Tag Archives: Glastonbury

Rocks In The Attic #822: The La’s – ‘The La’s’ (1990)

RITA#822I might not have much to say about this record, except for my unbridled love for it and everything it stands for.

Released at the height of Manchester’s renaissance as the centre of the music word, the La’s 1990 debut reminded everybody that Manchester’s time in the sun owed a lot to Liverpool. The jangling guitars may have a debt to pay to the Smiths, but the songwriting felt like a natural extension of where Lennon and McCartney – and George Harrison for that matter – left off twenty years earlier. Were these harmonies just floating around Merseyside all that time, waiting for a voice?

I first came aware of them in the early ‘90s, when I heard There She Goes in the Mike Myers film, So I Married An Axe Murderer. While the soundtrack does eventually feature the La’s original version, it’s a watered-down cover by the permanently watered-down Boo Radleys that takes centre-stage. At the time I was stocking shelves at my local Tesco, and somehow got onto the subject of the song with our pretentious assistant store manager, a middle-aged, middle-class prat by the name of Lawrence.

RITA#822aI can’t remember why we were talking about it, but Lawrence wouldn’t believe that There She Goes was a song by a current, contemporary band. He was adamant that it was by a ‘60s band. Weird, right? Pre-internet, there was no way to convince him otherwise, and so he went uncorrected. The really patronising thing was that, as a way to end the argument with the sixteen year-old me, he enlisted the final word from the store’s “expert” on pop music – roll up Barbara off checkouts – who agreed with him (out of sycophancy, more than anything approaching knowledge). That’s Oldham mentality, right there. Pure, unchecked ignorance.  Fuck off, Barbara!

Stubborn morons aside, I think one of the reasons I love this album so much is that it flies under the radar. It should be a hit with those casual music fans from the North West who idolise the first Stone Roses record and the first Oasis record. But for the most part, the La’s debut tends to exist without that level of Ben Sherman fandom. Whether this is due to the record only having one clear pop single (There She Goes), or whether it’s due to the rest of the album’s sometimes muddy production, remains unknown.

I’m just happy that these anorak-wearing, lager-drinking louts don’t spoil the La’s like they have the Roses and Oasis. I was lucky enough to see the La’s play the majority of this, their only studio album, at Glastonbury 2005. The performance was remarkably undersubscribed, considering how momentous the occasion was: just a couple of thousand people watching them on the Other Stage as the sun set. Beautiful.

Hit: There She Goes

Hidden Gem: Every other song on the record!

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Rocks In The Attic #820: Basement Jaxx – ‘The Singles’ (2005)

RITA#820I took a punt on this in the run-up to Christmas. I saw it on sale when I was online shopping, and figured I’d put something else in my cart other than chocolate: family-size tubs of Cadbury’s Roses and Cadbury’s Heroes, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange…and a Basement Jaxx LP please.

Basement Jaxx are one of those bands I’d hear all the time in the UK, but for the life of me I couldn’t name one of their songs. Well, except Where’s Your Head At, which I love the music video for.

Listening to this collection, it turns out I know pretty much every single the band released from 1999 to 2005. I’m guessing it’s from working on the road during that period, and these singles have got ‘Radio 1 playlist’ written all over them. Before being able to plug your phone into the car stereo, radio seemed far more important. I’d listen to Ken Bruce (and Popmaster!) in the mornings on Radio 2, followed by Jeremy Vine at midday, but the rest of the time would be spent listening to Radio 1.

RITA#820bI don’t think I ever saw Basement Jaxx play at a festival, although I’ve definitely heard them play. They were a last-minute replacement for Kylie Minogue at Glastonbury in 2005 after her breast cancer diagnosis, and ended up headlining on the Sunday night in her place. I was all music-ed out by that point, so I listened to them in my tent.

They’re a hit-machine, that’s for sure. This compilation, just like their set at Glastonbury, is banger after banger.

Hit: Romeo

Hidden Gem: U Don’t Know Me

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Rocks In The Attic #813: Super Furry Animals – ‘Guerrilla’ (1999)

RITA#813Blimey, has it been twenty years already? Give it another twenty years and maybe an elderly Giles Martin will be doing a full remix at Abbey Road. Or not. I doubt the Super Furries would be interested in such an establishment move, but their record company might.

