Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ten (Or Thereabouts) Records Hiding At The Back Of Your Collection That No Grown Man Should Own


Uh, oh. This is actually pretty difficult for me, primarily because most of my naff records were gotten rid of one time when I was low on cash, and couldn't get a job - sold to the surly bearded guy at Dragon Discs down the road from me, for peanuts. So, some of this is being done from memory, of stuff I did own, but don't anymore. Also, I've been scrupulously hip in most of my record buying for quite some time, after a bad experience with one of the records listed below - I find 'hip' actually does tend to guarantee 'better quality listen' (this, BTW, has loads of exceptions, I expect, but I haven't sought them out yet...) (I don't know whether to make this easier by adopting the looking-down-the-nose pose of yr typical Wire reader - in that case, my copy of Pet Shop Boys' Discography would go in here, as would my Xiu Xiu CDs, Kylie's Fever and Iron Maiden's Number Of The Beast. Nah, fuck that.) Anyway:

1. Yes - The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection

What can I say, I was young and foolish... Listening through this again recently, I twigged that there are precisely three good tracks on here, out of 21 - 'Siberian Khatru' (monstrous 100-mph twisty-turny riffage with marvellously ludicrous lyrics), 'Roundabout' (massive propulsive bass-and-guitar alternate riff number, again with sing-alongably silly lyrics), and 'Don't Kill The Whale' (because it mentions whales, and has a fun, awkwardly funky chorus). I'd also nominate 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart', even if it were just for Trevor Horn's production, which is so slick and clinical you could eat off it...

2. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
3. U2 - The Joshua Tree
4. U2 - Under A Blood Red Sky

If you're looking for potential skeletons in my closet, this is the glaringly obvious one: I was a rabid U2 fan for more than a couple of years. I remember that, when I bought the first-mentioned album, I was still in a wheelchair, recovering from a skateboarding accident (long story), and to a certain extent, I think I was going for something tried-and-tested, something with a reliable brand-name to it, like the way you might buy Birds' custard rather than a store's own, even though it's peanuts. I can't remember any opinions I had of it, except that I liked the singles I'd already heard ('Beautiful Day', 'Walk On', 'Elevation'), because they seemed more sophisticated or expansive than the petty pop-punk I had been listening to (copies of which have long since disappeared from my collection). I suppose it would make pretty pleasant listening under heavy sedation, but otherwise it's just fucking dull. The Joshua Tree, meanwhile, is actually good in places, mainly for the fighter-jet guitar and burning atmospherics of 'Bullet The Blue Sky'. The desert-dry guitar tone - which, as Julian Cope pointed out in Japrocksampler, can be quite effective if done the right way - and gospel influences, however, are rendered useless by the band's milk-white bloodlessness. Under A Blood Red Sky is a live recording from their tour of Australia in 1983, and detached from the ridiculous and pathetic spectacle itself - Bono climbing scaffolding to wave a white flag during 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'; fuck off, will you - my memory of the songs is that they were actually quite interesting, if a little underdeveloped and dull. 'New Year's Day' and slightly creepy Joy Division tribute 'Eleven O'Clock Tick Tock' are taut and militant, 'I Will Follow' and 'The Electric Co.' gallop along with an embarrassing amount of earnestness for such stupid subject matter (=my entire psychology as a teenager, prior to engulfing misanthropy) and '40' drifts along rather nicely. Not that I'd want to listen to any of it again, mind you.

