Sunday, 17 December 2017

That Was The Year That Was: 2017

You know the drill by now - after all, this is the seventh time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here's 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011), and by doing so demonstrate just how bloody parochial I've become. I almost didn't bother this year, as I haven't bought many albums or been to many gigs, and I've read even fewer new books, but it's been a good year for television, again, so I'll give it a go and see what happens. You in?

Best album

Low In High School by Morrissey - this has been on permanent rotation in my car since it came out. As musically unpredictable and lyrically extrospective as anything he's ever released.

Honourable mentions: A Kind Revolution by Paul Weller; George Best 30 by The Wedding Present; Welcome, Stranger! by The Blue Aeroplanes; and, filling out the re-issues and anniversary release market that is so big these days, the frankly astounding The Queen Is Dead remastered boxset by The Smiths and the peerless OK Computer OKNOTOK by Radiohead.

Best song

Spent The Day In Bed by Morrissey is the song that has been most sung/whistled/hummed at New Amusements Towers. It's not his finest work, but it has that hooky intro.

Honourable mentions: Rosie Lies by The Holiday Crowd (yes, they do sound a bit Smithsy); Everything Now by Arcade Fire, even if (or maybe, because) it sounds like a lost Simple Minds track from when they were good; and a late entry, Holy Mountain by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Best gig

The Wedding Present performing George Best, in its entirety, at a low-key, intimate venue in Dover. A frantic burn through of songs that have been so important to me for 30 years. Exemplary company, as ever, from The Man Of Cheese in what is fast becoming our annual pilgrimage to Gedge.

Honourable mentions: I was so excited to see The Vapors live, a band that have been important to me even longer than The Wedding Present; The Blue Aeroplanes were also ace, back in January.

Best book

I have read very little new fiction in 2017. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King wasn't bad. It is certainly very timely, with its subtext of how shitty men are to women.

Honourable mentions: the non-fiction Wedding Present coffee table book Sometimes These Words Just Don't Have To Be Said (and not just because I was a contributor).

Best film

In which I blow my aficionado credentials out of the water. The film I most enjoyed all year was Paddington 2, a joyful slice of movie-making that manages to be both innocent and knowing at the same time. Kids scream with laughter, parents get lumps in their throats or something in their eye... and Hugh Grant has a whale of a time. I genuinely came out of the cinema thinking it was a near-perfect film.

Honourable mentions: until Paddington 2 I thought the subtle brilliance of A Ghost Story had this category sewn up; England Is Mine was flawed but fascinating; Blade Runner 2049 had a lot to live up to, but mostly pulled it off; ditto Trainspotting 2.

Best television

Another fiercely contended category. The award goes to Detectorists, for providing a gentle blend of comedy, drama, and real life pathos. If you still haven't got on this, series 3 is currently iPlayer-able. Hurry!

Honourable mentions: another good year for TV (it's the new film, don't you know?). Inside Number 9, right back at the start of the year, was a dark gem; the BBC's historical three-parter Gunpowder was gripping and educational; Chris Packham's documentary Asperger's and Me was worth an hour of anyone's time; and Lego Masters on Channel 4 proved that it is possible for me to remain interested in a competitive reality talent show format.

Best comedy

The new Mitchell and Webb vehicle Back, on Channel 4, made me laugh out loud more than anything else, all year. A little near the knuckle sometimes, but then what else would you expect? Genius dialogue too.

Honourable mentions: last year's winner, Modern Life Is Goodish continues to be brilliant; Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney continued to highlight their all-too-real black comedy in Catastrophe; in a similar vein, Motherland from the Beeb has also impressed; live, Mark Thomas's Show That Gambles On The Future was excellent, and with bonus pathos too.

Best theatre

Not seen much in the way of live theatre this year, so Slava's Snow Show wins, almost by default. Think what would happen if Andy Kaufman was an East European clown, putting on a Christmas show, and you're in the right ballpark.

Honourable mentions: my sister had a spare ticket to see 42nd Street in the West End, so I stepped in as her +1. It's not my bag at all, but I can appreciate a well put together show, and my sister enjoyed herself, so...

Best blogger

Shock result! For the first time in the history of this category, Andrew Collins doesn't win! No, my blogger of the year is perennial runner-up My Top Ten from Rol, who has really upped his game this year, not least with his Saturday Snapshots series. And what really got Rol over the line was this excellent post about Morrissey - cogent, reasoned and massively readable. Everything a good blog should be.

