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 10

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 10 cover from 25 May to 29 May.

Second May bank holiday and I am back behind the desk at “the office” aka the back of the house.

So Monday morning blues while some people are off enjoying the bank holiday whilst in lockdown if that is such a thing.  Time to raid the CD collection and start the week off with a bang.

Monday 25 May – Radiohead v Muse

Wondering what this titan tussle is all about?  I love both bands and both shared the same producer, John Leckie.  That is were people tend to think Muse were Radiohead copyists.  The face that The Bends and Showbiz were  bought produced by the same producer is probably no coincidence but what I have picked here is the first three albums by each band.  All three very different in compared to style and delivery.  They have both gone on to make albums that are so different to how they set out.Soundtrack May 25

Radiohead released Pablo Honey in February 1993.  I hadn’t discovered the band then as I was swept away with the whole grunge revolution at the time.  Creep was considered “too depressing” for Radio 1’s playlist but the song would go on and attract attention elsewhere especially in America.  Early critics of the band dubbed them as “Nirvana-lite”.

The album itself is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but I would say it is a pretty standard guitar based album especially for a debut.   It was the release of The Bends in 1995 which finally got my attention  around the time of my birthday and I bought the album.  I never got to see them live for the first two albums.  After I bought The Bends, I would then buy Pablo Honey and any of the singles associated with the albums.

By 1997, the sound had changed again with the release of Ok Computer.  Critics were comparing the band with Pink Floyd but they were by no means a prog rock band.   The album would be their first UK no.1 and would become part of best of lists for many publications.  I caught the band on tour for this album when they came to Dublin in June of that summer.  The album would feature heavily in any of my best of lists.  I still regard it as their best album.

Muse released their debut album, Showbiz in 1999.  I got into them shortly after the album was released the following year as I was looking for new bands to get into to.  They shared the same producer of The Bends but Muse were definitely not trying to be Radiohead which was more aggressive yet melancholic in musical style.

By the time they released Origin of Symmetry in 2001 their fan base was growing and they sounded like a total different band from the first album.  It included a cover of Feeling Good which was first recorded by Nina Simone.  I remember going to see them on tour for this one.  Caught them a couple of times in Dublin that year.  The first one they played at Dublin Castle and the set was heavy into the new material which wasn’t going down well with the punters who wanted more songs from the first album.

Their third album, Absolution (2003) produced their first top 10 hit, Time is Running Out and would go on to produce three top 20 hits, Hysteria, Sing for Absolution and Butterflies and Hurricanes.

Tuesday 26 May – Jimmy Eat World and Nada Surf

The theme for today’s soundtrack was influenced Tim’s Twitter Listening Party, which hosted Nada Surf on the Monday night.  So for Tuesday’s selection I decided to go for Jimmy Eat World and Nada Surf, two American bands.Soundtrack May 26

Jimmy Eat World’s breakthrough came with the release of several singles from their fourth album, Bleed American (2001).  It was released that summer but following the 9/11 attacks which took place several weeks after the albums release, it was then renamed “Jimmy Eat  World“.  My copy is the renamed album but I also have a copy of the re-released version the title restored.

The band were due to tour with Blink 182 but they cancelled their European tour and Jimmy Eat World done their own headline shows so I bought a ticket and went down to Dublin to see them.  They didn’t disappoint.  So a new band to get into and more albums to discover.

Also played were their second album, Static Prevails (1996) and third album, Clarity (1999).  Singles (2000) was a compilation album of unreleased songs and b-sides.

The two albums I picked for Nada Surf were Let’s Go (2002) and The Weight is a Gift (2005).  My first introduction to the band was Blizzard of ’77 which appeared on a compilation CD from a music magazine.  Not sure which one it was maybe NME, Uncut or Mojo so not 100% sure but I liked what I heard.

