Dead Weather - Horehound
Jack White does not get an automatic pass into my top 10. People assume that I just rate anything he does, even if it's not his best work. However, those ain't the rules of the Year End Top Ten. It just has to be a better album than other things released that year, a target which he hits with alarming regularity. Is this album better than the best White Stripes album? Nope. Is it better than Chinese Democracy and whatever indie-folk messiahs came out this year? Without a doubt. Alison Lockhart acquits herself wonderfully on most of the lead vocals, but make no mistake, this is Jack's show. The Stripes are minimalist blues-punk, the Raconteurs are garagey power-pop, and this is voodoo grind. New Orleans evil blues, positively oozing with sinister vibes. And therefore worth contention for my top ten of the year.
Death - ...For The Whole World To See
No reissues and no re-releases, unless it's more than 60% new material: this is the first rule of the year-end top ten. Two of these songs were previously released on a regional single of 500 copies in the mid-70s, so I'm going to allow it, in lieu of the (sadly) inadmissable Volcano Suns reissues (which were merely "not ever on CD"). Punk before punk's revolution, black punk before the Bad Brains, soul/punk before the Dirtbombs, it's releases like this that give rock and roll archivists like me conniptions. On paper, this shouldn't exists, stylistically. But sure enough, here it is. Gritty, howling, provocative, and recorded on behalf of a major label. This is crazy. This is the kind of dangerously unhinged but pointed music that makes people pick up an instrument in the first place.
Varsity Drag - Rock 'N' Roll Is Such A Hassle: Live In Europe
Practially a Ben Deily greatest hits collection, this is a rip-snortin' power pop extravaganza. The tunes are melodic as all get-out, but they're speedy, short, and buzzy. For those who thought he fell off the face of the Earth a few years ago, the fact that he hasn't missed a beat since Creator (some of which features here), and it doesn't sound like a collection of tunes written over the past 20 years is amazing. The material from Varsity Drag's 2006 debut, For Crying Out Loud is bigger, tougher, and lived-in, the Lemonheads material sounds as good as it always has (which is to say, pretty damn good), and it's nice to hear any Pods tuneage get a wider release. Maybe the best pop band in Boston right now, any fan of punky pop 'n' roll should seek this out immediately. Download it from his site (www.bendeily.com) right away!