Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Hits – Pulp [#588]

Pulp_HitsJarvis Cocker and Sheffield’s finest with an hour and twenty minutes of lyrics illustrating gritty northern GenX premillennial social situations.  How times have changed. Yet Pulp is still powerfully relevant and reflective of youthful experiences.

This is the band’s final (at time of press) Greatest Hits compilation and features all the familiar Pulp tunes. I obtained the album having spent years avoiding Cocker’s band like the plague due to the band’s seemingly undue popularity amongst my peers. However, having reflected on how the band’s music seemed to pop up in film soundtracks that I liked I gave them a go by trying their Greatest Hits album. My opinion remains the same, but whenever I feel a little less northern, I give the album a listen and immediately feel all gritty post-industrial.

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Heart Still Beating – Roxy Music [#574]

Roxy_Music-Heart_Still_BeatingBryan Ferry and chums sleaze their way through an hour and 8 minutes of live music recorded in Frejus, France, 1982.

This is Roxy Music’s third live album complete with saxophone fellatio from Andy Mackay and guitar wanking from Phil Manzanera though surprisingly it was not released until 1990.

I think by this time Ferry’s pals had had enough of the whole lounge lizard vibe and were starting to look at future career prospects. Indeed, the album Avalon, the promotional tour from which Heart Still Beating is a recording, was to be the band’s last. Although technically, they did what most successful bands do and they did release several live and best of compilations after. Indeed, Ferry had only just got started and he wanted to stay afloat and even at the grand old age of 71 (at time of press) Ferry still oozes across the stage with his performances like some leery lecherous old granddad who’s got his eye on your twenty-year-old daughter. And not just for the job as his secretary.

Heart Still Beating as an album covers a nice range of Roxy Music’s work while also focusing on their more relatively modern love songs compared to their saxophone riddled earlier works. A good start for those unaware of Roxy Music’s historical bag of tricks and those wanting to see what that old rascal Ferry has to offer.

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Headlines and Deadlines: The Hits of A-Ha – A-Ha [#572]

Back in the dark days of the mid to late eighties, when it was acceptable to go out wearing lurid colours, leotards and sweat bands, a unique music video was doing the rounds on Saturday morning children’s TV shows and it wasn’t anything to do with Brian Pern.

A woman reads a comic in a steamy cafe when suddenly she sees one of the characters winking at her, next thing she knows she is pulled into the comic and having swoony near smoochies with said comic book guy, curiously looking like A-ha’s lead singer Morten Harket. Iconic. Almost as iconic as the use of plasticine in a music video.  As it happened, my middle brother was fond of the band too so, as you can imagine, I was subjected to frequent plays of their music until he too disappeared. Sadly not into a comic world of spanner wielding motorcyclists but to the more sinister South Coast of the UK. Comic book world would definitely have been cooler though.

Headlines and Deadlines was one of the last “multibuy” CDs I bought (5 for £20) at Virgin Megastore. Ah Multibuys, how I miss you. MP3 streaming and downloads just aren’t the same when you pay per track or pay upwards of £8 for a flaky album. Thank goodness for the likes of Music Magpie and Amazon, doing to major record retailers what major record retailers did for independent record shops. For me, listening to the album is like taking a float down memory lane, sitting on a natty couch in a cruddy bedsit. Cheap, nostalic plastic pop.

 

 

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Harry Roy Collection – Harry Roy and his Orchestra [#569]

harryroyhisband-theregoesthatsongagainBack in the age when the phrase “big band swingers” didn’t raise eyebrows or cause puerile sniggers at the back of the class, the titans of popular music were the orchestra leaders. Ray Noble and Glenn Miller are two of the biggest big band swingers, but possibly the most talented was clarinettist and orchestra leader Harry Roy.

Wildly popular with troops and those who frequented the Mayfair Hotel and the Cafe Anglais  Roy was not without controversy though. A number of his songs had quite cheeky and smutty connotations and, even with today’s more liberal ear, one cannot believe that songs like My Girls Pussy or She Had to Go and Lose it at the Astor could get past our more stuffy ancestors.

Still, as I find the whole hauntological era of dance bands fascinating, it’s only right that I curated a selection of Roy’s songs in my album collection.

