It’s a truth often acknowledged on this site that a stellar debut is often followed up by a less than earth-shattering second album. But have we explored a different pattern: a respectable debut, followed by a quantum leap forwards on the second album. The Arcade Fire’s debut Funeral saw them unveil a compelling sound, but one not always fashioned into memorable songs. Its the second album, The Neon Bible, that booted them into the stratosphere: to the sound they added memorable songs, a complete apocalyptic scenario going on lyrics-wise, and an album that held together as a start-to-finish listen. Second example: Leisure is a couple of singles, one an insanely catchy/annoying earworm, and not a lot else. Modern Life Is Rubbish instantly tapped Blur into a completely new depth of songwriting, mod-derived imagery and musical stylings and – well what became the Blur that would come to define Britpop and nineties cool Britannia. Your nominations for quantum leaps between first and second please.
What does it sound like?:
Ah dance music. The heady days of Release The Pressure, Second Toughest or Surrender – when a dance music album was an event, seem a long way away. Watered down in some homeopathic dilution the innovations of the nineties still throb through the charts via Disclosure or Chainsmokers, but it’s a long time since I heard a dance music album – for dancing, for turning up loud, that feels as satifsfactory as Mirage. It’s DNA is Daft Punk, French filter house, and a touch of big beat but it escapes all these influences to deliver a long album that nevertheless is a richly rewarding listen all the way through – and turn it up and you’ll be tapping a foot at the very least. Go Time references Fine Time era New Order, Battlecry has the sort of drops and speaker-destroying bass lines the Chemicals used to deliver, Shangri La offers a mini-epic slower huge-chords experience, and final track Blink could be a long-lost Homework out-take. God knows who they are, but this is a shamefully overlooked classic of last year.
What does it all *mean*?
That someone, somewhere can still create the elusive Great Dance » Continue Reading.
The first Athlete album – Vehicles and Animals, a spry quirky poppy addition to the tail end of Britpop – Westside, You Got The Style, El Salvador. Nice album. Promising debut. Bought. Seduced by perhaps having very young children at the time, and the lead single Wires being about a newborn in hospital, bought the second album in the pre-spotify days when you couldn’t listen easily to a whole album in advance. Utterly turgid sub sub sub Coldplay. One-paced, platitudinous drivel striving for entirely unearned epicness and meaning. So I have finally after a decade of it lurking in the A’s consigned it to the Oxfam pile. Where if I’m not mistaken it will join many other copies of Tourist. Come clean with your regretful purchases you’ve summoned up the courage to bin. I’m not going to post anything from Tourist…
The greatest female soul voice ever steps into retirement today, Aretha Franklin. So it’s time to post your favourite divas here – soul, funky, opera – as long as there’s an outstanding voice. Tragic personal life, outrageous backstage demands optional.Please note VH1 that Shania Twain does not qualify. @gary would surely like to post some more Barbera, and I may well post some Liza later. For now there’s only one way to start off.
Year: 2017 Director: Damien Chazelle
I can’t believe the Afterwrod doesn’t yet have a La La Land review, so here it is. Though you don’t need to be a full on musicals fan, you need to be open to a few basic ideas to enjoy this film. Characters can burst into song and dance in the middle of a scene – fine with me. Open to a bit of jazz? Quite a lot of jazz. Ok? Let’s go then. The story is one of the oldest in the movie business – two dreamers on the make in LA – actress Emma Stone and jazz pianist Ryan Gosling – fall in love with each other, and each other’s dreams. You know what? Success costs and as he hooks up with John Legend (yes) and the success starts coming the cracks in the relationship widen. It’s romantic, it’s a comedy – but most of all it’s a love letter to the MGM musical, to Hollywood and to LA. We go on a whistle stop tour of LA landmarks from the Griffiths Planetarium (Rebel Without a Cause) and gridlocked freeways to the studio backlots. Gosling and Stone twirl, tap dance and croon their » Continue Reading.
Year: 2006 Director: Darren Aronofsky
In the midst of an entertainment culture that’s never seem more focused on guaranteeing excellence – from TV box sets and Josh Weedon helmed reboots – its a pleasure , certainly occasional, perhaps guilty, to focus on a complete howler. Darren Aronofsky, of Pi and Requiem for A Dream, managed to blow 35 million dollars on what appears to be an extended vanity project for then squeeze Rachel Weitz. The film is equivalent to those model portfolio shoots you can do at High Streeet photographers, or the Friday video. All involved, Aronofsky, Weitz and Hugh Jackman – should know way better.
We lay our scene in fifteenth-century South America, where Hugh Jackman plays a conquistador who is in search of the Tree of Life on the behest of the beautiful Queen of Spain – Weitz. No, in fact its the far future, where lotus-position astral voyager Jackman is steering a bonsai tree bubble spaceship into a distant nebula haunted by memories of his dead wife Weitz . Oh wait, in fact we’re really in the present day where Jackman is a brilliant cancer surgeon whose beautiful wife – Weitz in full pixie waif mode » Continue Reading.
New Year, New Almanac. Our last effort got a bit buried in the end-of-year lists and general Bowie anniversary activity. So a rebooted Almanac is picking up its run of mix-sixties years. For those new to this series it’s an opportunity to muse on gigs you’ve seen, favourite or otherwise tracks, films, sport – just about anything and everything postable from the year in question. We kick off as ever with a selection of stories from NME: The Rock and Roll Years, a truly fantastic tome that reprints excerpts.
NME : Hang The Jury! In a rare venture into serious newspaper editorial, the NME has been prompted into the following statement on the drugs-in-pop-lyrics issue. Last Saturday, seven minutes were cut from the BBC JUKE BOX Jury. The show – pre-recorded the pervious weekend – had including a lengthy discussion on The Game’s recording ‘The Addicted Man’ which the Corporation decided was unsuitable for transmission. The Game’s disc is concerned with drug taking, and the panel had criticised it mercilessly. Rightly so! BUT IF THE BBC IS GOING TO TURN A COLD HSOULDER TO ALL DRUG-TAKING IMPLICATIONS IN POP MUSIC, IT MIGHT AS WELL SCRUB JBJ IMMEDIATELY. Directly or indirectly, » Continue Reading.
Despite its venerable age and a reboot recently that almost everyone hated, last fm is still the only place to join up your itunes, spotify, google play and other online plays (can’t make youtube work, though it says it should) to scrobble your total online music activity. They’ve just told me my 2016 stats, though this is only to 1 Dec strangely:
7731 plays 23 per day 18 days 9 hours listening time 817 different artists and 1186 albums placing me in the 89th percentile – ie in the top 12% 6357 tracks placing me in the 98th percentile – variety is the spice of life then. Biggest day – 141 tracks Longest streak – 27 days
Pointless but fascinating…
Share your stats fellow last fm-ers. This of course excludes CD plays in the car, vinyl at home etc –
Platform:Playstation Age Rating:18+ Year of Release:2016 Review:
As a thirty-year old unable to hold out against the original PlayStation hype, there were a bundle of three games I got with the console. The first was peerless RPG Final Fantasy VII, the second the rock-hard Resident Evil and the third was Doom. The PS version was a port of the original Doom and Doom II from the PC, and if FFVII was the game as a novel, as a source of beauty and emotion, then Doom was all about the thrill. From the sound of the shotgun to the superb level designs, ending in mad dashes for elevators before the timer ran out and the door slammed shut, it gripped us.
There was a previous reboot on the last gen consoles, but the current PS4 incarnation is seen as the inheritor of the original flame (of hell). So, thirty years on – how’s your FPS madelaine slipping down? I’m three levels in, and playing on the easiest setting – daughter is of course dismissive, as only the harder settings introduce the lack-of-save points jeopardy of the original. Spent 90 minutes fighting to the end of the level only to die » Continue Reading.
Slightly delayed after a short-cut via the Crab Nebula, we open the doors of the Aftertardis once more – and after fleeting visits to the birth of rock n roll and the dark heart of the eighties we’re at officially the Most Important Year Ever: 1966 and all that. There’s really very little I need to add here – and Jon Savage has a whole book on How Important It is. It’s the year Beat became Hippy, the year the Beatles stopped touring, Bob had an accident with a motorbike, and generally everything famous to do with rock happened. As ever we kick off with some stories from the NME Rock N Roll Years, and then it’s open house on a thread for anything and everything from 1966. I am one so no gig stories from me for this year. Any sightings of the Macca soundtrack to Wedlocked welcome.
Scott Engel of The Walker Brothers entered a monastery on the Isle of Wight for ten days retreat. However, he left after only seven days at the abbots’ request as fans had arrived to besiege the monastery gate.
