Music life in lockdown week 27

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 27 covers from 21-25 September.

Monday 21 September

After the mammoth task of listening to a weeks worth of albums from 2005 it was back to basics this week with individual bands but room for one more yearly review 1982 which is much shorter.

Today it was the turn of Smashing Pumpkins. Not quite grunge as they weren’t from Seattle but were from Chicago and achieved mainstream success with their second album Siamese Dream (1993). After Nirvana they were rapidly becoming my new favourite band along with Pearl Jam.

My introduction to the band were from the BBC late night programme Arena which was doing a series of music performances from 1992 in the wake of Nirvana’s mainstream breakthrough of Nevermind. Simply entitled No Nirvana it wasn’t meant as a sly dig at the band but showing the viewers there was so much more music from the States to discover.

This clip of the band performing Rhinoceros from their debut album, Gish (1991) got my attention as well as their contribution to the Singles soundtrack, Drown even though they were not connected to the grunge scene. They also included the track Glynis for the No Alternative compilation album.

The double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released in 1995 and the following year they were due to play both Belfast and Dublin. I had my ticket for the Belfast gig where they were due to play at the Ulster Hall. The bands Dublin show at the Point Depot was cancelled during the set when a huge crush at the front of the stage lead to the death, a seventeen-year-old fan named Bernadette O’Brien.

The concert ended early and the following night’s performance in Belfast was cancelled out of respect for her. I had heard the news of this tragedy and the internet was really in its infancy at the time when you were on dial-up internet trying to get the news. I was gutted at missing the chance to see them live but understood that some things were more important and the death of a young fan makes you step back and reflect a bit.

The other albums featured here include Pisces Iscariot (1994) which was only released in the USA. I was over in America that year and picked it up there. This is a great album and one I played quite regularly. Rotten Apples (2001) featured an untitled track prior to the band breaking up. I had witnessed this happen when I got my first chance to see them at London’s Wembley Arena in November 2000.

Earphoria (2002) was the first CD release of the bands video soundtrack Vieuphoria. This CD includes clips from promo tv shows, outtakes, demos and live versions. Definitely not for the casual listener. For that you got for Rotten Apples but it is interesting enough collection.

Tuesday 22 September

Going for something a wee bit different today with Joy Division and New Order. Both bands I knew of growing up but was too young to appreciate them at the time. By the mid-90s grunge had imploded and I found myself looking back to the bands that I didn’t listen to first time round.

Permanent: Joy Division 1995 is exactly what the title of the CD is. This compilation album features tracks from their two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer as well as other tracks previously released on the compilations Substance and Still. It is a really good collection of tracks and definitely recommended.

I knew the history of the band with the death of Ian Curtis and from the ashes of Joy Division came New Order. I was familiar with some of their songs during my teenage years like Blue Monday and True Faith but never had any of their albums.

Substance 1987 compiles all of the band’s singles at that point in their 12-inch versions, along with their respective B-side tracks. This album is definitely a good companion to Permanent by Joy Division.

Both bands heavily influenced a lot of bands that I like and by the 2000s you could hear that influence coming through in bands like Interpol and Editors.

Wednesday 23 September

The one band I have been wanting to listen to during lockdown, Tool got their chance today. I was missing one of their albums that I managed to pick up recently but the one that is eluding me at the moment, Fear Inoclum (2019) was because it was quite expensive for a CD. Last time I looked in HMV it was nearly £80! Have paid roughly that amount on vinyl but on CD I am holding out for a single CD release if at all possible.

Tool formed in 1990 and Undertow (1993) was the first album I bought and it is the one album that I can’t listen to in full. By the time the CD hits track 9, the 10th is where I normally turn it off. Disgustipate finishes with sounds of crickets chirping can be heard for 7 minutes and 5 seconds at 13:50 a hidden message plays while the crickets continue until the end.) Definitely not easy listening!

Ænima  from 1996 sees the band explore progressive rock territory previously and are conceptually innovative with every minute detail of their art, which sets them apart from most bands from that era. Again not easy listening at all.

Lateralus (2001) in contrast to the band’s earlier material, which has often been labelled as alternative metal but the band were becoming more like a metal version of Radiohead. At 79 mintues long this album literally takes your breath away.

