Rodan – ‘Rusty’: Round 28 – Rob’s choice

At our last meeting Tom, in a moment of brio, suggested the fanciful theme for the next meeting of ‘Albums that could be dogs names’. This was clearly ridiculous. I mean, the next meeting wasn’t even at his house so he had no right to be suggesting themes. If we’d received the complaint from Graham on the correct form, he would have been expelled.

The others, quite reasonably, forgot all about this, probably because it constituted such a flagrant abuse of the rules. I mean, seriously, he could have faced disciplinary action. Perhaps for that very reason, the idea stuck with me long enough for me to scan my vinyl for possible contenders. I came up with ‘Mr M’ by Lambchop, ‘Mush’ by Leatherface, the eponymous album by now forgotten outfit ‘That Dog’ and this, which shares a name with my Grandma’s old corgi cross. So I brought it along to sniff bottoms with Led Zep I, Keyboard Repair and Post. Only the latter was even slightly compatible, and even then the sniffing was one-way.

Rodan were from Louisville, Kentucky. This album, released in 1994, plus a subsequent 7″ single, comprises their entire discography. That’s 8 tracks in all. Nonetheless the two words that seem to crop up repeatedly when Rodan are written about nowadays are ‘seminal’ and ‘Slint’. ‘Rusty’, titled after the nickname of engineer Bob Weston – who later went on to be one third of Shellac, does share a methodology with Louisville predecessors Slint’s two records, but it’s not the direct descendent you might expect.

The weather fronts that seem to sweep this album bathe and batter the first two tracks, which are as opposed to each other as any opening duo I can think of. ‘Bible Silver Corner’ is spectral, delicate, beautiful, foreshadowing the work that some of its composers would go on to do as chamber rock outfit Rachel’s. ‘Shiner’ is a savage slasher, screaming and chopping away for two and a half minutes, which feels longer, in a good way.

The rest of the album walks the line of tension between these two extremes and in doing so conjures exquisitely twisted forms and breathes into them an energy that animates and lights them.

They get called ‘Math Rock’ too, and I think that’s unfair. For me Rodan were about freedom rather than rigid formalism. They represent a number of bands of the 90s who were able to fuse the exploratory lifeforce of jazz and, dare I whisper it, prog, with the stripped intensity of punk. At their best these bands stepped away from pretension and created liberating, exhilarating new noises. And Rodan were among the best.

Nick listened: By sheer coincidence I saw some music people talking in excited adjectives about Rusty by Rodin a few weeks ago on twitter, looked it up, and was intrigued enough to add it to my Amazon Wish List, which functions (as I’m sure it does for many people) as a repository of all those cultural artefacts that we have a passing interest in and, were a lottery win to materialise (tricky as I don’t play it), I’d casually and nonchalantly pick up, but which I doubt I’d be motivated enough to buy otherwise. “Stuff I’d like to know about”, we could call this category. I’d heard, very vaguely, of Rachel’s, but Rodin were previously unknown to me.

So I was pleased and intrigued to see Rob pull it out of his bag and enthuse about it too. As for what I thought of it… it was difficult to get a handle on it from one listen, and I suspect the twisting patterns and dynamics would reward repeat listens far more than initial exposure. It probably suffered a little in my mind by comparison to things which followed it but which I experienced first – the likes of Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, and various other all-too-linear, all-too-limited postrockers who don’t have the wit or vim to expand their sound palette or horizons beyond quiet-quiet-loud instrumental rock. I’m hoping there’s more to Rodin, and at some point, after a windfall, I’ll try and find out.

Rob replied: And maybe, after that windfall, and after those rewarding repeat listens, you’ll start spelling their name right.

Nick guttersniped: I was the only one of us who could spell Todd Rundgren.

Tom Listened: I owen Ruusty and hav dun 4 menny yeers, havin bort it (can’t think how to mispell ‘it’)…when it was released. I purchased it because Spiderland was my obsession, my favourite album at the time and it still resides somewhere towards the top of the tree as far as I am concerned. But I never really liked Rusty and I have never really worked out why.

Having listened to it again, I’m still a bit foxed but I can’t say much has altered. I guess I just find the tunes a little forced…and if I’m totally honest, tedious. And yet if you dissect the sound of the two records, Spiderland and Rusty are not very far removed at all. Both do the quiet/loud thing, the whispered vocals into ear piercing screaming. Both have six long songs that meander through their musical landscape a millions miles away from the usual verse/chorus/verse structure. But, for me, Spiderland does something that Rusty doesn’t…captivate. And therein lies the rub.

