Music life in lockdown week 26

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 25 covers from 14-19 September. All albums feature on @RichardS7370 #3albums2005.

Monday 14 September

Starting off the new working week all dedicate to the year 2005. By the end of the week I will be picking my top 3 albums from that year. So throughout the week we will go through the contenders. Some albums have featured before, others getting played for first time in ages.

The contenders on Monday were – Calla, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Mould, Arcade Fire, Audioslave and Death Cab for Cutie.

First up was Calla who to be honest I cannot for the life of me remember how or why I picked this album, Collisons. Described as post-rock and I was listening to some of that at the time but this album just passes me by. One of those ones you buy and then think what was buying that for?

Bruce Springsteen is no stranger to the blog, in fact Devils & Dust featured back in week 25 if you want to catch up on the review here.

Being a fan of both Sugar and Husker Du, there is always a place for Bob Mould. By Bob’s sixth solo album he was returning to his rock roots after trying his band on electronic music.

Body of Song contained much of the electronic influence of its predecessor Modulate, but Mould’s trademark guitar work, which had been buried in the former album’s mix, was brought back to the forefront which was a welcome return to form.

Audioslave’s second album Out of Exile is a favourite of mine. I like this one better than their debut as the band finally find their feet. When you have the 3 former members of Rage Against The Machine and Chris Cornell from Soundgarden on vocals, you were always going to get the comparisons with their previous bands.

Even in concert, they deliberately choose not to play songs from the previous bands but choose cover versions as way of finding their feet. Notably cover versions I have heard seeing them live included The White Stripes 7 Nation Army and The Clash’s White Riot. Weirdly enough the last time I saw the band at the Oxegen festival in County Kildare, they did play Killing In The Name much to the delight of the crowd but I fond it a bit odd seeing Chris Cornell trying to rap like Zach de la Rocha.

I think may have caused a bit of controversy when compiling this list by including Arcade Fire’s debut album, Funeral on the playlist. I really thought it was released in 2005 as it seemed to have topped most polls that year. When I went onto Google to research the albums, the UK release date was given as 2005. It was released in the USA and Canada in 2004. Oh well that eliminated that from the contenders for #3albums05.

Rounding off the day was Death Cab for Cutie. Plans received generally positive reviews and picks up where 2003’s Transatlanticism left off. The album produced three singles and was nominated for Grammy in 2006.

Tuesday 15 September

Today’s contenders were Elbow, The Cribs, Foo Fighters, Depeche Mode, Feeder and Idlewild.

Elbow were considered of the favourites for the poll but after listening to Leaders of the Free World I was nearly scrambling for the off switch. Maybe it was just me or maybe after not listening to them for so long I kind of forgot what they sounded like. This was their third album and I have most of their catalogue but don’t think I will be revisiting soon. Change my mind!

Next up was NME favourites, The Cribs whose second album The New Fellas was came in at 11th place in their albums of the year. It’s a good album but not in my top 10. The same magazine even declared the song Hey Scenesters! was named one of the “Greatest Indie Anthems Ever”.

High praise indeed. I might revisit this band at some point to give them another go.

Idlewild featured here on two separate lockdown playlists. Today, their fourth album Warnings/Promises gets a chance to be a contender. This album is a departure from the sound of their earlier material, blending contemporary folk influences with melodic rock. There isn’t anything that’s instantly catchy like previous singles When I Argue I See Shapes or You Held the World in Your Arms. I think this would be best described as their last best album.

Pushing the Senses was Feeder’s fifth album and was quite similar to Comfort in Sound. Many critics saw the band becoming like Coldplay or Keane but I don’t think they are. It did really well in the end of year polls and even Grant Nicholas was annoyed about the Coldplay comparisons. Just because you add a bit of piano doesn’t turn a band into Coldplay. While the album is not a real rocker like previous albums I still think this is a good album.

Depeche Mode’s Playing The Angel was their eleventh album and a favourite of mine after Violator. The album is a classic blend of synth-pop beats, heavy guitar riffs and dark lyrics. Probably not an album for putting on during a party but its a great album and a definite for my top 3. We will see how the rest of the week goes.

I have been a fan of Foo Fighters from the very start and In Your Honor for album number five, saw the band releasing a double album of heavy rock songs on one disc and mellower acoustic songs on the second disc. A decision by Dave Grohl to do a diverse blend of songs. The album featured some high profile guest stars such as John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Norah Jones, and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age). It’s a good album and doing the acoustic stuff shows the band can strip it back while still being able to rock.

Wednesday 16 September

Midweek on the countdown to picking 3 albums for 2005. Today’s contenders included Kaiser Chiefs, The National, Nine Inch Nails, Nine Black Alps, Maximo Park and Nada Surf.

Kaiser Chief’s debut album Employment took its inspirations from the Britpop and new wave movements, 1970s-era punk rock and Beach Boys-esque West Coast music. At the time I really liked this and seeing them in the Limelight was my Oasis moment, ie getting to see a band play a small venue before they get huge. After this the band did get huge.

Another debut album from that year came from Maximo Park who released A Certain Trigger. Also another band that you picked up after reading about them in NME. They headlined the NME new bands tour and Arctic Monkeys were on the same bill. After they finished their set lots of people left. I have never been to a gig seeing people leave before the headliners come on. Bizzare!

Still on the theme of debut albums, Nine Black Alps debut Everything Is was an album that took you back to the grunge era. You could tell that the band were definitely fans of Nirvana. A really good album and I enjoyed it.

I was late getting into The National. The first album I heard was Boxer and naturally you go backwards to find their earlier works and I came across Alligator which was their third album. This is a great album and it features the song Mr November which the band designed and sold a t-shirt featuring Obama’s image above the words “Mr. November” referencing the closing track of the album and the month of the U.S. presidential election.

Nada Surf formed back in the 1990s and have released nine albums. The Weight is a Gift was their fourth album and I picked this one up at one of their shows in Belfast a few years ago. I like their style and the Coldplay comparisons are a bit unfair. These guys do rock live.

Leaving the heavyweights until the end with Nine Inch Nails and their fourth album, With Teeth. At this stage the album was pushing for being a strong contender for the top 3. Dave Grohl even pops up this album along with future band member Atticus Ross. Three singles were released from the album – The Hand That Feeds, Only and Every Day Is Exactly The Same. This was another candidate for the top 3. Still got two more days to go through.

Thursday 17 September

Six more albums to go through today and its a real mixed bag with Paramore, Sons and Daughters, System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age, Sleater Kinney and The Subways.

So a bit of pop punk with Paramore and their debut album All We Know Is Falling to start the day. Not an album that was going to set the world on fire but I gave it a go and it wasn’t that bad.

Scottish band Sons and Daughters second album The Repulsion Box got a listen for the first time in ages. I can’t remember what lead to the purchase of this album. Most likely a recommendation from NME at the time.

Another band picked up from NME was The Subways. The cover mounted CDs were good ways to pick up new bands to like. Their debut album Young for Eternity was really good featuring the singles 1am, Oh Yeah and Rock and Roll Queen.

I first came across Sleater Kinney back in 2000 with their fifh album All Hands on the Bad One. Don’t know what happened but kind of forgot all about them until their reunion in 2014 with the release of The Center Won’t Hold and I got to see the band play at Dublin’s Vicar Street so needed to get a few more of their albums to get up to speed! The Woods was album no.7 and a really good record. Will it be enough to squeeze into the top 3?

System of a Down released two albums in 2005, today we have Mezmerize which is quite a short album by them. It only clocks just over 36 minutes of music. My first reaction to a band releasing two albums in one year lead me to think back when I purchased Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 by Guns ‘N’Roses back in 1990.

Mezmerize and Hypnotize (left that until Friday to play) both debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, making the band one of the few to achieve this with two albums in the same year. Hypnotize would be the bands last album before going on a four-year hiatus in 2006, and the band didn’t release new music for more than a decade, until late 2020 when they unexpectedly released two new songs which I haven’t had a chance to hear yet.

I am a big fan of Queens of The Stone Age and Lullabies to Parlayze was the bands fourth album which was released around the time of my birthday. This was the first album they done after Nick Oliveri was fired from the band. Mark Lanegan and Josh Homme being the only members from the previous album Songs for the Deaf to play on this one along with new members Joey Castillo on drums (Dave Grohl wasn’t available) and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen. Live favourite Little Sister and Burn the Witch feature on this album. This should be a contender for the top 3 unless another album is going to sneak in. We shall see.

Friday 18 September

The week is coming to an end and the last batch of contenders are ready to roll. System of a Down, The White Stripes, And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead, Teenage Fanclub, Thrice and Weezer.

System of a Down get their second and last album, Hypnotize played today. I think it was a good idea splitting the albums down over the two days. Looking back I don’t rate either of these two albums as good as their first two.

I suspect The White Stripes are white hot favourites (pun intended) with Get Behind Me Satan. While I liked the album it wasn’t going to be in my top 3. Now two albums are certs, it is a question of who is going to get third place.

Weezer’s fifth album was a real return to form boosted by the hit single Beverly Hills. It’s a decent album but not as good as their first two albums. Thrice on the other hand went a bit experimental with their fourth album Vheissu. Parts of it recalled the post-hardcore stylings of At the Drive-In, with Radiohead-esque atmospheric transition and some mid tempo arrangements with the loud/quiet dynamic of Thursday and Deftones.

Teenage Fanclub have been seasoned regulars during lockdown and that is testament to what a great band they are. So good even Kurt Cobain loved them back at the start. Man-Made was their eighth album. A really good album but not quite good enough to clinch the last spot available for #3albums05.

That honour was going to And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead (Trail of Dead in shorter form after this) who released their forth album Worlds Apart. Just thinking I had been listening to Trail of Dead previously on 4 September but looking back at that post, I forgot all about Worlds Apart in that review, so this is the delayed verdict on the album that made me pick it for my top 3 of 2005.

