This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 17 cover from 15 to 17 July.
A short working week after being off for two days on the NI Bank Holiday.
Wednesday 15 July – Early 90s indie
Kicking off the new and much shorter working week due to the bank holiday I decided to go for some early 90s indie.
I must admit I wasn’t a fan at the time and didn’t really appreciate the indie scene until much later as I was listening more to what was being released on the other side of the Atlantic but it wouldn’t take too long for me to catch up.
First up was Ride. A band I was more familiar with by name rather than what they sounded like. Formed in 1988 they were initially part of the shoegazing scene of the early 1990s until their break up in 1996.
This best of album from 2001 and actually signed by the band members I picked up from the much missed Head music store in Belfast. OX4 The Best of Ride also got reissued for Record Store Day a few years ago and I managed to get a copy of it. The album featured 15 of the best known songs and I was quite surprised that I really liked this. Should have paid more attention to them at the time. The band did reform with a new album in 2017 Weather Diaries. I caught the band live in Belfast a few years ago and while it was the first time I got to see them live it was hard to compare when they were at their peak in the early 90s.
Next up was Dublin band, My Bloody Valentine who released Loveless in 1991 to widespread critical acclaim and would influence other shoegazing bands. Yet another band that I failed to pick up first time round. No being really clued up on the Irish scene in the early 1990s I didn’t really see any other bands beyond U2 during my teenage years. I can imagine going to see them live would have been quite an experience.
Swervedriver were up next with four albums from their back catalogue. My introduction to the band was after hearing Duel which NME name it as its “single of the week”. I heard the song on the compilation album that NME put together entitled Singles of the Week album in 1993 which was mix mash of both the US and British scene at the time.
Swervedriver fitted into the alternative scene that was coming out of America with acts like Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. But it actually took me a long time to get their albums. Three albums, Raise (1991), Mezcal Head (1993) and Ejector Seat Reservation (1995) all got reissued in 2008 following their reunion and appearance at the Coachella festival in America. I enjoyed all three albums with Mezcal Head being my favourite.
The band got back together and released their first album in 17 years with I Wasn’t Born To Lose You (2015). A really great album that picks up where the band left off. I would love to have seen this band live.
Thursday 16 July – American indie
After a day of early 90s indie it was the turn of alternative rock from the USA. Three bands featured here, The Replacements, Minor Threat and Fugazi. A friend of mine introduced me to The Replacements lending me their 1987 album, Pleased To Meet Me. I never got round to getting any of their albums until the much later complete albums series boxset which included their 1981 debut Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, Hootenanny (1983), Let It Be (1984) and Tim (1985) along with Pleased To Meet Me. I soon found that I was more familiar with leader singer Paul Westerberg’s solo material especially on the Singles soundtrack.
Minor Threat were an American hardcore band from the early 1980s. Very much steeped in the DIY ethic and straight edge scene. I found out about them after listening to Fugazi which was Ian MaKaye’s band after Minor Threat split up. Rage Against The Machine also covered In My Eyes on their Renegades album. The only album I have Complete Discography (1989) features 26 songs in 47 minutes. A very fast album with few songs going beyond 3 minutes.
Fugazi formed in 1986 and their style was considered more post-hardcore. They are cited as an influence by so many bands over the years. I got into them pretty late missing out on five albums released between 1990 and 1998. The first album I got was The Argument (2001) which was their sixth and final album. I would love to have seen this band live and they did play Belfast many years ago at the Art College think it was 1990.
The band have been on hiatus since 2002. Think it is time to revisit their back catalogue.
Friday 17 July – Scotland
Ending the short working week with two of the biggest Scottish bands from the 1980s – Big Country and Simple Minds.
Two bands that were pretty much who most of my classmates in secondary school were listening to at the time from 1982 to 1987. U2 were also my band at the time but I would have been familiar with quite a lot of Big Country and Simple Minds.
I picked two compilation albums by both bands. Big Country released nine albums. The band split up following the suicide of Stuart Adamson in 2001. They reformed for their 25th anniversary with Mike Peters from the Alarm taking over vocal duties. When I left school and went to work I was able to buy more records so I ending up getting into the band properly around 1989-90 resulting in getting to see them live for the first time in 1990 after wining a pair of tickets in the local newspaper. Two compilation album feature here, Fields of Fire – The Ultimate Collection (2011) not pictured and the most recent Essential (2020) featured many of their hit singles like In a Big Country, Wonderland, Look Away, One Great Thing, to name but a few.
Look Away was the first Big Country song I owned. I got that on tape in 1986 as part of a Weetabix promotion. I remember getting a couple of these tapes between 1985 and 1986.
Also popular in school at the time were Simple Minds. A band that started off as post-punk in 1979 I wasn’t aware of them until the release of The Breakfast Club in 1985 which was one of my favourite films of the 80s. Don’t You (Forgot About Me) was a big hit from the film and it was their only US no.1 single. I finally got into the when I saw the live video of Ghost Dancing from their live album, Live in the City of Light (1987).
Street Fighting Years (1989) was the first Simple Minds album I bought and then I started going backwards to get the rest of their albums. Belfast Child was their fourth number 1 single and that was a big influence on me at the time as I was moving from childhood to adulthood. I remember going into town to buy the 12″ single which I still have.
I choose Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (2013) to listen to that day. The three disc albums covers their early works from 1979’s Life in a Day to 2009’s Graffiti Soul. A nice collection which comes with sleeves for each disc which represented periods in the band’s history.
By 1991 with grunge and alternative rock nearly taking over the world, this almost ended my interest in the band. Real Life (1991) was the last album I bought by them but it was thanks to this collection and then the new album, Big Music which came out in 2014) that I started to appreciate the band again.
Simple Minds would also be the first band that I saw live and the as documented in my first attempt at writing a blog.