Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #7 (1997)

1997 was the year that wife stealer extraordinaire Richard Ashcroft marked his return from the musical wilderness by strolling in a straight line down Hoxton High Street.  Whilst doing that he jumped on the bonnets of passing Ford Cortinas and bumped into people who had the temerity to be walking in the opposite way. Ashcroft’s stroll was all the time accompanied invisibly by a string section that liberally borrowed part of a Rolling Stones song that scuppered any future royalties.

I am of course talking about the video to ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’, something which I tried and failed to recreate at rush hour in Waterloo Train Station about two weeks after the song had been released.  I got about twenty metres before a massive chap running for the 0820 train to Surbiton sent me absolutely flying.

Anyway, 1997 was the year that Britpop clung on by its fingertips for a bit longer and Spiritualized and Radiohead battled it out for the Album of the Year titles (in my top ten’s Spiritualized won and Radiohead were beaten into fourth by Primal Scream and Mogwai – who had in 1997 emerged as my new favourite band). 

However, despite all that the record that sat at the top of my tracks of the year chart was a reissue and was for the first time a record that didn’t really on a guitar to be brilliant.  It also came backed with an incredible video and the way that bassline vibrates, and loops is still amazing today. 

Da Funk – Daft Punk (1997, Virgin Records, Taken from ‘Homework’)

Although I accept that if I was to rewrite the Top Ten from 1997, then it probably wouldn’t be Number One, because the track at number two almost certainly would.

Dry the Rain – The Beta Band (1997, Regal Records, Taken from ‘Champion Versions EP’).  ‘Dry The Rain’ is one of those songs that I can remember exactly where I was when I heard it for the first time.  This is because I was sat in a police station, and it came on the radio as I was sat in the reception area waiting to make a statement about a car who had just run over over a woman on a packed London City street.

At Number Three was this: –

Nothing Last Forever – Echo and the Bunnymen (1997, London Records, Taken from ‘Evergreen’) but it was there for reasons that I’m not going into right now.  Readers of the old WYCRA blog will possibly remember why.

The rest of the top ten was by and large made up by bands who had excellent albums that year.  So ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead was at four, ‘Electricity’ by Spiritualized was at five ‘Kowalski’ by Primal Scream was at six and this was at seven, although it didn’t feature of their excellent album: –

New Paths to Helicon Pt.1 – Mogwai (1997, Chemikal Underground Records, Taken from ‘Ten Rapid’).  If I remember it rightly most of the last three months of 1997 was spent looking for, buying and listening to Mogwai records. 

You know what I said just up there about ‘Dry the Rain’ “almost certainly being number one” if I were to ever rewrite this top ten.  Well, I think I probably lied, because the song at number ten almost certainly would be at the top.  A song so assumingly lovely that I almost posted something by bloody Embrace instead (who were at number 9).

Patio Song – Gorkys Zygotic Mynci (1997, Mercury Records, Taken from ‘Barafundle’)

Goth! Show Me Magic – #1 – Number 20 – 16

At the end of the One Word Title Countdown I asked another favour of the Musical Jury – “Tell me you five favourite Goth records” I chirped down the email wire to them.  It was at the time a good idea, but sadly nearly all of them voted for the same three records in their Top Fives, and thus rendered the whole idea quite pointless. 

Still I have scrabbled together a Top 20 of some kind and it kicks off with this modern day Gothic rock ‘banger’.  There is a great video accompanying it as well.

20. Marching Song – Esben and the Witch (2010, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Violet Cries’)

The first Goth I ever met, was called Dominic and he was friends with my brother.  He was the real deal.  He only wore black, he had massive hair, black nail varnish, chains, winkle picker shoes, bought his girlfriend black roses and pretty much only drank snakebite and black in the pub.  Soon after hanging around with Dominic my brother embraced the Goth world.  Out went his Bon Jovi tapes and his Police vinyl and in came various pieces of vinyl by Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy and The Danse Society along with some chains, black jeans, a trench coat and a pair of big old boots.

