In Theory, Each Panel Is Related To A Lyric On The Album
During their brief time together, Paul Weller & Co. were to release 6 albums of original compositions. Three are traditionally regarded as representing their pinnacle. They are “All Mod Cons“, “Setting Sons” and “Sound Affects”. Out of the three, “Sound Affects” is the one I like the least. Here, they sound more like The Beatles than The Kinks or The Who, two bands that had been the predominant influence until then. As the critics aptly insinuated, Sound Affects stands as The Jam’s “Revolver”.
The album bore The Jam’s second chart topper – the song is named “Start”, it was inspired by Orwell’s “Omage To Catalogna”, and the bass part has been taken on permanent loan from The Fab Four’s “Taxman”.
The other major hit the album features is “That’s Entertainment”. The song was issued as a single only in Germany, and it is still the best-selling import single within the United Kingdom. Continue reading →
This is Part 2 of the review. Don’t forget to read Part 1 for the introduction!
The original album had 11 songs, and the CD rerelease 14. If we had to summarize what XTC achieved here in one word, that would be “consistency”. The album is a true work, and in certain places it feels like a continuous track (some songs actually run into each other).
It is not an easy task picking favorites this time – as I said, there is such a sense of unity that the album is one of the most rewarding listening experiences within XTC’s catalog. What I can do is pick out personal favorites: these would be any of the singles plus the splenetic “Paper & Iron” and “Burning With Optimism’s Flames”. “Paper & Iron” has my favorite performance from Terry on any of their albums – he carries the whole song, takes it wherever he wants and finishes it with a detonation the kind Keith Moon would be proud of. For its part, “Burning With Optimism’s Flames” has a mesmerizing chorus that makes the title of the composition become more than a mere asseveration. Rather, it turns into a true validation for pushing forwards no matter what. Continue reading →
There is something about Joy Division that is impossible to apprehend or even hope to comprehend. Is that because they beget a caterwaul of emotions when you listen to them, and these emotions turn to be the ones we want to keep our distance from yet at the same time the ones we want to have as a permanent fixture within our lives?
The band formed in Manchester in the year 1977. Its members were singer and occasional guitar player Ian Curtis, drummer Steven Morris, guitarist Bernard Albrecht and bass player Peter Hook. They were going to release one EP and two full albums, as their career was to be truncated by Curtis’ suicide in late 1979. He suffered from epileptic seizures, but his lyrics made it clear there was so much more going on, that his frail health was the tip a devastating inner conflict. And the real tragedy is that maybe what happened could have been avoided – the band members readily admitted they never paid his lyrics any heed, and after that fateful day whenever they listened to the old songs something always clicked. Continue reading →
The second album recorded by the Mancunian ensemble, “Meat Is Murder” features better production, a tougher sound and a broader subject matter. Morrissey now tackles issues such as the British Educational system (“The Headmaster’s Ritual”, the opening number and one of the album’s highlights) as well as vegetarianism (the track that closes the record and which lends its title to the album), whereas some songs like “Nowhere Fast” make clear the political stance of the singer for the first time on record.
This was the third album released by XTC, and Andy later said he felt their career started there (1979). Not coincidentally, the album signals the arrival of Dave Gregory and the first time that Steve Lillywhite was at the helm.
It was also one of the few XTC albums to yield a Top 20 single: “Making Plans For Nigel” attained that distinction, and I don’t know how telling it is that their first chart hit was not penned by Andy but by Colin, a composer whose melodies are less unpredictable and more true to convention. Still, Andy had his input on the song: the drum pattern you can hear was based on a pattern he wanted Terry to play, and when the drummer misunderstood his instructions the infamous “Nigel” drum track was conceived.
I am reviewing the single disc edition of this 1999 “Best Of” album. It is the one readily available in South America, and it is actually quite reminiscent of other Costello anthologies that summarize his years with The Attractions like the one that was released in 1994 by Rykodisc.
Out of 20 tracks, only 6 do not feature this classic band. They are “Watching The Detectives” and “Alison” (from Elvis’ debut, where he was backed by a band named Clover), “Good Year For The Roses”, and his Bacharach collaboration “God Give Me Strength” (the key tune of the 1996’s movie “Grace Of My Heart”, and the recipient of a Grammy Award). Likewise, the elegiac “Indoor Fireworks” (with Costello backed by “The Confederates”, a band featuring Mitchell Froom) is included. The final non-Attractions song is “She”, Costello’s rendering of the best-loved Charles Aznavour song about the duality of love. The song was a very big hit in South America – Costello is always requested to perform it when he tours these latitudes, and the song is found in countless love compilations sold here to this day. Continue reading →
When discussing songcraft with the bands I work with as a lyricist, one recurrent question I am asked is “Who are these lyricists you look up to?”. I usually answer: “It depends”. That is, the art of crafting songs can be analyzed from the structural point of view, and also from the perspective of the actual content of the composition. If we were to be objective, we would agree that what is said matters as much as the way it is actually being said. That is, form and content go hand in hand – one should not stand out at the expense of the other.
I know three composers that keep everything balanced and whose message is always conveyed in the most memorable fashion of all. I have already discussed two of them (Richard Thompson and Andy Partridge), and it is with great pleasure that I now introduce you to Mr. Elvis Costello.
The Cover Showcases Morrissey's Obsession With Pop Culture
The Smiths’ debut is often regarded as an album that could have been much better, yet was marred by a production that did the songs no justice. You realize this is true the second “Reel Around The Fountain” starts playing, but it also dawns on you that some selections were not that strong to begin with either, and that no amount of production wizardry could have elevated them. The most obvious case is “Miserable Lie”, a song which actually worked quite well live. There are also a couple of tracks such as “You’ve Got Everything Now” and “I Don’t Owe You Anything” that are pure vitriol – Morrissey is yet to find how to articulate certain feelings and shape them into songs. Continue reading →
Getting down to reviewing White Music (XTC’s very first album, released in 1978) is not an easy task. It is impossible to wipe from your mind the volume, complexion and quality of the work they were to eventually produce, but even if their whole oeuvre disappeared and this was all that remained, it would be difficult to be over enthusiastic. Continue reading →
The Smiths were an enormously influential 80’s band that hailed from Manchester, England. The group comprised singer Morrissey, guitar luminary Johnny Marr and a rhythm section of Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). The ability of the latter is often overlooked, if only because the band itself was not that democratic – as a matter of fact, Morrissey and Marr received 40 % each of the band’s income while the rhythm men received just 10 % each. The band broke up in 1987 (for the simple reason that Marr and Morrissey could no longer stand each other) and a lawsuit ensued in 1996 over royalties, effectively driving them further apart and wiping out any chance of a reunion (unlikely to begin with). Rourke would eventually settle for less than he was entitled to, but Joyce took it to the bitter end. Continue reading →