Released in 1999, the year I finished university, Guerrilla is the third studio album by the Welsh band. That year also marks the first time I saw the band play live, on the Other Stage at my first trip to Glastonbury. And what a show. Touring to support this album, they encored with a freak-out version of the Steely Dan-sampling The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, a crazy guy drove his van into the middle of the audience, and some Mr. T-looking motherfucker stood on top of it, throwing off anybody that dared to climb aboard.

RITA#813aI used to DJ with this record a lot, so my lovely original pressing looks like it has seen better days. Northern Lites, in particular, used to go down very well at Oldham’s 38 Bar, although I’m not sure why I used to take the record out with me when I had the 7” of that single. Do Or Die used to get a good play as well so maybe that was why, as that single didn’t come out for another seven months after the album. This album sounds like Saturday nights to me, and makes me think of some other great singles released in the same year – Sexx Laws and Mixed Bizness by Beck, Sometimes by Les Rythmes Digitales, Sunburn by Muse, and Pumping On Your Stereo and Moving by Supergrass – all of which would be staples of my set.

Deliberately conceived by the band as a commercial-pop album, Guerrilla definitely sounds more focused than their first two albums. I prefer it to Fuzzy Logic and Radiator but I’ll always lean more towards Mwng and Rings Around The World as the band’s peak. The album’s lead single Northern Lites is its centrepiece and the song’s commercial sheen took it to #11 in the UK charts (the album fared slightly better, reaching #10). Fire In My Heart definitely sounds like the band trying to be taken seriously, but the ballad only reached #25. Third single Do Or Die hit #20, but by then the momentum of the album had been lost.

RITA#813bI remember reading in the NME that the working title of one of the band’s later albums, Rings Around The World, was ‘Text Messaging Is Destroying The Pub Quiz As We Know It’. Sadly that’s not true – the NME journalist saw it written on an ‘ideas wall’ in the band’s recording studio but the band deny that it was ever considered for an album title. It wouldn’t have been too hard to imagine such a song though; Guerrilla features the band’s ode to cell-phone technology in Wherever I Lay My Phone (That’s My Home). That song ends with the once ubiquitous cell-phone interference which sadly you don’t hear too often these days.

Cut at 45rpm over two discs, the album also features the now standard artwork by Pete Fowler, including a pop-up gatefold sleeve depicting a man facing a bank of controls (possibly connected to the giant satellite dish on the sleeve’s rear cover). The album has just been reissued, and so I’m guessing Rings Around The World will be next in 2021, with Mwng already being reissued back in 2015.

Hit: Northern Lites

Hidden Gem: Some Things Come From Nothing

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Rocks In The Attic #804: The Band – ‘Moondog Matinee’ (1973)

RITA#804If The Band had been born thirty years later, and were from Southport, they’d be called Gomez. Stay with me here…

Not only is there a rootsy vibe going on in both bands, but they both feature multiple vocalists and occasionally swap instruments. The biggest difference, apart from time itself, is their nationality. The Band are Americana incarnate whereas Gomez couldn’t be more English. Members of The Band have strange North American names like Levon and Garth, while Gomez have middle-class English names like Tom, Ben and Olly.

I first saw Gomez when they were touring second album Liquid Skin, on the Other Stage at Glastonbury 1999. Last week, twenty years later, I finally saw them for the second time. They played at Auckland’s fantastic Powerstation, as part of their Liquid Skin 20th Anniversary tour, a full seven years after the last time they graced our shores. I missed the 2012 show for some reason, but really glad I caught this one: a full play-through of their 1998 debut Bring It On, followed by a full performance of Liquid Skin.

RITA#804aI’m glad to report the years have been kind. When I first saw them, I was as curious as everyone else at the voice of guitarist Ben Ottewell. In 1999, he was just a podgy twenty-something with a much bigger voice than himself. He’s now grown into his vocal chords, a genial bear of a man. Performing live, he was dependant on too much reverb, but you could still hear the magic in his soulful voice. It reminded me a bit of Simon Fowler from Ocean Colour Scene, another band I recently saw at the same venue.

