Tag Archives: Television

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

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Rocks In The Attic #454: Talking Heads – ‘Talking Heads: 77’ (1977)

RITA#454Hands down my favourite Talking Heads record, this debut might not have Brian Eno’s production (he was installed from More Songs About Buildings And Food onwards), or the chart-storming later singles such as Once In A Lifetime or Road To Nowhere, but it has a certain charm that is impossible not to love.

You know something is immediately different with this record – with this band, in fact – when just a few lines into opening song Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town, they break into a steel drum solo. Steel drums? Hang on, isn’t this a new wave band, a product of New York’s punk movement? To provide some context, their first gig was opening for the Ramones at CBGBs. That bass line in Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town doesn’t suit a post-punk / new wave band either. It’s a little too close to disco.

If nothing else, this band defies convention. More Velvet Underground style art-rock than any of their CBGB peers (except maybe Television), Talking Heads would carve a niche between the underground and the mainstream throughout the 1980s. The direction that the band would take seemed to get more and more serious as the band progressed – perhaps as a product of that self-obsessed, greedy decade that the ‘80s became – however this record is easily their most fun offering.

Hit: Psycho Killer

Hidden Gem: Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town