48= Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
1973, and if anyone had the world at their feet, it was 23 year old Stevie Wonder. Not content with being chart topping teenage Motown sensation of the 60’s, the previous year he had released Talking Book, a new direction of material suggesting reach far beyond his tender years. With the huge hit Superstition bringing funk to the front, his next release was eagerly anticipated. However what Wonder did surpassed all before. Whilst Talking Book touched on social commentary, Innervisions was a social commentary in which Drugs, Politics, Race and Religion were all discussed in the space of 9 musically fantastic songs.
Punches are thrown right from the off, the funky beat and upbeat sound of Too High masking a cautionary tale of drug misuse and dependency. The synth bass throughout the song makes it hard not to at least tap your feet, even given the subject matter (the bass, like almost everything on the album, was done by Wonder himself, layered together in the studio. In a sense this really is the ultimate one man band recording).
It’s a formula repeated on the religious reincarnation that is Higher Ground, a song that took on more poignancy with Wonders near fatal car accident a few days after the album’s release (no, he wasn’t driving ffs.) Once again a catchy repetitive guitar lick burrows itself into your ears, staying long after the song finishes. Unlike the former however, this IS an uplifting song, a story of admitting mistakes and wanting to lead a better life going forward.
Religion plays a central theme in the balladry Jesus Children of America, which like Visions does after Too High, brings the tempo of the record back down to Wonders soul roots. Steeped in southern gospel history, Wonders voice is like honey, and it’s these slower tracks that it is given the priority it richly deserves.
The album has its share of traditional Stevie Wonder ballads, however whilst they are not classics by the man’s standards, they are by no means filler. However the bite returns, lyrically at least, in He’s Misstra Know-it-all, which isn’t even an attack on President Nixon as an all-out assault on his personality. Here its Wonders writing that is showcased over the voice and the music, reminding everyone that sickly ballads are not the only thing in his catalogue.
However, there is one song on the album that all 3 facets come together, the 7 minute epic that is Living for the City. A tale of the systematic racism still prevalent in America, Wonders vocals both snarl and soar within the same line (Wonder got the production crew to do as much to annoy him as possible to wind him up whilst recording to help get the venom in his voice when needed). The song is cinematic in scope, the musical incarnation of the Blaxploitation being seen on the big screen, and uses a vocal section (in the style of a movie outtake) to move the story on and guide the listener to the injustice in the story – namely a black man being jailed for 10 years for being in the wrong place, wrong time and wrong colour. The song closes with an almost growled plea to the listener – it’s up to us to enact change.
At 45 minutes and 9 songs long, there’s a danger a buyer might feel short changed, however every minute of the record is used to its fullest, producing a strong, poignant voice of Black America that still must be heeded 40 years later.
Top 3 Tracks (being such and old album there’s no official videos)
Living For The City (live Glastonbury 2010) Stevie Wonder Glastonbury 2010 Living for the city - YouTube
Higher Ground (live 1974 – excellent version!) "Higher Ground" Stevie Wonder HQ 1974 - YouTube
Too High Stevie Wonder - Too High - YouTube
Write-up courtesy of cpr
48= The Killers – Hot Fuss
The indie pop/rock Hot Fuss was a much-welcome breath of Las Vegas air, and ten years on, it’s practically impossible not to have heard of The Killers.
The album was certainly a hit with the Pommy contingent of the forum, and it spent over three years in the British charts. Hot Fuss really does sound quintessentially English, and wouldn’t have seemed out-of-place in the rain-soaked 1980s indie scene. The Cure and New Order overtones are well evident, and the use of synthesisers, alongside Brandon Flowers’ distinctly digitally-altered voice, underscores its new wave feel.
Lyrically, Flowers doesn’t seek to uncover any new ground, but his ingenious simplicities and clever wordplay (“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”) are a perfection of both heartfelt emotion and raw story-telling.
