A week of tracks from a pile of CDs that were at the front of the Cupboard – #3

Another thing that my daughter and I used to do on our daddy day care Thursday was to write down a load of things that we wanted to do on a piece of paper and then screw them all up and place them inside a bowler hat with a cat’s face printed on the side of it.

My daughter would then excitedly pick one out of the hat and that would be our adventure for the day.  We’d had lots of great days doing this, we have for instance climbed the tower of Castle Drogo, (which was fact fans, the last castle to built in England) and shouted the word “PANTS” as loud as we could from the very top of it.  Much to the amusement of the National Trust volunteers who opened the door of the tower for us.

The Tower – Wye Oak (2014, City Slang Records, Taken from ‘Shriek’)

On a sunny Easter Sunday, we climbed Haytor Rocks on Dartmoor and as a prize we ate some chocolate Easter Eggs at the top as the wind did its best to blow our coats off.  We have, at the Totnes Rare Breed Farm sat like a pair of old ladies with fluffy blankets on our laps and then had guinea pigs plonked precariously on them, which we have stroked and wanted to take home with us.  We have then eaten jam sandwiches and slightly stale biscuits in the café next door as we waited for the steam train to pull into the station that sits opposite.

Railway Jam – Saint Etienne (1993, Heavenly Records, Taken from ‘So Tough’)

Its not always been fun though.  We visited a really rubbish softplay in Dawlish once, that took my daughter about five minutes to work her way through and though the slide was good and usually landed her into a pool of balls with an excited yelp the rest of it was a bit boring.  The morning was rather spoiled when two brothers who were the only other children in the softplay area, decided to have a fight half way up the foam climbing frame resulting in the younger of the two bawling his eyes out and his mother screaming at the older one and then him crying as well.

Crying Lightning – Arctic Monkeys (2009, Domino Records, Taken from ‘Humbug’)

It was about ten minutes after we hotfooted out of that softplay café that I found the charity shop that gave us the third CD in the pile that sit at the front of cupboard. That folks is ‘Fever to Tell’ by New York art rock geniuses Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  An album that for some reason I had failed to purchase when it came out in 2003.  It is of course a work of wonder and come highly recommended.

Pin – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Interscope Records)

Black Tongue – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003, Interscope Records)

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #15 (2005)

Today should have been all about Kanye West because 2005 was the year, that he really arrived.  Yes there were a few hints at what was coming a few years earlier, but it was 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ album of which the track that stood at Number three in my run down ‘Gold Digger’ featured that catapulted him into one of the planets biggest stars.  Sadly, Kanye has turned into an antisemitic bellend of massive proportions and this is last time you will read his name on these pages.  He has joined an illustrious list.  I can only apologize for defending him in the past. I could try and link it back to some obvious mental health issues, but I’m not sure I want to.

So instead lets talk about LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire, both of whom dominated my top ten tracks for 2005.  I can’t get explain the buzz I got when I first heard ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’.  It was like I’d been shocked.  I was in, yet again, a cool clothes shop in Exeter and I was looking at their retro band tshirts but yet again decided against shelling out £20 on an Allman Brothers shirt, when it came on over the speakers.  It sort of froze me to the spot, well until James Murphy hollers “Solo” and then you kind of just want to leap about, but you can’t do that in a trendy clothes shop that sells Rod Stewart Tshirts for twenty five pounds a pop. So I stood there casually pretending to look at the beanie hats even though I definitely do not want a beanie hat that has the word ‘Dickies’ emblazoned on it but I have to hear how this cowbell solo ends.

 Of course, a few weeks later the debut album dropped and the rest is pretty much history.

Daft Punk Is Playing At My House – LCD Soundsystem (2005, DFA Records, Taken from ‘LCD Soundsystem’)

It was kind of similar with the Arcade Fire and in particular the song ‘Rebellion (Lies)’.  The first time I heard that I was at the Cavern Club having just watched (British) Sea Power tear the place apart – and as it happens they were at number five on the top ten – and I don’t feature them nearly as much as I should.

Please Stand Up – Sea Power (2005, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Open Season’)

Anyway, the DJ popped ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ on just after the lights came on, and again I kind of just stood there, a lone idiot on a deserted sticky dancefloor covered in plastic glasses, taking it all in, nodding along like I knew what this was and that I was already far too cool to shout “YES” at the top of my voice. But it was astonishing from the way the strings crackles into life around sixty seconds and the way the “Wah, Wah” bit joins in at around one minute 40.  Astonishing.  All of it.

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire (2005, Sony Music, Taken from ‘Funeral’)

Ironically, the record at number four in my 2005 was in stark contrast to me that night, because as I stood their clutching my British Tea Power Mug, nodding, like a lost tourist.  I definitely didn’t look good on the dancefloor.

I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys (2005, Domino Records, Taken from ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’)

Finally for today, some leftfield French electronica, which found itself at number seven in the top ten.  Its pretty wonderful this.

