Music life in lockdown week 38

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 38 covers from 7-11 December.

Monday 7 December

Bruce Springsteen has been a regular listening feature during lockdown so today I got out this box set of his 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town.

I remember getting this album after buying Born in the USA and it is is one of my favourite and the box set came out in 2010 containing 6 discs of 3 CDs and 3 DVDs. The Promise CD is a double CD of outtakes from the Darkness sessions.

This is a really nice collection and gives a great insight into the recording process of the album. The deluxe box set contains an 80-page spiral-bound reproduction of Springsteen’s original notebooks documenting the recording sessions for the album containing alternate lyrics, song ideas, recording details, and personal notes.

Tuesday 8 December

Another box set getting listened to is Steve Lamacq’s Lost Alternatives. Hard to believe but I am revisiting this one nearly almost 10 months since it was mentioned on week 1 of the blog. What I really liked about this collection is that it dug a bit deeper giving another side of the nineties which wasn’t all about Cool Britannia, Laddism and Blur vs Oasis.

Instead we get a snapshot of the evolution of guitar music which didn’t focus on the hits but rather the limited edition singles, The Evening Session cult favourites featuring bands that never made it and some that are still releasing music today.

Each of the four discs in this collection takes in the forgotten alternatives and lesser-known songs by bands including Happy Mondays, Flowered Up, Teenage Fanclub, Cornershop, Suede, Catatonia, Ash, Northside, The Auteurs, 60 Ft Dolls, Ultrasound and Mogwai.

Since I started writing this blog when lockdown began the music has been appreciated a bit more thanks to all the positive music posts on Twitter. On second listen I really enjoyed it a lot better than the first time.

Wednesday 9 December

Giving some albums here a spin that I haven’t listened to in a while. Some of them a bit more random such as Vendetta Red and Arbour Labor Union. I picked up Between the Never and the Now which was Vendetta Red’s third album but only hearing them for the first time in 2003. The Arbour Labor Union album I bought in 2016, I Hear You came as a recommendation. Two very different albums to start the day off.

Going back to 1994 for this album which I bought whilst in the USA at the time. Live’s Throwing Copper was a complete random purchase while I was out in America for a few weeks. It might have been hearing the single I Alone on MTV that got me interested as at time I was still listening to the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.

The Hunter is the fifth album by Mastodon and my first experience of seeing these guys live. They were amazing. It is a really good album too and shows that rock is still alive and well.

Continuing on the grunge theme, Manchester’s Nine Black Alps I came across in 2003 with their debut album, Everything Is. Definitely remember playing it earlier during lockdown but here was the follow up, Love/Hate (2007) which was a decent follow up.

Thursday 10 December

Today’s listening had no major theme. Just decided to listen to a few albums that I haven’t heard in a long while.

First up was Kinesis who released Handshakes for Bullets in 2003. The album reminded me of early Manic Street Preachers. However the band didn’t issue any bold statements that they would say millions of records and break up like the Manics said they would. They are still around. By 2005 they had actually broken up on the same day as the their next album was released.

Another English band I took an interest in was Brigade who I found out after listening to local Derry band, Fighting With Wire. Their debut album, Lights (2006) was pretty good and I liked it. It got good reviews in the rock press. Come Morning We Fight (2008) was the follow up and that was the last I had heard of them until I selected these CDs to be played. Sometimes when you haven’t heard something in a long while you appreciate it a bit better.

I can’t remember why I bought a Hole album. I guess it was wanting to know what all the fuss about Courtney Love was. Celebrity Skin (1998) was their third album and only album that I have. I liked it at the time and it is still a good listen. Saw the band live at Glastonbury in 1999 and they were quite good.

From the ashes of Kerbdog, came Wilt who formed in 1998. Kerbdog in my view were so criminally underrated and should have deserved more success. While Kerbdog had the Irish Nirvana thrown at them, for Wilt, music magazines like Rock Sound tipped them as the Irish version of  Hüsker Dü and Weezer which is a nice compliment.

The band released two albums, Bastinado in 2000 and then a follow up, My Medicine (2002). Both good albums. After that it was no more with the band splitting up in 2003. Since then Kerbdog have retuned and done some live shows. I caught the band in Belfast a couple of years ago and it was great to see them again having seen them over the years supporting the likes of Therapy? and Megadeth.

Friday 11 December

Finishing off the working week with some Beck. He rose to fame in the early 1990s with his experimental and lo-fi style, and became known for creating musical collages of wide-ranging genres. He has musically encompassed folk, funk, soul, hip hop, electronic, alternative rock, country, and psychedelia.

Loser was the first Beck song I heard and it was so different to what was being released in 1994 and I bought his third album, Mellow Gold.

It was with his fifth album, Odelay (1996) which brought greater success specially with singles Where It’s At, Devil’s Haircut and The New Pollution. It is a fantastic record.

After that I kind of drifting in and out of his music. Mutations (1998) and Morning Phase (2014) were the last two albums I bought. He came to Belfast in 2018 as part of BBC Music’s Big Weekend and that was the first time I had seen him live. He put on a fantastic performance and should have been on a bit longer, even headlining!

Review of the year 2020

Every year I do my annual top 10 for both gigs and albums.

At the start of the year I had been to three gigs all in one month, January.

And So I Watch You From Afar did a special gig at the Belfast Mac with a string quartet to perform their new work, Jettison behind a screen that had special effects.  Totally different to their normal gigs.

A trip to Dublin to see Slipknot rip up the 3Arena and the last gig I went to was to see The Wildhearts at the Limelight.  I had a ticket to see Supergrass at the Ulster Hall in February but couldn’t make it as I was not feeling great.

The rest of the year was all set with gigs and festivals to look forward to and then the pandemic happened.

As we went into lockdown, mass gatherings were not encouraged to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  One by one, each show I was due to go to over the course of the year was either cancelled or rescheduled for the following year.

The gigs that got cancelled were Sunstroke Festival, Iron Maiden, Nick Cave and Pearl Jam, although the Hyde Park gig did get booked in again for next year as a two day event instead of one I had to get a refund for my ticket and then had the option to buy again for 2021.  Sun Kil Moon was cancelled completely and I’m guessing not much to do with the pandemic.

That left the rest of these shows all rescheduled for 2021 or 2022 – Ash, Therapy?, Jawbox, Pixies, Clutch and Rammestein.    To be honest I am nearly expecting these all to be pulled and pushed forward again.  Therapy?’s 2021 shows has already been moved to 2022.

Since lockdown started my job switched from going to the office to working from home.  On the 19 March I left the office complete with my workstation to relocate to home working which started the next day on 20 March.

