Friday, May 30, 2014

Mark Oliver Everett

The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett is the eleventh Eels LP in total, but it's the first to bear its creator's full name. That bearded, bespectacled man on the cover has dropped his one-letter pseudonym before - most notably for his book, Things the Grandchildren Should Know - but every album from Beautiful Freak (1996) to Wonderful, Glorious (2013) credited him as 'E', with no mention of this Everett character.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Money Well Spent

Since Monday's blog was all about cheap albums, I thought I'd use today's blog to talk about the most expensive album I've ever bought. Y'know, for balance.

I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings is a live album by Radiohead. If I remember correctly, it cost me £14.99 from my local Virgin Megastore (this was back in the mid-noughties, when Megastores could still be found outside of the Middle East).

I realise that fifteen quid is hardly yacht money, but bear in mind that you'd only need ten or eleven pounds to successfully purchase a CD that came out this week. When I Might Be Wrong landed in my shopping basket, it had been out for a solid five years, so I was paying well above the odds given the album's age.

Monday, May 26, 2014

10p Album Club

Back in January, I popped into the Bristol branch of Rise Music (a very good record shop with an equally good café on the ground floor) and stumbled upon quite the bargain. In the centre of the shop was a box labelled '10 Albums for £1' - as you'd expect, most of the artists in that box were completely unknown to me, but how often do you get that much music for that little money? I grabbed ten of the most promising prospects and headed for the till.

I figured that, even if all ten albums were completely dreadful, it would still make for a good blog.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hesitation Marks

I went to see Nine Inch Nails on Wednesday, and being as how it was TOTALLY GREAT, I've decided that it's high time I took a proper look at Hesitation Marks, the album that Trent Reznor and Co. released last August.

See, I didn't think much of this record when it first came out. I liked Copy Of A and Came Back Haunted, but on the whole, I felt that there were too many go-nowhere tracks and not enough personality. Unlike previous NIN classics like The Downward Spiral, Hesitation Marks didn't seem to tell any sort of story, as though its fourteen tracks didn't aspire to be anything more than just fourteen new tracks. Oh, and I thought the title was dull.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Let's Play Ball!

The Baseball Project are a band about baseball. 3rd, their latest LP, is an album about baseball consisting of eighteen songs about baseball. If you like baseball, you will like this record.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Comedy Albums

Where did you get your taste in music? From the radio, perhaps, or the internet? Recommendations from your friends?

And what kind of role did your parents play in the formation of your musical preferences? Did they pass their favourite artists on to you? Did they go to great pains to lay the right foundations, or did they leave you to carve out your own path?

My parents never really had that much impact on the music I listened to - the radio, the internet, and my friends were far more useful in that respect - but one thing they did contribute to my musical upbringing was comedy. Some people grew up with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple blaring through the house; I had Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman instead.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Your Favourite Covers

In case the whole 69 Love Songs thing hasn't made it clear, I'm a big fan of cover songs. Actually, I'll amend that: I'm a big fan of cover songs IF they do something new with the source material. Playing a note-for-note cover can be fun at live shows, but there's really no need to record it unless you're bringing something original to the table.

For the last couple of days, I've been asking people on Twitter and Facebook what they consider to be the best cover of all time. Here are 20 of the songs that were suggested - let's see how inventive these reinventions are, shall we?

I'm Shakin' by Jack White
Original Artist: Little Willie John
Suggested by Amy Wise

Reinvention Rating: 2/5 - Jack adds a whole lot of attitude and (if I'm not mistaken) a couple of extra verses, but in spite of the added vim and vigour, it's still essentially the same track.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Crack in Everything: Funeral

A Crack in Everything is this thing I do occasionally where I take a classic album that I really like and point out everything that's wrong with it. I've already tackled seminal works by John Grant, The Smiths, R.E.M. and Neutral Milk Hotel - today, I'm needling the first Arcade Fire album. Sit back and enjoy...

As much as I love the king-sized songwriting of Neon Bible and the zesty funk of Reflektor, I suspect that Funeral will always be my favourite Arcade Fire album. Any disc that contains Wake Up and Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) and Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) *and* Rebellion (Lies) has clearly earned its place in the hearts of all men, but it also holds the fondest memories for me personally - not merely because it's older than the band's more recent albums, but because it found me at a far rawer stage of my musical development, which meant that its dagger plunged far closer to my heart than it perhaps would if I discovered the album today.

