What’s in the bag? (24)

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I knew nothing about this album until about 10 years ago. It was released when I was 8 and isn’t the sort of thing an eight year old listens to really. When I did come across it during a Dylan phase where I listened to everything in the back catalogue I was rather hooked, it’s pretty obvious, to me at least, why this album is considered to be one of the best ever made, well it’s in most top 100 albums ever lists which I always disagree with, but I’m sure everybody does. The NME’s version, for example, has Suede’s ‘Dog Man Star’, and Kanye West higher in their top 500, nothing wrong with those albums I guess but neither are better than this.’Blood on the tracks’ is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a single bad track on it, some are rather unpleasant, sure, but they’re still good and, as with many Dylan albums the lyrics have meaning, and complexity, there’s just no fluff. I’m not going to try to dissect the album, it’s been done to death (and there’s an interesting article here:  popmatters), I’m just going to say that it is a milestone piece of work and everybody should listen at least once.

9.3/10

What’s in the bag? (23)

Back with Rush again, and that gig I mentioned in my last post. Way back in 1981 (when I was fourteen) I bought a ticket for the ‘Exit Stage Left’ tour well in advance. I put the ticket, under a weight, on top of my wardrobe, the top being at about head height, and I saw it every day sitting there, waiting for the day I could use it. Naturally I was rather excited about this as it involved four or five of us travelling down to London from Didcot, on the train, and then on the tube to Wembley, and back again after the gig. Having sat on the wardrobe for several months, it went missing a couple of weeks before the gig. By went missing I mean that somebody took it, I didn’t misplace it, didn’t lose it, it was under a weight and it didn’t just blow away.

This didn’t stop me going. We all went down, four of us with tickets and me without. I did manage to get a ticket from a tout but I was some distance form the stage, whereas everybody else was pretty near the front, in the first twenty rows somewhere. It was still a decent view though. They told me afterwards that nobody took my place with my ticket, but they may well have known them and decided not to tell me. In many ways I would rather that somebody turned up rather than take the ticket and not use it, which feels rather more spiteful.

The internet is a wonderful thing as a quick search provided me with the set list from that gig, her’s a link to the site I found it on:

Setlist.fm

And here is the set list of the tracks they played that night:

2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
Freewill
Limelight
Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
Beneath, Between & Behind
Subdivisions (Early version)
The Camera Eye
YYZ
Drum Solo
Broon’s Bane
The Trees
Xanadu
The Spirit of Radio
Red Barchetta
Closer to the Heart
Tom Sawyer
Vital Signs
Working Man
Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part IV: Armageddon
By-Tor & The Snow Dog
In the End
In the Mood
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

Encore:
La Villa Strangiato

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It was a great set that leaned heavily on ‘Moving Pictures’, which had been their last studio album and is still a favourite of mine. The event was spoiled somewhat for me at the time by all the goings on but now, 34 years later, I can look back on it rather fondly because I still got to see them and it was a damn fine gig. I put together the set list as a Spotify playlist as best I could and it’s below, after that is ‘Exit Stage Left’ itself, it’s a twofor!

8.4/10

And then I found this, which is rather spiffy:

WHAT’S IN THE BAG? (20, 21, 22)

Rush have never been cool, and never will be, but they are a large section of the soundtrack to my adolescence and have, in one way or another, been with me for 35 years. This is a bloody long time, though we did part ways in 1985 with the last thing I bought by them being Power Windows, which I really liked but I was heading in a different direction taste wise and have never listened to the next 9 albums. That’s not to say I won’t, but I think things began to get a bit keyboard centric for me at the time.

The bag contained three Rush albums, the first three, Rush, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel. Their first reminds me in perhaps too many ways of Led Zeppelins first. The songs don’t necessarily sound the same, it’s the feel of the whole thing that makes it reminiscent for me, from the minimal colour on the sleeve to there being rather a lot of riffing going on (which is not necessarily a negative).

