Monday, 20 July 2009

Sky Blue Sky - Wilco

Sky Blue Sky Review - Rolling Stone Magazine 14th May 2007

I’ve never seen Wilco so, unlike the other items on this blog, I don’t have any stories of live experiences or funny anecdotes. Unlike most bands, Wilco were not obvious, in fact Wilco crept up on me when I wasn’t looking and sat next to me waiting to be noticed. Once I had noticed them and listened to more and more albums, many of the bands I had, by heart, sited as major players in my best of list all shifted down a place.

I first came across Wilco when I bought Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. A collection of unrecorded songs written by Woody Guthrie.

Extracts from billybragg.co.uk

Woody Guthrie was the dean of American folk artists, the author of such classics as This Land is Your Land, Pastures of Plenty, Deportees, I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Any More and Rueben James. His giant influence on the entire course of American popular music, not least Bob Dylan’s acknowledgement of his debt to Guthrie, made him one of the seminal artists of the 20th Century. At the time of his death, in 1967, however, Guthrie left behind some 2500 unfinished songs, the lyrics to which were belatedly discovered many years later in the archives.

Guthrie’s daughter, Nora, first became aware of Billy Bragg in 1992, when he performed at New York City’s Summerstage birthday celebration for Woody. “Although he had come out of a punk rock background, he could sing along with the country and western singers, the folkies and just about everyone else who appeared in the show,” says Nora Guthrie.

Nora Guthrie decided that Bragg was the perfect candidate to set new music to the unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. There was no record of any music being written, thus Bragg was given the task of ‘reinventing’ original Woody Guthrie songs. The lyrics – about New York City streets, film star idols, drinking, loving, dying and even spaceships - were specifically chosen because they presented a completely different aspect to Woody Guthrie’s public persona. Bragg’s role was to provide the musical platform for a previously ‘unexplored’ Guthrie.

The result was Mermaid Avenue, released in 1998. Bragg’s collaborators on the project were American alt-country rockers, Wilco. Recordings began in Wilco’s hometown of Chicago and then in Dublin, where English fiddler Eliza Carthy and bluesman Corey Harris made their contributions. Natalie Merchant also added her talents when Bragg was finishing the recordings in Boston.

I bought this album on the back of being a huge Billy Bragg fan. Initially I would concentrate on the Billy tracks, not taking much notice of Wilco. Overtime I found the Wilco tracks more interesting, soulful and beautiful. For me Jeff Tweedy has the ultimate American singing voice.

Moving on from Mermaid Avenue I bought Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and then A Ghost Is Born, both classic albums. After these, of course, the whole back catalogue! I really can’t help myself!

Blue Sky Blue was one of the first albums I had ever downloaded but for some reason I lost it. Six months after downloading it I found it hidden in some obsolete folder on my PC and uploaded to my ipod. This album was well worth the wait, a total departure from anything they had done before, this was more soft country ballads, more delicate, ‘Either Way’, ‘Sky Blue Sky’, ‘Please Be Patient With Me’.  Of course there is always room for the familiar Wilco sound with the very good ‘Impossible Germany’ and ‘Side With The Seeds’ which has elements of one of my other great musical loves, ‘Pavement’.

As I type this I am listening to the new album, ‘Wilco The Album’, not so sure it’s going to replace this one just yet!!!

Impossible Germany

Please Be Patient With Me

Sky Blue Sky

Monday, 4 May 2009

Nowhere - Ride

Nowhere review - iJamming.net

Hear the complete album HERE

I first heard Ride whilst visiting my friend, Paul Morris. He was always first to pick up on the new bands back in the 80’s and 90’s. He got me into The Pale Fountains during the Pacific Street era and Aztec Camera, pre Oblivious! Paul had got hold of Ride’s first EP, released 15th January 1990, from a small independent record store situated in Inches Yard, Newbury (the store has since burned down, happening soon after the arrival of some intense competition with the arrival of Our Price Records!).

The EP opened with Chelsea Girl, a fast and furious song splashed with psychedelia and plenty of screaming Wah Wah. Funnily enough on first listening I had a problem with the vocals, the harmonies and the melodies were good, but to me, the combination of Mark Gardner and Andy Bell’s vocals were reminiscent to pirates singing some kind of sea shanty!! This is particularly so on the opening track of Nowhere, ‘Seagull’!! I got used to the sound pretty quickly but it still brings a smile to my face when I listen to them!!

After hearing the Ride EP I visited the soon to be burnt down record shop and purchased my own copy closely followed by their second EP, Play. Both EP’s can now be found packaged together on a CD entitled ‘Shine’. Again, an appearance on Snub TV also helped me build a relationship with this band, they looked right and sounded right, the full package. Looking back at pictures of me at the time I can quite possibly say that I was very much influenced by them!!

When Nowhere came out I wasn’t overly keen on it. I’d fallen in love with songs like Drive Blind, Close My Eyes and Perfect Time, all quite basic with the Ride 1990’s wall of sound. Nowhere was clearer, more structure with some well thought out layers. The only song which sounded anything like the two first EPs was Seagull. This was the opening track on the album, a comfortable familiar song which welcomed me to the record. As that song finish the sound of Ride I was accustomed to ended. I was disappointed at first but the album is a grower, after 5 or so listens Seagull sounded dated compared with the rest of the record.

Classic tracks on the album include Kaleidoscope, Dreams Burn Down, Vapour Trail and of course Nowhere.

Over the years I’ve seen Ride a number of times, Reading Festival, headlining the greatly missed Slough Festival (Revolver, Thousand Yard Stare) and supporting Pixies at Crystal Palace bowl, (this was memorable as this is where I first met Lion Man!).

One of the best shows was the homecoming performance at Oxford Apollo Theatre. This is where I bought my Leave Them All Behind T-Shirt which unfortunately no longer fits, but I’m working on getting back into it!!!

Another memorable performance was at the Brighton Centre, December 1994. A friend had got me a ticket to the Oasis fanclub concert, at this point I’d like to say that I hate Oasis but it was a night out!! Supporting Oasis that night was The La’s, Lee Mavers less John Power. When they had finished I went to get the beers in. I was carrying 4 pints of beer over to where my mates were waiting, then suddenly the sound of the synth part from Leave Them All Behind drifted in from the auditorium, my mates legged it and I was left there carrying 4 pints!! Realising is was a long introduction I managed to sink two pints before joining them.

The last time I saw Ride was as a fanclub performance at The Garage, Highbury .Ride were making the video for ‘How Does It Feel To Feel’, £5 in advance. It was a good night, they played along to the backing track of the new single 4 or 5 times and then treated us to about an hour of hits and favourites.

By this time the direction they’d chosen to take was heading away from where I was going, sad but have some great memories of a great band.

Chelsea Girl – Brixton 1992

Seagull

Vapour Trail

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Superfuzz Bigmuff – Mudhoney

 

Album Review

Hear samples of the album HERE

I first came across Mudhoney when I saw them supporting Sonic Youth at the Kilburn National Ballroom on 23rd of March 1989 (See Daydream Nation). I had been told in advance that they were playing by a girl at work, stating that they were ‘pretty wild’, an understatement as it turned out!!

I arrived a little late so missed the start of the set. I worked my way through the Kilburn National foyer and headed to the bar on the right. I ordered a pint and then headed for the heavy black rubber doors of the auditorium. As I opened the door I was nearly thrown backwards by the shockwave of Mark Arm screaming  ‘I open my eyes, Watch the sky turn blue, I felt so good I almost forgot all about you’!!!!! (If I think). The sound was so powerful, it felt like I’d been smacked around the head by an invisible concrete slab!

I found the following set list from the gig;

3/23/89 Kilburn National Ballroom. London, England
Supporting: Sonic Youth
Supported By: Sperm Wails

Set: Mudride, Here Comes Sickness, No One Has, If I Think, Burn it Clean, Sweet Young Thing, This Gift, Touch Me I'm Sick (set incomplete and out of order after the first three songs)
With Sonic Youth: I Wanna Be Your Dog

Notes: For Sonic Youth's encore, Mudhoney comes out and plays I Wanna Be Your Dog with the group. The guys start throwing Kim Gordon and the rest of Sonic Youth around, and it turns into a big noisy mess, with people and instruments flying.

Mudhoney’s performance was wild, Mark Arm and Steve Turner either running into or jumping on each other while they played a heavy rhythm with a heavy dose of feedback overlaid! Bodies were flying, guitars were flying and hair!!!! So much hair!!!

