Tag Archives: The Computers

2013 Albums of the Year – Part One

It’s end-of-year list time again, when every music blogger is compelled to go back through the year’s record releases and try to pick out the best of them,

Let’s get the obvious disclaimers out of the way first. This is not intended to be a definitive list of the very best albums released in the year. For starters all preferences are personal and subjective. And secondly and more importantly, it’s restricted to those records I’ve actually had the chance to hear. There are no doubt a great many awesome releases I haven’t heard yet.

After many repeated listens I’ve managed to whittle the list down to 21 (Why 21? Why not?). The fact that it turned out to be very hard to restrict it to just 21 speaks volumes about how great a year it’s been. One or two big names ended up not making the cut.

So, without further ago, here’s the first half of my list,  Had I not abandoned trying to sort them all into meaningful order as an impossible task, they would be 21 down 11. As it is, they’re sorted alphabetically.

Big Big Train English Electric Part Two

English Electric Part 2The second half of English Electric follows in a similar vein to the first, with their very evocative and very English brand of pastoral progressive rock. The storytelling lyrical focus shifts to northern England and the twentieth century with tales of railwaymen, coal miners and shipbuilders, and it all sounds far more authentic than much 80s-style neo-prog.

Black Sabbath13

Black Sabbath 13Neither quite the masterpiece some hoped for nor the trainwreck some feared, the reunion of Ozzy Osborne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler still delivers a very solid piece of work that proves they still have something to say after all these years. If this does prove to be their final album, it’s a worthy addition to their legacy.

The Computers Love Triangles, Hate Squares

The Computers Love Triangles Hate SquaresThe best no-nonsense old-fashioned rock and roll record I’ve heard all year, by a band who sound as as though they have one foot in 1958 and one in 2013, full of short and punchy tunes that hit you right between the eyes. The end result somehow ends up reminding me of some aspects of very early Blue Öyster Cult.

CosmografThe Man Left In Space

Cosmograf - The Man Left In SpaceAn evocative and atmospheric album from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Robin Armstrong. Though there are guest appearances from Matt Stevens and Nick D’Virgilio amongst others, Robin plays most of the instrumentation from guitars to drums to keys. The haunting title track is a standout, perhaps one of the songs of the year, and there’s a lot to like across the rest of the album.

The Fierce and The DeadSpooky Action

Spooky ActionMatt Stevens and his band in full electric mode mixing progressive rock, post-punk, indie/alternative and metal resulting in the instrumental record of the year. Narrow genre definitions cannot contain this record; it’s the sort of thing that ought to have a huge crossover appeal way beyond the narrow confines of the Prog world.

King BathmatOvercoming the Monster

KingBathmat - Overcoming The MonsterA powerful combination of grungy guitar riffs with progressive rock textures and melodies, sounding like what you might get if you combined Black Sabbath with Spock’s Beard. The end result is a record with a very contemporary feel despite its use of organic 70s sounds, old-school progressive rock reinvented for the 21st Century.


Maschine - RubidiumThe long-awaited début from Luke Machin’s band combines some stunning instrumental virtuosity with a very mature approach to composition. Their complex and ambitious songs are a seamless blend of metal, jazz and rock into, with great use of dynamics and an ear for a good melody. This is the sound of a band from whom we can probably expect great things over the coming years.

Mr So and SoTruth & Half Lies

Mr So and So - Truth and Half LiesThe fruit of a successful Pledge Music project, Mr So and So’s fourth album is by far their most impressive to date. It’s a hugely varied record with some strong songwriting that uses their distinctive dual male/female lead vocals to great effect, and the harder-edged guitar-driven sound strongly captures the power and energy of their live performances.

RiversideShrine of the New Generation Slaves

Riverside - Shrine of the New Generation SlavesRiverside have always been one of Poland’s finest bands, and with the combination of 70s Deep Purple style hard rock riffs and Porcupine Tree style atmospherics they have delivered what might be their best album to date. They may wear their influences on their sleeves to some extent, but they have more than enough creativity of there own to be any kind of pastiche.

Rob Cottingham Captain Blue

Rob Cottingham - Captain BlueA solo album from Touchstone’s keyboard player, aided and abetted by a strong supporting cast including Touchstone guitarist Adam Hodgson and former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay. It’s a concept album with a Gerry Anderson flavour, with music reminiscent of Touchstone’s early days, plus the occasional excursion into disco-pop.

Thea GilmoreRegardless

Thea Gilmore – RegardlessAn album of Americana-tinged songs with stripped-down arrangements that emphasise the fragile beauty of the Thea Gilmore’s heartfelt vocals, enhanced this time by a string section to add some extra colour.

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The Damned, Reading Sub89

Punk veterans The Damned have long had a reputation as an entertaining live band, and have been on my “to see live” list for a long time. After missing previous tours because of clashes with other gigs, their appearance at Reading’s Sub89 seemed to good an opportunity to miss.

Even for a Wednesday evening they still managed to pull a good-sized crowd for a school night, albeit notably older and more male than many a prog-rock gig I’ve attended in recent years.

 The support band was Exeter’s The Computers. Ever had a band’s name and looks sets up expectations of how they will sound, then see them proceed to nuke those expectations? The Computers did precisely that. They came on stage in suits and skinny ties, leading you to think they’d be some kind of 80s new-wave revivalists. But from the moment they struck up the opening notes of “Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster” it became clear they were something very different.

The Computers have one foot in 1958 and one foot in 2013. While there are a whole load of other influences in there, the overall feel is very old school rock’n'roll with a contemporary rock makeover, with Hammond organ in the mix setting them apart from being purely retro rockabilly revivalists. They played with amounts of energy as well as being awesomely tight, with frontman Alex Kershaw adopting the style of revivalist preacher in much the same way as Hayseed Dixie’s Barley Scotch. They have to be one of the best “unknown” support acts I’ve seen for a long while.

After that excitement, there was some doubt over whether or not we’d actually get to see The Damned. As they took the stage, a knobhead in the front row took it upon himself to throw a full pint at Captain Sensible, who stormed off stage, followed by the rest of the band. After a worryingly long delay, with a stern warning from a roadie not to throw things at the band, they did eventually reappear and proceeded to deliver a storming set.

Like many acts of their vintage, The Damned are down to a couple of original members in the shape of lead singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, supporting by three much newer and younger-looking recruits. Their greatest hits set featured numbers right across their career. They played oldies from the punk years like “New Rose” and “Smash it Up” alongside the later goth-psychdelia of “Grimly Fiendish” and an excellent cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or”, even though they avoided their 17-minute prog-rock epic “Curtain Call” (Bah!). Despite Dave Vanian being the only constant factor in the band’s lineup over the years, Captain Sensible seems take have taken on the role of band leader and effective frontman. It was The Captain who did most of the song introductions, and it was his guitar playing that dominated the sound, with more than enough soloing to please any classic rock fan, even on the punkier songs.

Rock’s historians have always looked down their noses at The Damned, a band who never took themselves too seriously, rejecting them in favour of the po-faced posturing from the likes of The Clash. But despite never having been one of the fashionable of the 70s punk movement, their enduring sense of fun makes for a great live band, even thirty-plus years on. The Damned have still got it.

(Photos from Steve Cotton/Art of the State, used with kind permission)

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