Ten Songs by Grant Nicol

A big thank you to Allen Miles for this opportunity and experience. I, like him, tried to do this without the plethora of British rock bands that I always seem to spout at people when they ask me what sort of music I listen to. Doing this list without The Cure, The Cult, The Smiths or Joy Division forced me to look at the bands and songs that influenced my tastes in somewhat more formative years and the moments of live magic that have stayed with me ever since rather than simply repeating the names of my favourite songs from my record collection. It has been a memorable experience recreating the moments that shaped my musical past and present.

 

 

 

  1. Add It Up – Violent Femmes

There was a time in my life, about a year in fact, when you couldn’t go to a party anywhere in Auckland without hearing the Violent Femmes first album in its entirety at least ten times over the course of any given evening. It became an anthem for every misconstrued, ill-thought of and awkward teenager there ever was. ‘Add It Up’ is a song about the difficulties of getting laid as a teenager aimed squarely at a demographic who think about nothing else. In New Zealand Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo quickly became part of musical folklore and their concert in Auckland touring the mighty follow up album, ‘Hallowed Ground’ was extraordinary. Their eponymous first album went gold on our tiny islands faster than anywhere else in the world. Gordon’s haunting and yet menacing vocals still resonate today and it’s hard to imagine how bands such as the awesome Placebo could have ever existed without this one coming first.

 

  1. This Must Be The Place – Talking Heads

‘Speaking In Tongues’ was another album that was a revelation to my teenage ears. As was all of Talking Head’s early albums. ‘Fear Of Music’ and ‘Remain In Light’ have to be mentioned here as well. They opened my eyes and ears to the way that music could be looked upon as a performance art-form as opposed to simply a recorded medium. This culminated in their 1984 movie, ‘Stop Making Sense’ which was more like going to see a concert than a movie at the cinema with people dancing in the aisles and singing along to all the songs. Talking Heads become the uber-hip benchmark for all other cool bands of the late 70’s and early 80s. David Byrne and his collaborations with Brian Eno were also heavily influential especially their ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ album which I had the dubious honour of listening to just as a dose of psilocybin was kicking in one night. ‘The Jezebel Spirit’ was indeed an interesting choice to start that night off with.

tALKING HEADS

  1. A New England – Billy Bragg

This was the first real love affair I had with a musician’s work. I saw Billy Bragg five times over the course of a year and a half in Auckland. His brutal honesty and heart-broken lyrics hit a chord like no other performer at that time. Such simple and yet beautiful songs performed with just a guitar slung around his neck and his heart worn on both sleeves were a breath of fresh air in a time of synth-pop and New Romantic over-indulgences. His plaintiff love songs sung in his unmistakeable accent were unlike anything else we had heard in NZ before. His live concerts were raw and real with his cover of The Clash’s ‘Garageland’ in particular bringing back the best days of British punk. His songs rang out from the stage like poetry put to music. Sonnets with an electric guitar commenting on everyday life through the eyes of a realist trying so very hard not to become a cynic.

 

  1. Jennifer’s Veil – The Birthday Party

This song was the beginning of the end for me. Or the beginning of the beginning, or the end of the beginning of the end. Something like that. I’ll never know for sure. What it definitely was, was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the music, novels and screenplays of Nick Cave. My friends and I conspired to get this song to the top of Auckland student radio station BFM’s Alternative Top Ten chart and keep it there. And we did. For almost two whole months. The Mutiny EP was the first thing I listened to that scared me. It affected me in the same way that Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ did and the way the ‘The Exorcist’ did as well. It was proof that scary could be fun. It’s beautiful (albeit in a pretty weird fucking way) and it’s horrible too. It’s the musical equivalent of disease-ridden wounds and trench warfare nightmares that you could never fully recover from even if you did survive. Nick has gone on to write some of the most beautiful love songs ever written and some of the most disturbing images ever transmitted from one human being to another. And I love him for them both. For beauty and disgust go hand in hand in this world. That is an inescapable truth.

 

  1. Celebrated Summer – Husker Du

These guys were the greatest band in the world. The first sensitive and emotionally relevant punk band. The Clash had certainly been emotive but these guys wrote love songs. And meant them. It heralded the beginning of something completely new in punk and ‘New Day Rising’, ‘Flip Your Wig’, ‘Candy Apple Grey’ and ‘Warehouse: Songs And Stories’ were all staggering albums. If you were to look at the American rocks bands of the last thirty years there wouldn’t be too many of any quality who wouldn’t cite these guys as a significant influence. They were the first punk band to be signed to a major label and considering that they probably never allowed themselves to hit their potential the indent they left on music was truly unforgettable. Nirvana and The Foo Fighters in particular owe enormous debts to the trailblazing exploits of Husker Du. Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton gave their all so that others could follow in their footsteps.

husker2

  1. The Mission Soundtrack – Ennio Morricone

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a song but I couldn’t pick one track off this soundtrack that would have told the whole story. One night in the late 80s a group of friends and I headed to a disused WW2 bunker under an old gun emplacement dressed as outcasts from a Zodiac Mindwarp video. We spent the evening in there covered head to toe in leather, bandannas and the glowing liquid contents of a dozen Cyalume sticks sprayed liberally over every surface in the place, including ourselves. We were of course all completely off our heads on acid at the time. There could be no other explanation for such behaviour. The space we created looked like the universe seen inside out and upside down from the brain of a giant insect supernova and all the time we were listening to Ennio Morricone’s masterpiece. It was the most religious and spiritual experience of my life and if God does actually exist he was definitely checking us out that night. For we were on a par with him. Morricone’s music transports you to another time and place of your choosing. It is what cathedrals would sound like if they could make their own music without our help. It is a recording from above delivered to us through the ears, fingers and imagination of an Italian master. God bless him.