The band came to Ireland as part of Ozzfest in 2001. Ozzy was not able to perform as he took ill which lead to Tool replacing him as headliners. I think I would rather have seen them indoors rather than outdoors. It was a strange feeling because while everybody was watching them I don’t think they quite got what was going on as Maynard James Keenan had his back to the crowd the whole time.

10,000 Days (2006) spawned three top 10 rock singles: Vicarious, The Pot and Jambi. It would be the bands last release for more than a decade; the band would not release their next studio album, Fear Inoculum in 2019. I can’t see Tool ever releasing a best of album as to appreciate the works that they have done you need to experience the album in its entirety to appreciate them. One day I am going to get Fear Incolum at some point!

Thursday 24 September

Not an extensive playlist for #3albums82 as I didn’t have that many. Could have easily gone onto Spotify and picked a weeks worth of albums that I don’t have. Maybe I should have them but in 1982 I wasn’t listening to any of the music that I have selected here. I was only 11 years old that year, just about to attend secondary school and my musically knowledge wasn’t very good just liking what you heard on Top of the Pops or the radio.

However as you get older your tastes widen a bit and for the four bands selected here this is what happened to me.

First pick was possibly the last best album by The Clash. Combat Rock was the following up to 1980s triple album  Sandinista!. I can vaguely remember hearing Rock the Casbah on Top of the Pops. By the year 2000 I had found myself starting to listen to the band and bought all restored and remastered editions apart from their last album, Cut The Crap.

After listening to it, Combat Rock was a frontrunner for the final 3. Three to go and only two are going to make it.

Second choice was Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. An album that took me a long while to get. Finally got my hands on it in boxset form which had a collection of Springsteen’s studio output right up to Born In the USA. That was the album that got me into his music and I was familiar with quite a lot of the songs from this album as I had the Live 1975-85 boxset which I played to death during my teens. Surely this should be a contender for me with two to go.

Rush were another band I was late getting into to thanks to a friend who leant me their albums in 1990. Rush came my new favourite band and Signals was one of the first albums I bought after getting into them. My vinyl copy is still intact but I managed to get it on CD. A fantastic album which fits in with the time it was released. Rush were starting incorporate keyboards to their sound. In fact most of the 1980s the band released most of their records with this new sound but would soon return to their more rock roots during the 1990s. A strong contender for a slot here.

Finally it was the turn of Simple Minds. When I was at secondary school most of the guys in my class were listening to them. I opted for U2 but for some reason at the time didn’t quite appreciate them even though they shared a friendship with U2. As usual I left it late getting into them, 1989 when they released Belfast Child before the album Street Fighting Years came out and that year also was my first ever gig and it was to see Simple Minds in the Kings Hall.

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) was the band’s fifth album and I have all their albums around that period in boxset form. A really great album and again thanks to the live release, Live in the City of Light quite a few tracks on it feature on New Gold Dream. Makes me wonder what the teenage me would have thought of it had I been listening at the time.

The verdict in no particular order – The Clash, Rush and Simple Minds were my three picks. Bruce just narrowly missed out. The 1982 Top 50 Twitter poll had Simple Minds at no.1, The Clash at no.5 and Rush came in at no.39. Should have picked Bruce. He came in at no.4 and that would have been 3 albums in the top 10. Oh well, it could have been worst if I had more albums from that year.

Friday 25 September

Arctic Monkeys got to round off the working week and it has been a while since I listened to the band. Really got taken in with the hype generated by NME at the time when they released I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor which made it to no.1 in the UK. A real banger of a tune and their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) is a solid debut. I remember the first time they came to Belfast and played the Limelight. It was another Oasis moment and nobody wanted to go. You know what happens after that. They get bigger.

I caught the band on the NME tour that came to Belfast for the first time. Maximo Park were the headliners with Arctic Monkeys second on the bill. That was the one and only time I’ve seen them and it was a really weird gig as quite a lot of people were leaving after their set and not sticking around for the headliners.

Favourite Worst Nightmare quickly followed up a year later and was just as good as the first album. My biggest fear was is album no.3 going to spell the end of my interest in the band. Too many bands I had been listened to by the time they got to the third album my interest had waned – notably bands include Oasis and Stereophonics and quite possibly Travis.

Third album Humbug (2009) was produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme so I don’t think I was going to be disappointed with it. A great album you really wonder what they are going to come up with next.

Suck It and See (2011) and AM (2013) were the last albums I bought by the band. I never got round to getting their most recent album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018). Both Suck It and See and AM are great records. Josh Homme even turns up on AM for guest vocals. A good combination between the two bands.