While the first half of the album smashes you with hit after platinum hit, the second was heavily criticised for being rushed and forgettable. And yet, even their weaker tracks have an annoyingly infectious quality - Glamorous Indie Rock And Roll sounds like a hasty, modern-day, self-aware retake of Bohemian Rhapsody, and just try not singing, strumming or tapping along to On Top.
Hot Fuss really has cemented itself as a modern-day classic, and as the guitar in GIRAR fades out, you just know you’re going to briefly take your eyes off the road, and hit repeat.
Write-up by Nafe
48= Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Californication
I was 8 years old when the Red Hot Chili Peppers came into my life. Californication is the third album I ever owned, and by owned I mean stole from my parents. 15 years later it is still stolen and sits on my CD shelf. Actually it might be in my car. It's definitely on my computer. I have very tolerant parents.
This album introduced me to the Chilis, and I found out about it through an argument with a friend. We were arguing over who the best band in the world was. I was firmly in camp Offspring, and still am
to this day. He was in camp Chili Peppers. I had no idea who they were but I found out my Mum owned this album so I borrowed it and put it in my parents stereo they never ever use unless Mum gets drunk and tries to introduce my sister and I to music from when she was a kid.
Anyway, I put this album in the stereo and listened. I had to grudgingly admit I liked it quite a lot. In fact I loved it. Otherside was an instant favourite, though my 8 year old self didn't have a clue what it was about. I think I decided it was about dealing with your bad parts, or something like that, which is a fair guess for an 8 year old. Get On Top also hit the mark, because giving the fingers to a cop sounded
This album and band introduced me all sorts of sexual acts and references I had never heard of. I thought Purple Stain sounded like a great party with alligators and dracula and finger painting. It did lead to awkward questions about what monthly blood was though.
This album was definitely a massive influence on my musical tastes, and melodic (is that the right phrase? I'm no musician) note stuff became a part of what I loved. This is one of the few albums that has stayed with me through my life, and to me it is timeless. It still sounds as good as it did the day I first heard it, and despite Anthony Kiedis usually being a lyricist I find average, he nails it on many songs here. While
Otherside is about drugs, the lyrics are written in such a way that any darkness you have in you can relate to it. Scar Tissue speaks to anyone who feels like they're being torn down by a pious prick, and Savior recognises the humanity and imperfections in someone you love, admire and rely on. This Velvet Glove is always a go to for any lovey feelings that hit at 2am. Road Trippin' is about the bond you have with your friends.
I don't know how to wrap this up. Suffice to say this album is awesome but probably shouldn't be used as the educational tool it became for me. Still, I've been respectful to every police officer I've ever met and I know where to put it. I still really want to go finger painting with some alligators and dracula though. And that first born unicorn. Where is that thing?
Write-up by Flem
48= REM - Automatic for the People
Michael Stipe was dying of AIDS.
That was the widely believed rumour. The circumstantial evidence allowed the music press to build a plausible case. The virus had cut a grim swathe through the gay community he was long assumed (and subsequently confirmed) to be a part of and his angelic, chubby cheeked, corkscrew curled visage of the Document era had been replaced with a gaunt, prematurely aged, hollow-cheeked figure with hair cropped close to the scalp.
Most persuasively of all, his band, the hardest working group in alternative music, recently propelled to enormodome status on the back of their initial two album salvo for Warner Bros, Green and the ominously titled Out of Time, would not be touring in support of their latest long-player.
It was bollocks, of course. Over twenty years later Stipe remains a vital presence, an indie elder statesman who carries the gravitas that three decades of unimpeachable genius convey.
This was, however, the background to the release of what would be, in my estimation, REM's magnum opus. Like a lot of great art it is both yoked to a particular mileau and somehow, paradoxically, timeless. Its themes, broadly mortality and loss, are universal. And what better way to refute rumours of one's imminent demise than to record a sombre, largely acoustic album that ruminates on death?
