Into Music’s gig-going team of writers have been at venues near you in the last few weeks, and they will be covering even more music in the coming year. But what have been their Top 5 Songs of 2018?
John Welsh has his say..
#5 The Specials Vote For Me
The first Specials song to feature Terry Hall on vocals since the eponymous Ghost Town, released in 1981, doesn’t miss its mark. Known for their astute social and political lyrical observations, time certainly hasn’t mellowed The Specials.
Vote For Me targets the political leaders of the UK and is right up there with the quality of their early releases 40 odd years ago.
The sound is classic Specials and in particular, the trombone is haunting, melancholic yet melodic at the same time. But it’s the lyrics that stand out and resonate, questioning the integrity of politicians in what is becoming an ever-increasingly disjointed country, split by Brexit, austerity and hate.
With a host of tour dates for 2019 already announced and a new album Encore due out in February, The Specials remain at the forefront of all that’s important in music and culture.
#4 Idles – Danny Nedelko
Great to see The Specials coming back, but what of the new breed? Who is out there making cutting edge music with a socio-political outlook? Step forward Idles with their album Joy As An Act Of Resistance, regarded by many as the album of the year
For me, the stand out track is Danny Nedelko, named after the band’s friend and Ukrainian immigrant. Capturing everything from nationalism to community to friendship to hate it’s a sobering song about pro immigration and diversity, beautifully constructed yet angry in its delivery but with an underlying and empowering message of hope.
He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood
He’s made of flesh, he’s made of love
He’s made of you, he’s made of me
That empowering message is simple, it shouldn’t matter where you, me or whoever is from, we can celebrate our differences and rail against hate and fear in a communal way.
#3 Belle and Sebastian – Best Friend
No one does twee quite as well as Belle and Sebastian and 2018 saw the band release 3 EPs collectively called How To Solve Our Human Problems (Parts 1-3).
The last track on the third EP, Best Friend, co-written with singer-songwriter Carla Easton (who also sings on the song) is three and a half minutes of dreamy pop, encapsulating threads of northern soul and 60s girl group melodies.
The song is well constructed, a cool bass line, strings and drums complement Easton’s fragile yet harmonious vocal perfectly.
#2 Hipsway – Saturday Night (Down In The Garden)
Back in September I was extremely fortunate to be invited along to a play back session of Hipsway’s first album release in almost 30 years. Skin and Pim were quizzed by top journalist/DJ Billy Sloan in between the new songs being played from the then soon to be released Smoke and Dreams album.
It was a great night and I couldn’t wait to hear some of these songs played live. That happened a couple of weeks back at the Barrowland where the band put on a stellar show, mixing old favourites with new tunes.
Saturday Night, from the new album is classic Hipsway, recalling nights in Glasgow’s Rock Garden, Skin’s vocal confident throughout, Pim’s soulful guitar at the forefront from the off. The lyrics too are extremely clever, referencing a commotion here, an altered image there, knowing your ABCs and loving the Bluebells……. speaking of which…….
#1 Fat Cops – Hands Up! Get Down!
The story of how the Fat Cops came about is as unlikely as it is remarkable. Discussions via Twitter in the lead up to the Scottish independence vote in 2014 ultimately brought together a mix of journalists, a musician (Bobby Bluebell), a comedian (Al Murray) and others into what is now a fully fledged band.
The initial output, the wonderful single Hands Up! Get Down! will leave you tapping your foot and nodding your head along to its damn snappy, infectious beat. If it doesn’t, then you’re dead from the neck up.
There’s elements of glam, electronica, pop but the overall sound is hard to pigeonhole. Who do they sound like? They sound like The Fat Cops, that’s who.
It’s an arresting track and if the album is as much cop then it’ll be a force to be reckoned with in 2019, that’s for sure.
JOHN WELSHListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast