Thursday, 14 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.44 "Give Blood" Brakes (2005)

Brakes were only supposed to be a fun side-project but as soon as I picked up a copy of their debut album I was hooked and I don't think it left my virtual turntable for another 6 months.

Brakes were formed to provide an outlet for the songs of Eamon Hamilton and featured multi-talented brothers Thomas & Alex White (of Electric Soft Parade amongst many other bands) and Marc Beatty of The Tenderfoot. Eamon had formerly played keyboards on tour with British Sea Power where he gained a bit of a reputation for being unpredictable and used to regularly leave the stage to walk amongst the audience bashing a drum.

Give Blood is full of short blasts of indie-punk genius and includes several tunes that fail to crack the minute mark. Short songs with witty lyrics are another of my weak spots and you'll struggle to find an album that better scratches that itch. The album also includes Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit on a great version of Jackson, the Johnny Cash & June Carter duet, and Brighton based all-girl group The Pipettes on Sometimes Always by The Jesus and Mary Chain.

The video below of Hi, How Are You? is 50 seconds of vitriol that perfectly captures the frustration of people talking during the quiet bits of gigs rather than listen to the band they paid to see.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.45 "The Crossing" Big Country (1983)

Though this was an early entry in my draft list I wasn't convinced it was going to stand up to re-listening. That changed within 30 seconds of putting it on, I was instantly transported back to a place in time where bagpipe guitars seemed the most logical step and all I really cared about was a band who could make you leap up and down.

I struggled with music in the eighties. Whilst most of my school friends were into Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet I was into The Beatles and The Carpenters. I watched Top Of The Pops every week but there were very few bands that really got me excited. Even Big Country didn't grab me straightaway, I picked up a copy of their second album (on cassette obviously) from the Library and thought it was OK, but it was my best pal buying a video of the band live at the Glasgow Barrowlands that really caught my eye. The clip below is probably from the same video and gives you a sense of how great a live band they were.

It didn't take us long to work out all the best songs were from The Crossing and once we had a copy of that we were confirmed fans. When we eventually saw them live in 1989 it was every bit as thrilling as we'd hoped and kick started a run of gigs in which the band never failed to meet those expectations.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.46 "Gulag Orkestra" Beirut (2006)

Wikipedia describes this album as Balkan Folk and, whilst Beirut are neither from the Balkans nor a Folk band, you'd be hard pressed to find a better description.

At this point in time Beirut were basically a Zach Condon solo project. Condon recorded the bulk of the material in his bedroom and plays a dizzying array of instruments including ukulele, mandolin, accordion, trumpet and flugelhorn. Those last two instruments are key, I'm a sucker for a bit of brass as will become apparent as my list progresses. In the studio he had assistance from Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost (who as A Hawk and a Hacksaw know a thing or two about squonky Eastern European inspired folk) but it would be a couple of albums before Beirut became a proper fully functioning band.

Gulag Orkestar was one of the first albums I discovered through the new music website Drowned In Sound and I loved it from the off. This was the sort of music I'd never have heard about through mainstream radio and probably not via the old school music press. DIS provided a portal into a whole new spectrum of musical inspiration.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.47 "Colossal Youth" Young Marble Giants (1980)

The Welsh new wave band's only album but they absolutely nailed it first time.

I only discovered Young Marble Giants last year, after Colossal Youth won an LP Group listening session vote for "one album wonders".

I don't have a lot to say as it's still a fairly new album for me but I love the sparse instrumentation and the way that compliments Alison Statton's vocals. I know the album was one of Kurt Cobain's favourites and I can see how influential this must have been on many of the bands and artists I love.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.48 "Appetite For Destruction" Guns N' Roses (1987)

My first draft of this top 50 had Appetite comfortably in the top 20 but as I listened to more and more contenders it slowly dropped down the rankings. My music tastes have changed considerably since this came out but there was no way it couldn't feature somewhere.

Appetite For Destruction is the perfect example of a band hitting the ground running with an album full of their best songs, there's hardly a dull moment and they managed to release seven of the twelve tracks as singles. SEVEN flippin' singles! That's frankly ridiculous. Guns N' Roses got so big so quickly they didn't have time to draw breath and they didn't release another album worth bothering with in my book.