Following this gig I went out and bought Superfuzz Bigmuff. The first track I already knew. Sonic Youth and Mudhoney had released a joint 12 inch single. Mudhoney performing the Sonic Youth track ‘Halloween’ and Sonic Youth performing the Mudhoney track ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’. I loved the Sonic Youth version with Kim Gordon on vocals however this version soon became second place to the Mudhoney version which was very gritty and dirty unlike the Sonic Youth version which was surprisingly clean!

Touch Me I'm Sick / Halloween - album cover

Stand out tracks are ‘If I Think’ and the awesome ‘In 'N' Out of Grace‘. A lightning speed rocker complete with duelling feedback guitar solos! The track started with the sample from the film ‘The Wild One’ staring Marlon Brando, later RIPPED OFF by Primal Scream on ‘Loaded’;

“We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! We want to be free to ride. And we want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by man. And we want to get loaded!!!”

A truly wonderful album which lead on to so much…………

I was going to finish here, saving this story for later on, but what the heck!!!!

I was reading some record reviews in NME, the year was 1989. I came across a review which jumped out at me, within the first paragraph the review stated that ‘anyone that loved Mudhoney would love this band’.

That was enough for me, the next time I was in London I headed into Virgin Records and bought an album called ‘Bleach’ by a little known band named Nirvana!!!

Touch Me I’m Sick - 1991

In ‘N’ Out Of Grace

Sweet Young Thing/Chain That Door

Monday, 23 February 2009

Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth

 

Album Review – Rolling Stone Magazine – 12/01/1989

Hear the whole album HERE

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation, the first ‘art’,’drone’, ‘grunge’ (call it what you will) album I bought after my earlier discovery of Pixies. A guitar driven album built upon discord, violence and beauty. Thurston Moore described this album as sounding ‘like the 1 train pulling out of Time Square’, such an accurate description as this album screeches and crashes and clashes as it hits your ear drum. A phenomenal album.

My memory is very sketchy as to why I bought this album. There are 3 different stories which may have lead me to the buy the album but 20 years on I can’t remember what came first. So I hope that by writing down all three stories they may jog my memory and make me a happy man for a day or two!!

1. In the 80’s NME, every few months, would give away a free 7 inch single. The single would have 3 or 4 artists on it, generally 2 on each side. The first single was released in 1985 and featured Bronski Beat (Hard Rain), Cocteau Twins (Ivo), The Smiths (What She Said (live)) and U2 (Wire). Very collectable now although I’d just found this single selling for 99p on Ebay!!!

In February 1987 NME added to the free EP series by releasing an single entitled NME’s Hat Trick. This single included Steinski & Mass Media (The Motorcade Sped On), Sonic Youth (White Cross Live In Tallahassee, Florida) and Sly & Robbie (When You're Hot You're Hot)

This was the first time that I’d heard Sonic Youth, the guitar was loud and very aggressive, clashing and battling with the rhythm section. I’d never heard guitar like this before, it wasn’t until I later saw them that I found out that they achieved these sound by de-tuning and jamming a screwdriver under the strings on the fret board! I still have the single, probably under my old bed at my Mum and Dad’s house, scratched to death and over played.

So did I buy Daydream Nation on the back of this single?? Possibly, I first heard Sonic Youth in February 1987 and Daydream Nation was released in October 1988.

2. Snub TV – BBC 2 once aired a music Series called Snub TV. The idea of the programme was to showcase bands that were not mainstream and were being ‘snubbed’ by the likes of The Tube, Whistle Test and Top of The Pops! This programme helped me discover many new bands. I particularly remember seeing Dinosaur Jr for the first time on this show playing Freak Scene. The programme also included Utra Vivid Scene, Spaceman 3, World Domination Enterprises and the Stone Roses.

Sonic Youth appeared on Snub TV with an extended piece where they performed Teenage Riot and Providence, both from Daydream Nation. The piece also included film of the band being interviewed. I remember very clearly Thurston Moore claiming that Sharon Tate’s foetus was king of the hippies!

I videoed this particular show and played it again and again. I loved everything about this band, so much so that I started to copy their fashion, adopted a drop-out attitude and stuck a screwdriver in my lovely Vox Les Paul!!

So did I buy Daydream Nation on the back of this appearance on Snub TV??