This would be a whole new experience for me from being used to having the company of your work colleagues to just sitting at the back of the house by yourself. It felt a wee bit isolating at times.  My first attempt to bring a bit of sound into the house didn’t really work for me with either Apple Music or Spotify and then suddenly I just thought the CD player is in the other room, so I moved it into my new office space and that started the process of the daily playlist.

Each day I would go through my vast CD collection.  I started the daily working from home (WFH) update on Twitter to do an online diary of what I was listening to.  Before I knew it, I decided to start writing about what I was listening to and what the albums meant to me. The blog entries started as Music life in lockdown and just before Christmas I had reached week 40 which will be the last entry on the blog.

Music had become my new outlet in the time of the pandemic, and it helped improve my own mental health.  I was listening to CDs that I hadn’t listened to in ages.  Always being on the go and in a rush, I suddenly felt life was slowing down and it was good.  It was also great browsing at your collection and getting some inspiration on what to listen to. I would often find myself digging out something that hasn’t been played in a long time.

As music was becoming something so much for me and with no gigs to go to I found myself interacting with other music fans on Twitter taking part in listening parties, polls, music challenges, voting for favourite albums, favourite songs, sharing gig tickets and even being invited to create a mixtape all creating a lot of positivity in a very negative world out there.

Over the course of the year I have enjoyed taking part in Tim Burgess (The Charlatans) listening party – #TimsTwitterListeningParty. Simple premise, Tim has a band hosting on Twitter a particular album, you listen on CD, vinyl or streaming service of your choice and follow the online chat. This has been such great fun and you get some insight into the making of the album that you might not have known before.

Music challenges are great fun and have only recently been trying to keep up to date with the ones set by @sotachetan and @Pia_Lemonade. I am all set for the next daily challenge beginning on New Years Day for the A-Z of 80s albums.

7RockLists is hosted by Connor who hails from Australia. Connor loves his music in all its different shades of punk, metal, rock, etc. He tends to do album runs and mixtapes and it is good fun to participate in. I got picked to do a mixtape which I managed to put together on Spotify. You can read about my mixtape from 2004 here. This was a really enjoyable experience and I will definitely have another crack at this if asked again.

Brits & Pieces take a nostalgic look back at the 90s music scene, the biggest bands of the decade and the future of music. They have just put together a CD of unsigned bands. I have enjoyed looking back on the 90s but maybe for the new year I should try something new. I hope to order the CD in the new year to give it support and listen to some new music.

Listen Up /// is another site I follow on Twitter and I love the challenges that are set down. It really helps you get your thinking cap on as you try and come up with some really good albums, songs or bands. I hope this trend keeps going in 2021.

Music polls are great fun too. Marks Music does these and are great craic trying to vote for your favourite albums. If you are into fierce poll battles, look no further than The Best of Irish Indie Facebook page which is devoted to all bands north and south in Ireland.

As lockdown progressed I found that lots of my playlists were based on themes and throughout the year I have being following Richard Shaw who does the weekly and often fortnightly albums list. Richard starts off with his favourite 50 albums of each year and each decade. So sometimes it will be #3albums for a single year or #7albums for a decade. Lots of CDs got played as I tried to pick my favourites. Has been difficult a few times but it has been fun to do and look back at what I have been buying over the years.

There is also the wonderfully named Music Alphabetty Preservation Society #MAPS which is hosted by Paul Bennett. Lots of interesting challenges get thrown about here which is great fun to do.

A couple of other fellow bloggers that I follow have hosted some really good sites. Blinded By The Floodlights is hosted by Matthew McLister and covers music, reviews and some indie nostalgia. Rebirth of Cool Blogger hosted by Michael Tanner is a great site too and with a lot of new bands on it. Michael also contributes to Speakeasy fanzine.

During the pandemic some music magazines felt the pressure. Kerrang went on hold while established magazines like Q folded. In the absence of some good music press the DIY ethic took over and Speakeasy Zine were established early during the year. For £1 plus postage you get a really decent fanzine made by fans for the fans.

Final mention goes to Steve Carr who hosts the blog Every Record Tells A Story. Steve had just published a book back in September called Every Record Tells A Story: A Vinyl Handbook. The book launch was done in true 2020 style on Zoom and I joined in. As yet I have not had a chance to buy this book but if you are reading Steve, that is something I intend to correct for 2021.

No end of year review is complete without my top 10 albums of the year. The following albums have been my favourites this year.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Letter To you
  2. Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
  3. Pearl Jam – Gigaton
  4. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Heath
  5. Mark Lanegan – Straight Songs of Sorrow
  6. Therapy? – Greatest Hits (The Abbey Road Session)
  7. And You Know Us By Trail of Dead – X: The Godless Void
  8. Fake Names – Fake Names
  9. James Dean Bradfield – Even in Exile
  10. AC/DC – Power Up

This is a wrap for 2020. It has been a strange and unusual year and here is hoping that a bright horizon is coming for 2021. Thanks to everybody who has been reading. Wishing you a very happy and safe new year.

Music life in lockdown week 37

This was the start of a weeklong countdown to select #3albums01 as part of Richard Shaw’s Twitter poll and covers from Monday 30 November to Friday 4 December.

Previously covered in my earlier post at the time, this gives an overview of the albums that were in contention to top the poll. You can see in that post how the albums I listened to fared in the poll and where my top 3 ended up in that post.

Monday 1 December

Snow PatrolWhen It’s All Over We Have to Clean Up
JamesPleased to Meet You
FeederEcho Park
MuseOrigin of Symmetry
The FramesFor All the Birds
AshFree All Angels
Therapy?Shameless

Tuesday 2 December

BushGolden State
ToolLateraus
ConvergeJane Doe
Frank Black and the CatholicsDog in the Sand
FugaziThe Argument
The (International) ConspiracyA New Morning
IncubusMorning View
System of a DownToxicity

Wednesday 3 December

GarbageBeautiful Garbage
ElbowAsleep in the Back
EmbraceIf You’ve Never Been
CatatoniaPaper Scissors Stone
Super Furry AnimalsRings Around the World
RadioheadAmnesiac
Manic Street PreachersKnow Your Enemy
The CharlatansWonderland

Thursday 4 December

REMReveal
CakeComfort Eagle
Mark LaneganField Songs
The HivesYour Favourite New Band
The White StripesBlood Red Cells
The D46Twenty
The ShinsOh, Inverted World
Mercury RevAll is Dream
The StrokesIs This It

Friday 5 December

Jimmy Eat WorldBleed American
Rival SchoolsUnited by Fate
American Hi-FiAmerican Hi-Fi
Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBlack Rebel Motorcycle Club
WeezerThe Green Album
Brand NewYour Favourite Weapon
ThursdayFull Collapse
Depeche ModeExciter
My VitriolFinelines

Music life in lockdown week 36

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 36 covers from 23-27 November.