 

  1. Man of Golden Words – Mother Love Bone

The song I want to be buried to. Andy Wood’s painful soul-aching lyrics on this track from one of the greatest rock albums ever made can break your heart into a thousand pieces. And if you spend too much time thinking about how he was to die shortly after recording it they probably will. The sorrow within the songs on this album as it swells towards its end is immeasurable. Listening to it one night (with the aid of LSD admittedly) I realised that what on the outside appears to be a great American psychedelic rock album is actually the journal of a truly beautiful man sliding away from us into the arms of heroin. It starts off as a celebration of life and spirituality with the joyous ‘This Is Shangrila’ but slowly becomes darker and darker still until you find yourself at ‘Man Of Golden Words’ and ‘Crown Of Thorns’.

“Wanna show you something like the joy inside my heart, seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog.”

‘Temple Of The Dog’ would become the tribute album made in his memory shortly after his death by his flatmate Chris Cornell and the guys who would go on to become Pearl Jam. Along with the death of Jeffrey Lee Pierce this was one of the greatest untimely losses ever to American rock.

  1. The Ship Song – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Now I know that technically I shouldn’t be using the same artist here twice but this seems so far removed from his earlier days with The Birthday Party that I thought I might get away with it. ‘The Ship Song’ was the song I wanted to get married to back in the days when I thought I might actually wind up getting married. They’re long gone but this is still one of the most sweepingly beautiful love songs ever written (along with ‘Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For’ and ‘Straight To You’) by a man who understands poetry as a way to woo any woman’s soul like no one else on this planet. No one still alive anyway. If this doesn’t make you want to fall in love your heart has long ceased to work properly. I have been fortunate enough to have seen Nick live twice. Once with The Bad Seeds and once solo with nothing more than a piano to aid him and frankly that’s all he needs. All his songs begin on a keyboard and songs such as ‘The Ship Song’ don’t need anything else.

news nick cave rc

 

  1. My Iron Lung – Radiohead

One of the greatest live experiences of my life. I saw Radiohead play in Sydney when they were at the peak of their powers touring ‘OK Computer’. At that point in their career they only had three albums to pick their set-list from which is what made the show so good. Because those albums were three of the finest rocks albums ever. ‘Pablo Honey’, ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’ are all completely different and that has always been part of what makes Radiohead so unique. Never wanting to stand still they have continually pushed the boundaries of what they have done. Thom Yorke’s towering vocals and Jonny Greenwood’s awesome prowess as a guitar player and multi-instrumentalist made them a true force to be reckoned with. These guys were quite simply magical in their heyday.

 

  1. Popplagið – Sigur Rós

The moment when the wave broke for me (to steal a phrase from the late great Hunter S. Thompson). A massive turning point in my life. Reduced to a gibbering speechless idiot after first seeing these guys live in Reykjavík I was forced to admit to myself that there was no other place on earth I wanted to live apart from Iceland. A move that has proved to be the best thing I’ve ever done with myself. They are still the most incredible live act I have ever seen and with six years in my twenties as a guitar technician for a number of rock bands I have seen hundreds of live shows. I have now seen Sigur Rós three times. I travelled to Denmark to see them at the Roskilde Festival and have also seen them in Dublin. They are beyond any doubt one of the ‘must see before you die’ bands in the world. The sensory overload that they inflict upon you at their concerts has reduced a number of people to tears. I had a girl standing in front of me at Roskilde who wept for about three songs. Not because there was anything wrong with her but because she was simply overwhelmed by what was going on in front of her. Their songs are from another planet. They don’t sing about anything. They open you up and let whatever is in there come out. Most of the time it is joy. In the shape of tears. Popplagið is the last song they play at all there shows because after it has finished there is simply nowhere left to go. They have taken you as far as you can go and it is simply time for them to let you go and get back to reality. You will probably find that your reality has changed a little bit after seeing them in the flesh. I did.

 

Grant is 45 and lives in Reykjavík where he is an author. He has two books published both of which are set in Iceland, ‘On A Small Island’ and ‘The Mistake’ are available on Amazon as eBooks or paperbacks at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-Island-Grant-Nicol-ebook/dp/B00I8LM48Y/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mistake-Grant-Nicol-ebook/dp/B00RMB0AFA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid

 

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 2

tilt

Number 2 – Scott Walker – Tilt

I am well aware that very few of the people who read this article will have heard this album, and even fewer will like it. It is infamously one of, if not the, most difficult album ever released by a major artist, but before I tell you how good it is, a bit of context.

