U2 War – Round 90 – Graham’s Brief Interlude

By the time Tom’s theme got to my downloadears, I was only hearing “childhood sweetheart”, none of this “records bought before you were 18”, “records you bought before you thought music was cool” etc. etc..  I operate on a mainly literal basis, so had my reasons for bringing this along for a very brief airing.

The only U2 album I will even think about listening to these days is ‘Achtung Baby’. For U2 to do anything remotely on the scope of “cool” is a huge challenge and they may have got closest with that album. Otherwise I would never dream of spinning a whole U2 album, but our burgeoning numbers and the theme, opened the possibility of a vignette section on the night.

Back to the theme then. This album was responsible for me ending ties with my first proper girlfriend. I’m sure Paula still thanks me for it in any case. I had good reason though. I’d entertained all sorts of pop whimsy in her company, even taken her to see Nick Heyward/Haircut One Hundred in some shape of form. I’d been dabbling in prog/heavy rock and the only other current band I had any real feeling for was Big Country (oh what irony on Round 90). Let’s face it, at 17 in 1983 I was naive and vulnerable. ‘War’ blew me away. It sound vital, harsh, bold, unique, earnest, honest and with hearts literally pinned to the “record” sleeve. I was taken in hook line and sinker and spent much of the next year wearing a long grey coat doing my best to look earnest at every opportunity. Had their been an O level in looking earnest, I would have been a straight A student. Back to the childhood sweetheart for a moment though. She could not understand how important this album really was and simply, “didn’t mind it”. Well that was it, this lily livered approach could not stand in the way of my earnest crusade, so it was curtains on that relationship.

Obviously U2 became a horrible monolith, normally best ignored. I only inflicted ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ on the team, but for nostalgia reasons I can still sense a little of that feeling I got when I first heard it. I remember being impressed by Bono’s confidence in writing the song while bombs were still going off and everyone seemed too entrenched to dare dealing with such subject matter. Unfortunately this was only a glimpse in to how bleeding confident Bono would shortly become…………..


Everything But the Girl – ‘Walking Wounded’ – Round 85 – Graham’s Choice

What to bring to Round 85?

Simple really. During the week after the 1280x1280
clocks go back and on a wet and miserable night outside, a CD that has drifted through doors, windows, cars and holidays all summer, seemed like the perfect antidote.

I have no history with EBtG, other from thinking they sounded “nice enough”. I’m not even sure that I’ll explore them any further, but this impulse purchase of their 1996 album,  has just hit the spot all summer.

There’s a style of drum n bass I’d probably normally avoid, but somehow the cleanness/expression/lack of expression/control (we spent a long time searching for the right word and never found it) of Tracey Thorn’s delivery and the wash of keyboards over the top just makes it work superbly. That same delivery held me back from exploring their more acoustic/jangle pop work in the past as the fit just didn’t seem as good. The remix of ‘Missing’ from the previous album caught my attention back in those days as something more interesting.

There are huge slices of melancholy, loneliness and regret amongst the lyrics, but somehow the groove moves you positively through the whole album without bringing the listener down with it.

Maybe in Record Club terms this album represent the closure of a circle (note to self, there must be a great prog’ song somewhere called “Closure of a circle”, seek and deploy next round). Probably started with, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ at Round 53 (unlikely to be ever written up for many reasons), ‘Vs’ Round 58 and ended up with this at Round 85. Funnily enough 85 is 58 fully turned around,  on that bombshell…..

Nick listened: This was great. I’m hoping I can find a copy for £1.99 like Graham did, because I want to own it. I enjoyed the singles enough (nearly 20 years ago!) as I was just starting to engage with music outside the realm of indie guitar nonsense, but the intervening years (and the education my ears have undergone) have made this sound richer and deeper. And if the (frankly gorgeous) drum programming and synth sweeps date this – almost to the month for connoisseurs, I’d wager – then the songwriting and delivery balance that out by being timeless. Brilliant.

Rob listened: Nick, I may be able to save you a couple of quid. I have a funny feeling I’ve got two copies of ‘Walking Wounded’. Tom’s theme for next time threatens to drive me into the loft to delve amongst the CDs, so I’ll have a look under ‘E’ while I’m there.