 

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Greatest Hits – Guns N’Roses [#555]

GreatestHits_Guns'n'RosesAxl Rose and his buddies cram 14 of their songs onto a CD and call it their greatest.

In my opinion, Guns N’ Roses are a band of a certain time. That time, for me at least, being between 1990 and 1994. Because, it’s during those years in my life that their music features regularly on my life soundtrack. Of course , it’s not entirely as straight forward as that.

Guns N’ Roses are one of those bands I have been continually told that I “should” like. I think that suggestion started when I expressed an appreciation in Iron Maiden but I may be mistaken. To be fair though, GNR did appear to be everywhere in the early nineties and were popular amongst my fellow pupils at school. Thing was, I was still too interested in Progressive Rock and Chris Isaak to be bothered by new comers.

On reflection, when we compare the likes of Yes, Bonzo Dog and similar aged performers, I somehow can’t imagine Axl Rose performing in a similar style when he’s in his 80s. The distinctive shrill shrieky vocals somehow won’t seem dignified emanating from an old man. But, while I’m not a fan out right, GNR are a band from my formative years and through the best of, or Greatest Hits release, I don’t need to venture further into the realms of their albums.

 

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Greatest Hits – Gipsy Kings [#554]

Gipsy_Kings_-_Greatest_Hits_Cover_ArtSpanish guitar wanking with France’s own Gypsy Kings. Yeah I didn’t know they were French either.

Having heard their version of Hotel California on the Big Lebowski soundtrack and already being familiar with chart topping hit Bamboleo I thought I’d punt their Greatest Hits CD because, even if I didn’t like all of their songs, I’d have some nice background music for when I held paella evenings.

Of course, the paella evenings may have stopped but the music still gets the old toes tapping and you can’t help wanting some chorizo.

 

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Greatest Hits – Falco [#553]

UnknownThese Greatest Hits albums feel almost never ending.

We’ve met tragic Austrian pop star Falco before on the Music Project back in December so I won’t labour the point about why he is present in my music collection, but for those readers new to the project in short, Falco’s Greatest Hits was added to my collection while I was searching for his third album Falco 3.

His hit Rock Me Amadeus features (because, lets face it, that was his “hit”) as does his other, less famous, “hit” Jeanny. Those two tracks aside, there are a couple of other tracks from Falco 3 and some of his other, not so remarkable albums. Of course, I must not forget that although he was only fleetingly popular in the UK, his unique brand of Euro-pop was much more popular on the continent. Which says a lot about why the UK keep failing to win Eurovision.

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Greatest Hits – Eurythmics [#552]

Eurythmics-GreatestHitsA compilation featuring the “best” of the Eurythmics.

I would categorise it in my collection as an “inherited” album. While the songs are like the musical equivalent of a time travelling De Lorean, in that while researching for this post every song I heard took me back in time to various stages of my childhood and youth, I’m not a fan.

I’ve been told I should be, having grown up at a time when the band was at its peak. Thing was, Annie Lennox always made me feel uncomfortable; I don’t know why, she just did. Dave Stewart did however feature again in my life soundtrack with his album Jute City (see here again in about 2 years) but ultimately, he too made me feel uneasy. So I guess with those feelings it was inevitable that I wouldn’t stray much further than the Greatest Hits, which, when added to a shuffled playlist for long car journeys, often has passengers singing along.

Which makes a change from the griping about all those weird bands I like.

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Greatest Hits – Aphrodite’s Child [#551]

Aphrodites Child Greatest Hits

Three bearded Greeks and an Egyptian perform their “greatest hits” from their three albums of which, I have one, 666.

Having only heard 666 before, when I first heard this album back in 2004, I was surprised by the other songs on the album. Aside from the tracks from 666 I’d already heard Rain and Tears and It’s Five O’Clock but had no idea they were Aphrodite’s Child songs. I had always thought they were Demis Roussos songs.

Anyway, it’s surprising how many “hits” a hardly heard of band have had and it frequently amuses me when I play people their songs and they exclaim, like me, they didn’t know it was by Aphrodite’s Child.

