Give It Another Spin – #3 – The Joshua Tree – U2


With or Without You – U2 (1987, Island Records)

When I was about 15, I loved U2.  I remember listening to them on my paper round, ‘The Joshua Tree’ was pretty much stapled into my Walkman for a good year and then for some reason I stopped listening to them.  I don’t know if it was because my music tastes changed (or rather my peer group changed and they didn’t like U2), or if I didn’t like their new material, or whether Bono just constantly irritated me.  I think it must be the latter because I once made a list about all the things about Bono that annoyed me.  Sat at the top of that list, above the tax dodging, the hypocritical preaching and the really shit album that was ‘Pop’ was the word ‘Shades’. Almost like I could forgive not paying tax, terrible music and preaching worldliness at a massive crowd, but I can never forgive a man who wears such awful sunglasses. 

But after seeing a copy of ‘The Joshua Tree’ in a charity shop, I’ve decided to give Bono and his band another chance, I mean I’m older, wiser and far less judgemental now about music (and sunglasses) than I have ever been (yes, that is really saying something).  I mean how difficult can it be to not like an album that once had this written about it.

“The wild beauty, cultural richness, spiritual vacancy and ferocious violence of America are explored to compelling effect in virtually every aspect of The Joshua Tree—in the title and the cover art, the blues and country borrowings evident in the music … Indeed, Bono says that ‘dismantling the mythology of America’ is an important part of The Joshua Tree’s artistic objective…”

Not that difficult, it turns out, ‘The Joshua Tree’ does none of the above.  For starters, there is very little ‘wild beauty’.  ‘With or Without You’ and ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ aside, the rest sounds relatively ordinary.  Although I will give a nod in the direction of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ because that is still a decent track, albeit one that I am bored to tears of.

Where the Streets Have No Name – U2 (1987, Island Records)

Red Hill Mining Town – U2 (1987, Island Records)

I know I didn’t find this album as irritating thirty years ago as I do today.  The problem is I think is that we know more about Bono now that we did back then.  Back then Bono writing songs about murdered political dissidents in Argentina (closing track ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’) or the Miners Strike in the UK (‘Red Hill Mining Town’) probably seemed valiant and added to the ‘cultural richness’ that the Lord of Twats who wrote the bit in italics was on about.  Now it just seems fake.  I’m sure it wasn’t, but if you are going to highlight an important issue like the murder of politicians,  using your global superstar status, at least make it memorable.  ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’ is one of most instantly forgettable songs that I have ever heard, and I’ve previously owned a Molly Half Head record.

Mothers of the Disappeared – U2 (1987, Island Records)

Never Ending Playlist – #35

So Few Words – Archive (1996, Island Records)

‘So Few Words’ was the second single to be released by the London based trip hop and electronica act Archive.  I know very little about Archive, and this is only the song of theirs that I physically own.   It is all sorts of brilliant as well, six minutes of fat old beats, gorgeous vocals and a sneeringly excellent rap.

 Wikipedia tells me that they are still going after 25 years and have adapted their music more recently to adopt a more progressive rock and avant garde slant.   They have now released 12 albums.  I haven’t heard any of the last 11, largely because the Wikipedia told me that the music might contain progressive, avant garde rock.

Back when ‘So Few Words’ was released, Archive were essentially a four piece, containing Darius Keeler and Danny Griffiths who did most of the music.  They recruited the Iranian singer Roya Arab as vocalist, and its her vocals you can hear wonderfully drifting through ‘So Few Words’.  What makes ‘So Few Words’ so brilliant is the rap by a chap called Rosko John, who I can find very little about on the Internet or indeed anywhere else, which is a shame because his rapping is marvellous.

‘So Few Words’ featured on the bands debut album, ‘Londinium’, the band split up before it was recorded, then they reformed, made the album and then split up almost straight after it was released.  Keeler and Griffiths then reformed the band in 1997, with a more melodic approach – and a different female vocalist.

‘Londinium’ was excellent and it contained some pretty cools samples as well like here, which samples Underworld, which is kind of like the gamekeepers turning poacher.

