Our albums of the year, numbers 29 to 20.
29. Public Image Limited.
What The World Needs Now (Pil Official)
On PiL’s second new album in three years, John Lydon could be found spewing streams of puerile profanity over discordant jazz-punk marathons and knotty No Wave art-funk rhythms. The reactivated PiL were a welcome reminder that Lydon remains a fiercely uncompromising avant-rock modernist, despite his occasional lapses into clownish self-parody.
Battering Ram (UDR)
The album title promised much bludgeon riffola. Saxon delivered that and more. The title track is one of many flat-out headbangers, but Queen Of Hearts, has a progressive rock flavour. And drummer Nigel Glockler’s performance is remarkable. Having recovered from a brain aneurysm, he really brings down the hammer.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Nuclear Blast)
Until Iron Maiden’s The Book Of Souls came along, symphonically inclined Finns Nightwish were all set to scoop the award for the year’s most bombastic album. Featuring a 48-piece orchestra, Endless Forms Most Beautiful was the pinnacle of mainman Tuomas Holopainen’s vision.
26. Steve Hackett
It would be easy for Hackett to sink into a comfort zone. But on Wolflight the guitarist challenged himself, with an album that has virtuosity and also an edgy, atmospheric darkness. It showed that Hackett is still pushing his musical boundaries.
With FFS, the year’s unlikeliest, but most welcome, double act – disco-punk band Franz Ferdinand, plus Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks – proved that collaborations can work, especially when they marry rock power with wit and intelligence. Yes, intricately crafted pop with quasi-operatic vocals can kick ass. Who knew?
Fourteen albums into their career, Toto are still regarded by many as faceless session men, their music bland and unchallenging. XIV, their first album in nearly a decade, probably didn’t change any of that prejudice. Nevertheless, its consummate mix of progressive rock, jazz, pop, soul and blues set the connoisseurs drooling. On standout track Great Expectations, a cinematic masterpiece full of verve and virtuosity, the veterans were at the top of their game.
23. Tame Impala
They say great art is born out of adversity, and that was the case with Tame Impala’s third album. Recorded off the back of a painful relationship break-up, mastermind Kevin Parker’s riff-heavy psychedelic pop came with a spine-tingling emotive edge. In truth the guitars were at a premium here. But if shimmering pop melodies are the way forward, you won’t find us complaining.
22. Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct (Nuclear Blast)
For the band that grew out of Thin Lizzy, this second album was, as guitarist Scott Gorham put it, “an evolution”. Traces of the old band remain, but The Killer Instinct is more expansive than their debut, with the new band’s signature sound defined in the epic Blindsided and the anthem Finest Hour.
A Conspiracy Of Stars (SPV)
For a band that made their name with a series of erratic changes, UFO have settled into their middle-aged twilight years with no shortage of reliability. This, their fifth album with Vinnie Moore on guitar, is full of fiery, blues-laden hard rock. Classic latter-era UFO.
20. The Sonics
This Is The Sonics (Revox)
Who said garage rock is a young man’s game? These hardy legends disproved that with this startlingly brusque comeback – the belated follow-up to 1967’s Introducing The Sonics – that snapped and spat like a petulant teen. Lead singer Jerry Roslie brought the venom, Larry Parypa laid down some brutal riffs.