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 15

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 15 cover from 29 June to 3 July.

Monday 29 June  – Sonic Youth

I must admit I would never have heard of Sonic Youth if it hadn’t of been for the Nirvana influence.  I first encountered the band on the BBC2 late night Arena show which was entitled “No Nirvana”.  Basically giving other bands a major platform to the UK audience and Sonic Youth were one of them.Soundtrack 29 June

It was this performance of Drunken Butterfly on the show that lead me to purchase Dirty (1992).  By now the alternative rock revolution was under way and I was getting into more and more bands from the US alt-rock scene.  I would get to see the band the following year in 1993 when they came to Dublin to play the first ever Sunstroke festival.

Dirty is a great album and one I constantly played.  And of course I would start to follow the band after that.  Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994) was the follow up and I started getting some of their back catalogue with Goo (1990) their major label debut and the seminal Daydream Nation (1988).  Wish I had discovered them earlier.

I picked another two albums, Washing Machine (1995) and Murray Street (2002) were two fantastic albums as well.  Biggest regret in 2002 was not seeing them at the Witnness Festival due to band clashes.  I hate that when it happens but looking back I definitely made the wrong call!

Tuesday 30 June  – The National

Ending the month of June was over to The National.  Their Belfast gig for the summer at Botantic Gardens was cancelled due to the pandemic.  I had hoped to get to see them again.  Formed in the late 90s, they are one of a few bands from the turn of the century that I have taken an interest in.Soundtrack 30 June

The Boxer (2007) was recommended to me by a friend and we went down to Dublin to see them at the Olympia Theatre.  It was a really great gig but they did play Belfast after that and I didn’t go second time around.  You just regret these things when you don’t do it!  This album was definitely a favourite and I also have the live CD Boxer Live in Brussels (2018).  Originally released for Record Store Day on vinyl.

The next two albums, High Violet (2010) and Trouble Will Find Me (2013) are also great albums.  I don’t think I enjoyed Sleep Well Beast (2017) maybe need to give that one a few more listens.  Prior to The Boxer, I also played Alligator (2005).

Tuesday 1 July – Faith No More and The Levellers

Mixing up the new month with some great music from the 1990s.  Both Faith No More and The Levellers were two groups that I have enjoyed listening to over the years.

I picked four Levellers albums and two Faith No More albums that I thought deserved a listen to for the first time in ages.

Following the success of Angel Dust, they released their fifth album King for a day…Fool for a Lifetime (1995).  This was their first effort without guitarist Jim Martin who quit the band.   While this record was not a big seller like the previous two albums it still holds up well.  Soundtrack 1 July

Their cheekily titled sixth album, aptly called Album of the Year (1997) was their last studio album before they disbanded in 1998.  The band reformed in 2009 as part of The Second Coming tour.  I got to see them in Dublin strangely enough sitting at a gig instead of standing as it was near impossible to get standing tickets for their show at the Olympia Theatre.  Was so looking forward to their return to Sunstoke this summer but we all know that went!

I’m trying to remember how I got into The Levellers.  They are an English folk band and were probably one of the most popular indie bands in Britain during the 1990s.  Their headline slot at Glastonbury in 1994 was at the peak of their popularity.

Levelling the Land (1991) was the first album I bought and I really liked it.  I continued to follow the band for the next three albums – Levellers (1993), Zeitgeist (1995) and Mouth to Mouth (1997).  It was in 1997 that I got to see them live at the Ulster Hall which surprisingly was poorly attended.  Fun fact – support came from the then unknown Snow Patrol.  The band had continued to release albums after this but by then my interest had waned a bit.   I found out recently that their new album Peace is out soon.  Perhaps this will be a chance to get listening to them again.   That will be about seven albums worth to catch up on!

Thursday 2 July – Thursday with some Thrice

I must admit that I have been meaning to do this since lockdown began!   I visited both bands earlier as part of the emo today but seeing that 2 July was Thursday, I might as well play some albums by Thursday and also some by Thrice as well because I think both of these bands compliment each other in different ways.  Soundtrack 2 July

Today was pretty much all about Thursday with Thrice almost like a support act.    Early 2000s I was taking an interest in some of the new music coming from the US.  I have five albums by the band and one compilation Kill the House Lights (2007) which included five new songs, two live recordings, outtakes and demos.  Their second album, Full Collapse (2001) was the first album I bought.  The follow up War All The Time (2003) and A City by the Light Divided (2006).  Their last studio album was No Devolucion (2011).

Thrice concluded the day as a support act with the live album, Anthology (2012) which was recorded as part of the bands farewell tour but like everything else bands never go away as they came back on the scene five years later.

Friday 3 July – Sugar

Rounding of the end of the working week was one of my favourite bands from the 1990s – Sugar.

Formed in 1992 they were the band at the right place and at the right time as I was discovering all this new American music as I embraced all things grunge.  Sugar aren’t a grunge band but I liked what I heard and Copper Blue (1992) was one of the best albums that year.  I would soon discover that Bob Mould’s previous band was Husker Du and he had done some solo work as well.