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Greatest – Duran Duran [#550]

Greatest - Duran DuranThe problem with releasing your “best of” when you’re still an active band is, you might still be an active band in another 20 years. Such is the case with eighties popper, Duran Duran. Thing is, they’re still chucking out the odd song still.

I wrote about the other Duran Duran Greatest Hits/Best of compilation, Decade  in July last year. Greatest is the addendum to that. Effectively, this is all the songs from the 1998 compilation with the 5 hit songs that followed.

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Glittering Prize: 81/92 – Simple Minds [#526]

Glitteringprize8192It’s 1992. School has finished. University has begun. Trudging the city streets of a rain soaked Sheffield is a tall fair haired male with a Sony Walkman. On the Walkman is a copy of this album.

That man was me.I’d embarked on a new phase of life. University. And with university as a young 19 year old male came new people, new experiences and, best of all, new music. Because, of course, a new phase in a new city meant new shops. Shops that didn’t feature in Liverpool. Or if they did, not on the scale they did in Sheffield or the Meadowhall.

And there, on Fargate, opening to much fanfare and huzzah, a Virgin Megastore, the size of which I’d not seen before; within, a selection of cassettes as broad and as vast as the selection of pastries in Greggs the Bakers.

I bought Glittering Prize:81/92 on cassette from the Virgin Megastore on Fargate, Sheffield using an opening day discount voucher given to me at the student union during Freshers week. So began many years of listening. I still have the cassette, granted with nothing to play it on, but it is still in my belonging.

As “best of” compilations go, this was an excellent introduction to the band for me. Of course I was already familiar with the band having heard their work on the radio while I was growing up, but there were a number of songs I was unfamiliar with. Later investigations into other Simple Minds works proved to me that this album was probably the best choice to listen to the band as a beginner. Other albums were difficult to digest and I never really explored beyond Glittering Prize.

However, considering the number of times I’ve listened to the album over the years, it has fallen relatively out of aural favour since obtaining it on MP3 in 2009. Yet everytime I hear a song from it, I’m there, in nineties Sheffield, walking around the ruins of an ancient cutlery empire on my way into town or into University.

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Galore – Kirsty MacColl [#508]

KirstygaloreThere was a fleeting moment when I thought relatives of Kirsty MacColl lived in my street when I was growing up. Instead it turned out Andrea McCann wasn’t related, but just happened that she looked a little bit like her. If you squinted.

This is another relationship legacy album, inherited when my previous wife and I split the MP3 library. I’ve never really been a fan of MacColl but I’ve always know who she was and enjoyed Christmas when she would grace my screens with the Pogues. Indeed, my knowledge of her sound is not limited to that song and, this album being MacColl’s best of album, this album features many of her top hits that were present in the charts during my childhood.

As a time machine, this album works, transporting me back to a time of paper rounds, Saturday’s working in Halfords and Christmases visiting Flannagan’s Apple for the  Guinness.

And so we reach G. A world of compilations and best ofs (eg Greatest Hits) and Gothic music by far the largest group of albums alphabetically. Sorry if you’re expecting me to get to L by Christmas….

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Forever Faithless: Greatest Hits – Faithless [#490]

Forever_Faithless_–_The_Greatest_Hits At this point, anyone who knows me personally will no doubt be thinking “Hang on, Dance/Trip hop? Isn’t Stegzy a hairy die hard Prog fan?”. Indeed, but sometimes, with every record collection, you find a “loved genre” busting album or band.  Faithless are one of those bands.

Please don’t think I’ve gone and burnt my Yes t-shirt or thrown out my Roger Dean posters, far from it. I liked a couple of songs by Faithless. Happy cheery dance numbers with a dark and foreboding political message for the youth of the day, which, no doubt, was lost on many. I liked those songs sufficiently to try a few of Faithless’ other albums, this one and Back to Mine.

I left it there. My two favourite songs appeared on the album, Insomnia and Mass Destruction but the other songs were a little bit too beyond my cultural tastes. While similar to Massive Attack in some respects, the later dance tracks take me out of my cultural safety zone. A prime example of when getting a greatest hits album will give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll like a band’s other works too.

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Forever Delayed: Greatest Hits – Manic Street Preachers [#489]

ForeverDelayedNME dubbed this “the album that should not exist”. Bloody hipsters.

