Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 2.
Ghostown. The Radiators.
"I guess we had to get older
And the memories are scratched"
This is one of the great Irish albums, an album which seems to capture the essence of the Dublin of the time. Philip Chevron's accent, the pool halls, the cellar bars, the remains of rock 'n' roll, the tension between paralysis and defiance. Cabaret tinted theatricality, poetry and punk meet Brylcreem and bingo on the dark side streets of a city where the anger simmers in the juices of despair.
"The town clock tells her last week’s time"
Posting this is bittersweet given the very recent news that Philip Chevron, who has battled cancer, has seen that cancer return in an inoperable form and as he put it "this time the cancer is lethal." As well as being a Radiator, Philip released an excellent solo Brecht/Weill mini album Songs from Bill's Dance Hall and a single, Dominic Behan's The Captains and the Kings. He produced Agnes Bernelle's first two albums and most famously, was a member of The Pogues. He also composed music for theatre and much else besides. Hopefully this new stage in his life will be long and fruitful. His hope, is to make some 'notable musical contributions" to add to the many already made. None, I think, more notable than Ghostown.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 3.
Speak Slowly - The Stars of Heaven
"This is not a holiday, there are no Honky Tonks
The unknown jukebox with a few country songs
We drink wine as cheap as Hollywood and talk about the day
You pointed at the signpost that read 'our separate ways'"
Other than the couple of bands I was involved with there is no band I have seen more than The Stars of Heaven and yet I still regret all the gigs I could have gone to but didn't. In mid eighties Dublin they struck me with the force of a revelation. Seeing a band this good in small venues dotted around Dublin (The Underground, Sides, McGonagles, The New Inn, Hawkins House) was, and seemed like, a privilege. That the promoter (Smiley Bolger) had to get on the stage and ask the small crowd to buy drinks for the band after a Christmas 'fundraiser' gig tells that that privilege wasn't always appreciated. Won't somebody out there please upload a live recording?
Friday, May 17, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 4.
Grotesque (After the Gramme) - The Fall
"The dead cannot contradict
Sometimes the living cannot"
This is the hardest choice for me to make. The Fall have an varied yet consistent body of work and there are probably ten or more albums jostling for this position. As I write I am considering Grotesque; This Nations Saving Grace and Shiftwork. Earlier I had it down to Live at the Witch Trials, Perverted by Language and Extricate. I've considered 'cheating' and using The Complete Peel Sessions. Hex Enduction Hour jostles with The Wonderful and Frightening World of. Then Slates and The Infotainment Scan raise their hands. So there is more than the usual element of pin the tail on the donkey about today's choice.
After much procrastination I have chosen Grotesque. It is the sort of album that would insult me in a way that I would not entirely comprehend, but would fully understand. "All the English groups, act like peasants with free milk"
Here's another top ten that was directed my way through Brendan's auspices. The thing I really like about this list is that if you took any nine albums from it you'd be totally stumped as to what the tenth would be. A thoroughly individual list.
Over to you, Kevin:
I was directed to your listings my fellow muso Brendan, who recently contributed an engaging Top Ten selection.
I am very much enjoying browsing your Top 102, and was delighted to see Babble by TPE and O’Riada sa Gaiety in there among others.
My selection is below, it’s in no particular order except for the No.1. No great plan in making the selections, other than they are 10 albums I would still play right through, more often than not as opposed to a track here and there.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 5
Searching for the Young Soul Rebels/Don't Stand Me Down - Dexy's Midnight Runners
I struggled for a while to choose between Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and Don't Stand Me Down. Why struggle, I thought. There's room on this horse for two.
The way that Dexy's moved between styles, musical and sartorial, on their first three albums means that they almost seem like different bands anyway. Were these changes driven by a passion for renewal or were they simply lurches? No band has displayed the tension between an intensely passionate focus and a kind of wild vulnerability more than Dexy's, or more to the point singer and (lightning) conductor Kevin Rowland.
Monday, May 13, 2013
The Gilded Palace of Sin - The Flying Burrito Brothers
This position has changed between the three great Gram Parsons albums a few times and I only settled on this one when I started writing. I might even change my mind again. I think not. This is a stupendous record, with both covers and originals melding perfectly.
The Burritos were Gram's third attempt at creating Cosmic American Music and they certainly dressed cosmic. Gram's Nudie suit, with marijuana, crucifix and the flames of hell is worth the price of admission alone.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Bonus Top Tens John F
John F has come here through the auspices of Brendan (and he is more then welcome). Any Top Ten that includes The Mighty Fall has to be more than ok. In fact apart from The Waterboys, to whom I have a mild allergy, I would be a fan of everything here. Nice list John.
Take it away....
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 7
The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers
"I know life is cruel but I don't wanna be a bitch, man
I just wanna cry like Jonathan Richman"
(work in progress)
Jonathan Richman is one of the few (maybe only) performers I've seen cry onstage. Perhaps he is too pure for this world, as close as we have to an angel. He believes in all the good stuff, love, love and more love. Family, work, community. As he puts it himself: "I'm Straight." He seems to speak from somewhere that is beyond pretence, with a directness the equal of Johnny Cash's.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Bonus Top Tens - Ciaran
Ciaran is one of my oldest friends, and although he lives far from the arthritic damp of Ireland in the sunshine dappled streets of San Francisco practicing science in the laboratory and he also finds time monthly to spin records in a local bar as his alter ego, the scientist of soul.
It was in Ciaran's prompting that I first discovered The Blades and in his room that I first remember hearing full albums by Talking Heads and Tav Falco among others. He also saved my bacon at a Housemartin's gig when a group of skinheads drew knives and surrounded me.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 8
Fear of Music - Talking Heads
"They're setting a bad example
They have untroubled lives
They think everything's nice
They like to laugh at people
They're setting a bad example"
David Byrne's assumed Persona: a man so wound up he could shatter into pieces; uptight, the sort of guy who would consider it an act of crazed rebellion to loosen his tie and, god forbid, open the top button of his starched shirt; the sort of guy who could shovel coke up his nose and batter his partner while still considering himself the good guy.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
One person's treasure is another's trash. For all of you who only click through to my favourite albums in order to feel irate at the eccentricity and wrongheadedness of my choices I thought I would broaden the canvass and ask some music aficionados of my acquaintance to list their Top Tens. The first comes from Brendan, a regular commenter on my posts and someone who was introduced to me by a mutual friend as someone who thought about music as much as I do. His list shows a taste for adventure (and AC/DC) and an epicure's sensibility (and a taste for AC/DC).
Our Top Tens share one record. Which one?
By the way, if any other reader's want to join the fun and select their own Top Tens, please do. (You can email me at seamus dot duggan at gmail dot com)
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 9
Swordfishtrombones - Tom Waits
"they're alive, they're awake
while the rest of the world is asleep"
I don't think I've ever taken to any artist quite like Tom Waits. I was sixteen and all I knew of him was the live version of The Piano Has Been Drinking, which I had seen him play on The Late Late Show. The version released on Bounced Checks was recorded in Dublin on that same visit.
A few years later I took a chance on Small Change, the album which included the original version of The Piano Has Been Drinking. Two weeks later I had pretty much everything he had released up to that point. I was blown away and mildly obsessed. Soon afterwards, when I got Swordfishtrombones I was blown away again by what seemed like a new artist.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 10
Chairs Missing - Wire
I could have selected any of the first three Wire albums for this slot. Each is very different but the quality is the same. Taken as a body of work it these three records are an uncompromising, cryptic and rigorous attempt to re-imagine the possibilities of rock music. And there have been many who have revisited these albums as a source, including some who took a little more than inspiration. (Stand up Elastica.)