Graham Listened: I’m a simple soul and admit I couldn’t really latch on to this on first listen. But rather than something which I would choose to then ignore, this struck me a sound I would need to keep exploring. I’m not sure what ‘Math Rock’ might be, but the dynamics and tensions on this did not in anyway strike me as formulaic.


Money Mark – Mark’s Keyboard Repair: Round 28 – Tom’s Selection

Although I have been considering bringing this record along to one of our meetings for quite some time now, Adam Yauch’s recent and tragically untimely death has brought the music of The Beastie Boys very much back to the forefront of minds. The internet forums have been packed with threads on the subject and it seems that the Beastie’s first five albums (in particular Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head) are now confirmed as bona-fide ‘classic’ albums – the sort that are going to live on, as opposed to flash-in-the-pan classics such as K by Kula Shaker or Be Here Now by Oasis that were somewhat optimistically hailed as classics until people tired of them…on their second listen!

But listening to Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head in rapid succession is an interesting experience. Incredibly (considering the fact that PB contains just about every genre of popular music ever considered), CYH offers up something fresh and new to The Beastie Boys’ sound – a loungy groove thang runs throughout the record and offers an intriguing contrast to the more traditional rapping found on the album. And that sound is due (in part at least) to Money Mark Ramos-Nishita and his keyboard.

On Mark’s Keyboard Repair (Money Mark’s first solo album), the sound that he contributed to the Beastie Boys early/mid 90s albums can be heard in all its (slightly cheesy at times) glory. It’s obvious from the off that this is the record of an artist who can’t believe his own luck and Mark’s gleeful, uninhibited experimentation can be heard throughout. As he says on Don’t Miss the Boat ‘You might not like this type of shit but somebody does’. And Mark sounds like he knows that there would be enough somebodies to ensure he doesn’t need to worry about it. Perhaps a bloke who got his break in music by having his carpentry skills called upon by a rap trio whose house needed repairing knows he’s on a lucky streak. Whatever, MKR sounds brimful of confidence and, whether by fluke or through careful planning, its mixture of keyboard sketches (many of the instrumentals on the album last for less than 2 minutes), samples (Insects Are All Around Us is hilarious – ‘that cricket was chirruping at 76 degrees Fahrenheit’) and fully fledged songs (the plaintive and affecting Cry, the vaguely Can-ish opener Pretty Pain, Got My Hand in Your Head, the Prince-like Sometimes You Got to Make it Alone) works brilliantly producing an organic and pretty seamless whole.

I also own Mark’s follow up album, Push the Button and whilst it contains some great stuff, to my mind it doesn’t quite have the same alchemy of MKR – the transitions between styles sound a little clunky and some of the instrumentals feel a little forced. In contrast, Mark’s Keyboard Repair flows from one wonderful moment to the next so that by the time the album’s climax (and possibly best moment), Pinto’s New Car, comes around your urge to remain in a state of blissed out chilledness will be countered by the fact that you’ll have to get up out of your armchair and turn the bloody thing over (unless you’re listening on an inferior format…Nick!).

Nick listened: Beastie Boys have also been at the forefront of my listening since hearing about Adam Yauch’s death, which has affected me more than any other ‘celebrity’ death I can recall. Beastie Boys were a big part of my musical life in my late teens and early twenties, and I still listen to them regularly; it’s not long since I chose Paul’s Boutique for DRC.

I got Push The Button when it was released – my brother worked for a record distribution company and Money Mark was one of the artists he had CDs by in the back of his car (others included DJ Shadow, Spiritualized, and Badly Drawn Boy, plus loads more) – so I nicked a copy from him, having loved the Hand In Your Head single which had been getting plenty of airplay on the radio. Many years later, I agree with Tom about PTB; it’s a nice little album with some decent tunes on it, but nothing amazing, and that’s probably why I didn’t investigate Mark’s Keyboard Repair, so it was the first time I’d heard it at record club the other night.

Was MKR better? It was different, though you could see the seed of this in PTB – and not just in the reworked Hand In Your Head – but there’s an inspiration and character in the looseness and ease of MKR that was watered down by PTB. Ultimately I’d rather listen to Mark play with Beastie Boys – I just picked up The Mix-Up, their instrumental album from 2007, which is great – but this was very cool and enjoyable in its own right.

Rob listened: I enjoyed MKR a lot as it played and then started to get myself wound up in an internal, and briefly external, dialogue about whether it was serious/authentic/silly/fake. Afterwards I started to feel stupid for even worrying about it. I spent the second half of the record worrying a lot about the motivations of people who create and enjoy music that sounds as if it was found in the back of a skip in 1970, which this does, whilst simultaneously just enjoying the music. Perhaps my new motto should be ‘Worry less, enjoy more’. If only I wasn’t so worried about how shallow it is to have a motto.