Original drummer, John Rutsey, does a fine job, but he isn’t Neil Peart, then again who is? The difference is immediately evident with ‘Fly By Night’ opener, Anthem where the addition of Peart adds a complexity that wasn’t previously there. Of these three albums the third, Caress of Steel, is probably my least favourite, ‘I think I’m going bald’ is, frankly, annoying and I could probably do without 19 minutes and 58 seconds of ‘The Fountain Of Lamneth’, and in the entire Rush canon, i could also do without all Tolkien references and Tolkienesque lyrics (Such as Rivendell on Fly By Night). I don’t dislike this aspect as such, but now it all seems somewhat twee.

I have seen Rush live once, which was, I’m pretty sure, the ‘Exit Stage Left’ tour, oddly a tour to promote a live album. It was at Wembley Arena, London, in 1981. I remember two things most vividly about this concert, the first was the opening notes of Tom Sawyer and the second was wishing they’d hurry up and get to the end of ‘By-Tor and the bloody Snow Dog’, although I think that was because it was getting a bit late by now and I had a two hour train journey home afterwards. I do actually rather like the track. Out of curiosity I looked up the following:

  • Rush’s road manager Howard Ungerleider came up with the title at a party. There were two dogs at the party, one a German shepherd and the other a tiny white nervous dog. Howard used to call the shepherd By-Tor because anyone that walked into the house was bitten. The other dog was a snow-dog (white). So from that night on Howard called the pair of dogs “By-Tor and the Snow Dog.” The dogs belonged to Rush’s manager.

    from – Songfacts

There will be more about this concert in a future post, but for now I would like to say just a couple more things, I would really love to be cool and only talk about really hip bands, but bollocks to that, I love a bit of Rush. Also, I will probably give those missing 9 albums a go at some point as there’s a very high possibility that I’m missing out on some good stuff. Here are the first three albums for your listening pleasure

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Rush 8.2/10
Caress Of Steel 8.3/10
Fly By Night 8.3/10

What’s in the bag? (19)

IMAG0584I was in Head in Leamington, just flicking through the racks, and quite by accident I came across ‘Von’ by Sigur Rós. Though I wasn’t looking for it I wanted it, so I bought it. This was their first album, and opens with the track ‘Sigur Rós’, it’s dramatic, it’s moody, it’s like the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. The whole album is quite different to what was to come, it has a raw edge in places and a darkness, but these are interspersed with those moments of beauty for which Sigur Rós are known. It’s there throughout, but treading water beneath the surface before drifting up and out into the air before slipping slowly under again. It’s quite experimental and much of it neatly aligns with the Post-Rock genre, but not entirely, they always seem out of place to me in that category, but people like categories so I guess that’s where they must sit.

So ‘Von’, it means hope, and I consciously avoid any pun or play on words at this point, as it’s their first release it’s fairly obvious.This is undoubtedly the more difficult of their releases to listen to, but all the ingredients are there, the recipe is just a little different and I find that less is often more, even amongst noise that is unlistenable (which this isn’t)  brief moments of clarity can be quite beautiful.

Included below the spotify album is a version of the track, ‘Von’.

9.2/10

What’s in the bag? (18)

I had this onIMAG0572 cassette when it came out and played it to death. I’ve no idea if these are considered good remixes or not as each track is now so familiar to me that I wouldn’t be the best person to judge. I know that remixes are not everybody’s cup of tea, but they are a large part of what Bjork, in particular, is all about. Since early on in her solo career the 12″ singles would have remixes included, there would be multiple CD singles with different mixes, the album ‘Bastards’  consists of remixes from Biophilia (2011), which were all previously released on The Crystalline Series or the Biophilia Remix Series. There is also the majestic ‘Telegram’, which I have on CD and adore, the Deodato remix of ‘Isobel’ is worth the price of the CD alone, and the ‘Possibly maybe’ (Lucy Mix), well, I think I prefer it to the original. Voltaic was the dedicated Volta remix, which I don’t think I’ve listened to so I must, soon.

Back to the Sugarcubes, if you were not a fan of Einar Örn Benediktsson and his talky/shouty bits (I like them but they aren’t for everybody) these are toned down or messed about with in the remixes so if that’s what puts you off, give them another go in the ‘It’s-It’ incarnation. Listen via spotify below or watch the non-remix versions below that.