Monday 23 November

Today was totally devoted to all things REM.  This boxset is one of my favourites in my collection. 

R.E.M. at the BBC (2018) is a massive eight-disc compilation features sessions recorded between 1984 and 2008.  Over the discs we get sessions from 1991 which mainly showcase three songs from Out of TimeHalf A World Away, Radio Song and Losing My Religion with World Leader Pretend from Green and Fretless from Until The End of the World soundtrack.  The session finishes with a cover of Love Is All Around.

The next three sessions include four tracks from 1998’s Up for John Peel with a few shorter sessions for Radio 1 – Bad Day and Orange Crush for Mark and Lard 2003.  Also, from 2003 the band are played on Radio 2 for Drivetime – Man on the Moon and Imitation of Life feature here.  The last session on the disc is the BBC1 Live Lounge from 2008 where the band play a track from their new album, Accelerate and a cover version of their choice which was Munich by Editors.  It was quite different to the original and not that I expected.

The second disc is a much longer Peel Session from 1998 featuring 12 live tracks which were recorded on 25/10/98.  The oldest recordings are on disc 3 which features a live performance from Rock City, Nottingham on 21/11/84 and features most of the earliest material including Radio Free Europe, So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville.

Discs 4 and 5 feature the bands headline slot at Milton Keynes on 30/11/95 from the Monster tour.  This was the year I got to see the band live at Slane Castle which is one of my favourite gigs.  Interestingly it sees the band return to Milton Keynes nearly 10 years after supporting U2 at the same venue.

My favourite of the collection is from discs 6 and from the bands headline slot at Glastonbury on 25/06/99.  This was my first and only visit to Glastonbury and I loved that headline slot.  It was nice to get it on CD now as I had an audio copy that I set to tape while I was away. 

Final live broadcast is from St James Church in London for Radio 2 on 15/09/04 featuring 11 tracks recorded at this intimate venue.

Tuesday 24 November

I love the concept of the supergroup where it brings different bands together to do new things.

The first supergroup I listened to was Temple of the Dog who formed in 1990 as a tribute to the late Andy Wood (Mother Love Bone).  The group was conceived by Chris Cornell on vocals, Matt Cameron from Soundgarden on drums, with Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam.  Eddie Vedder appeared as guest on the album doing the duet with Chris Cornell on Hunger Strike.  The album was released in 1991 but it would be until 1992 that it became more widely recognised as the record company’s would discover as soon as grunge broke there was interest in the scene.

In 2016 they got together and toured the album for its 25th anniversary.  Would love to have seen that tour but it was mostly across North America.  It remains one of my favourite albums from the 1990s.

The second supergroup that I liked; Mad Season formed two years later in 1994.  Mainly a side project of members of other bands in the Seattle grunge scene – Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam.  Members included Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Layne Staley (Alice in Chains). Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) and John Baker Saunders (The Walkabouts).  They only released one album, Above (1995) which also included guest vocals from Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees).

Tragedy would strike the band as both Layne and John died of drug overdoses.  Above is a great record and it sits well in my collection along with Temple of the Dog, as two of my favourite albums.

Dave Grohl tends to be a very busy man when he is not concentrating on his day job with Foo Fighters.  Grohl has been involved in a few side projects including Probot, Sound City and Them Crooked Vultures. 

Probot (2004) was his love letter to his passion for heavy metal and the songs he wrote which he performed by a variety of metal legends like Lemmy, Cronos, Max Cavalera and King Diamond. 

It is a great record, and it plays like if you were doing a mixtape of your favourite metal bands.

Another side project that Grohl was involved in was Them Crooked Vultures featuring Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin).  The album sounds more like a Queen of the Stone Age record as the style was just like theirs.  The album didn’t grab my attention the same way that Temple of the Dog and Mad Season did.  Maybe another listen is required to appreciate it.

In 2013 he done a documentary on the music studio Sound City (Probot was also recorded there).  He formed the Sound City Players with a variety of different artists including some members of Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor from Slipknot, Trent Razor and Paul McCartney who would form which many seen as a Nirvana “reunion” on the track Cut Me Some Slack featuring surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.  Paul McCartney is no Kurt Cobain, and I enjoyed the record I would never view this as Nirvana coming back together.  Just a bit of fun for those guys to get together and jam.

Last supergroup of the day is BNQT who were an indie super group featuring Fran Healy (Travis), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Eric Puildo (Midlake), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) and Jason Lyttle (Grandaddy).

The album came out in 2017 and it was recommended to me when I went into Head Records to get some music.  It is a decent enough album and would be interesting to see if they all get together again for volume 2.

Wednesday 25 November

Frank Turner began his career as vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead whose album features here.   The band took their name from the Refused song The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax.  Their debut album A Song to Ruin (2003) was very heavy punk with a political message.  The band released one more album and then called it a day in 2005.

From there Frank Turner went solo with his accompanied band The Sleeping Souls.  The first solo album I bought was England Keep My Bones (2011) and then following that bought Love Ire & Song (2008) and Poetry of the Deed (2009). 

Tape Deck Heart followed in 2013 and the last album I bought was Positive Songs for Negative People (2015).

Frank Turner makes some really good music here as his style after being in a post-hardcore band is very much folk influenced with a bit of punk.

Thursday 26 November

Before I got into grunge, the first Seattle band I liked was Queensryche who formed in 1980 and were considered part of the big 3 in the progressive metal scene. 

1988’s Operation: Mindcrime was their third album being a concept album and rock opera.  I love this album and it grabs your attention from the opening bars of I Remember Now to Anarchy-X which is instrumental.  By the end of the album, you have just been on an incredible journey.

The follow up, Empire (1990) was a favourite of mine too and funny enough for this tour, this was where the band started to play Mindcrime in its entirety even though Empire was the current release.  One of my biggest regrets was not going to see them when they came to Belfast. 

By the time they released Promised Land (1994) I was starting to go off the band but got interested again when I saw that they done a follow up to MindcrimeOperation: Mindcrime II picks off where the original left off.  I went for the double live set where they played both albums in their entirety at the Moore Theatre in Seattle.

Geoff Tate left the band in 2012 resulting in him losing the brand name of Queensryche so he has the right to use the name, Operation: Mindcrime which he uses for his solo tour.  I went to see Geoff play a show at the Empire in Belfast and he is an incredible vocalist using a touring band to play Queensryche songs.  Probably the closest I was going to get to hearing the songs live.  He was due to come back to Belfast this year to do Empire which is now 30 years old.  How time flies.  But looking back, it’s really Operation: Mindcime and Empire that are my favourite albums.