Graham listened: After the weather we have endured on the weekend of our ‘Glorious Leader’s Jubilee’, it seems somewhat weird that we listened to this on a warm and balmy early summer evening. Though I was dubious at the very beginning, I found this a perfect soundtrack for ‘chillin’ on such an evening then, and potentially, in the future. In fact I could do with it now as a chilled antidote to the hysteria of the last few days!

Björk – Post: Round 28 – Nick’s choice

Post is another one of the CDs I’ve stacked up as potential record club choices over the last few months; sans theme, and with the gut feeling that we’d pretty grossly underrepresented music by women at our meetings, it jumped to the top of the pile.

(Tom did a quick tally by looking through our blog analytics last night and concluded that he’d brought seven records by women, Graham had brought four, I’d brought three [including Post], and Rob had brought only one [Melt Banana!]; 14 is a pretty poor showing considering we’ve played getting on for a hundred records at DRC now.)

I bought Post in late 1995 from Woolworths in Dawlish, after being wowed by It’s Oh So Quiet (both the song and the extraordinary Spike Jones video). At the time it was the first album I’d bought by a female solo artist; the first, in fact, not by a band of boys with guitars – Screamadelica was the only record already in my possession that did anything other than play straight rock songs, pretty much. I was mocked for buying Post by some friends, for stepping outside the horizons limited by the Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Roses, and Pearl Jam that seemed to make up their tastes.

I’m glad I did though, because Björk was a pretty powerful gateway drug into other musical worlds; I remember reading an interview with her at around this time where she compared guitar music to potatoes, and said she preferred to consume a varied musical diet than just eat mash and chips all the time. This seemed exotic and enticing to me at 16; at 33, it just seems like common sense. (After all, who wants to eat the same lunch every day?)

Apparently, Post is (lyrically) about moving to London from Iceland, and the combination of excitement and apprehension that this inspired in Björk. Musically, it’s about… everything, almost, from the irresistible, semi-industrial groove of opener Army Of Me (written to admonish her younger brother, supposedly), the beatific techno-love-song of Hyper-Ballad, the big band theatricality of It’s Oh So Quiet, the luscious, modern fairy-tale of Isobel, the grinding trip-hop of Enjoy; there are so many textures, ideas, approaches, and emotions to take in. I feel like I’m still getting to know it all these years later.

I have a strange relationship with Björk; I respect her immensely, and love a whole great big chunk of her music (especially Debut, Post and Homogenic) but she’s not someone I listen to all that regularly – I never turn to her music as default listening for some reason, and, looking on my iPhone, there aren’t many songs by her in my most-used playlists. So I’m resolving to use the choice of Post at DRC as a catalyst to spend some more time with her music over the next few weeks. Who’s going to recommend my good b-sides?

Rob listened: I think ‘Post’ is one of the best records ever made. I don’t think there’s anything more I can usefully say. Perhaps I could add that i’d like to be locked in a box with the high-end sounds from Hyperballad for about 30 years, but you probably wouldn’t understand. Nick: Thanks a million for bringing this. I have quite a few b-sides and remixes from the Debut/Post era. I’ll try to dig them out if you’re interested.

Tom Listened: I really admire Bjork. She’s a true visionary, a singular artist, one who is undoubtedly making the music she feels with scant regard to her record buying public – like all the best recording artists over the years. And I admire her music too – she is incredibly creative, original, technically skillful and imaginative. The trouble is I just don’t connect with it – there is no emotional hook for me and I can find her voice hard to take in large doses.

I was really interested to hear Post. It was always the Bjork album I most wanted to check out. I’m glad I’ve now heard it in full and it was, in many ways, a remarkable listen. But, for me, it lacked memorable melodies and a rawness that I am often drawn to in music (and which I found in abundance on The Sugarcubes’ debut Life’s Too Good). So I guess I will continue to admire Bjork from afar rather than up close for the time being.

Graham listened: Strangely I had completely forgotten that I already owned this album. As soon as it started I was instantly reminded why I bought it, and how good it really was. It has so much depth and variation and is simply brilliant. Thanks to DRC, its back in the CD player in the car!

The Wonderstuff – The Eight Legged Groove Machine – Round 27: Graham’s Choice

Cover (The Eight Legged Groove Machine:The Wonder Stuff)

Following some of the choices in previous round, I was feeling nostalgic about 80’s student days. The end result inspiring my selection for this round. Though I could have kept this album for when we get round to the theme night of bands you have quickly fallen out of love with.

