49. Blur – Parklife

Blur - Parklife

49. Blur – Parklife (1994)

1. Girls & Boys
2. Tracy Jacks
3. End of a Century
4. Parklife (featuring Phil Daniels)
5. Bank Holiday
6. Badhead
7. The Debt Collector
8. Far Out
9. To the End
10. London Loves
11. Trouble in the Message Centre
12. Clover Over Dover
13. Magic America
14. Jubilee
15. This Is a Low
16. Lot 105

Who is/are Blur?

Having done Wikipedia and Twitter, we head to Facebook; “Musician/Band”.

Thanks Facebook, thanks.

Why did you buy this album?

Another of my wife’s CDs. This copy replaced the, shall we say, unofficial copy given to her by a classmate in the 90s, though she doesn’t know when.

Like the first two albums, ‘Parklife‘ passed me by when it was released, other than hearing the eponymous single everywhere (I even performed all the vocals for a friend’s mock-GCSE performance). Not sure what I was listening to at the time, but later in the year R.E.M.’s ‘Monster‘ would come out, but we’ll save that story for another day.

What’s it like?

It’s the natural development of the themes and sound first presented in ‘Modern Life is Rubbish‘, though now with bigger production values, bigger choruses, and guaranteed singles. It widely considered one of the best albums of 1994 (I prefer Weezer’s ‘Weezer‘ myself), and is also cited as one of the ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die‘.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

Mostly. Breaking with my habit of finding the opening track to often be the best on an album, I cannot stand ‘Girls & Boys‘, despite Alex James’s fantastic bass playing.

Fortunately, the rest of the album picks up from there, and it’s an enjoyable listen. This is essentially Blur doing what they did best.

Any stand-out tracks?

I don’t really have a favourite track on this album, though I am quite fond of ‘Jubilee‘ and ‘This Is A Low‘. Notable mentions also go to ‘Magic America‘ and ‘End of a Century‘.

Rating out of 10?

8/10.

Next up: Blur – The Great Escape

48. Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish

Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish

48. Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)

1. For Tomorrow
2. Advert
3. Colin Zeal
4. Pressure on Julian
5. Star Shaped
6. Blue Jeans
7. Chemical World
Intermission
8. Sunday Sunday
9. Oily Water
10. Miss America
11. Villa Rosie
12. Coping
13. Turn It Up
14. Resigned
Commercial Break

Who is/are Blur?

To Twitter (@blurofficial); “Alex, Damon, Dave & Graham. New album ‘The Magic Whip’ out now. Get it on iTunes.”

That’s a step up from the usual album sales bio, as we at least get the band member’s names…

Why did you buy this album?

Again, this one belongs to my wife. Once upon a time, she was given a copy of Blur’s third album, ‘Parklife‘, by a classmate, and fell in love with it. She then went and bought their next album, ‘The Great Escape‘, when it was released, and eventually, following the same classmate’s recommendation that she do so, bought ‘Modern Life…‘, as he claimed it was better than ‘Parklife‘.

He was not wrong.

Although she initially disagreed, she kept listening to it, and one day had an epiphany…

For my part, this was another album I remember seeing in shops at the time. It was around this time I started buying CDs (think I got my first personal CD player for Christmas in this year), so I was listening to The Cranberries. Blur had another good album cover, and a couple of decent singles on Radio 1, but otherwise hadn’t really crossed my path in any big way yet.

What’s it like?

After the somewhat lacklustre ‘Leisure‘, this is more like the Blur we’ve know and love. The post-Madchester baggy sound of ‘There’s No Other Way‘ and ‘She’s So High‘ are gone, and replaced by a more 60s-guitar-band inspired sound; certainly The Kinks and The Small Faces are influences.

There’s a greater range of styles than ‘Leisure‘ too. Amongst the guitar-pop, there’s a bit of punk, a bit of psych-rock, and a bit of vaudeville for good measure.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

This is my favourite of the early Blur albums. There’s not a bad track on the album, and the variety of styles and songs really works in its favour. Although I came to hear it reasonably late, it still stands up as a great collection of songs, and unlike ‘Leisure‘, it doesn’t age.

Any stand-out tracks?

I seem to have a fondness for opening tracks, as ‘For Tomorrow‘ is clearly the best song on here. Notable mentions also got to ‘Pressure on Julian‘, ‘Oily Water‘, and ‘Sunday Sunday‘.

Rating out of 10?

10/10.