Friday 27 November

Rounding off the listening week to the songs of Mark Lanegan.  Having first encountered his work with Screaming Trees, this post-Trees solo stuff is amazing.  He seems to be a frequent collaborator with Queens of the Stone Age but has also worked with Kurt Cobain doing Lead Belly covers that were never released.  Other collaborations include working with Mad Season, The Gutter Twins with Greg Dulli, The Twilight Singers, Soulsavers and Isobel Campbell to name by a few.

The first solo album I bought was Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (1994) which was his second solo album, and it was great.  Different delivery to Screaming Trees but still a great album.

I finally got 1990s The Winding Sheet which was his debut solo album.  Highlights from this album include Mockingbirds, Wildflowers and Ugly Sunday. 

Kurt Cobain provides guitar and vocals on Down in the Dark along with Krist Novosleic on bass.  Where Did You Sleep Last Night on this album inspired Nirvana to do a cover of it on 1993’s MTV Unplugged.  Both versions are classics.

Fast forward to 2001 and fifth album Field Songs which includes contributions from Mike Johnson, Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden) and Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver/Guns n’Roses).  Many drew comparisons with Tom Waits on his album.

Bubblegum (2004) would be the first-time releasing albums under the name Mark Lanegan Band.  Again, a wide variety of guest musicians are involved on this album including PJ Harvey, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) and Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradilin (Guns n’Roses).

Hit the City would be his first charted single in the British singles charts.  With this vast array of talent on the record it is just brilliant.  One of my favourites from that year.

Blues Funeral (2012) was album number seven and his first new material in eights years.  He had been doing extensive collaborations with Isobel Campbell.  I really liked this album and when he came to Belfast on the tour that year, I purchased the album on vinyl which he signed after the gig.

The last album here is the 3-disc compilation Has God Seen My Shadow which features songs from his released between 1989 and 2011. A good starting point if you want to listen to him for the first time.  The first two discs are all material from his solo albums while the third disc is previously unreleased songs.  None of his many collaborations are included in this album.

Music life in lockdown week 35

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 35 covers from 16-20 November.

Monday 16 November

Starting of the new working week with three of my favourite albums from this year.  I was pleasantly surprised that Bruce Springsteen dropped a new album with the E Street Band.  After last years excellent Western Stars this album marked a return of the E Street Band for the first time since 2014’s High HopesLetter to You is Bruce addressing those questions of life as the album has been inspired following one of the deaths of his band mates from his previous band and of relationships with both his band and audience.  At the age of 71, you can tell that Bruce shows no signs of letting up.

Fourteen solo albums in and Bob Mould doesn’t look he is going to rest on his laurels.  Like Bruce, he turns out great albums.  Blue Hearts released in September this year is no exception and is hands down one of my favourite albums this year.  I will probably go as far as saying you are currently reading about which two albums are taking the top 2 slots for my top 10.

When Bob Mould is angry you can really tell on this album against the current backdrop of American politics.  Husker Du weren’t as vocal about the Regan era from the 80s but Bob doesn’t shy from his opinion on the now outgoing Trump.

Pearl Jam released their eleventh album after teasing it with cryptic clues over their social media platforms.  It came out a week after my birthday and with lockdown in full swing it took me a good part of the year to get Gigaton.  It was expensive first time I checked, nearly £18 for a single album.  Was trying to figure out why HMV priced it at that.  I mean Tool’s last album was nearly £80!  The price did come down reasonable, so I was glad to finally get it.

This album took a few listens to get into it and I have to say I do like it.  It feels like a more grown up grunge record and very experimental.  I would love to have experienced the new songs live.  Had a ticket for their London gig at Hyde Park in July but ended up getting a refund as it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Tuesday 17 November

After listening to Bob Mould’s new solo album, today was all about his old band, Husker Du.  My first encounter with the band was with Sugar (Bob Mould’s band after the breakup).  Not knowing the history of them I found myself getting their back catalogue and loving it.

Many bands like Therapy? (they covered Diane on Infernal Love) and Foo Fighters (Bob Mould appeared on their album Wasting Light with vocals on Dear Rosemary) cite Husker Du as a massive influence and it is easy to see why.

In such a short space of time between 1983 and 1987 they had released 6 studio albums, 3 EPs and two live albums.  All very fast yet melodic all the same.

Zen Arcade (1984), New Day Rising (1985), Candy Apple Grey (1986) and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987) are all great albums.  The first Husker Du album I bought was The Living End (1994) which was live album.  This album got me into buying the other albums and there was that feeling of wishing you could have seen these guys live.  However, having seen Sugar once and Bob Mould solo loads of times I guess this was the closest I was ever going to get to hear Husker Du songs live.  Grant Hart was drummer of the band and he died in 2017.  There would be no chance of a reunion now.

Wednesday 18 November

Today it was all about Belfast punks, Stiff Little Fingers.  Formed in 1977 at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles and the new punk scene, the band released Inflammable Material (1978) which taps into the grim reality of what life was like back then.  Alternative Ulster is often closed at gigs as the national anthem.   Second album, Nobody’s Heroes (1980) includes a cover of The Specials Doesn’t Make It Alright which shows the diversity of the band to do other songs other than punk.  I would think that Stiff Little Fingers were the Belfast version of The Clash.

Those two albums are the main ones I played from the box set which the albums came in their original sleeves.  I was too young to get into them at the time and I do remember seeing SLF on graffiti on walls and even in school.    It took me a long while to go and see them live and when I did, they have always put on a great show.

The last three years they have been headlining their own outdoor shows in Belfast curated by the band themselves who pick the support acts. 

Sometimes the support acts are value for money on their won to see them.  I done a review of this on my blog which you can read here.

No Going Back (2014) was released through Pledgemusic and lead track My Dark Places is a live favourite which sits in quite well with the older material.  Jack Burns touches on the issue of men’s mental health which is a very important issue.

The band have put out many live albums. Best Served Loud (2016) was recorded at Glasgow’s Barrowlands which is an amazing live venue.  If you ever get a chance to go to a gig in Glasgow, this is the place the experience live music.  It is almost like a second home for the band and the similarities between Belfast and Glasgow are not far between.

A good starting part to listen to them is to go for one of the best of compilations.  There are many out there, but I think Assume Nothing, Question Everything – The Very Best of Stiff Little Fingers (2012) features 42 tracks throughout their career with all the fan favourites.

Thursday 19 November

Back to the 1990s and another favourite band of mine from that time, Dinosaur Jr.

They formed in 1984 and after three albums on independent labels, the band earned a reputation as one of the formative influences on American alternative rock scene.  Start Choppin which was their biggest hit and it was after seeing the bands performance of Get Me on the BBC Late Show No Nirvana which showcased other alternative acts that lead to my purchase of Where You Been (1993) as my first album.  I guess the grunge revolution really did open the doors for these American bands I may not have heard of.  That programme alone was responsible for opening all those doors for me.  Check out the video below.