Skyscraper – Archive (1996, Island Records)

Mmm Skyscraper…..I Love You – Underworld (1993, Junior Boys Own Records)

Lost Indie Classics #3

Your dad, yesterday

Come Taste My Mind – Earl Brutus (1998, Fruition Records)

‘Come Taste My Mind’ was the biggest hit that Earl Brutus ever had, and I say hit, it peaked at Number 88 in the charts, but it should have done miles better.  It’s a rollicking four minutes or so of music, heavily influenced by glam rock, Kraftwerk and the glorious noise of The Fall.  In Nick Sanderson, Earl Brutus, in fact, almost had a London version of Mark E Smith, he was slightly grumpy and had a face and voice that was creased and showed the strains of a weary old life.

‘Come Taste My Mind’ was the bands second single from their second album ‘Tonight, You Are the Special One’.  The first single, which peaked at Number 136 is also a tremendous slab of indie glam rock.

The SAS and the Glam that Goes With It – Earl Brutus (1998, Fruition Records)

When Earl Brutus failed to gain any real success, Nick Sanderson, retired from music to become a train driver.   Which is just a marvellously brilliant change of career.   Sadly, Nick Sanderson died from lung cancer in 2008.

Whilst, Earl Brutus, may not have had the success that they clearly deserved, they did help settle a long standing argument between my brother and I.  The argument revolved around whether or not ‘Boxerbeat’ by Jo Boxers reached Number One in the charts or not. I said it did not, my brother, said it did, it was often an argument that ended with me getting a dead arm and me, then, agreeing with my brother.  My brother owned ‘Boxerbeat’ on 7 inch and for a time, I think it was probably his favourite record.  He certainly played it a lot.  Easy to see why, it’s a stompingly great record.

Boxerbeat – JoBoxers (1983, RCA Records)

The argument raged for a good few years, it was of course before the time of the Internet and we didn’t have to hand a Guinness Book of Hit Singles to check.   In 1996, I interviewed Earl Brutus in the very smoky back room of a London venue (I think it might have been the LA2) and before I went into the interview, I sat in a café around the corner cradling a doughnut and a can of Coke and read the press releases about a band, I’ll be honest I knew very little about.  One line stood out.

Earl Brutus were formed in 1993 by Nick Sanderson, Rob Marche (formerly of JoBoxers and If?), Jamie Fry (formerly of World of Twist) and Stuart Boreman”.

Well, that’s handy I thought to myself and hastily scrawled a tenth question on to the list I had put together.

It’s Monday – Let’s Swear – #5

Homecoming – The Teenagers (2007, Merok Records)

The Teenagers started off life as a joke on the pages of MySpace. During Christmas 2005 they created a page for a fictional band and posted lyrics on the page every time someone commented on something.  By autumn 2006 they had 10,000 followers, and the lyrics had music put to them and the rest is history. 

When the first photos and press releases of The Teenagers first emerged we found out that they were French (I mean the vocals tell us that much), and they weren’t teenagers at all – this folks is why MySpace was rubbish, no one was who they said they were, I’m fairly sure my own MySpace page describes me as a 17 year old female tortoiseshell cat, with one bad eye.  The Teenagers were also obsessed with sex, snogging and late night romantic hand in hand walks on the beach, but you got the impression that they only said that in order to do more snogging and sex.

They also swore constantly on all over their songs, and didn’t really care too much about it.  Take ‘Homecoming’, for example.  This was a song about a French lad, who may or may not be pretending to be English, whilst visiting some family in America.  There he meets a girl, who may or may not be his cousin.  On day two, he tells us bluntly, he fucked her and apparently it was wild.  How very rude, although not as rude as the chorus, though.  ‘Homecoming’ sounds like kind of like what New Order would sound like if they were fronted by Jacques Dutronc and he was groping someone as he sang.  Which, actually, would be pretty bloody amazing, the sound, not the groping that is.

Musically, ‘Homecoming’ is quite lofi drone pop, which easily, erm, straddles, that middle ground between dance punk and pop punk.  It has an infectious chorus, which if you are anything like me, you have to stop yourself from singing when the youngsters are around.  I would still file under pretty damn good though.

Here’s some more Teenager perv pop as the NME called it.

Sunset Beach – The Teenagers (2007, Merok Records)

The Sunday Shuffle – #19

Bathed in Light – Gengahr (2014, Transgressive Records)

Todays randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of the iPod Nano which was keeping me company as I wandered around Newton Abbot trying to find a present for a 7 year old. My decision was that I would post the first song that came on after I had bought this present.  The problem is the shops in Newton Abbot are largely terrible and there only about three shops that are worth going into and one of those is a record shop, and great as it is, I’m not sure the new Yard Act is all that appropriate for 7 year olds.