5. V/A - Ed Rec Vol. 2

Oh ho ho - a classic example of the follies of youth, if ever there was one. I bought it not too long after I got a horrible job in a call centre; for the first time in, oh, forever, I had money (my account had literally been drained dry by months of desperately trying to 'fit in' *shudders*), and, trying to claw my way out of a not-really-all-that-bad depression (a shallow golf bunker, if you like, compared to some of the deep pits I've been in), and seduced by the imagery surrounding l'electro nouveau francaise (sex! all-night parties! countless good-looking women!) and Justice's 'Waters Of Nazareth' (which I still like, though it's not up to the mark of old-school aci-eeeeed or the Rephlex set). And well, if I'm charitable, there are... 3 good tracks on here, out of 14. I think the main problem I have with Ed Banger is that the tunes are so insubstantial - they're so busy polishing their bonnets, they don't think to put an engine in the fucker. (Which was most definitely not the case with the Justice album, which had more than enough torque for yr average pissed-up neon-suited 12 year-old, as well as being a good pop record.) Another part of the problem is that the artists on here are shameless copyists, but don't take their sources seriously, or treat in any heartfelt manner: Mr Oizo or Mr Flash's swerving hip-hop house cut-ups try to take the original principle, and like breakcore-ists with jungle, out-do it, but end up just making shite. The same with So Me's mash-up of Klaxons' 'Atlantis To Interzone' and 'Golden Skans': it blurts out air-horns like it's having a really fun time, missing the point that rave, the first time round was sensually overwhelming without being so superficial. Oh, and, if you've heard Justice's 'Theee Paartttyyy' or whatever it's called, then you've heard all the Uffie you need to for one lifetime.

6. Deep Purple - 30: The Very Best Of Deep Purple

Given that it contains their late-period non-smashes like 'Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic' and 'Any Fule Kno That', you'd think I'd be mortified by the presence of this anywhere in my past. But even now, I can see what I liked about 'Black Knight', 'Smoke On The Water', the blistering 6-and-a-half-minute version of 'Speed King' (which I airdrummed along to at every opportunity, in between Dungeons And Dragons and Goldeneye sessions at my friend's house)... Yes, I repent, but it's ex-sinners who best understand the mechanics of fellow offenders...

7. Led Zeppelin - The Very Best Of Led Zeppelin: Early Days And Latter Days

Yes, that's right, 2 whole CDs of the cunts, hooray... I got this, and The Velvets' ...And Nico together, from OurPrice (when it was still operating - a shithole, yes, but the idea of just wandering ten minutes down the road to get these magic objects was galvanising in those days), and I rarely play either of them, but, in the case of the Velvets album, that's because it became a founding object for my whole idea of aesthetic judgement and existential conduct, whereas the Zep one is mostly just tosh. Listening to a Zep live album that someone had brought in to work the other day, I was just astounded by how dull they could be: enormously long guitar solo follows enormously long drum solo, follows a few grunts by Robert Plant, etc., etc. Although, when they knew how to prune themselves down to a manageable format - 'Communication Breakdown', 'Immigrant Song', 'Black Dog' - or just went completely whacked-out - the freaky, theremin-haunted 'No Quarter', Plant putting his vox through some fucked-up modulation, or 'Achilles' Last Stand', which I still have a lingering affection for, and the storming, mulched 'In The Evening' - they could be quite effective indeed.

8. V/A - Chart Wars: May The Hits Be With You

As far as I know, this was released in 1982, the year that a certain M. Carlin hymns as the summit of New Pop, the Peak Against Which All Should Be Measured (excepting The Escalator Over The Hill, and whatever the fuck else he's declaring the greatest record ever made this week). I suppose it's somewhat sad that this music is considered an embarrasment - ABC, The Human League and Dollar were never in the same gutter of a league as Wham!, Duran Duran and A Flock Of Seagulls. There's a strange magnetism in the cover: boy and girl posed with oddly phallic lightsabres, boy in black leather pants, pink leather boots, tiger-print sleeveless top, and accessories; girl in pink leather boots, fishnets, short, oddly cut black dress, big gold neck ornament and hair like a purple stormcloud. There seems to be an odd hint of futurism, strange in something so obviously naff and retro, in her pose, the streak of glam make-up on her cheek. You could say it elides categorisation, escapes time (Kek would love this record cover): maybe it's that I can see, in her, a seed of Dandi Wind, whose ultra-glam singer I fancy something awful. "Endless variations on a drearily glossy theme", perhaps - but it's clapping eyes on a record like this (found at a local church swap-meet), or casually catching sight of a girl looking happy, sparkling and transcendantly unattached, that brightens up my work-day. Uh... and it helps that the record has some choice choons: Kid Creole And The Coconuts' amazing 'Stool Pigeon', Bauhaus cover of 'Ziggy Stardust', and a 'special remix' of Japan's 'Life In Tokyo'. Not to mention, Renee And Renato's 'Save Your Love', a song and video so transcendently bad that it escapes aesthetic judgement altogether...