3. My friend, Andy Tubb called me and asked me if I wanted to go see Sonic Youth. It was the Daydream Nation tour, Kilburn National Ballroom on 23rd of March 1989. Sonic Youth were being supported by Mudhoney! (Expect the inclusion of Super Fuzz Big Muff in my top 50 soon!)

The gig was brilliant, everything that i expected it to be, loud and sweaty. In between songs, Thurston would put on a tape of The Carpenters whilst they swapped guitars or tuned up. I also remember him asking the lighting man to make him green, ‘I can only play the guitar when I’m green’!!!

The night ended with Mudhoney joining Sonic Youth on stage for the final encore, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by the Stooges. At some point Mark Arm (Mudhoney) leap onto Thurston and pulled his trousers down!!! A very good night!!!

So did I buy Daydream Nation on the back of this gig??? You know what, I don’t know and I don’t really care!! I’ve got the album, and that is all that counts!!!

Teenage Riot

Sonic Youth on Snub TV 1989

Part 1

Part 2

The Sprawl

 

 

Monday, 2 February 2009

Ill Communication – Beastie Boys

 

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine – 1994

Listen to the complete album HERE

I’m not really a lover of Hip Hop, perhaps I’m too old, from the wrong generation or just don’t understand! There is the occasional track which will jump out at me such as ‘20 seconds to comply’ by Silver Bullet and the very excellent ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip. How many Hip Hop songs include a reference to Syd Barrett!!!! 

Ill Communication was the first Hip Hop album I bought, I have bought all Beastie Boys albums since it’s release but none have matched this classic. The album itself sounds like it was recorded live, directly onto tape. It’s very rough in it’s mix, having an almost dirty sound. It fits in very well with some of the other lo-fi records that I had been listening to for years.

I love the way this album flashes from the pure Hip Hop of ‘Flute Loop’, to the punk sound of ‘Heart Attack Man’, with the jazziness of ‘The Update’. A true talented group of musician backed up with Money Mark on keyboards and Mix Master Mike on decks.

Another strong sound which oozes out of this album is the, almost, 1970’s incidental cop show music. A funky groove with plenty going on in the percussion department. The kind of music which would accompany Dirty Harry as he chased a punk down a derelict back street  with  his Magnum 44 in hand!

Honestly, this album is a contender for my top 10, but we shall just have to wait and see!

Sure Shot

Sabotage

Root Down

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Live At Leeds (Deluxe Edition)– The Who

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine

Hear samples of the album Here

I have a few live albums, most act as a good record of a band’s performance at the time, but rarely will a live album excite. This album is different, there is something very special about it.

Yes, it’s a great live document, but I think this album outshines anything The Who ever did in the studio. This is The Who, raw and naked. All four personalities are at the forefront on this album and you get to chose who you want to listen to without the rest of the band drowning out your attention.

Sometimes I may just chose to listen to Keith Moon’s drums on ‘Sparks’, Pete Townshend’s guitar on ‘Young Man Blues’, John Entwistle’s bass on ‘My Generation’, Roger Daltery’s vocals on ‘We’re Not Going To Take It/See Me Hear Me’! And here’s a notion, I may even chose to listen to all four on ‘Heaven And Hell’!!! You can take what you want from this album for the pure fact that it has something for everyone.

I originally acquired this album back in 1984. I didn’t buy it, I was given it by a friend who didn’t have a record player. The record itself had been re-release on a budget label, I know that as it still had the ‘Nice Price’ £2.99 sticker on it! My cheap, very flexible vinyl record was a re-release of the original album released in 1970 with the following track list;

Side 1:

  1. Young Man Blues
  2. Substitute
  3. Summertime Blues
  4. Shakin’ All Over

Side 2:

  1. My Generation
  2. Magic Bus

I always felt that the album didn’t have a natural running order, it felt like the tracks didn’t flowed into each other to transform the album into a single piece of work, it was all very ‘bits and pieces’.

In 1995 the album was remastered and re-released. This time the track list was expanded to include Heaven and Hell, I Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, A Quick One While He’s Away and Amazing Journey/Sparks.

Finally, In 2001, the Deluxe version was released. This included the 1995 remastered album plus a second disc which featured a live performance of ‘Tommy’, minus ‘Cousin Kevin", "Underture", "Sensation", and "Welcome" which were omitted from the live performance.