I remember this coming out, in fact I think I reviewed it at the time. Most of my reviews from back then are lost to the mists of time, fortunately. However, if forced to speculate, I think I would have been sniffy about ‘Walking Wounded’ for all the laziest reasons. I would have had EBTG down as dancefloor arrivistes, sliding themselves into the scene at just the point where it moved from the warehouse to the dinner party. All this as if I knew anything about drum and bass beyond half a dozen records…

There is a line of enquiry around the gentrification of underground dance music, with the co-opting of hardcore and jungle, those most explosively disruptive scenes, sitting at centre stage, but listening to ‘Walking Wounded’ now, and every time it’s come back around since it was released, the love and devotion for the music is plain the see. Fair enough, it feels lightweight (or perhaps simply light on its feet) but it’s also exquisite, bristling with a burnished sonic sheen, sprung tight by delicately constructed beats and all washed over by Tracey Thorn’s rich, refreshingly unshowy vocals. As Nick says, it may be very easy to carbon date ‘Walking Wounded’, but nonetheless, the older it gets, the better it sounds.

Tom listened: I had always discounted Everything But The Girl as being far too fey and whimsical to ever consider choosing to listen to. Of course, Tracey Thorn has crept into my record collection through the back door as she is a guest vocalist on Massive Attack’s Protection album (and her voice works fine there, although I always wished it had a bit more soulful depth to it…I guess I just missed Shara Nelson’s vocals). But I have never actively sought out an Everything But The Girl record (the band’s name itself is a total turn off to me) and, from the occasional clip I heard on the radio, their early stuff sounded exactly as I would have imagined. Not for me.

Walking Wounded came as a very pleasant surprise though. I liked Tracey Thorn’s voice on here – her unemotive (some less kind persons might say flattish) singing slots straight into the colder landscapes of drum and bass led trip hop and the whole album drifted by in a relatively captivating blur – if that’s not a contradiction in terms! I certainly preferred it to other, similar, fare (Lamb, Beth Orton, Morcheeba) who were releasing records around this time.

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock – Round 83 – Graham’s Choicej

Setting a new tardiness  record in DRC 71tOFUGVgOL._SL1205_write up’s is generally my responsibility and the above is my latest contribution. Asked by Tom to bring something we talked about in Round 82 was easy for me as I had originally planned this for the instrumental theme for Round 82. Before we get too deep in the detail of this not actually qualifying as “instrumental”, I was all ready in Round 82 to come up with reasons/excuses about how this album had been “instrumental” in my musical education and how “instrumentally” it contained some content which I value above any other album. I’m confident all those reasons would have easily put fellow members mind’s at rest over an apparent bending of the theme by me,  for really the very first time….

Anyway, it never made it to the CD player as in the search for an antidote to the “challenge” of Haxan Cloak, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was deployed as a bit of light and shade to  accompany curry takeaway.

Between Nick and I, we have now managed to complete a hat-trick of Talk Talk/Mark Hollis albums moving through from Spirit of Eden, Laughing Stock and his single solo offering. Three albums that shaped my tastes to the point that I didn’t need to explore this genre anymore. They are each complete and anything else I might try “because if you like this, you might like this etc..” just doesn’t work. I can go back to them all for memories and rekindle the impact, particularly the first two had on me. I regard them all, but particularly Laughing Stock, as unique and precious.

Others can, and have written more eloquently than I about the spontaneity and experimentation with recording techniques and improvisation that Hollis used to produce exquisite moments of melody, rhythm and drama on this album, but nearly 25 year’s later it still has the moments when everything else has to stop around you while you anticipate what is coming. The beginning and the end of the guitar part on Ascension Day being the best, of many examples.

Rob listened: Is that it with the Talk Talk now?

I quite like Talk Talk, but then I quite like a lot of bands. Some of the sounds this band makes seem remarkable. However, as we’ve established over a number of rounds now, I don’t love Talk Talk, in fact I find them a little disappointing because each time I approach them I want to finally fall hard for them and I never do. I am always enchanted by the love my fellow Record Clubbers feel for them however, no matter how much I enjoy acting the anti-Hollis curmudgeon. If I were to pick any of their records, this would probably be the one. Who knows, maybe one day, maybe after another 15 appearances at DRC, it will be the one.

