Tag Archives: vinyl

Rocks In The Attic #833: Thoms Newman – ‘Skyfall (O.S.T.)’ (2012)

RITA#833In the run-up to the release of Bond #25, the unimaginatively titled No Time To Die, it feels like a good opportunity to revisit the gold standard of Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007.

Except, I’m not a fan. I find it massively overrated. It gets by far too much on the serendipity of being released in the same year as London’s golden Olympics, when national pride – and nostalgia for the good old days (represented in the film by the Aston Martin DB5) – was at its highest. It’s not a popular opinion, but I’ll take the thrill of Quantum Of Solace over this, any day.

The film has its moments, like they all do, but some elements are difficult to overlook. The character of M being dragged into the plot (for a second time, after The World Is Not Enough) doesn’t feel right, and criminally under-using Albert Finney is even worse. He would have made a great, cunning ally, in the same vein as From Russia With Love’s Kerim Bey, or For Your Eyes Only’s Columbo, but the writers instead make him a docile caricature, more Groundskeeper Willie than anything else.

RITA#833aThe biggest issue is the goofy Home Alone finale. To be generous, you could say that it’s a homage to Straw Dogs, but most movie-goers are not that cine-literate. They see Judi Dench laying booby traps, they immediately think Kevin McAllister and the Wet Bandits.

Still, it’s not all bad. The theme song by Adele is wonderful, and that whole sequence of Bond falling into the water, and into the credits sequence is just sublime. The cinematography, by the great Roger Deakins, is just fabulous, giving the film a golden sheen that helps to convince everybody that this is the new Goldfinger.

Javier Bardem is another missed opportunity. In No Country For Old Men, he was truly terrifying. Here, he’s a cartoon villain, with a silly CGI facial injury. Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes are brilliant additions to the ensemble cast, as is Naomie Harris (well, up to about five minutes from the end at least).

In the cinema, on opening night, I cringed more than humanly possible when I realised they were about to introduce Harris as Moneypenny. Just a nauseatingly mawkish moment. My wife stared at me in the cinema, dissolving into my seat, thinking I was having a stroke or something.

Thirty minutes into the film, we’ve had at least four uses of the word ‘bloody’. This, I think, is one of the reasons Americans are in love with this film. It confirms their suspicion that London is full of red double-decker buses, Big Ben is visible from every street corner, and everybody walks around saying ‘Bloody this,’ and ‘Bloody that,’ in some broad approximation of Dick Van Dyke’s accent from Mary Poppins.

Of course, I don’t blame the director Sam Mendes for any of this. I was a fan of his work prior to Skyfall, but thought that he was too big a name to direct a Bond film. His work on both Skyfall and SPECTRE is admirable. It’s the writers who are at fault. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to relax while Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are behind the screenplay of a Bond film. They’re the dictionary definition of hit and miss.

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Another reservation I had about the film was the appointment of Thomas Newman as composer. A frequent collaborator of Mendes, he’s more at home with the kooky, ethereal pathos of scores like American Beauty and The Shawshank Redemption. Could he pull off a Bond soundtrack? The answer, it seems, is a resounding yes. The score leans a little too heavily on Hans Zimmer and James Newton-Howard’s work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to sound truly original, but it gives a freshness to Bond after the by-the-books David Arnold scores.

This is the second-pressing of Newman’s soundtrack, on beautiful red and white splatter double vinyl, and features a pop-up image of Bond in the inner gatefold.

Hit: Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Hidden Gem: Voluntary Retirement

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Rocks In The Attic #832: Thundercat – ‘Drunk’ (2017)

RITA#832Every now and then I buy a record purely on the strength of the cover. I didn’t hesitate to pick this up, just for its bat-shit crazy cover shot of Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) emerging from a lake. I knew nothing about Thundercat – I still don’t know a great deal – but I know that I like his groove.

By a stroke of luck, the album fits right up my street, with guest appearances by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins in some kind of weird yacht-rock revival. And what a great opportunity to point everybody to this great SCTV sketch, featuring Rick Moranis as Michael McDonald rushing from studio to studio to record his backing vocals.

RITA#832aThe album also features contributions from Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa – all of which is nowhere near as exciting to me as Loggins and McDonald, but it’s a measure of how well respected Thundercat is across the music industry.

The one downside of the album, of course, is the format. Four 10” double-sleeved EPs, housed in a little box, sure looks and feels nice but it’s annoying to change sides every six minutes. In my quest to play the album in the 12” format, I picked up the chopped and screwed remix album Drank, but man, that music doesn’t really fit me. It’s interesting, but comparable to listening to the original album under heavy barbiturates.

Hit: Rabbit Ho / Captain Stupido

Hidden Gem: Them Changes

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Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner

Rocks In The Attic #831: Survivor – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ (1982)

RITA#831Cue: training montage.