Worlds Apart is an album that just grabs your attention immediately. From the quiet piano riff, to chants, drums and screams, this album feels like you have been in the ring in a heavy weight fight. A worthy selection for #3albums50.

The verdict – well I was wrong about The White Stripes. They came in at no.15. The album that won was Sufijan Stevens with Illionis. Thirteen of the albums that I had in my contenders did make it into the top 50. My picks – Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode tied at no.33. My last pick Trail of Dead was bubbling under. Damn! Could have went for Queens of the Stone Age in the end but picking your favourite is not about the popularity of the album or artist it is more about what that album means to you and for me I thought it was a decent shout.

Next blog for week 27 will be back to normal with selected bands and maybe just one best of year.

Music life in lockdown week 25

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 25 covers from 7 to 11 September.

Just noticed the typo in the last entry where I mistakenly put down week 23 for week 24. I am definitely losing track of time with this pandemic. However we are back on track here with week 25. Hard to believe it.

Monday 7 September

Kicking off the new working week was Glasgow’s finest Teenage Fanclub. I have been a fan of the band since seeing them support Nirvana when they came in Belfast in 1992. At the time I was really getting into grunge. Teenage Fanclub while not grunge definitely fitted the scene at the time.

Their sound is reminiscent of Californian bands like the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and their seventies counterparts Big Star.  A Catholic Education (1990), released in 1990, is largely atypical of their later sound, with the possible exception of Everything Flows which is my favourite song.

Bandwagonesque (1991) released on Creation Records in the UK and Geffen in the US, brought the band a measure of commercial success.  Bandwagonesque was more deliberately constructed, the hooks became stronger, the guitar riffs were brought under control, and the harmony vocals took shape.

It topped Spin magazine’s 1991 end-of-year poll for best album, beating Nirvana’s Nevermind, their Creation stablemates My Bloody Valentine’s album Loveless, and R.E.M.’s Out of Time. Quite an achievement. Even Kurt Cobain had it down as one of his all time favourites.

 Thirteen (1993) was a nod to Big Star. At the time the band were listening to them quite a lot but this record was their most difficult one to make and didn’t get get the success as Bandwagonesque. However, that would all change with the release of Grand Prix (1995).

It was both a critical and commercial success in the UK, becoming their first top ten album. Around this time Liam Gallagher of labelmates Oasis called the band “the second best band in the world” — second only to Oasis. The other way round I think, Teenage Fanclub are better!

Songs from Northern Britain (1997) followed Grand Prix and built on the former’s success. It became their highest charting release in the UK and contained their biggest hit single to date, Ain’t That Enough. They were on tour with Radiohead that year who had just released Ok Computer and the band supported them when they came to the RDS at Dublin.

The band have described the album title as “a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought we 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. The album is just perfect and a fantastic follow up to Grand Prix. Even author Nick Hornby namechecks the album in his book 31 Songs as one of his all time favourite albums. Can’t argue with that.

So if you wanted to introduce somebody to Teenage Fanclub where do you start? Maybe a gentle introduction is Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds – A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub (2003). The title refers to the album’s total length, just 34 seconds short of the maximum running time possible on a single CD: as a consequence the track “My Uptight Life” was edited from its original version in order to fit on to the album. This best of album comprises fourteen singles, four album tracks, and three new songs written for the album.

Tuesday 8 September

I had got back into listening to a bit of Rush lately and today it was all about Rush in the 1980s. A friend of mine introduced me to the band around 1990-91 and I borrowed some of his albums mostly from the 70s and a few from the 80s and I was hooked.

For today’s run the focus was all on their music output from the 1980s. The band were very creative that decade releasing seven albums. I have some of them on vinyl but the ones that I played today are on CD and they were Permanent Waves (1980) which had just been reissued as a 40th anniversary edition, Moving Pictures (1981), Signals (1982) Hold Your Fire (1987), Presto (1989) along with standard live album release A Show of Hands (1989).

With the 80s the band would experiment in new sounds. The single from the album, The Spirit of Radio featured the band’s early experiments with a reggae style in its closing section, which was explored further on the band’s next three albums. They also used  synthesizers as well which added another dimension to their sound. The instrumental YYZ from Moving Pictures was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.  This is an amazing piece of work.

On Signals the band continues to incorporate the synthesizer into their songs with less emphasis on guitar-oriented riffs which had been the focus of their sound in the 1970s. This is not bad thing for a rock band like Rush as after Moving Pictures, Signals is one of my favourite Rush albums.

The last two albums from the decade, Hold Your Fire had the band moving to using computers for song writing and production but the last studio album from that decade, Presto saw the band return to a more guitar-driven sound from what is known to many as Rush’s “synthesizer period” of the last four releases.

The live album A Show of Hands was released in between Hold Your Fire and Presto with recordings of the 1988 Hold Your Fire tour. A Rush live album is right up with Iron Maiden live albums, releasing eleven of them during their career.

Neil Peart passed away at the start of the year and the band had already retired so the chance of ever seeing them again was never going to happen. I was really glad I got to see them in 2011 when they done the Time Machine tour came to Dublin which incredibly was the bands first and only Irish show. They played Moving Pictures in it’s entirety for the first time.

Wednesday 9 September

Back to the 90s and today it was the turn for a very underrated band from that era, Buffalo Tom. The band emerged from the same US underground scene as Dinosaur Jr and Pixies at the tail end of the 1980s and I got into them when they released Big Red Letter Day (1993) which was their fourth album and one of my favourite albums from that year featuring songs like Sodajerk, Treehouse and I’m Allowed.

Fifth album Sleepy Eyed (1995) and Three Easy Pieces (2007) were the last albums I bought by the band and like many things sometimes you forget about bands and move onto something.

However my interest in the band picked up again around 2012 when I went to Head Records for Record Store Day. I had picked up quite a few albums that day and I came across a bargain at the corner. It was a Buffalo Tom album, Besides: A Collection of B-Sides and Rarities from 2002 (not pictured here) which included a cover of The Jam’s Going Underground that I had not heard before.

I think it was only £2 so I bought that as well and what a bargain. It reignited by interest in the band and I went about trying to find out what they had done since 2007.

Skins (2011) was the first release since Three Easy Pieces after a period of four years and it was really great to hear new material. It wouldn’t be until 2018 that they were recording a new album, Quiet and Peace which I purchased through a Pledge campaign. They were also the one band I never got to see during the 1990s. They did visit Belfast once but I had never heard of them at the time, so I took a chance to go over to England to see them when they played in Birmingham.

One album that I was late getting was Let Me Come Over (1992) which reached its 25th anniversary in 2017. There was a couple of Record Store Day releases around that time and I picked up Big Red Letter Day for the first time on vinyl. I also bought the 25th anniversary edition of Let Me Come Over both on CD and vinyl. It is a great album and I often wonder how I didn’t hear of it first before Big Red Letter Day.

The second part of Let Me Cover Over is a bonus recording of a storming set recorded live at London’s ULU before the album came out.

Front man Bill Janovitz even appeared with Pearl Jam on one of their American shows playing Taillights Fade with the band. Eddie Vedder also done a cover of it on one of this own solo shows and Bill joined in too. I am glad they came back. Sometimes it is nice to be reminded of the bands that didn’t quiet hit the big time but you welcome them back like a long lost friend. Quiet and Peace was a great album and I loved it. I hope it won’t take too long before they do the follow up.

Thursday 10 September

A day late but this time 25 years ago, the Help album was released charity album to raise funds for the War Child charity, which provided aid to war-stricken areas, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina. All the songs were recorded in a single day. The album features British and Irish artists including Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Radiohead, Oasis, Blur and the Manic Street Preachers.

 Help was recorded on Monday, 4 September 1995, mixed on Tuesday the fifth, and was in shops on Saturday the ninth. The original version release did not include any tracklist attached to the sleeve notes; the tracklisting was instead printed as a full page ad in the NME. There is not one dud track on this album and it is fantastic from start to finish.

There were other great compilation albums released in the 1990s and the next three are personal favourites. With grunge taking off it wouldn’t have been long before somebody decided to do a film on the era.

Singles is the original soundtrack album to the 1992 film Singles, primarily focused on the ascendant Seattle grunge scene of the early 1990s. It also features contributions from Minneapolis’ Paul Westerberg (his first solo material after the breakup of The Replacements), Chicago’s The Smashing Pumpkins, and past Seattle artists Jimi Hendrix and The Lovemongers (Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, the latter of whom was the wife of the film’s director Cameron Crowe at the time). This album got me into other bands Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees who feature on this soundtrack. The film may not have been great but that was besides the point as the music on the soundtrack was what makes this a great album.

Another movie soundtrack Judgment Night came out a year later in 1993.

Again a terrible movie but what a collaboration for this line up. Every song on the soundtrack was a collaboration between hip-hop artists and rock artists. The album spawned four singles, Fallin’ by Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Another Body Murdered by Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., Just Another Victim by Helmet and House of Pain, and Judgment Night by Biohazard and Onyx. This is a fantastic album and it definitely takes the genre of hip-hop and rock to a new level.

Overall my all time favourite compilation album from the 1990s is No Alternative from 1993 which was an album released to benefit AIDS relief. The album features original tracks and cover versions from bands who went on to define the alternative rock scene of the 1990s.

It was released with two different versions of album art: the standard version depicting a boy (without the Nirvana song listed on the back and liner notes), and the alternate version depicting a girl (some with and some without the Nirvana song listed on the back and liner notes). My copy of it includes the hidden Nirvana track.

A fantastic talent of who’s who of the alternative scene at the time included Matthew Sweet, Buffalo Tom, Soul Asylum, Urge Overkill, American Music Club, Goo Goo Dolls, Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins, Bob Mould, Sarah McLachlan, Soundgarden, The Verlaines, Uncle Tupelo, Patti Smith, The Breeders and Beastie Boys as well as the uncredited Nirvana track. This album is a solid 10 out of ten, all killer and no filler.