8.0/10

 

What’s in the bag? (17)

Here we are in 1979 again and, before I say anything else, I must confess my love of Blondie, no matter what your own opinion is, if it doesn’t agree with mine then it is invalid. I had first heard Blondie in 1977 with the single ‘Denis’, which, at the time, I had no idea was a cover version (Randy & The Rainbows was the original, from 1963). I liked it a lot, I was 10 years old, why wouldn’t I? I think that, at one point, I did have a 7” of it, unfortunately, when I moved to a new town at the age of 16 I gave all my vinyl records away, every single one (and I really can’t recall at the moment why the hell I did that).

I have never owned either of the first two albums, Blondie & Plastic Letters, but I did own Parallel Lines, which I still think is one of the most complete albums ever made, really, I do. Look at the track listing:

Side one

1. “Hanging on the Telephone” (The Nerves cover)
2. “One Way or Another”
3. “Picture This”
4. “Fade Away and Radiate”
5. “Pretty Baby”
6. “I Know but I Don’t Know”

Side two

7. “11:59”
8. “Will Anything Happen?”
9. “Sunday Girl”
10. “Heart of Glass”
11. “I’m Gonna Love You Too” (Buddy Holly cover)
12. “Just Go Away”

Looking at that I now have to get another copy, but first, ‘Eat to the Beat’. After the success of Parallel Lines, what do you do? Open with a hit of course! And with ‘Dreaming’ they did, admittedly a #2 hit, but a hit nonetheless (also, the lyrics, “Fade away, radiate” reference the Parallel Lines track), and the rest of the album retains much of the feel of Parallel lines, although it isn’t as a whole, as accomplished an album, it is still packed with quality. There’s ‘Atomic’, a massive hit, ‘The Hardest Part’, Union City Blue’ and ‘Die young stay pretty’, all pretty killer.

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How could anybody not love this!:

This album was the most expensive at the record fair, costing me the princely sum of £5, but it was £5 well spent as it is so damn good, and now I have to get myself a vinyl copy of Parallel Lines.

9/10

 

What’s in the Bag? (16)

Ok, so there are certain records that one might be a bit embarrassed about, well, once upon a time one might, but nowadays I have absolutely no problem to confessing to liking things that many might never admit to liking themselves even when they are alone, with no possibility of anybody ever finding out. One such band/artist is Adam and the Ants. Not that I was ever a massive Adam and the Ants fan or anything, I just didn’t dislike them. The album I bought for £2 was ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, which was the reincarnation of the band after original members listened to Malcom McLaren and left to form Bow wow wow. There were three hit singles from this LP, “Dog Eat Dog” (reaching No.4 on the UK singles charts in October 1980), ‘Antmusic’ (No.2 in January 1981) and “Kings of the Wild Frontier” (No.2 in March 1981). The album was the UK number 1 selling album in 1981 (and the 48th best seller in 1980) and won Best British Album at the 1982 Brit Awards. They were pretty interesting in an early 80’s sort of way but the album itself is a different construct to many of the pop albums we have today, and it was pop, despite the roots of the band being in punk.

I get the sense nowadays that more emphasis is placed on album as product to push the one or two good tracks that are on it (there are exceptions to this of course), whereas taking this album as an example, there are what seem obvious singles (although that could be because they were) and obvious album tacks, but these album tracks are not just filler, they are well written tunes which could potentially have been singles in some cases, if the mood in the charts were more open to them at the time. ‘Killer In The Home’ sounds like a minor hit, maybe stumbling into the late 30’s and back out again, although it borrows heavily on ‘Rumble’ by Link Wary (for borrows read steals), to the point that if it had been written by Pharell Williams and the other guy who claims to not have written ‘Blurred Lines’ at all as soon as the case hit court, there would certainly be litigation afoot against Mr Ant and Mr Pirroni.

Apparently this album introduced the new Burundi Beat drum sound to popular music, which may well be true, I have no idea but what I do know is that it still sounds quite full and, mostly, not that dated even though it was 35 years ago. Take away the all the flouncing, costumes and posturing, and you are left with a really good set of songs.

Jumping all the way back to the beginning of this post, if I did feel the need to justify myself, then I could point out that Kings of the Wild Frontier is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, but I don’t need to do that, even though I just did.