Nick listened: I rarely listen to Talk Talk these days, for various reasons: I’ve internalised the sounds and emotions of their records so much that I don’t ‘need’ to very often; there’s lots of other music that is great to listen to instead; my wife doesn’t like them that much; and, most pertinently I think, the last two albums in particular aren’t very easy things to listen to. I have to be in the right mood. I don’t feel like they’re records I can just throw on and have playing away in the background. Does that make them more precious somehow than records I can have playing merrily away and pay little attention to? It’s hard to say.

Laughing Stock is more awkward than Spirit of Eden, more emotionally and sonically extreme. It strikes me as being profound in a way that very few – perhaps no – other records are. The opening moments of “New Grass” – those skipping drums, that dappled guitar breaking through the murky emotional clouds left by “Taphead” – are still amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.

Which is all to say that Rob’s a disgusting savage with regards this band, basically.

Tom listened: Having discovered Spirit of Eden a couple of years before and having fallen head over heels in love with it during the intervening time, I can still recall the sense of  heightened anticipation I experienced as I placed the needle on the play in groove on my brand new copy of Laughing Stock. I could only have been disappointed! And I was…only a little, admittedly, as Laughing Stock is a fine, fine record, but nevertheless, something about it seemed more mannered; a tad overthought, less organic and therefore less natural sounding than its predecessor. I put the time in, expecting it to click, but I have never quite lost that sense of bewilderment and discombobulation when listening to Laughing Stock – whereas Spirit of Eden always left me wanting more, Laughing Stock seemed to be taunting me, challenging me to try to work it out whilst knowingly winking to its older sibling that it had set me an impossible task.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whilst I admire and respect Laughing Stock, I will always find it hard to love it in the way I do Spirit of Eden.

Bob Mould – Bob Mould – Round 81 – Graham’s Choice

“How the hell did that get MI0001886192 into my record collection”, was always going to be a tricky one for me as I’d come upon the idea by bringing the Ozric’s to the last round. I had a lot of options which I’d like to pretend that I had no idea how they got there, but sadly I knew (or at least thought I did) what I was doing each time I purchased or swapped them with someone. I do in fact recall once swapping a ‘Men at Work’ album, for a Genesis LP. There were no winners in that transaction.

So other than pretend I had no idea how my choice came to be in my possession, I had to go with one I picked up in a impulse purchase in a charity shop last year. Along with ‘Everything but the Girl’, ‘Glasvegas’ and ‘Athelete’, ‘Bob’ came in to my possession for a mere £1.

But what’s peculiar about ‘Bob’ is he has been around me for many years, but taken till now for me to buy in to some ‘product’, even though it was just a £1. I saw Husker Du a couple of times in the mid 80’s, had their albums on C90’s. Always like the sound of Sugar (and will be seeking to reacquaint myself with those again), but never added them to my collection. So a chance meeting in a charity shop in Buckingham, finally got us together.

His third solo album and first post Sugar. Although he plays everything on the album and does the whole thing single-handedly, it doesn’t sound at all overly introspective. The songs are fresh and immediate. Riffs and hooks pulling you in from the beginning, while darker and bitter lyrics keep your attention as to what he is trying to say.

There was never going to be a great story to this choice, just a cracking little album I came upon by chance.

Rob listened: Ah, Bob. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways… Actually, let’s not as they probably amount to ‘amazing, distinctive melodies played on amazing, buzzsaw guitars by an amazing, distinctive vocalist’. Let’s instead reflect on the irony that Husker Du are one of the long-running sub-plots of DRC. There’s barely a meeting goes by without Tom and I retiring to a metaphorical ante-chamber to discuss which of their albums we would bring if we could only stop playing ‘After you Claude!’ and pussyfooting around who’s musical birthright it is to introduce them to the club. And yet Mould makes his album-length entrance heralded by the words ‘WTF? I got this in a charity shop!’

