I’m a little busy this week with various projects and personal things going on, so in the meantime, please enjoy this absolutely gorgeous strings-only mix of The Beatles’ “Something”, which will be on the Abbey Road Deluxe Edition coming out soon.
This isn’t a shameless promo post — but yeah, I ordered the thing the day it went on pre-sale. No big surprise there!
Eric Alper, one of the music writers I follow on Twitter, sometimes throws out Questions of the Day just for fun, to get a conversation going. A while back he asked “What song has the best intro?” And of course about twenty different tracks popped up, some more obvious than usual. Here are a few tracks that contain some of my favorite openings over the years. As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of the Slow Reveal. 🙂
That decade definitely had its share of one-hit wonders and almost-hits, didn’t it? From a former record-store-clerk standpoint, there was definitely a HARD push to get everything and anything out there to cash in on The Latest Sound. This was pretty much across the board in multiple genres. I remember the weekly visits from the distribution reps as they upsold the big names as well as the copycats and the underdogs. Some of it worked, a lot of it didn’t. Sometimes the music just wasn’t as good, but sometimes it was just luck and timing.
Here’s some tunage from the 90s that I thought was well worth the attention but unfortunately didn’t get past the first few hurdles here in the US. I’m pretty sure many of you have never heard of these, or will spark that wonderful ‘oh, that song!’ memory.
In late autumn of 1995, having just gotten all my anger and frustration out of my system after moving back home from an extended stay in Boston, I reconnected with an old friend of mine from high school and we started hanging out. To be honest it was a friendship of convenience at the time, considering a) we’d both boomeranged back to our home town that we’d both been so vocally desperate to escape five years previous, and b) there weren’t too many others we knew of in the immediate area that we could hang out with. She and I spent a lot of time driving around central Massachusetts, listening to music, smoking cigarettes, going to a few shows here and there, and making ridiculous plans to escape the clutches of our hometown once more. She’d escape in a few years; it took me almost nine more to do the same.
Spacehog’s Resident Alien was on heavy rotation during that time, partly because she had a mad crush on the guitarist Antony Langdon. There was also the fact that their debut single “In the Meantime” was getting mad airplay on all the local alt-rock stations we could get in, and I loved that they’d cribbed Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s “Telephone and Rubber Band” and used it brilliantly as the backbone sample of the entire song. We saw them at Pearl Street in Northampton not that long after its October release, and we stayed behind after the show to mingle with the band. While the the brothers Langdon (Antony and bassist/singer Royston, later to become Mr. Liv Tyler) were their usual strange and silly selves, lead guitarist Richard Steel and drummer Jonny Cragg were more laid back and amiable. [I remember surprising Jonny by mentioning I knew him from when he played in The Hollow Men back in the early 90s!] They were an unabashedly fun band to see and hang with.
They wore their Bowie influences not just on their sleeves but pretty much all over the place. You can hear traces of most of Bowie’s 70s output throughout the entire album, going from psychedelic Hunky Dory grooves on “Starside” to bluesy Ziggy Stardust riffs on “Candyman” to ridiculous Lodger camp on “Space is the Place” and back again. There’s even a nod to Tin Machine there on track two, “Spacehog”, in which that band’s “Crack City” is quoted near the end. [This is no fluke; during their tours for this album they would do a cover of the song, which ended up on their Hamsters of Rock EP.]
I think what makes this a strong record for me is that it shows that the band was solid and confident straight out of the gate; not only could they swagger like Bowie, they could balance their sillier songs with some truly heartfelt ballads. I also liked that there was a consistent sci-fi theme throughout, whether it was implied (such as “Shipwrecked”) or direct (such as “Starside”). And ending the album with the absolutely stunning epic track “Zeroes” is always a big winner for me.
They ended up being a bit of a 90s one hit wonder for the most part, but they’ve put out three further albums (the latest being 2013’s As It Is On Earth) and each of them has their own distinct charm, a healthy dose of Bowie influence, and of course their trademark goofiness. They’re all worth checking out, but I’ll always come back to Resident Alien as a solid mid-90s alt-rock album that’s stood the test of time.
Sorry for the fake-out there, kids…Outside Lands took a bit more out of me than I’d expected. Going to take it a little bit easy this week in an attempt to get back some of my energy.
Meanwhile, have a listen to a shoegaze deep cut that pops into my head now and again. Then listen to its ambient reworking by Global Communication.
I should do an overview of both bands. Chapterhouse was a fantastic Britpop/Shoegaze band that didn’t get nearly all the love it deserves. Global Communication on the other hand may be known more for their remix work and their solo outings under their own names (Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard), but their ’73:14′ album is an ambient masterpiece.
Music is most emphatically not an escape from reality for me. It’s an anchor to keep me sane, to help me focus any depression or aggression into something positive like my own creative outlets. It’s there to bring me back to a calm place, so I can focus on tough issues with a calmer mind. It provides me with inspiration when I need direction.