I put a little video playlist at the bottom of this post as well.

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8.2/10

What’s in the bag? (15)

I think that if you see an album for sale at £1 that’s in good condition and that contains at least one song you like then not buying it (actually, it’s almost rescuing it!) is somehow wrong. This particular £1 was spent on the second Joe Jackson album, ‘I’m The Man’. It contains ‘It’s different for Girls’ which is one of, maybe, three tracks of his that I know for sure, there may be more I would recognised if I heard them, perhaps. The album is from 1979, so I was about 12 years old and at the beginning of a musical journey of discovery. I wasn’t really sure what I liked and didn’t like at this point, it was actually quite a confusing time as much of what was considered good music was the exact opposite of what I had also started listening to and liking. Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ was released in 1979 and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was only 6 years old, which is quite current (for comparison, ‘Only The Night’ (the one with ‘Sex On Fire’) was released 6 years ago), Led Zeppelin had just released ‘in through the out door’, Fleetwood Mac released ‘Tusk’, these were the sort of things I was supposed to like. I did like them, but was being drawn elsewhere as well. What I heard on the radio (at a time when I was still taping the charts every Sunday and enjoying the benefits of a double tape deck so that I could edit out the DJ afterwards) was at odds with the LP’s we had in the house, I was hearing;

Tubeway Army, The Boomtown Rats, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Police, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Squeeze, The Jam, The Specials and, sometimes, when BBC Radio 1 actually played them, The Sex Pistols.

Lumped in with the above bands under New Wave I guess, was Joe Jackson ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’ and ‘It’s Different For Girls’. The rest of this album reminds me of a cross between XTC, Elvis Costello and Squeeze, which is not a bad thing at all, and it was £1 well spent.

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7.4/10

 

Record Fair – Leamington Spa & What’s in the bag? (14)

I was in town today and was surprised to see that there was a record fair at the town hall. I’d checked the website last week and there was no mention of it, no matter though, I popped in and went a bit mad! I like a bargain and gravitate to the ‘All albums a pound” or “5 for £20” sections. I ended up buying 21 albums today, 18 from the record fair and 3 new albums from HEAD. The 18 cost me about £60, and so did the three! That’s my budget for vinyl blown for a while.

Deciding which to listen to first is based entirely on what was at the top of the pile and it was ‘Porcupine’ by Echo & The Bunnymen. I was never big on them to be honest, I was much more interested in The Teardrop Explodes and, after reading the Julian Cope autobiography, Head-On, I was even less keen on them as they were often painted in a somewhat negative light, however, I could not help but like ‘The Cutter’ which opens this album.

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I’m on Side 2 at the moment, and if I am being completely honest, this album holds up a lot better than much of the Teardrop stuff. I have listened to it on MP3 several times before but Vinyl is a different experience. It’s bloody good.

8.8/10

What’s in the bag? (13)

I like Bjork, and I love Bjork. There is nothing much that I can say that I dislike, but in recent years it has all been about liking, not loving. I remember walking into ‘Our Price’ in Leamington Spa in 1988 and ‘Motorcrash’ from ‘Life’s too good’ was playing. I’d never heard it’s like before and walked up to the counter, asked who it was and bought it. To this day it is one of my favourite albums.

I have felt though, that since Medúlla there has been something missing. Volta, Biophilia and the bits of Vulnicura I’ve heard all seem to me to be missing something, there are good bits, but not enough of them. I saw ‘Songs from the Volta Tour’ in HMV in London and thought I’d give it a go. There are a number of versions of it but mine is this:

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“Wanderlust”
“Hunter”
“Pleasure Is All Mine”
“Innocence”
“Army of Me”
“I Miss You”
“Earth Intruders”
“All Is Full of Love”
“Pagan Poetry”
“Vertebræ by Vertebræ”
“Declare Independence”

 

It’s a good listen, some great tracks, but I’m struggling a little to get the point of it other than as a stop gap between releases.

7.8/10

Here it is:

 

Yeah, mmhhmm, yeah

Quite laid back, a 74 minute mix.

What’s in the bag? (10, 11 & 12!)

