Nevermind at 30

1991 the year that punk broke

I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now entertain us, a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido, vay, vay, a denial, I’m worst at what I do best and for this gift I feel blessed. I found it hard, it was hard to find, oh well, whatever, Nevermind.

From inlay of 20th anniversary deluxe edition of Nevermind.

On 24 September 1991, Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind on Geffen Records and turned the rock world on its head.

Produced by Butch Vig and the first to feature new drummer Dave Grohl who had replaced Chad Channing, this album was a more polished, radio-friendly sound to their debut album, Bleach.

Prior to the album coming out I had never heard of Nirvana, in fact I was totally unaware of the US underground scene as towards the late 1980s and early 1990s I was listening to a variety of heavy metal like Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Guns N’Roses, Queensryche and even the funk metal crossover appeal with the likes of Living Colour and Faith No More.

By the summer of 1991, the biggest albums I was listening were the Black album by Metallica and Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 by Guns N’ Roses.  Incredible to think that nearly a week later Nevermind was soon to be released.

At the end of September the album shot straight into the UK chart at no.36 but would probably have sold more at the time if Geffen had pressed enough copies in the UK, only 6,000 at the time of release. Priority seemed to have been more towards Guns N’Roses double album by them.

I came across Nevermind reading about it in the metal press.  I was a bit sceptical at the time but somehow, I was intrigued by this band Nirvana.  I hadn’t even heard Smells Like Teen Spirit.  I really was in a bubble but on sheer impulse alone, I bought the album, and I was blown away with it.

The impact the album had on me was incredible from the start when it begins with the Pixies inspired Smells Like Teen Spirit to the end with the spin chilling Something In the Way, suddenly when you leave the CD running on a bit longer than normal that you get the fright of your life when from out of nowhere the chaotic feedback of Endless, Nameless starts howling through the speakers.

In a short space of time the overblown hype of the Guns N’Roses double album would soon gather dust in my collection while I embraced the new sound that was coming from the alternative rock world.

When Kurt Cobain talked about the influences of the record from the likes of Pixies, REM and The Melvins I started to take notice.  When I told one of my colleagues in work that I was getting into Nirvana he recommended two Pixies albums to me, Doolittle and Bossanova.

Both albums I took to straight away and I could see where Cobain was coming from when he cited the band as an influence especially with the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic.

The album really does celebrate everything about music – mainstream pop, punk inspired hard rock and even acoustic numbers like Polly and Something in the Way.

In the winter of 1991, the band were due to play Belfast for the first time at Conor Hall which is part of the Art College. Ticket was on £6.50. But promotional duties got in the way of that gig and they were scheduled to perform on the Jonathan Ross show instead which meant the Belfast show got cancelled.

The final European dates of 1991 were cancelled in December as the band were exhausted with touring and promotion of Nevermind. Thankfully, they did come to Belfast and it was worth the wait when they came in the summer of 1992 playing at the much larger King’s Hall.

One only wonders if the gig at Conor Hall had never been cancelled it would have been some gig.

By 1992 the album had become an unexpected critical and commercial success reaching number one in the Billboard charts and knocking off Michael Jackson from the top spot.

Legacy of the album

The full effect of the album began to change my taste in music.  While still liking metal I didn’t quite abandon it overnight and go the other direction.  I was suddenly finding new bands to get into – Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Belly, Pavement, Helmet to name but a few.

Pearl Jam were often accused of jumping on the grunge bandwagon.  In fact, Ten was released a month before Nevermind.  You could say I got into Nirvana first and then Pearl Jam followed.  For me this wasn’t a Rolling Stones vs Beatles moment.  I could appreciate both bands for what they were.

The shift in music also changed how I viewed music at home.  For so long, U2 were my favourite Irish band but after Nevermind came out I would discover bands like Therapy? whose influence owed more to the US underground scene and also Ash who were at the same concert I was at when Nirvana came to Belfast in the summer of 1992.

The cultural impact

Nirvana’s breakthrough sparked a media frenzy eager to bring the band to the masses.

Their infamous world live debut on Channel 4’s The Word performing Smells Like Teen Spirit on 11 August a few weeks prior to the debut at the Reading Festival, had Kurt Cobain opening declaring to everyone “I want everyone in this room to know that Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best f**k in the world”.

