Friday, 4 December 2009

we are ugly but we have the music.....

Earworms of the Week

> Enter Sandman - Metallica
> Too Much Brandy - The Streets
> London Calling - The Clash
> Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger - Daft Punk

It's been "Masterpiece" week on Zane Lowe's show on Radio One, when they dedicate the whole of each show to the making of a classic album, culminating in the playing of that album, uninterrupted, from start to finish. I actually own all of the albums featured this week -- The Black Album, Original Pirate Material, London Calling & Discovery -- but there's something oddly thrilling about hearing them go out live on the radio in full. I didn't even know they were doing this again this year until I flicked on the radio on the way back from the supermarket on Monday night to hear the fantastical sound of "Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden. These standard bearers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal were, of course, hugely influential on a young Lars Ulrich and form a small part of the tapestry of influences that led Metallica from raw thrash band, through prog metal and on to the behemoth that we know and love today. I personally don't think the Black Album is their finest work, but I still got a huge kick out of hearing that classic opening one-two punch of "Enter Sandman" and "Sad But True".

Next up was "Original Pirate Material" by the Streets. I got onto this one surprisingly early, and I'm still not quite sure why I was so drawn that I ended up watching his gig at Rock City on a Thursday night in late 2002 as part of One Live in Nottingham. It's not, let's be honest, the kind of music that usually floats my boat (the other gig I attended that week was the Queens of the Stoneage gig on the Tuesday night - a quote of mine still adorns the BBC website from that night, actually). Mike Skinner was fantastic that night, and this remains probably the best example of his work. "A Grand Don't Come For Free" is also brilliant, of course, but for me he's sort of dribbled out since then. Still, with songs like "Has It Come To This", "Let's Push Things Forwards", "Don't Mug Yourself", "The Irony of it All" and "Stay Positive" are still standouts, in my books. Lock down your aerial.

I didn't listen to the show on the Clash, but good album though it is (and brilliant title track), I can't get away from the feeling that this isn't even the best Clash album.... I much prefer their debut..... but I'll have to give the show a listen simply because I'm interested to hear the history of the record and the interviews with Strummer and the likes.

For me, "Discovery" was something of an odd choice. It's a good album, but I would have opted for "Homework" instead. I like the singles here, but I think the album peters out as it goes on. Still, when they're good, Daft Punk are very, very good.

Not a bad set of songs to have drifting around your head all week, and some quality broadcasting from the BBC. Bravo!

> Let's Get Clinical - Maximo Park

"Quicken the Heart" has been really growing on me over the course of the year after a ropey start when I couldn't warm to it at all. This song in particular seemed to be incredibly lazy, using a hackneyed geography metaphor when talking about shagging. Actually, although some of the lyrics still sound a bit off to me, this has wormed its way into my head to the extent that I found myself humming it to myself as I was trawling up and down the swimming pool. It's still my least favourite of the band's three albums, but it's not the massive drop-off in quality that I feared it was. I'm hesitant to say that this is a good song, exactly, but I'm now pretty sure it's not a bad song. Is that damning it with faint praise? Probably.

> Tears Dry On Their Own - Amy Winehouse

Lest we forget that red-top favourite Amy Winehouse is actually a pretty damn talented singer. This evocation of motown is pretty much perfect. Just try not to think of her cooing over baby mice with Pete Doherty..... Yuck.

> Tear - Red Hot Chili Peppers

"By The Way" is an stunning album. For a band famous for playing funk metal wearing nothing but socks, it displays a lovely touch for melody and sunny californian harmonies. I haven't listened to it for a while, but my ear was caught by the tune that was playing just as I was about to get into the swimming pool today I actually delayed getting into the water until I had sung it down to the chorus and been able to place it. I was almost surprised when I realised that it was the RHCPs, as it sounds so...well, subtle. I haven't been that taken with anything that they've done subsequently to this album, but this one is a keeper for sure.

> Too Shy - Kajagoogoo

Oh, the things that proof-reading a book on 101 lost pop classics of the 80s will do for your internal jukebox..... Not to mention reawakening my pedantic instinct for detecting the passive voice.

That was some haircut, eh?

> It's Still Rock & Roll To Me - Billy Joel

Instantly recognisable, to me at least, when played on the bontempi organ in the LeftLion pub quiz this week. Judging by the total lack of reaction in the pub when the answers were read out, I think we might have been the only team to have got it. Shame on you, Golden Fleece clientele! Your Billy Joel skills are seriously lacking and you need to do some intensive revision.

> Chelsea Hotel #2 - Leonard Cohen

Whenever I listen to Leonard Cohen, I'm always struck by how beautiful his lyrics are. No surprise, I suppose, given that he was a published poet long before he turned his hand to music. This one is about Cohen's (unlikely) liaison with Janis Joplin in the famous hotel in New York, where she was "giving me head on the unmade bed" (okay, maybe that bit's not quite so poetic). When accused of being ungracious about his subject, Cohen responded by saying that Joplin wouldn't have minded, but his mother was horrified.

Me, I just like the lyrics:

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
But for me you would make an exception.

That's well-written AND funny! One of the greats.

Have a good weekend y'all.  Stay classy.

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