19. Godsend – The Danse Society (1982, Society Records Taken from ‘The Danse Society’)

(I have just remembered that the Sisters of Mercy headlined Reading 91 and I was there, so I reckon I probably met a couple of Goths there – anyway)

My brother went on holiday to Scarborough later that year, and met a girl, she was called Richelle or something like that – I suspect she was called Rachel but wanted to appear other worldly and strangely ethereal so she misspelled it deliberately.   They were for a week at least the only Goths on the Holiday Park and their romance blossomed over an old Siouxsie and the Banshees tape and a complete lack of anything else to do.  My brother for the record was a rubbish Goth given that he smoked Benson and Hedges and had long blonde hair.

A month or so later my brother met Richelle in London town at a club called The Underworld in Camden.  They went to see a band called Rosetta Stone, a band who were according to the press the ‘Future of Gothic Rock’.   Richelle, and this relationship, was, according to my brother the real thing (bearing in mind that his last girlfriend was a midget woman called Carol, who had a laugh like a pig being slowly tortured).  That was until Richelle stopped answering his letters and refused to return his calls.

18.  The Witch – Rosetta Stone (1992, Cleopatra Records, Taken from ‘Adrenaline Deluxe’)

About a month after there had been no contact, my brother embraced death metal and one day when I got home from college and went to play my Chapterhouse 12”, I found a copy of ‘More’ by The Sisters of Mercy next to it, his records had seemingly become mine. 

Goth is, judging by the responses I got from the MJ, it appears a wide and varied genre, for instance these two distinctly Non Goth records featured on at least one occasion

17. The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen (1984, Korova Records, Taken from ‘Ocean Rain’)

16. Requiem – Killing Joke (1980, EG Records, Taken from ‘Killing Joke’)

Someone Else’s Nearly Perfect Albums – #6

This weeks guest nearly perfect album comes courtesy of Swiss Adam from the marvellous Bagging Area blog. A blog that is a big inspiration to me as well as one where I have been introduced to oodles of new and exciting music. A blog which I urge you all to check out.

The album of choice is one that was already on the long list of records that I was going to write about, but as you will see, and like all the other submissions in this excellent series, Adam has, reviewed it far better than I could ever do. Anyway, here’s Adam.

Echo And The Bunnymen ‘Crocodiles’

During the heatwave of August this year I agreed to write a couple of Nearly Perfect Album posts for this blog and asked to be drawn one at random. That threw up an album I have largely swerved since its release (no spoilers) and couldn’t very well write about as being nearly perfect. Another blogger agreed to do a swap with me and offered something much more up my street in return… Echo And The Bunnymen’s 1980 debut Crocodiles (a most un-heatwave record though, Crocodiles is much more suited to autumn).

Crocodiles is a fully realised debut album, dark and cocksure, a post- punk Scouse statement of intent. Built around the three-way democracy of the instruments- Will Sergeant’s jagged, textural guitar playing, mantras in place of solos, the monumental basslines of Les Pattinson and the urgent thumping of Pete de Freitas’ drums, a kind of icy, dark psychedelia splattered through the prism of post- punk Liverpool. Over this urgent brew Ian McCulloch sings of going up and going down, stars being stars, pictures on his wall, pride, monkeys, meeting at the barricades, low lights, knees hurting, mixing up the medicine, happy death men, hair slicked back and all that jazz. The front cover has four young men in austere demob coats, brooding in the woods at night. Manager Bill Drummond said that the tree Mac and Les are leaning against was the Bunny God, its twisted trunk a manifestation of the ears of a mighty rabbit deity. The cover sets the tone for what is inside. It is moody, bleak and despairing. It is also lit up, orange against black.

Going Up (and that’s the title to set out your stall with isn’t it?) opens the album, fading in on a wash of effects and drones before de Freitas cuts through with his floor toms. Will slashes through the murk and then Ian arrives, tongue in cheek, leaping in with the line, ‘ain’t thou watching my film…’. It builds intently, Ian imploring ‘let’s get the hell out of here’ before collapsing. The band recover for a slow burning post punk coda, Ian vaguely audible in the distance.

Going Up – Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, Korova Records)

Rescue was the group’s second single, a ringing descending guitar line and Mac’s psychodrama lyrics, hollering with both self-doubt and confidence. ‘Is this the blues I’m singing?’ he asks over and over as his three bandmates carve out a niche to bunker down in. They may have written and recorded better songs than Rescue in the years that followed but they never sounded more up for it.