By the autumn of 1991 the band were invited to perform on BBC’s Top of the Pops. I was never a fan of the format because you knew that the acts on it were lip syncing and not performing live.

When Nirvana were asking to lip sync to Smells Like Teen Spirit they refused but what we got instead was the band barely pretend to play their instruments while Kurt changed the opening lines of the song to: “Load up on drugs, kill your friends” while singing in a very deep Morrissey-like voice.

It was very funny and not something the Top of the Pops audience would be used to.

On the Tonight With Jonathan Ross they were supposed to play Lithium but instead broke out into a very loud and raucous version of Territorial Pissings, finishing by thrashing the stage and leaving only the sound of feedback in their wake. Ross was probably stunned at what he had just witnessed and probably wouldn’t have known the difference that they played a totally different song to what was expected!

In 1992 Dave Markey directed 1991: The Year Punk Broke featuring Nirvana’s label mates Sonic Youth on their European tour of that year.  The film also features Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball and The Ramones.   In many ways it kind of gives credit that Nirvana were the trailblazers for the new alternative scene coming from the States.

Also released in 1992 was the romantic comedy Singles written and directed by Cameron Crowe.  While the film focuses on a group of young Gen X’ers in Seattle at the height of the grunge phenomenon it is very noticeable that Nirvana are not even name checked nor appear in the movie.  Instead, it focuses on the likes of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  For me this wasn’t a bad thing.  I didn’t think much of the movie but the soundtrack was excellent.

By 1993, grunge and alterative rock had really taken a foothold.  Even the BBC documentary No Nirvana which showcased the best of the US alternative scene was maybe a bit late catching on as by the time I had seen the programme most of the bands on it I was already listening to.

The pun in the title No Nirvana was very telling but you could tell by watching that that were more fantastic bands out that that deserved some success and recognition.

Thirty years later and this album still is my favourite of all time. It was a case of right time and place when it was released. It changed how I listened to music and introduced me to other bands that I would probably never have dreamed of listening to.

You can watch the really excellent documentary, When Nirvana Came to Britain, which aired on BBC recently. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000zx9h

Speakeasy is 1

Happy birthday to Speakeasy fanzine who have turned one this month.

Yes, 12 months ago this fan driven platform on Twitter has produced a really great fanzine for music fans of a certain era, normally the 90s.

I got involved, bought some issues and then subscribed to it. Last year I I asked them if they would like me to write an article for a future issue. The response from Cris and Faye was very positive and they said yes for me to submit an article. Instead of taking any of the articles from the blog, I decided to write a new article from scratch and keeping in theme with the 1990s I wrote about the Irish scene here, entitled More to Life Than U2.

Thanks to the editing and proof reading and a few queries from Jeremy, I can now share below the printed article.

This was published in the April 2021 issue earlier this year. I am really pleased with this and I hope you like reading it too.

It was a great feeling to see something you have wrote being printed. I enjoyed the experience and am currently submitting a new article so watch this space.

You can follow Speakeasy on following social media platforms:

Twitter at @Speakeasy_Zine.

Facebook – Speakeasy Fanzine

Instrgram – Speakeasy_Zine.

If you would like to buy a copy or even subscribe at speakeasyfanzine.bigcartel.com you will get a great wee read for £1.

Again, I would like to acknowledge the support of all involved with the fanzine – Cris, Faye and Jeremy for the encouragement to write this and to so help shape it in the way that it came out. Thank you!

Bob Mould – #FaveArtistTop15

For the month of May and with lockdown easing for a lot of people @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis have brought the #FavArtist series down from 25 to 15.

This would be quite a challenge as I have gone for Bob Mould. Which an massive discography of this works from Hüsker Dü to Sugar and his solo material, 15 songs really isn’t going to cut it. So I have broke it down to five each which will give a fair balance of Bob’s output.

There isn’t much videos out there so I will do the top 15 below and at the end there will be a link to Spotify for you to check out the selections I picked.

I was pleased with the response on Twitter from fellow music fans and feel that the choices I have made were good ones. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did putting this together.