Another week of music enjoyed and for the next blog I am doing something different – tapes. Remember those? You will have to wait for the next instalment of Music Life in Lockdown.

#7albums10s Twitter poll

Last week we had two very important polls – the US Presidential race and Richard Shaw’s #7albums10s.

There was no postal votes and recounts, although it took a lot longer to find out out who won and it was by Sunday evening, that David Bowie’s final album before he died, Blackstar came out on top with 398 points and a clear winner.

I must admit Bowie has definitely been one of those artists that I never really warmed to growing up. Too young to appreciate the Ziggy Stardust era, vaguely remember him a bit more during the 80s, particularly doing a duet with Mick Jagger and also his side project, Tin Machine. Maybe this is a chance to try something a bit different. There were loads of albums that caught my eye on the overall list so definitely keen to branch out a bit more and give somebody else a chance.

For the seven albums that I picked, only five of them polled. The albums that didn’t make it onto the list were Queens of the Stone Age Like Clockwork and Wolf Alice My Love is Cool.

So for the last two weeks I have been listening to my top 10 for each year of the 2010s. Taking in quite a lot – 100 albums and having to pick 7 of them for the poll. Quite a hard task considering what I was listening to.

Of all the albums listened to quite a few on my list made it into the poll. The five albums that made it for me are in bold. Final placings in Richard’s poll are in italics.

2010

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (2), The National – High Violet (3)

2011

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (7), Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (38), The Black Keys – El Camino (44), Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See (58), The Decemberists – The Kings Is Dead (69)

2012

Bob Mould – Silver Age (66), Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (144), Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (165)

2013

The National – Trouble Will Find Me (22), Primal Scream – More Light (177)

2014

The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream (6), Manic Street Preachers – Futurology (95)

2015

No album polled

2016

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (8), Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (55)

2017

Ride – Weather Diaries (25), The National – Sleep Well Beast (73), The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy (95)

2018

Alice in Chains – Rainer Fog (177)

2019

Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (38)

None of the albums I listened to the 2015 made it in the poll. Was a bit surprised as I thought maybe Faith No More’s comeback album, Sol Invictus would have been up there. I was definitely biased for the local bands – ASIWYA had 3 albums, Therapy? and Ash both had 2 albums each, Jetplane Landing and The Wood Burning Savages had 1 album each. A pretty good decade of albums for Northern Irish acts.

Below is a list of the contenders from 2010 to 2019.

Mixtape

Who remembers doing a mixtape? Those of us of a certain ahem, age will probably fondly remember putting together music on a tape either from a collection of our favourite songs, tracks from the radio (yeah we are good at doing home taping back then!) or maybe you put together a collection of tracks if you were attempting to win over a girl or boy of your dreams.

I made quite a few of these which were really like your best of tapes. When it got to the more digital age, I did download songs and burn it to CD. This was another way of doing it.

But for the 21st century how do you do a mix tape? Well the answer to that is Spotify. For a long while I have resisted using Spotify or any of the streaming platforms. Personally I prefer to go and buy my music whether it is online or at a music shop. But I have been using Spotify more lately not so much for wanting access to my favourite bands new album but it is a good tool for searching for songs or albums for Twitter polls.

Which brings me to Twitter and currently I follow 7RockLists which is run by Connor in Australia. I have been taking part on these online polls as they are good fun and it gives you something to do in midst of lockdown. I miss going to gigs but interacting with other music fans who have the same musical tastes as yourself is great.

Connor runs a website where you can pick you favourite artists, songs and albums.

Recently he invited me to put together a mixtape and I rose to the challenge. Connor invited me to submit a best of album of my favourite songs from 2004 with two bonus tracks. I went online and done a bit of research looking for rock songs from that year. Must admit it was a bit hard as 2004 wasn’t quite a vintage year music wise for me but there are some songs from that year that I liked.

You can find my selection here on Spotify. Please have a visit and listen. You can comment on the thread if you liked it and vote for mine in the poll.

The selection of songs I picked from 2004 were mostly American and British bands plus one Swedish band.

This was really good fun putting together. I know I don’t give Spotify enough credit but it is good for doing this as it saves hours on end trying to go through your record collection to pick a greatest hits tape and it is so easy to drag the songs and in no time you have created your own album.

Have a listen and I hope you enjoy it.