Monthly Archives: May 2012

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

Rocks In The Attic #24: Doves – ‘Lost Souls’ (2000)

Rocks In The Attic #24: Doves - ‘Lost Souls’ (2000)Another band I liked really early on – I have all their early singles on vinyl – before abandoning them to the Oasis fans. I’d been following their rise in Manchester, mainly on the coat-tails of Badly Drawn Boy, who they used to be a backing band for; and they got played relatively early by Jo Whiley on Radio 1. I can remember working at my desk in my room at University, when she played Sea Song for the first time on radio. I nearly hit the roof – I had bought the song on vinyl (this was way before the album came out) and I had loved it from the first time I heard it.

I then had the misfortune of missing them play a small bar in my hometown, Oldham, because I was playing with my own band a few streets away on the same night. I did get to catch them that summer at Glastonbury on the Second Stage – I think they were the first band I ever saw at the festival – on the ridiculously early Friday morning slot. This set was also the first of many missed meetings at Glastonbury, as my University housemate Kaj, who I was looking out to meet up with (in the days just before mobile phones) saw me watching them, but wasn’t sure enough that it was me to come over and tap me on the shoulder. We caught up the following day if I remember correctly.

The next time I saw Doves was a few years later. They were headlining the same stage on the Sunday night, touring their second album, and I walked through the field and caught them for 5 minutes, enough to see them dedicate a song to Marc-Vivien Foé – the Manchester City and Cameroon international who had recently died on the pitch (the band are big Man City fans); but by that point they had got a bit more famous and a lot of Oasis fans (ie. non-musos who only dabble in music) had started liking them as a faux-Oasis substitute band.

I did see Jimi from Doves once in Manchester, as pissed off as I was that we both couldn’t get into a bar that was holding a night celebrating Bill Hicks on the 10th anniversary of his death. I’ve never seen a rock star so mad.

But I have fond memories of this, a great album.

Hit: Here It Comes

Hidden Gem: Sea Song

Rocks In The Attic #23: R.E.M. – ‘Out Of Time’ (1991)

I’ve never been a huge fan of R.E.M. I’ve always been slightly suspicious that it took them so long to finally start recording hit albums. I was also put off by them because it was fashionable to like them when I was at college. And it was usually knobheads who liked them – R.E.M. and Oasis.

But I’ve always been a big fan of Automatic For The People, and this album’s really growing on me every time I listen to it.  I remember Automatic For The People was one of the first albums I bought on CD – it was one of the five or so CDs I got when I joined one of those music clubs (where they’ll send you the latest chart album if you do absolutely nothing).

Automatic sounded otherworldy back then (and still does now), and this seems much more accessible. I don’t think I’ve ever owned this on CD – I’d probably have listened to it much more than I have if I had it on my iPod, but as it stands I’ve only listened to it on vinyl.

I probably bought it for Shiny Happy People – probably the first R.E.M. song I ever heard and one of my favourite singles, which I think I bought on CD – and I think I was always slightly disappointed that Kate Pierson didn’t sing on all the rest of their songs.

Hit: Losing My Religion

Hidden Gem: Low

Rocks In The Attic #22: Eric Clapton – ‘Journeyman’ (1989)

I bought this because it had Bad Loveon it. I’m glad I bought it because the rest of the album is sweet – I could never understand how Unplugged was considered his comeback when he was making albums of this quality 3 years earlier.

The opening guitar riff to Bad Lovehas to be one of most underrated rock riffs of the 1980s. I’d put it up there with Dire Straits’ Money For Nothingas the best of that decade. In fact, does anybody even write riffs of that calibre anymore? Jack White has a few under his belt, but there’s been a shift away from putting a riff like that front and centre in the production.

I love everything about this album – the photo of Eric looking vaguely psychotic in the dark on the front cover, to the photo of him on the reverse – wearing a grey linen suit over a bright yellow turtleneck, standing on metal shavings.

I read his autobiography not too long ago, and it really got to me that so much of his life has been plagued by alcoholism, and frankly, wasted. If he had been able to knock albums like this out every couple of years, he would have a pretty impressive back catalogue rather than the sketchy affair that it is.

I remember, many years after first buying this record, I was working on a late night as a supervisor of a DIY store. I put the album on in the break room, thinking that nobody would know it, but one of my colleagues Carly got overexcited and started singing and dancing along to it whilst doing the vacuuming – a favourite album of hers too. It’s funny how things stick in your memory like that.

Hit: Bad Love

Hidden Gem: Breaking Point

Rocks In The Attic #21: Monty Norman – ‘Dr.No (O.S.T.)’ (1963)

Another gem in my record collection – an original copy of the soundtrack to the first James Bond film, Dr. No – released in 1963 to coincide with the American release of the film in June of that year (the film was originally released in the UK on the 5th of October 1962, the same day as The Beatles’ first 7” single Love Me Do).

It’s a shame that John Barry’s work on this album is uncredited, given how vital he was to the music of 007 over the next three decades. He arranged the James Bond Theme, and orchestrated the final song on the album, but the rest of the soundtrack is credited to composer Monty Norman, writer of the James Bond Theme.

This soundtrack is very calypso-sounding, because of the film’s setting in the West Indies. It sounds quite fresh, and is probably the only time a Bond soundtrack has ever leant so much towards a specific genre of music – at least until the soundtrack for The Spy Who Loved Me goes all disco. Ugh.

Hit: James Bond Theme

Hidden Gem: Under The Mango Tree