Follow up Without a Sound (1994) was a successful album.  Feel the Pain is a great track. After that I don’t know what happened but 1997’s Hand it Over completely bypassed me.  By 2007 nearly a decade after their last release, my interest in the band returned.  Beyond (2007), Farm (2009), I Bet on Sky (20120 and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016) are great albums.  Love the cover of Farm.  Sometimes I wonder if it was influenced by Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing comic for DC.

Some albums got the reissue treatment and I hope to get a few more but for now, I settled with Green Mind (1991) which was their fourth and first on a major label.  This should have been the first album for me but better late than never.  The 2019 editions contended extras with b sides and a live concert.  I wouldn’t get to see the band until 2016 when I saw them play both in Dublin and Manchester.  It was loud!

Friday 20 November

Ending the working week with Downpatrick’s finest band Ash.  Having covered the band on the blog previously it was time to look at the albums since Nu-Clear Sounds.  Their third album, Free All Angels (2001) was the one that turned things around for the band.  This is an absolute banger of an album and it is just as good as 1977.  Shining Light, Burn Baby Burn, Candy, Sometimes, There’s a Star and Walking Barefoot are all great singles.  The band know how to turn out singles.

This is highlighted on their first compilation album Intergalactic Sonic 7’s (2002) showcasing the singles and B-sides and rarities.  One if you are completist.  I have three best of albums by them!  The cover sleeve is in Manga style cartoon showing the bands love for both Star Wars and Transformers.

After the success of Free All Angels, album number five, Meltdown (2004) came out and was more of a hard rock album compared to the pop fusion punk of their previous releases.  Lead single Clones while not exactly about Star Wars but seeing the band are huge fans of the film, the track was use for a video game Star Wars: Republic Commando on the soundtrack.

By 2006 Charlotte Hatherley left the band and they reverted to a three piece and released Twilight of the Innocents (2007) which they said would be their last album.   It wasn’t that the band were splitting up that many had feared but more like trying to break the album-tour-album-tour cycle.

In 2009, the follow up to Twilight of the Innocents saw the release of singles only on a fortnight basis between 2009 and 2010.  The idea came about like the singles release only by The Wedding Present who released twelve 7” singles in 1992.  I didn’t subscribe to it at the time and was hoping that they would put the singles out as a collection which they did over two CDs A-Z Vol.1 and Vol.2 were released a year later.

I hope to get back to writing about Ash again as there is another chapter after this.

Music life in lockdown week 34

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 34 covers from 11 – 13 November.

After two weeks of listening to 100 albums which is documented on week 32 and 33. I took a two day break from the tunes and was ready to go ahead midweek. A much shorter one for three days.

Wednesday 11 November

Midweek and time to try something new and listen to some music that I have listened to in a long while. The six albums I have picked for today as all diverse and different so no particular theme to the days listening experience.

Girls Names are a local Belfast band and I got their album, Arms Around A Vision (2015). I picked up this CD after seeing them as support act. Can’t remember who it was who they were supporting those. The band produced a range of indie pop, to post punk and alt-rock. Would probably have fitted in the shoegazing scene too. Sadly the band are no more after 10 years.

Jenny Lewis was formally with Rilo Kiely before they disbanded in 2014. Acid Tongue (2008) was her second album which features musical styles ranging from indie rock to alternative country and Americana. The album got really good reviews. This one came to me as a recommendation from a friend. Might revisit this album again.

A real blast from the past, Aimee Mann. I haven’t listened to I’m With Stupid (1995) in a long while and this was one of my favourite albums that year. I got to see her live in Belfast when she did a really intimate gig at Church House in Belfast. After that I have totally forgotten all about her. A quick visit online and I have found she has made six other albums since then.

Glasvegas by the Scottish indie rock band Glasvegas (2008) was their debut album and it is a really good debut. It really did live up to the hype by NME but by their second album Euphoric Heartbreak (2011), I had gone off them a bit probably because after seeing them live at Mandela Hall in Belfast I was less than impressed. They capture the wall to wall sound of The Jesus and Mary Chain and sixties pop. Daddy’s Gone being the highlight single from the album.

I am big fan of Mark Lanegan and have been following his solo career since Screaming Trees broke up. He is known to  collaborate with a variety of artists and this album, Hawk (2010) which he done with Isobel Campbell, was their third album together. Even though they are performing as a duet, Lanegan dominates in the vocals. It is a great album and it follows from its predecessors. I am going to check out the first two albums now as I never had them, I went straight in at album no.3!

One of the biggest disappointments for me after getting into a new band was how quickly I went off Interpol. Turn on the Bright Lights (2002) was one of my favourite albums that year and you could tell how influenced that they were by the likes of Television and Joy Division, leading the new post-punk revival of the 2000s. Second album, Antics (2004) sees the band progress from their debut. This earned then support slots with the likes of U2 and The Cure that year. After listening to it again, I gave it a few more listens that day and the more I listened to it I enjoyed it.

Thursday 12 November

Love them or hate them, you just can’t ignore U2. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) was the bands 10th album and this year it is celebrating its 20th anniversary with various re-releases of it coming out. Looking back at the album I saw it was a return to form. I hated the album before that, Pop as I found it really hard to get into. Singles released from the album included Beautiful Day, Walk On, Elevation, and Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of were all successful. This was the only album that I never got to see the band on tour when they played Slane Castle twice in 2001.

The Best of 1990-2000 (2002) was the bands second greatest hits compilation. Even though I have nearly everything they have done, do I really need another best of album? Of course I do! It featured two new tracks Electrical Storm and The Hands That Built America from the soundtrack to Gangs of New York.

The album also featured new mixes of sounds (not sure if I could tell the difference!) and also the non album single from 1995, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. My favourite song on the album was Miss Sarajevo which was originally credited to Passengers and also released as a single in 1995. I still have that single.

To get tickets for U2 gigs and I have been very successful in getting them since the Slane gig was by being a member of the fan club. Think it was about $40 to join and you get first chance to get tickets before everybody else which is less stressful. Another benefit of being in the fan club is you get CDs, like the ones I have here – Zoo TV Live (2007), U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle Ireland (2008) and Medium, Rare & Remastered (2009).

A two-disc set, Zoo TV Live was the fourth CD released by the U2 fan club. I got this as part of my subscription for 2007. The CDs simply contained the audio of the Zoo TV Live from Sydney DVD, which had been released in 2006. The set also included the audio of a bonus track from the DVD, a live recording of Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World from New York which felt a bit weird as it looked out of sequence with the Sydney gig.

U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, Ireland was the fifth CD released by the U2 fan club in 2008 and I got bought the CD and the t-shirt edition. Kind of made up for not being there (not likely!)