Friday 11 September

When you think of the significance of today’s date, the anniversary of the terror attacks in America this day in 2001 it was probably no coincidence that I picked Bruce Springsteen for today’s playlist. Had played most of his earlier stuff during lockdown so today I picked six albums by Bruce that all touch on the American dream and there is no better artist to write about it than Bruce.

The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) was Bruce’s second acoustic album, the first one being Nebraska. The album is mainly backed by acoustic guitar work and the lyrics on most tracks are a somber reflection of life in the mid-1990s in America and Mexico.

 The character of Tom Joad entered the American consciousness in John Steinbeck’s 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, set against the economic hardships of the Great Depression. The film version starring Henry Fonda, which in turn inspired folk singer Woody Guthrie to pen The Ballad of Tom Joad. Bruce is no stranger to the works for Woody Guthrie and has even covered This Land Is Your Land. The tour that followed this album was a more stripped down smaller tour playing small venues. Bruce came to Belfast for the first time in 1996 when the tour stopped by here playing at the King’s Hall. A truly memorable gig.

The follow up to The Ghost of Tom Joad was The Rising (2002) but I opted for the next acoustic album, Devils & Dust (2005) as it had got an airing earlier during lockdown. Bruce was very open about that many of the songs from Devils & Dust dated back a decade.

He had written the song All the Way Home for Southside Johnny to use in his album Better Days which was released in 1991. The songs Long Time Comin and The Hitter were written and performed during Bruce’s solo Ghost of Tom Joad Tour in 1996. Devils & Dust is also known to have been written previously, and was featured in soundchecks during The Rising Tour beginning in the summer of 2003 and the following year during the Vote for Change Tour in late 2004.

Wrecking Ball (2012) featured tracks that featured Clarence Clemons, who died in June 2011. Clemons performs the saxophone solos on Land of Hope and Dreams and backing saxophone rhythms on the title track. An absolute legend and a sad loss. His nephew Jake would then join the E Street band for saxophone duties.

Wrecking Ball was described as Bruce’s angriest yet tackling subject matter such as economic justice, financial crisis and disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The album is a fantastic collection of songs that blend different styles from the muscular hootenanny folk-rock of his Seeger Sessions album, with touches of noble gospel, poignant jazz trumpet and feisty Irish rebel music. The Wrecking Ball tour came to Ireland where Bruce played at five venues throughout the country making another trip to Belfast the King’s Hall grounds only this time outside.

High Hopes (2014) featured his regular backing band, the E Street band as well as Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) on guitar. Tom would also join tour. Contributions from deceased E Street Band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici are also included on the album.

This is the first Bruce album composed entirely of covers, outtakes and reimagined versions of songs from past albums and tours. High Hopes was originally recorded in 1995 and released on the Blood Brothers (EP). According to Springsteen, Morello suggested they perform the song during the Wrecking Ball Tour, which ultimately led to it being re-recorded. American Skin (41 Shots) was originally written in 2000 in response to the death of Amadou Diall.  

During the Wrecking Ball Tour, Bruce started to perform the song again as a tribute to Trayvon Martin. The Ghost of Tom Joad has been performed many times, often featuring Morello on guitar and trading vocals with Springsteen. The track had been covered by Morello’s former band, Rage Against the Machine.

Morello also inspired the performances of two covers that ended up being recorded. Just Like Fire Would is a cover of Australian punk rock band The Saints’ 1986 single, while “Dream Baby Dream” is a cover of the protopunk band Suicide’s 1979 single.

I never got round to getting the Tracks boxset at the time, opting to buy the cheaper 18 tracks CD version which was released as 18 Tracks in 1999.

The single album was intended to capture more casual fans, and thus was oriented towards the shorter, more pop-oriented selections from Bruce Springsteen’s vault. The main boxset of Tracks released the year earlier had four discs of 66 songs. I will definitely be hunting this one out to add to my collection as it has passed me by all these years.

Last word on Bruce goes to his last release before the new album Letter to You came out – Western Stars (2019) is a different kind of album one that he has never done before.

The album was influenced by “Southern California pop music” of the 1970s, including artists such as Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. It is a very country orientated album and country music is not normally something that I’d listen to but Bruce really works his magic on this one. I wasn’t sure if I would have liked it but it is really brilliant.

With 2020 being the year it has been and soon coming to a close it is great to be able to look forward to his new album, Letter to You which is a welcome relief for this bleak year.

Music life in lockdown week 24

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 23 covers from 31 August to 4 September.

Monday 31 August

Today was dedicated to the Manic Street Preachers. I was late getting into them. My interest in the band started around their third album, The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go was the first Manics album I bought and then of course you end up getting their very short back catalogue and picked up Generation Terrorists and Gold Against The Soul.

The band formed in 1986 and were influenced by the likes of The Clash and Public Enemy. On Generation Terrorists (1992) they proclaimed it would be the “greatest rock album ever”, as well as hoping to sell “sixteen million copies” around the world, after which they would split up. Which of course they never did, and it’s follow up Gold Against The Soul (1993) was a more polished record than their debut. Strangely enough this album is described as their least favourite but after a couple of listens to it I do quite like it. Generation Terrorists in comparison feels like more bloated album for a debut which clocked in at 18 tracks.

But it is the third album, The Holy Bible (1994) that everything changes. At the time the album was written and recorded, lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards was struggling with severe depression, alcohol abuse, self-harm and anorexia nervosa, and its contents are considered by many sources to reflect his mental state. The albums themes relating to politics and human suffering. The Holy Bible was the band’s last album released before Edwards’ disappearance on 1 February 1995.

A very bleak and not easy listening experience compared to the first two albums. At the time of its release grunge was in decline and Britpop was starting to dominate so it wasn’t exactly an album to play at parties considering the lyric content.

Everything Must Go (1996) was their fourth album and first record released by the band following the disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards.

Released at the height of Britpop in the mid-1990s, the album was a commercial and critical success, it reached its peak in the UK on separate occasions, debuting and peaking at number 2 in the UK Albums Chart and earned the band accolades in the 1997 Brit Awards.

It was quite ironic that this album was more successful since Richey Edwards disappearance. The lyrical focus of the album is also shifted, due in part to Edwards’ departure. Instead of introspective and autobiographical tracks Nicky Wire’s predilection for historical and political themes dominates. Five songs on the album feature Edwards’ lyrics so his absence does makes its presence on the album. This was my second copy of the album as this was the 20th anniversary edition which included a live album recorded at Manchester Nynex Arena in 1997.

One of the my most recent purchases during the summer was James Dean Bradfield’s second solo album, Even In Exile (2020) which was a concept album based on the life and death of the Chilean activist, singer and poet Víctor Jara, with lyrics by poet and playwright Patrick Jones who is Nicky Wire’s brother. It was one of my favourite albums released this year.

Tuesday 1 September

Listening to a collection of live REM albums today and two of them had an Irish favour to it as they were recorded in Dublin.

R.E.M. Live (2007) was recorded at the Point Theatre, Dublin, on February 26 and 27, 2005, the closing nights of the winter European leg of the Around the World Tour in support of their thirteenth studio album Around the Sun. I got to see the band make their Belfast debut on February 25 the day before the Dublin shows.

Another live album from Dublin, Live At The Olympia (2009) was recorded during the band’s five-night residency at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, between June 30 and July 5, 2007. I missed this one due to being in Greece over that period for a friends wedding. That would have been some gig to go to as it wasn’t a greatest hits live set more like road testing new songs and playing older songs that don’t often get played live. Just shows the strength of band that can delve into their back catalogue and play songs that haven’t been heard from their earlier shows.

One of my favourite REM live albums is the Unplugged 1991 2001 sessions (2014), released initially on vinyl for Record Store Day which I managed to get a copy of and then it was later made available on compact disc and digitally. Both MTV recordings show that the acoustic set up really suits the band. This album is right up there in the MTV Unplugged series with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.

Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 (2011) coincided with the bands announcement that they were disbanding on 21 September 2011. This is the first compilation album that features both their early work on independent record label I.R.S. in addition to their 10 studio releases through Warner Bros. Having already got two previous best of albums I am always a sucker for another one seeing this issue had three previously unreleased songs. I am a bit of a completist.

Wednesday 2 September

Today it was the turn of the Scottish REM, Idlewild. I previously covered them here back in July and judging by two comments on Facebook from Brian who said it all went downhill after that and not to bother with the other albums and Barry asked if I was going to play the other albums. I said I would and here they are.

Scottish Fiction Best of 1997-2007 was released following Idlewild’s split from Parlophone/EMI, and, as a result, only features two songs from 2007’s Make Another World, which was released through Sequel Records. It is a a good introduction to the band featuring many of their well known songs.

Post Electric Blues (2009), Everything Ever Written (2015) and last years Interview Music are ok albums, not really brilliant like their earlier stuff so I can see where Brian is coming from in his comments. I gave the albums a go but they just didn’t grab my attention so Scottish Fiction got played again and it reminded me of why I got into the band in the first place. The band were due to play Belfast this autumn but sadly Covid-19 took care of that.

Thursday 3 September

Time to visit some American heavyweights with two of my favourite bands – Alice in Chains (AIC) and Helmet.

AIC have been covered her previously so this is the first outing for the Alice In Chains Mark 2 with new vocalist William DuVall.

Guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney reunited to perform a concert in Seattle for victims of the tsunami disaster that struck South Asia. It was the band’s first live performance since 1996 which started the ball rolling for them to get back together.

 On March 10, 2006, they performed at VH1’s Decades Rock Live concert, honouring fellow Seattle musicians Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart.  Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall made his first public performance with the band during that show singing AIC’s Rooster . He joined the band as lead singer during the band’s reunion concerts. One of the shows I got to see was when they came to Dublin to support Metallica.

