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 9

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 9 cover from 18 May to 22 May.

Monday 18 May – Chris Cornell

Starting off the new working weeks soundtrack was dedicated to Chris Cornell who tragically died that day on 18 May 2017.

Chris was front man with Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog. He also had a successful solo career as well as being involved with the remaining three members of Rage Against The Machine with Audioslave and then Soundgarden made their reunion and return with the release of  King Animal in 2012.Soundtrack May 18

With a vast collection of everything Chris has done with all these bands, the one collection that would be played that day was the posthumous compilation released in November 2018.  It beautiful box set of four CDS, 64 songs including 10 unreleased songs.

A very fitting tribute to one of rock music’s most iconic front man who is sorely missed.

Tuesday 19 May – The Charlatans

If you have been following Tim Burgess on Twitter you will have come across #TimsTwitterListeningParty.  A fantastic way of connecting bands and fans playing albums by vinyl, CD or steaming and watching the live tweets coming in.

Missed the previous night’s session so today it was all about The Charlatans.  I got into them quite late in the 90s,  possible mid-90s around time of Britpop but was familiar with some of their earlier songs at student union discos.Soundtrack May 19

Going through my collection I picked out this bunch of CDs to listen to Different Days (2017), Modern Nature (2015), Us and Us Only (1999), Wonderland (2001) and Who We Touch live (2010) as well compilation album, Melting Pot (1998) which contained a best of from their career between 1990 and 1997.  A fantastic album with some of my favourites like The Only One I Know, Sproston Green and One to Another.  I have managed to get to see them a few times and they are great live.  Need to check out some of Tim’s solo work now.

Wednesday 20 May – Britrock part 1

Britrock?  Is it a term?  We are all familiar with Britpop but what about Britrock their long forgotten about cousin?  Over the next two days I would be going through my collection and digging out some forgotten gems.Soundtrack May 20

There were some great bands in the 90s.  I always feel it was the best decade in music in terms of style and variety.  I liked lots of bands on both sides of the Atlantic so here is the best of the British bands that I was listening to back then.

Starting off with Gun, were from Scotland and released Taking on the World (1989) which was a favourite of mind going into the new decade.  I saw then support Simple Minds at my first ever gig.  A really good band.  I am going to play more of them soon as second album Gallus (1992) is great.  Their biggest hit ironically was a cover version of Word Up.

I got into Reef post grunge in 1995.  Not a major change in direction music wise it just wasn’t all about grunge in the early 90s.  It had a big effect on my tastes but I became more open to listening to other bands.  Reef’s first album, Replenish (1995) is played here instead of Glow (1997) which included their big single, Place Your Hands.  Definitely another album I will introduce to the lockdown playlist the longer this goes on.  A great band live.  Managed to catch them a few times in Belfast, supported by A, who are the subject of the next album.

A (definitely a great name for a band) proudly start off my CD collection.  Can’t see any other bands getting in there ahead of them unless I start my collection by number and then letter but I am sticking with letters for now.  Much easier to process and find things.

A vs. Monkey Kong (1999) was their second album and it is a great listen.  I have only seen them in support capacity.

Another album from 1999 was Cay’s one and only album, Nature Creates Freaks.  It was heavily influenced by Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Sex Pistols.

Rounding of Britrock for Wednesday was 3 Colours Red who were signed to Alan McGee’s Creation Records who said they were the second best band in Britain after Oasis. High praise indeed. I only have two of their albums, Pure (1997) and Revolt (1999) which included their biggest hit, Beautiful Day.

A great live band.  I even had a recording on CD that I made after taping it off Radio 1 and I gave that a listen to as well.  They were supported on that tour by Muse!  You got to start off somewhere.  Would love to have been at that gig.

Thursday 21 May – Britrock part 2

Another day of British rock bands to play and many here were championed by the likes of Melody Maker and NME at the time.  Soundtrack May 21

Kicking off Thursday was Symposium, who were championed by NME on the Bratbus tour of 1996 and Melody Maker hailed them as the best live band in Britain.   I ended up buying all the singles they released and never owned any off their albums.  I saw them live twice in the Limelight 1997 and 1998.  The 1998 gig they were supported by A.

Brilliant live band but sadly didn’t make it.  However from the ashes arose, Hell is for Heroes. I went for their first two albums, The Neon Handshake (2003) and Transmit Disrupt (2005).  They would release one more album in 2007 before breaking up.

Another band that I liked from the early 2000s was Hundred Reasons.  They released a lot of great singles from their debut album, Ideas Above Our Station (2002) and were great live.   Shatterproof is Not A Challenge (2005) was their major label debut but following the release of the album the band were dropped by Columbia Records.

My Vitriol released Flatlines in 2001.  They released five singles from it and it got critical acclaim.  The band were described as blend of shoegazing and grunge.  Haven’t listened to the album in years and it was great to have another listen.

Friday 22 May – Pearl Jam

Concluding the working weeks listening was Pearl Jam and what a perfect way to book end the week.  Starting with Chris Cornell and ending with Pearl Jam.Soundtrack May 22

I got into Pearl Jam at the start of grunge.  I pretty much liked all bands from that era and kept finding more bands to listen to.  However, Pearl Jam have gone and topped U2 as my all time favourite band now.

No strangers to the lockdown playlist, having previously listened to Ten and Vs., it was time to explore the rest of their discography.  I picked five albums to listen to. Starting off with Vitalogy (1994) saw the band fighting on all fronts from not doing promotional videos to taking the fight to Ticketmaster on ticket prices.

The album was first released on vinyl before it got the CD release.  At that stage I had stopped buying records and had moved onto CDs.  It became their second fastest selling album.  Most of the album was written during soundtracks on the Vs. tour.  That lead me to seek out a tape that I had recorded in 1994 from Radio 1. Pearl Jam tape

Probably best to describe this as my first Pearl Jam gig even though I wasn’t at it!  Staying up late to record the whole show, although found out there was a second encore after Radio 1 finished broadcasting.  Nearly a quarter for a century later the tape is still in good condition and played really well too.  It was great to dig out this gem and listen to it.

I wouldn’t get to see the band until 2009 when I went over to London to see them and have not missed any gigs since then apart from next month’s cancelled gig at Hyde Park due to the current pandemic but during the 90s this was the closest I got to experiencing the band live.

No Code (1996), Yield (1998) and Binaural (2000) were all favourites of mine and quite easily enjoy their place in my top five Pearl Jam albums.  Between these albums I had a couple of chances to catch the band live in Dublin but sadly missed out on those gigs.

I played another live gig by the band in the form of the bonus live CD  recorded at the Orpheum Theatre in Seattle.  This was the penultimate show of the Vs. tour which featured some songs from the forthcoming Vitalogy album.