15. I Don’t Know You Anymore – Beauty & Ruin (2014)

I loved the video for this . Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) swoops in and gives Mould some funny advice on how to reach the modern day masses. The sketch in the beginning is full of comic send-ups of modern culture, with Meloy giving Mould advice on how to properly announce a record on social media, utilizing everything the internet has to offer, from Facebook to Blorph. Mould portrays the straight man willingly, takes all the advice in stride, and begins work on making I Don’t Know You Anymore the hottest single out there.

The music video segment features Mould and his bandmates dressing up in genius bar style outfits, making deals with record store owners, and going out on the street with fliers, all in order to draw hype for their “one of a kind, limited edition single.” It’s a silly jab at tech fascination as he doesn’t actually offer anything digital, just the single packaged in an Apple Store box, but the crowd’s reaction to them at the end is priceless.

14. See a Little Light – Workbook (1989)

Following the demise of Hüsker Dü , Mould’s Workbook was a surprising U-turn, showcasing his ability to craft the same passionate pleas through the medium of twelve-string salutes. The uplifting, life-affirming See a Little Light may be a little too positive for Mould purists, but it’s an anthem in itself and still resonates today.

13. Could You Be The One? – Hüsker Dü Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)

Hüsker Dü at their melodic best . The last real gasp from a band that was about to hit the wall on their final album.

The video that was filmed for the song was the band’s only video that had them performing on a sound stage as opposed to featuring live clips of them playing. The song was also performed on The Late Show With Joan Rivers

12. The Descent – Silver Age (2012)

This was the real return everyone wanted – Mould at his punk-infused, bile-spitting best. The Descent was that first glimpse of the rekindled flame, a Sugar-esque six-string blast that’s perfectly anchored by Mould’s unbeatable rhythm section of Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy.

11. Makes No Sense at All – Hüsker Dü Flip Your Wig (1985)

Flip Your Wig is Mould’s favorite record from Hüsker Dü. The album was named after a Beatles board game! By this stage the band had signed to Warner Brothers but out of respect for their previous label, SST they released it with them.

Makes No Sense at All is a super simple song. One of those handful of songs in Mould’s catalogue that has so far stood the test of time and he never gets tired of paying it.

10. Sweet Serene – The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998)

Mould was tired of his imposed identity as the angry young man of rock. The Last Dog and Pony Show was a consolidation of his strengths – heart-heavy lyrics, pounding melodies and a load of guitars. Sweet Serene is the pick of the bunch, a ramshackle ride that’s aided by Mould’s twisting, turbo-charged fretwork.

9. Tilted – Sugar Beaster (1993)

At first listen you think Beaster is going to be an acoustic album but Come Around lures the listener into a false sense of security until Tilted starts. A headlong plunge with Mould’s vocals tripping over themselves in a futile attempt to keep pace as the guitars take the listener further down into the abyss at break-neck speed.

8. I Hate Alternative Rock Hubcap (1996)

In the wake of Smells Like Teen Spirit all you have to do is take a look at modern rock in 1995 and you can guess what Mould is rallying about. One band got it so right that the whole world changed, and in four years, everyone flogged it to death. In 1995 Mould wrote this song, there were a lot of bands where he thought, “I f**king hate this band and wish they would go away.” The original title was, I Hate F**king Alternative Rock and Wish It Would Go Away. It was a little long, so he shortened it.

7. JC Auto – Sugar Beaster (1993)

Despite Copper Blue’s success, its immediate aftermath left Mould burned out by overwork and watching his relationship with his manager/boyfriend slowly crumble. He channelled this angst into Beaster, a six-track mini-album that arrived seven months after Copper Blue, and served as that album’s dark afterbirth, its lyric sheet using religious symbolism and Catholic angst as a route to wider catharsis.

Every bit Copper Blue’s equal – but an undeniably tougher listen – Beaster peaked on JC Auto, in particular its chorus, “I look like Jesus Christ/ I act like Jesus Christ/ I know I know I know I know”, barked over a breeze block-wielding riff and repeated again and again, until it feels like punishment or penance.

Beaster reached No 3 in the UK albums chart.

6. Hardly Getting Over It – Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey (1986)

The lyrics are very literal. It’s a very clear picture of a family and mortality in its different forms — family who pass away and how one handles it when it happens. A song I can relate to following the death of my parents six months between each other.

