Tag Archives: The Las

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 #200: Radiohead – ‘The Bends’ (1995)

RITA#200The 200th post in this blog celebrates an album that is probably more important to the development of my musical tastes than any other album in my collection.

In the early ‘90s, when I discovered music for myself – and discovered bands like Aerosmith and AC/DC (that I couldn’t care less if other people liked or not) – I was very much into rock music. I naively thought all other genres of music were a waste of time. I either liked contemporary rock, or classic rock, with a touch of metal and grunge thrown in for good measure.

I then went to University, joined the Rock Society club and found other like-minded people. The rest of the time, I would be drinking in pubs with my classmates, usually dressed in an AC/DC or Led Zeppelin t-shirt, with my shoulder-length long hair; and my classmates would be dressed like normal people. Ugh, who wants to be normal people?

Around this time, and from the time I started listening to music, Indie and Britpop were my enemy. This is partly the fault of the hype surrounding Oasis, and partly the fault of those normal people all around me, like the red-headed chick a year above me in college who just couldn’t fathom that I wasn’t going to the big Oasis gig at Maine Road later that night. Britpop was a club that I didn’t want to join, full of bands like Pulp, who sang about twee nonsense whilst mincing around a stage littered with kitsch charity-shop junk. “Jarvis is really a fantastic social commentator,” I would be told. That’s strange, I thought, he looks like a collector of chintz, singing mediocre songs, backed by a band of average musicians.

(I guess that’s the point I still agree with today. If you listen to rock music, you tend to listen to a better pedigree of musician. The lines have blurred completely, because rock music is now so mainstream, and has been for the past decade, but when I think back to the 1990’s, the Indie or Britpop bands were full of musicians who just couldn’t really play. Noel Gallagher may have started off as a decent songwriter – although it pains me to say it – but his skills on the guitar are very basic. Listen to him solo and he plays the same pentatonic scale every single time. Compare him to somebody like Slash, and there’s just no contest. You may think it’s an unfair comparison, but players like Slash aren’t that uncommon in rock music.)

Anyway, I digress. So, there I am at University, in my second year I think, and it’s getting a little tired listening to rock music all the time. It’s not like I had run out of rock bands to listen to, but there was definitely nothing decent that was coming out by contemporary bands. Bright young rock hopes like The Wildhearts had lost their way and gone all industrial, and Terrorvision had gone completely mainstream, singing about Tequila on Top Of The Pops every week. Then one day I was in the Scream pub in Huddersfield, and somebody put Just by Radiohead on the jukebox.

My whole outlook on music changed instantly. Here was an Indie or a Britpop band, playing something that was just as musically interesting as anything that I had heard in rock music – either in contemporary rock music or in classic rock. I rushed out and bought the album straight away.

Just was clearly the best song on the album, accompanied by a great music video, but there was some other really good stuff on there too. I very quickly bought Pablo Honey (average, but with a couple of highlights) and OK Computer (overrated, but with a couple of highlights), but The Bends remained my favourite (and still does to this day).

The rest of my years at University were spent digesting everything I could by Radiohead. I even remember buying one of those cheaply produced interview discs with the band, just because my appetite for anything related to them was so strong.

Their lasting effect on my musical tastes is impossible to quantify. I made a huge left turn from my existing staid music collection, and turned almost wholeheartedly into Indie and Britpop. I started listening to some bad examples of the genre (Cast, Space, Bis, etc), but found plenty of modern classics there too (The Las, Blur, Supergrass, etc). This eye-opening led to a decision that I’m still in two minds about today. In the summer of 1999, I decided against seeing Aerosmith headline a day of rock bands at Wembley Stadium, in favour of travelling to my first of many Glastontonbury festivals.

I guess it was just bad timing, but I still partly regret not seeing Aerosmith that weekend. One of my friends went to that gig, and when he told me about the setlist they played, full of ‘70s classics they had avoided playing in the three times I had seen them up to that point, I immediately started kicking myself. But then when I think back to Glastonbury 1999, and all the bands I saw not only that year, but every year I went back up to and including 2007, it’s not really a fair comparison.

If I had seen Aerosmith at Wembley Stadium in 1999, I would have seen my favourite ever band, supported by the likes of Lenny Kravitz (who I was lucky enough to catch that same weekend at Glastonbury) and The Black Crowes (who I still haven’t managed to see live). By deciding to go to the Glastonbury festival that year, and over the next six Glastonburys I went to, I managed to see David Bowie, Radiohead, R.E.M., Manic Street Preachers, Suzanne Vega, The White Stripes, Super Furry Animals, Oasis, The Who, Paul McCartney, Muse, Doves, Coldplay, Air, The Chemical Brothers, The Bluetones, Fatboy Slim, Kings Of Leon, Moby, The Killers, Blondie, Amy Winehouse, and a whole lot more.

Radiohead almost lost me with OK Computer, but they definitely lost me after that. At one point, I remember seeing them play a live gig on TV, I think to promote Kid-A. At one point during the set, Jonny Greenwood took off his guitar and walked over to a bank of portable TVs. He crouched down and started flicking through channels as part of the performance. That’s it, I thought, they’ve turned into something else.

I liked Radiohead as a guitar band, when they used to write songs on guitars. I’d even be brave enough to say The Bends is the best album of the 1990s.

Hit: Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Hidden Gem: Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was