I totally wished that the Manics hadn’t been so bloody mainstream or as a youth I’d have so gotten into them. Or so I thought in the nineties, as the “Indie” scene was rapidly pulling the wool over the listening public’s eyes as more and more “indie” bands appeared in mainstream charts, programmes and chat shows.

The Manics were one of those bands that I liked but didn’t want to fully embrace by getting any of their albums. I suppose fear of scorn from my contemporaries added to that, especially as my “indie” mates were all “No mate, the Manics went shit after their lead singer jumped into the Avon Gorge at Clifton”, my goth mates sniggered and said they were too happy and my shoe gazer friends shrugged and gazed depressively into the tips of their brogues whenever I mentioned the band.

Yet nearly every song on this album I like. Yes, I know that’s the purpose of a greatest hits album, but I suppose it is an excellent example of the “if one likes the “best of” then buy it and nothing else approach” as I still like this snap shot of the band’s golden age; Songs so full of hopelessness against a joyful melody. Exactly how Abba are. Artists take note, this works.

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Forever & Ever – Fields of the Nephilim [#487]

R-571075-1165231721.jpegMore brooding beats from the cadaverous cowboys that are Fields of the Nephilim taken from the soundtrack of their video release Forever Remain.

I suspect after Ginger Chris’ cassette finally drove the music industry into an irretrievable spiral of descent, my enthusiasm for music waned too. As I wandered around the global car boot sale that was the early internet of 2004-2010, I would pick up remnants of forgotten things called albums from the digital flotsam and jetsam and store them for humanity on my hard drive. If it wasn’t for my actions I’m fairly certain the music industry would have been completely destroyed by home taping.

Forever & Ever is a rip of a live video album and features many of FONs “greatest hits”, all favourites of mine. I could have quite happily left my appreciation of the band there but subsequent releases enticed me in with the promise of good music. I suppose by then, the zeitgeist had leaked from the loosely sealed bottle of life and I began to realise that the new rules and flavours brought about by the demise of the music industry were bitter and unpalatable.

 

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Exposed – Mike Oldfield [#443]

Exposed Mike OldfieldHi there! Steelrattus again, on day 5 of his 10 day guest stint on Stegzy’s Music Project.

Today’s album, Mike Oldfield’s Exposed (1979). This is the second of the two that I vaguely know in this 10 day stint. This one is a bit more vague that the previous, Trevor Jones’ Excalibur OST, as I don’t actually own Exposed. Coincidentally I have covered another Mike Oldfield album, Discovery, while guest posting on SMP, and double coincidentally I didn’t own that album either. Call yourself a Mike Oldfield fan?!

Whereas Discovery is a proper studio album, Exposed is one of only two live albums that Oldfield released, with the first being an orchestral version of Tubular Bells. This live album again features Tubular Bells, unsurprisingly with it being his most popular album, and also Incantations. Just to further highlight how much of a rubbish Mike Oldfield fan I am, I don’t seem to own nor do I remember listening to Incantations (1978), which is his fourth studio album. Having listened to the live version perhaps that’s understandable, as I didn’t find it very good. To round off the album there’s a short track called Guilty, which was just a single release, during Oldfield’s disco phase apparently (!). The album was recorded during a European tour in 1979, although apparently the musicians supporting Oldfield on the tour did not know they were being recorded. A DVD was released much later on, in 2005.

I’ve sort of already covered my view of the album. Tubular Bells is fab. I found Incantations rather weak and minimal. Guilty definitely has that Oldfield feel to it, and yes it is oddly disco. Generally speaking I don’t tend to enjoy live albums, as typically they’re somewhat worse versions of a mix of studio tracks. Exposed is pretty much this, but I would listen to it, if stuck on a desert island with nothing else. As always, YMMV.

Here’s Guilty, put on your disco pants!

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European Tour 2005 – Dead Can Dance [#435]

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 12.51.27In 2005 an announcement was made to the effect that Dead Can Dance would tour again after several years of hiatus. Tickets for the few gigs that were to be played in the UK sold out like hot cakes.

I was unable to go.

What followed was months of people I knew saying how they were looking forward to going to the gig, followed by years of the same people saying how mind blowing the gig was. Yet all I have to remember the experience I never had is this “bootleg” featuring highlights of Dead Can Dance’s European tour in 2005.