Having said all that, Funeral isn't perfect, and today I'll explain why.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stop Holding Back: Jan-Apr '14 Playlist

A couple of weeks ago (i.e. around the end of April), I created a playlist containing my favourite songs of the year so far. I've decided to share it here - not only are the songs really good, I'm also really pleased with how it flows as a playlist.

See, this isn't a bumper-sized free-for-all like my summer playlist. That was one to shuffle and enjoy for an entire afternoon; this is a tight, ten-track affair that was carefully sequenced for the best possible listening experience.

So sit back and feast your ears on the 10 best songs of (the first four months of) 2014. I'll put the songs here without comment for now, and add some more details tomorrow.

(N.B. I would have embedded this as a Spotify playlist but My Name is Ian hasn't put his bloomin' album on Spotify. Thanks for that, Ian - now I have to embed ten things instead of one. Yeesh.)

1) Cult of Love by Dum Dum Girls (from Too True)
Too True isn't a particularly spectacular album, but it does boast the best opening track of the year so far. Cult of Love is a charging krautrock bull of a song, recalling the best parts of goth music among other things.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Eurovision: 5 from Recent Years

As you're all no doubt aware, the 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest will be taking place in Copenhagen tomorrow. I haven't been watching the semi-finals (frankly, I'd rather not know what to expect on the night) and so, in lieu of any comment on this year's entrants, I thought I'd share a few of my favourite Eurosongs from the last few years...

L'Amour à la française by Les Fatals Picards (France, 2007)

The Song: A swooning pop number sung in a deliberately daft French accent. The chorus is epic and amazing.

The Spectacle: Their performance in Helsinki wasn't heavy on set-pieces, but who needs props and fireworks when you've got a Richard O'Brien lookalike hurling himself around the stage like his life is in danger?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Asbury Park and What Might Have Been

Well, my plea for Bruce Springsteen recommendations certainly didn't fall on deaf ears. Quite a few people responded, and while Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town certainly had their champions, the most heavily-recommended album was Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, Springsteen's 1973 debut.

And that's a twist I didn't see coming. I was under the impression that Asbury Park was like Springsteen's Pablo Honey, a false start that barely even hinted at the riches to come (I suppose this analogy makes Born to Run his equivalent of OK Computer). But a cluster of glowing, tweet-length reviews persuaded me to pick it up, and what do you know? That cluster was onto something!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Joy of Old Lips

I'm a big Flaming Lips fan, but damn, they're making it difficult for me right now. I've no qualms with the bizarre musical B-road down which they've been hurtling since the release of Embryonic; heck, I even gave Wayne Coyne the benefit of the doubt when he said mean things about the Arcade Fire. But now he's fired his drummer, seemingly for no reason other than 'because he stood up for Native Americans', and...well, I'm finding it harder than ever to keep the Flaming faith.

Read the full story here, then go to if you're not sure why this photo caused offence in the first place.

I've been meaning to write a blog about The Flaming Lips' early Warner classics for some time now, mainly because people don't talk about Clouds Taste Metallic as often as they talk about Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and I want to encourage those people to dig a little deeper into the band's back catalogue. Now, though, I've a second reason to revisit their early nineties output: Scurlock's sacking has severely shaken my confidence in the Lips, and I could do with a reminder of why I loved them in the first place.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I love it when bands include references to their old songs within the lyrics of their new songs. Those little nods to previous work help to tie discographies together, making everything seem like one body of work rather than a series of similar-sounding but ultimately unrelated CDs.

The literature word for this is intertextuality, but that's a clunky word that makes you sound like a dork, so I've decided to give those little callbacks a new name: ROPSWEDs. It stands for:

Remember Our Previous Stuff? We Evidently Do!

So yeah, here are some of my favourite ROPSWEDs:

Sing for the Submarine by R.E.M. (from Accelerate)
Released in the spring of 2008, Accelerate was one big olive branch to R.E.M. fans after the disappointingly bland Around the Sun. The band deliberately returned to a more invigorating, rocked-up sound on their 14th album, and they played a whole bunch of cool tracks from their early days on the subsequent Accelerate Tour (check out the Live at the Olympia album for a sample of that).

Sing for the Submarine remains my favourite track from Accelerate, and it includes yet another nod to their past in the form of this great little ROPSWED:

"So this is where I give in to the machine. Lift up your voice, feel gravity's pull."