This Week’s Albums
October 29th, 2015
IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…
that doesn’t rhyme”. I do a D.J. gig every week at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts) – in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose). Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun. I get to talk to people about music; play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds- well, I try to! I shall publish this every week; try to highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.
The Old: MC5- Kick Out the Jams (1969)
The Protopunk band arrived on the scene with a defining statement: Kick Out the Jams was an album that not only saw the ‘60s off in style (it was released in 1969); it remains one of music’s most influential albums- inspiring the likes of Rage Against the Machine along the way. Kick Out the Jams is a live album filled with vivacious energy and insatiable power. Some critics- upon the release of the album- felt it to be unfocused and sprawling; it showed just how phenomenal the Detroit band were- it stands as one of music’s most astonishing statements-of-intent. The title track is one of the most urgent and memorable tracks of the 1960s: Having been covered by the likes of The Presidents of the United States of America and Jeff Buckley- it is one of those songs that transfixes and hypntoises. With Come Together, Borderline and I Want You Right Now providing more sexuality, power and delirium than most bands can deliver in a career- few can refute the album’s effect. Motor City is Burning is one of the album’s most calm- well, in an MC5 sense- moments that shows Blues heart and grit. You cannot understate the importance of this album: Within a few minutes, you can hear how many bands have been inspired by its guys and glory. It is a live album that is unsurpassed and unparalleled: Long may its reign continue!
DOWNLOAD: Kick Out the Jams; Borderline; I Want You Right Now
STAND-OUT TRACK: Kick Out the Jams
The New: Beach Slang- The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (Released tomorrow)
Being a new convert to Beach Slang- they have just releases their debut album, so you could hardly blame me- The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us is ten tracks of against-the-odds, last-chance-saloon fight and hope. The Philadelphia band aim for the heart and soul: Within a few bars you are helpless to resists its seductive lure. Front-man James Alex is a man in a boy’s body: A soul that might have lost its hope; an inner fight that wants to hold on to infantile potentials- the importance of never truly growing up. The album is a rally cry against growing up: Hold onto that child-like spark; never escaping that feeling. Bad Art & Weirdo ideas is the album’s most urgent and insistent moment. Although it is hard to distinguish some of the tracks- the band have an open A-chord motif they ride hard- but that is not a criticism. If you feel like an outsider; want to discover music that kicks against the swathes of manufactured and sterile bands- this is the album (and band) for you. Fans of The Replacements and The Psychedelic Furs will appreciate James Alex’s smoked-ravaged and masculine burr. If determined and head-spinning numbers like Young and Alive don’t dig to the depths of your psyche- you may need to reevaluate your life. Whilst not 2015’s best album; it does stand as one of the year’s finest debut albums- expect to hear a lot more from Beach Slang.
DOWNLOAD: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas; Too Late To Die Young; Young and Alive
STAND-OUT TRACK: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
The Influencer: Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
The ‘90s had its fair share of phenomenal albums- more so than any other decade- yet few that remains as important and influential. Hill’s views on family and female point-of-view life impressed and amazed critics. The album is not only a vocal extravaganza: Hill’s deep faith resonated through her soulfulness and passion; she seamlessly blends the secular and universal- ensuring her messages and delivery leaves no mind undernourished and untouched. Hill manages to mix the savage and serene: Her gender-bending sees her deliver with force but remained impassioned; ensuring the emotional and sonic balance is just right. An epoch-making record- that brought Neo-Soul to the commercial forefront and inspired a wealth of contemporaries- Hill crosses genres and themes; sounding completely intoxicating no matter what she was addressing. Her songs tackled the sex game from different perspectives- Doo Wop (That Thing)- to confronting her band-mates succumbing to the excesses and cheapness of commercial success (Lost Ones). Although there are some stand-out collaborations- drawing the likes of D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige into the fold- it is Hill herself that stands out. With no pretense or insincerity; the album entered at number one on the Billboard 200– selling 422,624 copies in its first week. The album’s chart debut broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist. It topped the Billboard 200 for a second consecutive week, during which it sold 265,000 copies. In the United States, the album sold one million copies in less than a month and 2.4 million copies by December. It spent 81 weeks on the Billboard 200; topped the Billboard Year-End Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. An album every human being should own.
DOWNLOAD: Lost Ones; Doo Wop (That Thing); Every Ghetto, Every City
STAND-OUT TRACK: Doo Wop (That Thing)
The ‘Other One’: Pavement- Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)
What is it with the year 1994? If the likes of Grace and Parklife are not enough for you: Superunknown, Dummy and Definitely Maybe came along- and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The U.S. band followed Slanted and Enchanted– regarded as one of the ‘90s most seminal albums- with something more accessible. Whereas S.A.E. is a dense, layered and mysterious; Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is more direct and immediate. Range Life is a sun-hitting Country-Rock gem; Stop Breathin’ is heartbreaking and tender; Unfair is wracked and tormented- the band never misses a beat or loses their identity throughout. One of the ’90s best underground records, it is not just the genre-fuse and reaches that impresses: it is the focus on the everyday and banal that makes the album so magical. Whilst most Californian-made albums look at the sun and dreams: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain turns the spotlight onto fake oil-burning lamps (Elevate Me Later) and kids-on-skateboards (Range Life). The quirky melodies and distinct lyrics only tell some of the story. In a year that saw some of music’s finest albums created- add The Holy Bible and Ill Communication to the list- Pavement’s sophomore release damned-near stole the top honours. If you have not heard Pavement- one of the most consistent bands who have ever been spawened- ensure you discover their astonishing music. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is perfect for lazy days and uninspired moments; times when you need to smile and be uplifted; when you want to hear music at its very finest.
DOWNLOAD: Elevate Me Later; Cut Your Hair; 5-4=Unity
STAND-OUT TRACK: Cut Your Hair