This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 19 cover from 27-31 July.

Wow, week 19 and still working from home. Some lockdown restrictions have been easing but I am not back at the office. Think it might be a good while yet. But the longer this goes on I may have to change the title of the blog. I am open to suggestions on whether I change it or keep it.

Anyway, on to the music….

Monday 27 July – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails (NIN) released Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. I wasn’t aware of them at the time until I heard the bands performance at Woodstock ’94 when John Peel announced on the radio that “you had rewarded yourself by staying up late for one of the best performances of the weekend”. Can’t go wrong with John Peel recommedation.

After that I was interested in the band and the first NIN album I bought was The Downward Spiral (1994) which was a really dark album recorded in the house that Sharon Tate was murdered in by the Charles Mansion gang. Not a very easy listen and neither was Pretty Hate Machine which I bought afterwards. The companion album Further Down The Spiral (1995) and not pictured was a remix album. I don’t normally like remixes but this album was pretty good.

With Teeth (2005) was a welcome return to NIN for me. Somehow I managed to miss their last album, 1999’s The Fragile. I was probably intrigued with Dave Grohl’s involvement in the album as he plays drums on at least 7 of the tracks.

Year Zero (2007) was an album with a difference. A concept album on a futuristic USA and was totally difference to the previous album.

Hesitation Marks (2013) was the bands first in five years and it was released at the time of their latest European tour which called at Belfast for the Belsonic festival. It is very unusual going to a gig and you aren’t aware of what the new songs were like. The only one I knew was Copy of A which was released as free download. The gig itself was amazing and one of the best I have been to.

And All That Could Have Been (2002) was the bands only live album recorded during the Fragility v2.0 US tour in 2000 and it is really good. Quite up there with my radio broadcast tape from 1994 so it was good to have a live CD which really does capture the live performance of the band. I last got to see them two years ago in Madrid, Spain as part of the Mad Cool Festival. Only time I had to leave half way through their set as I needed to get back to my B&B, grab some sleep and then head to airport to get home!

Tuesday 28 July – James

Where do you start with James? I guess for me not at the beginning as I was quite late getting into them. I didn’t really appreciate them until the release of the Best of (1998) that I realised that I knew quite a lot of their songs like Sit Down, Laid, Come Home, She’s a Star as they always played them at indie and student union discos.

Well there was probably never going to be a good time to get into them so I guess this was my starting point. The release of Millionaires (1999) was their eighth album and my second. I got to experience the band for the first time that year and they were amazing live. Playing at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, some eagle eye spotted Bono and The Edge in the the VIP box in the venue.

Other albums played included Whiplash (1997) and Laid (1993) which is my favourite James album. Pleased To Meet You (2001) quickly followed Millionaires and the live album, Getting Away with it…Live (2002) captured the band on the tour that would result in the band breaking up afterwards. It was such a shame to see an end of the band and I was thankfully for the few times I had seen them live.

But there was a comeback which I had missed back in 2008. Girl At the End of the World (2016) was their 14th album and it almost knocked Adele’s 21 off the top spot. Peaking at midweek and settling for no.2. Not bad for a band many would consider past their prime.

Wednesday 29 July – Pixies/Frank Black

Today I decided to go for the most recent Pixies albums and some of Frank Black’s solo career. Depends on what way you look it at you either like the comeback albums or you don’t. I guess most Pixies fans prefer the older material but as I was late to the party and have enjoyed them since hearing Doolittle and Bossanova (both my favourite albums) I can say that I have enjoyed all three post reunion albums – Indy Cindy (2014) was their first album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde and also first without Kim Deal who returned to The Breeders.

Head Carrier (2016) marked the first full appearance of bassist Paz Lenchantin after replacing previous bassist Kim Deal, who left the band in 2013. By now the band are no longer basking in past glories in doing tours that feature the hits. Last year’s Beneath the Eyrie was their third full post reunion album and of all three released I definitely like this one best. When they came to Belfast last year I jumped at the chance to see them play here for the first time since 1990. The gig sold out in minutes so I was relieved to get a ticket. 39 songs were played that night. They played the hits but they played nearly all of the new album too which had just come out.

Charles Thompson IV to give him his real name is Frank Black. After the breakup of the Pixies in late 1992 and early 1993, he then adopted the stage name “Frank Black” (inverting his old persona “Black Francis”) and released the Frank Black in 1993. Frank Black was characterised by a focus on UFOs and science fiction. At this stage, The X Files was on TV and its creator Chris Carter produced a spin off show called Millennium whose main character was called Frank Black. The album was similar in style, both musically and lyrically, to the Pixies’ albums Bossanova and Trompe le Monde.

By 1997 he created his new band Frank Black and the Catholics. Pistolero (1992) was their second album and Dog in the Sand (2001) was the last solo album I bought and also the first time I got to see him live. Bearing in mind that this was three years prior to the reunion of 2004 I never thought I would get to see them live. Had to settle for seeing them support Red Hot Chili Peppers and a festival appearance at T in the Park.

Thursday 30 July – REM

Back for another look at REM. They featured here way back in week 3, that feels so long ago now. That day I was listening to REM from when I got into them. Today I would take a look back at their early stuff before they released their major label debut Green in 1989.

Very much a college rock band back in the 1980’s I had never heard of any of their albums growing up but as I got older I was meeting friends who were into them and that opened the door for another “new” band to discover. REM first visited these shores way back in 1985 when they supported U2. Imagine that!

First two albums from the 1980s – Murmur (1983) and Reckoning (1984) highlights REM at their very best for their first couple of albums.

Document (1987) was R.E.M.’s first album to be co-produced both by the band and Scott Litt; a collaboration that continued through GreenOut of TimeAutomatic for the PeopleMonster, and New Adventures in Hi-Fi.

I have both the original CD release and reissue of the album. Also included here was a live album from the deluxe edition – recorded live in Utrecht, Netherlands, 1987.

Also played were two compilation, the first one The Best of REM (1991), shortly after the success of the band’s seventh studio album, Out of Time, released by Warner Bros. The Best of R.E.M., however, was released by the band’s previous record label, I.R.S. Records, and only includes tracks from their first five albums from 1982 to 1987.

R.E.M. Singles Collected is a compilation album from released in Europe by I.R.S. Records in 1994. The album includes the A-side and B-sides of singles spanning from their debut LP Murmur in 1983, right through to Document in 1987. A nice collection of their early works.

Friday 31 July – Idlewild

I first witnessed Idlewild supporting Placebo in the Ulster Hall. Hope is Important (1998) was their debut album and I was blown away by both it and their support slot that night. It is not very often I’m rushing down town to get a new album immediately. In this case the day after the Placebo gig I got a copy of it. Captain also released that year was more of a mini-album.

After that I was hooked and have been into the band since, seeing them live so many times and they are just so good live. The follow up, 2000’s 100 Broken Windows however see’s the band take a more melodic step to their sound. This was the beginning of a change in the band’s sound which by the next album, The Remote Part (2002) was their most commercially successful album to date.

More changes would come for album number 4, Warnings/Promises (2005) which definitely shows a split in the fan base.

I thought it more or less carried on where The Remote Part left off but the latter is a better album and my favourite.

Make Another World (2007) was album no.5 and it was noted for its return to Idlewild’s heavier roots, while continuing to maintain a strong sense of melody as displayed on more recent albums. Q described the album as “the sound of a band re-energised. It also felt like a brand new band coming together with so much personnel coming and going.

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