Our annual writers’ poll results are in and there’s one band that dominated across the board – Melbourne punk rockers Amyl & The Sniffers. In 2021, they released ‘Comfort To Me’, which has been voted our Album Of The Year. Here’s why…
Great snakes! Amyl & The Sniffers’ second album of blistering punk rock, Comfort To Me, is undeniable.
It would be easy to assume that Amy Taylor’s confrontational vocal style is the key to the band’s appeal, or that the pure, unadulterated currents of energy that flow through the rhythm section of every track on this album is the secret. But plenty of singers can serve snide disenfranchisement, or channel righteous anger, and plenty of bands can turn up the volume on their amps to eleven. What Amyl & The Sniffers offer is belief – belief in a person’s capacity for love and dignity in the face of ignominy and violence.
This is the animating energy that Taylor sings about in the opening song, Guided By Angels. It’s the power that transcends linear time in Hertz, and it’s what makes this Melbourne-based band beloved by fans well beyond the pub rock circuit.
“Will you let me in your hard heart, let me in your pub?” Taylor sings on Security, wearing down not only the guard’s defences, but ours too.
Beneath the surface-level sheen of misanthropy and rage beats a generous and open heart. Look no further than the way the initial blast of abrasion that begins Freaks To The Front (“Get on my level or get out my way!”) is counterpointed by the end of the song with a disarming declaration of universal personal dignity: “Everyone in this room deserves to have fun.” In other words, the level we are invited to get on is one that is radically accessible to everyone.
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Simultaneously, broader issues like colonisation and climate change complicate the personal struggle for self-acceptance. “Meanwhile,I only just started learning basic politics,” Taylor fumes on Capital, before adding, “meanwhile, they sexualise my body”. The sense of concurrency indicated by these ‘meanwhiles’ is indicative of the scope of Taylor’s songwriting, which adroitly navigates the convergence of the personal and political.
Most compellingly though, the belief in the possibility of growth and self-actualisation remains grounded – quite literally – in a sense of place. Album closer Snakes finds Taylor describing childhood memories of a home among the gyprock and gumtrees where nature and its changes is inescapable: “Snakes in the shed where we all slept our heads.”These snakes writhe with metaphorical and spiritual meaning, wriggling around inside the song as Taylor sings about shedding her own skin as she submits to change. The word even becomes used as punctuation, expanding in meaning as it evolves into a mantra. (“Snakes!”) Angels, serpents, and gruff security guards: this is a startling record of astonishing proportions.
2020: Miiesha - Nyaaringu
2019: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell!
2018: Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
2017: Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
2016: David Bowie - Blackstar
2015: Tame Impala - Currents
2014: Chet Faker - Built On Glass
2013: Kanye West - Yeezus
2012: Tame Impala - Lonerism
2011: Bon Iver - Bon Iver
2010: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs