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

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…

42. Bellowhead – Hedonism

Bellowhead - Hedonism

42. Bellowhead – Hedonism (2010)

1. New York Girls
2. A-Begging I Will Go
3. Cross-Eyed and Chinless
4. Broomfield Hill
5. The Hand Weaver and the Factory Maid
6. Captain Wedderburn
7. Amsterdam
8. Cold Blows the Wind
9. Parson’s Farewell
10. Little Sally Racket
11. Yarmouth Town

Who is/are Bellowhead?

According to Wikipedia; “Bellowhead was an English contemporary folk band, active from 2004 to 2016. The eleven-piece act played traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with arrangements drawing inspiration from a wide diversity of musical styles and influences. The band included percussion and a four-piece brass section, and was known for its energetic live performances.”

I think that covers it.

Why did you buy this album?

This was a gift from my wife, either a birthday or Christmas present.

We’d both seen Bellowhead on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage one year, and liked what we’d heard. I added their first two albums, ‘Burlesque‘ and ‘Matachin‘, to my Amazon wishlist, and received the latter as a gift shortly afterwards.

When third album ‘Hedonism‘ was released in 2010, this also ended up on my wishlist, and was dutifully purchased at the appropriate time. If only I could remember when that was.

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering why I haven’t reviewed ‘Matachin‘, it’s because I loaned it to somebody and have yet to get it back. If you’re out there reading this, and you’ve still got my copy of ‘Matachin‘, I would like it back please…

What’s it like?

This is fun. Bellowhead are essentially a live band, and their studio recordings do capture most of the energy of the live shows.

The majority of the album is made up of traditional songs, given a new lease of life by the then 11 piece band. Alongside the usual folk instruments of fiddles and pipes, there’s occasional funk guitar, New-Orleans-second-line-alike tuba, and a four-piece horn section.

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

It’s a good album, but a number of the tracks do drag, despite the live band energy (mid-album tracks ‘Captain Wedderburn‘ and the Jacques Brel cover ‘Amsterdam‘ are particularly guilty). The blame for this must be laid at the songs chosen though, rather than the band themselves, as the arrangements are still good.

Any stand-out tracks?

The opening pair of ‘New York Girls‘ and ‘A-Begging I Will Go‘ are possibly the highlights on this album, with notable mentions going to ‘Parson’s Farewell‘ and ‘Yarmouth Town

Rating out of 10?

7/10.

Next up: Bellowhead – Broadside

 

41. The Beautiful South – Quench

The Beautiful South - Quench

41. The Beautiful South – Quench (1998)

1. How Long’s a Tear Take to Dry?
2. The Lure of the Sea
3. Big Coin
4. Dumb
5. Perfect 10
6. The Slide
7. Look What I Found in My Beer
8. The Table
9. Window Shopping for Blinds
10. Pockets
11. I May Be Ugly
12. Losing Things
13. Your Father and I

Who is/are The Beautiful South?

Make haste to Wikipedia! “The Beautiful South was an English pop/rock group formed in 1988 by two former members of the Hull group the Housemartins”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Why did you buy this album?

This is one of my wife’s albums. Having seen The Beautiful South (supported by Barenaked Ladies no less), ‘Quench‘ was given to her a a Christmas present. She loves it.

What’s it like?

It’s mostly radio friendly pop rock, nothing too offensive musically. Lyrically, it veers from absurdism (‘The Table‘), to innuendo (‘Perfect 10‘), to unintentional nonsense (‘How Long’s a Tear Take to Dry‘, ‘Window Shopping for Blinds‘).

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

I wanted to like this, I really did. I’ve always dismissed the Beautiful South as purveyors of fairly bland pop with lyrics that sound more clever than they actually are. I have not quite had my opinion challenged by this album.

Musically, there’s a lot to like. Each song is finely crafted, well arranged, and a little-too-well produced. The problem I have is the lyrics…

I just can’t get the lyrics from the opening track, ‘How Long’s a Tear Take to Dry?‘, out of my head; “I’m so sorry, (make it plural) / My heart’s broken, (mine’s the same) / I still love you (make it plural)…”

“Make it plural”? What’s this supposed to mean?

Him: “I still love you”

Her: “Make it plural”

Him: “Okay, I still loves yous?”

Grrrrr…..

Follow that up with songs about big coins, a threatening table, and a slide, plus ‘Perfect 10‘, which was on the radio almost constantly in 1998, and I’m losing interest quickly.

Any stand-out tracks?

Not for the right reasons. Mostly because ‘How Long’s a Tear Take to Dry?‘ and the awful “make it plural” lyric therein will not leave my head.

Rating out of 10?

5/10. With apologies to my wife… I tried…

Next up: Bellowhead – Hedonism

40. The Beatles – Abbey Road

The Beatles - Abbey Road

40. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

1. Come Together
2. Something
3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus’s Garden
6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
7. Here Comes the Sun
8. Because
9. You Never Give Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty

Who is/are The Beatles?

I’ll just leave this here….

Why did you buy this album?

I had a few, shall we say, unofficially obtained copies of most Beatles albums over the years, mostly on cassettes, but never ever had a copy of Abbey Road. Most of the songs I’d heard in other ways, such as on ‘1967-1970‘ (aka the ‘Blue Album‘), and on various other compilations, but I’d never listened to the full album. At university, I had the chance, and loved it, but never got around to buying it, despite the multitude of music retailers in Manchester.

When the Beatles back catalogue was re-mastered and re-released on CD in 2009, with prices well below usual chart price, I thought it my duty to make amends for all the C90s and actually purchase a legitimate copy of an album I adored 8 years previously.

What’s it like?

It’s probably the pinnacle of late-era Beatles, with all four members contributing strong songs; even Ringo*. There’s not a wasted moment on it, and not a single song feels like it shouldn’t be there.

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

It’s brilliant. Each song holds up ridiculously well, and the closing medley (from ‘You Never Give Me Your Money‘ to ‘The End‘) is, to my ears at least, some of the most enjoyable music the Beatles ever recorded. It’s definitely my favourite Beatles album; sorry, ‘Sgt. Pepper‘, but you can blame ‘Within You Without You‘.

Any stand-out tracks?

As with ‘Sgt. Pepper‘, I tend to have one solid favourite, and a rotating roster of other’s that pique my interest at different times.

In this case, my favourite is actually three; ‘Golden Slumbers‘, ‘Carry That Weight‘, and ‘The End‘. Those three, coming at the end of the medley, never fail to get my attention.

Notable mentions also go to ‘Come Together‘, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)‘, and ‘Because‘.

Rating out of 10?

10/10.

Next up: The Beautiful South – Quench

*Seriously! I challenge you to listen to ‘Octopus’s Garden‘ and not smile…