The Walker Brothers, in 1964, were the biggest band in the world. Bigger than The Beatles. Belting out magnificently rich and melancholy ballads, they were rabidly pursued by teenage girls who were confused by their hormones, wherever they went. As one story went, they were once surrounded by a legion of screaming harpees in their getaway car after a show, and they were so tenacious in their desire to gain contact with these impossibly handsome stars, that these sex-craved harridans actually managed to tip the car onto its roof, where underneath Messrs Engel, Maus and Leeds (none of them were actually called Walker) all sustained serious injuries. Noel Engle, who had been the bass player, and had played the part of Scott Walker, had been forced to the front of the band when a song called Love Her had called for a deeper voice. He was the best-looking member of the band, and after providing lead vocals on mega-hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make It Easy On Yourself, retreated into himself, desperate to maintain his artistic integrity, terrified by the trappings of fame and fortune. In one interview, which is possibly the single coolest moment in the history of humanity, while his bandmates yapped away about on camera about how great it was to be making money and pulling endless broads, Scott lounged in the corner of the dressing room, his face masked by enormous shades and his shoulders wrapped in a shawl, a bottle of beer dangling from his fingers, and drawled, “I’m in it for different things…” you can see it at 13:49 in this clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB8NKS17U98

Scott became increasing arty and obscure, crafting intricate, gloomy operettas and covering songs by sweaty Belgian cabaret singer Jacques Brel. In particular he performed an incredibly morose ballad entitled My Death on his Saturday tea-time TV show. It is often said that George Michael was the first pop star to eschew commercial success for artistic credibility; nah, Scott Walker got there first. His solo albums continued to top the hit parade, due to the sky-scraping beauty of his own compositions, his impossible good-looks and bravado, and the manner, similar to The Smiths and early Suede, in which the listener could live in his songs. He was a star on his own terms. Then, something strange happened. After the top three success of Scott 1, Scott 2, and Scott 3, Scott 4, his most accomplished album to that point and one which would take the number 31 spot on this list, was released in the midst of the hippy revolution in 1969. And it bombed. Not as in, it failed to crack the top ten; it failed to chart at all.

Nobody quite knows why this happened, and the album was deleted soon after. Walker was deeply scarred by the snub, and after releasing a couple of lacklustre albums comprised mainly of MOR cover versions, he disappeared for a few years and descended into drink. A comeback with the Walker Brothers came in 1975, by way of the hugely popular break-up song No Regrets, and with one album left on the deal, Nite Flights was released in 1978, a twelve-track album on which each member composed four songs. The compositions of Gary and John were perfectly serviceable, but Scott’s tracks were so far ahead it was almost embarrassing. The Shutout, Fat Mama Kick and Nite Flights were pounding, visionary pieces, reminisecent of Station To Station-era Bowie and later Joy Division, but his final track on the album, The Electrician, was astonishing; cold, suspenseful and spiralling; as if they’d put a torch song on the Eraserhead soundtrack. It was almost note for note ripped off by Ultravox for Vienna, and the aforementioned David Bowie calls it the best song ever written. This was the direction he would pursue on his next album, Climate Of Hunter (1984), and in the age of Bon Jovi and Dire Straits, this brittle and fascinating album would shift less than a thousand copies and is said to be Virgin’s worst-selling record ever.

And then… silence.

Eleven year’s worth of silence, to be precise. Tilt would be released in 1995, apparently having taken six years to record. It sounds like the work of a man who had not spoken to another human being in a decade. From the cover art to the bizarre lyrics, it is the most starkly self-possessed record ever made.
When I was about nineteen, I bought this album, with the view to completing my Scott catalogue. I’d snapped up the first four, and everything else was unavailable on CD. Nothing could have prepared me for the stylistic chasm between Scott 4 and Tilt. The first track, Farmer In The City, is something that has no parallel in this far reaching medium of popular music. There is a road about six miles away from where I live, which acts as a bypass between the local villages of Dunswell and Beverley. There are no streetlights down this road, no houses for miles and if you travel down there after dark, only the headlamps of traffic will cast any sort of illumination. About halfway down, on the left, is a derelict barn about five hundred yards from the road, which will be lit fleetingly when a lone car drives past. In my imagination, Farmer In The City was recorded there.

This song must be listened to in the dark, alone, preferably on headphones. It is simply the heaviest piece of music ever written. I don’t mean in the way that silly bands like Metallica and Slipknot are heavy; I mean in the sense that when you listen to it, it weighs on your shoulders, it drags your senses down. It starts with a faraway tinkle of a triangle, then the deepest, most gravity-laden pull of double bass you’ll ever hear. A few plucked acoustic guitar notes and then Walker starts singing. And it’s different. That soaring baritone of thirty years earlier is now smothered in chloroform, hopeless, abandoned, like the voice of an oncologist who finds himself singing on his way home from work. Strings lurch to and fro behind him and the relentless procession of ugly-beautiful noise illuminates the intensely surreal lyrics that this loneliest of all men wails. Seemingly obscure literary references and snapshots of half-remembered dreams, the words to Farmer In The City are apparently about Italian film director Pier Paolo Passolini, who was murdered at the premiere of his hugely controversial and quite frankly revolting movie Salo, which was considered blasphemous by a bunch of hardline Catholic nutcases. The repeated “Do I hear 21?” refrain is possibly about the age of military conscription in Mussolini’s regime, and the passage from 4:42 to 5:46, where he howls of how he “Used to be a citizen” as the string section carry this twenty ton weight to the heavens on a other-worldy crescendo is absolutely incomparable, the most dramatic moment in the history of recorded music. The last line, almost an afterthought: “Paolo, take me with you.”

