Too Much Pressure: When my teenage friends and I had 2 Tone dance nights, a copy of this album and a live split with The Specials was my contribution to the pile of records and CDs. Upbeat ska. I grabbed a copy of this at a record store after work one day. I lost my copy of this album on CD some time in the ancient past.. I’m happy to have a copy of this on vinyl now.
  7. Symarip – Skinhead Moonstomp – A classic. I listened to this LP twice as I typed this out. It’s that good.
  8. Trojan Records – Rude Boy Rumble
  9. Trojan Records – Soul Reggae
  10. Trojan Records – Reggae

I listened to these compilations and other Trojan Comps in digital format during the darkest days of my heartbreak summer in Philadelphia. The sounds filled my room on the days that somehow felt like weeks when I just couldn’t stop crying. I would wake up in the morning, gingerly check on Hope sleeping next to me to make sure she was still breathing, and put one of these records on. Lucky for me, (kinda) these songs are so good that I can still listen to them without being transported back to that time and place.

Books:

  1. Moonstomp – Tim Wells – Aggro and Werewolves on the streets of London, 1979.
  2. Shine on Me – Tim Wells.
  3. Imperium – Ryszard Kapuściński
  4. Poverty Safari – Darren McGarvey
  5. The Aesthetic of Our Anger.
  6. In The Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado. A memoir of an abusive relationship told through the lens of a haunted house. This book destroyed me.
  7. Ragtime – E.L. Doctrow.
  8. The Original Rudeboy – Neville Staple.
  9. The Making of a Story – Alice LaPlante
  10. No Parasan – Edited by Shane Burley.
  11. A Crafty Cigarette – Tales of a Teenage Mod – Matteo Seddzari. This was my favorite book of the year. Well-dressed aggro and absurdity. Some of the stories in this book, like the brawl with rockers that spills out of the street, into a church yard and crashing into a wedding, dragging the attendees into the brawl, are so ridiculous, they must be based on the author’s experience.
  12. Broken Summers – Henry Rollins.
  13. Thriving with Adult ADHD – Boisserre – if you know me, you know how much I need this book. I haven’t finished it yet, no surprise there.
  14. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron.
  15. High Desert – James Spooner – I sobbed at the end of this. Essential if you grew up punk in a small town in the 90s.
  16. The Way of the Vegan Meathead – Daniel Austin – Oh hey, I’m apparently vegan again. Thanks, middle age and high cholesterol. This time around, I’m going to get enough protein to keep up my strength training!
  17. Skinhead – Nick Knight
  18. Skins – Gavin Watson

Zines/Comics

  1. Hotwire – Nikki Allen – Beautiful and wrenching. Inspired me to keep writing when I felt like I couldn’t.
  2. Boots N’ Booze Volumes 1-3 – Autobiographical tales of an anti-racist traditional skinhead crew in Santa Cruz. Funny, ridiculous, musical, and so relatable if you spent your youth doing dumb shit and somehow made it to middle age.
  3. 1987 – James Reitano – Tales of the same skinhead crew mentioned above, albeit from a different perspective.
  4. No Fuss #1

Tapes:

  1. A mixtape from one of my best friends – I fell off on following Goth and Darkwave this year. Grier filled that void.
  2. Castillo – Promo – Melodic Oi from Los Angeles
  3. Battery March – Demo – The opening track, No Good Cops is classic! Melodic and catchy and ACAB all the way.
  4. Conservative Military Image – Summertime Skinhead
  5. Conservative Military Image – Demo – Everyone freaked out about this band, and I didn’t totally get it. The music is fine. The lyrics are ambiguously tongue in cheek, but they aren’t as fun or funny as Hard Skin.
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