Land of the Blind – Yard Act (2022, Island Records)

In the end I play it safe and buy a book about school dinners being disgusting, and press play on the iPod.  I am met with the flickering organ synths, squealing guitars and twinkling falsetto vocals of possibly the finest band to ever be named after a Pokemon, Gengahr.

‘Bathed in Light’ has this dreamy quality to it, but it’s a dream with a slight edge, because underneath those little hazy organ synths is something harder waiting to pounch.  You get a hint at the songs snarling underbelly in the very first line that singer Felix Bushe utters, which is “the smog in your voice makes me vomit”.  It sounds like a lyric that should be snarled, but its more crooned that anything else, and then as the final minute of the song approaches, the guitars become completely soaked with effects which cut through the haze

‘Bathed in Light’ was the B Side to one of the bands early singles ‘Powder’, which is also rathe lovely

Powder – Gengahr (2014, Transgressive Records)

Nearly Perfect Albums #17 – Beautiful Freak – Eels 

Your Lucky Day In Hell – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records, Taken from ‘Beautiful Freak’)

I can remember the first time I ever heard Eels.  I was at work in London in the City.  To get to work back then I had to catch a train from the suburbs and if I was lucky I would meet my postman on the way to station.  He was called Jim and he spoke with a lisp, although judging by the look of him it might have been the slur of someone who was permanently pissed.  Anyway, Jim would normally hand me a parcel of records and CDs on the way to the station – back then I was an aspiring DJ and/or journalist depending on what mood I was in.  You got more free stuff if you were a DJ. 

Sadly the only stereo with a decent CD player on it, in the entire building that I worked in at the time, belonged to the office at the top of the stairs.  The office at the top of the stairs was the domain of ‘The Roys’.  Two men both called Roy, one fat, one thin, one married, one divorced, one bearded, one not, both as boring as a day out in Tiverton.  So you rarely went up there, but on this day, this joyous day, as I walked in the gates of the office I saw the Roys going out in their car, they were “off”,  Bearded Roy told me with a wave “to Brighton for the day”.  That meant the stereo with the CD player would be free. 

Now, I could have used the CD player attached to the PC, but we all know what music sounds like as it comes out of PC.  Terrible.  So at ten past nine on that morning I pulled the first CD out of the parcel handed to me by Jim the Drunk Postman and stuck in a stereo liberated from an office that smell of coffee, desperation and boredom – it was a promo CD of ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ and as that tinny piano sound at the start of it tinkled around the office I realised I was grinning from ear to ear.  A song that starts “Life is hard/and so am I/You’d better give me something/so I don’t die” has never made me smile so much.

Novocaine for the Soul – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

As much ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ is utterly irresistible it turned out to not be the finest moment on the debut album ‘Beautiful Freak’ that followed about six weeks later.  That is full, chock full of songs that will make you grin from ear to ear.

You get ‘Susan’s House’ for starters, the lyrics spoken over a gentle piano, take us through us death, drug dealers and teenage parents as E questions the entire make up of society when he sees a young girl pushing a pram down the sidewalk, as her ponders “That must be her sister, Right?”

Susan’s House – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

There genuinely isn’t a bad song on this album (although I can take or leave ‘Flower’), lyrically its outstanding.  Musically its inventive and so wonderfully textured, the piano is exactly right when it needs to be, the guitars heavy when they have to be, the drums alternate from being pounding to scratchy just because they can.

And then there is E’s voice.  It sounds world weary, exhausted, battered even.  But yet, there is something incredibly addictive about his voice.  The way that one moment he will sound fragile and emotional and the next he’ll sound like a teenager high on sugary drinks.  Something that nobody has really achieved since Kurt Cobain in his heyday and that is what helps makes this album very nearly perfection.

Mental – Eels (1996, Dreamworks Records)

New Band Friday – #7 SPRINTS

Little Fix – SPRINTS (2022, Nice Swan Recordings)

There is something rather intriguing about SPRINTS.  Firstly, like all good bands do, they insist in having their name in capitals, something which might materialise on these pages as a series in the near future.  Secondly they are part of a growing crop of amazing bands that have come out of Dublin in the last year or so hot on the heels of Fontaines D.C and lasty and most importantly, it is surely only a matter of time before SPRINTS become megastars.  SPRINTS just feel slightly different.

