Looking back on this year, whatever minute footprint I have made in the world of talking about independent media has an incredibly negative one. I ended 2011 by posting one of the shittiest, misanthropic year-in-review articles ever, where I literally said I was glad some bands broke up. I wrote a review where I essentially said the world doesn’t really need another Hot Water Music record, I wrote an article about gay rights that was more about hating ignorant people, and I got kicked out of a band because I became “a total downer” thus making me “real hard to be in a band with.”
The most widely read thing I have published on this website was an article where I slammed some band I’ve never heard of that approach playing music different than me. But the more I think about it, they are going to carry on doing whatever makes them happy, so fuck me for ever getting so worked up about it. I’ve caught myself live-tweeting about how miserable I am watching a band that I think is horrible, and I once told a co-worker that I like to “make sure I have to talk to as few people as possible” throughout my work day. My friend and former band mate Jeff Claxton (who now drums for a fantastic band from Atlanta called The Bad Mammals) used to call me a “dismal piece of shit” regularly. Looking back on the last 365 days, I don’t think I can argue with that anymore.
So, for this year’s wrap up column, I am going to do something totally different. No negativity and no resounding apathy. For this Year in Review I am going to do something I never actually do: talk about stuff that I was stoked on.
Some Great Bands released some Great records
One of the biggest challenges for independent bands is living up to the hype created by their first “breakthrough” full length. While The Menzingers had released A Lesson In the Abuse of Information Technology before Chamberlain Waits, it’d be hard to argue that the latter wasn’t the record that put them on the map. After making the jump to Epitaph, the Philly-based quartet had a pretty tall hill to climb with their followup full length. I don’t know why it came as a surprise, but On The Impossible Past continued the band’s trend of just knocking every record out of the park. The same with Make Do and Mend and Hostage Calm, both bands who recently released head-turning full lengths, End Measured Mile and Hostage Calm’s self-titled record respectively (I know Hostage Calm had released full lengths prior, but the Menzingers rule applies here as well). Everything You Ever Loved and Please Remain Calm were both stunning examples of how a band can grow as musicians, while still maintaining the hunger and ferocity that set them apart from everyone else.
I thought Craig Finn’s debut solo record was incredible, but as much as I love Clear Heart Full Eyes, after seeing The Hold Steady live this past fall, I am ecstatic to hear something new from them in 2013. I thought Torche put out a total banger with Harmonicraft, and I may be one of the few people out their that think Yellow/Green is by far the best Baroness record to date. The Bronx released two new songs that set a great pace for their fourth proper full length, and Restoration’s 7” on Tiny Engines kept with the bands affinity to bend and mold their genre to something totally unique. Speaking of Restorations, I had the opportunity to ride down with them to the Fest this year, during which I heard them play more than a handful of new songs live…let me just be the first to say that their Side One Dummy Debut will be mind-altering amazing.
I didn’t get into too many new bands this year, but Dikembe and Red Collar were two bands that really resonated with me, both of which were released via Tiny Engines. I know there is a lot of Tiny Engines ultra-love going on around the internet, but I feel like every accolade and positive word spoken about them is totally deserved. Tiny Engines is becoming one of those labels that I “trust,” in the sense that I know every record they release is going to be something worth checking out. I might not always love every band they work with, but they have reached the point where I will always check out every new release. That isn’t something I can say for many labels.
Also, go see Old Flings in 2013. That band is going to turn some heads and make a big dent in this scene next year.
I really enjoyed The WWE this year
For as long as I have known about the “Internet Wrestling Community,” the prominent mantra of the people who inhabit wrestling message boards is that the WWE is just atrocious. Honestly, I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, from what I have watched of Chikara and Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, the pure in-ring wrestling product of the indies may be better than WWE, but nothing can compare to the “moments” that WWE create. When Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and (to a lesser extent) Roman Reigns debuted a couple weeks ago, I lost my fucking mind. When Sheamus beat Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds at WrestleMania and then 4 hours later the Rock beat John Cena, all I could think was this is fucking awesome. I’m enjoying the shit out of myself right now.
I love the WWE because, despite what all the nerds on messages boards have to say, there is no one better at creating themes and telling stories. Sure they get lost in these weird moments where they say that a leprechaun essentially ran the show for over a year via a laptop, but then they do things where they give CM Punk the longest WWE Title Reign in 25 years. CM Punks record breaking WWE Title Reign is without question one of the most exciting things to happen to the WWE because it is an allegory for the notion of the “American Dream.” You work hard, be willing to start at the bottom, and barrel through everything ahead of you, not stopping until you are where you want to be. When you look at CM Punk’s career in totality, that is exactly what he has done, which is why his “Best Int The World” slogan is more than just something printed on the back of a T-Shirt.
Plus, I got to see Antonio Ceasaro dead-lift Brodus Clay several times this year and that was just fucking awesome.
But also, you should be watching TNA
Nobody is perfect. The Bronx are my all time favorite band, but even they have some songs I skip on a couple albums. When TNA rolled in to 2011, I only kept their weekly show on my DVR because that’s what wrestling fans do. Around the time Impact went live, though, TNA began shifting their tide. The buildup to Bound For Glory was incredible, as much as I despise Jeff Hardy, I’ll let it slide if it means I get to see feuds that have meaning and some good matches peppered in as well. Bobby Roode’s title run was great, and although I didn’t get the “Roode vs James Storm for the World Title” payoff I was hoping for, I still think their feud was great, and the 14 month slow-build TNA has been running with James Storm has been fantastic if it means he ends up with the title in 2013. So what I am getting at here is that for every 2 or 3 steps forward TNA makes, they only take about a step back. You have to deal with some goofiness (currently, that is Bully Rays love affair with Brooke Hogan), and yeah the great Aces and Eights angle kind of turned into TNAs version of the Black Scorpion, but it’s still a great program to watch. If you aren’t doing anything this Thursday, tune in and enjoy yourself.
I only saw two movies in the theaters this year…
One was The Dark Knight Rises, because you don’t have a Batman/Gotham City chest piece/half sleeve combo tattoo and not go see that shit as soon as it comes out. So yeah, that’s my favorite movie of the year.
So to sum all of this up
Without going into too many details, I think I can safely say that 2011 was one of the worst years of my life. There were some great things sprinkled throughout, but in general, I’m trying to distance myself as far away from 2011 as possible. Looking back on 2012, all I can say is that I’ve never been happier. I know this is a shock coming from the guy who sometimes runs a blog called STAY NEGATIVE, but everything around me right now is right where it needs to be. My wife is amazing and I’ve got a great extended family of great people. All of the people who I call friends are genuine, solid people and maintaining friendships has never been easier than it is right now. I’m in two of the best bands I think I’ve ever been a part of, and all my friends are creating great music. I used to get real jealous and bitter when bands that once stayed with me at my parents’ house and slept on our floor would go on to do great things in the music world, but now, I’m just happy for them all. It’s cool to feel inspired by the people you know, and seeing my friends and family doing cool shit that makes them happy just makes me want to do more cool shit that makes me happy and spend less time sitting on the Internet talking shit about the people that drive me crazy.
So that’s where I’ve been in 2012. Here’s looking forward to 2013. Be good to yourself and those around you, and everything else will just sort of fall into place.