Published on January 7th, 2015

10. WINGER – Better Days Comin’

THEY’VE outlived Beavis & Butt-head and – more importantly – Stewart Stevenson, the pudgy dag who wore their t-shirt in the MTV animated series. Winger returned in 2014 with a classy, accomplished commercial rock record dripping with hooks and riffs. The scene is set nicely with “Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine” complete with “Detroit Rock City” sound effects. Reb Beech shines on the helter-skelter “Rat Race” but our favourites are a little shower – the glossy “So Long China” and ethereal “Ever Wonder”. If only more people knew about such a quality release.

9. RIVAL SONS – Great Western Valkyrie

IT’s hip to like Rival Sons, the Los Angeles four-piece who are onto their fourth album. But there is definitely something about Great Western Valkyrie that takes it beyond the fuzzed-out retro-rock that is currently in vogue. Those charms are not immediately obvious on lead-off track “Electric Man”, which is full of straightforward bluster. But tracks like “Rich & Poor” plus “Good Things” show a depth of songwriting that elevates Rival Sons above hipster chic. The fact they are garnering all this attention four records in augers well for Rival Sons’ longevity.

 8. NIGHT RANGER – High Road

NIGHT Ranger could probably retire on the proceeds of “Sister Christian”. But as Horsehead once told us, art and commerce are like oil and water – they don’t mix. As artists, these eighties commercial rockers need to keep creating, regardless of the fact only a tiny fraction of their former audience is still listening. High Road would have sold millions a generation ago. The title track is instantly hum-able, “Knock Knock Never Stop” is the hit you haven’t heard before, Joel Hoekstra amps it up on “Rollin’ On”, “Don’t Live Here Anymore” is a timeless ballad, and so it goes on.

7. THE ANGELS – Talk The Talk

To quote the review by our own Alison Hosie “The Angels have (been around) for four decades but something was definitely different. It was like they had suddenly been influenced by The Screaming Jets”. The David Gleeson-fronted Angels take a bit of getting used to but the first track here – the title track – stands proudly alongside anything in their pantheon. And the riffing is back, after the bluesier visage of Taking It To The Streets. “Heart Of Stone”, “Nations Are Falling” and “Broken Windows” underscore a resounding return to form.

6. CALIFORNIA BREED – California Breed

IF there was one trend in rock’n’roll this year, it was the supergroup. This was one the first of the year, and has already disbanded – Glenn Hughes on vox and bass, Jason Bonham on drums and young Andrew Watt on guitar. What they spat out was a slice of classic rock that will go down as one of Hughes’ finest achievements. “Sweat Tea” pricked up everyone’s ears, “All Fall Down” was probably the ballad of the year. If the band does not continue with new drummer Joey Castillo, Watt is nonetheless bound for greatness.

5. TESLA – Simplicity

IN a less illustrious year, this would easily be our best album. The only thing the Sacramento rockers’ seventh studio LP  lacked was filler. From “MP3”, with its commentary on modern life, through “Richochet” which namechecks Tesla’s crew, to “Rise & Fall” about the supernatural and love song “So Divine”, this was grade A stuff. Our personal favourite is “Honestly”, which dices with being generic and wins to such an extent it’s one of 2014’s best songs. There’re even a southern-influenced, lyric heavy ditty called “Flip Side!” and a cool seventies ballad, “Burnout To Fade”.

4. STEEL PANTHER – All You Can Eat

THOSE who dislike Steel Panther are, deep down inside, still embarrassed about their own love of hair metal. The parody exposes something within them that they are uncomfortable about.  Or … they have no sense of humour. All You Can Eat is the best of the cock rock minstrels’ four records; it’s diverse and crunching musically and funny to the point of genius. “These golden girls sure been round the block/One gave me a rim job while she was knitting some socks,” Michael Starr croons on “Gangbang At The Old Folks’ Home”. Loving hair metal and recognising its ridiculousness are not mutually exclusive.

3. TRACER – El Pistolero

ADELAIDE’s Tracer are in the midst of a stunning metamorphosis: from AOR darlings to gnarled purveyors of desert rock. This album is frankly stunning; a heady mixture of Queens Of The Stone Age and Soundgarden set as a parallel-universe soundtrack to Desperado. This is  Kyuss with a vegemite sandwich, the more obtuse elements of stoner rock put though the pub rock wringer. It’s hard to combine sonic calibre with gut-level pathos but somehow Tracer managed do do it on almost every track.

2. ACCEPT – Blind Rage

IT’S hard to imagine a more complete heavy metal album, in any era, than Blind Rage. Of all the examples here that classic era bands are refusing to accept the limited current cultural relevance of their genre, this is the most gleaming. Blind Rage is almost completely cliche-free, if you don’t count tacitly claiming ownership of the metal torch with “Dying Breed”. Instead, subjects covered include human trafficking (“Wanna Be Free”), personal ethics (“The Curse”) and the apocalypse (“200 Years”). And the building-razing shows did this gem justice.

1. ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader

To quote our review: “As soon as you hit play on the title track, something wondrous happens. The years become a blur as things go into reverse, back past new pop, Nu Metal, grunge, hair metal, back as far as – at least – 1978. Everything that has happened since is, for the duration of Space Invader anyway, erased. It’s a rock’n’roll record, full of hooks and fun. It’s an aural comic book, with all the glory and simplicity that implies.This is the album of the year.It’s official: Ace Frehley is a superhero again”.





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