Category Archives: 2001

Rocks In The Attic #610: Muse – ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ (2001)

RITA#610.jpgThis is it. This is the one. Out of all of the albums I got behind during my twenties, this is the one that resonated with me the most. It still strikes a nerve today, sixteen years later.

I seem to remember the very late ‘90s being a desolate wasteland in terms of guitar rock. The homemade ethic of Grunge had drifted into stadium-filling Alternative Rock, but the punk vibe was still very much there. It was almost a crime to be proficient at playing the guitar. That’s just not cool, man.

The turn of the century gave us the Strokes and the White Stripes, both bands making guitars cool again. But for all their posturing, both of these American imports still took a simplistic approach to guitar playing; Jack White from garage rock, blues and folk, and the Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. from the New York City New Wave of Television, Talking Heads and Blondie.

Something far more interesting was happening in England. I had heard tales of a Devon band featuring a hot-shot guitarist with dazzling effects pedals. By the time I finally heard their first record, Showbiz, in 1999, I was an instant fan but I wasn’t bowled over. Sunburn was an awesome song, but there was a fair bit of mediocre filler throughout the record.

Fast foward a year or so, and a friend passed me an advance promo single for Plug In Baby. I played it that night during my DJ set at 38 Bar, and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t heard such an off-kilter guitar riff since Randy Rhoads’ Crazy Train. This Bellamy kid definitely wasn’t hiding behind those pedals.

The next day, I drove (for no particular reason) over to Hadfield, the Royston Vasey of The League Of Gentleman. I played the song over and over in the car, and just couldn’t get over how good it was. It felt like it had been written for my tastes in mind.

Thankfully the rest of the album was much stronger than its predecessor. New Breed and Bliss were both riff-heavy, and there was even a heavy cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good introduced with a lovely bit of Wurlitzer piano. The record does get a little tired towards the end – a good 15 minutes could have been shaved off to make a truly awesome 35 minute record – but it was still a damn sight stronger than Showbiz.

I saw the band tour this record at 2001’s V Festival in Staffordshire. They headlined the second stage, and I managed to get up close to the front. After the set, I turned round to walk back to my tent and realised how many thousands of people had also been watching. This little band I had followed for a couple of years had grown beyond my expectations. I wouldn’t seem them again until 2010, touring album number five.

Hit: Plug In Baby

Hidden Gem: Hyper Music

Rocks In The Attic #444: Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Shangri-La Dee Da’ (2001)

RITA#444.jpgScott Weiland, vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead on his tour bus a few days ago. Like most of his fans, I wasn’t surprised, just disappointed. When celebrities die young, there’s usually some aspect of shock, but Weiland – like Amy Winehouse some years ago – provoked no such response. Sadly, it always seemed to be very much a case of when, not if.

Stone Temple Pilots were easily my favourite American band of the ‘90s. I first fell in love with Vaseline and Interstate Love Song from their second, self-titled LP in 1994. Weiland’s baritone vocals and the band’s Zeppelin-esque brand of rock were a nice antidote to the ‘too punk to learn our instruments’ aesthetic that evolved out of the grunge movement. Their cover of Zeppelin’s Dancing Days from the Encomium tribute album sealed the deal. These were guys who had a love and respect for the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Once I’d digested the singles from that second album – known to all as Purple – I went back to check out their first record, 1992’s Core. I have a firm memory of standing at a bus-stop in the freezing cold on Boxing Day 1994, listening to the opening intro of Dead & Bloated on my Discman. Man, it’s a heavy album. Not the type of heaviness you’d hear at the time from the likes of Pantera and Sepultura, but a heaviness that was steeped in the radio-friendly sound of classic rock. The thing that distanced them from those post-Metallica bands was the empty spaces between the DeLeo brothers’ guitars and Eric Kretz’s drums. STP weren’t rushing anywhere; most of their songs were mid-tempo and Brendan O’Brien’s production focused just as much on the light as the shade.

Then it all started to go wrong. Third album Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop was doomed from the start. Released without anyone taking a lot of notice, Weiland’s drug problems outshined the record despite killer singles in Big Bang Baby and especially Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart.

