Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Dummy – Portishead [#400]

Dummy - Portishead The nineties. A time of new beginnings. New Labour. New shoes. New hair. New protests. For some the nineties revolved around the hype over the potential “new age dawn” that the hairy bearded types, yogurt weavers, tofu knitters and floaty vagina types promised us would arise at midnight on the 1st January 2000, further fuelled by the likes of X Files and acceptance of associated “alternative” theories and television and other media’s thirst to provide Forteana via whatever programme concept they could think up over a copy of Fortean Times and a really strong joint.

The sound tracks to most of these programmes included songs from today’s album. You could almost guarantee it. More so, the band’s music began to appear in nineties dramas aimed at twenteenies such as This Life and the like. Indeed, if anything says nineties music to me, it’s Portishead.

But my introduction to their music came a long time before BBC documentaries about Parapsychology, UFOs or ghosties. It was a former acquaintance who introduced me to their music. Round about the same time as the same former acquaintance introduced me to Lara Croft. I was transfixed. Not just by Lara Croft’s figure, but by the weirdness that tracks such as Mysterons and Sour Times conveyed.  Later, that same album became to be even more influential and prominent in my life.

Listening to it again for the music project, it brought back all kinds of memories. Memories long unstirred. Fond memories. Memories of experimentation. Memories of people I haven’t seen or heard from in a very long time. Happy memories. Memories of a blossoming time for me and many of my contemporary peers.

Such is the power of music.

We’ll see Portishead five more times in this music project, again, all albums that were released at significant points in my life. So I’ll no doubt talk more about the band then. But for now, I’ll leave this entry with a song that should haunt you as much as it haunts me.

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Disintegration – The Cure [#375]

DIRTY+DANCINGDisintegration – The Cure

Steelrattus here again, with the fourth of my guest posts in this seven day run.

Oddly, I’ve already encountered this album twice in the last week. Firstly, it was mentioned in the latest episode of Mr. Robot. Secondly, it features in a bizarre scene in the film Ant-Man. If I were superstitious I’d probably cross myself with a black cat as this is the third time the album has crossed my path this week. But I’m not superstitious, so I shall just marvel at the coinsequences.

Disintegration is one of the two albums in this seven day stint that I am already familiar with. <Anecdote>1989. I was at Sixth Form College, probably my happiest time while being edumacated. Finally I was surrounded by intelligent charismatic peers. The only problem for this historic recounting is that I’m not certain how I ended up buying Disintegration. I do remember that there was a guy in the year above us who I locked onto, from a distance, as a bit of a role model. He was classic-80s-guy, with a chiselled jaw, and blow dried Don Johnson hair. And I remember him wearing Cure t-shirts, which seemed at odds with his look. So it was perhaps due to this guy and curiosity that I ended up buying the CD – yes, I had owned a CD player for 1-2 years at this point, and this must have been one of a few albums that I owned by 1989.</Anecdote>

I still feel much the same when I listen to the album as I did when I first listened to it all those years ago, and was blown away by the sound. The album opens with the epic and strident Plainsong, with its rumbling powerful sound. This then launches into the heartbreak of Pictures of You, which became a “favourite” breakup song of mine. There are echoes of Plainsong in Closedown, another dark powerful song. This is followed by the much more upbeat Love Song – yes it is, listen to the lyrics – although The Cure somehow still seem to make love sound mournful. Then seemingly back to darkness again with the much more abstract Last Dance. This is followed by the most famous of the tracks on the album, and arguably The Cure’s career, Lullaby, which is more abstract again, and clearly not drug influenced. For me at this point the tracks begin to blend a bit, with the dark sound of Fascination Street, Prayers for Rain, The Same Deep Water as You, Disintegration, Homesick, and finally the close out track Untitled. This is not to belittle these tracks, they are all excellent, but just don’t stick as individually in my mind as those that are earlier on the album. They almost feel like a themed B-side, although I’m not sure offhand whether they would have been the literal B-side to the album.

As a sufferer of depression, Disintegration feels like the quintessential depression album… my quintessential depression album at least. I can’t think of an album that oozes depressive feelings quite like this album, and I have to be careful listening to too much of it, particularly the latter half as it can crash my mood. It’s no surprise that Robert Smith, the lead singer, lyricist, and co-producer, was suffering from depression and a crisis-of-age at the time the album was written. This aside from problems within the band. Despite this though I feel the album is a work of genius from a band that was at its peak.

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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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