Monday, 20 October 2014

1001 Albums Update: 823 and counting

OK, it's been a while since I checked in. No, I haven't been a victim of "The Fappening" and been hastily arranging lawyers to sue the hackers. I've just been occupied with holidays, resit marking and singing "Ya ya ya, I am Lorde" to myself. Curse you +South Park!

More recently I've been trying not to run over any freshers (seriously, they're everywhere), moved to a new flat, which I adore, and obsessing over the new Ryan Adams album, which I also adore. Seriously, check that bad boy out.

So anyway, as you can see I've now passed the magic 800 album mark (I dunno what's magic about it, just a nice big number!). I've been trying to use the fact that +Deezer & Rdio are totally free to use again to fill in any gaps, but most of the albums this time were from the early 90s/late 80s - you can probably tell by the amount of hip-hop acts with impenetrable names and ridiculously long album titles.

Let's get to it!
  • Tricky - Maxinquaye: Formerly of Massive Attack, I've always found Tricky to be more of the chin-stroker's face of trip-hop when on his own. "Hell Is Round The Corner" certainly has its charms though.
  • Garbage - Garbage
Echoes of Hole here, as Shirley Manson and chums radiate attitude in the days before they did substandard Bond themes. Their most famous tracks, "Only Happy When It Rains" and "Stupid Girl" are the flag bearers for the quality on show here. Incidentally, drummer Butch Vig is a pretty handy producer, and will be at the helm for Foo Fighters' much anticipated new album later this year.
  • Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy 
I've been dying to hear this album after hearing about how R.E.M. took this guy under their wing when he came on the scene. I wasn't as head over heels in love as I expected to be, but there were still rousing moments like "America Snoring".
  • Underworld - Second Toughest In The Infants 
Hmm, for me Underworld fall into that awkward category of dance music that loads of people seem to rave about (wahey!) but I find rather tedious. "Pearl's Girl" just sounded like an attempt to remake "Born Slippy" to my ears. Not the best.
  • The Beach Boys - Surf's Up
This is seen in some circles as the album that killed The Beach Boys' career. It's certainly a complete contrast to their previous work and the mood is a lot more wistful. You can seen how Brian Wilson's depression influenced the record (who'd have thought making such cheery music could be so torturous for those who make it), even if much of the material came from other band members.
The Bruce Johnston penned "Disney Girls (1957)" is a fabulous, delicate delight, up there with the group's best. In stark contrast is the following track "Student Demonstrating Time": harsh, noisy, reminiscent of "Revolution" by The Beatles and no doubt influenced by the previous year's Kent state shootings. A worthwhile listen, even when it's not in keeping with the character of the band's reputation.

  • Drive Like Jehu - Yank Crime: SHOUT! SCRATCH YOUR GUITAR FOR A VERY LONG TIME! MAKE FIVE MINUTES OF MATERIAL LAST NINE! Not the album I was expecting from a band with that name that's for sure.
  • Girls Against Boys - Venus Luxure No.1 Baby: If a group had that name in today's world I'd assume they were a group of tweeney boppers ala The Vamps or something. So imagine my delight when instead this album turned out to be a grungey, bluesy, moody treat.
  • The Fall - The Infotainment Scan, This Nation's Saving Grace, Live At The Witch Trials
Mark E. Smith has earned a reputation as one of the few true mavericks in music, and this trilogy of albums illustrate that perfectly. The Infotainment Scan might be my favourite, featuring more electric production, the brilliant "Lost In Spain" and a version of "Lost In Music" (yes, THAT "Lost In Music") that will convince you the song was made for Smith's trademark drawl.  
This Nation's saving Grace gets by on more than just personality as sharp guitar work and on point drums creates surprisingly danceable fare such as "Cruiser's Creek". Live At The Witch Trials, meanwhile, is the earliest of the three in their back catalogue and is certainly the weakest, but still interesting shall we say.
  • Thin Lizzy - Live And Dangerous 
Toy Story fans rejoice! It's the people behind "The Boys Are Back In Town". This live album sees the band get tonnes of licks in with the guitar work right at the forefront. Go check out "Southbound" and "Cowboy Song".
  • Willie Colon & Ruben Blades - Siembra: Much more disco influenced than I'd expected given the title.
  • The Saints - Eternally Yours 
The perfect mix of The Clash and The Ramones, yet still with plenty of ideas and a uniquely Australian sense of humour. The use of horns on opener "Know Your Product" was terrific, and many other highlights followed, particularly when the energy was ramped up to maximum with the likes of "Lost And Found" and "This Perfect Day".
  • Marvin Gaye - Here My Dear
Another "career killer", as Marvin gets so absorbed by his separation from his wife that he creates the most emotionally trying album of his career. Robin Thicke's recent Paula album has drawn many parallels with people, but I can assure you Gaye's effort is certainly not that awful. It's more of a misguided/unfocused experiment as opposed to an outright disaster. If there was less of the "When Did You Stop Loving Me..." reprises and more of the loose, groove driven atmosphere of "A Funky Space Reincarnation" this might be more fondly remembered.