‘Bob Mould’ is a solid, occasionally great post Sugar record, as in it’s a step back to what most people think Mould does best (see earlier). I love ‘Workbook’ and ‘Black Sheets of Rain’ but they are outliers of their own in the context of his body of work. It’s no accident that this is the record he put his name to and since it came out he’s been building once again on the foundation, towards the recent ‘Silver Age’ and ‘Beauty and Ruin’, two late-period belters.

So, should it be ‘Candy Apple Grey’ or ‘Flip Your Wig’?

Ozric Tentacles – ‘Jurassic Shift’: Round 70 – Graham’s Choice

Hastily arranged meeting means no time 220px-Jurassic_Shift_(album)to ponder and felt I had to go with something that had recently been playing at home. Unfortunately for colleagues that meant an album that had been fished out the previous night to accompany a sit on the decking with a beer as the sun went down. Wasn’t really trying to create a Glastonbury vibe, but the Ozric’s did the trick on Easter Monday evening.

Presenting this did give rise to the coming theme of “WTF is this doing in my collection?”. I’ve honestly no idea how it got there. I had an ever so brief fling with the New Age/ New Forest rave scene in the early 90’s, but mainly found the experience a bit damp and cold, so don’t think I picked it up there.

The Ozric’s are unsurprisingly a Somerset collective. More surprisingly our own resident ‘Wurzel’ didn’t seem too familiar with their output. Don’t own anything else by them, but if I ever feel the need to reach for some trippy, rave, space rock, its always a comfort to know they are there to fit the mood. Nice bit of flute action, and unless you’re into Jethro Tull and James Galway, its something you don’t hear enough of.

Various rhythms, beats and reggae style grooves to lose yourself in, along with some mentalist heavy guitar noodling to turn up if mood takes you. They have been around since the 80’s and are still going today with 20 odd albums to date. This is from 1993 and there 4th studio offering following an unsurprising cassette only distribution period at the end of the 80’s.

Music for the masses, doubtful. Music to fit the right mood, probably!

Rob listened: My reaction was more, “WTF is this doing in my house?” I was serious young music devotee in the late 80s and early 90s. The world according to Fugazi, Joy Division, Public Enemy and Dead Kennedy’s certainly had no place whatsoever for a bunch of ne’er-do-well hippies larking about as if Punk hadn’t put the sword to Prog. I knew nothing of their music, but I knew their loose-limbed, tie-dyed accolytes and I wanted no part of them, their drugs, their inner=space exploration, their back-of-an-exercise-book artwork and certainly not their records.

As a result of which I think I had never heard them properly before tonight. Distressingly, at least half of this album, heard with the benefit of considerable hindsight, sounded like it was well ahead of its time, taking electronics to space-rock and rave. It was s surprisingly pleasant listen. I’m glad I finally got it out of the way. Music snobbery is brilliant, ain’t it? Without it, we’d be lost.

Tom listened: I’d first of all like to thank Graham for giving me the sense of satisfaction of sorting out his formatting nightmare. It appears going into HTML and randomly deleting stuff actually works.

Talking of random…Ozric Tentacles were I band I too had preconceived ideas about, not all of them positive. I always lumped them in with Gorky’s Zygotic Myncci but, for some reason, when I actually heard Gorky’s and realised how wonderful they were, I never went back to The Ozrics to check out whether I had been wide of the mark with regard to my prejudices of them. It turns out, at least if Jurassic Shift is in any way representative of their oeuvre, that they are almost exactly as I imagined them to be. I guess this particular wurzel is more of a cider drinker than a crystal-centric glasto goblin.

Mark Lanegan – Phantom Radio – Round 79 – Graham’s Choice

Marginally tardy write up from Round 79 downloadfinally here. Not having time to think what to take that week, I opted for my familiar tactic of “if in doubt, Lanegan it”.

This would have been a shout for my album of 2014, hadn’t the Hookworms pipped Mr L to the post. Following my recent immersion in to the world of music streaming apps, I have been positively “gorging” myself on Screaming Trees and the Lanegan back catalogue. I’m trying to ween myself off but finding cold turkey tough at present.