On the reunion Cantrell stated, “We want to celebrate what we did and the memory of our friend. We have played with some [singers] who can actually bring it and add their own thing to it without being a Layne clone. We’re not interested in stepping on [Staley’s] rich legacy. It’s a tough thing to go through. Do you take the Led Zeppelin approach and never play again, because the guy was that important? That’s the approach we’ve taken for a lot of years. Or, do you give it a shot, try something? We’re willing to take a chance on it. It’s completely a reunion because the three of us who’re left are back together. But it’s not about separating and forgetting — it’s about remembering and moving on.”

This lead to the creation of the first post-Layne album, Black Gives Way to Blue (2009) which was their first record since Layne’s death in 2002. William DuVall is not Layne’s replacement. He brings another dimension into the band and the harmonisation during songs with Jerry shows that they really compliment each other.

The second post-Layne album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013) is also excellent and features the usual AIC trademark style of sludgy guitars, haunting melodies and dark lyrics. I managed to get to see them on tour for this one when they came to Glasgow. There was no way I was going to miss a chance to see them again.

The most recent album, Rainer Fog (2018) is another favourite of mine. Since the band reformed I have really enjoyed all the albums they have put out. The title track, Rainier Fog is a fitting tribute to the Seattle music scene that launched bands such as, SoundgardenMother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and Nirvana as well as themselves.

When the European tour came round for this album, they played Belfast for the first time since 1993 when the band took to the Ulster Hall. I was at that gig and it was great to see them back on home turf again. Two different shows. It was great to see Layne live back then but now I got a chance to see the band with DuVall and he puts on a great show. He never tries to imitate Layne but knows how to carry a tune. It was one of the best gigs that year.

Helmet were not grunge but were around the same time as the grunge explosion and also around that time many American bands were becoming part of the alt-rock nation. Three albums feature here – Meantime (1992), Betty (1994) and Aftertaste (1997).

Meantime featured three singles –  Unsung, Give It and In the Meantime gave the band international  recognition. Much to my regret I never got to see Helmet when they came to Dublin in 1994 which was when Betty came out. The album features their biggest hit, Milquetoast, which also appeared in alternate form on The Crow soundtrack as Milktoast. But I finally got to see them when they done a 20th anniversary tour for Meantime in 2012. Betty also got the 20th anniversary treatment as well but I never got to any of those shows.

Aftertaste is considered not as good as the previous two albums and the band are unfairly credited for being the influence of nu-metal which was starting to come through at that stage. That’s probably not a good sign but Helmet are a hell of a lot better than Limp Bizkit!

Meeting Page Hamilton after the gig who took the time to talk to fans, sign tickets and pose for selfies.

The last time I got to see the band was in 2019 when they done the 30th anniversary tour of 30 European cities, playing 30 songs from their catalogue with no support and no encores. The show at the Button Factory in Dublin’s Temple Bar area was brilliant and I got to meet Page Hamilton afterwards and he spoke fondly of his brothers, Therapy? which was great to here.

That would be the bucket list tour for me if those two got together. Damn Covid! I miss gigs.

Friday 4 September

Finishing off the working week with some albums by Texas’ finest …And You Will Know Us By Trail of Dead or Trail of Dead for short. The band formed in 1994 and were influenced by the likes of Fugazi, Melvins, Sonic Youth, Rush and Led Zeppelin to name but a few.

I discovered the band in 1999 with the release of Madonna. Not a tribute to the pop star from the 80s – Madonna but the cover of the album featured a Hindu goddess painting by guitarist Conrad Keely called Portrait of Kali. A fantastic album and the band were amazing live.

Prior to the release of Source Tags & Codes (2002) I got to see the band twice in 2001 – headlining an NME show at London’s legendary music venue, The Astoria which is sadly no longer with us. An insane set supported by Rocket From The Crypt and the then unknown The Strokes who were opening band of the night. The place descended into scenes of chaos as the band chucked their equipment into the crowd and you would have been lucky that night to walk out with their drum kit! Same chaos didn’t happen when they came to Belfast eight months later.

Source Tags & Codes was a favourite album of mine. It is the kind of record that takes you on a journey and when it finishes you just want to put it back on again. I don’t know what happened in the prior between 2005 and 2011 as they released four other albums, none of which I have. Can easily go on Spotify and listen to them if I want but will probably end up buying them at some point.

So fast forward to 2012 and Lost Songs which was an album inspired by real world events such as war, tyranny and apathy. The single Up To Infinity was dedicated to the Russian feminist act Pussy Riot. I missed out on album number 19 from 2014, IX and for a while I had forgotten all about the band. It wasn’t a case of losing interest in the band as other things were happening all around me so it was pretty hard to keep up to date of what bands are doing. But this year I found out they were releasing a new album, X: the Godless Void and Other Stories. This came out in January and probably one of the first albums I bought this year. Considering the year it has been with the pandemic this album was great to listen to and bring a bit of light into what was increasingly becoming a very darkened world.

Music life in lockdown week 23

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 23 covers from 24-28 August.

Monday 24 August – Alice in Chains

New working week which is devoted to Seattle and the grunge revolution. August 21 past was the 30th anniversary of Alice in Chains debut album Facelift (1990) and what better way to start the week. If truth be told, I wouldn’t get into the band until the release of their second album Dirt (1992). The lead track from the album, Would? featured on the Singles movie soundtrack which was a great album that didn’t have any Nirvana on it. Nirvana opened the floodgates for me in discovering all these new American bands.

Between 1992 and 1994 they released two EPS – Sap and Jar of Flies which explored a more acoustic side of the band instead of turning the volume up to 11. Both EPs are brilliant and songs from these records also feature on the MTV Unplugged album from 1996 which featured a new song Killer is Me.

The MTV Unplugged was Alice in Chains’ first concert in two and a half years, and contains live, acoustic versions of the band’s biggest hits and lesser-known songs. This album is one of my favourites of the MTV Unplugged series a close second to Nirvana’s set with Pearl Jam in third place. I literally get goosebumps listening to this.

The last studio album by the band with Layne Staley was their self-titled third album (1996) which featured a very sad looking three-legged dog on the cover. Sometimes referred to as the Dog Album or Tripod. The album was not as successful as Dirt but contained some great songs like Grind, Heaven Beside You and Again.

Sadly Layne passed away on 5 April 2002, exactly 8 years since Kurt Cobain died.

The retrospective album Nothing Safe (1999) is a best of/greatest hits album which would be a sampler for the Music Bank boxset. Nothing Safe contains songs from previous albums FaceliftSapDirtJar of FliesAlice in Chains and Unplugged, as well as the previously unreleased track Get Born Again, recorded between September and October 1998. It is a great collection and good introduction to the band.

Tuesday 25 August – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam have been no strangers to the lockdown tunes and I have really enjoyed revisiting their albums over the last couple of months. Rather than a repeat listening I have opted for some personal favourite from the band in the form of the official bootlegs that the band release.

Two bootlegs featured here are from my first two Pearl Jam concerts. It took me so long to actually get to see these guys. August 18 2009 I managed to get tickets from their fan club for a show in London where they played at the O2 Arena. Normally I am sceptical of big arenas but this show was amazing. It felt so intimate even if people were situated in the higher up seats were standing up. A great show and really worth the wait to finally see them.

With the release of Backspacer (2009), a European tour took place in June and July 2010, where the band performed in Northern Ireland for the first time at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Previous Irish visits over the years were at Dublin and Cork but it was impossible to get tickets back then. I may be biased to say that this is my favourite Pearl Jam gig. I have seen them loads of times since including some Eddie Vedder solo shows but playing in my home city kind of ticks all the boxes. So good was this show that a wedding party had come along to the gig and Eddie called them out and played Among the Waves for them as their first dance – class!

Lost Dogs (2003) is a compilation of a difference as it mainly features b-side material along with previous and unreleased material. One of the songs on the album includes the hidden track 4/20/02 at the end of disc two, a tribute to Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley. Eddie had wrote that song whilst the band were recording Riot Act.

Pearl Jam Twenty (also known as PJ20) was a  documentary directed by Cameron Crowe about the band.  Crowe completed filming in April 2011, after using 12,000 hours of footage of the band for the documentary. A really great documentary on 20 years of Pearl Jam. I got to see the film at QFT in Belfast. The documentary charts the history of the band, from the demise of Mother Love Bone, their battle against Ticketmaster and the tragedy of the Roskilde Festival in 2000. You can feel the sadness there after Andy Wood dies and also how the band were feeling after the tragedy at Roskilde.

The soundtrack is a companion piece to the film with select live tracks over the years with demos and home recordings. A nice celebration of the band who are still going strong to this day.

Wednesday 26 August – Soundgarden

Like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden have featured quite a lot during lockdown as well a Chris Cornell’s solo stuff. Again instead of revisiting albums previously listened to here, I went for a live album and two best of albums.

The first best of Telephantasm (2010)  followed with the band’s reunion earlier that year. The career-spanning retrospective album includes an unreleased track, Black Rain, taken from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions. The album includes select cuts from their albums including Birth Ritual from the Singles soundtrack. This album is a good introduction to the band.

If you want to take it further, Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path is a 3-CD compilation album from 2014. The album is a collection of rarities, live tracks, and unreleased material spanning the group’s history. It includes previously released songs, such as Live to Rise, Black Rain, and others, as well as a newly recorded rendition of a song from the band’s pre-Matt Cameron 1985 demo, The Storm, now simply titled Storm. The 3- CD set is split as originals, covers and oddities and is a nice collection.

Live From the Artists Den was recorded at the final show of the King Animal tour in 2013 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. A posthumous release since lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Cornell’s tragic and untimely passing in 2017. I got to see the band when they came to Dublin for this tour and it will be a record I will definitely keep returning to as it was a brilliant live album.

Thursday 27 August – Mudhoney

The original’s from the Seattle scene. Again it was thanks to the Singles soundtrack that was my introduction to them with the track Overblown. I picked out their early works here and hope to have a listen to their most recent output later.

