Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Some Great Albums with a Really Weak Reason for Selecting Them (though really it’s just because I like them)

by Tim Bustin

So, it’s 2014. And here I was, thinking what kind of article could I write that combined music with New Year, without writing about a bunch of mediocre Christmas/New Year pop tunes. However, then I remembered that this year would be the 10th anniversary of American Idiot, a fantastic, classic album. After a bit of research I found many famous albums were celebrating decennial anniversaries (i.e were released in 2004, 1994, 1984 etc.) this year: Dookie (another Green Day classic), The Scissor Sisters’ debut, etc.
Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of them that I liked, so I’ve also covered those celebrating anniversaries in the multiplies of 10 from last year (most of which just happen to come from 1973). Think of it as a way of breaching the gap between this year and the last, between 2013 and 2014, or some rubbish like that. Anyway, enjoy:

American idiot – Green Day

Perhaps the most iconic album of the noughties, from the album artwork to the furious and varyingly complex tunes, it is instantly recognizable (from the over-played “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” to the raw chords of the title track). The album is a rock opera (where the album’s lyrics tell a story throughout the record) about an anti-hero rebel named Jesus of Suburbia who eventually loses his ideals. This, in part, along with its release coinciding with George W. Bush’s re-election, led to the album protest music, which partly the reason why the album became so iconic.

Scissor Sisters – The Scissor Sisters

Their best and only good album to date, The Scissor Sisters’s glam rock debut album (often classified as a gay album) is oddly great to listen to no matter what genre you’re into. Its mix of dance, disco and electroclash, with its swinging grooves and high-pitched vocals, make an album you want to dance and sing along with, despite its strangeness in places (including its cover of “Comfortably Numb”, which, if possible, is weirder than the most intense Pink Floyd). But, seriously, it’s a great album, go listen to it. LISTEN TO IT!


Dookie – Green Day

According to Rolling Stone magazine, “the album that jump-started the Nineties punk-pop revival.” It’s a collection of mainly short, fast-paced punk songs about “suburbian boredom” (like hits “Welcome to Paradise” and “Basketcase”) – a drumming style like Keith Moon mixed with John Bonham, powerful chords forming the main portion of the songs, Bille Joe Armstrong’s arrogant sneer and a heavy bass form the main structure for most of the tracks, though each with individuality and constant excitement (there are also moments of more complex instrumentals, showing hints at what Green Day would achieve on American Idiot’s 2 ten-minute tracks).

The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers

I couldn’t not include my second-favourite band’s supposed best album. Their next album would be alternative/Britpop and spawn their biggest hit, the melodic “A Design For Life”, but The Holy Bible is a poignant punk masterpiece, covering sinister topics in its dark alternative and hard rock, from the Holocaust to anorexia (“4st 7, an epilogue of youth/such beautiful dignity in self-abuse”), American consumerism (“who shall we choose for our morality/I’m thinking right now of Hollywood tragedy") to prostitution. Extraordinary guitar solos backed by often unconventional drumming give the lyrics their immense power and sadness – it helps that they were written by Richey Edwards, a man who experienced many of the things he wrote lyrics on (whose depressive issues once lead to him carving “4REAL” into his arm, after their interviewer claimed the band weren’t serious).


Sheer Heart Attack – Queen

If you think you know Queen, then you don’t know Queen. Just saying. Moving on, amidst Queen’s extravagant list of recognizable hits, most of their albums are filled with crazy, inventive and brilliant music, most of all on Sheer Heart Attack (this album having a heavy, slightly dark feel to it). Forgetting the classics “Killer Queen” and “Now I’m Here”, mostly the songs seem to be Queen trying to find how many instruments and notes they can fit into each song and somehow give them structure. “Brighton Rock” can only be described as an insane onslaught of seaside rock: a crazed concoction of rapid drum fills complementing the song’s wild guitar bombardment (I like to call it “Fun Psychedelica”). Sometimes it seems to be all over the place, the music just going completely off course on a never-ending improvisation of sorts, though eventually coming back five minutes later for a quick official ending. If you ever wondered why people call Brian May one of the world’s greatest guitarists (or question any of the other members’ talents), you have obviously been listening to too many hit singles and not enough album tracks. Shame on you! 


Elephant – The White Stripes

Along with American Idiot, this is one of the best albums of the noughties. The riff from the slow-burning “Seven Nation Army” has to be up there with “Smoke On the Water” and “Sweet Home Alabama” in terms of how recognizable it is. Despite being made up entirely of Jack White’s guitar and his almost whiny singing (though wonderful sounding), and Meg White’s simplistic but perfectly-fitting drumming (for more info, read this rant), the songs are powerful, exciting and occasionally tearful.

“Ball and Biscuit” flows from this intro that is simply cool, into this squealing, wicked guitar solo that is broken in its seven minutes only by the occasional verse and Jack White saying at one moment “Yeah, you get the point now”. The feedback cover version of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” translates a form of melancholy, with its gentle verses based on rough sounding guitar chords building up to increasingly powerful verses and eventual screams. This is an album that stomps, croons and keeps the distortion setting on permanent max.


Quadrophenia – The Who

I like this album. I like it a lot. You may have noticed this if you have read my article on it. Or my article on it when I saw it live. Or my article on it in the . Anywho, here's a link to my Quadrophenia blog article, to save me the trouble of having to write another one.

Also you could check out my review of the Manic Street Preacher’s Rewind The Film. That was released in 2013, so counts for this article’s theme I suppose. And you know what, have this Green Day one, too

That’s the same for my band actually, WHPB. We recorded + released/ing our first songs in 2013/2014. Not even shamelessly self-promoting here. I’d send a link to where you can find us, but we may not have even made a Facebook page or anything yet by the time this gets published. I mean, we sound alright, you know, but we need some work, and Callum’s vocals need more time spent on them (no offence, mate). I mean, we’re trying, you know, but it’s a tough world out there and it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of other guys trying to do the same thing, you know, just wanting to try and make their own record and get themselves noticed, which is especially tough in this pop-obsessed, singer-orientated world, where really terrible music supported by these well-choreographed music videos and pop stars, many of whom just have to get twerky-quirky to get instantly famous, are the ones that get recognised, you know. You still with me here? Good, good. That’s, erm, yeah, that’s good. Yep.

(Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Before “Sweet Home Alambama”, Southern hard rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd released this incredible debut (which they toured supporting The Who’s Quadrophenia). It’s seven member mini-orchestra opens with the undeniably cool “I Ain’t The One” – Ronnie Van Zant confidently smooths out lyrics over the triple-guitar attack, funky bass, fast-flowing piano and energentic drums. Songs such as the hard hitting rocker “Poison Whisky” and get-up-and-dance-along “Gimme Three Steps”, sit alongside the knowing beauty of “Simple Man” and slow sadness of “Tuesday’s Gone”. But the album’s signature comes from its final track: the epic “Freebird”. For those who have not heard about the Freebird , it is a perfect nine-minute contrast of the album – the first half is a ballad designed to bring tears to the eyes: “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?...’Cause I’m as free as a bird now/and this bird cannot change” (it kinda sounds better sung out loud); the second half IS the mother of all guitar solos: three electric guitarists playing five minutes of musical bliss – fast tempo, the three guys endlessly competing to see whose fingers can move fastest round the fret board, the drums cascading in the background as Van Zant shuts up and lets the guitars go into overdrive. You know what, here’s a video of it. Seriously, I can’t explain how good it is, just listen to it. (Just skip to about 4:40, that’s where the fun starts).

(Fun fact: it was a Lynyrd Skynyrd song (“That’s How I Like It”) that inspired Green Day’s song “American Idiot”. Apparently Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong hated how Skynyrd could sing about being proud to be from the South (i.e. a Redneck) and his anger fuelled the song he then wrote. It’s a shame really, because if you ask me Armstrong misinterpreted the band, who are the nice, long haired kind of Southerners, who write anti-racism songs (“The Ballad of Curtis Lowe”) and talk about loving one’s family and so forth. Oh well.

Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

What do I have to say really? Its cover is probably the most famous in history. It spent 14 years in the billboard top 200 just because it’s so fantastic. Conveniently, Mr. Richardson has written an article all about this album. I like this method of getting other people to write my articles for me, or reusing old articles that I wrote ages ago. I should do it more often. Anyway, here's a link to it.

Anyway, that’s exhausted all of the albums I can think of that I like. Hope you enjoyed reading about some of them and, more importantly, that you go and listen to some of them if you haven’t heard of them beforehand. Listening to new music and opening your ears to new genres isn’t always rewarding, admittedly, but, if you never try them, then you can never know, so why not give it a go?

By the way, you may have noticed that I have mentioned nothing by The Beatles. This is because I do not like The Beatles. Problem? :P

(Same goes for Bob Dylan.

Bloody hippie.)

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