When they first hit the scene I was 19 and a confirmed Metal Head and G'N'R seemed like the Sex Pistols for my generation. I remember hearing a radio advert for a live gig at the famous Marquee club which I was desperate to get to. I didn't make it and that remains one of my most regretted lost gigs (even though I'm sure the queue to get in would have been round the block). When I finally did see them live, at Castle Donnington in 1988, they were brilliant but already too big for their early afternoon time slot. The next (and final) time I saw them live they headlined Wembley Stadium (in what I've just discovered was Izzy Stradlin's last show as a full-time member) and had lost the edge that first got me excited.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.49 "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" Pink Floyd (1967)

In the list, out of the list, back in and quite high, then still in but dropped a little. I struggled to come to terms with my love for Floyd's psychedelic debut album but in the end it had to make the list.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was the only Pink Floyd made wholly under Syd Barrett's influence, who wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks, and stands apart a little from the rest of their catalogue. I got into Floyd in the late seventies around the same time that Punk was breaking big. Typical for me to be a little behind the curve, I remember seeing Floyd perform Another Brick In The Wall on Top Of The Pops and assuming they were Punk too. It took me a while to work my way back to Piper and though I liked it, I didn't truly appreciate it for quite a few years.

For me the highlights are the psychedelic space jams Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive which also formed a significant part of the early live show. Having got to know Astronomy Domine through the 8 minute live version that features on Ummagumma the 4 minute version on Piper always feels a little abbreviated to me but it's no less enjoyable. The instrumental Pow R. Toc. H and, Roger Waters written, Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk also hint at a more underground edge to the band.

Syd provided plenty of new perfectly formed psychedelic pop moments too. Lucifer Sam and Bike are my favourites though neither reach the magical heights of pre-album singles See Emily Play or Arnold Lane which were left off the album perhaps because the band were already a little fed up with having to play them live.

The video below of Floyd playing Astronomy Domine live in 1968 also features an amusing interview with Roger Waters and a journalist who is clearly not that impressed by the band at all.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.50 "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot" Sparklehorse (1995)

Most of the debuts on my list are also the best album the artist recorded. It seems to be often true that a first release manages to perfectly capture everything brilliant about an artist and becomes a marker point they often find difficult to surpass. Whilst Sparklehorse's 1995 debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot is brilliant, I think second album Good Morning Spider is even better, but Vivadixie is definitely worth your time especially if your musical bag is lo-fi alternative country.

Sparklehorse was essentially the recording name of singer/songwriter Mark Linkous. Linkous had been working as a guitar tech for David Lowery, of Camper Van Beethoven fame, who proved pivotal in reigniting Mark's enthusiasm in music. Lowery's new band, Cracker, feature extensively on Vivadixie but it's Linkous' fragile vocal and heartfelt lyrics that shine through.

It was almost worth including Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot on the strength of the title alone. It's long been a favourite album title for me and supposedly came from a dream Linkous had about Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a crude submarine used in the American Civil War. It's certainly a name that conjures up some brilliant images in my mind and brings a smile to my lips whenever I hear it mentioned.


Top 50 Debut Albums - Introduction

The last few months I've been working out my 50 favourite debut albums with the intention of counting these down on Twitter via @Chops_Top_Fives.

It's quite a big task so obviously that's taken it's toll on my ability to write some new top fives. To make it "pay it's way" I've decided to squeeze a few blog posts out of it so, barring any last minute changes of plan, I am going with the tried and trusted national newspaper click generation method of one album one post.

That's fair warning that the next few days/weeks/months will be a fairly extensive slog through my list. I apologise now.

This Top 50 list follows similar efforts for Seventies and Nineties albums and has been largely orchestrated by @StaggerLee30. I will round everything up with a full top 50 post at the end so you don't need to follow every post, in the meantime you can catch up with some of the other best Debut lists via @CLButler76‘s List of Lists page

There's been a great array of lists so far and the one common thread in all of them is they seem very personal to the person compiling the list. I've followed the same tack, so there are several entries that mean a lot to me but might not be considered truly great albums and likewise some truly great albums I decided I had to leave out.

Whatever you think of the list I hope you find something you've not heard before you like. Start the journey here >>> Top 50 Debut Albums number 50


Friday, 1 August 2014

Top 5 Gigs at the University of London Union

A very quick top five this week as I've not had a lot of spare time. I found out through Twitter that the University of London Union, known colloquially as ULU, effectively closed down as of Wednesday night. After some fifty years of student control, the University of London Union building is to be unceremoniously prised from student hands.

