Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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Concerts in China – Jean Michel Jarre [#301]

The_Concerts_in_China_Jarre_AlbumJarre spreads European culture and music technology to the exotic Far East by playing gigs in Beijing and Shanghai then brings back a little bit of Chinese culture and musical influence to the West.

This album is a live, yes a live, compilation best of thing. Just like all the other live best of compilations in this project only this time, to make it different, you know it’s recorded in China. Wow! Actually in CHINA!

Sure there are a few “Concerts in China” specific tracks on the album but the bulk is just live versions of tracks from previous albums recorded in China. It also sees Jarre whip out his laser harp. I even remember my brother telling me to watch Jarre play the laser harp on TV because it was a groundbreaking, never to be seen again, instrument.  Earth shattering never happened, Jarre went on to do more albums and laser harps will never beat seeing the Gamelan play live in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

 

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Complete Madness – Madness [#297]

Complete_MadnessIf you were about in the 1980s you’re more than likely familiar with Madness. If you weren’t then you might be aware of Madness.

This album is a compilation of the best of Suggs and his chums and their unique ska sound from the very beginning of their career. Music like this acts as a kind of temporal benchmark were you can usually relate one or two of their songs to some sort of event or activity in your life.

For me the songs Baggy Trousers and Cardiac Arrest  have me at eight years old, listening to a cassette mix tape my dad made me for my old mono cassette player. House of Fun was rereleased in the 90s around about the time I was rejecting “popular” music so there’s nothing particular attached to that song.

It should be noted though, that this compilation is from 1982 so later songs such as Our House and Driving in my Car are absent. Therefore, if it is a complete compilation of Madness hits you’re looking for, you’ll want the later Ultimate Madness

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Coming of Age – Camel [#292]

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 14.20.52 A live compilation of songs by prog maestros Camel showcasing work from Snowgoose, Moonmadness and later albums.

Sadly, during transfer from computer to computer over the years, my only copy of this album has now become corrupted; the majority of the songs now shortened by up to half of their original length.

Of course I’m too tight to buy it.

The tantalising audible glimpses of Camel’s genius make this album an excellent introduction to the band for those unfamiliar with their work but the lack of production, with it being a live album, doesn’t show the band in its best light.

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Coma Divine – Porcupine Tree [#290]

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 09.04.05A confession: middle age and life commitments give me little time to explore and enjoy new music these days. So in an effort to write this entry I actually had to listen to the album itself.

Back when I was a student for the second time, late noughties, my television production tutor Andy Fox, my audiences lecturer and I would frequently discuss the pros and cons of Prog. Foxy suggested that I try out Porcupine Tree, a neu-prog band that was rising in popularity through the advent of the intarwebz. So I did.

I did what I usually did in those situations, download as much as I could for later listening to. Of course, life then got in the way and aside from a number of songs from various albums, I never really spent much time with an entire album. Until this weekend.

The newer reader might be fooled into thinking that I write entries for the music project on a daily basis. I don’t. I try to get as many items written up over the weekend at a when most people are curled up on the couch with a bacon sandwich and a copy of the Guardian.

So on a cold, damp bacon smogged Saturday in March I sit in Gnomepants cottage listening to Coma Divine in its entirety for the first time ever. I even caught myself doing some air guitar and moshing. Coma Divine is a best of/live compilation recorded live in Rome in the late 1990s and, as if to prove a point, it showcases Porcupine Tree’s earlier music, a period often over looked by people coming new to a band. I found it highly enjoyable on a first listen. I haven’t found any songs I’ll add to my “Got to listen to this now” list but they are inoffensive and I’m sure over the next few months I’ll listen to them again.

 

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The Collection – Ultravox [#288]

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 08.03.39Midge Ure et al, dance with tears in their eyes to all their greatest hits and there are quite a few. This “Best of” compilation is in my top ten of “Favourite best of compilations” especially as it has lots of songs I’m familiar with as well as a few that, until I heard it, were unfamiliar with.

Ultravox synthed their way through the music scene of the 1980s with epic songs people still remember today. Songs such as the evocative Vienna, the eye pricking  Dancing with Tears in My Eyes and the rousing Love’s Great Adventure feature heavily on the 1980s soundscape and they also feature on this compilation.

If you want to recapture the 1980s with a single band and Duran Duran are not available, then Ultravox will happily fill that gap for you.

 

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Chestnut Mare – The Byrds (#262)

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 15.28.10Chestnut Mare – The Byrds (#260)

I used to like The Byrds. Well, I liked a couple of their songs at least. That was until I discovered that they went a bit Goddy towards the end of the 1960s. After that, it was all bollocks really.