In the 2001 Deluxe edition I now feel that I am experiencing a Who concert at a time when they were most powerful. The album flows, you can feel the atmosphere (helped by the inclusion of chat and banter), you can imagine being there.

At the start of this piece I said that there are not many live albums which really excite, The Who Live At Leeds excites!

The Who Live at Leeds 2--BBC Look North

Monday, 26 January 2009

Zilch - Shack

 

cover-zilch

Links

Album Review – Shacknet

The Magical World Of Michael Head

Official Website

Surprisingly, not one track from Zilch was included on Shack’s ‘Best Of’, ‘Time Machine’. Surprising to me because this album meant so much to me, it was the soundtrack to my life as a 21 year old student living in Liverpool. I must have listened to it a thousand times back in 1988, it was never out of my tape machine. I knew all the words, all the guitar parts and living in Liverpool at the time, knew, most importantly, what the songs were about about and where they came from.

Stand out tracks – Well all of them!! Emergency" / "Someone's Knocking" / "John Kline" / "I Need You" / "Realization" / "High Rise Low Life" / "Who Killed Clayton Square?" / "Who'd Believe it?" / "What's it Like..." / "The Believers"

So how did I find Shack? Well it all started when I went to see Echo & The Bunnymen at the National Ballroom Kilburn on the ‘Songs To Learn and Sing’ tour. The support band that night were ‘The Pale Fountains’. I won’t go too deeply into this story as I want to save it for The Pale Fountains’ ‘From Across The Kitchen Table’ album, but let’s just say that when my friend, Robert and I, who played together in a band, heard The Pale Fountains for the first time, looked at each other and said ‘this is what we want to sound like’!

In 1986 I moved to Liverpool to study at the Polytechnic, now John Moores University. I found out that the Pale Fountain’s were playing at a club called the ‘Mardi Gras’ and bought my ticket. My memory fails me somewhat here, but it was either a few days prior to the gig or the actual night itself when I turned up at the ‘Mardi’ to find an A4 sheet of paper stuck to the upstairs entrance to the club announcing that the gig was cancelled. I then heard that they had disbanded. So that was it, no more Pale Fountains.

About a year later I was visiting my friend, Paul Morris. He’d been a Pale Fountains fan from the start, owning the 12”s of ‘Thank You’ and ‘Palm Off My Hand’ which, incidentally, I now own after swapping ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Still On Fire’ 12 inchers by Aztec Camera!!! He handed me a cassette of Zilch by Shack telling me that this was the new band of Michael and John Head, ex Pale Fountains. Paul lent me that tape which I kept for the next year. When I offered it back he told me that I could keep it, I’d had it so long that he’d gone out and bought a new copy for himself!

Other Shack related memories

One night at the ‘Mardi Gras’ I met a girl named Sarah Thomas,  short bobbed red head, think she was doing textiles at the fashion school. We became close and started going out. She was pally with the band so from time to time we’d go onto parties with them after the club had kicked out. I remember one night being loaded into the back of the band’s box van/lorry which had all their gear in it and heading across Liverpool to a party that we’d heard was on. Upon arrival we all bundled into the house to find about 5 people sitting in front of the TV watching a video! Suffice to say we drank all their beer and eat all their food and left!!

Live

I remember seeing Mick and John playing an acoustic set at a Lesbian benefit in a club on Hardman Street. I still have the ticket! I remember being a little disappointed that it wasn’t the full band. That disappointment was washed away as soon as they started to play. It was brilliant and made even better by the intimate atmosphere. If I remember correctly, I nicked the set list that night and my mate Ian nicked a pedal switch thinking that it was an effects pedal!!!

On another occasion I saw them play at Bluecoats. I remember they had TV screens on each side of the stage showing a looped film of someone wearing a pair of Doc Marten boots, stamping. Think it was from the ‘High Rise Low Life’ single cover. The gig was packed and I had trouble seeing the band, to make matters worse Mick Head seemed to spend more time on his knees than I’d ever seen before!!!

Another memorable thing about this gig was that on the way in you could get the old ‘suede head’ cut from the most well known barber in Liverpool, Victor! I chose not to get my hair cut that night as Victor had cut it a few day previously! I wonder if he is still around???

