This Week’s Albums
December 16th, 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: Funkadelic- Maggot Brain (1971)
The last album to feature the original Funkadelic line-up; their 1971 milestone stretches between Psychedelia, Gospel, Soul and Rock sounds- to create one of the finest albums of the decade. The heavily-sampled Can You Get to That is a traditional Folk-led song- that differed from the band’s Funk-orientated sound. Super Stupid looks an idiot drug-user who buys the wrong drugs- to inevitable consequences- whilst Wars of Armageddon mixes sound effects and samples around byzantine and obscure lyrics. The seven-track album is perhaps defined by the incredible title cut: an instrumental execration that sees Eddie Hazel delivers a brain-busting solo (apparently George Clinton advised him to play as though his mama had died). That mix of melancholy and introspection are delicious as are the delirious funk-outs; samples, odd avenues and Gospel chants- all supremely delivered by a band at the peak of their creative visions. Trombones, Jew’s harp and bongo go into a delirious musical smoke that guarantees blissful transcendence; thought-provoking moments- the album looks at class struggles and brotherhood- and compels you to revisit it again and again. Not an obvious album for a lot of people; it sure should be- as it’s an undeniable classic that becomes more relevant and necessary as time goes on.
DOWNLOAD: Maggot Brain; You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks; Super Stupid
STAND-OUT TRACK: Maggot Brain
The New: Jennylee- Right On! (Out Now)
The good new releases seem to become fewer as the calendar year progresses. Not to throw scorn on December’s offerings but Jennylee’s latest album is a work that will excite upon initial listen without remaining in the mind for long. The Warpaint bassist (the exceptional L.A. female-only four-piece) has embarked into the spotlight- losing some of the magic that made her alma mater so special. Blind is an appealing (if slow) opener that does not set the tone for the rest of the album. That expert bass work- that is mixed to create an awkward balance of tension and muted promise- is one of the defining highs of the album. While Jenny Lee Lindberg is a fantastic musician; her voice is not quite arresting enough to sustain interest across an entire album. That grip and popularity may hone itself in the future but for now Right On! is a record that shows only patchy promise. When the music does hit its stride- as on the chilly vibes of never and the sparse Disco flavours of offerings- the heroine provides variation and personality. Hazy and languorous he fresh is an addictive, mantra-like song- the line “he’s so fresh, he’s so fresh, he’s so fresh” will not escape the brain easily. Riot and white devil show what the album should possess: urgency, danger and a sense of the unpredictable. That said; the emotional and sonic contrast results in an album with emotional depth and a unique personality. Let us hope the Warpaint bassist uses this album as a springboard to greater work- the potential and promise is all there.
DOWNLOAD: riot; he fresh; white devil
STAND-OUT TRACK: he fresh
The Influencer: The Streets- Original Pirate Material (2002)
The turn of the 20th century saw hungry British rappers/Hip-Hop artists burst onto the scene- providing an arresting, dazzling and mind-bending insight into modern Britain and the realities of the streets. A year before Dizzee Rascal’s eponymous debut (Boy in da Corner) came Mike Skinner’s The Streets. The Midland-born artist switched between assured and witty rapping to spoken word pontifications. The Streets’ opuses of getting drunk and eating chips; getting into danger and making ends meet was a daring and stunning insight into modern-day realities- an album that holds huge weight 13 years on. Skinner is not as frantic and assured as the likes of Dizzee yet his flow-acceleration is not the main attraction: the asphalt-pounding poet is a man who delivers huge blows with his unique and urgent authority. Funny, vulnerable and hugely intelligent; the album showed immense talent and ability from an artist fresh on the scene. There is a quirky Britishness about Skinner’s rapping (the line “I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint” is less likely to provoke thoughts of gun-fire gang wars; more a quiet cup of tea with your nan) yet it is those eccentricities and loveable moments that make Original Pirate Material a phenomenal work. Whilst Sharp Darts and Too Much Brandy are hard-riding and short mission statements the likes of Has It Come to This? were defined as lyrical slices of genius; Don’t Mug Yourself is a bouncing and dizzying array of images- texting a girl from the night before; Skinner’s friend Calvin offering some gravity and common sense. With Let’s Push Things Forward mixing Reggae bliss and huge intentions- the song looks at the importance of pushing sounds forward and evolving; not buying the same old crap- and boasts some of the album’s finest lyrics. A true masterwork that should be applauded hugely.
DOWNLOAD: Let’s Push Things Forward; Don’t Mug Yourself; Weak Become Heroes
STAND-OUT TRACK: Let’s Push Things Forward
The ‘Other One’: Beck- Mellow Gold (1994)
One of the defining albums of 1994- in music’s most prosperous and peerless year- few artists came onto the scene with such an assured debut. Beck Hansen is not a man to be bound by limitations: Mellow Gold willingly hops between Hip-Hop, Rap, Rock and Country; taking in samples and quirky sonic touches- resulting in an album that has a freewheelin’ confidence and surreal wordplay. It is those beat-poet/junkie lyrics that make the songs so vivid, original and down-right odd. Recorded at home- and not benefiting from studio cohesion and focus- you get an inspiring album propelled by ideas and depth; as opposed to force and pummel. Standout song Loser is perhaps Beck’s best-loved track- it is not the only stunner across the album. The Garage-inspired Fuckin’ With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock) is a dizzying and vivid assault that is among the album’s most immediate tracks. Sweet Sunshine sees Beck at his most fuzzed-out and unsettling whilst Blackhole is far more redemptive and touching than its title suggests- a gorgeous and acoustic-led track that sees Beck mix instruments (sitar among violins) with lyrics at their most oblique and image-provoking. Whilst the U.S. master is more comfortable in mature and contemplative mode these days, look back when he was at his reckless and limitless best. Few artists have ever matched Beck for genre-pollination and songwriting genius; Mellow Gold is an album that shook the scene and welcomed a one-of-a-kind to the musical bosom. Mellow Gold is definitely not mellow (not for the most anyway) yet its gold-standard credentials cannot be argued.
DOWNLOAD: Loser; Fuckin’ With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock); Blackhole
STAND-OUT TRACK: Loser