5. Changes – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Copper Blue was NME’s album of the year. Cathal Coughlan formely of Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions reviewed it on the 25 July 1992 edition of the weekly music magazine, “Sort of restores your faith in human beings, really. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t Single Of The Week.”

He wasn’t far wrong. NME included it in their end of year compilation album of the same year.

4. New Day Rising – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

New Day Rising is the best pop record a hardcore band has ever made. This feels like a very odd statement considering the almost vitriolic power behind hardcore, but that’s what makes New Day Rising, and Hüsker Dü exciting—that a band could be have this almost punishing power, yet still have a strong melodic backbone to their songs, even if said melodic backbone is draped in fuzz and pushed by an intangible force.

3. The Act We Act – Sugar Copper Blue (1992)

Mould’s second power trio saw him return to electric guitar, and the opening track to Sugar’s 1992 debut LP Copper Blue was overloaded with enough hooks, riffs and flourishes to fill a lesser artist’s entire album. The Act We Act suggested My Bloody Valentine applying their ear-melting assault to the 12-string jangle and chime of the Byrds. Its perfect balance of might and melody set the tone for the album’s embarrassment of riches.

2. Celebrated Summer – Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)

Released five months after Zen ArcadeNew Day Rising built upon its predecessor’s melodic flowering. The album’s standout found Grant Hart’s knitting-machine drums powering a whirlwind of fuzz-toned major chords, as Mould waxed nostalgic about summers past: “Getting drunk out on the beach, or playing in a band/ And getting out of school meant getting out of hand.”

  1. If I Can’t Change Your Mind – SugarCopper Blue (1992)

The stand out track from the album. Bob Mould knows how to write great rock songs but he also creates some well crafted pop songs.

The perfect end to my top 15. This track got to no.30 in UK charts.

#AtoZBest90sAlbum Week 4

Final batch of albums from the 1990s is picked for week 4 which covers 22 to 27 April.

Was tempted to include two Pearl Jam’s albums beginning with V. Vitalogy sadly lost out to Vs. Wouldn’t have counted as you can only post one album a day!

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Even though I picked this my wildcard option, it was pointed out to me on Twitter that I should claim it as X because that is the Roman numeral for ten. Good point.

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It was a great challenge looking back at the 1990s which is my favourite decade. The albums featured over the four weeks are just a shapshot of my favourites.

Big thank you to both @sotachetan and @Pia_Lemonade for putting this challenge. It was great craic and I really enjoyed it. Onto the next challenge which is #AlbumCoverObjects. This should be fun.

#AtoZBest90sAlbum Week 3

Third batch of albums from the 1990s is picked for week 3 which covers 15 to 21 April.

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#AtoZBest90sAlbum Week 2

Second batch of albums from the 1990s is picked for week 2 which covers 8 to 14 April.

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Day L The Breeders

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#AtoZBest90sAlbum Week 1

Following up from the really successful #AtoZBest80sAlbums Twitter music challenge by @Pia_Lemonade and @sotachetan, we are back with what is my favourite decade music wise. Lots of albums have lost out but these have been my daily picks throughout the month of April.

Lots of albums have lost out but these have been my daily picks throughout the month of April.

Week 1 covers 1 to 7 April.

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15 albums that define 1997…for me

BBC 6Music have just selected their 15 albums that they felt defined 1997. I have five of them so looking at my collection I decided to do my own take on this with the 15 albums that were my favourites that year.

This was my top 15 from 1997.

  1. Radiohead – Ok Computer

The album recently topped the poll in the #7albums90s on Twitter last week and deservedly so.  After The Bends, this my favourite Radiohead album.  I still get goosebumps listening to it.  When I bought this album back in 1997, I got to see the band live for the first time when they played Dublin.

The first taster of the album came on the Warchild album Help, which Radiohead donated their song Lucky to.  I loved the song and was so looking forward to the album.  Paranoid Android which was the lead single and it set the standard for the rest of the album.  This album is all killer and no filler.  There is not one dud on it. Still to this day it is considered a masterpiece and who would disagree?

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/6dVIqQ8qmQ5GBnJ9shOYGE

2. Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape

The second Foo Fighters album was the first as a full band.  Dave Grohl played all the instruments on the debut album.  This time he was joined by Pat Smear and Nate Mendel (who are still part of the band today).  William Goldsmith was on drums but left after the recordings and was replaced by Taylor Hawkins.