Rescue – Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, Korova Records)

Villiers Terrace is the stuff of Bunny legend, a visit to an invented Liverpool address where they mix up the medicine and roll on the carpet, biting wool and pulling string. There are allusions to drugtaking (and at this point the Bunnymen didn’t indulge in much more than a few bevvies) and it may be partly inspired by stories of Hitler chewing the carpet as the Russians rolled towards the bunker. The band are on full power, piano added to the guitars, drums and bass. It’s all very urgent and driving.

Villiers Terrace – Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, Korova Records)

All That Jazz powers in almost like the record button was pressed a fraction too slowly. ‘Where the hell have you been?’ Ian asks, another question without an answer, as Pete thumps his drum kit. When Will starts slashing at his guitar the drama turns up a notch again and then the clanging guitar line over the chorus is a further shot of adrenaline. Les Pattison’s bass playing is stunning throughout entirely self-taught and playing upstrokes rather than the downstrokes most fledgling, self-taught bass players would go for, a distinct and powerful sound. The first chorus paints a picture at odds with the fringes and overcoats of the Bunnymen themselves, ‘waiting with our best suits on/ hair slicked back and all that jazz/ rolling up the Union Jack’. The dead stop ending is heart stopping too.

All That Jazz – Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, Korova Records)

Crocodiles closes with Happy Death Men, five minutes of discordant piano, tom toms, shattering glass and more pounding rhythms. ‘Happy Death Men/ stand in line’, inspired by seeing soldiers on TV, lines of them in busby helmets, not showing a flicker when one of them keels over, passed out. The music builds, Will Sergeant duelling with his amp, no solos but shards of Bunny guitar.

Happy Death Men – Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, Korova Records)

In the following four years the Bunnymen would go on to make at least one more Nearly Perfect Album (1984’s Ocean Rain, as close to perfect as it could be, maybe only denied it by the ‘c-c-c- cauliflower/ c-c-c- cucumber’ lines) and in 1981’s Heaven Up Here, an album which is, let’s face it, perfect in every way

The One Word Countdown – #38

Swinging from the chandeliers…..

Silver – Echo and the Bunnymen (1984, Korova Records, Taken from ‘Ocean Rain’)

Points 105

‘Ocean Rain’ is another record that I have sort of rediscovered whilst compiling this rundown.  An album I found in a second hand shop in Torquay about six years ago and one that has been in the car glove box for the last year or so stacked underneath a slightly battered copy of ‘Fashion Crisis Hits New York’ by the Frank and the Walters which I may have accidentally trodden on the other day.

Of course when it was released back in 1984, Bunnymen lead singer, the shrinking violet that is Ian McCulloch proclaimed that “It was the greatest album ever made”.  Which of course it isn’t (face facts Ian, it’s not even as good as ‘Crocodiles’).  However, it is very good indeed and the opening strum and sweeping strings of ‘Silver’ are effortlessly brilliant and pretty much everything that follows them works wonderfully well.  Even the faintly ridiculous “T-t-t-ears” and the “La, la, la” bits with which ‘Silver’ conclude, which I have to admit I’ve always hated for a reason that I am not even sure of, because they are seriously catchy.  Putting that aside – what really sets ‘Silver’ apart though is the music, Will Sergeant’s guitar is incredible and Pete De Freitas’ drumming is exquisite.  Its bloody marvellous.

There were actually quite a few tracks called ‘Silver’ in the library.  The first of them very nearly made the final list before being ceremonially dumped for the track that wheezed its way to Number 54.  Would this have done any better….?

Silver – Caribou (2014, City Slang Records, Taken from ‘Our Love’)

The second one I totally forgot about, which is a shame because it’s a tremendous slice of jazzy big beat. 

Silver – Bonobo (2000, Ninja Tune Records, Taken from ‘Animal Magic’)

And the best of the bunch was this

Silver – Pixies (1989, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Doolittle’) – which (and I’ve just checked) is only the fifth best One Word Title track that Pixies released.  More from them later in the series (probably).