Being a student in Brum, I spent a good deal of 1988/89 following this lot around the midlands. Given it’s the only Wonderstuff (or “Stuffies”, as we referred to them back in the day) album I possess, I guess that shows how briefly the relationship lasted.

Overly nostalgic on the night, I recalled how accessible live music was at the time and we simply went out and turned up a local venues and caught up with bands like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Crazy Head, Carter USM, Pop Will Eat Itself etc, etc,. We even discussed the “grebo” scene on the night, a word that I can’t say I heard much of since the late 80’s.

I always thought of this album as indie-pop and listening again its aggressive and arrogant tone is still pretty sharp. Live the band ranged from euphoric to chaotic, but always gave a good show.

Miles Hunt combined both catchy lyrics and riffs to produce great singles like  “Unbearable”, “Give Give Give, Me More More More”, “A Wish Away” and “It’s Yer Money I’m After Baby”. There are  some more reflective moments on the album, but not many. Most of the tracks are crashing guitars and loud drums, “in yer face”, exactly where Miles wanted to be. Unfortunately that approach can become tiresome fairly quickly. A band that I loved for their initial irreverence and arrogance, quickly felt to me like a band with an over-inflated sense of self importance and attitude issues.

I’ll forgive them for now and wallow in a bit more of a nostalgic moment, pint of Snakebite anyone?

Rob listened: I spent my fair share of afternoons singing along to ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ back in the day, so I was happy to hear it again for what must be the first time in 20 years. Still some great songs, and unlike Graham, I persisted with them until ‘Hup’ which I think also has a smattering of goodness to offer. We talked much about Miles Hunt’s ego and whether it’s possible to like an artist who is quite possibly horrible. For me it’s summed up by the title of The Wonderstuff’s greatest hits package ‘If The Beatles Had Read Hunter’. Now, i’m not interested in the Beatles, but I have read almost every word Hunter S Thompson published. He was monstrously arrogant, but he channeled his arrogance into a style that was sufficiently bombastic and over-inflated to contain him. Arrogance is fine in an artist if they can back it up. Hunter could but Miles Hunt couldn’t, and thus he resorts to using his record titles to desperately assert his false superiority. Come to think of it, ‘Wonderstuff’ is a bit of a stretch too…

Tom Listened: It has struck me in the fortnight or so since Graham played this that The Wonderstuff were a bit like an early prototype of Oasis. Which is probably why I listened to them for about a term at the start of university and then dropped them like a stone. Because lurking not far beneath the straightforward pop tunes of 8LGM is a boorish laddishness that, if our conversation on the night is is any way accurate, seems to be a pretty true reflection of the lead singer. Whether I stopped listening to The Wonderstuff because of this or whether I just rapidly tired of the songs I’m not sure but, having recently been reacquainted with Miles and the gang (Uncool and the Gang anyone?), I’m pretty sure our relationship is now dead and buried.

Nick listened: The Wonderstuff are an odd one. Miles Hunt seems to be a prime example of apt rhyming slang, judging by all the stories that easily trot out about him in the context of musicians who are also insufferable %$&*s. Despite Hunt’s obstreperousness, I actually really quite like his band, as a singles artist at least – the only record I own by them is the aforementioned If The Beatles Had Read Hunter, which I think is pretty much terrific, song-for-song. So even though this was the first time I’d listened to a whole studio album by The Wonderstuff in one sitting, I knew (and liked) about a third of the songs already, and though the others didn’t jump out at me, they seemed alright. And that’s the thing about The Wonderstuff; they’d be alright, too, if Miles Hunt hadn’t poisoned many people’s attitudes towards them by being such a massive knobhead. Instead they’ve been consigned to the dustbin of critical history.

The Hold Steady – ‘Boys and Girls in America’: Round 27 – Rob’s choice

Feeling uninspired until a few days before the meeting, I glanced at the list of possible choices i’ve been keeping and The Hold Steady felt like they were edging themselves to the head of the pack.

We’ve learned over the last year or so that some types of records work better than others as DRC choices. Those with unusual structures or styles, those with a challenging sensibility tend to shut the attendees up and encourage close listening and engaged discussion. Those that sound like things we’ve heard before and reveal their wonders with time tend to do less well.

I guess the Hold Steady fall into this latter category. On the surface they’re a hard barroom rock band kicking out fists in the air anthems tuned for fraternity parties. The treasures are buried just beneath the surface.

First up you notice just how sticky Craig Finn’s lyrics are. He has a way of turning a phrase that you want to repeat and hear again and again, and i’m not sure quite how. From the moment I heard “She put five hundred dollars/on the fifth horse/in the sixth race/I think its name was Chips Ahoy” I was hooked.