From the distance of two decades Automatic For The People sounds like nothing so much as Messrs Stipe, Buck, Berry & Mills making their case for immortality in that courtly, humble Southern way of theirs. The album starts with the single that heralded it, the taut, sinewy, broodingly magnificent Drive. “Hey kids; rock'n'roll” sings Stipe and it is, but this rock'n'roll is a different beast; mature, stately and concerned with the bigger questions.
Its accompanying video shows a half-naked (and, it must be noted, a half-emaciated) Stipe being passed over a sea of arms to a destination unknown. It's defiantly and indisputably elegiac and, replete with John Paul Jones's (yes, that one) string arrangement, almost unbearably beautiful. Its singer makes his band's case for the pantheon by nodding to the man who started the ball rolling (or, if you rather, the white man who first colonised & bowdlerised the black man's music) the recently deceased Bill Haley, “What if you rock around the clock?”
That's it's followed by a jaunty, pretty, acoustic pop song called Try Not To Breathe that sounds like nothing so much as a dying man accepting and even welcoming his fate, “I will try not to breathe, this decision is mine, I have lived a full life” whilst making his peace and putting his case to those left behind, “These are the eyes that I want you to remember” as Mike Mills trills gorgeously in the background sent the more histrionic disStiples reaching for our hankies.
Then the mood lightens. It had to. An affectionate and credited homage to Tight Fit's The Lion Sleeps Tonight? You sly ****er, Mick. A whoopee cushion at a wake. He has what sounds like tremendous fun trying to cram far more syllables than can possibly scan into the chorus, once corpsing at the ridiculousness of his own name-check for Dr Suess that leads into one. “Call me when you try to wake her up” ends up sounding rather more like “Colin a Jamaica rub”. Doffing the cap to their earlier selves (an album was never more aptly named than Murmur) when trying to work out what the bloomin' flip Michael was on about felt like the aural equivalent of dyslexia? Maybe that's too self-referential for them, but one imagines the band's resident musophile, the estimable and garrulous guitarist Peter Buck, would've chuckled to himself as we nerds made the connection.
The fourth track became the third single and, one sudders at the phrase but no other will do, a standard. Everybody Hurts manages to be both intimate and epic, building gloriously as it goes on the back of another lush Jones string arrangement. In less adroit hands it could've ended up sounding mawkish and cloying, but it remains glorious and affecting, even if familiarity has perhaps tarnished its lustre.
The Stipe-less New Orleans Instrumental No.1 is a luscious sorbet to cleanse the palate before the great man returns to tackle the loss of parents on Sweetness Follows, eviscerate Republicans on Ignoreland, lay bare a world-weary and resigned priapism with Star Me Kitten and pay tribute to longtime residents of REM's hinterland, the beautiful and tortured Montgomery Cliff and the frankly slightly unhinged Andy Kaufman on Monty Got a Raw Deal & Man on The Moon respectively. The latter a fully realised picaresque romp through Kaufman's afterlife, bolstered by the unexpected and welcome presence of Buck's electric guitar.
It ends with the deceptively simple-sounding and wistful piano-led ballad Nightswimming, Stipe harkening back to a fondly recalled youthful skinny dip with the merest suggestion of an early exploration of his sexuality and the restless yearning of Find The River, wherein he acknowledges how far he's come but hints he yet has a future on this earth.
Of course he did. REM would go on to make another seven studio albums and occasionally get within touching distance of Automatic... (most notably on New Adventures in Hi-Fi) but it would remain the album against which all others of theirs would forever be judged. No disgrace it that, chaps. You played a ****ing blinder.
Write-up by Boy Brumby
47. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead have been accused of many things - self-importance, self-indulgence, arrogance, pretentious contrarianism - but never of being too conventional, or lacking originality. Particularly starting with Kid A, the band seemed to delight in breaking rules, flouting conventions and generally doing things no other band would dare - or, indeed, even consider - doing. Indeed, by the release of their fifth album, "Hail to the Thief", Radiohead's very sound had been strongly associated by one and all with a deep anti-establishment, anti-authoritorian, anti-rock mentality, on the poltical but especially on the musical level. In way basic, elemental way, Radiohead was about giving a massive **** you to expectation and all its oppressive, stupefying corporatist ways.