Bob Mould  could see that Nevermind had changed the way people listened to music and he wasn’t wrong as the doors were opening for me to embrace new music and bands.Soundtrack 3 July

Copper Blue remains an all time favourite for me.  The following year they released the brutal juggernaut of a record, Beaster (1993) which was more heavier and darker.  Mould would compare the album as the evil twin of Copper Blue.  Not an album for pleasant listening but it definitely is a tour-de-force.

The bands last album, File Under: Easy Listening (1994) is probably not regarded as their best album.  Often shortened to as F.U.E.L, I think it tries to combine some of the first two records.  It is not at all a bad album it just doesn’t hit you as hard as Copper Blue and Beaster.

The next album is a compilation called Besides (1995) and it contains various b-sides, live and some remixes of tracks.  When I first bought this my copy contained a bonus disc titled The Joke Is Always on Us, Sometimes which was recorded in 1994 in Minneapolis.

All three albums got the deluxe treatment and of course, I bought them again especially for the extras, Copper Blue included a live CD from 1992 at the Cabaret Metro whilst the extras on F.U.E.L was the Besides album.

I first got to see Sugar when they came to Dublin in 1993.  My recollection of them back then was not sure what to expect.  I think I was a bit disappointed to be honest as they were the one band I really wanted to see that day.  Their set seemed a bit short.  But Bob Mould would revisit Copper Blue in 2012 playing the album in its entirety.  I went over to London to catch that show and it was loud!

Sugar are no more but their legacy definitely lives on and Bob Mould continues to make great solo albums.  He has a new album coming out next month that I am looking forward to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music life in lockdown week 8

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home.  Albums listened to for week 8 cover from 11May to 15 May.

Monday 11 May – Singer-songwriters

Starting the week I went for a selection of artists from the American scene and international scene.Soundtrack May 11

Nick Cave was supposed to have just been to Dublin (Friday 8 May) and I had a ticket for the gig.  Sadly this one was one of many gigs that I have tickets for that have either been rescheduled or cancelled.  Thankfully this is going to take place next year instead.  So making up for not getting to see him, Monday starts with The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (1998) 16 tracks covering  his early career to the most recent output at the time of release.

Grant-Lee Phillips was in band called Grant Lee Buffalo.  I played one of their albums earlier in the lockdown but like a lot of things I kind of forgot all about them when they disbanded in 1999.  I wasn’t up to speed on his solo works, so I picked up The Narrows (2016).  Think I shall investigate some of this other solo works.

American Music Club lead by Mark Eitzel released Mercury in 1993.  I picked this one out as it was another one of those forgotten about CDs from the time.  I recently listened to the Aids benefit CD No Alternative (1993) and one of their tracks was on it.

Juliana Hatfield was in Blake Babies, Some Girls and also The Lemonheads.  I got into her solo music around the same time as listening to The Lemonheads.  I picked her second album, Become What You Are (1993) to listen to.  Will definitely be revisiting some of her other albums during lockdown.

Tanya Donelly I was familiar with her work with Belly, The Breeders and Throwing Muses.  Have CDs by The Breeders but none by Throwing Muses.  I will have to hunt out some of their stuff as I started to listen to some on Spotify.

Tanya was lead vocalist and songwriter for Belly and Feed The Tree was a bit hit.  She has recorded five albums and I went for the first one, Lovesongs for Underdogs (1997).

Another casualty of gigs being cancelled were Pearl Jam.  I have seen Eddie Vedder live twice and he puts on a great show solo as well as Pearl Jam!  Eddie has only released two albums as solo artist.  I played Into The Wild (2007) which was his debut solo album and soundtrack for the film of the same name.  Songs like Setting Forth, Hard Sun, Society and Guaranteed are all live favourites from his solo shows.

Tuesday 12 May – 2002 part 1

Today’s theme was 2002 following Tim’s Twitter Listening Party,that didn’t happened the previous night with Texas band And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.   I will shorten this to Trail of Dead to make it easier reading.Soundtrack May 12

A technical hitch meant the live tweeting never happened as everybody tuned in listening to Source Tags and Codes.  I decided to give it another spin the next day.  And that lead me to creating a 2002 theme of the best albums released that year.  A fantastic live act.  One memory I have of them is seeing them in the Astoria in London and a gig ending with chaotic scenes as the band gave away their equipment.  Not often do you see anybody coming out of a gig with bits and pieces of a drum kit!

After listening to Trail of Dead, I selected some albums by Interpol, Sparta, Six By Seven, The Cooper Temple Clause and Primal Scream.

Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights was one of my favourite albums that year.  The first thing that came into my mind was how influenced they were by Joy Division.   They played Belfast in the Limelight (the tiny one) supported by the then unknown Franz Ferdinand. 

Sparta arose from the ashes of At The Drive In.  Their debut album Wiretap Scars was on the playlist that day.

I got into Six By Seven in 2000, so it was going to be their second album, The Way I Feel Today.

Next up was The Cooper Temple Clause.  Their debut album, See This Through And Leave was brilliant.  Some brilliant songs on that album.