The last CD Medium, Rare & Remastered was the sixth CD released by the U2 fan club. This two disc set caused a bit of problems with the fan club as these were readily available tracks, combined with the four-month wait for the CDs and the difficult issues with resubscription. Not much of an exclusive then!

Friday 13 November

Unlucky for some or maybe just a coincidence that these albums by Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Teenage Fan Club, Blur and A Perfect Circle all share the same name – Thirteen.

Black Sabbath13 (2013) was the bands nineteenth and final studio album. The original members of Black Sabbath were joined by Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave). It was the first ever Black Sabbath album I have bought. Amazing. Got to see the live twice before the farewell. Sadly Brad Wilk wasn’t on drumming duties for the tour.

Megadeth – Th1rt3en (2011) funny enough was their thirteenth album. It was their first album since 2001 and bassist and founding member David Ellefson rejoined the band.

A Perfect CircleThirteenth Step (2003) was the follow up to Mer de Noms  from 2000.

Teenage FanclubThirteen (1993) was their fourth and poorly received album at the time. Many believed they named the album after the Big Star song, Thirteen as the band are huge fans.

Blur13 (1999) was the bands sixth album and continued the trend of a shift away from the Britpop sound of their early career to exploring experimental, psychedelic and electronic music. The album produced three singles – Tender, Coffee & TV (great music video) and No Distance Left to Run.

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Music life in lockdown week 32 and 33

This was the start of the two week countdown to select #7albums10s as part of Richard Shaw’s Twitter poll and covers from Monday 26 October to Saturday 7 November.

Previously covered in my earlier post at the time, this gives an overview of the 100 albums that were in contention to top the poll. You can see in that post how the albums I listened to fared in the poll and where my top 7 ended up.

Monday 26 October

I started off the week by researching ten year’s worth of albums. In the meantime and to be subject of a future poll soon I settled for new albums by Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen to get in the mood. It is all going to kick off the next day.

Tuesday 27 October

2010

Arcade FireThe Suburbs
WarpaintThe Fool
FoalsTotal Life Forever
Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubBeat The Devil’s Tattoo
My Chemical RomanceDanger Days
Jimmy Eat WorldInvented
The National High Violet
Rolo TomassiCosmology
Manic Street PreachersPostcards for a Young Man
Bad ReligionThe Dissent of Man

Wednesday 28 October

2011

Death Cab For CutieCodes and Keys
Jane’s AddictionThe Great Escape Artist
Explosions In The SkyTake Care, Take Care, Take Care
Foo FightersWasting Light
The Decemberists The King is Dead
PJ HarveyLet England Shake
The Black KeysEl Camino
Arctic MonkeysSuck It and See
The Twilight SingersDynamite Steps
ASIWYFAGangs

Thursday 29 October

2012

The CultWeapon of Choice
RushClockwork Angels
The Gaslight AnthemHandwritten
Mark Lanegan BandBlues Funeral
Bruce SpringsteenWrecking Ball
SoundgardenKing Animal
Bob MouldSilver Age
Dinosaur Jr.I Bet On Sky
Nada SurfThe Stars Are Indiffernet To Astronomy
And You Will Know Us By Trail of DeadLost Songs

Friday 30 October

2013

Mudhoney Vanishing Point
The National Trouble Will Find Me
Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
Primal ScreamMore Light
Manic Street PreachersRewind The Film
Jetplane LandingDon’t Try
Pearl JamLighting Bolt
ASIWYFAAll Hail Bright Futures
Alice in ChainsThe Devil Put Dinoasurs Here
Clutch Earth Rocker

Monday 2 November

2014

PixiesIndy Cindy
Mark Lanegan BandPhantom Radio
Bob MouldBeauty & Ruin
Real EstateAtlas
WarpaintS/T
The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
Manic Street PreachersFuturology
The Afghan WhigsDo to the Beast
Foo FightersSonic Highways
WeezerEverything Will Be Alright In The End

Tuesday 3 November

2015

Chris CornellHigher Truth
Vercua SaltGhost Notes
Rolo TomassiGrievances
Dinosaur Pile-UpEleven Eleven
Faith No MoreSol Invictus
Sleater Kinney No Cities Left To Love
ClutchPsychic Warfare
Therapy?Disquiet
AshKablammo!
Wolf AliceMy Love is Cool

Wednesday 4 November

2016

Jimmy Eat WorldIntegrity Blues
PixiesHead Carrier
The CultHidden City
Primal ScreamChaosmosis
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
Bob MouldPatch The Sky
Iggy PopPost Pop Depression
MetallicaHardwired to Self Destruct
Dinoasur Jr.Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
ThriceTo Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

Thursday 5 November

2017

Brand NewScience Fiction
RideWeather Diaries
The NationalSleep Well Beast
ASIWYFAThe Endless Shimmering
Quicksand Interiors
Afghan WhigsIn Spades
Foo FightersConcrete and Gold
Wolf AliceVisions of a Life
The Jesus and Mary ChainDamage and Joy
Queens of the Stone AgeVillians

Friday 6 November

2018

The Wood Burning SavagesStability
Therapy?Cleave
AshIslands
Alice In ChainsRainer Fog
Mudhoney Digital Garbage
ClutchBook of Bad Decisions
Buffalo TomQuiet and Peace
Manic Street PreachersResistance if Futile
BellyDove
Rolo TomassiTime Will Die and Love Will Bury It

Saturday 7 November

2019

Jimmy Eat WorldSurviving
The SpecialsEncore
PixiesBeneath the Eyre
Julianna HatfieldWeird
Bob MouldSunshine Rock
Refused War Music
Dinoasuar Pile-UpCelebrity Mansions
Bruce SpringsteenWestern Stars
FeederTallalah
Sleater KinneyThe Center Won’t Hold

Music life in lockdown week 31

Continuing on the theme of the #3albums series, this week is devoted to the year 2003 for Richard Shaw’s #3albums03 Twitter poll.

The whole week covers 19 – 23 October. I previously covered this in my post #3albums03 Twitter poll which you can read here.

This blog gives a breakdown of what I was listening to each day as I tried to come up with my top 3 albums for 2003. I thought they was a pretty good year music wise and the amount of albums covered, a total of 44 reflected on a good year of music to listen to.

