16 Ways To Say We Love Xtra Mile
16 Essential Albums from Each Year of Xtra Mile’s Existence
A record label is not a book, a film or an album. It isn’t planned out way in advance; it’s more organic than that. There’s no beginning, middle and end and there’s not necessarily consistency as the years go on. It’s just existing from year to year, gradually making better decisions and hoping for a hit. Xtra Mile has its 16th birthday this year (2019) and in those 16 years, it has released a great many memorable records. This will not be the last post looking at albums from XMR, but it made sense to start with the defining albums in each year since its inception. Of course these could only be picked in retrospect, and 2019 still has plenty of releases to go, from Johnny Lloyd’s debut solo to some unannounced gems.
Million Dead – A Song To Ruin
There literally was no other choice. But even if there was, this album would be hard pressed to be pushed to second place. Like most of your favourite bands, Million Dead just happened to stumble into my life (and many others’) at the right point: my tastes in music had tilted towards the heavier side of things while still craving pace, lyrical complexity and something other than oversaturated guitars. Million Dead were a bare bones single guitar, bass, set of drums and vocals. Nothing fancy. Riffs were syncopated, dappled, halted lines dredged from post-punk rather than UK hardcore. Frank Turner’s vocals were barked, screamed and sung in impossible counts of syllables in too few bars as if what he had say was trying to match the urgency of their cacophony. I was convinced Ben Dawson was one of the best drummers in the country, seemingly meshing heavy hitting flurries with an esoteric approach to percussion. Julia Ruiszca dominated the low end, both punctuating and steaming through the songs. All of this made A Song To Ruin a compelling listen. It wasn’t without its flaws, but even those were fascinating - the slow, excruciating build of Relentless, the kalashnikoff indie riot of I Am the Party. But each song balanced its searing energy with melodic heart or a brooding or tangled passage inbetween screaming. The curtain call of The Rise and Fall is possibly the perfect early Million Dead song, scratching the surface of Middle Eastern history with an unstoppable chromatic riff and verse guitar melody. It all eventually resolves into an ascending riff with vocals to match as Ben Dawson screeches from behind his drum kit and Frank promises that he always heard better in the dark. Everything but a an uncertain melody guitar line halts for a few bars before everyhting collapses in on itself. A perennial set closer, the warped sonic barrage at the end, which runs to over 20 minutes, is forever lodged in my head. A Song To Ruin was everything, but led to so much more to come.
Reuben – Racecar Is Racecar Backwards
This album exists in a strange place between absolute classic and a classic could’ve been. Hitting around the time when heavier, weirder bands were getting played on M2 (MTV2) – a TV channel broadcast live on satellite / cable television that played almost exclusively music videos – Reuben soared in with their excorating melodies and monolithic riffs. Their debut album is a 16-song fanfare for alternative rock in the British sense. Unafraid to sing over awkward guitar lines, perfectly capable of detonating heavy guitars mid-song, Jamie Lenman’s molten vocals tore their way through the tesselated riffs and rhythm. The musicianship throughout is extraordinary, meaning