To be honest I kind of forgot all about them and then they came to Belfast a couple of years ago and  I went to see them in the Limelight.  They were brilliant live and I picked up some more of their CDs that night, The Weight if a Gift being one of them.  Even stayed behind and met the band afterwards.  Matthew Caws the lead singer signed my CDs for me.  Sadly their new tour this year has got cancelled due to the pandemic.  I hope to catch them live again.

Wednesday 27 May – Bob Mould

Midweek soundtrack is all devoted to Bob Mould.  I first experienced Bob’s music in his post-Husker Du band, Sugar during the 1990s.

Bob would be considered the godfather of alterative rock.  After Husker Du split, Bob did a variety of solo albums before he formed Sugar.  I have picked out six albums here and am saving Sugar for another day on its own.Soundtrack 27 May

Workbook (1989) was his debut album following the break up of Husker Du.   The album was reissued for its 25th anniversary which include a live CD and that is the copy I have.

The third album simply title Bob Mould (1996)  is often referred to as Hubcap was my first purchase.  Along with The Last Dog and Pony Show (1998) both albums played here were repackaged as a double album.  District Line (2008) was the last solo album I bought.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this solo work until the release of Foo Fighters who are the subject for the next day’s listening, Wasting Light (2011).  Bob Mould was one of the guest musicians on that album recording Rosemary’s Baby with Dave Grohl.

This got my interest in Bob’s music again and the following year 2012, he was joined on bass with Jason Narducy and on drums, by Superchunk’s Jon Wurster.  For the release of Silver Age, they went on a series of concerts playing material from the new album, a few Husker Du song and playing Sugar’s Copper Blue in its entirety. I went over to London to see them do that show.

Beauty & Ruin (2014) followed that and I caught the band live in Glasgow that autumn.  It was loud!  Patch the Sky (2016) was described by Mould a third album in the trilogy.

Thursday 28 May – Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl considers Husker Du and Bob Mould as a massive influence.  Without them there be no Foo Fighters he said.Soundtrack 28 May

But for me the starting point was Nirvana. Following the death of Kurt Cobain in April 1994 that was the end of the band.  Dave Grohl started Foo Fighters as a one-man project.   Claiming he done the album for fun, it got interest from major albums and the album came out in the summer of 1995.  I bought it with all the singles released and got to see them in Dublin later in the year.  I now had a new band to follow after Nirvana.

The follow up The Colour and The Shape (1997) is my favourite Foo Fighters album.  It was a more straightforward rock album.   Everlong (the seconds single from the album) is a big favourite of mine.

After that it was turn of two very different unplugged albums.  Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged (1994) was played alongside Foo Fighter’s own Skin and Bones (2206).  The connection here is that Pat Smear was guest guitarist on the Nirvana unplugged set and by this stage he has now joined the Foo Fighters.  Both are good album but MTV unplugged definitely edges it here.

I picked this album, Boxset (1994) by Wool who have a connection with Dave Grohl as brothers Peter and Franz Stahl were in a band called Scream.  Dave Grohl was their drummer and then he joined Nirvana. 

Wool split up in 1996 Franz joined Foo Fighters replacing Pat Smear and he was in the band for most of the 1997 Colour and The Shape Tour.  Pat would rejoin the band in 2005.

Couple of other Dave Grohl projects here got a listen.

Them Crooked Vultures (2009)was an American-English rock supergroup featuring  Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters).  Dave plays drums on this album.   The band has only released one album but there was rumours that there would be a second album sometime.

Finally, Sound City was a documentary film produced and directed by Dave Grohl about the history of the recording studio Sound City Studios in LA.   The connection with Dave was that in 1991 Nirvana recorded Nevermind here and he was inspired to create the documentary after he purchased several items from the studio, including the Neve 8028 analog mixing console, when the studio closed in 2011.

The official soundtrack to the film Sound City: Reel to Reel (2013) featured a supergroup of Dave Grohl and a vast variety of artists.

One of the songs “Cut Me Some Slack” got a lot of attention as it featured Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear with Dave and it was almost like a mini-Nirvana reunion but with Paul McCartney!  It was anything but Nirvana but it was just like a good jamming session.