Monday 19 October

The Dandy Warhols – Welcome to the Monkey House

The Postal Service – Give Up

Hot Hot Heat – Make Up the Breakdown

The Shins – Chutes too Narrow

Stellastarr* – Stellastarr*

The Stokes – Room on Fire

Pretty Girls Make Graves – The New Romance

Tuesday 20 October

Jane’s Addiction – Strays

The Distillers – Coral Fang

Metallica – St. Anger

A Perfect Circle – Thirteen Step

Zwan – Mary Star of the Sea

Clutch – Live at the Googoplex

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Take Them On, On Your Own

Rage Against The Machine – Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium

Wednesday 21 October

Cave In – Antenna

Thursday – War all the Time

The Ataris – So long Astoria

AFI – Sing the Sorrow

Hell is for Heroes – The Neon Handshake

Brand New – Deja Entendu

American Hi-Fi – The Art of Losing

Funeral for a Friend – Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation

Thursday 22 October

Jet – Get Born

Snow Patrol – Final Straw

Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance

The Ravenoettes – Chain Gang of Love

Therapy? – High Anxiety

Jetplane Landing – Once like a Spark

Turn – Forward

The Thrills – So Much for the City

Friday 23 October

Placebo – Sleeping with Ghosts

Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo of Bliss

Elbow – Cast of Thousands

Muse – Absolution

Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

Super Furry Animals – Phantom Power

The White Stripes – Elephant

The Cooper Temple Clause – Kick Up the Fire and Let The Flames Break Loose

The albums that didn’t get played that week were:

Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood

The Blood Brothers – Burn, Piano Island, Burn

Kenesis – Handshakes for Bullets

The Movelife – Fourty Hour Train Back to Penn

Joe Strummer – Streetcore

Radiohead, Muse and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ended up as my top picks for 2003.

Music life in lockdown week 30

A big milestone for my musical journey during lockdown – week 30! Never thought I would still be typing this by October.

The whole week covering 12 to 16 October is totally devoted to the year 1992 which was the subject of a weekly Twitter poll hosted by Richard Shaw with the hashtag #3albums92.

I previously covered this on my previous post #3albums92 Twitter poll which you can read here. This blog just gives the breakdown of what I was listening to each day as I tried to come up with my top 3 albums for that year. Quite a task considering that this was one of my favourite years of music.

It would be easy to just go through your collection and single out what you thought was best. But the whole purpose of listening to a weeks worth of music is to see if something else might get your attention to make the top 3. I must admit before these CDs were played I had an idea what my top 3 were going to be but felt every album played this week deserves a chance to be heard.

Monday 12 October

Extreme – 3 Sides to Every Story

AC/DC – Live

Warrior Soul – Salutations from The Ghetto Nation

Gun – Gallus

Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists

King’s X – King’ X

Tuesday 13 October

Singles soundtrack

The Offspring – Iginition

L7 – Bricks are Heavy

The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame about Ray

Faith No More – Angel Dust

Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction

Wednesday 14 October

Soul Asylum – Grave Dancers Union

Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies/Sap

Therapy? – Nurse

Helmet – Meantime

Mudhoney – Piece of Cake

Buffalo Tom- Let Me Come Over

Thursday 15 October

Bruce Springsteen – Human Touch

Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town

Mother Love Bone – Mother Love Bone

REM – Automatic for the People

Screaming Trees – Sweet Oblivion

Friday 16 October

Sonic Youth – Dirty

Alice in Chains – Dirt

Sugar – Copper Blue

Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

Nirvana – Incesticide

Sugar, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains emerged as my three favourite albums from 1992. 28 years later these album still stand the test of time.

Music life in lockdown week 29

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 29 covers from 5-9 October.

Monday 5 October

I first covered the big four of US trash metal way back at the start of lockdown.  Week 2 they were shaking the foundations of the house with four albums – Anthrax’s Got the Time, Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss and Megadeth’s Rust in PeaceMetallica’s And Justice for All.

Today I though it be great to revisit these bands again with a slight change in the playlist.  Apart from sticking Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss on again which is my favourite Slayer album, I also gave South of Heaven (1988) a spin.  At that point in time I would never have considered listening to Slayer.  There is something about Seasons in the Abyss that makes the album stand out well.

Another album from 1988 – Anthrax’s State of Euphoria broke new mould for the trash era.  They didn’t dress in the traditional metal sense with Bermuda shorts and baseball caps, but they had a love for the genre of horror and comic books which made them look a bit different compared to their peers.  I finally bought this album (the deluxe edition) and I liked it.  Took a long time to get into Anthrax.  They had a love of comics especially 2000AD and Judge Dredd so what was there not to like? 

I have too many Megadeth albums.  I could have just gone for the classics, but Rust in Peace was already touched on.  Also had a Megadeth themed day with the Warchest box set.  This album, Warheads for Foreheads came out last year was a celebration of the bands 35th anniversary and all 35 songs were complied and choose by Dave Mustaine.  This album is more of an anthology instead of being a greatest hits collection.  Songs from both Rust in Peace and Peace Sells feature heavy here with four songs from each album.

Metallica are considered one of the pioneers of the trash genre.  But they have evolved over the years since the Black album (1991).  And Justice of All (1988) was my introduction to the band proper after hearing the single One.  Most Metallica purists don’t rate this album mostly due to not being able to hear the bass.  To be honest when you have a hearing impairment like myself that was kind of lost on me as I just enjoyed the album as it was.

Hardwired…To Self- Destruct was the bands tenth studio album, eight years following Death Magnetic from 2008.  Another attempt to revisit the early days of their career, I think this album is more enjoyable than Death Magnetic and St. Anger (both albums that tried to capture their old sound).  I think it is their best since the Black Album

Prior to the release of Hardwired, Metallica were Record Store Day ambassadors in 2016.  For that year they released a CD Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! – Live at Le Bataclan, Paris, France – June 11th, 2003.  This benefit album in aid of Give for France was in honour of the victims of the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed and another 398 injured across the French capital in November 2015.  It only has 9 tracks on it, but it is a good collection of live songs that they played in the venue.

Tuesday 6 October

Today was all about two amazing vocalists who are no longer with us – Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell and both are connected in many ways.

Grace (1994) was Jeff Buckley’s only album and it is an amazing album.  His vocals are so haunting especially his cover for Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which only got released in 2008 on iTunes after it was performed by Jason Castro on American Idol.  It would again reappear later in the year for the Christmas no.1 when Alexandra Burke won The X Factor using the same song.  Fans launching a campaign, but it only got to no2.

The connection with Chris Cornell is that after his Jeff’s death a collection of demo recordings and a full-length album he has been reworking was overseen by Chris and his mother.  Chris wrote Wave Goodbye on his first solo album, Euphoria Morning for Jeff.

Jeff did make a visit to Belfast to the Limelight in 1994 and one of the biggest regrets of mine is not having the conviction to go to gigs on my own back then compared to now.  I am sure that was a great show.

When Chris Cornell died on 18/05/2017 it was a real shock.  His suicide hit me harder than Kurt Cobain’s in 1994.  I had just been following the progress of Soundgarden’s latest US tour at the time and was hoping that he would bring the band to Belfast after this first and only solo at the Ulster Hall the previous year.  But it wasn’t to be.

