Friday, August 29, 2014

A Time & A Place

Remember my friend JR, the one who bought me Metallica's S&M? Well, I bought him a CD in return - Attack of the Grey Lantern by Mansun.

Now, AotGL is one of my top ten albums of all time, and so I must confess that I was slightly saddened when JR posted a less-than-glowing review of the album on his own blog, Curios Mundane. Here's an excerpt:

"It's all very light, easy listening...I've had it on in the background for the past two weeks, and that's where it stays. The album has never jumped out from behind me and said, 'Hey you pay attention to me listen to how great I am!'"

Though he tries his best to cover it up ("That in no way means it's bad..."), it's clear that JR isn't mad about Grey Lantern. And this has me questioning my own opinions - why do I like the album? Do I 'get' it on a level that JR simply cannot? Does he just need to spend a little more time with it, to allow that gapless mesh of songs to gain a little more clarity?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kate Bush in Covers

Last night, Kate Bush played her first live show in three and a half decades. A lot of people were very excited for this 'comeback concert', and their ecstatic reactions - first to the gig announcement, and now to the performance itself - show just how important Ms Bush and her music are.

And yet it occurred to me this morning that I've never really listened to Kate Bush. I feel like I know a lot of her songs, but on reflection, I realise that I only know them because so many other people have covered them. These are the ones that sprang to mind:

Hounds of Love (Covered by The Futureheads)
I doubt I'm the only person who heard this version before I heard KB's original. The Futureheads' take on Hounds of Love was inescapable on MTV2 for a time, and it pretty much became the band's signature song; I didn't even realise it was a cover until quite a bit later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hub Festival 2014: 5 of the Best

How's your bank holiday weekend been thus far? I've spent a fair chunk of mine on Cardiff's legendary Womanby Street, where the 2014 Hub Festival was in full swing until a few hours ago. It's been a hoot, although with three sets of my own to play (two as Shiny Tiger, one on the drums for Scriber), I must admit that I didn't see as many bands as I might have liked to.

Still, I did catch a few crackers - here are five of the best, listed in the order in which I saw them:

(One-sentence descriptions only, sorry. I'm tired, and it's Bank Holiday Monday!)

Noisy and awesome and the drummer looked like Jesus so that's always a plus.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Greatest Hits, Guilty Pleasures

To be honest, I always feel like a bit of a cheater when I purchase a 'Best Of' or a 'Greatest Hits'. It's like watching a ten-minute 'Chang's Funniest Moments' compilation on YouTube instead of sitting down with a Community boxset and watching each episode properly. When you purchase a Greatest Hits compilation, you're effectively saying:

"Wait, you've released HOW many albums in your career? Eighteen?!  No thanks, Mr Springsteen - just gimme the songs that everyone knows and I'll be on my way."

But I'm not trying to claim some kind of moral high ground here - I buy Best Ofs as well. In fact, only yesterday I listened to three Best Ofs in a row: 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mercury Rev & The Haunted Album

Today, I'm going to tell you a ghost story

Deserter's Songs is a pretty important album. It marked a massive sea change for its creators; where Mercury Rev's first few albums had been psychedelic and fuzzy, this release had swooning strings, musical saws, and songs that your parents could tolerate. It was the band's big breakthrough moment, the album that introduced them to a much wider audience and established them as a major force on the alternative circuit.

It's also haunted.

Monday, August 18, 2014

S&M (An Introduction to Metallica)

I had my first taste of Metallica at the age of 13. My ginger friend, Tim, sent me Enter Sandman over MSN and, well, I rather enjoyed it. Several other songs followed, including Master of Puppets and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and they were even better - I even wrote a (dreadful) parody version of the former song, changing the title to 'Master of Muppets'.

And yet, in spite of my fondness for those few tracks, I never bothered to buy a Metallica album. I'm not sure why - perhaps they were too expensive*, or perhaps my inner metalhead was content with the Iron Maiden CDs that I already owned. Whatever the reason, it took Metallica the best part of a decade to finally find a place on The Album Wall.

