Monthly Archives: December 2012

Rocks In The Attic #195: Metallica – ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983)

RITA#195I love early Metallica, but not this album – their debut – so much. All the elements are there, but the songwriting isn’t as developed as on Ride The Lightning and the poor production of the album takes the power away from the band. Instead of an assault on the ears, everything sounds tinny and weak.

The cover art is fantastic, and it’s nice to see the band’s logo there from day one, but I bet James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich must hate the band photo on the back cover. Kirk Hammett looks exactly like he does today, just with softer skin – but Hetfield, Ulrich, and the now-deceased bass player Cliff Burton just look like spotty teenagers. Hetfield and Ulrich were both only 19 at the time of recording this album, with Hammett and Burton a more seasoned 21.

What an achievement to have spearheaded a new musical genre – thrash metal – at such an early age…

Hit: Seek & Destroy

Hidden Gem: (Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth

Rocks In The Attic #194: Tracy Chapman – ‘Tracy Chapman’ (1988)

RITA#194For a very long time, the hit on this album was undoubtedly Fast Car, but given the more famous cover of Baby Can I Hold You by Boyzone, this latter song now seems to eclipse everything else on here.

I remember having a conversation in the early 2000s with a couple of lesbian friends who were heading out that night to go and see Joni Mitchell play live in concert. I suddenly smelt a rat. Knowing that Mitchell played live very irregularly, I pushed them for more information and eventually found out it was Tracy Chapman they were about to see. Even though she’s no Joni Mitchell, I’d still be happy to see Chapman play live, but what a faux pas to make! Hardly surprising coming from a pair of girls who were so culturally bereft – Tracy Chapman was probably wasted on them.

A friend once told me that you shouldn’t get emotional or nostalgic about music, as it ruins your ability to judge art in a level-headed manner. This album reminds me of a former girlfriend who introduced me to it and used to play it all the time. Despite the happy memories, I still think it’s a good album that’s stood the test of time very well.

Hit: Baby Can I Hold You

Hidden Gem: Behind The Wall

Rocks In The Attic #193: The Rolling Stones – ‘Voodoo Lounge’ (1994)

RITA#193As a late-career album (their 20th British studio album, and 22nd American studio album), this should be pretty bad. In fact, it’s relatively inoffensive.

Voodoo Lounge came out when I used to watch MTV religiously, so the lead single from the album, Love Is Strong, really makes me think of the great video where the band – now minus Bill Wyman – are slow-mo giants playing their instruments whilst walking through a cityscape. Looking back, the video just reminds me of The Goodies’ giant cats roving through a miniature London.

I’m not sure where the fashion for overly long albums started. I guess somewhere along the way somebody decided that more content on an album is better for the fans, or a bigger selling point perhaps. Voodoo Lounge clocks in at just over an hour, which is far too long for what is considered a single album.

I never got to see the Stones play live, and it looks increasingly unlikely given their age, and my location in the world, that I’ll get to see them. I really regret this, but I seem to remember ticket prices on this tour and the following Bridges To Babylon tour were astronomical. I should have paid to see them in Germany, supported by AC/DC no less, on the A Bigger Bang tour.

Despite it being unlikely to see them play in New Zealand, there is one thing that might make them come here. Keith Richards’ brain surgery (after falling out of a coconut tree in 2006) was performed in Auckland, so maybe he’ll come back to thank the doctors and surgeons who saved his life. Hopefully he’ll avoid climbing coconut trees in the future, as the band will cease to exist without him.

Perhaps it’s a good thing I never got to see them. I recently saw them on TV playing their 50th anniversary concerts and they sounded terrible. I think they can hit magic from time to time in the studio, but they don’t seem to be able to cut it live.

Hit: Love Is Strong

Hidden Gem: Brand New Car

Rocks In The Attic #192: Alexandre Desplat & Mark Mothersbaugh – ‘Moonrise Kingdom (O.S.T.)’ (2012)

RITA#192I made a rule when I started writing this blog that I was only going to write about 12” records – full albums, and not EPs or 12” singles. I’m breaking that rule by writing about this little oddity, because I love it.

Released as a limited edition 10” Record Store Day release on Black Friday (November 23rd) in 2012, this collects nineteen minutes of score from Wes Anderson’s latest film. With only certain soundtrack releases getting a vinyl release these days, I never expected to be able to walk into a store and buy a Wes Anderson soundtrack on vinyl. Even though this is only a 10”, it’s a happy addition to my collection.