Next up: Blur – Parklife

47. Blur – Leisure

Blur - Leisure

47. Blur – Leisure (1991)

1. She’s So High
2. Bang
3. Slow Down
4. Repetition
5. Bad Day
6. Sing
7. There’s No Other Way
8. Fool
9. Come Together
10. High Cool
11. Birthday
12. Wear Me Down

Who is/are Blur?

‘Blur are an English rock band, formed in London in 1988.’ Thanks, Wikipedia. Succinct.

Why did you buy this album?

This is one from my wife’s collection, as she’s the bigger Blur fan. I do remember seeing the cover at the time it came out, but I was too busy listening to my dad’s ELO LPs…

What’s it like?

It’s mixed, to say the least. A lot of the tunes have the whole Madchester thing going on, which is not necessarily a good thing. There are some great tunes on here, but the whole album seems a bit direction-less, and if I’d heard this in 1991, I’d probably have written Blur off.

Fortunately, they get better.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

I want to, I really want to. It has its moments, but moments do not an album make. When guitarist Graham Coxon gets to unleash his fuzzy guitar sound, it’s good, but there’s not enough of it for my liking. The whole album seems to be a wasted opportunity, based on the talent involved, and the majority of it just doesn’t sound like Blur.

Apparently, lead singer Damon Albarn called this album “awful” during an interview in 2007, so I’m at least more generous than one of the men who made it…

Any stand-out tracks?

My favourites are currently ‘Sing‘ and ‘Slow Down’. Notable mentions also go to ‘She’s So High’ and ‘Bad Day‘.

Rating out of 10?

5/10.

Next up: Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish

 

46. Björk – Post

Björk - Post

46. Björk – Post (1995)

1. Army of Me
2. Hyperballad
3. The Modern Things
4. It’s Oh So Quiet
5. Enjoy
6. You’ve Been Flirting Again
7. Isobel
8. Possibly Maybe
9. I Miss You
10. Cover Me
11. Headphones

Who is/are Björk?

To Twitter (@bjork)!

No bio. You know who she is, she has only one name and a big blue tick…

Why did you buy this album?

It was 50p on a Rotary Club market stall, along with ‘Debut‘ and Florence + the Machine’s ‘Lungs‘, and I had £1.50 in change…

What’s it like?

After the mostly 90s-dance/pop-like ‘Debut‘, this is a more diverse collection of songs, keeping the EDM, but adding some jazz, industrial and experimental sounds to the mix.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

It’s okay. I seem to remember liking this a lot more previously, but I’m probably listening with different ears now. I can’t say it’s one I’d put on a loop (again), but I’m glad I own it, and I’ll go back to it.

Any stand-out tracks?

There’s the obvious ‘It’s Oh So Quiet‘, which sticks out like a sore thumb from somebody else’s hand.

My favourites are the opening two; ‘Army of Me‘, and ‘Hyperballad‘.

Rating out of 10?

7/10.

Next up: Blur – Leisure

45. Björk – Debut

Bjork - Debut

45. Björk – Debut (1993)

1. Human Behaviour
2. Crying
3. Venus as a Boy
4. There’s More to Life Than This
5. Like Someone in Love
6. Big Time Sensuality
7. One Day
8. Aeroplane
9. Come to Me
10. Violently Happy
11. The Anchor Song

Who is/are Björk?

Wikipedia says; “Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known as Björk, is an Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, and actress”.

Sounds busy…

Why did you buy this album?

I’ve always liked Björk’s earlier albums but have never owned any, having heard them through borrowed copies, radio airplay, and, more recently, streaming services, with the exception of the track ‘Hunter‘ (from third album ‘Homogenic‘) that appeared on ‘The X-Files: The Album‘ in 1998. Around this time, given the option, I’d pass over buying her albums in favour of artists I was more familiar with.

Skip forward to 2015ish, and the Eccles Farmers’ Market (held once a month in the middle of Eccles). As part of this market, the local Rotary Club run a second-hand book stall, with free books for kids, and a selection of CDs for 50p each. Most of these CDs were the usual charity shop selection, magazine freebies and classical compilations for the most part, but occasionally a gem turned up. On one particular visit, the Rotary Club managed to get £1.50 out of me for Florence + The Machine’s ‘Lungs‘, and Björk’s ‘Post‘ and ‘Debut‘…

What’s it like?

If I had to pick just one album to describe the sound of the 1990s, I’d choose, well, I’d choose Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer‘. If I had to choose more than one, this would be one of the others.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

Kinda. Other than the singles, I don’t think this album has aged particularly well. I’d still listen to it, but more out of a sense of nostalgia than any particular desire to listen to 90s dance.