9. Bruce Springsteen - The Essential Bruce Springsteen

Ha ha! My mum got this - 3CDs sans case - for a quid a few years ago, because, really, this is all the Springsteen one human being needs in a lifetime, and far more. Said required Springsteen is over by the end of the first disk: the title track from Nebraska is still absolutely disquieting, despite years of over-exposure by Mojo readers; 'Born To Run' and 'Jungleland' are the hammiest things ever committed to tape, where it's evident Springsteen just went into the studio, planning to produce something with 'ROCK CLASSIC' written on it in 30-foot-tall letters, and just piled on the instruments (although something has to be said for that level of ambition, compared to the lacklustre churn-it-out efforts of most 'rock' bands today), both lovably absurd. And, uh, that's it. Your Uncut types will no doubt argue for the tracks from 1987's Tunnel Of Love (the title track and 'Brilliant Disguise'), saying that it's his best album, but I couldn't really give a shit, to be honest.

10. Blood, Sweat And Tears - Nuclear Blues

Picked up for free at the same Church swap-meet as Chart Wars, for maybe closely similar reasons: the sheer absurdity of it. Since, for various reasons, I don't have a turntable, I don't really know what it sounds like, I can't make that much of a judgement; however, having heard BS&T's 'Lucretia Mac Evil' - a generic early-70s pre-Sabbath rock track in the Chicago vein, shot through with swaggering sub-JBs funk horns and organ, and with your average cringe-inducingly sexist lyrics - and judging by the fact that Nuclear Blues was made ten years after that, when the band would have gone even further downhill, it's most probably pretty shite. The presence of song titles like 'Manic Depression', 'Drown In My Own Tears', and '(Suite) Spanish Wine', which takes up almost the entirety of the second side (and is divided into six smaller sections, each with their own sub-title) makes for even more fear. But it's precisely that I like about it: the sheer thick-witted stupidity of it as an object after punk actually makes it morbidly fascinating, like watching a car-crash in slow motion. The cover painting shows the band in a post-nuclear holocaust city, wrecks and rubble strewn around, the members in rags, posing, flexing and smiling; one bearded member stands smoking, stripped to the waist, leaning on another burly member; drummer Bobby Economou (such dull names: David Piltch, Earl Seymour, Vernon Dorge) clutches his belt and laughs. One has to wonder at the mindset of the artists here: the idea that trash like this - white, male, heterosexual, obsessed with the 'authenticity' of the music they stole from blacks and the tough stereotypes associated with it - might proliferate at a time when the human race's extinction was potentially just around the corner at any time, and that the band might celebrate this, is mind-boggling in its utter chutzpah and ridiculousness. Fuck.

I have no-one else to 'tag' for this meme, so I'm afraid it stops here. Sorry.

7 Comments:

Blogger Dominic Zero said...

I was gonna put a U2 track on my list...but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. You're very brave.

February 2, 2008 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Uh, thanks. _I_ didn't particularly want to either, but if I hadn't included them I wouldn't have been able to make it up to ten...

February 3, 2008 at 4:01 AM  
Blogger kek-w said...

LOL!

February 3, 2008 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Actually, I'll have to do a scan of that 'Chart Wars' sleeve and send it to you... somehow...

February 5, 2008 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

There's a game I've occasionally played of 'terrible things you like one-upmanship', and after a few fairly predictable things (Berlinda Carlisle, Berlin as in 'Take My Breath Away') I seem to end up with U2, or rather 'U2 before Bono starts opening his mouth'.

February 9, 2008 at 7:21 AM  
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