Friday, October 9, 2015

You Just Keep Me Hanging On

I recently moved in with my girlfriend Vicky, and of course The Album Wall - or The Album Series of Boxes, as it might more accurately be described right now - came with me. Five stout containers' worth of CDs (plus a few stragglers, which I stuffed into a carrier bag) were packed away and shipped to their new home, which has just about managed to accommodate all of them.

Nevertheless, the current transitional stage seems like a good opportunity to separate some wheat from some chaff and - horror of horrors - downsize my library a little bit. As I knelt on the floor of my old place, filling box after box with the fruits of a decade of frenzied CD shopping while Vicky looked on in bemusement, it became embarrassingly obvious that I could stand to lose a few albums. It's sobering to wonder how many of the discs that entered the flat a couple of weeks ago will never be heard by me again, whether I keep them or not - better to fill a few charity shop shelves with my unfavoured and/or forgotten acquisitions than to senselessly hoard them for the rest of my life without ever actually listening to them.

And so I'm now engaged in the unenviable task of deciding which of my CDs I no longer want. This is very difficult for me; I'm a firm believer in having the full album instead of simply downloading that one song you like, and this attitude has left me with many an album that I don't really dig...with the exception of that one awesome track that's kept its lacklustre pals on my rack for all this time.

I suspect that, in the end, I'll simply have to bite the bullet, throw out all those boring-but-with-one-exception albums, and say goodbye to those big fish/small pond songs that have kept me hanging on until now. When that day comes, it'll most likely be curtains for...

Valhalla Dancehall by British Sea Power
I love British Sea Power dearly, but their fourth album never really managed to float my boat. The production is too blurry and indistinct, and while tracks like Who's in Control and Stunde Null are good, I doubt I'll really miss them when they're gone from my iTunes library.

One track I will miss is Living is So Easy (above), a catchy-as-hell pop song that sounds noticeably clearer and crisper than its murky neighbours. It's the only track on Valhalla Dancehall that really deserves a place alongside Waving Flags, Carrion et al on a hypothetical BSP best-of, and it's the only one whose absence I expect to really feel when I ship VD off to the Oxfam shop.

Wilco (The Album) by Wilco
I was so pleased when I first heard Star Wars, the surprise LP that Wilco gave away for free earlier this year, because it sounded absolutely nothing like Wilco (The Album). Prior to the arrival of Star Wars, this was the most recent Wilco release in my collection, and it had pretty much convinced me that the band were past their angular peak and were now enjoying their cushy, soft-Americana retirement. 

The only track from Wilco (The Album) that I really like is Bull Black Nova (above), a pulsating five-minute hulk of a song that puts everything else on the album to shame. If Wilco (The Album) was the cast of an action-packed Saturday morning cartoon, Bull Black Nova would be the surly loner who's significantly more capable than everyone else on the team and ends up betraying them and joining the bad guys.

Us by Mull Historical Society
Mull Historical Society's debut album Loss is SO good, you guys. I really, really wish that its follow-up, Us, was anywhere near as good, but while it still has that same sublime Colin MacIntyre sound (pleasingly nasal voice, a huge variety of different instruments, excerpts from the shipping forecast), for me it lacks the strength of songwriting that makes Loss such a classic.

The Final Arrears is far and away the best track on Us (it's also the first track, making Us a classic example of the 'peaked too early' problem that blights so may pop albums). It has a sparkle that's largely lacking from track two onwards, and it has a chorus that - as I discovered earlier today - is a lot of fun to bellow as you're joining the dual carriageway and clunking your car into fifth gear. Other Us cuts like Am I Wrong and Live Like the Automatics are good, but they're not Final Arrears good and I doubt they're good enough that I'll pine for them when their parent album is no longer in my possession.

So those are three examples - apologies to Wilco, Colin MacIntyre and British Sea Power, all of whom have released albums that I actually do like since the albums mentioned above came out. Now, while I pop off to have a proper look through those boxes, it's over to you: what one-track albums have YOU been hanging onto for far too long?


  1. Great idea for a post. I have plenty of these in my collection so as an example I offer Throwing Copper by Live. In 1994 we went on holiday to America for 2 weeks and the track I Alone was on heavy rotation on the radio. When we returned home I bought the album, didn't like anything else on it and I haven't played it since. I'm listening to I Alone now and it's still good and brings back memories of a wonderful holiday so of course I'm not going to part with it. Let the kids send it to the charity shop when I'm gone.

  2. I have just sold 95% of my CD collection, approaching a 1000 I think.
    Kept some special editions and signed ones etc and a lot for sentimental reasons - but more for display than play. All digitalised now and use SONOS etc
    Never sold any of my vinyl though and still play that.