The album produced some great singles – Monkey Wrench, My Hero and Everlong which are all still part and parcel of a Foo Fighters gig today. 

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/30ly6F6Xl0TKmyBCU50Khv

3. Faith No More – Album of the Year

This was the last ever Faith No More album before they went off on an eleven-year hiatus from 1998 to 2009.  The album title showed the bands humour.  They had been away for a while after King for a Day..Fool for a Lifetime from 1995 so they thought it would be a funny title for a record.

The album produced three singles – Ashes to Ashes, Last Cup of Sorrow and Stripsearch

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/15eiCGvldXlDbIz9ZQLmw6

4. Blur – Blur

Up until then I was into Oasis more than Blur.  While Blur won the battle of the singles – Roll with It vs Country House which they got to no.1 with, it was the album battle that Oasis came out on top with (What’s The Story) Morning GloryBlur’s The Great Escape didn’t do much for me at the time but suddenly something changed.

The self-titled fifth Blur album saw the band go for a much rawer approach as they embraced the lo-fi of Pavement.  The release of Song 2 won the band acclaim in the States with its quirky, poppy re-imaging of grunge and for me that was the song that opened the way to me appreciating the band a bit better. Still one of my favourite Blur albums to this day.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/3VyHgnHE4cp7YuU7skzuJ2

5. Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You

Number One Blind was the first single I bought by the band.  Never got around to getting American Thighs but eventually got a copy of it on vinyl.  The second album was produced by Bob Rock and it was a great album.

 Volcano Girls was a big hit from this album, and it was also the opening theme song for the teen comedy Jawbreaker.   This album would be the last of the original line up until they got back together for Ghost Notes in 2015.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/5ZqOSlcQ0fA7MZOgvpOJT5

6. Green Day – Nimrod

Two years previously the band released Insomniac which did not perform well commercially as their breakthrough major label debut Dookie

Nimrod is an album that has a little bit of everything – hardcore punk, pop punk, surf rock and ska.  I would say this is my favourite Green Day album.  Highlight from the album for me is Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).  It is just a great song towards the end of the album.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/3x2uer6Xh0d5rF8toWpRDA

7. The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land

I was never a fan of rap or indeed dance music.  During the 1990s that changed with the cross-over appeal of metal and rap which I really liked.  Now it was the turn of dance music.  I never liked The Prodigy previously as I really couldn’t get into rave culture. 

The singles from the album, Firestarter and Breathe both hit no.1 in 1996 saw the band successfully bring dance, rock, and hip hop into this hybrid and it works.  When I first saw them live, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was suspicious when I saw lots of people in the crowd with dayglo sticks. 

Thinking this will probably be a rave and I won’t like it; I left the King’s Hall in Belfast afterwards totally converted and have enjoyed going to see them live since then. This record doesn’t disappoint and the L7 cover at the end, Fuel My Fire is just amazing.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/4fdgcEVMdJe0KVgupMNJAP

8. Feeder – Polythene

Feeder’s debut album came out around the time that Britpop was the main scene.   Instead of being part of that scene, they were lumped into the not often mention Britrock.  The band were influenced by grunge which lead to comparisons with other bands.

They ended up being compared with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies and Talk Talk.  Breakthrough single High came from this album.   A really satisfying debut album and I have been a fan since.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/44Ey0omZSf2M9pVyrfaw1p

9. Primal Scream – Vanishing Point

Every Primal Scream album is so different and Vanishing Point draws influence from a lot of genres dub, ambient, dance music and krautrock.  Mani from the Stone Roses features on bass on this record.  Bobby Gillespie describes the album as a road-movie record.  It does have this feel of being a cool soundtrack for an underground film.

Four great singles were released from this album – Kowalski, Star, Burning Wheel and If They Move, Kill ‘Em. 

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/4VhBLFWE273FyI3rDeNx0A

10. Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Northern Britain

After Grand Prix, this album is one of my favourites from Teenage Fanclub.  Musically it is very influenced by The Byrds with songs like I Don’t Want Control of You and Ain’t That Enough.