So it was perhaps not much of a surprise, then, that when Radiohead's contract with EMI lapsed in 2003 with the release of Hail to the Thief, it wasn't renewed. Neither, indeed, did the band sign any new contracts with any other record companies, choosing instead to be free of such strictures. And to be honest, the band sounded like they needed it - Hail To The Thief was by no means a disaster, but beyond confidently asserting the musical evolution of the band in the previous three years it didn't do a great deal other than sound like a slightly long Radiohead album.
So what does an already immensely successful band do with such freedom? The answer came, in part, on the last day of September 2007, when the band announced that they would be releasing their seventh studio studio album, entitled In Rainbows.
In ten days.
Radiohead had decided to jump aboard to pay-what-you-want model, which had been going around at low levels in the business world for a while, but as of yet had barely made a splash in the music world. Radiohead's vast profile and fanbase changed all that - at least temporarily, anyway - but what of the album itself? What was to be expected of an album that the band were quite literally willing to give away? Some answers came with the tracklist, as many in Radiohead's famously obsessive fanbase had noticed that many of the songs were, indeed, not new. A number had been played live during recent tours, either under their album names or under a different but hardly unrelated name. Indeed, one song, Nude, dated back to the days of OK Computer - so the logical conclusion would be that the album would be a return to those days, to that sort of sound.
Well, not quite.
Certainly, the album marked a clear shift back towards the more traditional pop melodies and song structures which had been so defiantly abandoned at the turn of the millenium, but this was not OK Computer. Gone was the darkness, the deep outrage at a system gone wrong, the vaulting ambition to try and expose its hypocrisies and injustice through the medium of guitar rock; in its place was something quite different. Personal. Secure. Even intimate, at times, with songs such as Weird Fishes/Arpeggi and Faust Arp sounding as if they were played by a jam band in your living room. No longer was Thom Yorke singing every lyric as if it may be his last on earth - rather, this was the work of an artist, and a band, who seemed to just be having enjoying the simple act of playing music again, and nothing more.
Of course, this was 2007, and the elements of post-millenial Radiohead's signature electronic experimentations are all still there, such as the time-reversed strings which open the decade-old Nude, the dream-like vocal manipulations of House of Cards, the rapid generated drum patterns for 15 Step. But there aree no Idioteques on this album: all these elements remain simply elements, along with the guitar pick scratches on Jigsaw Falling Into Place or the bursting firework cymbals of Reckoner. And gone, too, are the oblique, abstract monolithic phrase fragments which constituted the lyrics of their previous albums, replaced instead with the personal ("forget about your house of cards, and I'll deal mine") and the honest ("this is where I say goodbye, 'cause I can't do it face to face").
So this is In Rainbows: texturally detailed, compact, intimate, and completely assured. An album which seems to show little superficial relationship to what came before - which, in many ways, makes it quintessentially Radiohead.
In a way, it's ironic: having been given the opportunity to do whatever they liked, Radiohead surprised everyone by doing just that.
Write-up by Spark
46. INXS – Kick
INXS' 6th album "Kick" was released in 1987 and is the band's most successful album. It is certified six times platinum and had four US top 10 singles, 'New Sensation', 'Devil Inside', 'Need You Tonight' and probably their most well known track 'Never Tear Us Apart'. The Album reached no. 1 on the Australian charts and was considered by critics to be a fresh sound combining hard rock edges with dance grooves which made the band a world wide phenomenon. 'Kick' was written to be an album of singles, but in its own right became one of Australia's most popular and critically acclaimed albums and still stands the test of time.