After album number three, I turned off. No. 4 and Shangri-La Dee Da were released in 1999 and 2001 and I didn’t even notice. I’ve only just bought them in the last year or so to complete my collection. I do regret not hearing them at the time, but I’d moved on.

In 2010 my ears pricked up again. After a lengthy hiatus while Weiland was the faux-Axl Rose in Velvet Revolver, Stone Temple Pilots reformed and recorded another self-titled album. I didn’t think much of the material – too much water had passed under the bridge – but the album spurned a tour which reached New Zealand.

cc.11/14.15

Scott Weiland 27/10/67 – 03/12/15

I couldn’t believe I was seeing one of my favourite bands play live. They had avoided touring overseas back in the ’90s, for the same reasons that Aerosmith stayed in the USA during the ‘70s – addicts will always want to stay close to their dealer and not risk carrying anything over borders. Here they were, playing all my favourite STP songs, and when they dropped Crackerman just a couple of songs into the set, I could have left right there and then, a happy man.

Like most, I was concerned at Weiland’s recent woeful attempt to sing one of STP’s better known songs, Vaseline, with his new band (a video comparing the performance to when he could really belt it out is just horrible to watch). But there were the danger signs right there. He didn’t look like he should have been out in public; let alone showcasing his new band on TV. I’ll prefer to remember him in his element, blasting out Plush at the 1993 MTV Movie Awards.

Hit: Days Of The Week

Hidden Gem: A Song For Sleeping

Rocks In The Attic #286: Aerosmith – ‘Just Push Play’ (2001)

RITA#286Nothing says how truly bad this album is more than the cover. There are no redeeming qualities I can find about it. If they handed out awards for the band that chose the worst image to put on the cover of an album, Aerosmith would have swept the boards in 2001.

I can stand up for Aerosmith all day, but I have trouble sticking up for this album. Even Joe Perry agrees:

I don’t think we’ve made a decent album in years. ‘Just Push Play’ is my least favourite. When we recorded it there was never a point where all five members were in the room at the same time and Aerosmith’s major strength is playing together. It was a learning experience for me: it showed me how not to make an Aerosmith record.

The one moment where the band sound anything like the Aerosmith of old, is dealt with quickly on opener Beyond Beautiful. That’s almost a kick-ass song, but even then it really only ranks along with the more mediocre moments of Nine Lives. Sadly Just Push Play then descends into sheer awfulness.

The embarrassing rap-rock of title track Just Push Play is followed by big single Jaded – which they still play live (as I witnessed in Dunedin earlier in the year). Big ballad Fly Away From Here shows again what sort of song the band regards as their bread and butter, and then all of a sudden they’ve lost me. This is really the first Aerosmith album they should have titled ‘Crushing Disappointment’. In fact, that title probably works better with their choice of cover image.

It’s also probably the first album since Get A Grip that I didn’t actively look forward to when it came out. I wasn’t listening to a lot of Aerosmith when it came out, so it sort of passed me by. I did buy the picture disc of Jaded when I saw that on vinyl, but probably after hearing that, I ignored the rest of the album.

RITA#286a

In fact, that release of Jaded has a fantastic art direction – with both the front and back cover images proving once again that sex sells. It’s amazing how they managed to have such a shocker with the art direction on Just Push Play and then they go and pull this pair of images out of the bag.

Due to its very limited print on vinyl, this was the last Aersomith I got my hands on. I’m glad I have it, as it completes my collection, but it’s never going to be a regular feature on the turntable.

Hit: Jaded

Hidden Gem: Beyond Beautiful

Rocks In The Attic #284: Daft Punk – ‘Discovery’ (2001)

RITA#284This album was bought for me by my Irish girlfriend, and that thing they always say about long-distance relationships is true. It also doesn’t help when her father dislikes you purely for being English. Talk about a hurdle to overcome! There’s a sticker on the back of this record that states ‘This item is reserved for MS CATHY MURPHY, No address supplied’, and I’ve kept it on there as a reminder of my frequent visits over to Wexford.

I can’t remember why Cathy bought it for me – I presume it was my birthday – but I was definitely in to Daft Punk at the time. I think I already had their first album on vinyl, something I bought not to long after I found the 12” for Around The World – an early DJing tool of mine. Homework, the debut album, is a little too Detroit for my liking – the singles are good, but a lot of the album tracks are repetitive knock-offs, pointless to listen to unless you’re in a club.