My Friend Dario – Vitalic (2005, Play It Again Sam Records, Taken from ‘Ok Cowboy’)

I’m going to come back to this series a bit later in the year, because I want to start something new from Monday. Thanks for all the nice comments I’ve had on this series so far.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #41

AM – Arctic Monkeys

Arabella – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

‘AM’ is unquestionably the greatest record that Arctic Monkeys have ever made (and probably will not be topped).  It is 42 minutes of absolute genius that has songs about sex, lust, frustration, paranoia and getting high as a kite.  It is an album that highlights Alex Turner’s ability as the best songwriter this generation has produced and marked the point where Arctic Monkeys became a band that could from this point onwards do whatever the hell they liked because they are Arctic Monkeys and that is just what they do.

It is a record that is in some way the successor to ‘Humbug’ and is in someway a much darker and mature record that has far reaching influences ranging from hip hop (Dr Dre is cited as a major influence) to the unmistakably presence of Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age (who provides guest vocals on two tracks).

One for the Road – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

It opens with ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ a slow churning builder of a song, full of handclaps, foot stomps and a riff that not only kicks off the entire record but sets the tone for the entire record, rock is back on the agenda.  Then you get Alex’s lyrics about lust, fear and having food in your teeth. 

Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

One of the hints that Arctic Monkeys were experimenting with hip hop was the single that preceded ‘AM’ the tremendously titled ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ which has its very soul so obviously set in 90s G Funk that its practical humming ‘Regulate’ in the background.  Matt Helders drums have never sounded so grounded in RnB as they beat along to the pissed up half stoned lyrical ramblings of Turner’s lyrics.

Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

Talking of pissed up lyrics, the best Turner lyrics on ‘AM’ can be found on ‘No.1 Party Anthem’ which talks about “sweat on the walls, cages and poles” to a backdop of wistful piano, acoustic guitars and a vocal delivery that can only be described as a seedy croon.  Its marvellously deceptive because the title suggests a proper banger but it is wonderfully reflective instead.

No. 1 Party Anthems – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

But the best track on the album is effectively a cover version, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is an 80s poem by John Cooper Clarke that has been given a tweak in the form of a chorus, by the band.   It closes the album and its one of the simplest tracks that the band has ever recorded.  The heart stopping goosebump bringing beauty of the line

I wanna be your Ford Cortina/ And I will never rust,”

and the way that Turner delivers it, is simply mesmerising.

I Wanna Be Yours – Arctic Monkeys (2013, Domino Records)

Next week in the first of what might be a regular series, someone else tells us about an album that they consider to be ‘nearly perfect’.

100 Songs with One Word Titles (85 – 81)

Technically I never voted in this countdown.  I did however, create a list which showed the order I would have ranked them if it was left to me.  A list that I will only refer if one thing happens, which is if there is a tie.  Then I will refer to my list and the song that is higher will be given an extra point.  Three of todays songs (84, 83 and 82) all got the same points.  In my list there were 76 places between the song at 84 and the song at 82.  Just saying.

85. Grace – Supergrass (2002, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Life On Other Planets’)

On reflection Musical Jury Member 3 might have been right.  “WHY!” he shouted at me in an email “have you not gone for ‘Alright’ by Supergrass it’s a far better song than “Grace”, I’m not voting for it out of sheer annoyance!”  The answer, is because, I hate ‘Alright’ with its plinky plonky piano and its cheeky chappy chirpy geezer lyrics. ‘Grace’ is a much better song and it’s inspired by a children’s money box instantly making it more likeable than nearly everything Supergrass have recorded.  Although I agree ‘Alright’ would have definitely got more points.

84. Overcome – Tricky (1995, 4th & Broadway Records, Taken from ‘Maxinquaye’)

‘Overcome’ is of course a cover version, of sorts.  More a remake of a track (‘Karmacoma’) that Tricky recorded with Massive Attack on their ‘Protection’ album.  Tricky turns what was originally a stoned sounding walk in the park into some sort of paranoid hazy dream of a song.  He even replaced the gruffness of the Massive Attack version and replaces it with the vocals of Martina Topley Bird and it’s effect is devastating.

83. Olympians – Fuck Buttons (2009, ATP Recordings, Taken from ‘Tarot Sport’)

It might be lazy but this only appeared on the blog a few days ago when it was featured as part of the ‘Nearly Perfect’ Series so I’m just going to direct you back to that review if no one minds, I mean it’s a very good review and should almost certainly be read twice.

82. History – The Verve (1995, Hut Records, Taken from ‘A Northern Soul’)

‘History’ is brilliant, an epic string laden twist on a conventional ballad.  It set the scene as far as The Verve were concerned for everything that followed it – huge songs weighed down with strings, soaring vocals with more than just a hint of bitterness.  It was, it was rumoured to be about Ashcrofts split with his girlfriend at the time, although he denies this, probably because around the time this was recorded, he was more probably than not carrying on with Jason Pierce’s girlfriend.  Might just add an ‘allegedly’ there.

81. Cornerstone – Arctic Monkeys (2009, Domino Records, Taken from ‘Humbug’)

Here are two relatively rare facts about ‘Cornerstone’ – you may of course already know these, apologies if you do.  Anyway, the vinyl release of ‘Cornerstone’ was only made available to buy in branches of Oxfam.  Which is a brilliant thing to do but it did rather limit the success of the record, as it peaked at number 94.  The B Side ‘Sketchead’ actually sold more copies on download than ‘Cornerstone’ and rose on its own to Number 80 in the charts.  This makes it one of the few singles in chart history where the B side has performed better than the A side.  I know, I bet you are even gladder that you woke up this morning.