Mudhoney (1989) was their first LP after several singles and an EP Superfuzz Bigmuff. I was listening to the 2008 deluxe edition which expands on the original. Piece of Cake (1992), My Brother The Cow (1995) and Tomorrow Hit Today (1998) were their all released when the band were on a major label.

Mudhoney’s sound is pure grunge which kind of sets them apart from their peers.  They are overlooked by many who would probably know Nirvana more than Mudhoney but the band are a major influence on the early Seattle scene.

Here Comes Sickness (2000) is a collection of recordings that the band have done for BBC including session tracks recorded for John Peel (1989), the Evening Session (1995) and the rest of the album was recorded live for the John Peel show from the 1995 Reading festival.   Also quite fitting to listen to this today on what would have been the Reading Festival weekend which I expand more about on the next day featuring Nirvana.  I got to see Mudhoney earlier that year supporting Soundgarden in Dublin.

Friday 28 August – Nirvana

Closing the week of all things Seattle with Nirvana, the band who started it all for me.  This was a gamechanger and was really just a case of right album at the right time. I look back fondly of that era and feel lucky enough to have seen them live.

Nirvana have been here before on lockdown tunes so without repeating myself again I went for the last two collections of the band – With the Lights Out (2004) contains three CDs and one DVD of previously rare or unreleased material, including B-sides, demos, and rehearsal and live recordings.

This collection was due to have been released in 2001 to mark the band’s 10th anniversary but it never happed due to the legal battle between Cobain’s widow Courtney Love and Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic.  But it finally seen light of day three years later.

It included a 60-page booklet which contains liner notes by Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth and journalist Neil Strauss, as well as photographs and a chronological catalogue of the band’s recording history, including studio sessions, television and radio appearances, live performances and home demo recordings sessions.

 A very nice collection and definitely one for completists.  If you want the shorter version then you go for the 2002’s best of album Nirvana which included the previously unreleased You Know Your Right.  The demo of the song was included in the boxset.

Quite fitting that I picked Nirvana to end the week on the Reading Festival weekend which of course was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Nirvana played here first in 1991 when they were lower down the bill headlined by Iggy Pop. A year later, the success of Nevermind brings the band to a headline slot.

Live at Reading (2009) features the band’s headlining performance at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992. It had been bootlegged for years and I have a copy of the performance that I taped off the radio.  A 25 song strong set just sounds brilliant and you wish you had been over there for that.  Thankfully I got to see them in Belfast a few months beforehand.







Music life in lockdown week 22

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 22 covers from 17-21 August.

Monday 17 August

Kicking off the new working week I had a look back at some of the local scene. Not Snow Patrol now but some bands here that are great but didn’t quite get the same success that they did. But when I look at these albums, its not about them being chart toppers and playing the big arenas, sometimes small is quite nice. Now on to the bands.

Hailing from Portadown, Joyrider only released one album, Be Special (1996) and I saw the band support Therapy? at the Ulster Hall in 1995 as well as supporting Lush in 1996. It was a really great album but didn’t quite set the charts alight. Their one and only hit was a cover of the Jane Wiedlin song, Rush Hour which earned the band a prime time spot on Top of the Pops.

Also from Portadown were In Case of Fire who formed in 2005. They won the MTV2 Spanking New competition back in 2008 and were tipped as a band to watch. Their debut album, Align The Planets (2009) got good reviews. A really good band live, they unfortunately never got to the follow up album going and sadly disbanded in 2012. I had seen them a few times especially on support slots.

Belfast’s La Faro formed in 2004 and best described as old school post hardcore sounds. What’s not to like. This band proudly wore their influences on their sleeves and they were amazing live.

They released two albums – their self titled album La Faro (2010) and Easy Meat (2011) with the single Tupenny Nudger being rewarded the title of Best Northern Irish song of the past five years in AU magazine from 2008 beating both Snow Patrol and Ash.

Moving up the coast to Portstewart were Axis Of. This three piece have released two albums and the one played here was The Mid Brae Inn (2015). I have seen these guys a few times supporting the likes of Therapy? and are very good live.

Hailing from Derry, Fighting With Wire were the best band to come out of there since The Undertones! I loved this band and had seen them live quite a few times. Even saw them support Helmet in London which was amazing. Cahir from Fighting With Wire was also in Jetplane Landing another favourite of mine.

The band is influenced by American bands like Nirvana, At The Drive In, Weezer and Fugazi. They released their debut album, Man Vs. Monster (2008) to positive reviews. Live they really turn the amps up to 12 and are amazing live.

Their second album, Colonel Blood didn’t come out until 2012 after two years of delay as Atlantic Records failed to release their album. You can imagine the frustration of a band not being able to get a record out for the fans to hear. By 2013 the band split, Cahir returned briefly to Jetplane Landing and has more recently joined New Pagans who I am looking forward to hearing.

Tuesday 18 August

After a day listening to local bands that were heavily influenced by the American alt-rock scene, it was no surprise that I would be listening to some great alt-rock today with Rollins Band, Jane’s Addiction, The Lemonheads and Sonic Youth, four bands that I got into during the 1990s.

Rollins Band, led by former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins formed in 1987. I discovered the band in 1994 with the album, Weight which featured Liar, a huge hit on MTV. The band have been categorized under the alternative metal, hard rock, funk metal and post-hardcore genres.  They were part of the early ’90s LA alternative metal scene, alongside ToolJane’s AddictionRage Against the Machine and Green Jellÿ.

Jane’s Addiction’s second album Ritual de lo habitual (1990) is a brilliant album and it is one of the many American albums I bought during that time which can all be traced by to Nirvana. They have broken up a few times but have managed to put out a couple of albums during that time – Strays (2003) that was the first time I got to see the band at the Reading Festival and The Great Escape Artist (2011).

The Lemonheads are another band I got into during the grunge revolution. Whilst not grunge, their breakthrough hit wasn’t even one of their own songs but a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson which was on their album It’s A Shame About Ray (1992) which was the first album by them that I bought. With a big back catalogue, I have opted for Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners: Best of Lemonheads (2011) which covers 47 songs throughout their career with tracks from the late 80s right into the present. I never got to see the band until much later including Evan Dando solo shows. Sadly the last time I saw the band in 2019 here in Belfast they were truly awful. I was so disappointed.

A band that are no strangers to the lockdown playlist is Sonic Youth. Previously covered back in week 15 with their major label input. Daydream Nation (1988) is considered one of their best albums. This was the album that brought them critical acclaim and earned them a major label deal. Kurt Cobain had this in his top 50 records of all time and all I can say is that thanks to Nirvana I started listening to Sonic Youth.

Wednesday 19 August

Blur get a second outing today.  Previously covered in week 7 with Oasis vs Blur it seemed that Blur came out on top as I went off Oasis.  Of the five albums picked today, their fifth album from 1997 got another spin today.  It remains my favourite Blur album.  The follow up 13 (1999) which featured the last output from Graham Coxon was a really great album and very different to their previous releases.  Tender, Coffee & TV and No Distance Left to Run were the standout tracks on it.  After Coxon’s departure, I passed on Think Tank (2003) but picked up The Magic Whip (2015) more out of curiosity.  This album reunited the band back to their original line up.

Two compilation albums featured here as well.  Parklive (2012) was their third live album which was recorded at Hyde Park, London as part of the companion concert to the Olympics that had been hosted in the city.  Not to be confused with the other live album at the same venue, All the People: Blur Live at Hyde Park which was their reunion shows from 2009.

It’s a great album that draws mostly from their first album,  Modern Life is Rubbish up to Think Tank Parklife features Phil Daniels on vocals.

The second compilation Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur (2009) is their second retrospective replacing 2000’s Blur: The Best Of which coincided with the 2009 reunion. This album included three songs from Think Tank.  The album is like a time capsule documenting world events that happened during Blur’s career.

Thursday 20 August

Today I didn’t really plan anything to listen to as it was my mum’s 10th anniversary and I spent a bit of time reflecting on her life.  I didn’t get my musical influence from either of my parents.  I knew my dad liked Elvis but he had no records while I was growing up.  I remember my dad getting me a record player for my 11th birthday and it was second hand but it was a big deal for me and I was excited about that.

My mum liked music but not the same stuff that I was listening to.  While she didn’t have any influence on what I listened to growing up she did buy me records especially on my 13th birthday when I gave her a list of what albums I wanted.  She was pretty cool to be going into a record shop to get them for me.

So for today and in her memory I dug out some Bruce Springsteen to listen to.  No pictures to document what I was listening to by Bruce but growing up The Boss was never off my record player and I think mum might have had a soft spot for him.  Thought it was quite appropriate on the day it was.  Rest in peace mum, love you and thank you for the music that you gave me growing up.

Friday 21 August

One of the things that I have enjoyed most during the pandemic is connecting with other music fans on Twitter.  We have no gigs to go to but there has been some much joy out there with listening parties and lists.  Yes I love doing lists.  It is fun trying to pick albums, songs, bands etc on the various platforms on Twitter.

Anyway, I follow Richard Shaw on Twitter and I hope he doesn’t mind the plug as he does this really brilliant top 50 albums for each year each week and it is quite a challenge.

1999 was the year to pick your favourite albums today and I managed to pick three albums from 1998 – Catatonia’s International Velvet and Embrace’s The Good Will Out.  I was corrected of course in a very good natured way.  We all make mistakes, right?  I don’t know why I thought those albums were from 1999. 

Anyway, that left 4 albums that were released that year – Feeder Yesterday Went Too Soon, Foo Fighters There’s Nothing Left to Loose, Chris Cornell Euphoria Mourning and Therapy? Suicide Pact- You First.

Looking back on all those albums, including the 1998 ones these are albums that I really enjoyed at the time.  Two of mine got into the top 50 – Foo Fighters and Chris Cornell.  A good year for both artists.  Chris had just gone solo after Soundgarden split up and his debut album is brilliant.  Nothing Left to Lose is a banger of an album by Foo Fighters.  You can view the list here which had The Flaming Lips coming out on top.  There were quite a few albums on that list that I also had but trying to narrow it down to a small list is quite difficult at times.