Occasionally I listen to it from afar while sitting in an uncomfortable seat for full effect.

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Essential Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan [#433]

Bob_Dylan_-_The_Essential_Bob_DylanEssentially I want to like Bob “Moped starting up” Dylan. Essentially I have tried and really tried. I tried so hard to like Bob “Hair Drier” Dylan, to see why so many people put him on a pedestal, why so many people think he’s the best thing to have ever happened to music since Mozart. I tried. I tried so hard I have strain marks on my ears.

Essential is the “best of” Dylan, not that I’ve been able to distinguish any mind blowing tracks apart from the surprise that Dylan was responsible for a number of songs I had attributed to other artists.

Legend has it the young Dylan mooched about Liverpool before he hit the main stream.While there he met a young bloke who had just started to learn how to play music who was called John Lemon or something or some such bollocks. This is, of course, utter shite,  just like Dylan’s placement on the pedestal of musical greatness.

I’m sure I’ve upset a great deal of people with that last sentence but don’t misunderstand my supposition. Dylan certainly has his place in the hall of music history but the way many people, including my contemporaries, insist on placing the guy on this heightened throne of greatness has become irritating of late. The likes of Presley, Ray Noble and even Glen Miller who came before Dylan and equally had a prolific change on musical culture should also enjoy the same platform. Indeed, let’s be fair about the whole throne thing, let’s turn it into a musical SOFA of greatness. Dylan, Morrison, Presley, Noble, Gallas and whoever else deserves recognition can sit happily on the Sofa of musical greatness and entertain us all with their jostling for the pouffe.

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Essential Jean Michel Jarre – Jean Michel Jarre [#432]

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 11.55.04<sigh> I really could re-use the “Essential/Essentially” gag here too as Essential is, essentially the first Jean Michel Jarre Best of Compilation. But I won’t because re-releasing old material as new stuff is so 1990s it’s unbelievable.

And lazy.

Aero, Essential is a kind of “Best of” revisited. Nice if you want to relive the cardigan wearing, garish carpeted childhood of the 1970s. Nicer still if you just want to pop some acid with your hipster friend while staring at their Mathmos glooping and shlooping about on the table.

It’s kind of thought provoking that this music evolved into Air.

 

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Essence of the Deep Forest – Deep Forest [#431]

Essence of the deep forestThis week, it seems, we will mostly be listening to French and Belgian artists.

Today, Deep Forest. Essence, is essentially Deep Forest’s Best of album, though arguably they really only have a couple of songs that they remix continuously. Never the less, Deep Forest remain a firm favourite of the music project. I’m kind of interested to hear what Steelrattus has to say about the band as I know he is a fan.

Anyway, take Enigma to the rain forest, add some indigenous tribal chants and add a sprinkle of wholesome “I’ve seen the world and its colourful diversity” world  traveller and you have, in essence, Deep Forest. Indeed, you probably have the best of. Which, in essence is, Essence. But I’ve already said that. Kind of like how Deep Forest, Enigma and Era take the same theme and remix it over and over again. Remixing works in music I suppose, but not in prose. Which in essence, is Essence of the Deep Forest.

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Don’t Bore us Get to the Chorus – Roxette [#383]

Roxette_-_Don't_Bore_Us_2000More Europop, this time with late eighties popsters from Sweden, Roxette.

You might recall Roxette from such hits as Joyride, Listen to Your Heart and Must Have Been Love. I did. I remembered how much I liked their songs and realised, mid noughties, that I had none of their albums. So with copious amounts of internet to consume, I set about downloading their Best of compilation and this is it.

All their hits from 1988 through to 1995 are here including those already mentioned, The Look and Dressed for Success. Re-listening to the album for the purpose of the music project just kept shoving me into a mental Delorian back to my youth in the late eighties and early nineties.

Great stuff so have three!

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Definitive Simon & Garfunkel – Simon & Garfunkel [#356]

440px-The_Definitive_Simon_and_GarfunkelRegardless of what my wife thinks of Paul Simon and the hirsute Art Garfunkel, I’ve never really gotten on well with the pair. I was forced up with Mrs Robinson as part of my life soundtrack in the 1970s, and, since establishing firm musical boundaries between myself and my parents, I have distanced myself from the artists known as Simon & Garfunkel. Sneering contemptuously whenever their musical prowess or influence is mentioned.

