Monthly Archives: May 2012

Rocks In The Attic #34: Manic Street Preachers – ‘Know Your Enemy’ (2001)

Rocks In The Attic #34: Manic Street Preachers - ‘Know Your Enemy’ (2001)I’m really pissed off with the record label for ripping off Manics fans with this record. Prior to this, each of their album releases on vinyl had been fine. Here, they cram 75 minutes onto a single disc. The result: a very low-fidelity and quiet album. It’s almost unlistenable. Generation Terrorists is just as long and that’s a double-LP.

I was a big Manics fan, probably up to this album. In their day – with Richey on board – they were fantastic, but something died in the band when he disappeared, and they lost their edge. Everything Must Go is a good album considering what they had just been through, but This is My Truth Tell Me Yours is just boring. This album is a bit more up-tempo than its predecessor, but mostly crap.

Know Your Enemy came out when I used to drive over to see my good friend Paul in Todmorden all the time, so it reminds me of making that long drive all the way from my parent’s house in Oldham.

Hit: Found That Soul

Hidden Gem: Miss Europa Disco Dancer

Rocks In The Attic #33: Dark Star – ‘Twenty Twenty Sound’ (1999)

Rocks In The Attic #33: Dark Star - ‘Twenty Twenty Sound’ (1999)I bought this during the time I used to DJ on Saturday nights at 38 Bar / The Castle, in Oldham. I remember this came out very close to the time that Muse’s first album came out and, to me at least, both bands sound very similar. At least Dark Star sound like the incarnation of Muse on their first album.

It’s odd – I had my money on both bands at the time, but when I think about it, I bought this on vinyl – not Muse’s Showbiz. Looking back, of the two records, Showbiz is the better album, although I would put Twenty Twenty Sound’s lead single I Am The Sun is just as good as anything on Showbiz.

It’s a shame that the band didn’t really go anywhere – I Am The Sun is a fantastic song, and the album was produced by Steve Lillywhite of all people. Wikipedia says they did a second album, but that it remains unreleased.

Hit: I Am The Sun

Hidden Gem: Vertigo

Rocks In The Attic #32: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather’ (1984)

Rocks In The Attic #32: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather’ (1984)If you ever wonder what a Jimi Hendrix album in the 1980s would sound like, you only have to listen to this. Paying tribute to him on Voodoo Chile, the rest of the album sounds like it might have been recorded by Hendrix, with only the crisp 1980s production dating it to that decade.

This is Vaughan’s second solo album – a year after he played guitar on Bowie’s Let’s Dance. It’s a fine album, aside from the aforementioned dated 80s production.

It’s a shame Vaughan died so young. As Dennis Leary – or was it Bill Hicks? – once said, “Stevie Ray Vaughan is dead, and we can’t get Jon Bon Jovi onto a fucking helicopter!”

Hit: Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

Hidden Gem: Tin Pan Alley

Rocks In The Attic #31: The Darkness – ‘Permission To Land’ (2003)

Rocks In The Attic #31: The Darkness - ‘Permission To Land’ (2003)This album ticks all the right boxes. It’s got a naked lady on the cover. It has a Parental Advisory sticker. It’s on Atlantic Records – home of, amongst others, Led Zeppelin. The guitarist is a big fan of Thin Lizzy. It couldn’t get much better really.

Except the album isn’t actually that great. There’s some killer singles on there – Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Growing On Me,  I Believe In A Thing Called Love and Love Is Only A Feeling – but the rest of the album is just filler. Just like most average rock albums, the singles are good but they obviously didn’t spend as long on the other songs. In fact the second side of the album – the side without all the singles on it – is pretty forgetful.

I regret not seeing the band at Glastonbury. They were playing the Second Stage, just as they were breaking in the UK, and I remember my good friend Natalie saying I should go and watch them as I’d probably like them. I hadn’t heard about them by that point, but they really caught my attention when I finally heard about them. What’s not to like about a band playing classic rock riffs behind a screaming singer in a white lycra jumpsuit?

Hit: I Believe In A Thing Called Love

Hidden Gem: Friday Night

Rocks In The Attic #30: The Beatles – ‘Yellow Submarine Songtrack’ (1999)

It’s odd that they released this, as though admitting that the original Yellow Submarine soundtrack released in 1968 was a bit of a mistake. That album has four previously unreleased songs of varying quality on one side, bookended by the title song and All You Need Is Love; with the flipside covering George Martin’s orchestral score for the film. Of the studio albums in their official cannon, this has to be the weakest as half of it isn’t them playing, and the rest is half-hearted, at best.Released in 1999 to promote the re-release of the animated film, the Yellow Submarine Songtrack tries to wrong those rights by removing the George Martin tracks and filling the album out with the other Beatles songs that appear in the movie.

Hey Bulldog takes pride of place as the first song on the album (after the title song), and this was released as the only single from the album. Of those 4 previously unreleased songs that appeared on the original soundtrack, it’s clearly the best one – a nice little riff-driven rocker by Lennon that wouldn’t have been out of place as a B-side around the time of The White Album when it was recorded.

This is a nice addition to my Beatles collection – the tracks are fully remixed from the original multitrack tapes (something that they didn’t even do for the 2009 remasters), making it a pretty unique release. And of course it’s on yellow vinyl, and who doesn’t like coloured vinyl?

Hit: Yellow Submarine

Hidden Gem: Hey Bulldog

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays – ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays - ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)Thanks to my Dad, I have this in my collection – an original version of The Bar-Kays’ debut on Volt Records – Stax’s sister label – with the cover held together with a couple of strategically placed pieces of sellotape.

