Archive for the 'music' Category

The indisputably correct list of the ten best albums ever

Here is the indisputably correct list of the best ten (non-compilation/ Greatest Hits) albums ever, in no particular order.

  • "Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols"

    The lurid, ransom note logo and album cover by Jamie Ried (cf my own at the top of this page). The sheer fucking excitement of the opening of "God Save The Queen" or "Pretty Vacant" makes this a fantastic album. The opening of "Bodies" still sends a shiver up my spine.

  • Blue – Joni Mitchell

    Mitchell’s guitar, dulcimer, piano playing is perfect. But it’s the songs that make it: the heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics, the melodies with their key changes. Sublime. Maaaan.

  • dubnobasswithmyheadman – Underworld

    Electronica with real vocals. Dada-esque cut-up lyrics. Dance songs and chill-out songs. I have vivid memories of getting stoned and travelling through the skyscrapers of Bangkok in the back of a taxi listening to this.

  • Loveless – My Bloody Valentine

    What on earth is wrong with this pressing? I asked myself on my 25th birthday as I played my brand new CD. Then every time I listened, I heard new sounds amongst the feedback and gently melodic crooning.

  • Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said. Wonderful, even if it is hippie/ rock shit.

  • "London Calling" – The Clash

    I’ll never forget buying this double album in 1979 for £3.50 (the same price as a single album) and the first time I played it. It was the first time I’d heard political music. It was my first exposure to reggae; I know it was from white boys, but until then I’d only heard sanitised pop reggae. The Clash just melted down loads of influences into something amazing. The cover is great – and the Elvis reference is genius.

  • The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said.

  • Revolver – The Beatles

    It’s got ballads, kids’ songs, psychedelia, string sections. It’s got it all. The latest reissue, remixed into real stereo by Giles Martin, has crystal-clear bass that wasn’t really possible in the 60s (too much bass would cause record player styluses to jump out of the groove) so you can hear McCartney’s genius, and also the non-album single from the same sessions: Paperback Writer and its even more marvellous B-side, Rain, with its backwards vocals, stunning harmonies and bass.

  • Dummy – Portishead

    No-one had ever heard music like this before. Shares in theramins went through the roof.

  • Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

    It’s got loads of great tracks. And “Visions of Johanna”, which is His Bobness’ towering achievement.

  • Bonus runner-up: Wrong Way Up – Brian Eno And John Cale

    Two geniuses, legendary pioneers of experimental music get together, combining loads of different and unusual instruments and cut-up loops. Instead of some unlistenable avant-garde weirdness, they produce an album of slightly off-kilter pop songs full of melodies and harmony. It initially sounds catchy but slight, and as you listen more, new depths are revealed. The album’s title comes from its song “Empty Frame,” a sea shanty about a cursed ship going around in circles, never returning to port. A lost classic.

Number Stations

A new song. It’s inspired by numbers stations, “a shortwave radio station characterized by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which are believed to be addressed to intelligence officers operating in foreign countries. Most identified stations use speech synthesis to vocalize numbers”. This got me thinking about clandestine communication and betrayal.

I heard chatter on the network.
But I couldn’t crack your code.
I was waiting defenceless
for your bombshells to explode.

If you’re here, there is a reason.
Your ciphers are all known.
To everything there is a season.
Now you’re here, your cover’s blown.

I don’t recall why we are enemies.
I don’t understand what we are fighting for.
I forgot my ideology,
half way across the bridge
in this cold, cold war.

You walked down to the checkpoint.
I saw graffiti on the wall.
You presented your false papers,
and the wall began to fall.

Words and music © Bruce Lawson 2020, all rights reserved.
Production and bass guitar: Shez of @silverlakemusic.

Taffy at The Black Heart, Camden

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours upstairs in a sweaty windowless room above a pub in Camden on a scorching summer’s evening.

The reason I subjected myself to this misery was to see a Japanese punky-pop-shoegaze band called Taffy play. Taffy are a bit like The Primitives, with chainsaw guitar and great pop melodies but also sport a shoegazey-disorted lead guitar and sweet vocals from a singer called Iris. Their drummer, an ever-smiling bespectacled chap who reminds me of Penfold from Dangermouse, plays like two drummers together. They might not be ground-breaking, but they do make a great, summery sound. They’re much too cheerful to be real shoegaze, and they’re better musicians and singers than Shonen Knife, with none of their studied wackiness.

Best thing to do is listen. Here’s their latest single “Tumbling” (but the best tracks from their new Lixiviate album, Sweet Violet and Train aren’t singles):

After paying my6 to get in, who should I bump into but drummer Ken at the bar. As my 14 year old daughter is in love with him (“he’s so adorable”, apparently) she demanded by text that I have a photo taken with him.

ken

The photo was taken by the guitarist. They both signed my CD cover. Note that Ken’s autograph is a smiling anthropomorphised drum kit. (“It’s so adorable!” squealed my daughter.) I didn’t know what Iris or the bassist looked like to get their signatures, so lost my chance at a rare collectible there.

cover

The band went on, and they were great. The sound was terrible, naturally: pub gigs never have a decent PA, the drummer plays loud to fill the room, the guitars turn up loud so they can hear themselves, and vocals are lost in the mix. Iris has a tuneful, engaging voice, but it’s quite high and not powerful. But they were brilliantly tight, and obviously loved playing. The bassist grooved around until his shirt was wringing wet, Ken flailed around on his drums, cleaning sweat off his specs between songs and never letting his smile falter. The guitarist even played an intro by hitting the strings with a glow stick.