Australia and US Censor UK Discs Two current UK Top 10 singles are » Continue Reading.
As a child of the seventies the DC5 have hardly entered my musical consciousness – except of course Bits and Pieces, Catch Us If You Can and Glad All Over – and apparently many other singles. I watched the quite-frankly gob-stopping BBC4 doc broadcast last weekend. Jaw dropping in its hagiography – which was fairly engaging while we were in the sixties and on the Ed Sullivan Show, completely risible when spending 30 minutes discussing Time: the Musical as if it were the natural successor to West Side Story (only with an important message for humanity thrown in). Bruce, Stevie, Paul – all of the contributors were First Name Only Needed people, and if they didn’t quite look as traumatised as Johnny Depp in that Australian borders video, looked as if they had been heavily leant on by the producer (ah – who is it? One DC) to position the DC5 as at the right hand of the Beatles. We also very much enjoyed Tom Hanks giving a three-hankie performance on their induction into the rock and roll Hall of Fame.
So…5 mins on Wikipedia reveals that DC controlled the master tapes for their music only leasing them to the » Continue Reading.
Niche post alert. One of the joys of attending the primary school music evenings was seeing the 8-year old drummers do their paradiddles to a backing track called something like ‘Red Hot Chilli’ or ‘Driving’ out of ‘Grade 1 Drumming’. And then I listened a couple of weeks ago to The Cure’s debut which has a track that clearly comes out of ‘Guitar for Beginners’ and mischievously is called The Weedy Burton (see what they did there). And this week I’m listening to the marvellous Colossal Youth by Young Marble Giants which have several tracks that sound like they are on the first few pages of ‘Play Bontempi Organ in a Day.’ So over, to you for tracks that sound or indeed are music lesson pieces or maybe even in-store demos.
There’s origin myths about doing deals with the devil at midnight down at the crossroads. There’s being a hobo. Then there’s Art schools. From the fifties to today a staple in the origin myths of a certain type of band. We went to art school, we met at art school. Our whole band’s kind of an art project really. The guitarist paints our record sleeves. I base my lyrics on Rimbaud. It’s a Brechtian thing. We use the Burroughs cut-up technique to write our choruses.
Art rockers, art school rockers, here’s to artifice and wearing your reading list on your sleeve. None I think have captured this approach better than Wire – my ultimate art school band. Your entries please in the ultimate art school roll call. The more pretentious the better!
This is where we’ve been heading. For one last time let’s step into the wonderful and frightening world of the eighties. I was at university seeing bands like The Sisters of Mercy (no change there from the previous few years) and the excellent Prefab Sprout on the Steve McQueen tour. It was well and truly the year the charity single became a thing – as well as Live Aid (the end of 1984), USA for Africa, there were records in aid of the Bradford Football Fire and and against apartheid with ‘Sun City’.
And some headlines from the NME:
Spandau Sue Spandau Ballet have issued a writ against Chrysalis Records, alleging negligence on the part of the label. The group have also stated their desire to be released from their current contract, which has a year to run. Spandau’s lawyer claims ‘ The recent writ served against Chrysalis is a direct result of the group’s dissatisfaction over their company’s failure to honour its contract to support and promote the group as agreed. Overall, they feel they have not enjoyed the support to which a band of their proven stature nd success is entitled’ He added pointedly: ‘They are estimated » Continue Reading.
As a companion to the delightful On Walking Out thread, can we celebrate the non-appearances, flounces and last-minute unexplained cancellations by those who have moved heaven and earth to be in the audience for. Two from me: seeing Altered Images at the Manchester Apollo, support Subway Sect announced ‘Vic’s supposed to be here but he’s not’ – and played their entire set instrumentally. The comic Simon Day in the mid-90s went on a post-match bender following an England football victory at Euro 96 and failed to turn up to Newbury Corn Exchange that evening. Dave Gorman did the longest support act set ever, but eventually management had to come clean, well say he was indisposed at least – we found out what had happened from someone we knew at the venue a few days later.
And so we arrive at the dark heart of the eighties. Much maligned as the era of bland corporate rock, it was soundtracked in my student world anyway by New Order, The Sisters of Mercy, The Smiths, The Cramps,The Fall and The Pogues. I think in the original Word magazine I mentioned in the obits to Lux Interior about club The Coven next to Oxford Ice Rink, when on goth night we would tot up the Cramps v Sisters plays. Happy days indeed for indie fans, and for Def Leppers (see below). Oh and a certain Prince Rogers Nelson became a global superstar with Purple Rain. Frankie goes to Hollywood ruled the UK charts and scandalised the nation. Some headlines from the NME Rock N Roll Years to get you going, and the rules as ever are anything and everything from the year in question.