I made of a point of revisiting this record after a great article in the Guardian covering the making of the song for Rocky III. It’s definitely a brilliant song. There’s a swing to it that’s easy to miss if you take it at face value. It’s got the same kind of groove as Stephen Adler’s drum parts on Appetite For Destruction. This isn’t standard 4/4 drumming. There’s something else going on.

Every Wednesday and Friday morning at 6am I do a bootcamp session on my way to work. I usually struggle to keep up, due to a mixture of being generally lazy and eating too much junk-food, but whenever the trainer puts Eye Of The Tiger on, I always seem to find some extra juice. It fits better on Wednesday morning, when we do boxing, but it’s welcome any time.

RITA#831aEye Of The Tiger is Survivor’s third studio album, and the one that would set them apart from their peers due to the song’s inclusion on the Rocky III soundtrack (and its subsequent connection to the Sylvester Stallone boxing franchise in general). The single would hit the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic but exists nowadays mainly as a cliché in corporate training videos. At one supermarket company I worked for, it seemed to get rolled out every month. We need to sell more ham on the deli counter? Quick, stick Eye Of The Tiger on the staff training video!

Now I’m not saying anything untoward was going on, but Eye Of The Tiger is very similar in feel to the Frank Stallone song Far From Over, released a year after Survivor’s hit. Far From Over is another blast of testosterone-heavy AOR, and would fit perfectly in a Rocky film, but instead found a place on the soundtrack to 1983’s Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive…directed by his brother Sylvester Stallone. Hmm

Hit: Eye Of The Tiger

Hidden Gem: Hesitation Dance

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Rocks In The Attic #830: Silverchair – ‘Frogstomp’ (1995)

RITA#830Definitely an album from my youth. I was 17 when I saw Silverchair on this tour at Manchester University’s Student’s Union. Was I jealous? Of course, I was. Here were three 15-year old Australians, touring the world as a rock band, albeit chaperoned by their parents.

It’s even more incredible to find out that this record was recorded in 9 days. Produced by Kevin Shirley, who would go on to record much bigger things (one of his next jobs was co-producing Aerosmith’s Nine Lives), it’s twelve songs of teen-angst doom rock, put through a grunge filter. Back Sabbath via Pearl Jam.

One of the songwriting strengths of frontman Daniel John and drummer Ben Gillies is they don’t fall back on a great riff and stretch it out to a verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula. Their songs have multiple sections where new riffs and grooves are introduced out of the blue.

RITA#830aYou can listen to a song like Faultline and think you understand where it’s going, but then a different section starts at 2:50. Okay, you think, they’ll just stay on this jam until the end of the song. And then it changes again at 3:25. It’s something that you can spot in early Sabbath, Deep Purple and Metallica; a progressive rock approach to heavy metal.

A year after this album’s release, when the band were still only 16 years old, one of their songs, the album’s opener Israel’s Son, was used as the scapegoat defence by the lawyer of two American teenagers found guilty of shooting one of their sets of parents and a younger brother. Obviously, it wasn’t the first time rock music has been blamed for acts of senseless violence and destruction, and it won’t be the last. Lawyers have just stopped playing albums backwards to look for blame.

This release is a nice 2019 reissue by Simply Vinyl on double frog-green vinyl, including an etched D-side (of the frog) and limited to 5,000 copies. Simply Vinyl might be one of my favourite reissue labels. This record is only 44 minutes long and could easily have fit on two sides of wax, but I’m glad they gave it some space to breathe across three sides.

I tried and tried to unlock the band’s follow-up, Freak Show (1997), but it didn’t grab me the same way, and by Neon Ballroom (1999) I had left the party.

Hit: Tomorrow

Hidden Gem: Madman

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Rocks In The Attic #829: The Alan Parsons Project – ‘I Robot’ (1977)

RITA#829The Alan Parsons Project are a gap in my knowledge. I know he had something to do with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, and that one of his songs is on the Blades Of Glory trailer. But that’s it. I know they’re somewhat proggish, but I wouldn’t be able to spot a song on the radio.

But then I saw the documentary on Clive Davis, the famous record label head of Columbia and Arista, on Netflix. Aerosmith once sang ‘We all shot the shit at the bar / With Johnny O’Toole and his scar / And then old Clive Davis said / I’m surely gonna make us a star’ and so a made a point of learning more about him. About halfway through the film, there was a montage of music from the artists he released during his tenure at Arista, and I heard a massive groove. Something I’d never heard before.

RITA#829aThe groove, as it turns out, was the title song of the Alan Parsons Project’s second studio album I Robot. It’s definitely a master groove, built around heavy synths and featuring some lovely choral singing in the style of Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother suite (a record Parsons also worked on).

Not sure if I’m a fan of the band’s other work though. Most of the other material has nothing of the robotic funk of its title track. The Floyd-esque side-two opener The Voice gets close, and Nucleus  could have been recorded by French electronica duo Air, but the rest is more akin to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, although slightly more radio-friendly.