Shack 1988 Interview with Mick and John Head – Includes Emergency and High Rise Low Life Videos

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim - Pixies

 

Links

Album Review - bbc.co.uk

First of all let’s get the Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim issue out of the way. Yes I know that they are 2 separate pieces of work, Come On Pilgrim (mini album) released September 1987 and Surfer Rosa (debut album) released March 1988. However when I bought the album on CD, both albums were included on the same disc so I do not differentiate between the two, I see them as one brilliant and seamless album.

I was first introduced to Pixies in 1988 whilst living in Liverpool. One of my house mates, Tony Paris, had bought the tape of Surfer Rosa and lent it to me. I must have played that tape about a thousand times and probably wore it out! The music on Surfer Rosa was different from anything I’d heard before. The progression in chords, majors to minors, sharps to flats on places where they shouldn’t be! Of course now it’s common place, listen to Nevermind by Nirvana and Pixies influence is written all over it.

The image of the band was also different. Pixies were not trying to be rock stars or rock gods, there were just a group of very talented normal looking people who wouldn’t turn a head if you passed them in the street. In fact the reason they chose the name ‘Pixies’ is because the wanted the least rock n roll band name that they could come up with, joking that it was either ‘Pixies’ or ‘Lords Of Destruction’!

All of the songs on this album have something about them, all classics. Obviously I have favourites and least favourite songs, this does not mean that the least favourites are rubbish. For instance I’ve never really liked ‘Gigantic’ probably because my name is Paul and I always hated the way Kim Deal would sing ‘Hey Pawl, Hey Pawl, Hey Pawl, let’s have a Bawl’. But it is a pop masterpiece.

Live

I’ve seen Pixies live many times. Here are a few memories of live performances.

First saw Pixies at Glastonbury at about 1400 in the afternoon. They had been on tour with the Throwing Muses as a 4AD package. At Glastonbury they played before the Throwing Muses as was the order of appearance on tour. As Pixies popularity increased it was Pixies who, by the end of the tour, were headlining!

National Ballroom – Kilburn (Doolittle Tour) – The band played their set backwards. They came on, played ‘Into The White’, their usual encore and then walked off for 10 minutes whilst we cheered and clapped, trying to get them back on the stage. They eventually can back on and completed the set list, backwards!!!

Gloucester Leisure Centre (Bossanova Tour) with Andy Tubb and Lizzie Weller. I remember sitting on the lighting scaffolding at the back of the hall whilst the support band ‘Bark Market’ played. To our left, sitting on the same scaffolding was Black Francis! I didn’t say anything to him, I just was very, very aware!

Reading Festival – 1990 (Bossanova) – Whilst trying to get the best view of the band we, or Lizzie ended up sitting on top of an Ice Cream van!!! (Lizzie can you verify this? Or was it The Fall??).

Other gigs included the Trompe Le Monde tour, Crystal Palace Bowl, supported by Ride and finally Reading 2005 after they had reformed.

Something Against You - 1988

Caribou - 1988

Ed Is Dead – 1988

Broken Face – 1986

Monday, 19 January 2009

Document – R.E.M.

 

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 22 October 1987

Hear samples of the album HERE

My first REM album. I bought it whilst living in Liverpool on the back of hearing ‘The One I Love’. I loved everything about the song, the melody, the guitars (always the main attractor for me) and surprisingly, the voice. I’d seen REM a couple of years prior to the release of Document on ‘The Tube’ (Reckoning period), loved the music but hated the singer’s voice! Listening to Reckoning now I still try to work out what it was about Michael Stipe’s voice that I didn’t like, perhaps it was just a bad performance but to me he sounded like an Alabama Smurf!

As per usual, the purchase of this album lead to the purchase of the complete back catalogue. Listening to the albums you can really hear the bands development and trace the direction they were taking. These can be grouped into 3 phases;

1. Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning – Jangly arpeggio guitar. Songs like South Central Rain, (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville, Radio Free Europe

2. Fables Of The Reconstruction – Cross over between 1 and 3 – Heavier guitar sound introduces itself with Feeling Gravity’s Pull.

3. Life’s Rich Pageant, Document – harder guitar, edgier sound – Finest Worksong, Begin The Begin, Oddfellows Local 151.

Choosing between Document and Life’s Rich Pageant was difficult as both albums are brilliant but Document just scrapes it for me with songs like Exhuming McCarthy and Welcome To The Occupation, very tight!