Their songs are delivered at breakneck speed, a lot of them refuse to stretch out beyond the three minute mark, but remain short, snappy blasts of garage rock.  In a way, and this is slightly lazy of me, they remind me of the early Vaccines singles, only with a female singer, obviously. 

‘Little Fix’ is the latest track to get a lot of attention and it is taken from their forthcoming ‘A Modern Job EP’.  I’m not sure how many singles have come before it – but there are a number of self released MP3 to be found on their Bandcamp page.  Its excellent in a frantic slightly different post punk way.

Of course, you can’t be a band these days without having at least one track that resorts to a conversational delivery from the singer, but SPRINTS, even do that slightly differently with singer Karla Chubb kind of half shouting/half screaming  her way through some of these tracks, especially on the essential ‘How Does the Story Go?’

How Does The Story Go? – SPRINTS (2022, New Swan Recordings)

SPRINTS are the sort of band you want to see sooner rather than later.  Do that and you will get joyous feeling of a seeing a band destined for big things playing in a venue way too small for them

Answering Rocks Unanswered Questions – #1

Would You Rather Be Lonely? –  Red Rum Club (2019, Matador Records)

It was of course my daughter who gave me the idea for this series.  A series that in all honesty, I haven’t really thought through.  During our second ‘Kids, Eh’ experiment, we reviewed ‘How Did This Happen?’ by Bodega, and at the end of it, she remarked that we still know what ‘This’ was and how it happened.   Which got me thinking, its about time someone answered rock’s unanswered questions and that someone may as well be me. 

The first question I going to answer was the one posed in 2019 by Liverpool’s Red Rum Club, “Would You Rather Be Lonely?” and to answer it I’ll take you back to 2017 and a noisy minibus in hot and dusty airport concourse.

In 2017, I had to fly to Tbilisi for a work thing and when I booked my flights, everyone else who was involved in this project, said ‘Don’t go via Istanbul’, even though flights to Istanbul were cheaper, quicker and had far less stop over times (still two hours though).  So I ignored them and went via Istanbul.  To catch my connecting flight to Istanbul I had to get to another part of the airport and this mean getting on a minibus, there was one seat left on this bus.

It was next to a toothless chap who stank of cigarettes, stale urine and cooking oil. I was on the bus for about thirty minutes (it was a six minute drive) and for about 27 of those minutes, ‘Toothy’ cackled away to himself (he may well have been listening to a Ricky Gervais Podcast).

The temperature inside the minibus was roughly the same as the Centre of the Earth and it was as noisy as standing next to the speakers at a Megadeth (or insert your own ridiculously heavy band here) concert.  Right there as the minibus sat on the tarmac and waited for Lord knows what, I would have given anything to be the only person in the minibus.  

Lonely Boy – The Black Keys (2011, Nonesuch Records)

But, I’m a selfish moron obviously, with my first world problems, sat in a minibus 3000 miles from home on expenses, moaning about being slightly hot. Because loneliness sucks.  The truth was I missed my family, I missed my home comforts and I was really tired and miserable.  Which made me awfully rude to those poor people who had to share the minibus with me, huffing and puffing in a relatively comfortable seat next to the window, which I didn’t even open despite it being stupidly hot.

I’ve never been lonely, not really, I’ve been temporarily alone, I’ve been stranded in strange places (I was once stuck in Lewisham for ten minutes, it was horrifying)  not knowing a single person but I’ve always coped or found my way to a bus stop or a kind person has taken pity on me and pointed me in the right direction.  There are thousands of people who every single day, wake up and don’t see a soul for the rest of the day, sometimes weeks can pass.  The highlight of their day can be a knock on the door from the postman or a brief chat with someone at the shop. 

So, let’s answer the question –  No, Red Rum Club I would not rather be lonely.

Miss Lonely Hearts – The Pink Diamond Revue (Rude Audio’s Lonely Surfer Remix) (2020, Acid Dol Records)

The Never Ending Playlist – #34

Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom (1992, RCA Records)

I think I maybe repeating myself here, but it still baffles me why Buffalo Tom were not absolutely huge.   I think you can probably blame Nirvana or at least the Nirvana Album buying public. Back in 1992, American bands were everywhere in the UK.  Nirvana obviously sat at the top of the pile and beneath them a swathe of others.  Head of that pack were the Lemonheads who did, simpering indie pop with a slightly intense edge, and you had the Smashing Pumpkins, who did intense a bit better but didn’t hate themselves quite as much as Kurt did.   and you had Pearl Jam, who had a social conscious and made (terrible) songs designed to be played in stadiums.  All three were lapped up by the UK audiences with a second glance to some of the others waiting in the wings.