Soul Finger is a great soul record, drawing comparisons to label-mates Booker T. & The M.G.’s, mainly as they’re both organ-driven instrumental groups. The Bar-Keys are a little less organ-heavy compared to the earlier group, but with a brassier sound due to their compliment of saxophone and trumpet.

The band was cut down in its prime as a result of being picked up by Otis Redding as his backing band. Four of the six original members died in the same 1967 plane crash that took his life (only the trumpeter survived the crash, and the bass player was on another flight). The Bar-Kays were then repopulated with replacements, and went on to back many other Stax artists – most notably playing on Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul album – and released records all the way into the 1980s.

The Blues Brothers play a great version of the song Soul Finger, as the opening to their Made In America live LP. It’s fitting that Cropper and Dunn play that version, as the M.G.’s were instrumental (no pun intended) in cultivating The Bar-Kays through the ranks at Stax / Volt.

Soul Finger and one of The Bar-Kays’ later songs, Too Hot To Stop, also feature on the soundtrack to 2007’s Superbad.

Hit: Soul Finger

Hidden Gem: Pearl High

Rocks In The Attic #28: Various Artists – ‘Good Morning Vietnam (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

Rocks In The Attic #28: Various Artists - ‘Good Morning Vietnam (O.S.T.)’ (1988)This is a great film. I’ve always been slightly dubious about Robin Williams, after I heard that on the stand-up circuit he used to shamelessly steal material from other comedians; but in terms of energy and improvisation, there’s no other comic actor to touch him, except maybe Jim Carrey.

Like Jim Carrey, Williams’ best roles are those which are comic with a huge slice of realism involved. Good Morning Vietnam is one of those films, and the music contained on the soundtrack are a great reminder of the happy / sad dynamic that the movie puts across.

I’ve never been a fan of soundtrack albums that have dialogue interspersed with the music tracks, but it works so well here, essentially because Williams is playing a DJ – so the whole album sounds like a radio program. This is probably the first time I heard Them’s version of Baby Please Don’t Go (with a young studio musician named Jimmy Page playing guitar).

Hit: What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Hidden Gem: Baby Please Don’t Go – Them

Rocks In The Attic #27: The White Stripes – ‘Elephant’ (2003)

Rocks In The Attic #27: The White Stripes - ‘Elephant’ (2003)I was much more impressed with this album, after White Blood Cells didn’t really live up to the hype that was surrounding the band at the time of that release. I thought White Blood Cells was a bit of a letdown, after the genius of De Stijl, but here on Elephant they seemed to get back on track.

I wasn’t a White Stripes fan from the very start, but I remember a lot of talk about them around the same time that The Strokes were being touted as the next big thing. My good friend Paul gave me a copy of De Stijl on CD that he’d won at some music festival, and not knowing anything about them, he’d offloaded it onto me. So from listening to that album (a lot!), I was very into them by the time White Blood Cells came around.

I love De Stijl – a lot of it sounds (to me) like Led Zeppelin, and I like that. White Blood Cells and Elephant are a bit heavier, but still retaining a melodic edge which saves them from the garage rock of their first album.

I don’t usually pay much attention to music videos – I find they can change how you perceive a song, both positively and negatively – but the videos for three of this album’s four singles are outstanding: the kaleidoscopic Seven Nation Army video, directed by Alex And Martin; a scantily-clad Kate Moss swinging around a strippers’ pole in I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, directed by Sofia Coppola; and the pulsating The Hardest Button To Button video, directed by Michel Gondry.

Hit: Seven Nation Army

Hidden Gem: You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket

Rocks In The Attic #26: Rocket From The Crypt – ‘Scream, Dracula, Scream’ (1995)

Rocks In The Attic #26: Rocket From The Crypt - ‘Scream, Dracula, Scream’ (1995)I once had the misfortune to accidentally play Rocket From The Crypt’s On A Rope straight after a Joy Division song while DJing in a club. A friend had to race up to my DJ booth and point out my faux pas – after the strains of Love Will Tear Us Apart was dying out, it sounded like I was making light of Ian Curtis’ death by hanging by playing this track. Oh dear.

I bought this album purely on the strength of On A Rope, which had somehow got a bit of attention in the UK when it was released. I even remember the band performing the song on TFI Friday and Top Of The Pops.

The rest of the album didn’t impress me that much, except for the opening track Middle, which segues into Born In ’69 before making way for On A Rope. The energy contained in these three songs is unrelenting and a fantastic starter to an album.

Hit: On A Rope

Hidden Gem: Middle / Born In ‘69

Rocks In The Attic #25: Lionel Richie – ‘Can’t Slow Down’ (1983)

Rocks In The Attic #25: Lionel Richie - ‘Can’t Slow Down’ (1983)I’m not sure why I have this – I think it may have something I pilfered from my parent’s collection when I was starting to listen to vinyl in a big way. For years it remained on my shelf, unlistened to, and then I noticed it had a song – Running With The Night – that featured on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I’m glad I finally listened to it, as the rest of the album isn’t half-bad.

Bookended by his big US #1 solo hits – All Night Long (All Night) and Hello – the album is his second solo output after leaving The Commodores, and is full of hits. Each of the five singles taken from the album charted in the US Top 10 – not a bad start for somebody described by one critic as ‘the black Barry Manilow’.

My good friend Roger used to use a ticket stub from a Lionel Richie concert as a bookmark, mainly as a conversation starter to meet girls on the train during his commute to work. Apparently it worked most of the time.

Hit: Hello

Hidden Gem: Running With The Night