After a few more listens you pick up on the narrative density of the songs. A cast of characters drift through the Hold Steady universe and by the time this, their third album, rolls around, you’re checking in on Holly, Gideon and Charlemagne and crossing your fingers that they’re straightening themselves out.

Then, when you’ve burrowed right through there’s the self-referential joy of a band who chronicle the lives of people who party too much, who adopt and adapt the blue collar of american AM rock and, ultimately, make thrilling music which could, in truth, be banging out in the background of their own stories.

So, perhaps not a great choice for DRC, but a great album by a great band nonetheless.

Nick listened: I own this, and their previous album, Separation Sunday, too. The Hold Steady are a band that I like the idea of a great deal, but I find it hard to listen to their actual records; their recorded sound is pretty prototypically mid-00s, very thick and dense and compressed in the mix and master, which really bugs me and, I think, really plays against their strengths – I’d like them to sound ragged and edgy and dynamic and like a proper live bar band. I’d like them to sound like Cure For Pain by Morphine, actually. They’re a band I want to like, but I never want to listen to their actual records, so I’ve never got to know the characters, lyrics, and situations that people their (seemingly pretty great) songs.

Tom Listened: As Rob has suggested, The Hold Steady or, to be more precise, Girls and Boys in America is perhaps not such a good choice for Record Club as it is so hard to assimilate on a first listen. I suspect that this is a classic album/band – plenty of people whose opinions I share and trust reckon so – but if it were that simple, I would have thought differently about The Wrens, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver and Jimi Hendrix! So, for now, the jury’s out.

I was surprised at how much GaBiA reminded me of Thin Lizzy. Craig Finn’s voice is a dead-ringer for Phil Lynott’s and the sound of the record isn’t a million miles away either. At other times, especially on the slower, quieter songs, the Springsteen comparisons could definitely be heard. If I were to see GaBiA on vinyl at my local record store, I would probably pick it up and look on it as a bit of a challenge (what with the horrible key change and all) and, no doubt, grow to like it but it is probably not something I would actively seek out.

Graham listened: I liked this a lot even though it didn’t get a fair hearing from me. I found that as soon as the Thin Lizzy and Brooocie references had been discussed I couldn’t get them out of my mind and just listen to the album on its merits. I also found the production style really strange in the way Nick commented. That said, I still really liked this and will need to listen again.

The Bhundu Boys – Shabini: Round 27 – Tom’s Selection

Shabini is yet another album rescued from the nether regions of my collection by the strange alchemy of Devon Record Club and its uncanny ability to push me to places I haven’t visited (or, indeed, felt like visiting) for literally decades. The Bhundu Boys’ debut album was a favourite of mine for a while back in the late 80s but for some reason, that seems all the more baffling to me now that I have become reacquainted with it,  I stopped selecting it. For me, albums that get left on the shelf are usually the ones that I either:

a) didn’t like in the first place (surprisingly rare as I tend to be quite careful in my purchases) or

b) by an artist who I have other albums I prefer or

c) one of those albums I’ve listened to too much and feel I have nothing left to unearth.

As the third option is the only one that could possibly apply to Shabini, it’s curious just how differently I hear it now in comparison to all those years ago – I obviously had never come close to working it out first time around. As a teenager, the vocals and those trademark chiming and ultra nimble guitar lines were pretty much the whole package as far as I was concerned. Coming back to the album 25 years on, the (frankly incredible) bass playing and wonderfully inventive and subtle drum work are what really stands out. It’s a breathtaking sound – warm and fun, exciting and enticing, its joyousness all the more poignant bearing in mind what has happened in Zimbabwe between the record’s release and now.

The Bhundu Boys were the African music supergroup of their time. Championed by the ultimate arbiters of musical taste on British radio, John Peel and Andy Kershaw (Kershaw even went on to be lead singer Biggie Tembo’s best man), they quickly gained a reputation for being a blistering live act and acquired a fan base that extended way beyond the norm for a group that sung songs in their native language and only used those frets that are located in the body of the guitar! But the Bhundu Boys were charming, energetic, committed and charismatic…and the music, known as jit, was instantly likeable and great to dance to.

The songs on Shabini are consistently brilliant – there’s no filler here – and, although on a first listen they may all sound a little similar what with all those chiming guitars, with familiarity individual songs begin to reveal themselves – Manhenga is dark and brooding (and is possibly my favourite track on the album), Pachedu and Shabini are both songs that segue (without a sniff of a key change, I might add) from a sedate initial section into a manic latter half, Hatisitose has a hypnotic staccato guitar line operating underneath and in tandem with the more recognisable guitar work and on Wenhamo Haaneti the Boys seem to have borrowed Roky Erikson’s electric jug. The playing throughout is breathtaking. There are no weak links here, seemingly no egos, just perfect teamwork and great compositions.