The album that finally broke my duck was S&M, a double-disc live document of Metallica's collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. It was given to me a couple of weeks ago by JR, another ginger friend of mine, who insisted that no collection was complete without it**.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How I Plan to Spend My Birthday Money

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday. I received a whole bunch of nice presents, but for the purposes of today's blog, this was the big one:

That is a £40 gift voucher for Spillers Records (thanks mum and dad!) All I need to do now is decide what to spend it on. It's been a while since I went for a SpillerBinge, and so my New Music wishlist has started to look a little bloated:

Pictured: 9 of 28

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Do To The Beast

So here's a brief account of my Afghan Whigs experience to date:
  • Having heard the band's named bandied about in all the right circles, I picked up a copy of 1965 from The Record Shop on Inverness Place. It cost me £4.

  • 1965 was all right but not all great, and so I didn't revisit the Whigs until a book told me to do so. It was Gentlemen's entry in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die that finally convinced me to revisit Greg Dulli and Co, and I'm glad I did - their fourth album is an altogether darker and more rocked-up affair than 1965, which of course meant that I found it altogether more appealing.

  • In 2012, I attended the Optimus Primavera Sound Festival in Porto. Here, I braved the rain (typical - you fly all the way to Portugal and it rains) to watch TAW's set on the Super Bock Stage or whatever it was called at the time. They played a blinder, and later that evening, I chanced upon a copy of Black Love in one of the CD/record tents. That album proved not to be quite as good as Gentlemen, but it was still a wonderful blend of noise and sneery attitude.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Horses & Japan

When you listen to albums really closely, you sometimes start spotting patterns. Perhaps you'll hear the same line in two different songs; perhaps you'll notice some sort of loose running theme; perhaps you'll even come across a nice, juicy ROPSWED. 'Easter Eggs' like this are fairly common at the movies - if you spend enough time on the internet, you'll already be familiar with Pixar's insane mass of ongoing in-jokes, or Martin Scorsese's use of the letter X to signal that  somebody's about to die in The Departed.

The difference, though, is that Scorsese almost certainly planted those Xs on purpose. The patterns we hear in songs and albums tend to be far more subtle, and so they are far less likely to be intentional - Pixar didn't accidentally give the Pizza Planet truck a cameo in every single movie, but it's entirely conceivable that a songwriter may re-use an old line without realising it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

EP Corner: Chronic Town

It's time once again for EP Corner, where the album's little brother gets to enjoy the limelight for a little bit. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Of The Night, a four-track oddity by the Guillemots; today, I'm going all the way back to 1982, when a group of young men from Georgia kick-started their musical careers with five songs and a blue gargoyle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Who Says The Magic Numbers Aren't Cool?

Last Friday, shortly before departing for the Knee Deep Festival, I tweeted the following:

Clockwise from top left: Violent Femmes, The Afghan Whigs, The Magic Numbers, Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers, Cake, Modest Mouse.

Now, I was pretty happy with the six CDs I had chosen for the drive to Liskeard - in fact, all of them are still in my car now, partially due to laziness but mostly because they're such good driving albums.

Sarah, on the other hand, was kind of surprised that I was willing to share that photo with the hoopy bunch of froods who presumably run Knee Deep's Twitter account. "You can't show them your Magic Numbers album," she said, demonstrating a touching concern for my online street cred. "The Magic Numbers aren't cool enough!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Knee Deep '14: My Top 5 Acts

Well, as promised, I spent my weekend at the Knee Deep Festival in Cornwall. It was only two days long, but they managed to pack a lot of great bands (most of whom were completely new to me) into relatively little time. Here's a countdown of my five favourite acts from across the weekend; Scriber, the band I was there to play drums for, are obviously disqualified from the running, lest this competition descend into farce.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Knees Up!

To be honest, today's blog is going to be a bit quick and rubbish because I'm preparing to hit the Knee Deep Festival for the second consecutive year (I'll be playing the drums for Scriber, just one of the many brilliant people mentioned on my new 'Friends of This Blog' page).