Write-up by Mister Wright
45. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
That I was a relative latecomer to the majesty of Bruce Springsteen is squarely the fault of his seventh album's title track. Born in the U.S.A. was impossible to avoid in the mid-80s. Its chorus was too strident, too bombastic, hell, too American to be anything other than a paean as to how chuffing great being an American was, wasn't it? Exactly the kind of sentiment to send those of us native to the old world side of the Atlantic to turn up our noses at our gauche Yankee cousins and vomit quietly.
Suffice to say I was wrong. Spectacularly, pitifully and abjectly so. When, after an English Literature GCSE that required me to read The Grapes of Wrath Springsteen piqued my interest by releasing an album called The Ghost of Tom Joad, that took its name from the lead character of Steinbeck's dust-bowl epic, I actually listened to the the song's verses it became obvious how wide my missing of the point actually was. “Born down in a dead man's town; the first kick I took was when I hit the ground” are the song's opening lines. All was not what it seemed.
In my defence, I was far from alone in my misreading. The team behind Ronald Reagan's successful re-election co-opted the song for his campaign and the estimable Hugh Laurie (yes, Dr Gregory House himself) performed a pastiche on A Bit of Fry & Laurie dressed in Springsteenesque flannel shirt and bandanna where the joke is clearly based on the same misunderstanding. Although Stephen Fry punching him in the throat is still undeniably funny.
The man who will forever simply be The Boss to his army of fans is no mindless flag-waver. An American to be sure, but one from, like his great inspiration Dylan, the folk-rock, protest song tradition who gives voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed population of his home country. There is a grimly amusing irony that Reagan, king neo-con himself, announced his arrival to his adoring public with a song about a Vietnam veteran returning after his service to Uncle Sam to find no work, “the shadow of the penitentiary” and “nowhere to run”.
What Born in the U.S.A. the album is, is big. Big in production, big in ambition and big in sales (30 million and counting). It's the sound of a master craftsman very deliberately aiming for a bigger audience with a mainstream sound. After sitting out his previous album, Springsteen's sidemen, The E Street Band, returned. Clarence Clemons's saxophone is well to the fore and the keyboards of Roy Bittan are invariably synthesised. It's resolutely a pop record and the album that lifted Springsteen to breathe the same exulted air as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince, so to criticise it for not being Unknown Pleasures (or, more appositely, Nebraska, Springsteen's dark, sombre and largely acoustic album that immediately preceded it) is rather missing the point.
Springsteen expressed ambition was to have his music heard by as many people as possible and his was his golden bullet. It sounds like a greatest hits collection and there's no surprise in that as seven of its twelve tracks were released as singles. Dancing in the Dark was followed into the top ten by Cover Me, Born in the U.S.A., I'm on Fire, Glory Days, I'm Goin' Down and My Hometown. Unless you've managed to avoid FM radio these past three decades some or all of these will be familiar to you.
If Springsteen's medium had changed, his message remained the same. His characters find a world that is harder, less welcoming and more unforgiving than they ever imagined. Lost jobs, broken hearts and dreams of escape destined to remain unfulfilled abound. The Springsteen of Born in the U.S.A., his body scarcely less buff than Rocky Balboa's, struck an all-American archetype; a blue-collar, resolutely masculine alpha male. Not one set on the stoical forbearance of a Gary Cooper or a James Stewart though, rather one to document and rail against the injustice of the flip side of capitalism.
Born in the U.S.A. isn't my favourite album. It isn't even my favourite Springsteen album (it's the aforementioned The Ghost of Tom Joad, since you ask). However, it is a Trojan Horse of the best kind. A worthy introduction and primer for the uninitiated and a radio-friendly, unit-shifting treatise on the death of the American dream.