I think I may have mentioned that I regard Lanegan as the “Ronseal” of rock. You buy a new CD and know (more or less) exactly what’s in the tin. This is fine if you like what you are bound to be getting, but sense other members may be boring of Mr L by know.

Similar to 2012’s Blues Funeral (see Round 42, https://devonrecordclub.com/2012/12/28/mark-lanegan-blues-funeral-round-42-grahams-choice/) but takes the laid back electro/dance feel on a little bit further. Real fans should check out the “Thousand Miles of Midnight” remix album. Maybe what really appeals to me about his latest work was the hints of Joy Division, Cure and possibly early New Order it left on the palate? Moreover, its just Mr L doing what he does, and very well in my opinion.

Tom listened: Well…actually I really liked this, I think (it feels about three years ago that we actually listened to it and all I can remember are some gravelly vocals, some well crafted songs and, perhaps a bit more variety and a few more ideas than Blues Funeral – although I could well be being unfair to Blues Funeral as I recall very little of that album too). I do know that when Graham chose three songs from this album to enter into the kids and parents impromptu singles world cup recently they shone like diamonds (rough ones admittedly) in a sea of Sheeranesque shite.

Hookworms – The Hum – Round 78 – Graham’s Choice

Not been able to get along to DRC for a while. download (2)But Tom’s fiendish theme (though hosted at my house as a result of those pesky ladies of book club), meant I could sneak in one of my possible albums of the year, having missed the annual DRC awards ceremony.

When Rob brought the band’s debut, ‘Pearl Mystic’, to Round 57 in 2013, it sounded like the most exciting new album I had heard in years. Rushed out to get it and been spinning it regularly ever since.

I picked up ‘The Hum’ on release and playing it every week since. The massive psychedelic/riffy/fuzzy/driven blow you up, over and down of the debut is still there but marginally improved by a bit more control and/or maturity? Anyway, like ‘Pearl Mystic’ the opening 2 tracks are killers but the rest of the album seems to hang together just a bit better and the way most tracks link in to each other, tips the balance on me preferring this to their debut.

Also by playing this album I found a way to sneak in/inflict some proper 1971 ‘space rock’ by Pink Floyd on fellow members as my track for the night. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1kZ6M2aMvw I’d be surprised in the ‘worms haven’t heard it, but if not, they should.

As an extra DRC bonus, playing ‘The Hum’  on a different CD player than normal, meant I discovered that track 9 actually exists, as up until that night my other CD player had never found anything past track 8! Whoopee, a good night’s work all round, though I’m easily pleased these days.

Rob listened: I’m not sure why, but having loved ‘Pearl Mystic’ and having been excited to hear what they did next, I never got around to picking up ‘The Hum’. So, I was particularly pleased to hear it this evening, and not only because up to the point he pulled it out of his bag we all thought Graham was going to adhere to the theme by choosing a Pink Floyd record which, he would presumably try to persuade us, was better than the other two he has already treated us to.

There was some discussion between Tom and I, hoary old lovers of late 80s Velvets-loving drone rock, as to whether Hookworms sounded great because they are great, or because they channeled bands we had very previously decided were great, and furthermore, we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a youngster who had never heard Loop or Spacemen 3 or CAN or MC5 or the sainted Velvets and wondered what this referential music would feel like first time out? Between us we decided it would feel like having your face melted off by a jet engine. And I think we wished we could go back and feel that way again.

Tom listened: In many ways Hookworms are about as far away from Shudder to Think as it would be possible for two guitar based bands to be. Whereas the latter band are skewed and tangential and deliberately awkward, Hookworms songs are warm and inclusive and draw you in through their groove and repetition.

I liked both Pearl Mystic and The Hum but I definitely preferred the sophomore outing – it seemed a bit more concise than the debut and the songs seemed to me to have greater definition and a bit more character. I particularly liked the ‘bonus’ track that Graham discovered he had!