And finally, people who appeared on the Band Aid single included Jody Watley and Kool and the Gang. David Bowie provided a spoken-word message on the B-side.
As Christmas approaches, the British charts become a battle ground for television-promoted albums. Mega-labels CBS and WEA alone are promoting ten albums between them this year, while » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Theatre of Hate. One of the most Marmity of Marmite bands. Built around the uncompromising figure of Kirk Brandon – and his startling voice – they were a hot live act in the 81/82 post-punk scene. After a run of scorching singles (IMHO) came their solitary studio album in 1982, now the subject of a 3-disc set expanded edition reissue. Full disclosure – this album or a digital stream of it at least, was provided by @bargepole.
The album proper (CD1) If you’ve heard the track ‘Westworld’ you’ll have a pretty good idea of the TOH sonic palatte: tribal drumming, and a twin-wail attack of sax and Kirk Brandon’s sandpaper-blasting voice. These come at you quick – as in the title track, or slow (Love Is A Ghost). ‘Angular’ guitar and bass are drawn from the templates of post-punk. There really is a lot of sax from John ‘Boy’ Lennard – , so don’t go here if you don’t want that. Apart from tribal drumming (it was not just A Ant of course at the time, Bow Wow Wow, King Kurt, Tenpole Tudor, Tight Fit and many others ) the other » Continue Reading.
In these dark times it’s never been more needed. It gets my son off his ipad, daughter off snapchat and all of us screamin laughing and generally enjoying every thrilling minute of Planet Earth II. I am not a nature doc type of person, but it’s just television of the very best order. Didn’t see I but like all sequels its got a bigger budget, there’s space marines and a glass office – ok maybe not the last two, but the HD camerawork from the microscopic to the epic is astonishing. The ‘breakout moment’ I believe they say was baby iguanas v snakes in the first episode. You can find versions on Youtube cut to Messi scoring, William Tell, boss scenes from video games and so on. I’ve included it in the comments, but there’s been several gob-smacking moments every episode – this week the see-through kung-fu kicking wasp attacking micro frog, the eagle fight in the mountains, leopard v crocodile, the crazy surfing penguins, the incredibly sad blind crabs – catch up right now if you haven’t. I’m imagining a version recut with Adam Curtis’ voiceover from Hypernormalization….
We’re settling into our the mid-eighties groove, trying to decide whether to buy on vinyl, cassette or a new super-shiny disc that’s compact. Here’s your selection of toppermost stories fro the NME – one in particular included as a night out at the Hacienda saw me spend most of it with my mouth open as Einsturzende Neubauten try to drill into the walls of the building. By way of complete contrast I saw Rush again at the NEC – the original concert at the Deeside Leisure Centre (if memory serves me right an ice rink otherwise) being postponed.
Usual rules apply, anything and everything from the year in question.
A. Compact future Hot on the heels of their video disc, Phillips are about to follow up with something just as exciting – the compact disc. The player costs between £400 and £500 = don’t panic, it will plug into your existing hi-if – thankfully the discs should cost little more than a plastic album. First commercial development of the CD was by Sony in Japan, where 2000 were snapped up in a matter of days. In spite of such sales figures, the largest British record company, EMI, has decided » Continue Reading.
We’re back baby. Back back back. Leaving Elvis in the army we journey across space and time and open the doors of the Aftertardis to find ourselves in….1982. The last splutterings of post-punk and disco are petering out, and the charts are firmly in the grip of the ‘Second British Invasion’ – the Spandaus, Durans, Culture Clubs, Human League, ABC etc. Metal, indie, Sunny Ade, reggae, britfunk and lots more to get stuck into. Usual Almanac rules – anything released in the year. I was 17 and so would have been seeing bands – from memory I would have seen possibly the Jam at Stafford Bingley Hall and New Order at Hanley Victoria Hall amongst others. I was also a card-carrying Hacienda member and spent some great nights with 50 other lost souls on ‘club nights’ dancing to Simple Minds and Bauhaus. They played cartoons on giant screens and for a time there was a cafe where you could get chips and beans. Ah the legend. As ever we kick off with some choice stories from NME’s The Rock and Roll Years.