March 02 I said right here, I would be getting more P.I.L on vinyl, and I did, although his time it came in a different bag. I was in London and found myself with about an hour to spare so I wandered off oxford street an into Soho where Google maps assured me I would find ‘Sister Ray’ records (they have a IMAG0509facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sisterrayrecords). I arrived to find the store closed down, and then my disappointment was gone as I saw they had just moved to the other side of the road. Looking at the bag I see they also have a website: http://www.sisterray.co.uk (not much there at the moment though).

Anyway, moving on, when I was still a young man I did have the 7″ single ‘Public Image’ but I couldn’t afford the album, which is a good thing as I wouldn’t have liked it then, I’m pretty sure of that. The single was reminiscent of the Sex Pistols, the rest of the album wasn’t. I listened to it years later and loved it though. It remains probably my favourite P.I.L album. There is a pretty interesting wiki page about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Image:_First_Issue

I only bought two albums at Sister Ray, both P.I.L, both in great condition, here is that first one:

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9.1/10

And here is the second, another good record. I do think that in many quarters they aren’t given the credit that perhaps they should receive, although it certainly isn’t for all ears, I get that, it is not thrown together in an anarchic way, there are elements of all manner of different styles of music that influence these recordings and I find it to all be rather cleverly constructed:

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8.9/10

Finally a more recent offering, that I am not too sure about as yet, I haven’t listened to it enough, this one was £13 from HMV.

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8.7/10

 

 

 

What’s in the bag (9)

IMAG0451The press in the late 70’s and early 80’s never really took to Gary Numan, in fact, they bloody well hated him. It’s difficult to be sure quite why they did, but he was so vilified that they didn’t seem to rest until they had indoctrinated the record buying public into believing that it was actually wrong to like him, wrong to like his music, and, eventually, when he was at his lowest commercial and creative ebb, they ignored him. In many ways, this was worse as, in their opinion, he was not doing anything that was even worthy of comment. It was their vilification that was partially responsible for the reduction in quality of his output, they got what they wanted.

It is not unfair to say that ‘Middle Period’ Numan is at very best, patchy, although Numan himself is rather more scathing about his own releases from this period. I remember a guy in Didcot, when I was nearing the end of my school life, who was a Numanoid. He wore make up and a Numanesque boiler suit, he really did look a total dick. Despite this, it was good that he had his own thing, sort of. So many of us at that time were somewhat lacking in identity, drifting from one thing to the other whilst trying to like the same things as our friends liked. It took guts to walk through the park past a group of lads who were laughing at him in his ridiculous clothes (and they were ridiculous, in that setting), so fair play to him.

So what’s in the bag? Back to the beginning (almost, as this is the second album), to 1979, ‘Tubeway Army’ and ‘Replicas’.

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Obviously this has ‘Are Friends Electric?’, the breakthrough song and the one, along with ‘Cars’ that is most often referenced and best remembered, but this is not one of those albums that has the big hit and a load of filler.

“Me! I Disconnect from You” – 3:23
“Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” – 5:25
“The Machman” – 3:08
“Praying to the Aliens” – 4:00
“Down in the Park” – 4:24
“You Are in My Vision” – 3:15
“Replicas” – 5:01
“It Must Have Been Years” – 4:02
“When the Machines Rock” – 3:15
“I Nearly Married a Human” – 6:31

Of the above the two other stand out tracks for me are the opener, ‘Me! I Disconnect from You’ and, with what must surely be some of the darkest lyrics of the time, ‘Down in the Park’:

Down in the park where the machmen meet
The machines are playing ‘Kill-by-numbers’
Down in the park with a friend called ‘Five’

I was in a car crash or was it the war?
Well, I’ve never been quite the same
Little white lies like I was there

Come to Zom-Zom’s, a place to eat
Like it was built in one day
You can watch the humans try to run

Oh, look, there’s a rape machine
I’d go outside if it looks the other way
You wouldn’t believe the things they do

Down in the park where the chant is death, death, death
Until’ the sun cries mornin’
Down in the park with friends of mine

We are not lovers, we are not romantics
We are here to serve you
A different face but the words never change

Apparently Numan took short stories that he had written and turned them into songs, or based songs on them. Which is where this one came from and explains the theme of the album as a whole.