Chestnut Mare appears to be an unofficial fan compilation of some of the more popular Byrds songs. I have no idea how it came to be in my collection other than it possibly came from Jamie. Still, there are a number of hits on it, even though, it appears, the Byrds were just a glorified covers band.

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Changesbowie – David Bowie (#260)

changesbowieChangesbowie, released in 1990, is an attempt to cram a twenty-something year career onto one eighteen-track CD. To give you an idea of the challenge, in that time Bowie released seventeen studio solo albums. For some of them he (or his record label) employed competent people to do the cover art; for this one, they apparently got the intern to knock out something on a Friday afternoon.

Let’s assume that, if you live in the Western world and don’t hate music, you’ll be at least passingly familiar with David Bowie. If you’re buying this album then you probably want a little bit of Bowie in your life, but really can’t be faffed with all those seventeen (now up to twenty-five) albums. You want a nice slice of curated pop, showcasing the weird and the genius while skipping all the bits that were just a little too weird.

And to some extent, I’d say this delivers. It starts, of course, with 1969’s Space Oddity, takes in the biggies of the early 70s, skips pretty lightly over the Berlin years, catches up with the pop hedonism of the beginning of the 80s, and then is (wisely) silent on the end of the decade.

Of course, with any compilation like this the question rapidly becomes not “what’s on it?” but “what got left off?” leaving us to wonder exactly who thought that rather turgid Fame was more worthy of inclusion that the excellent Life on Mars or Starman. To be fair, both of those made it onto the slightly-longer LP/cassette versions. Why didn’t they miss off the rather soupy Golden Years in favour of Ziggy Stardust’s overblown Rock and Roll Suicide? But at the point you’re asking those questions, maybe it’s time to move on and buy a couple of albums. This is certainly a decent snapshot, and covers Bowie’s development through musical styles over a couple of decades. It also gives the impression of being a carefully-compiled list (and not, in fact, a rushed-out record-label cash-in brought on by Bowie’s decision to go off and produce completely different music with Tin Machine at the time). If you’re an absolute beginner, it’s not a bad place to start.

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Change We Must – Jon Anderson [#258]

CHANGES+IN+MINDChange We Must – Jon Anderson

Hello, me again!

Two bits of good news this time. I don’t have a lot of time to write about this album, and I’m not a great fan of it either. So you, the lucky reader, should have a lot less to read. I shall try and go for a more practical Stegzy type summary approach.

As background, I first heard Jon Anderson during my early 90s university years. Being a nerd I inevitably delved into prog rock, with a lot of musical introductions from my lovely university friend Richard. One of those groups was Yes, and if you didn’t know Jon Anderson is their lead singer. I also listened to a lot of Vangelis, and he has teamed up with Jon Anderson on several albums. I am probably a bigger fan of the Jon & Vangelis albums than I am Yes, although I don’t listen to either a great deal. I did listen to some of Anderson’s solo albums, including the very odd Olias of Sunhillow, but I haven’t gone back to any of it. Anderson’s solo stuff almost feels like Christian rock, although as far as I know he wasn’t into religion a great deal.

Those who’ve not heard Anderson before will be surprised by his voice, which is very high, and quite feminine. Apparently he’s a natural alto tenor, so both speaks and sings in a high range, and it’s not falsetto. This does give his music character and originality, of some form.

Change We Must is again that most accursed of albums, the best of (sort of). It’s doubly accursed because bizarrely these are rearrangements – of a mix of Yes, Jon & Vangelis, and solo tracks – which have an orchestral and choral backing. So they’ve been muzak’d, of a fashion. In all fairness to Mr. Anderson apparently some of the tracks on here are new, so it’s a right old dog’s dinner.

In all honesty I don’t recognise most of the tracks on here. The album opens with one of his most famous tracks, A State of Independence, which is a collaboration with Vangelis. The orchestral version jars though, versus the more spartan electronic sounds of the original. It’s a similar story throughout, to the final namesake of the album, Change We Must, which has both orchestra and choir, albeit the original was also fairly rich in tone.

Sorry Jon, your optimistic spiritual tunes mostly don’t do it for me. Doubly so when new versions of old tracks.

I hope Stegzy doesn’t mind me breaking with tradition slightly. Here’s an actual promo video for the album, featuring an interview with Jon.

