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.