The band described the album title as “a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought they were part of that scene”. Norman Blake expanded on the title in 2016, commenting, “We just thought it sounded funny. No one calls Scotland “Northern Britain,” although technically it is.” They may not have been part of the Britpop scene but a great band.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/39cy30Iaik6zMnqOlJdnAN

11. Sleater-Kinney– Dig Me Out

I was late getting into Sleater-Kinney.  Didn’t discover the band until 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One which I loved.  Having managed to get their entire back catalogue, Dig Me Out which was their third album is good and rockier than the first couple of albums.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/3tshnNFNhHrO6NUQ0BHw42

12. Super Furry Animals – Radiator

Super Furry Animals embarked on the NME Brats Tour and completed work on a speedy follow-up to Fuzzy Logic. Two singles Hermann ♥’s Pauline in May and The International Language of Screaming in July, hitting No. 26 and No. 24 respectively.

The band shared the same label with Oasis.  Creation released it just four days after the long-awaited new effort from OasisBe Here Now. Probably a case of band timing but it still did well. Two further singles, Play It Cool (released September 1997) and Demons (November 1997) both hit No. 27 in the charts.  The band established themselves as favourites in the music press, a cut above many of their Britpop peers. I got to see the band play both Fuzzy Logic and Radiator in the entirety which was a great show.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/7b3xhEEWvQdBLY78PppJxQ

13. James – Whiplash

I got into James when they released Laid in 1993 which is a great album.  Whiplash was an album that the band attempted to mix their older sound with newer elements.  Two of my favourite James songs are on this album – Tomorrow and She’s a Star.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/5XdpyZn2BUwJ7aT612sNLq

14. Pavement – Brighten the Corners

I got into Pavement in 1994 when they released the single Cut Your Hair.  One of the most influential American underground bands from the 1990s they remained signed to an independent label rather than signing with a major like most of their peers did.

The album contained two of the band’s best-known singles Stereo and Shady Lane.  

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/1Q6ikDUK4RFtLI3N9Lll9h

15. Helmet – Aftertaste

This fourth album by Helmet was to be the last with its original members John Stanier (drums) and Henry Bogdan (bass).  After that Page Hamilton would carry the band forward.

Aftertaste goes back to Helmet’s earlier sound compared to the experimental jazz of Betty.  It is a decent album but doesn’t quite have the same impact as Meantime and Betty did, both being my favourite Helmet albums.

Listen here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/1JdPCcQirTIcxXIDIQZtUQ

Music life in lockdown week 40 – the final edition

Since I started working from home back in March, I had no idea that by Christmas I would still be writing this.

This is the final entry for the Music life in lockdown review series.  I have really enjoyed going through my collection and listening to lots of music from over the years especially listening to some CDs that I haven’t played in ages.

One thing lockdown has taught me was to take the time, slow down and digest everything.  I have no longer been in a rush to do things. I could work and listen to music at a leisurely pace which has been good for my morale and even my mental health too.

This entry is for the Christmas edition as I was on the last of the working week before Christmas.  I don’t do Christmas music as such.  I am a bit of a humbug that way but there is the odd Christmas song I don’t mind.   When you hear it all the time on ads or in shops it does put you off it.

Anyway, for the last three days I decided to be a bit festive without playing Christmas songs.  That doesn’t make much sense does it?  I had a CD that I got with Uncut magazine a few years ago and it was called John Peel’s festive 15.  The CD compilation was a collection of cuts that made the legendary DJs festive 50 poll that he done every year.

The idea of the Festive Fifty is that it is an annual chart featuring the previous year’s best tracks, as voted for by listeners. Legendary BBC broadcaster John Peel presented the first ever Festive Fifty on Radio 1 back in 1976 and continued to do so until his death in 2004. Radio 1’s One Music show hosted the poll in 2005, before Peel’s former production team asked Dandelion Radio to become the new home of the official Festive Fifty from 2006 onwards.

Listeners vote for their three favourite tracks of the year at this website for a few weeks leading up to December 1st, with the results being broadcast as part of the schedule during Christmas and New Year.

So with three days to listen to music I had to turn to Spotify rather than going through lists to pick out individual songs voted over the years. For once I found that Spotify was quite good for this and I browed to find some great music to listen to. This does not mean from here on I will be embracing streaming services!