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Bursting Out – Jethro Tull (#235)

Bursting Out - Jethro Tull (#233)Bursting Out – Jethro Tull

My first and last time with you yeah? We had some fun. Went scrolling through the blogs yeah and they told you stuff. Oh I want to read some soon, but I wonder how, it was a new day yesterday, but it’s an old day now.

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Brachiale Gewalt – Rammstein (#218)

Brachiale Gewalt - Rammstein

Brachiale Gewalt – Rammstein

Brachiale Gewalt – Rammstein

Brachiale Gewalt appears to be some remixed compilation album of Rammstein songs that is hard to come by. I had a look on Amazon. They’re out of stock.

Anyway, Rammstein. After watching David Lynch’s Lost Highway in the 1990s and being so utterly blown away, I went to get the soundtrack. On the soundtrack are two songs by German metal band Rammstein. Two songs that blow my mind in the same way that Lost Highway does. Go David Lynch!

My first purchase of music over the internet was Rammstein’s Sehnsucht which should have cost me about £20 but ended up costing me £2000 when my credit card details were used by cyber criminals to run up a massive bill on porn and other such things. Of course this was in the days when the internet was in its infancy and banks tended to think you were at fault if your card details were pinched by cyber criminals. Cheers First Direct!

So, Brachiale Gewalt by Rammstein. If you’re not a fan, I’d not bother with this album. If you’re a fan, I’d not bother with this album. If you’re one of those people that have pictures and tattoos of the band all over your house and body then great. Go for it.

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Big Big Movie Themes – Geoff Love & His Orchestra (#184)

Big Big Movie Themes - Geoff Love & His OrchestraBig Big Movie Themes – Geoff Love & His Orchestra

Geoff Love was the king of easy listening. Forget Mantovani. Forget James Last. Love was Royalty.

Over several years under the MFP (Music for Pleasure) label, Geoff Love released several LPs featuring orchestrated theme tunes from film and television. Some good. Some bloody awful. Big Big Movie Themes is a kind of “Best of” but actually features some reworkings of some of Love’s best arrangements. Still good stuff though.

It now appears that these golden greats from the 1970s have been rereleased as CDs and are also available on iTunes so hopefully a whole new generation can experience Easy Listening to the full.

This album features:

The James Bond Theme
The Big Country
Somewhere My Love (Dr Zhivago)
Jaws
The Way We Were
A Man and a Woman
Lawrence of Arabia
The Magnificent Seven
Goldfinger
What’ll I do (The Great Gatsby)
A Summer Place
Colonel Bogey
Love Story
Warsaw Concerto (Dangerous Moonlight)

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The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever – Various Artists (#176)

The Best Prog Rock Album in the World...Ever - Various Artists (#176)The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever – Various Artists 

This is one of the last CDs I bought. A wicked compilation showcasing a massive range of prog bands covering Canterbury scene, Zappa and even the first sprouts of New Romanticism.

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The Best of: 1980-1990 – U2 (#175)

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 09.36.29The Best of: 1980-1990 – U2 

See now, I didn’t even know I had this when I wrote about U2’s previous “best of” . These are the songs I remember.

I remember Ian Vickery saying to me that U2 were the best thing to come out of Ireland and that failure to like U2 meant unworthiness. Then some years later the same boy said that U2 were old hat and that the Waterboys were where it was at.

I seem to recall someone else telling me that to like U2 meant you supported the IRA. Personally, I just thought they were rubbish. Possibly because they were as prog as Spandau Ballet.

Things were messed up in the 80s.

This compilation has all the popular songs used as background music in gritty dramas about “the troubles” or films where there would be lots of Irish youth being all gritty and hard done to. They just make me think of dark nights travelling down Hillfoot Avenue in the back of my dad’s Ford Orion.

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The Best of the Doors (#174)

The Best of the Doors The Best of the Doors

Old Jim Morrison again with another Best of.

Thing with bands like The Doors, their entire catalogue is seen as next to perfect and it’s not like any new stuff is likely to emerge.

Long term followers of this project will recall that I’ve already covered a “best of” compilation for The Doors – A Collection. That compilation had all the same songs on as well. So in the interests of blog writing, I suggest you go and have a look at the entry.  

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Best of Shakespear’s Sister (#172)

Best of Shakespear's SisterBest of Shakespear’s Sister – Shakespear’s Sister

Old Bill’s sister has been about for some time. But what we must not forget is that Shakespear’s Sister, despite recent televisual evidence to the contrary, is as goth as Bucks Fizz.