Music life in lockdown week 21

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 21 covers from 10-14 August.

Monday 10 August

Another day at the “home” office and more tunes to listen to. Today I picked a variety of American rock albums with all different styles. I think a wee bit of everything.

Bad Religion’s fifteen album (yes 15!) The Dissent of Man (2010) caught my attention around that time. I knew of the band but wasn’t familiar with their back catalogue but this album I bought after listening to some of their songs. They have released more albums after this too.

American Hi Fi were formed in 1998 by Stacey Jones (drummer from Vercua Salt) self-titled album from 2001 is a favourite of mine. NME described them as “The Blink 182 that think”. It’s a good fun album that doesn’t take itself seriously. I saw these guys live once in Glasgow and they were brilliant.

Filter formed in 1993 by Richard Patrick who was previously in Nine Inch Nails. Their debut album, Short Bus (1995) wasn’t the first Filter album I bought. I started listening to the band around 1998 when they had a song on The X Files movie, called One. Useless X File trivia fact – Robert Patrick who played Agent Doggett in the series is Richard’s brother. Hi Man, Nice Shot was a big single from this album. They mix the industrial metal sound with grunge.

The Hold Steady formed in 2003 and Boys and Girls in America (2006) was their third album. I started to listen to them before they came to Belfast in the summer of 2007 when they played at Tennent’s Vital in Belfast’s Ormeau Park. I really wanted to see them live but they were supporting Razorlight. Manic Street Preachers were also on the bill that day too but my friends opted to go to the second night, headlined by The Killers. Was a bit disappointed at missing that one.

Everclear from Portland, Oregon released Sparkle and Fade in 1995. I got this album shortly after hearing them on the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. They formed in 1991 so would have been around at the time of grunge. There would be many comparisons with Nirvana but after a show with Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl said he didn’t think that Everclear sounded anything like his former band.  I found movie soundtracks are good ways to finding new bands to listen to.

My Chemical Romance’s (MCR) The Black Parade (2006) is a rock opera album very much like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust . MCR are considered an emo band but this album really does take it’s influence from classic 1970’s rock which lead singer Gerard Way citing both Queen and Pink Floyd as influences.

Tuesday 11 August

And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) are Northern Irish instrumental group that I have been into since 2009.  I discovered them with some of the local scene at the time and I liked to support local acts.  The band have released five albums to date.  Described as post rock they are an amazing band and put on really energic shows despite having no singing at all.

Their self-titled album was released in 2009 and it was re-released in 2013 including the 4 track Letters EP. This is a fantastic debut and the band really does show their potential.  Check out this clip from RTE’s Other Voices music programme with the explosive Set Guitars To Kill  which is a live favourite.

The follow up Gangs (2011) expanded on the sound from the first album.  It got nominated for the Irish Choice Music Prize in January 2012 losing out to Jape.  The next three albums  All Hail Bright Futures (2013), Heirs (2015) and The Endless Shimmering (2017) continued the sonic bombardment. The bonus CD Tonight The City Burns was picked up at one for their first gigs that I went to.

Prior to lockdown down ASIWYFA were one of the few bands I got to see at the start of the year when they took to the stage at the Belfast MAC for a gig with a difference.  It was all-seated and the band played behind a screen with a string quartet with visual arts on screen.  It was an amazing experience to see them play the 50 minute Jettison set which was quite different to their normal live shows.

Wednesday 12 August

Mixing it up mid week and going beyond the comfort zone with some albums by The Prodigy, Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys along with one of my favourite movie soundtracks, Judgement Night.

I must admit that I never liked dance music.  I was very stuck in my ways liking only guitar based music but along came The Prodigy with their third album, The Fat of the Land (1997) and I am converted!  This album really created a fusion of techno beats to the industrial metal sound of grinding guitars.  Metal Hammer magazine commented that it was “the point where rave culture collided with metal culture”.   It produced hit singles Breathe and Firestarter (oddly enough covered by Jimmy Eat World which was quite good), the album ends with a fantastic cover of L7’s Fuel My Fire.

Their fifth album, Invaders Must Die (2009) even featured Dave Grohl doing live drums on Run with the Wolves and Stand Up.   The bands last two albums, The Day Is My Enemy (2015) and No Tourists (2018) are also played here.  It is their final studio album featuring Keith Flint who sadly died in 2019.  A great live band too and I have enjoyed every show that I have seen them play here.

 I hated rap but then rap started crossing over into rock with Run DMC pairing up with Aerosmith for Walk This Way and also Anthrax doing Bring the Noise with Public Enemy I really liked it and this leads to this album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988).  The original version of Bring The Noise is featured here.

The Judgement Night soundtrack from the 1993 film of the same name features collaborations between hip-hop and rock artists.  The film wasn’t very good but the music was excellent and featured many bands that I like such as Helmet, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Therapy? all mixing it up with House of Pain, Run DMC, Ice T, De La Soul to name but a few.

Finally, it was time for Beastie Boys.   A band I really hated at the end of the 1980s.  Maybe I didn’t get it at the time as I liked my music to be more rock oriented I was pleasantly surprised after watching the documentary on them, Beastie Boys Story (2020) told the story of their origins from hardcore punk to rap which was really intersting.  On listening to Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science (1999) it really appealed to the casual fan like myself.  The collection over two discs of their greatest hits, b sides and unreleased tracks.  My favourites include Intergalactic and Sabotage are on this.

Thursday 13 August

Today was all about The Gaslight Anthem.  I discovered them when they released their second album, The 59 Sound (2008) after watching their performance at Glastonbury 2009 on TV.  This was the gig that Bruce Springsteen who was also headlining Glastonbury in 2009.  Brian Fallon would later return the compliment when he joined Bruce on stage later.

Listening to the album you could hear the influence of Springsteen on the band which is no bad thing.  They are also influenced by The Clash and Tom Waits.

By 2010 the band released their third album, American Slang and I got to see them for the first time when they came to Belfast.  They were tremendous live.  Handwritten (2014) was their fourth album and their first on a major label which took their sound back to their breakthrough album.

Their fifth and final album before their hiatus was Get Hurt (2014).  Brian Falllon’s next project was to go solo.  The band done some reunion shows for the anniversary of The 59 Sound

The tour came to Dublin only this time instead of Belfast and getting tickets for that was quite hard so had to settle for seeing Brian Fallon doing his own solo show.

Friday 14 August

To finish yet another working week it was time to go back to the 1990s for some alternative rock from the USA.  You can tell that I really love my music from the 1990s.

Three bands feature here – Buffalo Tom, Soul Asylum and Live.

I’ll start off with Live.  I was in America in 1994 and Throwing Copper had come out.  I was in a shop browsing for CDs and I bought it along with some other CDs.  I really loved this album considering that I bought it on pure impulse.  The follow up Secret Samadhi (1997) was the last CD I bought of the band and I had lost a bit of interest in them.

Soul Asylum had a big hit in 1993 with Runaway Train but the first two songs that I heard from them were on compilation albums.  On Greetings From Uncle Sam, the track Black Gold which was on their sixth album Grave Dancers Union (1992) was my introduction to the band.  I also liked their cover of Sexual Healing on the No Alternative album.

The follow up Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995) was the last time I listened to them. They would release another album after this before being dropped by their label and thus ended my interest in the band.  But as I have discovered throughout lockdown I have been revisiting albums that I was listening to at the time and being surprised that bands that I had forgotten about were still producing music.

Buffalo Tom enjoyed some early success in the 1990s with Sodajerk (1993) which was from their fourth album Big Red Letter Day (1993).  Again a couple of complilation albums introduced me to the band.  Like Soul Asylum, I would discover Tailights Fade (Greetings from Uncle Sam) and For All To See (No Alternative).   Big Red Letter Day was one of my favourite albums that year and I played it non-stop.

Let Me Come Over (1992) is the album that had Tailights Fade on it and is a fantastic album.  Not pictured was the compilation album Besides: A Collection of B-Sides and Rarities (2002).  It is a nice introduction to the band and it includes a really great cover of The Jam’s Going Underground.

I finally got to see the band in 2018 when I went over to Birmingham to see them.  Little did I know that Buffalo Tom did visit Belfast back in 1991 supporting The Wedding Present at Mandela Hall and back again in 1994 at the Limelight.  Back in the day when I wouldn’t go to gigs on my own.  Really kicking myself for missing these!







Music life in lockdown week 20

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 20 covers from 3-8 August.

A new month. Who would have thought I would be still working from home by August? Lockdown restrictions are eased in many places as we try to get back to some sense of normality. Going to gigs seems to be a long way off at the moment. I have decided to keep the title instead of changing it as it is really my diary of what I have been listening to during the pandemic.

Monday 3 August

Kicking off the new month with a bit of US punk. I picked two albums by Descendents and three albums by Green Day. Also included is a NME CD called Generation Punk which is pretty good collection of old and new punk groups.

I started off with this CD first and there were some really great songs on it – Knowledge by Operation Ivy (which is often covered by Green Day live), The American Ruse by MC5, California Uber Alles by Dead Kennedys and Tin Soldiers by Stiff Little Fingers, to name up a few.

This set the day up nicely and the it was onto Descendents. I must admit I had no prior knowledge of this band but they are very influential with a lot of modern punk bands that I have been listening to like Blink 182, Green Day, The Offspring and The Ataris.

The two albums I have, Everything Sucks (1996) which was their fifth album and Hypercaffium Spazzinate (2016) their seventh album. Both really enjoyable albums. I haven’t had a chance to check out their other albums.

I got into Green Day post-grunge. The grunge revolution had come to a halt following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 and it lead to another generation of American bands coming thorough one of the being Green Day with the single Basket Case. What I didn’t know about the band was that they were around when Nirvana were still active and had even been to Belfast for a gig at Richardson Social Club in town. That would have been a great one to go to but I would get to see them in the Ulster Hall in 1998.

