This time last year as I sat down behind my keyboard, the mood was somewhat bleak: Trump, Brexit, seemingly unending austerity, celebrity sexual abuse scandals and the deaths of musical and film icons left us thinking that surely 2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse, and 12 months on… well at least there weren’t so many musical obituaries in the papers this time.
It’s often suggested that hard times inevitably lead to an upsurge in creativity, political activism and righteous fury in the arts, as if that somehow makes up for it, and whilst Ed Sheeran’s domination of the charts might suggest otherwise, there has been plenty of politicised rage to be found amongst some of our favourite releases of 2017.
Foremost amongst them was Arrows of Love‘s unambiguously titled Product: Your Soundtrack to the Impending Societal Collapse – a 45 minute call to action, typified by the tumultuous ‘Beast’ and it’s assertion to “Be depressed, you’ve every right to be, it would not be normal if you weren’t. But the question is, if it’s gonna knock you down, are you just gonna lie there, or are you gonna get up and throw some stones?”
Joining them on the frontline, Idles primal LP Brutalism was a tour de force of well-structured rage that more than lived up to its name, while Breakfast Muff‘s single ‘R U A Feminist’ from their wonderfully titled album Eurgh!, called out skin-deep feminists in two and a half minutes of sweary bitter-sweet lo-fi punk. Elsewhere Cassels railed against just about everything on their debut LP Epithet, with hometown Chipping Norton taking both barrels in ‘Where Baseball Was Invented’.
Taking a less discordant approach to registering their dissent, Deerhoof‘s Mountain Moves presented us with 15 songs mixing comment, protest and hope with collaborators including Laetitia Sadier, Jenn Wasner and Juana Molina, ending on a sparse, beautiful note of optimism with a cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Small Axe’. The Burning Hell took a more abstract approach, creating a series of semi-linked story songs about personal experiences of the apocalypse, juxtaposing the dark subject matter with joyous indie-pop tunes (check out their appearance on The Joyzine Radio Show), while The Scaramanga Six created an epic two-part concept album, Chronica, set within a dystopian island nation and The Indelicates‘ Juniverbrecher cast seaside puppet show terror Mr Punch as a demon wreaking havoc across British society (The Indelicates also made a guest appearance of our radio show this year – check out the podcast).
That’s not to say that it’s been all doom and gloom round these parts – Superorganism‘s ‘Something for Your M.I.N.D’ provided a laid-back burst of sunshine, and Japanese quartet Otoboke Beaver continued to exhilarate, both with the contorting punk blast of their Love Is Short EP and their relentless live show at a sold out 100 Club. More girl gang garage rock thrills were to be found in The Darts‘ Me. Ow, while The Sly Persuaders‘ self-titled debut was a flat out surf-psych delight and Half Japanese took us to a bizarre world of 30 foot long giant leeches on the quirky and charming Hear The Lions Roar.
2017 saw some welcome returns, with two bands who were a massive part of my conversion from a fan of music to the sort of person who spends fourteen years of their life writing, taking photos, putting on gigs and making radio shows about it. Former Mansun frontman Paul Draper‘s debut solo outing Spooky Action lived up to almost impossible expectations, and it was a special moment to see his first live performance in over a decade with a short acoustic set at Rough Trade East. Meanwhile Nottingham indie/post rock cult heroes Six By Seven reformed for a short burst of electrifying live shows around the re-release of their seminal turn of the century album The Closer You Get and a greatest hits collection. We also said goodbye to a longstanding favourite, as Chris T-T, who featured in the very first edition of Joyzine back in 2003, bowed out with a Best Of collection and series of emotional farewell gigs.
There were some great records from established Joyzine favourites throughout the year, with Desperate Journalist garnering praise from all corners for the glittering gloom-pop of their Grow Up LP, as well as playing their biggest headline show to date at The Scala. Future of the Left released a live album and DVD that captured the chaos & sarcastic hilarity of their riotous show at The Garage (which we reviewed here). Co-Pilgrim‘s Moon Lagoon added a spontaneous charm to their achingly beautiful Americana, while Stephen EvEns‘ debut LP Bonjour Poulet wove deeply personal tales around a tapestry of wistful psychedelic indie-pop and Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut‘s This Is The Standard Life was a predictably excellent musical jumble sale of punky guitar stabs, juddering drum machines and surreal storytelling with a supporting cast including Art Brut’s Eddie Argos, Billie Ray Martin and The Mayor of Kentish Town.
There were plenty of new discoveries to delight too, with Buttonhead‘s Never or Forget twisting our brains into all manner of fantastical shapes, only for JOHN‘s debut LP Godspeed In The National Limit to batter it into submission with its intense post-hardcore barrage (check out their Joyzine Radio appearance here), while Hurtling wowed us with their performance at The Brixton Hill AGM as well as their split 7″ with Creepy Neighbour.
Croydon has been Joyzine’s home for the majority of our 14 years, and despite having moved across South London to Tooting a couple of years back, we’d kept our links to our former location through our show on Croydon Radio and our To Hell With God Intentions live shows at Hoodoo’s. Sadly both the station and venue closed their doors in 2017 (though Hoodoo’s is due for a resurrection in a new space soon) and we’ve found a new home at Wandsworth Radio. Our co-promoters Frauds (who recently appeared on our radio show) fittingly headlined our final Hoodoo’s show, and also released debut LP With Morning Toast & Jam & Juice this year, a searing slice of post-hardcore rowdiness, which balances social commentary and playground humour perfectly. Big thanks to the other bands to have graced the THWGI stage in 2017 including Atomic Suplex, Table Scraps, Melt Dunes, Gaygirl, Bo Gritz, Jonbarr Hinge, Here Be Monsters, Grounds and The Wilderness Years.
We returned to our favourite London venue The Windmill in April for our annual Joyfest all-dayer, with fantastic sets by Rat The Magnificent, CuT, Scab Hand, James Brute, Mega Emotion, Vienna Ditto, Bridport Dagger, The Indelicates, Broken Soundtracks and Mamzer. Massive thanks to all of the bands that have played our live shows and to everyone who came along to watch and get involved – we’ve got some special shows in the pipeline for 2018 as we celebrate our 15th year, so keep your eyes peeled for details. Have a fantastic new year everyone!
Review by Paul Maps