Shakespear’s Sister (SS) was one of those bands that I secretly liked when I was a teenager. With echos of Strawberry Switchblade, SS was dark glam with hints of what was to later become Dark Cabaret. Vampish costumery coupled with heavy makeup and songs to cheer. Think Kiss mixed with Bananarama and you’re not far off.

Indeed, Siobhan Fahey was once a member of Bananarama. But not Kiss. Which would have made an interesting statement. This best of covers the majority of their hits between 1988 and 1992. Many of which have me remembering times crashing on Sarah Melia’s living room floor while her parents were away. Wild times. Wild music.

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The Best of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (#170)

Best of OMDThe Best of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

I could tell you my anecdote about wild cocaine fuelled sex parties. Or I could tell you about gay orgies on the Wirral. Or I could even tell you about a night in 2005 and how it relates to this album. But I won’t. Purely because to do so might end up with me in court.

Anyway, OMD. This compilation has all of their hits. Shame that they had to blow all that fame on dodgy girl bands. I mean really…..

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The Best of Jon & Vangelis – Jon & Vangelis (#169)

Jon & VangelisThe Best of Jon & Vangelis – Jon & Vangelis

Two titans of prog meet and out prog themselves with prog in a very pro-prog kind of way. Jon Anderson of Yes joins forces with Vangelis of Aphrodites Child to forge an unholy progressive rock alliance bringing the auditory senses an extra dose of twee, sax and plinky plonky synth.

I used to really like this album when I was younger. I had it on CD, then on tape and just to be format friendly, nicked it off the internet. I think by the third time I had obtained this album, I’d already overspent.

Sure, its a good album if you’re a fan. But it’s certainly a product of the time. Just too twee. You half expect to sprout a kaftan and start waving a smudge stick about the place while sticking up Roger Dean posters everywhere just by listening to it.

Great if you like Greek blokes with beards and mop haired guys from Altrincham with inexplicable American accents.

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The Best of Gothic Rock – Various Artists [#167]

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71aYVc-ahvL._SL500_SY355_ The Best of Gothic Rock- Various Artists
Only it’s not.

It’s not what I’d class as “Gothic” anyway. At least with my modern more refined ears. Instead I would call these two compilations “The Best of Big Boobed Operatic Singers Accompanying Euro Goth Metal Bands” . 

Both albums contain a nice introduction to bands such as Nightwish, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil. Ideal music for a middle aged wanna be goth to indulge in, reinvent themselves and annoy the wife with.

As we will see, these albums had a profound influence on my own musical tastes and we will be seeing a few of the bands featured, multiple times over the course of this project.

Track listing as follows:

Volume 2 =
1. Within Temptation – Mother Earth
2. Nightwish – Bless The Child
3. Beseech – Illusionate
4. Trail of Tears – Liquid View
5. Lacuna Coil – Swamped
6. Therion – Ljusalfheim
7. Myriads – The Sanctum Of My Soul
8. Flowing Tears – Serpentine
9. Within Temptation – Deceiver of Fools
10. Moonspell – Nocturna
11. Sentenced – Guilt and Regret
12. Divercia – Everlasting
13. After Forever – Monolith of Doubt
14. Tristinia – Tender Trip on Earth
15. Sirenia – Sister Nightfall

Volume 3 =

1 The Rasmus – In the Shadows 4:16
2 Within Temptation – Running Up That Hill 3:57
Epica – The Phantom Agony 9:00
Nightwish  – End of All Hope 3:54
5 After Forever – Intrinsick 6:52
Tristania – A Sequel of Decay 6:31
7 Apocalyptica feat Nina Hagen – Seemann 4:00
8 Tarot – Pyre of Gods 4:34
9 Sonata Arctica – Victoria’s Secret 4:43
10 Sirenia – At Sixes and Sevens 6:44
11 Therion – Enter Vril-Ya 6:37
12 Penumbra – The Last Bewitchment 5:10
13 My Dying Bride – My Hope, My Destroyer 6:47
14 Autumn – Along Ethereal Levels 4:05

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#164 – The Best of Electric Light Orchestra

R-1595939-1342163964-6251 The Best of Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne and his beard again and yet another “Best of” compilation for the band. It seems to me that all ELO did was release regular “Best of” albums.

Of course I know that’s not entirely accurate.

This “Best of” as compared to the other “Best of” is clearly a best of best ofs. Some of best of tunes from ELO’s best of albums feature here including:

Livin’ Thing (from many of the best of compilations)
Mr Blue Sky (from all of the best of compilations)
and
Standin’ in The Rain (a first on their Best of compilations)

Perhaps that’s what they’re best at? Making Best ofs. Meh.