I find it odd that a band that is so redolent of so many that Rob and I were drawn to when we were at university actually sounds so little like any of them. Don’t believe me? Well play The Hum next to Playing With Fire or Heaven’s End and you’ll hear a band that are taking themselves (for better or worse) far less seriously, sounding like they’re having more fun and producing a far less threatening/ominous sound. Hookworms sound is much more messy too. But there’s obviously enough of a similarity for Rob and I to drone on (get it?) for hours on end about the good old days when bands just got on with it and put their music out there, warts and all. Whilst I probably won’t be buying the album, I always enjoy hearing Hookworms on the radio and I imagine they would be fantastic live.

Nirvana – In Utero – Round 74 – Graham’s Choice

Well this is a first. A review of an albumdownload I didn’t actually intend to play at DRC. I took this along simply as evidence that I had found something in line with my spontaneous theme. Before I could reach for my ‘theme stretching’ offering everyone else decided they wanted to hear it and it was already on. Still I’m sure I can find another theme to stretch in due course to squeeze in my original choice.

So what are my qualifications for writing up a review of this offering? I don’t own ‘Nevermind’, in fact I don’t recall ever  listening to it all. I came to Nirvana post ‘Unplugged’and being impressed by the tracks on here like ‘Dumb’, ‘All Apologies’ and ‘Penny Royal Tea’. Until this week’s round, they were really the only tracks I would flick to on this cd.   Without labouring the point then, this isn’t going offer much insight for Nirvana officienados out there.

But a strange thing happened during playing of this album. For the first time I actually sat there in Nick’s optimum listening position on the sofa and listened properly! I’ve clearly never done that before as I found power, angst, desperation, rawness, riffs, hooks and all sorts of stuff I’ve never tuned in to in previous listens when in car and in the background at home. Its obvious Kurt wasn’t a ‘happy bunny’ and it simply pours out of this record. How can you follow up  the explosion of  ‘Nevermind’? I don’t suppose you can, but then ‘muppets’ like me should at least be prepared to give this a proper listen and give it the credit it deserves.

Rob listened: I was there for Nirvana from the start. I loved them the first time I heard ‘Bleach’. I first heard the songs from ‘Nevermind’ live one afternoon at the Reading Festival before the album had been released and can still remember how it felt to have my mind blown that day by ‘Teen Spirit’ and ‘In Bloom’. I was waiting when that record came out and waiting when ‘In Utero’ was released 2 years later. I loved Nirvana hard.

Why then have their records been more or less shelf-bound for the last 20 years? Other artists get regular run-outs. I can only posit something to do with the total over-exposure to ‘Nevermind’. I’m not referring only to over-exposure in the culture, but even just in my house I practically wore the thing out, so much so that it just doesn’t seem to make any sense to go back to it. I do occasionally spin ‘Sliver’ or side one of ‘Bleach’. I’ll occasionally get an urge for ‘Molly’s Lips’ or ‘Been A Son’, but I never go back to the three studio albums in any serious way. Which, considering just how much I loved them first time around, is pretty stupid.

Unless, unless, these records are maturing, enriching with age. For sure, ‘In Utero’ gets better and better with age. Tonight it absolutely killed. Lyrically lacerating, rhythmically piledriving, packed with hooks and aggression and, yes dammit, good old fashioned corrosive angst. It has to be one of the finest rock records in history, a piece of work which both extends and justifies the form. If you’ve never heard it, hear it. If you’ve heard it before, hear it again, you’ll be amazed just how good it sounds.

Nick listened: I’m glad we ‘bullied’ Graham into playing this, because not only was it the most relevant choice for the theme, it’s also awesome, and I hadn’t heard it in a long time. I wasn’t around for Nirvana in anything like the way Rob – I was only 14 when Kurt died – and only really came to this album five years on from that, although I’d absorbed it via osmosis seemingly long before. I think it’s amazing, and much prefer it to Nevermind. Some people may have seen it as a failure, for whatever reason, but has a mainstream, multi-million-selling album ever been more sonically and emotionally brutal?

Echo and the Bunnymen  – ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’: Round 73 – Graham’s Choice

To be honest the chances of me findingEcho_&_the_Bunnymen_album_cover any “hidden gems” by Round 73 were thin on the ground. Any curios I possess had probably been presented by now which left me looking for an album I liked (rather than cherished) but haven’t thought to bring along before. Consequently I really can’t find much to say about it!