Discovery is a step forward, towards a more disco-oriented sound. They also seem to have spent a bit more time crafting the album, although it does outstay its welcome near the end of its sixty minute running time.

This was probably the last I heard of Daft Punk until I heard the Tron soundtrack. I sidestepped 2005’s Human After All – I think I had outgrown dance music by that point – and thought their star had faded. The music in Tron is undoubtedly the best part of the film (and I love their little cameo, even though it could be two stage hands in those helmets), and is a great taster to their return to form on this year’s Random Access Memories.

Hit: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Hidden Gem: Nightvision

Rocks In The Attic #185: Alfie – ‘If You Happy With You Need Do Nothing’ (2001)

RITA#185I bought this in the wake of the hype surrounding Badly Drawn Boy, who I was a fan of at the time. I recall the music press pigeon-holing the band as being a prominent member of the BNAM – or the ‘British New Acoustic Movement’. Ugh. That’s almost as bad as NWOBHM.

I think I may have listened to this once when I bought it, and it has remained on the shelf ever since. On listening to it again, I probably reckon I just wasn’t in the mood for it at the time. It’s very inoffensive acoustic folk music – the sort of thing that Donovan was churning out in the ‘60s, but with a Manchester – or Madchester – slant.

Hit: It’s Just About The Weather

Hidden Gem: You Make No Bones

Rocks In The Attic #182: The White Stripes – ‘White Blood Cells’ (2001)

RITA#182I saw The White Stripes at Glastonbury for the first time when they were touring this album, on a windy Saturday afternoon in 2002. The next – and last – time I would see them in 2005, they were headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday night. Although they were much more of a household name when I saw them in 2005, the hype around them was huge in 2002.

I had been given a copy of De Stijl by my friend Paul Hughes when it came out, so I was already a fan of the band, but I think this record was the start of the music press really paying attention to them. White Blood Cells isn’t a great album, in fact it’s very weak compared to De Stijl and Elephant on either side of it, but I guess it gave them something to tour behind and feed the hype to position themselves at the top of the alternative rock tree.

I remember being so excited about seeing them in 2002 – how was a two-man band going to fill the immense size of the Pyramid Stage? How the hell was the band going to sound with only a guitar and a set of drums? It’s less of a novelty these days, especially with The Black Keys crossing further across into the mainstream and essentially doing the same trick but to a wider audience. The absence of a bass guitar doesn’t really get noticed, probably because Jack White’s guitar is so loud.

In recent years, the band’s reputation has soured – possibly because Jack White seems to be spreading himself so thinly. He’s no longer the enigma he was initially so careful to foster.

Hit: Fell In Love With A Girl

Hidden Gem: We’re Going To Be Friends

Rocks In The Attic #65: Paul McCartney – ‘Wingspan: Hits & History’ (2001)

Rocks In The Attic #65: Paul McCartney - ‘Wingspan: Hits & History’ (2001)I remember buying Wings Greatest on CD when I was at University, from Our Price (Our Price!) in Huddersfield town centre. Then, a few years later when I was building my vinyl collection, McCartney released this – a retrospective of (mainly) his work with Wings, even though the collection is credited to McCartney in name, as though it is purely a solo compilation.

This was an album I bought on vinyl and immediately transferred onto tape so I could play it in my crappy Nissan Sunny on drives over to Ireland. I’ve spent many a reggae-inspired middle-eight of Live And Let Die racing through the Welsh valleys on my way to the ferry port at Fishguard.

The Wings stuff across this double-LP set is essentially their greatest hits (their singles complimented by their better album tracks), and these are bookended by McCartney’s solo stuff both pre- and post-Wings. Thankfully, there’s not a great deal of McCartney’s solo cheese on here – the only real example is No More Lonely Nights, which gets two versions for some reason. The rest of his solo cheese – especially the likes of Ebony & Ivory and Wonderful Christmastime – is thankfully overlooked.

I’d have stuck Say Say Say on this if I had the opportunity, but given that none of his big duets appear on the album, it’s probably a simpler affair to keep it strictly a McCartney / Wings affair.

Hit: Band On The Run

Hidden Gem: Too Many People