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#163 – The Best of Depeche Mode Covers – Various Artists

StegzyThe Best of Depeche Mode Covers – Various Artists

And so we arrive at the first of many downloaded “amatuer compilations”. The Best of Depeche Mode Covers appeared on Usenet sometime in 2012 just toward the end of my access to fast broadband.

It appears that there are many cover versions of Depeche Mode songs. From Rammstein all the way through to Nina Hagen, the bands that have at some point been influenced by DM have paid tribute by recording a cover version.

This particular compilation is a fan based one and, and I’ve always wanted to say this,  is not available in the shops. However, I’ll pop the track list here so you can maybe try compiling it yourself.

 

1 Personal Jesus – Marilyn Manson
2 I Feel You – Placebo
3 Stripped – Rammstein
4 Enjoy the Silence – Tori Amos
5 Master and Servant – Nouvelle Vague
6 Shake The Disease – Hooverphonic
7 Dream On – Scala & Kolacny Brothers
8 I Just Cant Get Enough – Nouvelle Vague
9 Policy of Truth – Automob
10 Black Celebration – Galaxy Hunter
11 It’s No Good – Orphans Of Infamy
12 Behind the wheel – Topazz
13 It’s No Good – Saga Nordanstahl
14 Behind The Wheel – Pain
15  Shake the Disease – Odyssey
16 Personal Jesus – Nina Hagen
17 Freelove – Blank & Jones
18 Enjoy The Silence – Scala And Kolacny Brothers
19 See You – Flunk
20 Precious – Anam (Feat. Mary F)

 

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#160 – The Best of 1990 – 2000 – U2

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 17.03.11The Best of 1990 – 2000 – U2

At some point between 1990 and 1995 someone once suggested to me that I should like U2. Fact is, I couldn’t stand them.

Bono is a knob, this is a universal constant, but Adam Clayton sounds like someone who should be an estate agent and anyone that calls themselves “The Edge” is obviously trying to emulate someone calling themselves “The Cool” or “The Hipster”. With the same effect.

For some reason this compilation is in my collection. I can’t stand U2. There are one or two songs I tolerate but they’re not on this compilation. They’re nothing special. People used to say how U2 were the sound of Northern Ireland and how they spoke about the troubles through their music. Perhaps they did. Perhaps having grown up during that time, the songs I tolerate still resonate with me. But, please, someone needs to stick a sock in Bono’s mouth.

And a pillow case over his head.

In my mind, the gritty Northern Ireland sound was produced to a better standard by Mike Scott and his Waterboys. Unfortunately, while the Waterboys later went down the Folky God Bothering Environmentalist Rout, U2 went down the “We’re the best so get used to it” Self Opinionated Bollocksfest Route.

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#156 – Best of – Nouvelle Vague

Best of - Nouvelle VagueBest of – Nouvelle Vague

Sexy twee core covers of popular songs by those Frenchies.

Nice for those moments when seductive versions of popular songs are an absolute must.

I don’t know what it is about Nouvelle Vague. They always make me feel sleezy and unclean. Like I should be walking around semi dressed listening to them in my old town French apartment overlooking a market square, smoking Gitanes and looking moody while a sultry dark haired French type wearing one of my shirts and nothing much else drapes herself seductively over the furniture.

 

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#154 – The Best Indie Anthems – Various Artists

The Best Indie Anthems - Various ArtistsThe Best Indie Anthems – Various Artists

This compilation starts off well. Opening with Radiohead’s High and Dry, Catatonia’s Road Rage and the odd gem from atypical nineties/noughties inde bands.

But then about the twentieth track, it appears that the compiler has given up and opted just to put twenty songs that happened to be on the radio as he or she was compiling the album. The theme to the box office flop Lost in Space for example. Hardly indie.

It’s like when you go into a pub and ask for a pint of real ale. The landlord or barman fetches you a pint of something like Greene King or something from Shepherds Neame or Adnams. Yes, way back in the dusty mists of time when our pubs had mainstream beers like Tetley, John Smiths and Trophy, such treats might have seemed like real ale. But in today’s environment this is not the case. Greene King et al are now just as bad as the Tetleys and Scottish Newcastles of the day.

Indeed such logic can be applied to the Indie genre of music. The majority of artists that try to pass themselves off as Indie are as mainstream as Sony and Virgin Records and have no true claim to the indie crown. Blur for example. They’re so mainstream they’re akin to the M1.

Shame really. I had high hopes for this album.

 

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