Having produced ‘Ocean Rain’ at my virgin initiation  round way back, I found myself turning to the Bunnymen’s self titled 5th album for this choice. I can’t think of too many artists that have waited until their 5th album to go down the eponymous route (but expect someone will be along soon to point out how wrong I am on that), but maybe that suggests something about how the band were on the point of implosion by this point and maybe there was something of marking the end of an era.

My basic view is that there are 4/5 great pop songs on this album that lack maybe the edginess that people had come to expect from the band and meeting the standard set by ‘Ocean Rain’ was always going to be next to impossible.  ‘The Game’, ‘Bedbugs and Ballyhoo’, ‘Lips Like Sugar’ and ‘All My Life’ still all tick big boxes for me. The struggle with various recording locations, production and band cohesion give the album a strange bright and brash sound. The lush strings on ‘Ocean Rain’ are replaced by colder sounding keyboards which don’t work on all the tracks by any stretch of the imagination.

Scratch away at the surface and I still think some of their catchiest and best crafted songs are on this album with Ian McCulloch’s vocals complementing the songs rather than being overly dramatic/bombastic. Not their best, but certainly enough to keep me listening. Break-ups and reincarnation followed and I can’t comment on what came later as I’d moved on.

Rob listened: I can’t recall where we went on holiday in 1987, but I know that when I managed to get into the nearest Woolworth’s (I assume) to fork over my pocket money for a new cassette to stick in my walkman to pass the hours in the back seat of the family car, this is what I chose. ‘Songs To Learn and Sing’ was an iconic record for a mid-80s school-kid, and I knew half the songs on there from fleeting radio contact, but this was the first Echo and the Bunnymen record I got my hands on. And it didn’t sound quite as I’d hoped or expected. No drenching reverb, few yearning strings, relatively little solipsistic grandeur. Almost a different band, except for that voice. I listened to the album a lot, as I did everything I owned then, and whilst it never crossed over to become a favourite, there were songs here that created an itch I found very hard to scratch. Opening track ‘The Game’ is the best example. There is drama in there but it’s carefully, economically dispensed. I didn’t understand that at the time: I wanted maximalism. But all the same, I couldn’t stop listening, rewinding, listening again.

Hearing the album again was a treat. There are, as Graham says, some great songs herein. Mostly though it reminded me of how it felt to dive into music just because it was what you could get your hands on, to go deep and, when you surfaced, to find you still had some of it inside you. And try as I might, there’s something here I can’t scratch away.

Tom listened: As someone who never really got the appeal of Echo and the Bunnymen (I could never get past McCulloch’s ego…and I only became aware of the band when said ego was already fully formed in about 1984), I was surprised at how palatable the eponymous album was. I probably preferred it to Ocean Rain, I imagine for precisely the reason I am supposed to like it less, in that it doesn’t sound so much like an Echo and the Bunnymen album. A collection of nice enough songs!

Nick listened: My Bunneymen knowledge and interest pretty much starts and stops with Ocean Rain, although I do own a couple of the albums from earlier in their career. So I’d never heard this, and didn’t really recognise any of the (pretty fine) tunes. The production did definitely feel at odds with what I understood the Bunneymen’s signature sound to be, and though I don’t object to the overall aesthetic in general, I don’t feel this was the best embodiment of it.

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly – Round 70 – Not Graham’s Choice but forced in to it by Tom’s selection system

Tom’s theme was an ingenious selection donaldfagen-thenightfly system,  making us bring something from a specific location on the shelves. However in my case that meant I could work L-R on some shelves, up/down on some piles and back to front on on some boxes. Anyway dispensing with the other options that had been played already at DRC, my L6 ticket left me with the above.

Well, what irony, as I can only elaborate slightly more than on this classic review of an album, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWqKiqTfXuA  but not much more I’m afraid. In Round 68 I responded to Tom’s Steely Dan offering with the following in the comments section.