Prior to seeing Chris live for the first time at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in 2012, Songbook (2011) was released as a live album which was his first solo acoustic tour across the USA and Canada earlier that year. The songs recorded during various shows on the tour, and included songs from Cornell’s whole career: solo, SoundgardenAudioslaveTemple of the Dog, as well as covers of Led Zeppelin’s Thank You and John Lennon’s Imagine. This was a fantastic album and he didn’t disappoint the two times I saw him that year in Dublin and the following week in Birmingham before going on to see Pearl Jam in Manchester the next day. Was hoping he would turn up there but he had his own gig that night in Newcastle.

Higher Truth (2015) would be his fourth solo album and also final album. I have a boxset of his that will get played at some point. It is a really beautiful album and it is sad that was his last. He had so much to give to the world of music. Thankfully I got to see Chris live two more times with his only visit to Belfast and also in Glasgow.

Rest in Peace Jeff and Chris.

Wednesday 7 October

It was all about The Specials today.  I first heard them in 1980 when Ghost Town got no.1.  I was still in primary school and what I was listening to then was the likes of Madness, Bad Manners and The Specials.  Although I had more Madness records than The Specials, it is only recently that I have managed to get some of their back catalogue.

Two albums that got the re-release treatment in 2015– Specials (1979) and More Specials (1980). 

Specials features two discs, the original album with a second disc with the Too Much Too Young EP and a BBC In Concert from a performance in 1979.    More Specials is similar with the original album and a second disc called Extra More Specials.  It featured singles, B-sides and rarities.

I probably could have done with not having The Best of the Specials (2008) which I think coincided with their reunion tour.  I had purchased this CD around the time of their visit to Belfast in 2009 when they played St George’s Market.  I was totally blown away by their performance and despite not having heard them in years I recognised the songs.  It was a pretty good gig for a reunion, and I have seen them several times since.

Most bands could happily ride the reunion circuit and not do any more albums but in 2019 the band released Encore, their first album since 1998 and their first with Terry Hall since 1981’s Ghost Town single.  The relevance of what the band had to say in the eighties also applies to the present day taking in issues such as mental health, poverty, racism and austerity.  The album featured a track called Ten Commandments which had guest vocals from Saffiyah Khan who was photographed cheerfully facing down an angry EDL protester in Birmingham wearing a Specials t-shirt.  A record for the times that we live in.

Thursday 8 October

No CDs today mainly because I was listening to music on Spotify which I don’t normal use but for the sake of research and taking part in Richard Shaw’s #3lbums68.  I thought it be fun and try listening to some music from the 1960s.  Only need to pick three albums from 1968 that I think would be my favourite, so I came across six albums by Van Morrison, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.

I gave local boy; Van Morrison first listen with his Astral Weeks album.  Quite a few people would say that is his best album.  I just wasn’t getting it but maybe I not doing the album justice as I am trying to listen to six albums that I never have had or listened to full before. Spotify probably not the best platform for this.

The same applied to The Beatles.  The White Album is another critics favourite and I will be the first to admit that I never gave the band a chance.  Maybe I need to listen to a best of Beatles album to see if I could like them.  The White Album though is a game changer for the band as they moved further and further away from being a pop band for teenage girls.

The Rolling Stones another band for the sixties that I hadn’t paid too much attention too.   I guess by the time I had heard of them whilst growing up, but didn’t buy any of their albums even during the 1980s.  Anyway, Beggars Banquet was the choice for today.  Quite a lot of songs on this I knew that I like such as Brown Sugar and Paint It Back.  Possibly a contender.

Next up was Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland was his third and final album before his death in 1970.  The year before I was born.  This a great album and I loved it.  Was definitely going to be a contender for me. Maybe I like this more than the other three albums as it was a more rock album that I like.  He does a great cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.  This album is not in my collection.  If I ever need to fill a gap on the shelf, I will be buying this. 

An album that shared the same release day as The White Album, The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.  They were on the scene around the time of Merseybeat which was an earlier version of the modern-day Britpop scene.  I liked their style and this album was gaining momentum to be in my top 3.

Last of the 1968 albums was The Doors Waiting for The Sun.  I first remember hearing about them at the time of the 1991 film by Oliver Stone and staring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.  A friend of mine got the soundtrack to the movie for Christmas and that’s when I first heard them but to be honest I never got back into listening to them again as my own music tastes were evolving around that time of the grunge revolution but The Doors are definitely a band that I would appreciate.

Prior to listening to Waiting for the Sun, I was familiar with most of their songs, but I really liked this album and it was going to be a contender.  I only have two Doors albums in my collection.  I should really expand on this.

My final #3albums68 are: Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland, The Doors Waiting for the Sun and The KinksThe Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society.

Friday 9 October

Ending the working week with some albums by one of my favourite bands, Feeder.  They are a band that I have been following since 1997 with their debut album, Polythene.  This was the band’s earlier effort and it had a grunge feel to it.  It is a solid debut album. They are the type of band that came onto the scene at the height of Britpop but weren’t in the same leagues as say Oasis or Blur.

Yesterday Went to Soon (1999) enjoyed a decent amount of success including slots on Top of the Pops which helped them with their breakthrough album Echo Park (2001) which lead single Buck Rogers which had a bit of a Pixies influence to it.  Around this time, I had been getting the change to see the band live.  One of the more memorable gigs was their support slot for Stereophonics at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena (now SSE Arena) and they blew them off the stage.  After that gig I had gone of Stereophonics completely.  They were quite dull live compared to the energy that Feeder had. Not very often the support coming out on tops.

Fourth album, Comfort in Sound (2002) came out after the suicide of drummer Jon Lee earlier in the year.  The album was a major commercial success giving the band their first top 10 single Just the Way I’m Feeling.   The follow up Pushing the Senses (2005) got mixed reviews despite commercial success.  Some felt it was going down the Coldplay and Keane route, but I don’t think it was.

In many ways it’s a follow up to the previous album as the band come to terms with the loss of their friend and it feels very uplifting.   The follow up album Silent Cry (2008) became their sixth album and considered their lowest selling album.  But despite the poor sales, they still proved a big draw on the live scene.  The band were moving up the table to bigger venues and then on festival slots too.

I have always enjoyed seeing them live and they put on a great show.  Even managed to see Grant Nicholas do a solo show which was great.  I met the band last year as they were promoting their new album, Tallulah at Belfast HMV with a signing.  I went along to get my copy signed and asked the band if they would like to give me a shout out for my blog.  It was on the spot and probably cheeky on my part, but I wouldn’t have been offended if they said no but they were great sports and read out my hastily put together script for them to read out.  It was a nice plug.