Anyhow, that’s the first track. Six and a half minutes long, and offering a wider scope than most artists manage in entire careers. The second track, The Cockfighter, begins with a bizarre, near-silent montage of wails, distant gusts of wind and odd scratching noises that you have to strain to hear until a terrifying moment after about a minute and a half when an industrial cacophony slams through the speakers at full volume as Walker howls “It’s a beautiful night, yeah.” After a while the track settles into a Joy Division-esque pounding rhythm and multi-layered voices intone lyrics that again, make absolutely no sense. It also features an instrumental break that sounds like someone beating a cow to death with a guitar. In Bouncer See Bouncer, we start with the sound (honestly) of scuttling and chirping locusts, which is laid over a relentless thump of a bass drum, whilst the mantra “Spared, I’ve been spared” is repeated, along with other deeply esoteric lines. It is staggeringly bleak, bringing to mind scenes of men in death camps marching to their end. After four minutes of this nightmare, the black clouds break and a ray of the most exquisite sunshine shines through in the form of harp and pipe organ as he sings beautifully of how much he loves this season, before the death march starts again.

Elsewhere, Manhattan features an enormous, slashing chorus of organ and ravaged guitar, along with lyrics such as “Scalper in the lampglow/scalper on a chair/stick wiped shirt?/and his arm somewhere” No, I don’t know either. Rosary is a simple piece for voice and reverbed electric guitar, and was performed live on Jools Holland in 1995 on condition that he would only take the stage after the studio audience had all left. The title track is arguably the most accessible track on the album, and the only piece here that could be played by a conventional rock band, even though it does feature guitars that seem simple yet are somehow disorientating, in the same way that you can inexplicably lose your balance in a hall of mirrors.

The two tracks at the heart of the record, Bolivia ’95 and Patriot (A Single) are vast, deeply layered compositions, cinematic in their scope, both featuring operatic structure and amazingly intense vocals. It is a testament to how far this man retreated into himself that a line as seemingly innocuous as “I brought nylons from New York/Some had butterflies, some had flecks.” can sound as like an incantation of death for the whole world. The chorus line to Bolivia ’95 is “Lemon bloody cola.” and he sings it has if he’s just heard that his mother has died. It is dense to the point of being impenetrable.

Tilt is the bravest record ever made by a major artist. It is far beyond the realms of pop music, and far beyond the realms of rock. It is heavier than anything by Nine Inch Nails or Einstürzende Neubauten and it’s more intricate in its make-up than the works of the electric Miles Davis or even Rite Of Spring-era Igor Stravinsky. The only album in mainstream rock’s cannon it would compare to would be Bowie’s Low, but only then in terms of the soundscaping and introspection. It is not a record for the MP3 generation, as it is to be consumed as a whole, and the artwork and the format of the lyric sheet are very much part of the package. It is not a record to be enjoyed, rather it is to be appreciated, and I’m well aware that the majority of people who will check it out on the strength of this review will absolutely loathe it. It is a record completely without precedent, it has influenced precisely no-one and will never appear on Top 100 Albums Ever lists. It is, however, a staggering artistic achievement, and it will haunt you for a long time after you hear it, much in the same way that you can’t shake the image of Brad Pitt’s face in the last scene of Seven. If you are interested in any way in what can be achieved in the medium of recorded sound, how one man can interpret the sounds in the darkest corridors of his mind in the most extreme way possible, then you should listen to Tilt. It is a terrifying, punishing, but deeply rewarding experience, and in my opinion there has only been one album ever made that is better than this one.

The lyrics don’t make any sense.

Best Tracks: Farmer In The City, Bolivia ’95, Patriot (A Single)

Best Moment: The afore mentioned passage from 4:42 in Farmer In The City. Listen to it on headphones, loud, in the dark, with your eyes shut. Your body will start to vibrate.

Like this? Try: It’s a tough one, but I’ll go with Up by Peter Gabriel (2002)

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Ten Songs by Darren Sant

If you asked me to name my top ten songs again in twelve months I’d probably picked a totally different ten, such is the nature of my ever shifting love of music. It would have been easier to name a hundred tracks. Here goes, in no particular order:

Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Quite simply, this song exudes funk. So much so that it makes a bald, fat old git like me want to dance. It makes me feel alive – that is why it has made my top ten.

Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack
I first heard this track on the soundtrack to the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. I like songs that talk to me about reality and there’s a very hefty dose of that in this track. Funky as hell too.

Sometimes by James
You can hear the rain. You can feel the desperation. A track that is exceptionally well produced and album that would make my top ten every time.

The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young
A song that oozes melancholy by a master song writer. Young’s plaintive vocal is a warning so heartfelt it’s impossible not to take notice.

Waterfall by The Stone Roses
With my friend, Shaun Kelly, I saw the band at the height of their powers at a small venue in Paris. Full of cheap red wine we felt like kings of the world and as this track washed over me I felt that anything was possible.

Kelly’s Blues by The Triffids
In the early days of CDs I happened upon their album Calenture. Every track is a gem and the concept of Calenture stays strong with several of the tracks. The album was so different to anything I’d heard at the time. I still play it, often.

Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
Stoned off my gourd having ingested a large chunk of cannabis I lay in bed and although it may be a cliché I played Dark Side of the Moon. As I grew increasingly light headed this album took on a life of its own. Classic album and I’m not ashamed to be clichéd now and again! A good friend of mine lost his Father to a brain tumour and it was his Dad’s wish to play the track at the funeral. The dark humour (and bravery) wasn’t lost on anyone.

Northern Sky by Nick Drake
Because no top ten of mine would be complete without a Drake track. Rest in peace you melancholic genius. You left us too young.