Write-up by Boy Brumby
44. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Upon the release of David Bowie's most thematically ambitious, musically coherent album to date, the record in which he unites the major strengths of his previous work and comfortably reconciles himself to some apparently inevitable problems, we should all say a brief prayer that his fortunes are not made to rise and fall with the fate of the "drag-rock" syndrome — that thing that's manifesting itself in the self-conscious quest for decadence which is all the rage at the moment in trendy Hollywood, in the more contrived area of Alice Cooper's presentation, and, way down in the pits, in such grotesqueries as Queen, Nick St. Nicholas' trio of feathered, sequined Barbie dolls. And which is bound to get worse.
For although Lady Stardust himself has probably had more to do with androgony's current fashionableness in rock than any other individual, he has never made his sexuality anything more than a completely natural and integral part of his public self, refusing to lower it to the level of gimmick but never excluding it from his image and craft. To do either would involve an artistically fatal degree of compromise.
Which is not to say that he hasn't had a great time with it. Flamboyance and outrageousness are inseparable from that campy image of his, both in the Bacall and Garbo stages and in his new butch, street-crawler appearance that has him looking like something out of the darker pages of City of Night. It's all tied up with the one aspect of David Bowie that sets him apart from both the exploiters of transvestitism and writer/performers of comparable tallent — his theatricality.
The news here is that he's managed to get that sensibility down on vinyl, not with an attempt at pseudo-visualism (which, as Mr. Cooper has shown, just doesn't cut it), but through employment of broadly mannered styles and deliveries, a boggling variety of vocal nuances that provide the program with the necessary depth, a verbal acumen that is now more economic and no longer clouded by storms of psychotic, frenzied music, and, finally, a thorough command of the elements of rock & roll. It emerges as a series of concise vignettes designed strictly for the ear.
Side two is the soul of the album, a kind of psychological equivalent of Lola vs. Powerman that delves deep into a matter close to David's heart: What's it all about to be a rock & roll star? It begins with the slow, fluid "Lady Stardust," a song in which currents of frustration and triumph merge in an overriding desolation. For though "He was alright, the band was altogether" (sic), still "People stared at the makeup on his face/Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace." The pervading bittersweet melancholy that wells out of the contradictions and that Bowie beautifully captures with one of the album's more direct vocals conjures the picture of a painted harlequin under the spot-light of a deserted theater in the darkest hour of the night.
"Star" springs along handsomely as he confidently tells us that "I could make it all worthwhile as a rock & roll star." Here Bowie outlines the dazzling side of the coin: "So inviting — so enticing to play the part." His singing is a delight, full of mocking intonations and backed way down in the mix with excessive, marvelously designed "Ooooohh la la la"'s and such that are both a joy to listen to and part of the parodic undercurrent that runs through the entire album.
"Hang on to Yourself" is both a kind warning and an irresistible erotic rocker (especially the handclapping chorus), and apparently Bowie has decided that since he just can't avoid cramming too many syllables into his lines, he'll simply master the rapid-fire, tongue-twisting phrasing that his failing requires. "Ziggy Stardust" has a faint ring of The Man Who Sold the World to it — stately, measured, fuzzily electric. A tale of intragroup jealousies, it features some of Bowie's more adventuresome imagery, some of which is really the nazz: "So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?"
David Bowie's supreme moment as a rock & roller is "Suffragette City," a relentless, spirited Velvet Underground-styled rush of chomping guitars. When that second layer of guitar roars in on the second verse you're bound to be a goner, and that priceless little break at the end — a sudden cut to silence from a mighty crescendo, Bowie's voice oozing out as a brittle, charged "Oooohh Wham Bam Thank you Ma'am!" followed hard by two raspy guitar bursts that suck you back into the surging meat of the chorus — will surely make your tum do somersaults. And as for our Star, well, now "There's only room for one and here she comes, here she comes."
But the price of playing the part must be paid, and we're precipitously tumbled into the quietly terrifying despair of "Rock & Roll Suicide." The broken singer drones: "Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth/Then you pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette." But there is a way out of the bleakness, and it's realized with Bowie's Lennon-like scream: "You're not alone, gimme your hands/You're wonderful, gimme your hands." It rolls on to a tumultuous, impassioned climax, and though the mood isn't exactly sunny, a desperate, possessed optimism asserts itself as genuine, and a new point from which to climb is firmly established.
