This Week’s Albums
December 6th, 2015
IT is a case of “Something old, something new/something ‘borrowed’, something…
that doesn’t rhyme”. I do a D.J. gig every week at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria (https://www.facebook.com/TheStokeGuildford?fref=ts); I have the opportunity to play four different albums: one that is ‘old’ (to my mind, anything pre-1985), something ‘new’ (released brand-new that week); something influential (and has inspired a genre/other acts) - in addition to dealer’s choice (any album I choose). Having done this for over a year-and played everything from Graceland to Pearl Jam; FKA twigs to Beastie Boys- it is enormous fun. I get to talk to people about music; play some awesome stuff- turn people on to some great/forgotten sounds- well, I try to! I shall publish this every week; try and highlight some fantastic albums- maybe some you have forgotten about.
The Old: Santana- Abraxas (1970)
A musical maturation from the early days; Abraxas mixed Jazz, Blues, Salsa and Rock into an explosive and stunning mixture of material. Whether tackling Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman or going into instrumental territory (Samba Pa Ti for one) - everything sounds compelling and sensational. Not just a chance for Carlos Santana to stand in the spotlight; a host of musicians come into the mix to add to the album’s diverse and accomplished sound. Santana’s love of the guitar never ventures into aimless riffs and vague sentiments- there is so much texture and colour within the music. With that love of Latin and Blues you get a cross-genre blend that sounds effortless and hugely original. Abraxas was an album that stands as Santana’s peak- inspiring fellow musicians in its wake. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen and Oye Como Va stand as highlights- tracks that showcase the guitar chops of Santana and his band’s stunning musicianship. Were Abraxas released today it would sound alien and out of place. Arriving at the beginning of the ‘70s the album sounded utterly right and perfect. Whilst Santana would go onto making more varied and collaborative albums- the likes of Supernatural stand to mind- he never made a finer one. For that reason ensure you revisit this album and discover a guitar icon at his very peak.
DOWNLOAD: Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen; Oye Como Va; Se a Cabo
STAND-OUT TRACK: Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
The New: Coldplay- A Head Full of Dreams
In a week of weak albums- neither Amazon nor H.M.V. had Kid Cudi in stock- I was compelled to look at Coldplay’s latest effort. It is a classic three-star album- not their worst effort but not up to their best- but the positives are encouraging signs. Whereas Coldplay’s previous effort (Ghost Stories) was a somber and reflective work- after Chris Martin’s ‘uncoupling’ from Gwyneth Paltrow- A Head Full of Dreams is a vivacious and colour-filled about-face. Latest single Adventure of a Lifetime is replete with carefree Funk and flute loops. A sun-kissed and effusive track; it stands as one of the better cuts from the album. Elsewhere the band go into R ‘n’ B territory- Army of One dabbles with surprising conviction and assuredness- and there are plenty of tracks to recommend. A few Coldplay issues still remain. Martin’s lyrics are still unspectacular and mindlessly clichéd whereas the band’s inability to progress/develop- there are wordless chants and inspirational quotes a-plenty- ensure it is business as usual- which does hinder any signs of evolution. There is more ambition on this record yet it feels more like a band treading water. There are some needless fillers and weak moment but there are positives too: A Head Full of Dreams shows the band is willing to stretch their sound and try something a little different. Let’s hope their next album sees a more compelling exploration of this; a break from their clichés and routines- more of the magic that we witnessed on Parachutes.
DOWNLOAD: A Head Full of Dreams; Adventure of a Lifetime; Army of One
STAND-OUT TRACK: Adventure of a Lifetime
The Influencer: Pixies- Come on Pilgrim (1987)/Surfer Rosa (1988)
Few bands have been as influential as Pixies. Surfer Rosa inspired Nirvana hugely in its quiet-loud dynamic. A daring and audacious release; Surfer Rosa showcased the sensational guitar range of Joey Santiago; the punchy and tight rhythms of Kim Deal and David Lovering- supporting Black Francis’ animalistic and demented shrieks. The humour and wit is evident throughout- including Bone Machine and Tony’s Theme- whereas Where Is My Mind? tackles softer Pop-inspired avenues. A record packed with everything from epic explosions (Vamos) to the voyeurism of Gigantic; it is endlessly mind-blowing. The E.P. Come on Pilgrim was released a year before Surfer Rosa and showed a band with a huge amount of authority. The inexpensively-recorded E.P. - a result of a demo tape paid for by Black Francis’ dad- showed grit, raw passion and boundless confidence. From the surfer-girl tribute Ed is Dead to the eerie and execrated Caribou- it is an eight-track collection that shows no weakness or repent. Taking on harder issues and grey area- the incest of Nimrod’s Son and I’ve Been Tired’s sexual frustration- Come on Pilgrim is an essential and fascinating study of a band that would change the face of music. From the likes of P.J. Harvey to The Smashing Pumpkins, few can deny the legacy and important of Pixies. Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim is a double-disc study that has often been studied/replicated but never bettered.
DOWNLOAD: Caribou (Come on Pilgrim); Nimrod’s Son (Come on Pilgrim); Where Is My Mind? (Surfer Rosa).
STAND-OUT TRACK: Caribou (Come on Pilgrim)
The ‘Other One’: Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Fever to Tell (2003)
This Grammy-nominated record was considered one of the finest creations of the ’00s- hardly surprising when you really delve into it. Before this album- this was the band’s first full-length foray- the New York clan produced E.P.s. This allowed the public to see a group shift and grow in confidence. Abandoning the Garage-Rock/Punk of their self-titled debut to something more focused and sharp (Machine). There are a few issues on Fever to Tell- the sequencing means the tracks are poorly laid-out; the heavier sounds and ballads are not evenly-distributed and in the wrong place- whilst the 37-minute running time means it is not as urgent and concise as their E.P.s. That being said, the highlights more than make up for it. Black Tongue is a raunchy and swaggering number- with its images of “let’s do this like a prison break”- Date with the Night is a frantic and insatiable rush of a track. With Karen O’s vibrant and not-of-the-earth vocals backed by Nick Zinner (guitar) and Brian Chase (drums) and you have a powerful and unstoppable trio. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were not all about force and screwed-up sexuality. Maps is a stunning beautiful and sentimental stand-out whilst Pin and Y Control show genuine heart and introspection. Perhaps uneven and hard to take at times the album showcases an immense amount of originality and balls. How many other albums promise that?
DOWNLOAD: Date with the Night; Black Tongue; Maps
STAND-OUT TRACK: Maps