Any stand-out tracks?

Play Dead‘, ‘Venus As A Boy‘ and ‘Human Behaviour‘ immediately spring to mind. I quite enjoy ‘There’s More To Life Than This‘ too, but that’s more for the quirky recording, rather than the tune itself.

Rating out of 10?

6/10. Bonus point for ‘Play Dead‘.

Next up: Björk – Post

44. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen

44. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen (1997)

1. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces
2. Fair
3. Brick
4. Song for the Dumped
5. Selfless, Cold, and Composed
6. Kate
7. Smoke
8. Cigarette
9. Steven’s Last Night in Town
10. Battle of Who Could Care Less
11. Missing the War
12. Evaporated

Who is/are Ben Folds Five?

According to Wikipedia; “Ben Folds Five are an American alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina”.

Why did you buy this album?

I think I bought this following the realisation that I didn’t actually own it, despite knowing it well. It’s an album I’d heard a lot since it came out, and always seem to associate it with helping to decorate a friend’s house…

What’s it like?

I’ve heard this described as alt-rock, power-pop, and piano-rock-pop. All of which cover it. Suffice to say, there’s piano playing on there of a style that hadn’t been used since the 1970s, and it’s great.

There’s also a welcome tonal change in the bass, with an upright bass used instead of the expected electric bass guitar. This means that the bass is generally warmer throughout, which especially suits the ballads.

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

I do still like this album, though the tracks I liked most first time round are no longer my favourites, with the exception of ‘Brick‘. I’ve less time for previous favourites ‘Song for the Dumped‘ and ‘One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces‘, but will gladly listen to ‘Missing The War‘, ‘Evaporated‘, and ‘Selfless, Cold, and Composed‘ having previously given them short shrift.

I’ve also found I’ve got less patience for some of the stronger language in some of the songs as I’ve got older.

Any stand-out tracks?

Brick‘. Always ‘Brick‘. That song I bought as a CD single when it was released, and still love it to this day.

Notable mentions also go to ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town‘ and ‘Battle of Who Could Care Less‘ as similarly consistent favourites, alongside new favourites ‘Missing The War‘ and ‘Evaporated‘.

Rating out of 10?

7/10.

Next up: Björk – Debut

43. Bellowhead – Broadside

Bellowhead - Broadside

43. Bellowhead – Broadside (2012)

1. Byker Hill
2. Old Dun Cow
3. Roll The Woodpile Down
4. 10,000 Miles Away
5. Betsy Baker
6. Black Beetle Pies
7. Thousands Or More
8. The Dockside Rant / Sailing With The Tide
9. The Wife of Usher’s Well
10. What’s The Life Of A Man (Any More Than A Leaf?)
11. Lillibulero
12. Go My Way

Who is/are Bellowhead?

As they are now sadly defunct, we go to the old bio on the Twitter page; ““With the exception of the Who, Bellowhead are surely the best live act in the country” The Independent. WE PROUDLY SUPPORT FOLK AGAINST FASCISM.”

While I hugely applaud the sentiment, not entirely sure the BLOCK CAPITALS were necessary…

Why did you buy this album?

Having established a liking for this band, all it took was a hearing of “10,000 Miles Away” for me to add the then forthcoming album to my Amazon wishlist. Thanks to my wife, it did not sit there unpurchased for very long…

What’s it like?

It more of the incredibly energetic, flawlessly arranged, exuberantly performed folk I’ve come to expect. Unlike ‘Hedonism‘, there’s no mid-album lull to get past, and every track has something new to hear on each listen through.

To my ears, the production is better than ‘Hedonism‘ too, though that could just be because I’ve charged my Bluetooth headphones since yesterday…

After listening to it now, do you (still) like this album?

This is probably my favourite Bellowhead album, at least the favourite Bellowhead album that I own*. It’s more consistent than it’s predecessors, and keeps my attention though-out, no mean feat!

I also find myself singing along to a few of these tracks too; fine when I’m on my own in the car, but I get some funny looks in the staff canteen…

Any stand-out tracks?

The one original tune ‘The Dockside Rant/Sailing With The Tide‘ is great, as is ‘Byker Hill‘ and ‘Roll The Woodpile Down‘.

Rating out of 10?

8/10.

Next up: Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

*I’ve still not got first album ‘Burlesque‘, fifth album ‘Revival‘, or ‘Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour‘. Oh, and my copy of ‘Matachin‘ is still in someone else’s hands…