Karma Police by Radiohead
An influence from my late brother. With the release of OK Computer I finally “got” Radiohead. Check out the video to this track and if you’re feeling flush splash out their DVD 7 Television Commercials. You won’t regret it

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition was In) by Kenny Rogers
Another track I love because of a film. This song could have been written for the dude. Treat yourself and watch the Big Lebowski

daz

Darren Sant is originally from Stoke but now lives in Hull, he is the editor of hard-hitting fiction site http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/, and he is the author of several books and collections, most notably Tales From The Longcroft Estate. You can check him out at his website http://darrensant-writer.yolasite.com/, and follow his tweets @groovydaz39 & @longcroft_tales

Putting The “Fun” In Funeral by Gill Hoffs

As a depressed teenager, I spent a considerable amount of time scrawling my funeral set-list in the back of my school folders (along with biro drawings of gravestones and dangling bodies, but I digress) instead of learning about tenses in Latin and French and how to do something hideously complicated with sin, tan, and log (still no idea). Cheery choons such as the Manics’ “From Despair to Where” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFewXLjXTSU and their version of “Suicide is Painless” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y11f8Oc25AI were on there along with Radiohead’s “Creep” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyRh1EOyKOM . I’m now happy and healthy – phew! – but along with setting out actual practical preferences for disposing of my meatsack when I do finally pop my clogs (sky burial or body farm just FYI as I’m a bit worried I’ll be buried/burnt alive and this is safest in case I wake up) I figured it might be fun to get some possibilities on the internet where everything is forever, unlike me.

So in no particular order:

The Final Taxi – Wreckless Eric (thanks to The Workshy Fop for this recommendation!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHBwBfqYhIM

Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jtpf8N5IDE

Born To Die – Lana Del Rey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bag1gUxuU0g

Lump – Presidents of the United States of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-aPyvRL9n4

Live Forever – Oasis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_2mWhfOhGU

I Know You’re Out There Somewhere – Moody Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjImFYf2Vzc

Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQcUyhoxTg

Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY

Waltz #2 (XO) – Elliott Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2sfwky4RqQ

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrTB-iiecqk it’s also one of the coolest videos ever.

Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ld6ombnGnA

Play Dead – Bjork http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiHZ35TPfM

If I die of the plague or something similarly foul and catching and thus require cremation, the Bangles’ classic “Eternal Flame” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoOFn3wQV4 is also a must, and if it’s windy then of course “Smoke gets in your eyes” by The Platters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3l001-zSA4 . But if I’m not left out on a mountain for carrion crows or fenced off somewhere for experiments with maggots (my body’s so full of chocolate and Nutella they’ll likely look like fat wriggly vermicelli), or burnt into a dusty grey sneeze-hazard, then clearly Faith No More’s “Digging the Grave” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grx08ehxXMM should be blasting out followed by The Cranberries’ “Zombie” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts .

If my fleshbag is disposed of on a Sunday (I’m atheist so maybe this would be a good day since most people I know are free) then clearly The Associates’ version of “Gloomy Sunday” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmjfFlq0cA would be fun, especially since it includes the cop-out but beautiful verse about it all being just a dream.

If I started to believe in reincarnation, I’d hope to be present at the big send-off somehow (preferably not as the oft imagined fly-on-the-wall) while Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuG9i5cwGW0 was playing. And while I’m wishing for specifics, let nobody who comes bring cut flowers or snottery tears but petfood for shelters and Nutella for foodbanks instead. And let them recollect the most cringe-making things I’ve ever done loud and proud (but only once I’m dead).

The Telegraph published a list last year which had Sinatra’s “My Way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePs6bHsQx6A as the top funeral tune, followed by Brightman and Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWQbuJ24Wzg . It’s probably fair to
say that if anything in good taste or that might be accused of being spiritually uplifting is played I’ll be rolling like the cartoon cherries in a fruit machine, and the only reason I’d want something like “Jar of hearts” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVFgfuiyBHw (the Glee version, naturally) played is if my body’s healthy enough to be used for organ donation. Fingers crossed it will.

I should probably note at this point that when my husband read this through his exact words were, “Hen, if you go first, I’m playing “Tramp The Dirt Down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t4-zDem1Sk . That’s an appalling list of songs. I hope I die first.” Any more of that and he won’t need a magic lamp and a genie to grant his wish. Anyway…

While “She’s Not Dead” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6s9rbLeBlE is a very tempting final choice (ahem), I think really the closing number should be “The Next Life” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur5qz2X1vAE by the utterly shaggable Suede, though it might be more fun to opt for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIgZ7gMze7A by Wham!. My list seems awfully short compared to the dozens of indie tracks I used to detail behind my schoolwork, so do feel free to add suggestions below.

 

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book ‘The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic” is out now from Pen & Sword. Get it in bookshops or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Hardback/p/6053. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time: Number 3

No 3. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

MyBloodyValentineLoveless
Let’s start with a sweeping statement, yet one that I genuinely believe.

There is no other album like this in the vast catalogue of rock music. It is the most innovative album since the sixties, and one that, if you’ve never heard it before, will truly break down your ideas of how guitar music can be created.

1991 was a freak of a year for classic albums. For the rock fan there was Nevermind or Achtung Baby, for the dance enthusiast there was Screamadelica or The White Room, for the beard-stroker there was Blue Lines, and for the weirdo there was Spiderland. If you fancied some jangly g chords there were superb albums from REM, Teenage Fanclub and Crowded House and the deeply unfashionable but actually great Stars by Simply Red would sell 4 million copies.

Then came the one that was conceived by a musical genius who’s like hadn’t been known since the days of pantaloons and powdered wigs, a ground-breaking kaleidoscope of noise with smeared edges, distorted melodies and sleep-talked vocals.