Buffalo Tom’s records were of course a blistering mixture of all three of these, you had the indie pop, the self loathing and the anthems that would have sounded extraordinarily fantastic in a big old stadium with lights, screens and pyrotechnics everywhere – and yet they kind of stalled.  Despite rave reviews, favourable festival slots, and a devoted live following, they didn’t get the success that perhaps they deserved.  They kind of remained a little bit under the radar.

‘Taillights Fade’ and its predecessor, ‘Velvet Roof’ should have catapulted Buffalo Tom from the sort of band you might be lucky enough to see mid bill at a festival on a Saturday afternoon at Reading to a band perhaps very near the headline act. 

Velvet Roof – Buffalo Tom (1992, RCA Records)

Kids, Eh – #2

Welcome to the second instalment of the series in which I let my daughter review some records.  I say review, what she normally does is critique an entire bands career more accurately in a sentence lasting about six words than I can in several hundred.   I took my own advice and created a small playlist of songs that I really like and suspect that she might not care for so much.  Before we start we write down three questions which we have to fill in as the songs plays they are: –

1) Do You Like the Song?

2) What Mark do you give it out of Ten?

3) Anything Else you want to say about it.

So without further ado, lets start here.

Classic Self Doubt – OhBoy! (2015, Alcopop Records)

OhBoy! who were an indie pop band from Northamptonshire who released a series of decent records between 2013 and 2017.  They split up in 2017 because they couldn’t finish an album.  I tell my daughter my answer to question one, which is, that I think ‘Classic Self Doubt’ is an excellent four minutes of indie pop. 

My daughter is less impressed and screws her nose up and tells me that “I don’t like his voice”, apparently “Its too whiny and shouty.  I do like the drumming though”. She gives it 5 out of ten, (just for the drumming) which makes it for the time being at least the joint highest scoring song ever on Kids, Eh.  She quickly adds that she doesn’t know why “he is singing about tomatoes”. 

I look at her and say I didn’t hear anything about tomatoes.  This is because I apparently ‘am not listening properly’

Next Up

How Did This Happen? – Bodega (2018, What’s Your Rupture Records)

Bodega are, it says here, an American punk band from New York.  I don’t think they are a punk band, more a post punk art rock band.  I try to explain to my daughter what that means exactly, but I’m not sure I understand it myself.  Anyway, she likes this because she asked if we can play it again when it finished. 

I peak over her shoulder and she has written 7 on the piece of paper, which is crossed out and replaced with an ‘8’, a score that is unheard of on Kids, Eh!.  “This is really good, its very bouncy and I like that it has more than one person singing on it, because the man is a bit rubbish, also its good because it mentions toucans and I wrote a poem about them the other day at school, we also never found out what did happen”.  I’m not sure it does mention toucans I say and then she sings the chorus.

Toucan on one shoulder…” long pause…”….Cheese Burger Sauce on the other….” And then she descends into giggles.

Turns out she is right about me not listening properly.


Sleep Forever – Crocodiles (2010, Fat Possum Records)

“Why would they want to sleep forever, they’ll miss the new series of Mallory Towers?” Is the question that meets this introduction of this song.  I nod my head and agree, it would be a bit daft, I say.  Crocodiles are a Jesus and Mary Chain obsessed shoegaze band from San Diego (“Like Carmen” my daughter chips in homage to the baddie bashing superhero Carmen SanDiego) who make droney space rock in the desert. ‘Sleep Forever’ was the first single from their second album, which is also called ‘Sleep Forever’, to which my daughter asks “Did they run out of names?”.  This is not going well for Crocodiles.

“Its too moany and I can’t hear what he is singing” she grumbles crossly.  “Is he being all lovey dovey, she’ll never fall in love with him if he just whispers all the time” she reasons rather more sensibly than other more experienced agony aunts would.  She writes a four next to the song in her pad and tells me to write that a band called Crocodiles, should at least sing about crocodiles.

All of which perfect sense making means that Bodega are this weeks champions.