Side one is certainly less challenging, but no less enjoyable from a musical standpoint. Bowie's favorite themes — Mortality ("Five Years," "Soul Love"), the necessity of reconciling oneself to Pain (those two and "It Ain't Easy"), the New Order vs. the Old in sci-figarments ("Starman") — are presented with a consistency, a confidence, and a strength in both style and technique that were never fully realized in the lashing The Man Who Sold the World or the uneven and too often stringy Hunky Dory.
Bowie initiates "Moonage Daydream" on side one with a riveting bellow of "I'm an alligator" that's delightful in itself but which also has a lot to do with what Rise and Fall ... is all about. Because in it there's the perfect touch of selfmockery, a lusty but forlorn bravado that is the first hint of the central duality and of the rather spine-tingling questions that rise from it: Just how big and tough is your rock & roll star? How much of him is bluff and how much inside is very frightened and helpless? And is this what comes of our happily dubbing someone as "bigger than life"?
David Bowie has pulled off his complex task with consummate style, with some great rock & roll (the Spiders are Mick Ronson on guitar and piano, Mick Woodmansey on drums and Trevor Bolder on bass; they're good), with all the wit and passion required to give it sufficient dimension and with a deep sense of humanity that regularly emerges from behind the Star facade. The important thing is that despite the formidable nature of the undertaking, he hasn't sacrificed a bit of entertainment value for the sake of message.
I'd give it at least a 99.
David Bowie The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars Album Review | Rolling Stone
43. Doves – The Last Broadcast
Released: 29th April 2002
Peak UK Chart Position: #1 from 11th May to 24th May 2002
Peak US Chart Position: #83
Sales Records: 1 x UK Platinum Seller
There Goes the Fear" 15 April 2002 UK Peak: #3
Pounding 22 July 2002 #21
Caught by the River 14 October 2002 #29
With their sophomore release, Cheshire based 3-piece Doves came of age. Their debut album, Lost Souls had received excellent reviews, but had been perceived as sombre and claustrophobic. Given the band's history amongst the club scene in the mid-1990s under their Sub Sub incarnation (Ain't No Love, Ain't No Use being their dance floor smash), the album was also seen as the inevitable comedown from the mid-90s acid house euphoria; the maturing of young men into adults.
By contrast, their second album – The Last Broadcast was altogether more bombastic and euphoric. The album managed to be upbeat despite lyrics which bely they positive sound the record creates. Opening with Words uses a jangly guitar melody and atmospheric vocals to set the scene strongly, before the band launch into the incredible There Goes the Fear. Their biggest hit has been compared to the incredible wig-out of the full length version of the Stone Roses' I Am The Resurrection but achieves something unique. Taking Brazilian rhythms and merging them with a distinctly 'Manchester' sound turned out to be a real winner for the Doves.
Released only for a day, and backed by 'Hit The Ground Running' - a reworking of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, the single reached the dizzy heights of #3 on the UK singles chart. A cynical marketing ploy, perhaps, but it certainly didn't harm their ability to shift singles and albums by the box-load. The reworking of 70s classics like Werewolves continued into the next album track - a re-recording of King Crimson's Moonchild but with the unique recording studio of the underneath of a flyover of the M62. M62 Song certainly has an ethereal sound. This otherworldly undertone continues through the middle of the album before being tossed aside like Cribb's CricketWeb World Cup.
Pounding is an incredible rhythm-led 5 minutes of wonder which brings the album back to life and starts an emotional crescendo leading into the tail of the album. Rhythm, an important aspect throughout the album - and no doubt aided by the fact that two thirds of the band members are adept drummers - is the key to Pounding, and that rhythm surges into your head as the song builds before it crashes into the title track of the album.
