Tag Archives: The Smiths

Rocks In The Attic #543: R.E.M. – ‘Fables Of The Reconstruction’ (1985)

rita543I often wonder what would have happened to R.E.M. if things had not gone so well for them and their crossover into the mainstream in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They seemed to take such a long time to be the kings of alternative rock that it almost seems they would have been happy just churning out album after album of the kind of material that can be found on this record. I’m sure a lot of the early fans would have hoped that the band had continued on this track too.

For me, the two phases of R.E.M. can be summarised into two timeframes – before and after the introduction of Scott Litt as producer on 1987’s Document. Prior to that record, they’re very much like an American version of the Smiths, only with better harmonies. The sound is roughly similar from record to record, and from producer to producer, until Litt makes them sound like a different band altogether. The standard – although similar approach –  would be to split the band’s output between the I.R.S. years versus the Warner Bros years, which is different by only one record, 1988’s Green.

The one thing that irks me about R.E.M. is their refusal to spell some of their songs correctly around this time. Fables Of The Reconstruction gives us Feeling Gravitys Pull and Cant Get There From Here, and those missing apostrophes nearly kill me. Follow-up record Lifes Rich Pageant takes the same approach in its title, clearly placing this era of R.E.M. as the missing apostrophe years.

Hit: Feeling Gravitys Pull

Hidden Gem: Life And How To Live It

Rocks In The Attic #473: Buzzcocks – ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ (1978)

RITA#473I saw the Buzzcocks play in Auckland last night. Not being a big follower of their music, other than the singles that everybody knows, it was just novel to see one of the original Manchester bands play in such a great venue as the Powerstation.

Not being a huge fan, I didn’t expect Steve Diggle to be doing all the heavy lifting. Pete Shelley sang a few songs, but his role was mainly throwing in the odd backing vocal while throwing various rock and roll shapes. Diggle, while looking like a member of IT Support, sang his way through the two-hour set without cracking a smile.

That’s not to say that they weren’t having fun though. Shelley was definitely having a good time, interacting with the audience from what I could see – my vision was slightly impaired from standing directly behind 6’4” New Zealand comedian Paul Ego.

Of the songs I hadn’t heard before, or didn’t recognise, I couldn’t tell you if they were recorded last week or in the late ‘70s. The only album I know is this one, their debut, and any new material they played last night slotted into the older stuff well. The feeling of not knowing where one song ended and another one started was exacerbated by the fact that they seldom left gaps between songs. As soon as one song ended, it was a punkish “1…2…3…4!” into the next one.

One thing I can say for sure about last night was that it was the loudest gig I’ve been to in a long time; maybe the loudest since I regularly went to rock / metal gigs in smallish venues in the mid ‘90s. My ears are still ringing now. It’s kind of nice to know I still have frequencies left in my ears to damage!

It was great to hear their most well known song, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) rolled out in the encore. It’s leagues above anything else they’ve created, much like Love Will Tear Us Apart is for Joy Division, and How Soon Is Now for the Smiths. Maybe that’s the legacy of Manchester bands – they only have license to pen one timeless song?

The Buzzcocks’ efficient and streamlined punk pop approach left me wondering whether latter-day bands like Green Day would exist without them. If I had the use of a time machine, would I go back to 1977 and stand there, like the fourth Doctor in Genesis Of The Daleks, faced with the dilemma of destroying the Buzzcocks in order to save the rest of humanity from the blight of Green Day, but in the process potentially spawning yet more horrible bands than Green Day (is that even possible?) in their absence?

Hit: I Don’t Mind

Hidden Gem: Autonomy

Rocks In The Attic #394: Happy Mondays – ‘Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches’ (1990)

RITA#394I think I might be allergic to music that comes from Manchester. I’ve never hid my dislike of Oasis, but I also never liked the wave of bands that came before them. Only now, half way around the world and twenty five years later can I finally start to appreciate bands like the Smiths, the Stone Roses and these fellas, the Happy Monday.

I don’t think it’s the music by these bands that turned me off them. Instead it was the type of people who liked these bands that alienated me. They’re all popular bands, and just like with any popular bands, there’ll be an element of non-music fans following them. Or sheep, you could say.

In the case of the ‘Madchester’ years, those non-music fans represented the distasteful element in Manchester. They still do. Lads in Ben Sherman shirts, roaming the city centre; or retards walking around in cagoules in the middle of summer. Are you going on a hiking trip? No? Just going to the football? Hmm.

I once passed Tony Wilson doing his shopping in the Sainsburys at the end of Mancunian Way, heading towards Salford. He was leaning over the trolley he was pushing slowly down the aisle, and I remember he was shopping from a list. I was too nervous to say hello, and I’ll never get the chance now, but what I would say to him – if I had the balls, which I know I don’t – was that I thought he was wrong about the Happy Mondays.

In 24 Hour Party People, Wilson refers to Shaun Ryder as a genius. I just can’t stomach that. I’ll accept that Ryder might have been the spokesman for that generation – the Ecstasy generation – in the UK, but the word ‘genius’ does not apply. ‘Lucky fool’ is more apt.

Hit: Step On

Hidden Gem: Dennis And Lois

Rocks In The Attic #277: The Bluetones – ‘Return To The Last Chance Saloon’ (1998)

RITA#277The Bluetones are, for me, the epitome of sub-par, late ‘90s Indie / Britpop. I don’t know what I dislike more – Mark Morriss’ overly adenoidal vocals, or their propensity to arpeggiate chord progressions with jangly guitars, as if the Smiths and the Stone Roses invented music and left no other choice. Needless to say, I stayed far away from their anorak-wearing warblings of their first album of 1996.

It was only due to laziness – and the fact that I’d just seen Live play live on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury on a sunny Friday afternoon in 2000 – that I caught their set. I remember a lot of Frisbees flying around – heavy blue-plastic ones that looked like they hurt when they hit the occasional festival goer in the bonce – and beach balls flying around in the crowd at the front of the stage.

I also remember the band playing Solomon Bites The Worm, having never heard the song before, and I’m a sucker for a decent guitar riff. I also like lyrics that follow a set pattern – in this case, the days of the week. The other surprise of their set was a cover of the Minder TV theme, I Could Be So Good For You, complete with fumbled piano parts.

I bought this album on my return to Manchester, on white vinyl, with a nice saloon door pop-out on the inner gatefold. Aside from Solomon Bites The Worm and the infectious If, the rest of the material doesn’t really do anything for me. I struggle to make my way through its mostly boring 62 minutes. Like a lot of albums from the late ‘90s, it’d be much better if it was half as long.

Hit: If

Hidden Gem: Tone Blooze