I’ll seek out more though, particularly as I remember that song on the Blades Of Glory trailer (Sirius) to be more of that kind of synth-groove.

Hit: I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You

Hidden Gem: I Robot

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Rocks In The Attic #828: The Backbeat Band – ‘Backbeat (O.S.T.)’ (1994)

RITA#828One of my favourite soundtracks from the 1990s, from my favourite Beatles biopic, it was a touch of genius to put a contemporary band together to record these early Beatles favourites.

Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs) share lead vocals, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Don Fleming (Gumball) provide vocals, Mike Mills (R.E.M.) plays bass and Dave Grohl (Nirvana) completes the band on drums. In fact, it’s the last Nirvana-related release before the death of Kurt Cobain just four weeks later.

The film, directed by Iain Softley, feels very Hollywood, despite it being a UK / German co-production, and it reeks of the ‘90s with heartthrob Stephen Dorff in the lead role as the doomed Stuart Sutcliffe. The script is effervescent, and the casting is superb, but it is Ian Hart’s uncanny turn as the acerbic John Lennon that stands out (the second of three times he has played the character).

RITA#828aThe Backbeat Band play a selection of covers the Beatles played in their Hamburg days – no expensive licensing required here – and they’re belted out with gusto. There’s just enough reverence for the songs, and the late ‘50s era of rock and roll, to prevent the songs from descending into a grunge-fest. It was great to see them play a couple of these songs live at the 1994 MTV Music Awards, followed by a heavy cover of the White Album’s Helter Skelter.

The final shot of this film, showing Sutcliffe and Lennon and their respective girlfriends (Sheryl Lee as Astrid Kirchherr and Jennifer Ehle as Cynthia Powell) playing in the twilight on a German beach is a deeply evocative moment of 1990’s filmmaking. The first screams of Liverpool’s Beatlemania fade away, replaced by the stark guitar and piano of Don Was’ score. Slowly, the intertitle text tells of cruel twisting of fate around Sutcliffe and Lennon’s doomed friendship:

Stuart Sutcliffe died of a brain haemorrhage in Hamburg on April 10th 1962. His legacy is a highly acclaimed collection of paintings that has been exhibited all over the world.

That same year, Pete Best left the Beatles and was replaced by Ringo Starr, on December 17th they entered the charts with “Love Me Do”. The following year, the McCartney / Lennon song “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sold 13 million copies worldwide.


They went on to top the U.S. charts a record 20 times and remain today the biggest selling pop group of all time.

Klaus Voorman designed the cover of the Beatles’ 1966 “Revolver” album. After the break-up of the Beatles in 1970 he joined John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, playing bass on the “Imagine” album.

Today Astrid Kirchherr’s photographs are recognised as the definitive record of the Beatles in Hamburg, and her visual ideas influenced the Beatles’ “look” throughout the sixties. She now lives happily in Hamburg.

On December 8th 1980 John Lennon was shot dead in New York City.

Hit: Twist And Shout

Hidden Gem: Bad Boy

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Rocks In The Attic #827: Steely Dan – ‘Rotoscope Down’ (1973)

RITA#827You can keep your expensive Zeppelin and Floyd bootlegs. I’m more interested in curios like this, a ‘peak behind the curtain’, as the record’s subtitle tells us, of Steely Dan’s 1973 American tour.

Recorded in front of a small audience at the Los Angeles Record Plant in late 1973, although some sources put the date as March 20th 1974, it’s a brilliant run-through of selections from the band’s first three studio albums (Can’t Buy A Thrill, Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic). The inclusion of three songs from Pretzel Logic suggests the recording is from the later date, as this would fall after the February release of the album.

RITA#827aThe liner notes on the simple pink-photocopied insert that acts as the cover reads:

THE BOYS IN THE BAND ARE DENNY DIAS ON GUITAR / JEFF “SKUNK” BAXTER ON GUITAR / WALTER BECKER ON BASS GUITAR AND VOCALS / JIM HODDER ON DRUMS (AND BACKING VOCALS) / DONALD FAGEN ON PIANO AND VOCALS / RECORDED IN LATE 1973 AT THE LOS ANGELES RECORD PLANT / NO IT’S NOT YOUR EARS…THE BAND ARE PLAYING LOUD TO THE POINT OF DISTORTION / THE TAPE WAS EDITED (EXTENSIVELY) BY DEEK / EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS TO MR. TIME FOR THE GOOD SENSE AND SOUND ADVICE / THE BAND GET VERY, VERY EXCITED DURING TRACK THREE ON SIDE TWO / AS MELTS THE SNOW IT’S OL’ STEREO / BYE BYE / TAKRL 1924

The comment around the distortion is spot-on. It doesn’t sound bad, just the result of being recorded outside of the mixing desk I’m guessing. The band are on fire though, as you would expect them to be.

Hit: Reelin’ In The Years

Hidden Gem: Mobile Heart

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