The rest of the band were exactly the same as I remember them from ’99. The genial Tom Gray (vocals / guitar / keyboards) talked the most to the audience. Twenty years ago I remember him telling the Glastonbury crowd to turn around a look at the sunset. He hasn’t changed a bit. Neither has the other guitarist / vocalist Ian Ball. Still as scrawny as he was all those years ago, he’s the most cocky and aloof of the three frontmen. Drummer Olly Peacock hasn’t aged a day, and the only real casualty of the band is the hairline of bassist Paul Blackburn, now fully shaved.

Given the type of material of the three songwriters, it is Ball’s songs that seem the most normal – straightforward post-Oasis Britpop that you would hear in any band (including my own) from that time around the late ‘90s. It’s the mixture of Ottewell’s southern-fried soul and Gray’s jazzy melodies that gives Gomez their unique sound. If anything, it feels like Ball is the lucky one of the three, for finding other songwriters that would provide an interesting counterbalance to the ordinariness of his own material.

After they played through both albums, they returned to the stage for just one song – a frantic, AC/DC-inspired version of Whippin’ Picadilly, played ‘like we did when we were teenagers.’ A magical night, for sure, and I still made it home to watch the All Blacks beat Wales to take bronze in the World Cup.

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I’m serious about the comparison to The Band though. And of all the Band’s LPs, studio album number five, Moondog Matinee, is perhaps the most Gomez-ey. It’s one of the more kookier entries in the Band’s back catalogue, and finds them recording an entire album’s worth of cover songs.

The original idea was to replicate their mid-‘60s setlists, when they were known as Levon & The Hawks, but only one song – Share Your Love (With Me) – from this period appears. It sounds like a happy album, but the reality was a band starting to come apart at the seams. ‘That was all we could do at the time,’ Levon Helm later explained. ‘We couldn’t get along; we all knew that fairness was a bunch of shit. We all knew we were getting screwed, so we couldn’t sit down and create no more music. Up on Cripple Creek and all that stuff was over—all that collaboration was over, and that type of song was all we could do.’

Hit: Ain’t Got No Home

Hidden Gem: Mystery Train

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Rocks In The Attic #783: Travis – ‘Live At Glastonbury ‘99’ (1999)

RITA#783I can’t help but think that Travis missed the boat. They were actually stood on the boat at one point, and everybody was waving them off. Then they looked behind them, and realised that everybody was waving at Coldplay, who were stood on an even bigger boat, sailing off into mainstream waters.

1999 marked the year of my first Glastonbury, and Travis were crowned the breakthrough performance of the festival. I stood there with thousands of others on the Saturday afternoon as they played the Other Stage. The festival had been dry and sunny so far, but threatening rainclouds started drifting over the fields.

A fortunate bit of serendipity occurred when the heavens opened as the band played their current single, Why Does It Always Rain On Me? The soaked crowd was delighted, as were the BBC executives broadcasting the highlights of the festival, and the music press heralded the band as the champions of the festival. They returned to headline a year later.

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I saw Travis headline in 2000, but I also caught Coldplay, playing the Other Stage at a similar time slot as I had seen Travis the year prior. I already knew a few of Coldplay’s singles – Shiver and Yellow had already been released, and the radio was already playing Trouble in advance of its October release. I bought their debut LP, Parachutes as soon as it was released a few weeks later.

History seemed to repeat itself: Coldplay were labelled the breakthrough performance of the 2000 festival, and they swiftly became the darlings of the music press and BBC Radio. Just like Travis, they returned to headline the next Glastonbury (in 2002, with 2001 being a fallow year).

But over the years, while Coldplay went from strength to strength, becoming a household name for casual music fans and a shortcut for bland, post-Britpop radio-friendly rock, Travis just seemed to…disappear.

Everybody had agreed that The Man Who, Travis’ second studio album that they were touring at the time of their ’99 performance, was a belter. It spent 11 weeks at number 1 in the UK album charts, and sold over 3.5 million copies. But then Coldplay came along and seemed to blow them out of the water, probably while Travis were stood on that boat in the harbour.

Aside from hearing about their drummer breaking his neck diving into a swimming pool, and an out-of-court settlement for ‘borrowing’ the Wonderwall chord progression for Writing To Reach You, I haven’t heard much else from Travis. Their third album, the aptly named The Invisible Band, was the last I heard from them. What happened?

