A great idea from Tom – rather than supplicate ourselves to the orthodoxy of albums once again, let’s just play some songs, freestyle.
I keep a massive playlist on my phone called ‘I need this song on my phone’, which contains a broad selection of mixtape staples, songs I love that don’t feel, to me, like a part of a parent album. Singles, b-sides, EP tracks, those lone tracks you love by artists you otherwise don’t give a stuff about; there are loads and loads and loads of pieces of music I adore, but which I’d never want to waste a whole album choice on at record club.
So as soon as Tom mentioned the theme, I opened that playlist, scrolled through it, and made a longlist of about 20 possibilities – anything was fair game, as long as I hadn’t played it here before (and I’ve played a good handful – stuff like “Flim” by Aphex Twin – at record club already). On the night, I took about a dozen with me, and played through them in whatever order seemed best, without logic or theme or plan. These are they.
The Boo Radleys – “Lazarus”
The version on Giant Steps (which is wonderful but too long to play at record club) is an edit, and shears off the extended, rolling, dubby intro. Which is a shame, because that intro is exceptionally good, and, as heard on the proper 12” version, wonderfully sets up the tension that the awesome, trumpet-and-feedback driven, wordless chorus of “Lazarus” then spectacularly releases. Guitar feedback, trumpets, dubby basslines; this song rolls all the good stuff together. And it’s about being agoraphobic.
Rob listened: Great intro, great bassline, great chorus, if a little brutish. Unfortunately the whole thing takes on a taint of meh-ness whenever the singing happens. Always liked the Boo Radleys but, come to think of it, not really because I liked their music.
Graham listened: Thought I knew what the Boo Radleys were all about, clearly I don’t. Great track.
Tom listened: I really like Lazarus but I know what Rob means…the intro is just so great that the rest of the track finds it hard to keep up.
Snow Patrol – “An Olive Grove Facing The Sea”
Before they were massive, post-Coldplay rock behemoths, Snow Patrol were a weird little post-My Bloody Valentine indie band on Scottish label Jeepster. This track, from their second album (the one before they got huge), is a lovely daydream about mermaids, gentle and modest and absolutely beautiful, with an eyeball-swelling lone trumpet solo for added sadness.
Rob listened: Pretty lovely. I never had a huge problem with the early phase of their behemoth incarnation. It’s fascinating to listen back to this and try to trace the evolutionary steps they were about to take. I guess on balance I would have preferred them to stay where they were, but neither would have trouble my record-buying habits.
Graham listened: Another eye-opener as I have Snow Patrol filed firmly away.
Tom listened: I am having a re-listen to this as I don’t remember it from the night. It’s OK I guess but I find the vocals a bit mopey. Nice instrumentation though.
Manic Street Preachers – “Motorcycle Emptiness”
Sometimes anthemic rock is the best thing in the world; platitudinous lyrics and major chord surges and melodies that pile up on one another. This puts its foot on the monitor but still maintains a degree of decorum. “Under neon loneliness / motorcycle emptiness” James Dean Bradfield hollers, like some pretentious sixth form poet; it’s pompous and ridiculous, but by god it makes you feel amazing.
Rob listened: Awful. Hate it for all the reasons Nick lists above, plus the fact that underneath the imagined sheen of retro rock futurism, it’s a plodding track with some doo-doo-doodle-oodle-doo-doo guitar bits.
Graham listened: Wonderful. Brilliant. Great. Would have made it into my winning singles world cup team hadn’t I known that the Manic haters in our midst might have shot it down. Huge sound, rifftastic, pretentious but brilliant.
Tom listened: I fall somewhere between Graham’s and Rob’s two stools (sounds messy)…I don’t mind The Manics but find them annoyingly predictable and safe at times. That said, this is probably their best single and I really enjoyed hearing it again.
Dave Brubeck – “Take Five”
My dad was only really into Johnny Mathis and dinner jazz when I was growing up, and I think my love of jazz comes largely from him. This is a tune I’ve loved for a whole lifetime; it’s weird that it’s so well known and was such a hit, when it was basically composed as a vehicle for a Joe Morello drum solo. Just an unbeatable tune.