Honourable mentions: blogging is dying art - a blog is to Twitter as cassettes are to MP3s, sadly. Perma-winner Andrew Collins is still brilliant, with music blog Circles Of Life, his paean to British cinema Digging Your Screen and the excellent "other" blog, Never Knowingly Underwhelmed - he's just been much less active in 2017 than in previous years; The (New) Vinyl Villain from JC continues to be a blogging inspiration; and Sun Dried Sparrows from C provides excellent autobiography and terrific period detail in her blog. Also, if there was an award for blog commenting, C would scoop that.

Person of the year

John Oliver, who not only continues to prove how to make it big in America without becoming an arse, he also continues to tell it like it is about Trump (here's a great example... and another... and another...), and most admirable of all, took Dustin Hoffman to task about alleged past sexual harassment. It wasn't on his show, it wasn't professionally filmed, there was a small audience, and Hoffman was one of several famous faces making up a panel to commemorate a 20-year old film. There was no reason for Oliver to take confront Hoffman... but he did it anyway, because he felt it was the right thing to do. Really, watch it if you haven't already.

Honourable mentions: Elon Musk, for driving affordable space travel forward, disrupting received wisdom about missions to Mars, turning the production of decent electric cars into a race, delivering battery tech solutions to real-world problems... forget the slightly cringey hype of the Elon fanboys and concentrate on what he is achieving; and Sir David Attenborough who, on top of everything else he continues to achieve, presided over episode seven of Blue Planet II, the most must-watch episode of another astounding series.

Tool of the year

Trump, of course. How a man with such a tiny dick (according to Melania) can be such a massive cock continues to boggle the mind, and fuck up the world.

Honourable mentions: Boris, Farage, all the usual suspects ... what a depressing year 2017 has been.

And that's it. The year is nearly over, thank Christ. At least we have all got used to weekly celebrity deaths this year. Even so, there's been a lot in 2017 to loathe... but what have you loved?

Footnote: yes, I consciously deferred this post until it was 17.12.17 12.17 - you should pity me, really...


  1. Really interesting list and much nodding of the head here re. Detectorists (wasn't the final episode just bloody perfect in every single way?), Aspergers And Me - also re. Rol's fine blog which indeed has kept me going through many a grey day and I'm full of admiration not only for him being one of those amazing frequent bloggers but for also including both great entertainment with Saturday Snapshots as well as more gritty subject matters to get our teeth into (agreed re. the Morrissey post). Well deserved.
    Thank you too for the honourable mention - I am very honoured - and grateful to have found your blog too this year (I would be reciprocating if I could ever do such a thing as a year end list, but I can't!)

    1. Yes, an absolutely perfect finale to Detectorists.

      Can't do a year end post? Course you can :)

  2. Just starting on Detectorists, really enjoying it. Good list. More power to your elbow.

    1. Cheers. And yes, Detectorists - a gentle joy.

  3. Well, my work here is done. I guess I can call it a day now. What higher accolade could there be? Thanks, Martin.

    And good call re: Paddington 2 too - a genuine family classic, with top-notch performances from all, particularly Hugh.

    The first episode of Back contained my favourite line of dialogue this year. (The "vinyl" bit.)

    Why was The Queen Is Dead re-issue astounding? It didn't seem to contain anything I didn't already have. Maybe I missed something.

    Hoping to get Sleeping Beauties for Christmas... though I still have your book to read now that I'm almost (finally!) finished the Moz-autobiog.

    1. You're welcome, Rol, well deserved!

      My favourite Back dialogue was the description of the local music festival having five stages, and David Mitchell's character's reply.

      I think TQID boxset got me because it gave me an opportunity/excuse to listen to the whole thing, in its entirety, through a decent stereo (rather than the occasional in-car listen or streamed MP3)... and it's bloody wonderful! Also, my appreciation of Johnny's guitar work has been simultaneously elevated by finding a complete Smiths songbook in a charity shop, and trying to play what Johnny played. Genius, so often overused, is the only word for it on this occasion.

      Sleeping Beauties... will be interested to hear what you think. I reckon you can tell which bits King Sr wrote and which he left to King Jr, which makes it a little uneven at times. It's okay, but not a patch on other recent(ish) work like 11.22.63, for example.

      I doubt my book will make many end-of-year lists! It's also quite bleak, so may or may not offer some light relief after the Moz-autobiog...