  • X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents: Great chunk of feminist punk here, opener "Art-I-Ficial" sets the tone for a real riot.
  • Sheryl Crow - Tuesday Night Music Club 
Crow would find her edge later on with "Every Day Is A Winding Road" and "If It Makes You Happy", but I kind of felt this album was missing that edge. Plus this album is lumbered with "All I Wanna Do" which has to be up there with "Chasing Cars" as one of the most overplayed songs in history.
  • The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen 
An absolute cracker here. Don't be fooled by the title, there's more vitriol on offer here (especially the guitar play) than you'd expect of some gentlemen, and "Be Sweet" is certainly far from chivalrous but definitely an ode to frustration.
  • Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville: Shame this singer seems to have faded after this album. It's riddled with a bit too much... I don't know, whatever the opposite of misogyny, but the likes of "Never Said" are really great.
  • The Auteurs - New Wave: The singer's softly vocals make me think of I Am Kloot. Very pleasant listening, "American Guitars" being my favourite track.
  • PJ Harvey - Dry

Another one by the queen of unflattering album art (see below), this is about as raw as Polly ever got, "O Stella", "Hair" and "Sheela-na-gig" being some of the highlights, the latter playing more to Harvey's femininity than I ever thought she did in her career.

  • Public Enemy - Apocolypse '91... The Enemy Strikes Back, Fear Of A Black Planet, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Another run of albums I've long been anticipating to hear. Literally any kind of hip hop with a social conscience owes its right arm to Public Enemy. There's a fair share of classics amongst these albums. Amongst my favourites are "Can't Truss It" from Apocolypse '91... and "Fight The Power" from Fear Of A Black Planet.
Hands down though, It Takes A Nation... is the best of the lot, with "Rebel Without A Pause", "Don't Believe The Hype" and "Bring The Noise" (also brilliantly reworked with Anthrax on Apocolypse '91) all being prime examples of how ahead of their time the group were. Central to this was their DJ, Terminator X, whose chaotic production gave the group a bucket load of urgency and the feeling you were slap bang in the middle of an emergency. Brilliant listen.
  • Saint Etienne - Foxbase Alpha: Despite a pretty sweet cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" I can't really say there was much worthwhile on offer here.
  • Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque
This was a joy to listen too. Many of the bands I listened too growing up were influenced by these guys, in particular their tremendous harmonies (especially on the vocals). The guitars had more of that pleasing early 90s fuzz too them too which was nice to hear. "December" was a particular highlight.
  • The Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray 
Nice enough collection of short, sharp guitar pop fare. The title track is great but as with lots of the albums in this entry the real standout moment comes from a cover, in this case a cracking rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson".
  • The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - Hipocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury: A tad preachy at times but the infectious "Television The Drug Of A Nation" and a neat reworking of The Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles" keep things interesting.

  • Tom Waits - Bone Machine 
According to the review that accompanied this album when I streamed it this is one of Waits' most consistent efforts, but I couldn't disagree more. All over the place, although "Whistle Down The Wind" was a nice Rain Dogs-eque moment.
  • Sugar - Copper Blue/ Husker Du - Songs And Stories
I've been enjoying Mould's most recent album Beauty & Ruin immensely so I was really excited to hear his earlier work. I thought Songs And Stories was a bit patchy and suffered the same problem many double albums have where an artists assumes all their ideas are working rather than the reality which is their quality control took a turn for the worse. The Mould fronted numbers like "Ice Cold Ice" and "She Floated Away" are definitely the strongest efforts there.
However, I was far from surprised when I found Copper Blue to be an instant purchase. Just one of those albums that gets your adrenaline going and puts a smile on your face. "If I Can't Change Your Mind" is an unadulterated classic, and "Man On The Moon" (not that one), "A Good Idea" and "Fortune Teller" are other favourites of mine, but quite frankly the quality just doesn't dip across the whole album.

  • The Pharacyde - Bizarre Ride II: The Pharacyde 
A great final run of songs help make this album stand out next to its contemporaries, with some really cool off-beat, faded production on the like of "Passing Me Buy", "Pack The Pipe" and "Return Of The B-Boy".
  • Stereo MCs - Connected
Those who've been keeping up with this blog will know that a common experience I've had whilst doing this challenge has been finally being able to put names to songs I've been hearing for years. The title track to this album is yet another song to add to that list.

  • Ministry - Psalm 69: Did not expect such heavy music given the gentle sounding religious names of both album and artist.  Bit of a shell shock!
  • Ice Cube - The Predator: Made in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident, Ice is on furious top form here with the likes of "Gangsta's Fairytale 2" and "Check Yo Self". Even the seemingly chilled "It Was A Good Day" has a seething resentment at its core.
Other albums I listened to this time around that left a wee bit to be desired were
  • Dire Straights - Dire Straights
  • The Sabres Of Paradise - Haunted Dancehall 
  • Jeru The Damaja - The Sun Rises In The East
  • Koffi Olomide - Haut de Gamme/Koweit Rise Gauche
  • William Orbit - Strange Cargo III
  • Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
  • The Young Rascals - Groovin'
  • Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
  • Roni Size & Reprazent - New Forms
  • Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of Arrested Development 
On the other hand I was much more impressed with
  • Aimee Mann - Whatever
  • Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes 
  • Paul Revere And The Raiders - Midnight Ride