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.