Primal Scream need  no introduction.   This was their seventh album which makes a link between the bands two other albums XTRMNTR (2000) and Screamadelica (1991).  A really great album and one of my favourites.

Wednesday 13 May – 2002 part 2

Continuing the theme of 2002 some other favourite albums from that year came from Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Idlewild, Sonic Youth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) and The Polyphonic Spree.Soundtrack May 13

Both Pearl Jam and Bruce release albums in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in America.  Riot Act was Pearl Jam’s seventh album was heavily influenced by 9/11 and also the tragedy at Roskilde Festival in 2000 where nine fans died at a crush during their performance.

The Rising was Bruce’s twelfth album.  It was also his first with The E Street Band in 18 years.  The album was part of his reflections on the aftermath of 9/11.  The last track on the album, My City of Ruins is quite haunting.

Idlewild released The Remote Part which was one of my favourites of theirs.  It was a more melodic album than the previous one, 100 Broken Windows.  I think they were considered the Scottish REM at this point.

Sonic Youth albums are so different with every release and Murray Street was no exception.  I got into them time Dirty (1992) came out and that was down to the Nirvana influence.  Only ever got to see them live once and my ears were ringing for days!

Next up is the craziest band I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live! The Polyphonic Spree!  If you ever wanted to join a cult, this would be the one to join.  The Beginning Stages of…is a very different album.  Each song is broke up into sections, so all the songs roll into each other but it is fantastic listening experience.

Concluding 2002 was Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, will reference the band in shorter version BRMC.  I don’t know why I have this down as 2002.  Wikipedia says 2001.  Must have got the dates mixed up but I think this album fits in well here.  I caught them on the NME tour in Dublin and really liked them.  Just as Interpol were influenced by Joy Division you could tell that BRMC were influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain.  A great band, I hope to play more of their albums soon.

Thursday 14 May – La La love you!

At last Pixies get a day all to themselves.  It was inevitable that I would get round to listening to them.  The band I got into at the wrong time.  They split up when I got introduced to them but it was thanks to one of my work colleagues who leant me Doolittle (1989) and Bossanova (1990) that I was blown away.  Also unknown at the time I got into them they played at the Ulster Hall.  Didn’t get to see them play on that occasion but made up for it last year.Soundtrack May 14

So along with those two influential albums and indeed two of my all time favourites, I got playing loads that day.  On the pictures shown, there is a box set Death to the Pixies (1997) which collects their best tracks from all four albums as well as a live CD.

Surfer Rosa and Come on Pilgrim (1988) are in re-released box set here.  I only got this last year.  Complete ‘B’ Sides (2001) featuring b sides from six out of eight of their UK singles from the 1980s and 1990s and one US single.  One of my favourites on this is their cover of Neil Young’s Winterlong.

Beneath the Eyrie (2019) is their most recent release and their third album since reforming.  I was looking forward to getting to see them again this year supporting Pearl Jam in London and their own gig in Dublin.  Sadly going to have to wait until 2021.

Friday 15 May – Revolution Rock

In the red corner we have two politically charged bands, Rage Against the Machine and Refused.Soundtrack May 15

Three albums each from each band.  Rage formed in 1991 and their music expresses revolutionary political views.  Their eponymous debut album (1992) came out in right place at the right time.  I don’t know how I managed to play that at home when I was living with my mum and dad!  They must have heard the swearing on Killing In the Name.  So infamous, Radio 1 played the original unedited single with “F**k” going over the airwaves 17 times!

Evil Empire (1996) was the follow up to it and The Battle of Los Angeles (1999) was on next.  A great band live full of energy.  They released one more album, Renegades (2000) which I will write about on another blog. I was lucky to see them in Belfast in 1993.  Last time I saw them was in 2000 at the Reading festival.  They reformed this year but the whole Covid-19 situation has meant all tours are cancelled, including Rage’s return to Ireland in September at Electric Picnic.  Hopefully there will be some shows next year.

Refused are a Swedish hardcore punk band.  I started to take interest in them when I heard one of their songs, New Noise which was from the album The Shape of Punk To Come (1998).  I liked it so much that I bought the album and it is an amazing piece of work.  Inbetween songs there are political interludes which makes this a wee bit different from Rage.  Here we have samples were on Rage’s albums it was always credited as sound by guitar, base and drums.  Refused use technological sounds and also jazz.

What I didn’t know at the time was that they broke up after this.  The lead singer Dennis Lyxzen when onto to form The (International) Noise Conspiracy. But like everything else bands do get back together again and Freedom (2015) was their first album since 1998’s The Shape of Punk To Come.  I really enjoyed the new album and I even managed to get to see them live.  They played Glasgow one year and it was my birthday and I just had to go over and see them live.  They did not disappoint.  I was hoping to see them at Sunstroke festival this time next week but sadly that has been cancelled.  I do hope they make a return visit to these shores sometime next year.

War Music (2019) is their most recent album.  It is an album that fits in with the time we are living in at the moment.  With so much upheaval going on in the world at the moment, it is music by both Rage and Refused that feel right for the times.