In my opinion ‘Green’ was the last great REM album. They went downhill in my eyes after that. Even ‘Automatic For The People’ didn’t do it for me. It was not until  2008’s ‘Accelerate’ that REM caught my attention again. Let’s hope they have learnt their lesson! ;0)

The One I Love

 The Finest Worksong

Friday, 16 January 2009

Crocodiles – Echo and the Bunnymen

 

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 16 April 1981

‘Surely you mean Ocean Rain’ I hear some of you say! Regarded by many as the classic Bunnymen album, but not for me, I never really liked it. There’s one or two good songs on it but for me it’s not the complete package.

‘Crocodiles’ on the other hand has everything! I listened to the album today whilst walking to work and again on the way home. The songs are as fresh as they were back in ‘81, they haven’t lost any of their edginess.

I suppose one reason why I prefer ‘Crocodiles’ to ‘Ocean Rain’, and this applies to a lot of bands, is that bands can move from new, fresh innovative sounds of there first recordings into a horrible MOR mainstream sounds pretty quickly. The sound on ‘Crocodiles’ is the sound that the band wanted when they started out as young musicians. The sound which attracted a following and eventual recording contract. An exciting sound! Once a band has an established career then they develop their sound and head in different directions, sometimes, as with Ocean Rain, in a direction that I don’t wish to follow. Good examples of bands who have fallen into this trap are REM, all that awful pushing of elephants up the stairs etc and my personal pet hate, The Killers! ‘Ocean Rain’ moved too far away from what I liked about Echo & The Bunnymen, ironically to the sound that they are best known for!

Reading back on this it sounds like I think that ‘Ocean Rain’ is dull MOR shit, which of course it isn’t , it just doesn’t have enough of what I like!!

echo___the_bunnymen.0.tif.big

Stand out songs are;

‘Crocodiles’ - first heard this when watching a televised concert in Liverpool, Crystal Day (see youtube clip below). Loved the way the band would bring the sound down whilst Ian McCulloch did his ’do you know how to dance like Bony Maloney, It goes like this, It goes like this, it goes like this, it goes like this!!!!’ the band building up until exploding into a guitar frenzy!! Goose bump time for me!!!

‘Rescue’ – Should have been number one in the hit parade, proper good song.

‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Villiers Terrace’ although this is not my favourite version, there’s a far better acoustic version on the B side of ‘Seven Seas’. (see youtube clip below.

echo

I’ve seen Echo & The Bunnymen play many times over the years. Stand out performance for me was Glastonbury 1985 when they performed a set of covers. Television’s ‘Friction’, The Doors ‘Soul Kitchen’, The Velvet Underground’s ‘There She Goes Again’ and Dylan;s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ to name but a few.

I also attended that final Echo & The Bunnymen gig (Liverpool Empire 1988) before Ian McCulloch left the band. This was a great gig and made even better for the fact that they played nearly all of ‘Heaven Up Here’!

Links

VilliersTerrace.com - Great discography, has the lot

Echo & The Bunnymen - Official Site

Rescue – Live in Sefton Park 1982

Crocodiles – Crystal Days – St Georges Hall

Villiers Terrace - Broadcast on 25/09/1984 as part of Channel 4's Play At Home series.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Bakesale – seBADoh

bakesale

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 1st December 1994

Hear samples of the album HERE

Bakesale is not going to be the only album by Sebadoh to be found in my top 50, in fact I’ll be surprised if I don’t end up including all of them! Sebadoh are one of my favourite bands of the last 20 years, to me they are the lo-fi equivalent of The Beatles! I really rate them that highly.

I first heard Sebadoh whilst sitting in a pub in Shepherds Bush, I think I was going to a gig at the Empire, possibly Buffalo Tom. My friend Jason Tilbrook came in for a pint, he got out his personal stereo and said listen to this. The track he played me was a David Crosby song called ‘Burned’, Sebadoh had covered it on the seBADoh Vs Helmet album. From that moment I was taken by them. My liking for them was cemented when I discovered that the singer, Lou Barlow had been the bass player in Dinosaur Jr, That’s right the floppy haired one in the Freak Scene video!!!!

Of course me being me, I went out and bought the whole back catalogue and continued to buy albums as they came out.