All the other tracks stand up in their own right and create a really solid album where everything has its place and is in it’s place. By design or accident it is a fabulously constructed album, which could even be considered one of the dreaded ‘concept’ albums, and part of this concept is the coldness of it, the distance and the space, perhaps the sense that the narrator in the songs is always outside looking in.

I’ve rambled on enough, have a listen (the first 10 tracks are what’s on the vinyl).

9.1/10

 

What’s in the bag (8)

I love a bit of Mogwai. To some people it’s just noise, but I hear melodies that build and overlap, repeating themes and underlying rhythms that are often rather delicate. It feels to me that this is modern classical music, and that is a good thing. Classed as Post-Rock, wiki has this to say:

“Post-rock is a subgenre of rock music characterized by the influence and use of instruments commonly associated with rock, but using rhythms and “guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures” not traditionally found in rock. Post-rock bands are often without vocals.”

I like that bit in bold. I also like that the titles seem like an afterthought, or perhaps a joke, maybe the joke is that they have a list of awkward or dumb titles and pick them at random, for instance, ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’, ‘Danphe and the Brain’, or maybe they do mean something. As I write this I’m listening to ‘The Sun Smells Too loud’, great title and an unexpectedly upbeat track.

So I bought two Mogwai, the other one is for another day, feel free to guess which one though (yes, that means both of you that sometimes read this).

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8.8/10

What’s in the bag (7)

Anger is an energy, just in case anybody was wondering. I plan on getting more P.I.L on vinyl if I can. At the moment this is the only one I have and it was, for new vinyl, a decent price at £13. I have most of their stuff on cassette but cassettes are bloody awful. Popped a video at the bottom for ‘Rise’, just because Lydon is fascinating to watch.

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8.9/10

What’s in the bag? (6)

IMAG0451Somebody had the day off, and that somebody may have nipped into town to the record shop, the same somebody may have spent a tiny bit more than they had intended to, can’t say any more than that.

What I can say though, is just how good ‘To Be Kind’ by ‘Swans’ is. It’s their 13th studio album, and the only one I own (as of today) and is a triple vinyl. I have heard it before on spotify and that’s part of the reason I bought it. Here is some stuff blatantly stolen from Wikipedia:

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Upon its release, To Be Kind was widely praised by music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 88, based on 35 reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”. Mark Deming of Allmusic gave the album a positive review, stating: “Michael Gira is a man unafraid to follow his muse wherever it may take him, and To Be Kind is another example of his singular vision writ large without compromise.” Anna Wilson of Clash praised the album, describing it as “Karlheinz Stockhausen’s jarring classicism, Captain Beefheart‘s twisted blues, and the industrialism ofEinstürzende Neubauten coalescing into a swirling musical miasma.” She also stated that the album is “near perfection.” Benjamin Bland of Drowned in Sound gave the album a 10/10 score and stated: “A two-hour odyssey of similar proportions to The Seer, this is an album that emphasises rather than establishes Swans’ reconfirmed position at the top of the experimental rock tree, but that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill.” He also further commented: “Now that this mission has been completed there is space for To Be Kind, and future Swans records to affirm, rather than prove, that Swans are, and perhaps always have been, the greatest rock group on the face of the planet.” Writing for Rolling Stone, Kory Grow also compared this album to The Seer as well as the 1996 effort Soundtracks for the Blind, noting how Swans’ sound has evolved so that they “don’t just crush—they hypnotize”. The Needle Drop gave the album a 10/10, making To Be Kind the second ever contemporary album to receive a perfect score from the site, after Death GripsThe Money Store.

