Ten to grow on

Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media - Steve Ter­rell

Here are the 10 al­bums re­leased in 2010 that I liked best.

▼ Re­form School Girl by Nick Cur­ran & The Lowlifes. Cur­ran plays some of the rough­est, rawest R & B/rock­a­billy be­ing made to­day, with raspy voice, bang­ing pi­ano, wail­ing sax, and a gui­tar that sounds as if Chuck Berry used it in voodoo rit­u­als. It should re­mind you of that era when crazed DJs un­leashed their sin­is­ter com­mu­nist plot of cor­rupt­ing Amer­ica’s youth by play­ing wild, prim­i­tive sounds ooz­ing with sex and re­bel­lion.

▼ Agri-dus­trial by Le­gendary Shack Shak­ers. The ti­tle is a pretty apt de­scrip­tion of the ba­sic Shack Shak­ers sound. It’s rootsy but with a hard-rock­ing edge. Singer and front­man J.D. Wilkes plays a mean har­mon­ica and oc­ca­sional banjo and jew’s-harp, while co-con­spir­a­tor Duane Deni­son, for­merly of punk-noise pa­tri­archs The Je­sus Lizard, makes some crazy noise on his gui­tar. The rhythm sec­tion is grounded in metal as well as in cowpunk. This might be con­sid­ered a con­cept al­bum about the South. Or maybe it’s a col­lec­tion of horror sto­ries, with song ti­tles like “Two Tick­ets to Hell,” “The Hills of Hell,” and “God Fear­ing Peo­ple.”

▼ Grin­der­man 2 by Grin­der­man. The first al­bum by Nick Cave’s Grin­der­man is an in­tense burst of bile, anx­i­ety, rage, ob­scen­ity, and loud, sloppy rock ’ n’ roll. This year’s fol­low-up, while slightly less ragged than the orig­i­nal, is al­most as good. On “Mickey Mouse and the Good­bye Man,” Cave howls like Howlin’ Wolf on “Smoke­stack Light­ning.” You can hear echoes of Patti Smith’s “Glo­ria” and The Doors’ “When the Mu­sic’s Over,” as well as an in­ten­tional nod to blues bel­ter Lu­cille Bo­gan’s “Shave ’ Em Dry.” “Worm Tamer” — full of fun in­nu­endo and dou­ble-en­ten­dre — rocks even harder, with a mu­tated Bo-Did­dley-con­quers-the-Mar­tians beat. “Su­per Hea­then Child” takes us right to a night­mare world. A girl is “sit­ting in the bath­tub suck­ing her thumb,” though she’s fully armed as she waits for the Wolf Man.

▼ Wig! by Peter Case. Case is so good in his acous­tic trou­ba­dour role that many of his lis­ten­ers might not even re­al­ize that he’s also an ac­com­plished rocker. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he was the front­man for The Plim­souls and, be­fore that, The Nerves. Now, aided by gui­tarist Ron Franklin and D.J. Bone­brake, the drum­mer for X, Case recorded a bunch of blues-soaked, swampy rock­ers for this al­bum. And it’s some of the tough­est mu­sic he’s ever made.

▼ I’m New Here by Gil Scott-Heron. Pro­duced by Richard Rus­sell, this al­bum, Scott-Heron’s first in 16 years, is har­row­ing. It’s mostly low-key and somber and al­most like an en­counter with a ghost in a dark al­ley. The al­bum kicks off with a sweet me­mory by the singer of be­ing raised by his grand­mother. But at the end of the song, his granny dies “and I was scared and hurt and shocked,” Scott-Heron says. And then the mu­sic gets louder, the beat turns harsher, and sud­denly the singer finds him­self in an elec­tronic mu­ta­tion of one of Robert John­son’s most fright­en­ing blues, “Me and the Devil.” Scott-Heron drifts from night­mare to rev­elry and back again. In “New York Is Killing Me,” he sings a blues melody over per­sis­tent hand claps and a clack­ing rhythm, punc­tu­ated by bass drum. A gospel choir comes in a cou­ple of times but dis­ap­pears like a dream fig­ment. The al­bum is less than 30 min­utes long. But it’s one in­tense time. ▼ Self De­cap­i­ta­tion by

De­laney Davidson. Traces of Sal­va­tion Army march­ing bands and dark blues per­meate this New Zealand na­tive’s al­bum. You can hear in­flu­ences of Amer­i­can blues, early jazz, and East­ern Euro­pean/Gypsy sounds. Davidson per­forms “In the Pines” as an in­dus­trial-edged blues tune with an acous­tic gui­tar and al­tered vo­cals yield­ing to over-amped gui­tar and crazy-loud drums. My fa­vorite is the de­light­fully filthy “Dirty Dozen,” a foul-mouthed coun­try-blues stomp that re­minds me why I love mu­sic in the first place.

A. En­light­en­ment, B. En­dark­en­ment (Hint: There Is No C) by Ray Wylie Hub­bard. As with other re­cent Hub­bard ef­forts, this record fea­tures a min­i­mal­ist bluesy sound. There are lots of slide gui­tar, fierce but sim­ple drums, and lyrics con­cern­ing sin and sal­va­tion — but lit­tle else. Some songs have echoes of blue­grass, with man­dolin, banjo, and fid­dle oc­ca­sion­ally emerg­ing from the pri­mor­dial blues bog.

The Big To-Do by Drive-By Truck­ers. This is the best DBT al­bum since 2004’s

The Dirty South. It’s full of sex, crime, hu­mor, strip­pers, cir­cus acts, and girl­friends who say, “I’m too pretty to work and you’re ug­ly­ing up my house.” All that and loud, loud gui­tars. Un­for­tu­nately, the only medi­ocre song on the al­bum is one ti­tled “Santa Fe.”

A Poi­son Tree by Movie Star Junkies. Im­ages of murder, tor­ture, and be­trayal color the lyrics of this al­bum, which fea­tures dark but melodic tunes col­ored by with spaghetti-Western gui­tars over Farfisa or­gan and drums that evoke march­ing bands. The Junkies proudly cite The Birth­day Party as an in­flu­ence, and sure enough, you can hear echoes of early Nick Cave. The last song, a seven-minute epic called “All Win­ter Long,” ends in a dense in­stru­men­tal with fuzzy gui­tar licks that bring back mem­o­ries of The Elec­tric Prunes.

▼ De­scend­ing Shad­ows by Pierced Ar­rows. With his pre­vi­ous band Dead Moon, singer Fred Cole bragged that he’s “been scream­ing at the top of my lungs since 1965.” That’s true — he was in a band called The Lol­lipop Shoppe that pro­duced a garage-band clas­sic: “You Must Be a Witch.” The good news for Dead Moon fans is that Pierced Ar­rows sounds like a con­tin­u­a­tion of Moon’s ba­sic gui­tar/bass/drums sound. Fred Cole and wife/bassist Toody Cole still sound wild and fe­ro­cious.

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