Over the three-day period of Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 December it was time to go through the festive 50s over the years after listening to the Uncut CD which was a fantastic listen to start off with.

On Spotify I found the following Festive 50s so went for mainly the 1980s and 1990s.

John Peel’s All Time Festive 50 only had 46 songs.  Possibly some issues that there would be some songs not available on Spotify.  This playlist includes Peel’s favourites, The Undertones Teenage Kicks, along with the likes of Joy Division, Sex Pistols, The Clash, New Order, The Smiths, Pulp, Nirvana, Dead Kennedys, My Bloody Valentine, The Fall (another Peel favourite) and Pixies.  Plenty there that I liked.

The Festive 50 for 1980 featured mostly punk, post punk and new wave with the likes of Sex Pistols, Joy Division, The Clash, The Jam, The Undertones, Dead Kennedys, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Public Image Ltd, The Ruts, The Cure, The Fall, Adam and The Ants, The Specials, Killing Joke, SpizzEnergi (their song Where’s Captain Kirk? was on the Uncut CD) and Gang of Four.  That collection had ten more tracks than the usual top 50.

John Peel Festive 50 for 1985 did have all 50 songs on Spotify with the playlist featuring The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Fall, The Cult, Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, The Pogues, The Wedding Present, The Wooden Tops (they were also on the Uncut CD), Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, That Petrol Emotion, The Cure, Billy Bragg and Husker Du, Sisters of Mercy which made this collection a very alternative 80s soundtrack and was excellent.

My favourite era is the 90s and I listened to a few festive 50s from 1992 and 1994.  The Festive 50 for 1992 playlist was heavily influenced by the new sounds coming from the USA with Ministry, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Babes in Toyland, Sugar, Buffalo Tom as well as UK and Irish bands like The Wedding Present, Suede, The Jesus and Mary Chain,  The Fall, Therapy?, The Frank and Walters, The Boo Radleys and Ride.  1992 was indeed a great year.

The Festive 50 for 1994 also was heavily balanced out with US and UK acts – Inspiral Carpets, Veruca Salt, Elastica, Portishead, Supergrass, Ash, Pulp, Pavement, The Wedding Present, Sebadoh, Hole, Shellac, Madder Rose, Sleeper, Mazzy Star, Nirvana and Beck to name but a few. I’m heavily biased towards the 90s and there are some great songs amongst that lot.

And that brings Music life in lockdown to a close.  It has been an insane 10 months of readjusting to life working from home and building a soundtrack that has carried me throughout the rest of the year.

I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on what I have been listening to with others and I hope you have enjoyed reading about them as much I was enjoyed listening to my CD collection the way it should be!

My favourite albums from 1995

Been reading today that BBC Radio 6 Music were doing an article on the best records from 1995.

Had a look at the list and quite a few of my favourites were there.  There were some albums that didn’t quite make the cut that would be in my top 10.  Looking back on 1995 it was a pretty good year in music.

New trends were emerging and it looks like this was the golden era of the beginning of Britpop while grunge’s popularity was on the wane.   In the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, one could argue that grunge was on the way out.  Alice in Chains would release their third album and Layne Staley’s  last with the group before his untimely death in 2002.   Soundgarden were still on the road that summer headlining Reading and I got to see them in Dublin.

But like everything else you try to find other bands to get into rather than just sticking with what you like.  So whilst still enjoying early 90s rock music I was finding new bands to listen too and 1995 was no exception.

This is my best of 1995 list below:

  1. Radiohead – The Bends
  2. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  3. Mad Season – Above
  4. Oasis  – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory
  5. Garbage – Garbage
  6. Teenage Fanclub – Grand Prix
  7. Sleeper – Smart
  8. Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters
  9. Echobelly – On
  10. Elastica – Elastica

Think I am quite happy with that lot.  Notable mention must go to the War Child album, Help which is a fantastic album.Oasis v Blur

There has also been a lot of interest in the big music story from that summer this very day between Oasis and Blur.

I must admit I did side on the Oasis camp but that would change after album no.3 then I switched to Blur.  I don’t know what it was with those two bands.  I just didn’t appreciate Blur until much later and then went off Oasis.

Blur won the no.1 spot and I really hated Country House when it first came out.  I remember buying Roll With It on CD single thinking it was the better song.