Friday, May 3, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 11
Bernelle on Brecht - Agnes Bernelle
Who? I hear some of you ask. Tom Waits once called her his favourite recording artist. Marc Almond duetted with and wrote a song for her. Philip Chevron was "production co-ordinator" on this album and producer of her next album, which Elvis Costello was also involved in. She was a link to Lotte Lenya and Marlene Dietrich. She brought cabaret and chanson to Peter Cook's Establishment Club in sixties Soho; she caused a German U-Boat captain to surrender by congratulating him on the birth of his baby after he had spent two years at sea; she opened a door in Dublin which led you into Weimar Germany, dislocating time and space... You are in the world of George Grosz and Bertolt Brecht.
You can get a potted history of her life by listening to the radio shows at this LINK. You will also find Bernelle on Brecht there, where it has been for a few weeks, as I discovered this morning. I was wondering how to illustrate this album which had little or no life online. At one time the only mention I could find was one mentioning that it was "as rare as hen's teeth."
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 12
Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
"History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues"
The Raymond Chandler of post-punk-pub-rock hides in suburban gardens watching versions of himself engage in various sexual and emotional conflagrations. Inside his disconnected head is not a comfortable place to be but by god you see things through these glasses you don't see (a. when you're sober or - (b. if you have 20/20 vision.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 13
Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express - The Go-Betweens
No band seems to exist in such a haze of wistful nostalgia as The Go-Betweens. Even at the time, the conversations about them seemed to revolve around the wonder that they hadn't yet cracked the charts and been swept into the hearts of millions on a wave of success. Perhaps its that sense of nostalgia that I now feel even more strongly in the music itself. This is a band that always seemed to be harking back to a garden somewhere, a garden they had to leave. They tried the apples but never made a deal with the snake. Or maybe they did. For whatever about hits, The Go-Betweens seem to have bled pop. They just forgot the u, l, a and r.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 14
The Band - The Band
"A scarecrow in a yellow moon,
Pretty soon, the carnival on the edge of town,
King Harvest has surely come"
Folk, jazz, country, marching band, bluegrass, blues, bruised funk... The Band achieve a kind of musical synthesis of America on this album which manages to be a wake and a celebration, a eulogy and an accusation. Carnivals should be held in honour of this album.
Garth Hudsons organ, Rick Danko's bass, Levon Helm's drumming, the way they switch vocals seamlessly, Robbie Robertson's guitar, Richard Manuel's piano and then there's everything else they play, without any drop in quality. This was one of the greatest musical combos of the twentieth century in the full flowering of their talent, years on the road having apparently given them a shared neural system. If you look up ensemble playing in a good dictionary the front cover of this album is what you'll see.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 15.
Dusty in Memphis - Dusty Springfield
There is no such thing as perfection, of course, but there are moments when you feel yourself to be in its wake. Some of those moments are on this album, where Mary O'Brien, with the emotional nakedness of someone who is familiar with trouble, bares her soul in phrase after phrase of sophisticated simplicity.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 16
What's the Matter, Boy? - Vic Godard and Subway Sect
Subway Sect's Ambition is one of my all time favourite seven inches of vinyl. The very antihitesis of Thatcherite values the song showed Vic to be the crown prince of ambivalence. It regularly appears on compilations and best singles lists but was to be one of only two singles representing the 'original' Sect until Vic went back and recorded 1978 Now a couple of years back.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 17.
Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy - Billy Bragg
Seven songs, sixteen minutes. Raw, simple, direct and thrilling. Life's a Riot seemed like nothing else when it emerged and it still does. Bragg may have gone on to release more ambitious and sophisticated albums than this and the pared back, primitive sound might have delivered diminishing returns over the longer term but in this short, sharp blast it works perfectly.
Raw and simple the sound may be but Bragg was not afraid to be vulnerable and The Man in the Iron Mask, the tale of a man cuckolded but resigned, is tender and heartbreaking. This is Bragg's standby persona on this record, the naive, well meaning but ultimately discarded lover. In A New England (the song which, in Kirsty McColl's deft hands would take him to the heart of the music buying public), he says, finishing with a girl who has long finished with him "I put you on a pedestal, They put you on the pill." He is a little old fashioned and time is passing him by, as are women.