Dookie (1994) was their major label debut, followed by Insomniac (1995) and  Nimrod (1997).  Of those three album, Nimrod is my favourite.  During lockdown Billy Joe Armstrong took to social media and did some tunes.  One of the songs he picked was War Stories by Belfast band The Sabrejets who had minor chart success with this back in the 80s.  It is a pretty good cover and the song name checks popular British WW2 characters Captain Hurricane and Johnny Red from Battle comic and Sargent Fury from Marvel American comics.

Tuesday 4 August

Today it was a chance to catch up with Nirvana’s producer Butch Vig who formed Garbage back in 1993.

Garbage were Scottish singer and musician Shirley Manson (vocals) and American musicians Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards), and Butch Vig (drums, production).

The band’s eponymous debut album was critically acclaimed upon its release, accompanied by a string of increasingly successful singles from 1995 to 1996, including Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains. Follow-up Version 2.0 (1998) was very different to their debut album introducing more techno beats to their sound.  I remember getting to see them that summer and being a bit disappointed with their performance as they cut it short to be able to head off to another gig that they were doing the same weekend.  They did however return and I got to see them again for a second time when they came to Belfast seven months later playing at the Kings Hall.  

 Garbage’s third album Beautiful Garbage (2001)  failed to match the commercial success achieved by its predecessors.  Bleed Like Me (2005) was next before the band would go on a hiatus.  They ultimately reunited in 2011 and self-released 2012’s Not Your Kind of People to positive reviews.  Strange Little Birds (2016) was their most recent album.

Wednesday 5 August

All the albums featured here are compilation albums and we kick it off with some music from the USA – The Stooges, Iggy Pop and The Doors.

Gimme Danger is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Jim Jarmusch about the band the Stooges.  The soundtrack had songs selected by Jarmusch and Iggy Pop himself, focuses on tracks from The Stooges’ first three studio albums, along with a few songs by Iggy’s pre-Stooges bands The Iguanas Again and Again and Prime Movers Blues Band I’m a Man as well as the MC5’s classic Ramblin’ Rose.  It’s a great compilation and a good introduction to the band.

This lead nicely to Iggy Pop.  A Million in Prizes: The Anthology (2005) is a 2-disc greatest hits collection of his music. The title comes from the lyrics of Lust for Life.  Iggy played at Feile 93 and included here are unreleased live versions of TV Eye and Loose.  I have only had the pleasure of seeing Iggy live once.  He puts so much energy into his shows.

Going back to the 1960s for The Doors.  A band that has some many best of albums, I went for the only one that I have Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine which was their second compilation album from 1972 and the first following the death of singer Jim Morrison.  It was reissued for the first time in over 40 years as part of Record Store Day 2014 and was subsequently issued on CD in 2014 which is the copy I have.  It’s a great compilation for anybody that is just a casual fan of their work.

Switching back to the UK and three bands from the 1980s feature here –The Cult, The Psychedelic Furs and Public Image Limited.

Pure Cult The Singles 1984-1995 was released in 2000.  It is also a reissue of the 1993 compilation Pure Cult: for Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, and Sinners.  A great collection of songs from the band and a good introduction to them.

Heaven The Best of The Psychedelic Furs (2009) features some of their best known songs.  The title track is from one of their singles and it also includes the original version of Pretty in Pink instead of the one used for the John Hughes film of the same name from 1986.  A really great set of songs from the 1980s.

Finally last word goes to John Lyndon’s post Sex Pistols band, Public Image Limited (PIL). Rise: The Collection (2015) features 16 of their best known songs include the title Rise, This is not a Love Song and Public Image.  A really different band than Sex Pistols, creating an abrasive, bass-heavy sound that drew on dub, noise, progressive rock and disco.  It is a pretty good collection.

Thursday 6 August

Four bands featured here from the start of the new millennium to the most recent exciting Irish talent in the last couple of years.  JJ72 from Dublin formed in 1996 and released their eponymously titled debut album in 2000.  The album had hit singles Snow, October Swimmer, Long Way South and Oxygen.  A very exciting live band they also supported Muse and Manic Street Preachers on tour as well as doing their own headline shows.  2002 seen the release of I To Sky which was their last album.

The second album was a bit different from the first album and got good reviews but sold poorly.  After the band split, Mark Greaney went on to form Concerto For Constantine and I got to see them in 2008 when they supported Smashing Pumpkins.  As yet no album has been released by them.

Turn from Kells, County Meath formed in 1988 and after getting some of their early EPs and singles, I got their second album, Forward (2003).  Just when things were going well for them, they had a loyal fanbase here in Ireland, the band got dropped from their label and their bassist, Gavin Fox left to join Idlewild

Two Dublin bands doing well at the moment are Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital.

Fontaines D.C. are a post-punk band who formed in 2017.  Their debut album, Dogrel (2019) was released to widespread critical acclaim.  The D.C. at the end of their name stands for Dublin City as there is another band out of there with the same name.  A really great debut album, I was surprised to find that album number two was due to drop this year.  These guys have been hard at work between touring and writing another album.  A Hero’s Death (2020) was released at the end of July.  It took me a few listens to really enjoy it.  First time listening I thought its nothing like the first album but the more you listen to it grows on you.

The Murder Capital are another post-punk band who formed in 2015.  Their debut album, When I Have Fears (2019) you can tell that they were influenced by Joy Division and even Pixies.  It’s a great album and I really like it.  I think Fontaines D.C. have stolen the march on them but hopefully they won’t get comparisons with the Blur-Oasis rivalry from the 1990s.  Both bands are great and deserve the success.

Friday 7 August

The Frames are from Dublin and they formed in 1990 but I didn’t discover them for another few years yet when one of my work colleagues recommended them to me.  Work colleagues are great for recommending bands to listen to.

Three albums from the band that I own – Fitzcarraldo (1996), Dance the Devil (1999) and For the Birds (2001) three really great album and I first got to see them at the Witnness Festival during the early 2000s.  A great live band and Glenn Hansard is a very talented storyteller.  Glenn would also be a touring partner with Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.  They make a great team live.

The Decemberists are an American indie band from Portland, Oregon and they formed in 2000.  My introduction to the band came from a friend who recommended The Crane Wife (2006) which was their fourth album.  The next album I have is The King is Dead (2011) which was their sixth album.  It was only after listening to all these albums that I realised that I missed one! 

This album is very much like REM and the influence is definitely there.  Three songs on the album – Don’t Carry It All, Calamity Song and Down by the Water feature REM guitarist Peter Buck.

The last album I bought by them and I also got to see them on tour for this album was What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (2015).  The album builds on the success of the previous album.  They even had a day totally dedicated to them – January 20 was officially declared Decemberists Day to commemorate both their success and the release of the new album.  I made the trip down to Dublin to see them played at the iconic Vicar Street venue.





Music life in lockdown week 19

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

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

Anyway, on to the music….

Monday 27 July – Nine Inch Nails

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 28 July – James

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 29 July – Pixies/Frank Black

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

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

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

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

Thursday 30 July – REM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 31 July – Idlewild

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

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

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

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

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

Music life in lockdown week 18

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 18 cover from 20 July to 24 July.

Monday 20 July – Primal Scream

Kicking off the new working week was to listen to some Primal Scream.  They would start the week and then finish it on Friday.

I got into the band just before the end of the 90s.  I was familiar with their stuff as they were always played at the student union discos and I liked what I heard but never really got round to buying any of their albums until much later.  Screamadelica (1991) was their third album and with hit singles Movin’ on Up and Loaded where mainstays at any indie or student union disco.  I never really liked dance music but this album bridged the gap between rock music and dance music for me.  My copy here is the 20th anniversary edition and I saw the band play the album in its entirety at Belsonic.

Managed to missing their fourth album and straight into album number 5, Vanishing Point (1997).  This is a really great record and it sounds like a soundtrack to a movie.  Favourite tracks on that album included Kowalski, Star and Burning Wheel.

The next album, XTRMNTR (2000) is my favourite Primal Scream album.  A more aggressive and political album and by this stage  Mani from The Stone Roses had joined the band.  The follow up, Evil Heat (2002) combined a link between the two previous albums XTRMNTR and Screamadelica.  That year would be the first time I saw them live at the first Tennent’s Vital gig at Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.  They played a blistering in a packed tent and you could feel the bass bouncing off your chest with the strobe lights going like mad.  I really enjoyed that gig.

Next up was Beautiful Future (2008) which was a mix of genre in soul, electro, rock and roll with the Scream edge.  More Light (2013) considered their most critically acclaimed album since XTRMNTR is a brilliant album with the fantastic gospel release of It’s Alright, It’s Ok at the end of the album.  That was part one, to be concluded on Friday.

Tuesday 21 July – More Scottish rock

Today more Scottish bands featured on the playlist.  I went for the first four Biffy Clyro albums before they went massive and also included fellow Scots, Twin Atlantic and The Twilight Sad.

Biffy Clyro are a three piece band and I first heard them when they supported Weezer in Glasgow in 2002.  My friend Colin from Glasgow described them as shite when we went to see them.  But there was something different about them and I started to take an interest going to see them at various gigs in Belfast over the next couple of years.    There first three albums are definitely a very raw sound of a young band starting off.  Compared to what they sound like now, it is still a joy to go back to the start.

Blackened Sky (2002), The Vertigo of Bliss (2003) and Infinity Land (2004) all realised in quick succession with a lot of comparisons with Nirvana but came too late for grunge as scenes had moved on since then.  But it is the next album, Puzzle (2007) which changes everything.  Their first major label release and the beginning of mainstream success.  Compared to the first three albums this is a more polished record and I like this one best.  The albums after Puzzle are a bit ok.  Currently listening to the new album which is taking a while to grow on me.  I have seen the band countless times from the small venues, to the arenas and outdoor gigs.