Hit: Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Hidden Gem: Blue Flashing Light

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Rocks In The Attic #771: Scissor Sisters – ‘Scissor Sisters’ (2004)

RITA#771I’d heard a few of this band’s singles – most probably Laura, Comfortably Numb and Take Your Mama – on BBC Radio 2 (where else?) before I dragged my friend Denise to see them play the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday morning at Glastonbury 2004. I was so glad I did; it was a performance that has really stuck with me, regardless of the direction the band went in after this first album.

The band started playing the opening bars of Take Your Mama, to a huge cheer, before their vocalists hit the stage. The huge screens either side of the stage caught Jake Shears and Ana Matronic walking backstage as they spotted the size of the crowd. They almost fell over each other in shock, which just made the crowd roar even louder. Unfortunately, although the performance is available on YouTube, that particularly joyous moment isn’t captured.

RITA#771aOne of the things I’ve always loved about Glastonbury is that bands don’t always turn up, play their set and leave straightaway. Occasionally, they’ll stay for the whole weekend – particularly if it’s a fresh up-and-coming band enamoured with the festival itself – and you may even catch a glimpse of them walking past you. At some point the next day, I ran into the Scissor Sisters as we both queued up to buy some potato wedges and sour cream from one of the food trucks. Rock and roll!

I lost touch with the band after this record. Their brand of music – half Elton John, half Talking Heads – is perfect radio-friendly single material, and their brilliant collaboration with Elton on I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ from their follow-up album is a prime example of this. They seemed to head towards the pop charts and away from the indie-rock charts, and so I didn’t hear as much from them.

I also lost my job around this time, and so I stopped spending as much time in the car listening to the radio. Maybe I lost touch with the Scissor Sisters because I stopped listening to Radio 2.

Hit: Take Your Mama

Hidden Gem: Mary

Rocks In The Attic #734: Manic Street Preachers – ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ (1998)

rita#734Love and hate. Loved the Manics at this point in their career; hated this album.

It makes for a hard listen: This Is My Migraine Tell Me Yours. If you didn’t know anything about the band, and were asked which album they recorded immediately after losing their friend and band member Richey Edwards, you’d think it was this, not the anthemic Everything Must Go from 1996.

It’s almost like a delayed hangover. Lose your bandmate, record a positive, feelgood hit of an album, then retreat and make something reflective and inward-looking. I struggled for so long trying to make some sense of its bleakness, and then all-but gave up when the desolation continued with 2001’s Know Your Enemy.

rita#734aI first heard lead single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next at a friend’s house with a few other people. My friend was channel-hopping and landed on MTV. The music video for the song started, and after 30 seconds he changed the channel again with a resounding ‘Ugh!’

If the song can’t hold the attention of your average (non-Manics) rock music fan, what chance does everybody else have? Still, the album reached #1 in the UK album charts (probably on the strength of its predecessor), and the band went on to headline the following year’s Glastonbury festival.

I attended that Glastonbury, it was my first one, and I was so excited to finally see one of my favourite bands at the time. The setlist, not surprisingly, was comprised mainly of songs from Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth. Only Motown Junk and two songs from the debut (Motorcycle Emptiness, You Love Us) were aired. Gold Against The Soul was the most underplayed (La Tristesse Durera), and only two songs from The Holy Bible were played (Yes and P.C.P.). Such was the rabid fervour of Manics fans that Yes was abandoned mid-song due to a crush in the crowd, before being restarted.

rita#734bAny discussion of the Manics’ ’99 Glastonbury show would be incomplete without mentioning their toilet faux pas. In a misguided – but to be fair, probably just misunderstood – display of elitism, the band had their own exclusive port-a-loo toilet installed backstage. It didn’t take long for the music press to latch onto it, who pointed out how far the band had come from their anarchic roots. This is my loo, go use yours.

Listening now to this pristine 20th-anniversary pressing, it’s clear that This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is a beautiful album. It’s just dull as dishwater for the most part. The sound of a band heavily sedated, deep in therapy. Just look at that cover. They look lost.

Hit: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Hidden Gem: Black Dog On My Shoulder