So why, you may ask, is this album in your collection? Well it’s there purely because, as highlighted on numerous occasions during this project, my collection is an amalgamation of my own musical tastes, music forced upon me by peers and music harvested from various relationships over the years.

What makes this the Definitive then? Well to me Definitive means exactly what it says, this album should therefore define the artists, Simon and Garfunkel. Like if you were to look up the band in a musical dictionary this is what you would hear.

So don your cheesecloth, your kaftan and your gingham. Get yourself into a car from the 1960s. Grow your hair like a hippy, wear flowers, tattoo yourself with Dharma initiative symbols and run off to join some San Fransisco based Manson-esque cult with this album on your in car 8-track.

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Decade – Duran Duran [#352]

Duran_Duran-Decade–Greatest_HitsThe problem with being a successful band is that no sooner have you released a “Best of” compilation, you run the risk of releasing other hit records that fans feel cheated out of until your next “Best of” compilation.

Decade is Duran Duran’s “Best of” compilation from the CD rush of the early nineties and features all their fabulous songs: Girls on Film, Rio, View to a Kill etc. I managed to get this album from a bargain “5 for £30” offer at the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool, which, when you think of the price of music today, was a bit of a bargain. You don’t tend to see iTunes selling selections of albums in “x for £x” offers. Nor do you see Amazon doing the same with their physical and digital sections.

Still, who pays for music these days?

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Death to the Pixies – The Pixies [#351]

Pixies-DeathToThePixiesCoverSometime in the 1990s I must have been living under a rock or something. It seems that, to everyone else, the greatest band that ever performed were around and releasing records. Of course, living under a rock meant that I was unaware of this. Probably in the same way as I was unaware of many other musical things. See, that’s what it was like in the pre-internet nineties; if you wanted to find out about the latest music you either had to know someone who worked at Our Price or read NME.

I didn’t know anyone that worked at Our Price. I knew someone that had a music shop, but they sold instruments and rented videos on the side. I also didn’t read NME. Paul Sanderson read NME. Mike Reagan read NME. Most other people I knew thought NME was something to do with miners or something.

Then the late nineties came and I was more musically astute. There I am listening to Uncut magazines 4AD compilation upon which is a track called Debaser. Only to me they’re singing about a steam basin. Lyrics have never been my strong point. My then pre-first-wife says to me that this song is by the Pixies and that I should like them.

At some other point in that time, there I am in work, whistling absent mindedly along to Debaser while doing a stock take in the stationery cupboard. Along comes my chum Nick.  “I didn’t know you liked the Pixies” he says to me from under his beret and soul patched face. “I don’t” I replied. “Well you should like them“.

It seemed that if I wanted to be accepted in the world, I had to relinquish my grasp of seventies prog and, at that stage, eighties goth and embrace the modern musical age welcomingly by liking The Pixies. So I went to the Virgin Megastore (HMV was and is shit for music like this) and picked myself a copy of the Pixies’ greatest hits.

And this is said album. I know I should like them. But I don’t. I like two songs on their greatest hits, Debaser and Monkey Gone to Heaven. I should like more of their work. I don’t. I am a failure when it comes to being a hipster it seems.

 

 

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Contraband: The Best of – Men at Work [#308]

The+Best+Of+Men+At+Work+ContrabandIf you ever thought Men at Work were one hit wonders with Down Under, you’ll be very much mistaken. Men at Work were Australia’s answer to the likes of Huey Lewis & the News and such.

Contraband is a “best of” compilation for the antipodean musicians and provides the listener with a broad spectra of their work. If you’ve only ever heard Down Under then I suggest you get this on the old iTunes player and remind yourself that they have actually done a lot more than songs about travelling the world in a worn out combi.

I really like this best of. It’s a good example of how best ofs should work. You’ve heard of one of the artist’s songs but you’re not sure if you’ll like the rest of their work. So buy a best of, discover you like a few of their songs but not enough to warrant buying their entire catalogue.

I should listen to my own advice.

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