The album's closer is another wonder. Caught by the River is an ideal closer to the album with the diminishing refrain of 'giving it all away' subsiding into the background noise as the album fades out.
Overall, traces a well-worn and familiar path of Northern bands past. The album builds into an early high before easing off to return with renewed gusto. There are incredible peaks of sonic guitar with equally astounding quiet periods. The ghostly appearance of an dreamy clarinet solo and ethereal vocals.
A band - for once - took what they had done with their debut and neither ignored it nor repeated it. They took their work from Lost Souls and built on it to create a euphoric response to that acid house comedown.
Write-up by Heef
41= Massive Attack – Mezzanine
I think I was first turned onto Massive Attack as a result of the trailer for the original ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game, which featured Teardrop as the main music to go with the gameplay footage. I quite enjoyed Dummy by Portishead and Mezzanine always featured quite highly on most critic lists of 90s music. As many of us do, I was going through one of my various phases musically – at this particular time, electronic music was in vogue for me. However, while my tastes and phases may change, I think I can safely say that this is an album that I will always listen to.
The album starts tremendously; the soaring build up to Angel is enough to get the hairs on the back of the neck standing up, even now, listening to it. It is in parts beautiful, masterful and foreboding – there’s a real sense of tension in the musical build up. A tension that, I’ve since discovered reading about the band’s history, is there for a reason. It’s full of the same art imitating life uneasiness that exists at the heart of Radiohead’s Kid A and the Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, two other albums that made my own personal list that betray the difficult personal circumstances that existed within each band around the time of recording. At times the album sounds like it’s in conflict with itself, reflecting the chaotic recording process where the band members were rarely in the studio together.
Sonically it’s a weird listen as well, at times it’s majestic and epic, yet the best way to listen to the album is undoubtedly through a set of headphones. Party music this isn’t, at times the record is deeply claustrophobic and personal. Perhaps it’s my wild imagination, but I can almost picture the album as being the soundtrack to my own personal, post-apocalyptic wasteland where I need to piece the universe back together – probably because of the subtle, violent menace that creeps through the album while you’re listening to it.
It’s dark, slick and menacing. Angel and Teardrop would be the standout tracks to listen to, but in my opinion you can’t just isolate tracks and listen to them to get the full experience – the album has to be experienced as an entire unit. When you do, you’re listening to one of the albums of the 90s.
Write-up by Furball
41= Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
(CW only allows ten images per post. As such, I chose this one to remove, in line with the review!)
Up until approximately five years ago if you had asked me which of his albums was Bob Dylan's greatest achievement I would, without a moment's hesitation, have nominated Blood on the Tracks. Times change though and thanks to modern technology I can now see that Blonde on Blonde is in fact by a distance his finest work.
Why the change of mind? The first thing that put me off the album was the cover. The front consisted of what I consider to be as self-indulgent a portrait of an artist as I have ever seen, and my irritation was exacerbated by the appearance of a similar photograph, save twice the size of course, staring out at me on opening up the gatefold sleeve - bloody poser.
Having already disapproved of the packaging the next step was, inevitably, to listen to the album. First up on Blonde on Blonde is 'Rainy Day Women #12 and 35'. As a single it reached number 2 in the USA and 7 in the UK, so was clearly well received, but I thought it was bloody awful, and four decades on still do. For me the heights reached by the other 13 tracks could never fully remove the nasty taste, until I eventually joined the ipod generation, and I have never had to hear Dylan's entreaty to all to 'get stoned' again, or look at the album's cover.
So what am I left with on my dawdle into work in the mornings? There is the wistful 'I Want You', the strident 'Just Like a Woman', the bluesy 'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat' and the magnificent ballad 'Visions of Johanna' to highlight just a few. Finally, on the last of the four sides of this double album is but a single track, 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' - perhaps not unreasonably it needed a few spins to fully appreciate the song's brilliance, but once it embedded itself in my consciousness it has never left.
Write-up by fredfertang