The Bhundu Boys went on to implode under the weight of their own popularity. They started to sing in English. They appropriated western production values and sounds into their songs. They opened for Madonna. They were dropped by WEA. Tragically, three of the original members of the band died of AIDs in the 90s and Biggie Tembo was found hanged in a psychiatric hospital in 1995. So now, perhaps, it is impossible to listen to Shabini in the same way as in its time of release and maybe that is partly why, these days, I am drawn as much to the darker rhythms of the record as to those playful melodies, sweet harmonies and skittish guitars.

Nick listened: I knew the name Bhundu Boys in a very distant way, but I don’t think I’d ever consciously heard them. I’ve got various little bits of African music – King Sunny Ade, Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Toure, Fela Kuti, an Ethiopiques compilation, Tinariwen, Antibalas – but it’s a very tokenistic gesture if I’m honest. I’ve enjoyed it all when I’ve listened to it, but I seldom feel the urge to pull it off the shelves.

Likewise I really enjoyed Shabini, especially, as Tom notes, the bass playing and drumming. In fact, the bass playing in particular served to make me angry with contemporary Western bands for their general eschewing of decent bass playing; many bands seem content to let their least-musical mate play bass guitar, treat it as nothing but a dull, semi-rhythmic thrum, and then mix the resultant paucity of quality so low that you can’t hear or feel it anyway. More bassists should be raving egotists like Paul McCartney or the guy from Os Mutantes, driving the songwriting and production of the music to show off their chops.

I could totally see myself tracking down Shabini if I hadn’t just bought a new house and thus plunged myself once again into penury.

Rob listened: Strange to reflect on how The Bhundu Boys reached parts of the UK listening public that their compatriots before and after couldn’t get to. Cause then to reflect on the extraordinary influence that John Peel had on the music we listened to in the 1980s. ‘Shabini’ still sounds energetic, alive and sparkling with life and apparently effortless technique. Lacking the cultural context must surely affect the way we hear a record like this, but hearing it as abstract music, its extremely sweet.

Graham listened:  Another blast from the past for me as I’m sure I danced along to the The Bhundi Boys at a GLC concert on the South Bank, coutesy of good ol’ Red Ken. Interesting to catch up with the history (albeit tragic) of the band after all these years. I’ve never owned anything like this, purely because I haven’t really explored and listened enough. For all the reasons listed by others, I really enjoyed listening to this.

Field Music – Plumb: Round 27, Nick’s choice

I’ve been thinking about bringing Plumb for ages, as I know Tom is keen to hear it, and it’s probably my favourite new record so far this year (Orbital, Grimes, and potentially Richard Hawley being close behind). It’s also, at only 35 minutes, a good length for DRC, both in terms of not making for too long an evening and also in terms of holding attention.

I wrote about it (surprise surprise) at some length on my blog a few weeks ago so I’m wary of repeating myself too much here. I will say that it’s holding its appeal for me very well even after many, many plays. I think, in part, this is down to the winding, twisting nature of the songwriting – 15 songs in 35 minutes suggests that there area lot of ideas here, but several songs change directions unexpectedly even within their own internal architecture, meaning they always sound fresh.

I was asked if I’d liked Plumb straight away; I did, but there are caveats. A big part of the initial liking was the fact that I knew (and adored) the two singles, which are the 4th track and the 15th, meaning I had big beacons to look forward to, orient me, and recognise. Plumb’s also amazingly well recorded and mixed (especially the drums), meaning it was a distinct physical / sensual pleasure to listen to right from the off, even before I had any idea of how the songs themselves were going to twist and turn. It definitely took me several listens before I had any kind of mental roadmap of where the songs were going, although a handful of individual tunes (Just Like Everyone Else, Guillotine, Choosing Sides, Is This The Picture?) embedded themselves in my head as handy landmarks from pretty much the first listen.

There’s a real idealism and heart to Plumb that I find compelling, but its tempered by a sense of down-to-earth realism. The music may be proggy at times (albeit compressed and taut, and never indulgent like some may assume) but the lyrics are more Mike Leigh – “can I afford another day on my own / sat in the kitchen with the radio on?”, and “I want a different idea of what better can be / that doesn’t involve treating somebody else like shit.” On so many levels, the Brewis brothers seem to have their heads screwed on right, seem like decent human beings. And their music is splendid.