Loveless was the album that famously, or infamously, took Creation records to the brink of bankruptcy, it was alleged to have cost a quarter of a million pounds to record, which for a scottish indie label in the late-eighties/early-nineties was absolutely absurd and would necessitate the signing of some bolshie rock ‘n’ rollers from Burnage two years later to save the label. Kevin Shields, the maestro, conductor and virtuoso of all the madness, told Creation boss Alan McGee that he could record the album in five days. In actuality he spent two years holed up in the studio getting stoned and playing pool, and it wasn’t until goggle-eyed waif rhythm guitarist Belinda Butcher joined the recording process that things got done.

It was worth it. This is some of the greatest music ever made. I first received this record as a Christmas present from my step-sister, and played it not knowing what the hell to expect. The opener, Only Shallow, is one of the most shocking opening tracks in all of rock. It starts with four sharp snare hits, the only distinctive sound on the entire record, then a noise that I would describe as… let me think… imagine being stood about fifteen foot from a Boeing 747’s engine as it took off, whilst two blue whales whistled at each other a few hundred yards away, and every half second a nearby tower block is detonated. This attempt to describe a track on an album shows me up for the hack that I am, but I defy anyone to describe it themselves. This unholy yet sickly sweet cacophony is then pulled round into a blissful post-coital, or post-narcotic haze-like verse, with murmured, barely comprehensible vocals about druggy sex or sexy drugs, before the row kicks in again. If My Bloody Valentine had only ever released this one song, their place in history would have been assured.

The fact that they went on to craft another ten tracks in a similar vein is nothing short of a miracle. For those of you who understand how the sound of a guitar can be distorted, it is astonishing to think that this music was made without the use of a single effects pedal, rather Shields swears it was all done with tone shifters and graphic equalisers, and repeated, ground-breaking use of the tremolo arm. Not since the early work of Lou Reed had a musician utterly corrupted his instrument to achieve the sound he was looking for. To Here Knows When, which was staggeringly the lead single, is a piece of music that defies any sort of convention. It consists of looping feedback, and, at least from what I can pick out, seven droning guitar tracks, a flute, a shuffly drumbeat and a vocal on which it is impossible to distinguish a single word. It is allegedly the track on which Shields, proving himself to be the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick, spent three weeks recording a tambourine part. It sounds like having your ear nailed to the wall while your neighbour is hoovering while singing along to the radio.

The fact that it is followed by When You Sleep, arguably the most conventional track here, is typical of this album’s contrasts. A great, needling, gliding riff compliments a lovely choppy chord sequence and a vocal of which you can actually recognize words, even though they don’t actually mean much: “When I look at you… oh…. (incoherent mumuring)”

It is not really necessary to remember song titles on this album, as all the tracks flow together into one neon-lit, belly-warming suite, and it is individual moments of the swirling symphony that stand out rather than whole songs. Where once, on the previous album, Isn’t Anything, the songs were aggressive, and in the case of No More Sorry, downright disturbing, here they are utterly blissful; the colossal swinging to-and-fro of the lead riff of I Only Said, the vocal refrain on Blown A Wish, where you have absolutely no idea what she is singing, but for some reason you just feel like hugging the nearest object to you; the sheer sonic pleasure of Come In Alone and What You Want, and the mind-boggling innovation of Soon, during which you realise that New Order had spent ten years looking for a sound that someone else achieved at a stroke.

And then, track eight, Sometimes. If my mother, wife, daughter or Martyn reads this article, please bear in mind that I want this song played at my funeral. Never has a human being extracted such emotion out of his chosen medium as Shields did in the latter half of this song. Just listen to it. Alone.

Best Tracks: Only Shallow, Come In Alone, Sometimes

Best Moment: 3:21-onwards in Sometimes: The most beautiful passage of guitar music ever committed to tape.

Like this? Try: There isn’t one.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 32 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Al’s Top 30 Albums – No. 4

Number 4 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

astral

Music journalists love categorizing things. It makes things so much easier for them. Over the years a critical cannon of the best albums of any particular genre has emerged, and is genreally accepted without recourse. If you’re talking Pop, it’s Thriller, Pet Sounds or Like A Prayer. If it’s Rock, it’s Sgt Pepper’s, Led Zeppelin 4 or Rumours. Soul’s undisputed number one is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Kind Of Blue has the jazz market cornered, just as Never Mind The Bollocks is the greatest punk album ever and It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Name The Greatest Rap Disc Of All Time. These are accepted facts, just like your best centre-half ever is Franco Baresi, if you’re talking out and out centre-forwards it’s Gerd Muller or Van Basten, and between the sticks Lev Yashin or Gordon Banks is your man.

Albums like these have become part of a pantheon, a cemented twenty or so records that always end up at the top of muso’s GOAT lists and have been since the mid-eighties, usurped oh-so-rarely, only in the event of a Radiohead, Oasis or Nirvana. But this one record is always there, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Dark Side Of The Moon. The least talked-about work in these infernal lists defies any genre, which is why it’s so difficult to evaluate, certainly it is the album on my own list here that I’ve least looked forward to writing about. I do not claim to be a music journalist, or a musician, I am merely a fan, and therefore rather than picking this album apart as a true critic would, maybe I should write about this miraculous set of songs from a personal stand point. For this is a record that connects on a personal level in a way that even the very best music rarely does.

