2020 Barfly Top Ten: Gerry Ranson
Vive Le Rock magazine writer and Mule Freedom PR publicist
TOP TEN TRACKS FROM 2020
Like going deaf or blind, a lack of gigs seems to have sharpened my other music-loving senses, so I’ve been digging more sounds than ever this year. This is just the tip of a very big, and very loud, iceberg. Working as a PR, I’ve taken the flaming liberty of including some of my own wares in here – can you spot ‘em? But I make no excuses: I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to get to work with people whose stuff I love. I hope after reading this, you’ll love it too. - Gerry x
PS - The Celibate Rifles' "Extract From The Fungus" would’ve been No.1 if I’d heard it yet.
10.) James Williamson & Deniz Tek – "Jet Pack Nightmare"
They may be getting on – ain’t we all? – but Ann Arbor’s finest can still cut the Stories For Boys action rock! A venomous boogie riff to kick off "Two To One", the album that was bound to happen one day.
9.) Blue Öyster Cult – "The Alchemist"
It’s taken them nine years to come up with a new studio album and when they do, it’s recorded in lockdown conditions. And it’s still the best thing the boys from Stony Brook have done in donkeys’ years. Fourteen newly minted and totally Cultish songs, "The Symbol Remains" is conspicuously low on epics, but this six-minuter – with its "Flaming Telepaths" dink-dink-dink – hits the spot.
8.) Aerial Salad – "Romance"
These Manc scallywags emerged from under the wing of Wonk Unit with one of the Britpunk albums of the year: "Dirt Mall". The first single (and great video), I guess this is what passes for a come-on these days.
7.) Mick Medew – "Igloo (instrumental)"
It was hard to fathom what the ex-Screaming Tribesman would do with this, a new take on arguably one of the greatest Australian singles EVER. But truly it is a work of wonder. Haunting. If there’s a fault, it’s that it’s several minutes too short.
6.) Hoodoo Gurus – "Hung Out To Dry"
After years of dithering, the Gurus had their international touring plans kicked into the long grass by Covid. Never mind, they gave us three cracking singles, of which this is the best. The swampy "Dig It Up"-ness of this riff suggests a promising return to "Stoneage" garage values.
5.) Richard Davies & The Dissidents – "No Man’s Land"
Hailing from the England’s picturesque Cotswolds, on debut album "Human Traffic" these refugees from the 90s London indie scene masterfully imagines what Johnny Thunders may’ve sounded like if he’d grown old enough to channel his inner Springsteen or Petty. One of ten great tracks, this is an album-closer par excellence. Unexpectedly big in Spain.
4.) Hard-Ons – Oh… "Your Crushed?"
One of several highlights on "So I Could Have Them Destroyed"So I Could Have Them Destroyed", this has that same intense, heads-down one-chord groove as Wire’s ‘The Art Of Stopping’, where you wait for years to hear what a legendary band can come up with after a break and it’s way better than you could’ve imagined. For me, though it was a toss-up (no pun intended) between this and the '90s-indie-tastic "Harder And Harder".
3.) Cult Figures – "Silver Blades"
The little-brother band of post-punk Solihull’s Swell Maps, these guys tagged up for the reunion tango a few years ago, and delivered this single (one of three) in 2020 – their first new material since 1980 or something. An unbelievably catchy romantic tragedy of love found and lost on a Midlands ice-rink, couched in post-punk power-pop terms.
2.) Fumble – "Wasn’t That A Party?"
Okay, so this isn’t new, but a fab ‘complete works’ box set has put them back on the table. Probably better known for their racy "Hipgnosis" album sleeves, Fumble were to the early '80s rockabilly revival what the Feelgoods were to punk. Theirs is a tragic, yet life-affirming tale of four guys who loved each other through thin, a bit less thin, and then thin again, hanging out with Bowie along the way. The best mention of grapefruit in song, this should’ve made them bigger than Shaky.
1.) Smalltown Tigers – "Five Things"
When Italian garage guru Stiv Cantarelli told me he was working with a girl punk group, I was excited but kept expectations in check. I needn’t have done: this is as perfect a slice of ’77 retro-punk ramalama as I could’ve wished for. The title track of their debut mini-album (not EP!) it’s catapulted them onto the world’s punk websites and playlists, earning approval from an Undertone, Damned legend Brian James and the BBC’s old punk maven, The Great Steve Lamacq. All without playing a single show outside their homeland. Gigs, eh. Who needs ‘em?