Ross Horton of musicOMH gave the album a 5-star score, commenting: “Gira shows that the Swans resurgence isn’t a fluke.” Stuart Berman of Pitchfork Media praised Gira’s efforts on the album, stating: “He’s responded in the best way possible: by producing a record that, in structure and scale, is every bit The Seer ’​s equal, yet possessed by a peculiar energy and spirit that proves all the more alluring in its dark majesty.” Rory Gibb of The Quietus wrote: “By this point they’ve further coalesced into an inseparable entity: on To Be Kind we experience Swans as totality, all seething ebb and flow, crafting music that seems to breathe of its own volition.” He also stated that the album’s songs “feel more fluid and open-ended than before, expressive and rich in possibility.”  Colm McAuliffe of The Skinny also gave the album a positive review, stating: “Despite the two-hour plus running time, Swans appear to be – gasp! – enjoying themselves; they’re still staring into the abyss but the abyss is no longer staring back.” He also noted that the album “displays much more diversity than its immediate predecessors.” Louis Pattison of Uncut wrote: “Yet as the name suggests, To Be Kind does feature a quality hithertorare in Swans: that of tenderness.” He also further stated: “Michael Gira is not only still moving forward, but making some of the albums of his career.”

Nevertheless, Jon Dennis of The Guardian was mixed in his assessment of the album, describing the album as “uncompromising to the point of overindulgence.”[

—————————————————

It was a bit expensive, but worth it. Oddly enough it reminds me of P.I.L at times, and at others pick a post-rock outfit at random, and a bit of Slint. To be honest it doesn’t matter much though, I love it, that IS what matters.

8.4/10

Banga – Playlist

Made for a drive to work the other day.

What’s in the bag? (5)

IMAG0451I always rather liked Japan, and it is odd now to look back and remember the TV News reports asking, in the same way as for Boy George, whether David Sylvian was a man or a woman. This is a live album that was recorded on their last tour, 1982, and released in 1983 after the group hand split up. It is sort of semi-live as I think a lot of the parts were re-recorded afterwards and mixed in. Live albums are usually a best of, this one contains three new tracks though, “Oil on Canvas”, “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” and “Temple of Dawn”, all of which are instrumentals and weren’t live at all. My copy is a double in a gate fold sleeve and the proper track listing is below.

IMAG0452

7.9/10

Side A:

  1. “Oil on Canvas” (instrumental studio recording) – 1:25
  2. “Sons of Pioneers” (Karn/Sylvian) – 4:59
  3. “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” – 6:41
  4. “Swing” – 5:36

Side B:

  1. “Cantonese Boy” – 3:45
  2. “Visions of China” (Jansen/Sylvian) – 3:34
  3. “Ghosts” – 6:23
  4. “Voices Raised in Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer” (instrumental studio recording) (Jansen/Sylvian) – 3:30

Side C:

  1. “Nightporter” – 6:47
  2. “Still Life in Mobile Homes” – 5:37
  3. “Methods of Dance” – 6:07

Side D:

  1. “Quiet Life” – 4:34
  2. “The Art of Parties” – 5:28
  3. “Canton” (Jansen/Sylvian) – 5:43
  4. “Temple of Dawn” (instrumental studio recording) (Barbieri) – 1:45

What’s in the bag? (4)

IMAG0451There is only one good UB40 album and this is it. All the soppy covers that followed this come nowhere near, not by a black country mile. I first heard this album at a girlfriends house and it was way outside the sort of thing I was listening to at the time (think long haired teenager, very early eighties, knew all the lyrics to ‘Suppers Ready’ by Genesis). To me it feels like they had one good album in them, the debut, the one all bands take a lifetime to write before it is committed to vinyl, from Tyler to Signing off it emits quality and reeks of authenticity (there’s the accompanying 12″ as well with ‘Madam Medusa’, ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Reefer Madness’).

I wouldn’t say that this album converted me in any major way, but it was part of a collection of different albums that opened my mind and ears to different types of music and made my listening much more eclectic.

IMAG0460

 

7.9/10

What’s in the bag (3)

IMAG0451Sometime in the 80’s (I think it was 1987) I saw Bob Dylan at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a little odd as the support act, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, did a long set that lasted about an hour and a half and then Dylan came on with the Heartbreakers as his backing band and did about an hour. At the time I was a bit disappointed, but I have subsequently managed to get a bootleg recording of the gig and it is a much better gig than I remember it being. I think that one of the reasons is that I was listening to ‘Desire’ a lot at the time and they didn’t play a single track from it, so it was my own expectations that were at fault more than anything.

‘Desire’ is one of my favourite Dylan albums, and I have a copy on CD, but £4 for a decent vinyl copy was a must really.

IMAG0459

8.4/10