Bakesale splits the song writing talents of Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein. Both have very different styles, Lou is sensitive and intense whilst Jason provides the louder, rockier songs, delivered with a surprising sensitivity that Lou would be proud of. Bakesale isn’t so much poppy as catchy in a poppy/non poppy way. All they song have great hook lines and great melodies. For me this is the first album where Jason Loewenstein’s song writing comes to the fore giving Lou Barlow a real run for his money!

Stand out track for me are Magnet’s Coil, Not Too Amused, Drama Mine and the beautiful Together Or Alone.

Bakesale Tour

I saw Sebadoh at The Garage, Highbury on the Bakesale tour. It was the 8th April 1994 the day Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered. Sebadoh where due to support Nirvana on the In Utero tour later that month. I remember Sebadoh dedicating two songs to Kurt, Soul and Fire (Bubble and Scrape) and Junk Bonds (Rocking The Forest), the latter being a ferocious drone rock rampage, very apt, very ape.

Links

Sebadoh.com

Loobiecore - Lou Barlow website

Jakerock.com - Jason Loewenstein

Sebadoh – Rebound

Sebadoh – Skull

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division

 

joydivision-unknownpleasures

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 28th May 1981

Hear samples of the album HERE

I got into Joy Division in a big way quite late on. I’d been aware of them for a long time but didn’t really know much by them and hadn’t taken time to really listen to them.

I first saw them on a Granada Tv compilation film featuring all the main punk bands who had played in the north, 1976 through to 1979. These included, amongst others, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Jam, Elvis Costello and Joy Division.

The show included 3 Joy Division songs, Shadowplay, She’s Lost Control and Transmission all of which are included further down this blog. It was the first time that I had seen members of New Order in their previous band so gave all of my attention to them and not the man, centre stage doing the funny dance!

I had videoed the programme so watched it over and over again, switching my attention from Bernard Sumner’s guitar to the performance of Ian Curtis. The performances were so intense, so powerful and so exciting.

jd3

In 1988 I bought Substance – This is was my first Joy Division record, a ‘best of’ which was so accessible and immediate. Each song familiar on first listening. Songs such as Warsaw with it’s 3,5,0,1,2,5, Go! count in. The great thing about this ‘best of’ was that all the songs were pretty easy to play on my guitar. I spent hours playing along to the CD copying Barney’s guitar note for note. In fact I still play Leaders Of Men on my acoustic, Joy Division meets Fairport Convention!!

jd2

Now I finally arrive at Unknown Pleasures. Although I love Closer, this album is still fresh, still riveting. The build and layers of the music is simple and effective. It’s the kind of music that I would want to play if I was in a band. It’s inspiring and not at all miserable!

Ian Cutis liked this album, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner did not! They were not happy with Martin Hannett’s production, taking away the biting guitars and the punk attitude. Listening to the Warsaw album (Demo’s and RCA sessions) I think Hannett got it right. Punk was on it’s way out, something new was just about to arrive…..

jd4

Recommended Reading 

Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" (33 1/3) by Chris Ott

Touching From A Distance by Deborah Curtis

House Of Dolls by Ka-Tzetnik

Recommended Film

Control

Joy Division - Directed by Grant Gee

Joy Division – Shadowplay

Joy Division – She’s Lost Control

Joy Division – Transmission (although not on Unknown Pleasure I just had to add it!)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Hunky Dory – David Bowie

David_Bowie_Hunky_Dory

Links

Album Review - Rolling Stone Magazine - 6th January 1972

Hear samples of the album HERE

So why Hunky Dory by David Bowie?? Well I was actually listening to this album when I decided to put my list together. A brilliant album packed with great songs, in fact there is not one song on this album I don’t like as opposed to other classic Bowie albums which have at least one dodgy track (The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust’s ‘It Ain’t Easy’, Aladdin Sane ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and Diamond Dogs’ ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me).

Songs like Oh! You Pretty Things, Life On Mars, Quicksand and of course the song I love most ‘Queen Bitch’.

Mickey Mouse

mm

I remember falling in love with Life On Mars as a kid all because of the line ‘It's on America's tortured brow that Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow’!!! I don’t think I really appreciated the song for what it really was, Mickey Mouse made the difference!!

Queen Bitch – Old Grey Whistle Test - 8th February 1972

Oh! You Pretty Things - Old Grey Whistle Test - 8th February 1972

Life On Mars?