Tom Listened: Well, I was keen to hear Plumb and it didn’t disappoint as far as I am concerned. Reminiscent of a more polite and much less unhinged A Wizard a True Star, Plumb is pretty much all over the place both between and within songs but I found it entrancing and intriguing and, as Nick has hinted, spontaneous and un-calculated (I’m sure this isn’t actually the case, but it sounds like it is). I can see much to explore on this album and I can see myself getting this, and other Field Music albums, in the near future…as I haven’t just bought a new house and have money to burn!

Rob listened: This wasn’t the first time i’ve heard ‘Plumb’ but it was the first time i’ve given it due care and attention. I like what i’ve heard of Field Music, their music and what they say when they’re asked about it. ‘Plumb’ sounded like the sort of record that would steadily develop into a compelling musical narrative the more one listened to it. On first proper listen, a couple of the tracks had real grip, probably enough to bring me back to the album sufficiently for it to ensnare me. I must, however, take issue with the suggestion of spontaneity. ‘Plumb’s prog stylings sound explicitly calculated to me. In fact, I can’t imagine how a record like this could come together at all without being choreographed to within an inch of its life.

Graham listened: Another one where references and inspirations overtook simply listening to it on its merits. Having owned a good deal of ‘prog’ in my time (which is a little longer than other members) I found this a strange listen as just as I was getting in to it I would find myself thinking I was listening to bits of early 70’s Genesis. For those who have not exposed themselves to such listening (lucky buggars)  then Plumb might tick all the boxes, but not something that grabbed me.

The Pogues – ‘Rum, Sodomy and The Lash’: Round 26 – Rob’s choice

I drew 1985 and 1987 in Tom’s lucky grab bag tombola and my thought process went pretty much like this: ‘Okay, it seems like half the records I’ve brought to DRC have been from one or other of these years, so where next? ‘Psychocandy’? Too obvious. ‘George Best’? Would love to but can’t find a link to another record and Tom promised bonus points…’ and then this popped into my head and the deal was done.

This seems like such a strange and improbable cross-over record now, but at the time The Pogues were habitually bracketed with The Smiths, The Cramps and the other mainstays of the high school alternative universe. Listening back, it’s hard to see why. I recall the first time I shared this record with a trusted friend (hey Rich) having chaperoned it all the way to Gloucestershire in the back of my parents car. He expressed stinging disgust within seconds and made me feel slight foolish for liking it. He didn’t stop me though.

It’s a much more traditional Irish folk album than I remembered. Pop archaeologists scratching away for clues to the vaunted punk origins will dig right through and out the other side, wondering whether they’re listening to the wrong record. It’s also bracingly rough which cements the feeling that this could be an outfit caught gigging in the King William, or busking outside Brixton tube.

The playing is energetic and infectious and the songs, whether trad (‘I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’, ‘Jesse James’) covers (‘Dirty Old Town’, ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ – both songs that the Pogues essentially annexed for themselves) or originals (‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, ‘Sally MacLenaane’) are rock solid throughout and form a bristling, bustling, exuberant and heartwarming whole. I would argue that ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’, which followed this, was their true masterwork, forging a genuine fusion of traditions and styles, but ‘Rum, Sodomy and The Lash’, its gruff, scruff of an older brother is the one that does it for me.

Nick listened: The Pogues exist in a bit of a black hole for me – aside from Fairytale of New York and Dirty Old Town all they are in my mind is Shane Macgowan’s teeth, which is probably why I’ve never had any inclination whatsoever to investigate them. (The Wedding Present are even more unknown – I don’t think I could even name a single song by them.) Rob hinted that he thought I might dislike them, but really I was completely neutral at the start of the evening. And I still am: I didn’t dislike Rum, Sodomy and The Lash, but I wasn’t struck by it, either. It was alright.

Tom Listened: We own Rum, Sodomy and The Lash (it’s more Karen’s than mine) and I always enjoy it when it’s on, but rarely feel the urge to play it. The Pogues are a funny one  – so far removed from rock’n’roll that you sense that if it wasn’t for Shane McGowan’s past in the punk band The Nipple Erectors, they would have been found nestling in the World, Folk and Jazz review pages of the Guardian. He definitely gives The Pogues their edge and, listening again to this album the other night, a lot of it is pretty close to traditional Irish folk music, especially when McGowan takes a back seat, as on the Cait O’Riordan sung I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day. That said, it is thrilling and exciting Irish folk music containing as it does moments of shear beauty (A Pair of Brown Eyes for example), alongside more up tempo numbers such as Wild Cats Of Kilkenny and traditional songs (Jesse James, The Gentleman Soldier). I enjoyed listening to it at DRC and may even get round to transferring it from the dining room to the car!

