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!