I came across Twin Atlantic when I heard they were supporting Biffy Clyro in Belfast in 2010.  I left it late to get tickets for the gig as Biffy Clyro were getting bigger and more popular so I had to wait until they done some of their own shows and the one I went was at the Speakeasy at Queen’s Student Union where I did two gigs in one night.  Twin Atlantic upstairs and then downstairs in Mandela for Glasvegas.  Kind of mental doing that.  Free was their second album from 2011.

The Twilight Sad are quite different to what I had been listening to earlier.  More of a post-punk/indie rock band is probably the best way to describe them.  Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (2007) was their debut album.  I have never got to see them live but have that it can be ear-splitting but this album was very melodic and I gave it a couple of listens as I haven’t heard it in a while.

Wednesday 22 July – A no title day

No rhyme or reason for this one but an opportunity to listen to some music that I haven’t played in ages.  Today it would be A Perfect Circle and The (International)Noise Conspiracy.  Two very different bands but all the more reason to mix it up a bit with three albums from each band.

A Perfect Circle are a rock supergroup fronted by Maynard James Keenan from Tool.  They released four albums and I only have three of them – Mer de Noms (2000), Thirteenth Step (2013) and their most recent one Eat the Elephant (2018).  A very different style to Tool they sound more prog rock with a bit of alternative and hard rock.  Eat the Elephant was their fourth album and first in fourteen years.

The (International)Noise Conspiracy are a Swedish band formed after the break up of Refused.  Fused in punk and garage rock with a left-wing political stance.  The band released five albums, three of them played here include Survival Sickness (2000), A New Morning, Changing Weather (2001) and Armed Love (2005).  It was the single Smash It Up that got my attention and then I realised were the link from Refused came from.  Three really great albums, probably best to say that they were the European Rage Against The Machine.

Thursday 23 July – Another no title day

Mixing things up again I went for two bands that I really liked towards the end of the 80s and into the early 90s -King’s X and Queensryche.

Kings’s X are a combination of progressive metal, funk and soul.  Out of the Silent Planet (1988) took it’s name from a novel by CS Lewis who would be referenced frequently by the band.  I got into the band around the time of their second album, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989) after seeing the video of the single Over My HeadFaith Hope and Love (1990) was my favourite album and I got to see them support AC/DC in Belfast.  The last album I bought was their fourth album simple titled, King’s X (1992).

Queensryche were from Seattle but not a grunge band in fact quite the opposite! But I was listening to them before I got into Nirvana.  It was the release of Operation: Mindcrime (1988) as a narrative concept album about a junkie brainwashed into performing assassinations for an underground movement that was incredible album from start to finish.  In fact the band would play the whole album in its entirety.  By the time they released Empire (1990) they were at the height of their popularity.  I missed their Belfast show back then and really one of my all time regrets of never seeing the band live.  Sadly by 1994 their fortunes changed with the surge in popularity of alternative rock and grunge took over.  Looking back at both albums I have great fondness for both of them.

Friday 24 July – More Scream

Finishing off the working week with more Primal Scream with five more albums.  I somehow managed to miss Riot City Blues (2006) from Monday but made up for it today.  That was their eighth album and was a more traditional return to rock and roll with Country Girl being their highest charting single.  It was listed among the ten worst Scottish albums ever in 2007.  Going to have a wee look at that and see who other nine were!

Chaosmosis (2016) was their eleventh album and last studio album.  Not pictured was a long lost album released in 2018 of the long-lost recordings made for Give Out But Don’t Give Up for the first time.  I don’t have the original album but was familiar with songs like Rocks and Jailbird.  The album gives an insight in where the band was going after Screamadelica.

Two compilation albums feature here.  The first one Dirty Hits (2003) was made up chronologically listed singles except for album tracks Long Life and Shoot Speed/Kill Light.  There is also a new version of Some Velvet Morning featuring Kate Moss on this album.

Maximum Rock’n’Roll: The Singles (2019) was released last year and the band went on the road playing all the singles in full.  This album includes their early singles like Velocity Girl which was part of the NME compilation C86. This album included the singles from the first album which were not included on Dirty Hits.






Music life in lockdown week 17

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 17 cover from 15 to 17 July.

A short working week after being off for two days on the NI Bank Holiday.

Wednesday 15 July – Early 90s indie

Kicking off the new and much shorter working week due to the bank holiday I decided to go for some early 90s indie.

I must admit I wasn’t a fan at the time and didn’t really appreciate the indie scene until much later as I was listening more to what was being released on the other side of the Atlantic but it wouldn’t take too long for me to catch up.

First up was Ride.  A band I was more familiar with by name rather than what they sounded like.  Formed in 1988 they were initially part of the shoegazing scene of the early 1990s until their break up in 1996.

This best of album from 2001 and actually signed by the band members I picked up from the much missed Head music store in Belfast.  OX4 The Best of Ride also got reissued for Record Store Day a few years ago and I managed to get a copy of it.  The album featured 15 of the best known songs and I was quite surprised that I really liked this.  Should have paid more attention to them at the time.    The band did reform with a new album in 2017 Weather Diaries.  I caught the band live in Belfast a few years ago and while it was the first time I got to see them live it was hard to compare when they were at their peak in the early 90s.

Next up was Dublin band, My Bloody Valentine who released Loveless in 1991 to widespread critical acclaim and would influence other shoegazing bands.  Yet another band that I failed to pick up first time round.  No being really clued up on the Irish scene in the early 1990s I didn’t really see any other bands beyond U2 during my teenage years.  I can imagine going to see them live would have been quite an experience.

Swervedriver were up next with four albums from their back catalogue.  My introduction to the band was after hearing Duel which NME name it as its “single of the week”.  I heard the song on the compilation album that NME put together entitled Singles of the Week album in 1993 which was mix mash of both the US and British scene at the time.

Swervedriver fitted into the alternative scene that was coming out of America with acts like Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.  But it actually took me a long time to get their albums.  Three albums, Raise (1991), Mezcal Head (1993) and Ejector Seat Reservation (1995) all got reissued in 2008 following their reunion and appearance at the Coachella festival in America.  I enjoyed all three albums with Mezcal Head being my favourite.

The band got back together and released their first album in 17 years with I Wasn’t Born To Lose You (2015).  A really great album that picks up where the band left off.  I would love to have seen this band live.

Thursday 16 July – American indie

After a day of early 90s indie it was the turn of alternative rock from the USA.  Three bands featured here, The Replacements, Minor Threat and Fugazi.  A friend of mine introduced me to The Replacements lending me their 1987 album, Pleased To Meet Me.  I never got round to getting any of their albums until the much later complete albums series boxset which included their 1981 debut Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, Hootenanny (1983), Let It Be (1984) and Tim (1985) along with Pleased To Meet Me.  I soon found that I was more familiar with leader singer Paul Westerberg’s solo material especially on the Singles soundtrack.

Minor Threat were an American hardcore band from the early 1980s.  Very much steeped in the DIY ethic and straight edge scene. I found out about them after listening to Fugazi which was Ian MaKaye’s band after Minor Threat split up.  Rage Against The Machine also covered In My Eyes on their Renegades album.  The only album I have Complete Discography (1989) features 26 songs in 47 minutes.  A very fast album with few songs going beyond 3 minutes.

Fugazi formed in 1986 and their style was considered more post-hardcore.  They are cited as an influence by so many bands over the years.  I got into them pretty late missing out on five albums released between 1990 and 1998.  The first album I got was The Argument (2001) which was their sixth and final album.  I would love to have seen this band live and they did play Belfast many years ago at the Art College think it was 1990.

The band have been on hiatus since 2002.  Think it is time to revisit their back catalogue.

Friday 17 July – Scotland

Ending the short working week with two of the biggest Scottish bands from the 1980s – Big Country and Simple Minds.

Two bands that were pretty much who most of my classmates in secondary school were listening to at the time from 1982 to 1987.  U2 were also my band at the time but I would have been familiar with quite a lot of Big Country and Simple Minds.

I picked two compilation albums by both bands.  Big Country released nine albums.  The band split up following the suicide of Stuart Adamson in 2001.  They reformed for their 25th anniversary with Mike Peters from the Alarm taking over vocal duties.  When I left school and went to work I was able to buy more records so I ending up getting into the band properly around 1989-90 resulting in getting to see them live for the first time in 1990 after wining a pair of tickets in the local newspaper.  Two compilation album feature here, Fields of Fire – The Ultimate Collection (2011) not pictured and the most recent Essential (2020) featured many of their hit singles like In a Big Country, Wonderland, Look Away, One Great Thing, to name but a few.

Look Away was the first Big Country song I owned.  I got that on tape in 1986 as part of a Weetabix promotion.    I remember getting a couple of these tapes between 1985 and 1986.

Also popular in school at the time were Simple Minds.  A band that started off as post-punk in 1979 I wasn’t aware of them until the release of The Breakfast Club in 1985 which was one of my favourite films of the 80s.  Don’t You (Forgot About Me) was a big hit from the film and it was their only US no.1 single.  I finally got into the when I saw the live video of Ghost Dancing from their live album, Live in the City of Light (1987).

Street Fighting Years (1989) was the first Simple Minds album I bought and then I started going backwards to get the rest of their albums.  Belfast Child was their fourth number 1 single and that was a big influence on me at the time as I was moving from childhood to adulthood.  I remember going into town to buy the 12″ single which I still have.

I choose Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (2013) to listen to that day.  The three disc albums covers their early works from 1979’s Life in a Day to 2009’s Graffiti Soul.  A nice collection which comes with sleeves for each disc which represented periods in the band’s history.

By 1991 with grunge and alternative rock nearly taking over the world, this almost ended my interest in the band.  Real Life (1991) was the last album I bought by them but it was thanks to this collection and then the new album, Big Music which came out in 2014) that I started to appreciate the band again.

Simple Minds would also be the first band that I saw live and the as documented in my first attempt at writing a blog.