Rob listened: Perfect. Presumably there’s a section of the populace who can recall only one jazz tune, and if it’s not ‘So What?’ then it must surely be this. The audacity to create one of the most identifiable piano parts of the last 100 years and then stick one of the most memorable sax lines over the top of it.
Graham listened: I recalled this, I am that section of the populace.
Tom listened: Brilliant…more than justified the evening’s concept on its own. A truly remarkable piece of music, the drumming is out of this world. Thanks for bringing it Nick!
Embrace – “Blind”
I toyed briefly with the idea of playing eight different tracks by Embrace, to show the scope and range hidden behind the scenes that’s made me love them so much over the years, but that seemed a little like cheating. Instead, this track off their first EP, probably the song I’ve listened to most in the last 17 years, and which never made their debut album. Just about my favourite guitar sound ever – a giant, textured post-MBV crunch that maintains enormous weight and swims across the soundstage like a car on black ice – plus a massive chorus that’s actually some kind of defiant stand against anxiety and PTSD, plus ba-ba-ba backing vocals. Vulnerability turned into savagery in an attempt to defeat it.
Rob listened: If i’m honest, this sounded like Oasis, even down to the vocals. Decide for yourselves whether that’s good or bad.
Graham listened: I think I’ve kept it fairly quite to date, but I thought the ‘Good Will Out’ was an amazing record and while it did well, I thought it deserved much better recognition. For no reason that I can remember, I never bought the follow ups and thats something I may address. Nick rolling this out inspired me to dig out GWO and give it a spin.
Tom listened: Nick’s keeps dangling the Embrace carrot over us at Record Club, yet here we are, three years in, and still we wait for an Embrace album to be brought by Nick. I agree with Rob on this one – it does sound like Oasis! Hopefully their other stuff doesn’t.
Kyuss – “Super Scoopa And Mighty Scoop”
Josh Homme’s band before Queens Of The Stone Age, Kyuss were desert stoner rockers, detuning their guitars, taking PAs into the middle of nowhere, and playing exceptionally deep, exceptionally groovy rock for people to set things on fire to. This is just exceptionally fun; Homme plays with the riff, bending it and corrupting it into silly shapes, and the stop-start outro is pure heaviosity comedy.
Rob listened: Great, loopy, open rock. Shows you can be indulgent and silly and still kick it hard.
Graham listened: I should really like Josh Homme’s work more, given my tastes. But something doesn’t work for me. I own ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ and don’t think I even got to the end. Strange.
Tom listened: One of Rob’s other ideas (other than Record Club) – hey, I’ve just realised he’s had at least two – was to do a podcast and within it one of the regular features would be a ‘Slipped Under Our Radar’ slot in which we listen to something pretty significant/ubiquitous that has always passed us by. I think that was the gist of it anyway. I can now cross Josh Homme off my list. Not really my cup of tea (unsurprisingly) as big rock riffage is to me what jangle pop seems to be to Nick.
Sugababes – “Overload”
Just great dancefloor pop; I remember dancing to this on countless drunken nights at university, whether on ‘dance’ dancefloors or ‘indie’ dancefloors or just daft student dancefloors. It’s simply brilliant, and brilliantly simple. I’ve literally only just this morning realised the line that runs from this back through All Saints and via Massive Attack to Neneh Cherry; it’s produced by Cameron McVey, Neneh’s husband, who worked on all her albums and was part of the revolving community of musicians who effectively comprised Massive’s Wild Bunch sound system in the 80s and 90s (he’s credited as ‘executive producer’ on Blue Lines).
Rob listened: I reviewed the album when it came out. I expected to be dismissing it as another manufactured girl band (not an anti-girl band thing, there were just loads of cobbled together girl and boy bands being prodded in front of us at the time), but 60 seconds into Overload I forgot all that. It’s a belter.
Graham listened: Oh the joy of feeling free to come out at my age and feel comfortable stating that I and other members have a soft spot for the Sugababes!
Tom listened: For my money, Sugarbabes are one the very best singles bands of the last twenty years – always inventive, slightly quirky, great singing (as in, not all that great singing – their slightly flat vocals seem so cool in this age of Autotune and X Factor). I don’t think I can recall a bad song by them and I imagine their Greatest Hits compilation is a thing of massive joy from start to finish. Maybe I should buy it!