As a band, they’ll either disappear or get really big and you’ll all be jealous of my seeing them in a room of 40 people in Camden. I think their tour finished tonight, but I heartily recommend their album.

Taffy band

My Bloody Valentine reunion: Roundhouse 21 June

I’d had the tickets since before xmas so have been excited for months to see the first reunion gig since MBV stopped recording around 15 years ago.

As seems traditional these days, the support band were a bag of shit and the main band took far too long to come to the stage (what are they doing backstage? Finishing a game of monoploy?) and I was knackered, so starting to feel pretty grumpy.

But, as I’d hoped, they blew me away. The last time I saw them (in 1991) I was in a special frame of mind so my memories of that gig are hazy. I recall great visuals, a lot of noise and the band not interacting with the audience. As we entered the hall, Nongyaw and I were offererd free earplugs. I declined: what kind of wussy pink-knickers wears earplugs at a gig?

Answer: me, by the end of the evening.This gig’s chemical intake was restricted to 2 pints of Kronenbourg, so I trust my recollection. MBV are the loudest, noisiest bunch on the planet. Colm O’Coisig flails away on the drums like a madman, Debbie Googe on bass never takes her eyes off him, and Bilinda Butcher and Kevin Sheilds neither acknowedged the audience or each other.

My only criticism is that the vocals, which are never emphasised and only ever another instrument in the songs, were so far down the mix that sometimes they disappeared altogether. Nevertheless, all the hits were played, the visuals were splendid and the last song, You Made Me Realise had me putting my ear plugs in as the band just howled noise.

Fucking marvellous.

The Sex Pistols

That nice Jule Howell invited me to go and see the first night of the Sex Pistols’ reunion gigs. As I was just a little too young and provincial to see them back in 1976, I couldn’t resist the chance for a little nostalgia. For a band whose premise was a musical “burn the museums”, there’s a special irony in their being a nostalgia act, yet that’s what they are (bear in mind that we’re as far away now from the release of Never Mind The Bollocks than it was from the end of the second world war).

There was a real air of expectation in Brixton. The pubs were full of forty-somethings having conversations like “Did you see Sham in Southend in ’79?” and “…so that’s when Sid punched me”. The excitement was not completely scuppered by the miserable shitty venue with its two rows of corporate hospitality seats in front of us, and scowling bouncers telling everyone to “remain seated at all times”.

The (crappy) support band were dispensed with, Dame Vera Lynne’s “There’ll always be an England” concluded on the P.A., and out came the band—at which point the bouncers gave up on the “seated at all times” rule and retreated to the sidelines.

Age has mellowed Johnny Rotten. He actually hugged Glenn Matlock on stage and told us that “we fucking love each other”, told us that Matlock, Jones and Cook are “a fucking good band” and—heartwarmingly—that he is “one lucky cunt” because of them. Don’t believe me? Check out my video:

Age has improved Matlock, Cook and Jones’ musicianship. A guy behind was commenting that they were immeasurably better than they were 30 years ago, and they were certainly tight, well-rehearsed and oh so loud. Rotten, on the other hand, had a book of lyrics bought onto the stage by a flunky, and still managed to fuck up the words to No Feelings, Liar and (for chrissakes!) Anarchy in the UK. You’d’ve thought that someone who’s made a mint for thirty years on the same dozen songs would know the damn words! Never mind, though; it was the occasion that mattered.

The band worked their way through note-perfect versions of all their songs except (I think) I Wanna be Me and Satellite, and a reworked version of Belsen was a Gas called Baghdad was a Blast for an encore, and a splendid time was had by all.

Here’s me and Julie—the MS Pistols—all excited on our way to the gig.

Bruce and Julie going up escalators in Brixton tube station

Bajofondo Tango Club

A mate of mine had tickets to see the Bajofondo Tango Club, but couldn’t make it so donated them to me. I was sceptical: “a sort of jazzy tango” was the vague description he’d given me and as I like neither modern jazz nor tango, I wasn’t expecting a good night.

I had a great night. I never expected a band fronted by violin, guitar and an accordiany thing to do the kind of looping riffs with increasing textures that you find with Loop or My Bloody Valentine, but these guys were something else. Some songs were haunting Spanish guitar; others were almost industrial, with the on-stage VJ layering black and white footage of machinery, trains and a military coup while dirty beats and samples intertwined with the real-world instruments. All the while, audience members danced the sleaziest, fucked-up tango that I’ve ever seen.

Listening to the CD subsequently is a pale imitation of the live experience, unfortunately. Highly recommended.

The Undertones’ ‘Thrill Me’

First gig I ever saw was The Undertones at the Odeon in Birmingham in 1980. They rocked so much that, 27 years later, I still play “Teenage Kicks” in my band.

So when I discovered that they’d reformed (without Feargal Sharkey) and released an album I had to buy it. And it’s great! The opening song “Thrill Me” is a complete classic, with a chorus that’s running through my head constantly.

Turn your speakers up!