Buy No More Records? Renting records could be the thing of the future if a new Japanese scheme » Continue Reading.
Year: 2016 Director: Adam Curtis
I’m guessing that Adam Curtis is a familiar name to many here, to some not so much – particularly as his work is now mainly seen on the BBC iplayer which those abroad may not be able to access. He’s a journalist and film-maker, who for the last two decades has been crafting a singular approach to documentary making. Curtis’ films are collages of archive clips from primarily the BBC News that explore a particular topic, anchored by Curtis’ own narrative voice and a kicking selection of background music. All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011) argued with a techno-optimist view, suggesting instead that technology has simplified and distorted our view of the world. Bitter Lake (2015) looked at how many Islamist terrorist groups have their origins in the nature of the alliance between the USA and Saudi Arabia; and now we have Hpernormalizion.
Hypernormalization starts in 1975 in New York – where the politicians have bankrupted the city and the financiers take over the running of government; in Syria – where Assad’s father, the first dictator, is trying to create a pan-Arab settlement for the middle East. Frustrated by the Americans’ support » Continue Reading.
It would be fair to say that U2 are not the most widely loved of bands here, and that even within those open to the charms of the One Hitmakers Rattle and Hum is not the most widely loved of their work. I’ve recently struggled through it again and boy is it awful, some of the worst cover versions – All Along the Watchtower, Helter Skelter – possible. It’s peak Bono with the preaching, sanctimoniousness and unloveable bluster…there’s so much to dislike about this album. But yet. Hidden amongst the classic rock audition numbers is Heartland. It’s quite subdued, has that fragile and shivery Edge loveliness, Bono singing and not preaching, and sense of space that made Boy so appealing, in fact tone down the production a bit and you could imagine it from that album. You may or may not agree, but please let’s have your hidden jewels within albums (thinking Live It Up aka ‘Moon Sausage’, Chinese Democracy, the Durans cover album, or Love Beach here for example) that are universally reviled.
So here we are, four weeks in. Seems to be going quite well so far, though it will be interesting to see what effect our first quantum jump has on the thread. I’m planning on a week’s pause to allow the flux capacitor to recharge, and then we’ll see where the controls land us. This week we bid, as mooted last time, farewell to the rock and roll era as Elvis heads for military service. Terry Dene, the subject of a story beneath, was hit with the same call-up for National Service in 1958 too. Did Cliff, Billy Fury or any of the other early Brit rock and rollers have to turn up at Catterick or Salisbury for a short back and sides? There’s a definite feel of ‘second wavers’ to the rock and roll scene, headed over here by Cliff and over there by Eddie Cochran. As ever, we open with some of the best stories from the NME Rock and Roll Years tome, and open the Almanac to receive entries of any hue from 1958.
Stereo. the coming thing? The New York R and B label, Atlantic, have purchased new equipment which will put them in the forefront » Continue Reading.
Before we get into Year Three proper let’s clear up the way forwards. I think some sort of hive mind consensus is emerging from the various comments on chronological vs random. Taking a chunk of 3-5 years seems to offer some coherence so, for example, we can track musical movements like rock and roll or punk. Then zipping around to a different era should keep things fresh and draw in contributors itching to let fly on the heyday of glam or acid house. So I’m proposing this chunk (technical term) has a fairly clear endpoint. Elvis joining the army for a two-year hiatus in March 1958 put the endcap on the first explosive era of Rock and Roll. Yes, King Creole and various recordings were in the can, but the Elvis of 1960 re-emerged fully tamed by Colonel Parker and well on the way to being a family entertainer. So we’ll do 1957 and 1958, bid the King farewell at Fort Hood and then jump into the Aftertardis and set the controls for the heart of….somewhere.
Back to 1957, the year of Jerry Lee Lewis,
BBC Wooing Teenagers with Extra-Hour TV show The BBC are making an all-out » Continue Reading.
The Trump Book Report is trending all over the shop which describes various works of literature in the style of the Donald. You know where this is going, #trumpalbumreport please – loosely around 140 characters.
Lovely Rita. In 10 years I’m gonna be dating her – and not when she’s 64 know what I’m saying. I made it with only #alittlehelpfrommydad. Hillary had 30 years to fix those holes. #letsmakeBlackburngreatagain.