I bought Astral Weeks from Sydney Scarborough Records down King Edward Street in Hull when I was eighteen years old, in March or April 2000. It was part of one of my pay-day splurges on CDs that I did until the revolting compulsion of illegal downloading infected me about eight years later. In the plastic bag that swang from my arm that sunny spring morning were four albums: Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello (superb), Murder Ballads by Nick Cave (silly, but brilliant), and The Man Machine by Kraftwerk (slightly intimidating at the time), and this one. Aware of its towering reputation, it was the first of the four that I played upon my return home, and as I laid back on my single bed with the Sheffield Wednesday duvet cover and loaded it into my shitty Alba Hi-fi, I had no idea that this record would become an absolute staple of my life. The first few chords seemed like an old friend ruffling your hair, and the opening couplet, “If I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams” was easily the most poetic thing I’d ever heard in a song. I let the whole album play through, as it is one of those albums, like Dark Side Of The Moon and Endtroducing, that you absolutely must listen to as a whole to truly appreciate it. The themes and images kept circling through the songs, “gardens wet with rain”, the dogs barking, the “scrapbooks stuck with glue”, I thought it was, and I still do, the most beautiful melding of words and music ever recorded.

As i spoke of in my review of Television’s Marquee Moon, certain music plays to the head rather than the heart. Astral Weeks is the exact opposite. It is music featuring an attribute so rare in a white singer: soul. Van Morrison is the greatest white male singer that has ever lived. It is important that you understand that I have used the word singer here, rather than vocalist. There is a difference between being born gifted and merely learning the craft, which is why Robert De Niro will always be a greater screen presence than say, Keanu Reeves. A vocalist is someone who learns how to sing, Morrison is someone who just pours his heart out through his larynx, often seemingly unaware that he is actually singing, chewing on words until he’s spitting the juices out. And he is accompanied by a magnificent ensemble of musicians; listen to the way that Richard Davis’ supple, almost elastic bass lines propel Cyprus Avenue, unheard in rock before or since. The astonishing jazz arrangements on The Way Young Lovers Do, a song in the same vein as Fight Song by The Flaming Lips or The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite by REM, one of such intense momentum that it is impossible to listen to without your body responding in some way; and the centrepiece, Madame George, a glorious three-chord story of a Belfast transvestite, which, even at nigh-on ten minutes, you never want to end.

I am a deeply cynical individual, and I loathe words such as transcendental, passionate, spiritual. And yet this album seems to evoke such adjectives when I listen to it. I have listened to this album at least once a month for fourteen years, and it seems to take on the role of medicine, a blanket for the soul. I would be happy to start a campaign for primary school teachers to issue it to their pupils in their final year, just so they could learn how music, above anything they will learn in high school, can strike directly into the heart.

Van Morrison was twenty three years old when he recorded this. When I was twenty three I was vomiting into a gutter down Newland Ave.

Best Tracks: Beside You, The Way That Young Lovers Do, Madame George


Best Moment:
The vocal to Sweet Thing. Like having molten happiness poured into your ears.
Like this? Try: Sea Change by Beck, 2002

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Miles vs Chatterton

gabrael

Some of you may remember a bit back that I did a couple of articles about my time in the semi-legendary Hull punk band Sal Paradise. If you read the second one, you’ll remember that I spoke very highly of a chap called Mark Chatterton, who to this day I rate as the nicest man I met in my brief sojourn in the music industry. Mark is the singer in a Peter Gabriel tribute act called Gabrael and, being somewhat of a fan of the former Genesis man myself, I was keen to shoot Mark a few questions.

How’s it going Mark?

Hello Allen, I am very well thank you. It’s very nice that you think of me so nicely.

Tell us about GABRAEL.

GABRAEL is something I have been wanting to do since my earliest days being in bands. More years than i care to remember. The problem was, up until now finding the musicians that were interested in doing Peter’s music, as well as capable and confident enough to perform it. He isn’t the easiest of artists to tribute, as we are finding out all the time.

I have borne witness to your musical taste and it’s very varied. Why Peter Gabriel?

Its true, my musical tastes are very varied. i have my parents to thank for that. when i was growing up, we always had music playing in the house. As a result, i love listening to big band jazz, as well as motown thanks to my sister Lynn, reggae, rock, (as long as i can understand the vocalsI). Most important for me is the voice. I’m a big fan of a unique voice. Singers like Thom Yorke, Xavier Rudd, Paul Simon, Ben Okafor, Stevie Nicks, Marvin Gaye, Billy Holliday really evoke a reaction in me, just through the way they deliver a line, even just a phrase. The masters of vocal delivery for me though are Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel. Two totally different styles, but both can move me to tears, or make me dance, which is no mean feat.

I first heard Peter’s voice on a Genesis concept album called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway when I was eleven years old. Thirty seven years ago. A family member at the time recorded me onto tape the first half of a double concept album, telling me that the last half was “heavy going”, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Instantly, Peter’s voice struck a chord with me, and although the concept was supposed to be confusing, I instantly put images to his words to the point where i had the story of the album as a film playing in my head.
Also, the sound of the album was unlike anything i had heard before. its that album in particular that sparked my interest in sound,. I was captivated by the way the sound filled the left, right, downside, upside, front and rear and how sound, when cleverly manipulated, can play tricks on you. I actually heard sounds as colours and shades for the first tim. That’s what took me down my path to becoming a sound engineer.

I had other bands that I listened to at the time that I first heard this album, but Genesis, in particular the Gabriel era Genesis has always been with me. The rest, over the years have gone from my record collection, never to be replaced.