Graham Listened: Not an album I have ever owned, but sure I had a copy on a C90 somewhere. Great to hear this again and tracks of almost chaotic energy and gentle beauty sit together brilliantly on this album.

Scott Walker – Scott 4 – Round 26: Graham’s Choice

It would be far too easy to rise to the comments about my selection in Tom’s review of this round. And therefore I will.

My lucky dip left me with 1969 and 1994. The easy choice for me was Led Zeppelin 1 and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s 1994 Unledded. Out of pure compassion for fellow members (never to be shown again!) I ‘parked’ these options and dug down a little deeper.

I used Blur’s To The End, from 1994’s Parklife, to provide fellow members with a stylistic clue to my album choice, linking the artists via Damon’s appearance in 30th Century Man (documentary charting Walker’s career and recording of The Drift) and involvement in Drifting and Tilting (2008 live performance of songs from the 2 albums). After a good deal of wild guessing, we got there.

My introduction to Scott Walker was the Radio 2 song playlist and Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan in the 70’s. Before I started seeking out my own music, I can recall being drawn to the big sound and vocals of the Walker Brothers. Their 60’s hits “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine” were etched on my brain at an early age.

After this album Scott Walker (depending on what you read) struggled, toiled, lost himself, found himself etc, etc. until he reunited with the Walker Brothers in the mid 70’s. Originally released as a Scott Engel (his real name) album, Scott 4 had poor sales and was quickly deleted.

Out of his first four albums, this is the highpoint as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy the others, but the manic mix of Jacques Brel and overblown strings wears me down on occasion. This album features all his own work and just seems to get the right balance between his vocals, lyrics and supporting,  but not over dominant, orchestration. Opening with the Seventh Seal (a kind of Ingmar Bergman/Ennio Morricone “mash-up” if you can imagine what that sounds like?) it then moves on to the more melancholy, On Your Own Again.  My own favourites include the Worlds Strongest Man and Old Mans Back Again (with a fantastic bass guitar line). How Get Behind Me is not as well known as his Walker Brothers hits is a mystery to me.

As music journeys go, I guess Scott Walker’s is long and up there with the best of them. Playing this again reminded me to re-familiarise myself with 1984’s Climate of the Hunter. Who knows, I might just bring it to Record Club to annoy Tom!

Tom Listened: Coincidentally, having owned it for a long time now, I’ve been going through a Scott 4 phase recently being as it is one of the few CDs I own that I have in the car and the more I listen to it the better it gets. Scott 4 is one of those DRC albums that we refer to occasionally and (I think) all revere. It’s Scott Walker’s most straightforward well known album (I don’t know his stuff from the 70s) and, to my mind, it stands alone as the one album of his that has a straightforward sound – Scott 1, 2 and 3 are all lush strings and have a Spectorish Wall of Sound thing going on (and are also very European) which can make them seem a little daunting at first listen. From Climate of Hunter onwards, his albums are labyrinthine and ultra-challenging (which almost certainly makes them very daunting on a first listen) but Scott 4 sounds like Scott being…well…a singer songwriter I suppose, and I don’t mean that pejoratively. It’s a brilliant collection, clipped and concise, sweet yet melancholic, alternatively contemplative then dynamic. I know why Graham linked it to Blur’s To the End but Scott 4 is probably the least likely of his 4 60s album for that particular track to end up on, and whist Brit Pop drew very heavily on Walker’s solo albums, there isn’t much on Scott 4 that recalls Pulp, Blur or The Divine Comedy (thankfully). A great listen…and Old Man’s Back Again is just genius (and that is not a subjective statement).

By the way Graham, it’s not me you have to watch out for!

Nick listened: Not much to add, I’m afraid – this is a really good record, I’ve owned it for years, and I really like it! It seems strange now that it bombed when it was first released, but I guess releasing it as Scott Engels explains that. I think of Tilt and The Drift as ‘better’ records but this is easily more listenable. Still haven’t got round to listening to Climate Of Hunter!

Rob listened: ‘Scott’ and ‘Scott 3’ are the two that fell from the Walker tombola when I spun it a few years ago. I know a few of the songs from ‘4’ from compilations but this is the first time i’ve sat through the album in full. It’s great. Amazing to trace the career of an artist who has moved from heartthrob to tortured torch singer to seventies washout to avant garde expressionist. How on earth did he do it, and has anyone taken such a wild road to such a strange and wonderful destination? This remains on my shopping list, and now sits just above ‘2’.

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