“No, no, no, I won’t submit to liking Steely Dan! I’ve been troubled enough by Donald Fagen’s ‘The Nightfly’ during the last year and I’m not putting myself through that again. In 1982 I was 16 and must have been a bit of a hipster because I thought ‘The Nightfly’ was brilliant, sophisticated, clever etc…. Anyway, ffwd to 2013, when I purchased a CD of the same and this caused me probably the biggest trauma of the year and that’s going some for 2013. Like Aja, it sounded too clean, too smug, too lift musak. There, I feel better now, guess tastes change.”

All I can add to that unconscious review a few weeks ago was that this was an early example of a fully digital recording. Maybe when I was 16 the clean sound impressed me, today it just sounds like all emotion and life has been sucked out of the tracks. I suppose “New Frontier” is a track that can be tolerated, but nothing more. Anyway, I no longer own aforesaid CD as I have donated it to someone who might be prepared to give it an ear, even if he has noticed yet. Plus I’ve turned a corner and now have a significant number of CD’s in almost alphabetical order in a cupboard. Truly, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tcXblWojdM

Rob listened: But it sort of passed me by. So i’m listening to it again now on my laptop whilst also unavoidably hearing the news of the world collapsing around our ears as we plunge towards a new Cold War of the sort Donald Fagen may or may not have been papping on about herein.

Anyhow, I think the first song sounds like ‘Stuck With You’ by Huey Lewis and the News. Hey! Another news link! Coo this record really is packed with allusion and foreshadow.

Gotta be honest, that first song is still going on and i’m about done with the time I set aside to write about this. I note that it’s called ‘I.G.Y.’ which presumably stands for ‘I Got Your (Huey Lewis and the News right here (Fagen grabs crotch and looks angry))’ making it a rare early example of a song title with parenthesised parentheses.

Second song now firmly underway. Still can’t really hear it. Am drawn to reflect on the cover which, it pleases me to note, apparently depicts Mr Fagen attempting to sing the record directly onto a platter of vinyl. This, presumably, not an early first.

It’s kind of zazzing away now and I’m thinking the collapse of civilisation in the Northern Hemisphere might actually be more interesting to listen to. There’s a fine line betwen smooth and bland and yet another one between sophisticated and featureless. I think it’s fair to say that this record is one side of that line and another side of that other line. I reckon if I were to listen to it over and over and over again and then over and over and over again that it would really worm its way into my head and I would start to feel like it was the sound of the whole wide world squeezed into one sleek and silkily easy to swallow pill. I’m pretty sure that’s what would happen. Rest-assured, once i’ve reached the required number of spins, I’ll report back.

Hey, it’s still going on. Seems like it takes quite a while, this thing. How long is it again? [*checks wikipedia*] Thirty eight minutes? Okay. Wow. Thirty eight whole minutes eh? And I’m how far through it by now? Three songs? Okay.


Nick listened: I don’t remember finding this offensive at all, or all that bland or alienating etc etc. But at the same time, I don’t remember ANYTHING about it at all.

Tom listened: About a year ago, Graham enthusiastically thrust The Nightfly into my paw making all sorts of claims for its greatness. I eagerly stuck it on the car stereo and found it generally bland with more than a few moments of cringe inducing over production. I enthusiastically returned said item to Mr Pollock hoping to never hear it again.

Twelve months on, post Aja epiphany and, hey presto, The Nightfly is selected in the great DRC random music generator theme night. A year on, Graham now hates it. I have begun to fall under the spell of Becker and Fagen having recently also purchased Steely Dan’s first two albums and I find myself voting to listen to The Nightfly as opposed to Graham’s alternative choices (!?) which he is practically begging us to choose instead. All a bit arse about tit!

So we listened to it, and I didn’t really like it….

Then I found The Nightfly languishing on my CD shelf the day after. Silly old Graham, he is getting forgetful! But during my extended loan, I have listened to The Nightfly a few more times and its all beginning to make a little more sense. It’s much harder work than  Aja, Can’t Buy a Thrill or Countdown to Ecstasy, it seems less consistent in terms of quality, but I can now see why so much fuss is made of it even if I am still undecided as to whether its reputation is justified or not.

Oh, and don’t worry Graham…it will be winging its way back to you soon!

Graham responded: Sorry no room on CD shelf. As Ed missed out, maybe he should be next recipient? We’ll find someone who likes it eventually!

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