There is no guarantee that the notorious central London venue (that has played host to everyone from Arcade Fire to Coldplay and from Tinchy Stryder to the Foo Fighters) will remain an active music venue. This is a great shame as I've been to some cracking gigs there. Actually, as it turned out I've been to precisely five gigs there but they were all good enough to leave a lasting impression and make me sad that it might be a venue I'll never visit again.

1. The Dirtbombs (2008) - Second time I'd seen The Dirtbombs but the best and a utterly brilliant gig. I was a little bit drunk by the time they came on stage and had a fantastic night. Lots of pogoing down the front and a night I made a lot of new friends too.

2. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead (2000) - Another sweaty night of uncontrolled abandon as the Trail of Dead tore the roof of the venue. this gig was in support of the phenomenal Madonna album and was the first time I saw them live. Bizarrely they were supported by Snow Patrol who went on to have a little bit of chart success.

3. Detroit Cobras (2004) - I was very very drunk this night. Considerably more so than the Dirtbombs gig, to the extent I lost my glasses in the melee down the front and only found their shattered remains at the end of the show. Totally worth it though, an amazing live band.

4. New Fast Automatic Daffodils (1990) - Early nineties baggie influence here. I discovered the New FADS thanks to an incredible session for John Peel. They never quite achieved those heights again but this was a fabulous gig and the first time I'd been to ULU. Back then you still had to pay a £1 fee to gain temporary Student Union membership so you could get in.

5. Hope of the States (1993) - HotS were one of the first British attempts at post rock. Clearly influenced by Godspeed You Black Emperor they ploughed a more commercial furrow that could have taken post rock to a whole new level. They were supported by Razorlight who will forever be famous for hoisting Johnny Borrell and the Hoxton Mullet on an unsuspecting audience.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Guest Top Five "songs with drums" from my youth by Tony Ruff

There's not many things I enjoy better than someone sending me a top five out of the blue, and this is one of those. Tony has had to put up with me discussing my latest top five down the pub for a number of years and finally decided to give it a go himself. It's a corker too, enjoy.

In no particular order, these are my top five songs from my teens which feature drums in some way and which probably influenced my musical taste for ever. I can’t play the drums myself (or indeed any musical instrument) but I have always enjoyed watching and listening to good drummers – especially if they are in a heavy rock ‘n’ roll band!

1. “Dreaming” Blondie - I bought this on 7 inch single (1979 I think) after I first heard it on Capital Radio (never really liked Radio 1). My brother and I shared a bedroom and he had a record player and I used to play it over and over again until he finally snapped and demanded that I use headphones. This meant that I could turn it up (to 11) and I properly got addicted to loud music from that point on. The drumming on this song is simply brilliant. There are a couple of videos on You Tube where the drumming is mimed, but there is one version where I’m sure he’s (Clem Burke?) hitting the skins as ‘live’. Mesmerizing.

2. “Overkill” Motörhead - To be honest the first time I heard this was in 1982 at Hammersmith Odeon when I saw Motörhead on the Iron Fist tour. I had a few of their albums but not Overkill and seeing/hearing the double bass drum crescendo of Philthy Animal Taylor really did blow me away. After the show I got hold of the album and the 12 inch single and played them to death. When No Sleep Til Hammersmith came out, the live version of Overkill got played so often that I scratched the vinyl at the beginning and end of the song!

3. “Bad Boy Boogie” AC/DC - Although the brilliant If You Want Blood live album came out in 1978, I probably got my hands on it a couple of years later. The third track, Bad Boy Boogie really demonstrates the amazing teamwork of drummer Phil Rudd and Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar. The song itself is dominated by Angus Young’s guitar solo but for me the sound of the drums makes the hair on the back of the neck stand on end!

4. “Rock ‘n’ Roll” Led Zeppelin - I don’t remember when I got hold of The Song Remains The Same album, but I do remember going up to Soho to watch the film in 1982 (in a dodgy cinema that usually showed more adult type films!). The live version of Rock ‘n’ Roll on this album is a classic – I only have to hear the ‘Okay lets go’ at the beginning of the track and I have to put my life on hold for the next 4 minutes. Jon Bonham - one of the best drummers, if not the best, of all time.

5. “In The Air Tonight” Phil Collins - I’m gonna get slaughtered for having this in the list but I absolutely loved it at the time. It’s more famous these days for having a gorilla play the drums but there’s no escaping the fact that it has great drums on it. It was either this one, or ELO’s Mr Blue Sky.