Gabriel is a phenomenal singer. From a personal stand point I rate the vocal to Biko as one of the top 5 performances in all of rock. Were you at all intimidated trying to re-create the work of such a gifted vocalist?

Maybe not intimidated by the task. but because i was sure that at some point in my life, i was going to get this together. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, not just for me, but also for whoever was going to make up he band. Because I have had decades of listening to his body of work, and digesting it subliminally, i was confident i could do my part. We, as a band would never be able to recreate 100% what he puts onto his studio albums. That would be impossible, but hearing the live albums has given us an insight as to how he performs the songs. Almost all of the tracks as we perform them, we have been referencing his live versions.

Regarding the track Biko, it is such a powerful song, very poignant, and although of a specific era, relating to a specific point in time, it’s a song that still resonates today.

You rehearsed for what seemed like an ice age before your first show. Was this a deliberate thing?

Absolutely a conscious decision. This is music that has to be right. Fans of Peter’s music i am assuming are very protective over his work. If we had rushed the songs just to perform them, they would not have been right, and that was not what any of us in the band wanted to do. It wouldn’t have been a good start. Every member of GABRAEL has been in bands for decades, and without using cliches, we have all really been there, done that and worn the t shirt out. So, although there was an eagerness in us to get out there, we knew we had to wait till we had things right.
Our first ever show was virtually unannounced, as a guest of Shine Over Babylon at a venue in our hometown. It was kind of a “lets see how NOT ready we are. Lets do a show, see where we are polished, and see what needs polishing”. As it turned out, although we made a few slight mistakes, on the whole it was better than any of us were expecting. And although it was an unannounced show, many people heard that we were performing, found out where and when, and turned up. We got a really good response to the show, which really did us all a power of good. It sort of confirmed that we were onto something here.

Signal To Noise is my favourite Peter Gabriel song. Will you be doing the weird shit like that or are you doing the crowd pleasers such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer?

Were gonna go right across the board with the set list for our first few shows, which is still being arranged at the moment. When approaching the set list, it’s fair to say that the rest of the band have followed my lead to some extent, with me knowing more of his stuff than the rest of the band for the first few rehearsals. Obviously, we have to play the “hits” such as Sledgehammer, Biko, Solisbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers and Don’t Give Up to mention a few. After that, we have all had a say in the remainder of the set. We did actually ask our Facebook followers to name songs which they wold like to see us perform, which has been interesting. A lot of obscure album tracks have popped up a few times. It’s been nice to gauge opinions of fellow fans.

We are picking the songs which are interesting, challenging, and fun to perform. I don’t want to give away too much about our set, but hopefully there will be something for everyone.


His music is often very complex, usually using a huge amount of studio wizardry. Did you find that your background as a sound engineer gave you a few ideas of how to recreate it in a live setting?

Listening to his studio albums with my live and recording engineers hat on, I do understand a lot about how he has put the songs together, or at least I think I do. We are currently working on the various sound loops Peter uses, creating our own versions. To recreate his studio sounds live would take an army of musicians.

GABRAEL would be something that, as a sound engineer I wold love to be controlling from a mixing desk in a live setting. I had the opportunity of working with Genes-ish a few years ago, and because I knew every part of every song they performed, I like to think I was able to give them the sound that they would have wanted the audience to hear.

Luckily, we have a wonderful sound guy called David Elf, who asides from being a really nice guy to work with, is a good sound engineer who cares about the sound he gives us. He is just as eager to get it right as we are. It will be down to him to add the trickery.

What are you hoping to achieve with this act Mark?

Not actually sure what we are hoping to achieve from this. It’s just something we are all very passionate about doing, and doing well. It would be nice to, at some point in the future, get onto some of the bigger stages and festivals. That’s something for further down the line though, but definitely our aim. We just want to put on spectacular shows that people come away from singing the songs.


Rattle us off a few dates, venues and stuff like that.

We have a couple more unannounced “dipping toes in the water” shows during August and September, just to get used to playing together as a band out of the comfort zone of our rehearsal rooms.
The next few main shows are at Hornsea Floral Hall on November 1st, Hennigans in Bolton at the end of November.
Our first full length Hull show is at Fruit on January 29th through our friends at GJM Music promotions. We have a few tricks up our sleeve for that one, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about what they are. Hopefully, it will be unlike any other show.

And do you have a website?

We have, yes. gabrael.co.uk. There isn’t a great deal on it yet. Until we have some music or video, it’s just a site. We are planning to go into the studio and do a live recording session with no overdubs. We just have to draft in the female vocalist, the final piece of the jigsaw that makes up GABRAEL, and then we will book a date with Dave and record maybe half a dozen tracks. Once we have them, we will probably launch the site with those songs, as well as some really cool photographs from our own photographer Ian.

Our motto with the website, as well as our approach to the shows is “build it, and they will come”.


There you go folks. These boys are worth checking out. Cheers for talking to us Mark. And… just out of interest, what is your favourite Peter Gabriel song?

I don’t have a particular favourite. I absolutely adore Father Son. I defy anyone to not like it. Lyrically, it says just enough, without saying too much. A very emotional song. You mentioned Signal To Noise, another favourite of mine. I love singing Family Snapshot, with its imagery that seems obvious but has a wonderful twist to the story at the end. There really are too many to mention. I really could be hear till the end of the year telling you what I like about any of his songs. Oh, Washing Of The Water, I absolutely adore his voice on that. See what I meet, I could be here for ages.

Thanks for the questions Allen, it’s been a pleasure answering them for you.