I finally got around to watching Moonrise Kingdom the other day, and despite being a huge Wes Anderson fan, I was pretty disappointed. The film looked fantastic, and the music was just as good as it ever is in his films, but the character arcs didn’t really go anywhere and overall if just came off like a watered-down version of a Wes Anderson film, just like The Darjeeling Limited was five years ago.

These exclusive Record Store Day releases are really becoming something to look out for – and it’s great that there now seems to be two release dates each year.

Hit: The Heroic Weather-Conditions Of The Universe, Part 1: A Veiled Mist

Hidden Gem: The Heroic Weather-Conditions Of The Universe, Part 7: After The Storm

Rocks In The Attic #190: Supergrass – ‘In It For The Money’ (1997)

RITA#190I remember being at University when this album was released, and seeing the music video to Going Out. I hated it. It was everything that Britpop was in my eyes – twee, kitsch and horribly self-confident.

Then I heard Radiohead’s The Bends, and my tastes started to soften. Prior to this, I was stuck in a world of sleeveless denim jackets, guitar solos and ‘heavier than thou’ rock and metal. Listening to The Bends, I realised that there could be a lot of good material to be found in this genre – as long as I stayed away from the overtly-kitsch stuff.

This was all cemented when I bought a compilation CD called Danger Zone. This mainly consisted of heavier examples of Britpop, like Blur’s Song 2 and Supergrass’ Richard III. Aside from that Going Out video, the only thing I knew about Supergrass was that catchy Alright single from their first album, which was exactly everything I hated about Britpop – smiley, over-confident drivel.

When I heard Richard III, I changed my mind about the band instantly. I couldn’t believe that such a poppy band was capable of recorded a tune that rocked out more than the rock music I was listening to at the time. There’s a lovely bit in the song when the drums fall out after the chorus, and the guitar plays a two-chord motif. When the bass comes in as a counterpoint, it sounds as though the guitar is changing key, but it’s just a trick of the ears. This to me, was of greater musical interest than any British rock bands of the time like The Wildhearts and Terrorvision.

I’m not a huge fan of Supergrass’ first album. I’ll listen to it, and enjoy it when I do, but I think In It For The Money is a masterpiece (and a huge step forward from their debut). As a guitarist, it’s fantastic to come across such an album full of riffs and chord progressions you want to play. Richard III, Sun Hits The Sky, Tonight and Late In The Day all feature really nice guitar parts that are seem to be natural progression to ‘70s guitar-based rock. I owned the guitar tab book for it at one point, but must have sold it when I was losing ballast to emigrate to New Zealand.

It took me a long time to realise but it’s so important not to listen to what the music press says, especially when they’re pigeon-holing a band into a specific genre. For me, Supergrass are the personification of how dangerously misleading such labelling can be. I was only fortunate to see the band play live once, at Glastonbury in 2004 but I immensely enjoyed standing in the rain in the Pyramid field watching them race through their afternoon setlist.

Hit: Late In The Day

Hidden Gem: Tonight

Rocks In The Attic #189: The Pointer Sisters – ‘Break Out’ (1983)

RITA#189This album (credited to ‘Pointer Sisters’, without the definitive article) just makes me happy. It’s chock-full of hits – Jump, Automatic, Neutron Dance – and is just a very happy record, bringing the positive demeanour of 1970’s soul into the 1980s.

Being a child of the ‘80s, I recognise Neutron Dance from Beverly Hills Cop (it’s the energetic song that opens the film, as Eddie Murphy is hanging off the back of the truck full of stolen cigarettes), but Jump is still played regularly on the radio (despite its ‘revival’ by Girls Aloud and that version appearing in Love Actually). It’s the song Automatic that is the highlight of the album for me though. I knew the song before it appeared in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but like most of the songs on that soundtrack, the song now reminds me so much of the video game that I find it hard to disassociate the two.

The Pointer Sisters recently played in New Zealand (around the same time that Bonnie Pointer, one of the original members of the band, had been arrested in LA for possession of crack cocaine). Only one of the original four sisters was present, which kind of speaks for itself. I didn’t go and see them, as I truly believed I would have been disappointed – these revival tours can be really damaging to the memory and nostalgia you can have for a band. My love for Blondie has barely survived seeing the band play live twice in the last decade, and I wouldn’t want the same thing to happen here.

Hit: Jump

Hidden Gem: Nightline