Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1 (Part 3)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! After last week’s tragic saga of woe, let’s hope today’s is all kittens, sunshine, and pina coladas. We’re still talking about the same album, so chances of that are slim. We kick off with Liquidity, which we presumably won’t have much to say about. It’s a solid, short, instrumental piece which loops and builds upon the same recurring keyboard motif. There’s a lot going on and it’s fairly intricate for what is very simple at its core; the tinkling, dripping bits of synth effects, the cymbal taps, Rothers twiddling with his (volume) knob, and lots of other cool little pieces all serve to make a cinematic whole. You could imagine this played over long, sweeping drone shots of a David Attenborough show, with desolate snowy lands unfurling from Winter darkness and melting into the first droplets of Spring, new-born mouths yawning, wings stretching, eyes searching upwards for the sun. A Koyaanisqatsi like montage of life zipping by.

It transitions very smoothly into Nothing Fills The Hole. To continue the montage metaphor, I can imagine the landscape switching from the tundra to the safari as the song progresses, shots of thrashing rivers and playful big cats as the chorus peaks. But we’d be getting too far off course because this is a very human story – as touched upon in the previous post, us humans have decided we need more than just the hunt. Mere survival, eating, procreating doesn’t sustain us. While our cousins throughout the animal kingdom seem to need only the minimum requirements for life, we are crippled by doubt, malaise, and the search for a remedy often becomes our meaning. Jeebus, here we go again.

The song is like a mantra, lyrically, musically, and in terms of vocal delivery. Just like Liquidity, the opening of the song seems to loop and build. It doesn’t quite follow the Golden Ratio, but it has that style of setting out a melody and rhythm and building upon it with each iteration. Musically, the opening feels like an extension of Liquidity, eventually eroding away to become its own thing. Very cool how the vocals begin as eerie whispers which fit the Liquidity tone, but as the vocals become more human and clearer, the music moves away from those instrumental roots.

As all this looping and repeating evolves, the lyrics are delivered as a mantra, a shopping list of needs and wants, coming across as being both willingly repeated because they’re an important part of the person’s make-up and shouldn’t be forgotten, but also as a sinister, inescapable, buzzing set of addictions constantly distracting and crying for attention. It’s cool then that when the chorus arrives, it feels like breaking free, like the head crashing through the surface after being held under water. The sudden Motown blast is almost euphoric, but then it’s almost impossible to find a Motown song that doesn’t feel happy-clappy.

While there’s a lot of truth and a lot of philosophy in the lyrics, I couldn’t help but compare Nothing Fills The Hole to Most Toys. They both grasp at the same material, with one more cultured than the other. While I couldn’t disagree with the sentiments, there’s still that nagging feeling that I’d like to at least have the chance to get, see, and have the things I want, believe, and dream of. I understand that many of my wants and dreams are material, silly even, and that once I had them, I would likely move on to the next thing. But that’s not necessarily a negative. I’d suggest that’s almost natural. Maybe life is less about being fulfilled, and more about constantly moving and progressing. There’s futility in searching, but also purpose, as much as there is in finding. To H’s credit, he doesn’t outright seem to be saying that all the silly things we want aren’t important, more that he’s documenting his own struggles and that even when he finds the freedom, the nirvana which philosophy suggests is the final, perfect state we should aspire to, he doesn’t last a week with that and still moves on. It seems to be an admission that, well, nothing fills the hole, not the wants and needs and dreams, nor even the spiritual stuff which is generally the response people give when asked ‘what is most important’. Maybe the answer is the search, the moments between the search, and what we learn along the way.

Woke Up is the album’s summer song. It’s the only song which felt warm in my early listens, perhaps because it has a touch of the Indie to it, with its Britpop riffs taking me back to the Mid 90s teenage summers of yore. It’s bright, warm, and hopeful in the same way that the ‘coming up’ songs on Screamadelica are. The only thing missing for me is a bit of pace; as it is, the song fits with the many other slow to mid-paced songs the album has to offer. It’s almost a missed opportunity to not make Woke Up a little faster and more energetic, and I don’t think it would have sacrificed much of the relaxed, summertime vibe the song is going for.

Elsewhere it isn’t the most musically diverse song on the album. It’s an old-fashioned rock band song, dropping much of the keyboard and soundscape approach which has been a trademark up to this point. The keyboards are not completely absent – starting after the first chorus the guitar backing from verse one is replaced by keyboard swirls, but these are eventually clawed back and drowned out by several layers of guitars and backing vocals. As the song enters its second half, there’s a final quieter approach to the verse orchestration where it’s drums and simple keyboards only, and then onto a faux-string laden climax. In a three-minute song with as standard a structure as you’ll ever get by a band like Marillion, they have the experience and artistry to provide something musically different in each verse, while not offering anything too challenging or variant.

Lyrically, we’re talking about movement again, and at least on the surface it seems to be referencing touring by calling out all of the different types of cities and times of years it’s possible to wake up in. The final line, along with the repetitions of ‘you woke me up’ also suggest that it’s tangentially a love song, but the overall lyric isn’t direct enough to hit the other marks you expect from a love song. While it’s fine, I’d say it’s one of the more wafting and uneventful lyrics on the album. If I’m being overly critical, I could say that the lyrics are a missed opportunity too. Aside from the expansion of ideas in the ‘City full of snow’ verse, the other verses don’t offer a lot of insight or poetry. Instead of ‘city that doesn’t sleep/full of rain’, why not play on that idea of sleeplessness? Have a word, something which relates to sleep or is ironic, instead of ‘rain’. Same with the ‘down by the sea’ – a reference to something seasidey in the following line instead, plus that would create a nice poetic throughline from one verse to the next. Am I asking for too much? Elsewhere, I don’t have much more to add so let’s hear what Paul and Sanja make of it all.

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We start with some soothing Sanja sleeping/meditation techniques which reminded me of that Simpsons episode where Homer tries to lose weight by listening to some self-help cassette in his sleep, but mistakenly receives a tape on expanding his language skills instead. Remember when The Simpsons used to be good? Wrinkle In Time was very very bad. Don’t watch it. Speaking of Disney-lite, Hallmark movies, we’re getting close to Christmas which means I’ll be watching more Lacey Chabery festive delights and reviewing them on the blog. LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!

The guys call out Liquidity as a mostly Mark Kelly solo, emboldened by the producer. Apparently, the title was inspired by Mark and his former partner having a shared dream. A weird phenomenon, but it seems to happen every so often. The guys compliment the transitional aspects between this grouping of tracks, while Sonja seems to channel Drong when he smells a bit of football up his peripheries. Paul and Sanja are very positive about Liquidity and the band’s confidence in leaving it as it is without forcing it into a ‘song’.

Sanja is a big fan of Nothing Fills The Hole, how theatrical, or music-theatre it is, and has added it to her personal playlist. She highlights the swirling, repetitive, building nature, while Paul calls it ‘Prog Soul’. Prole? Paul mentions Funkadelic, which of course ties in with my later name dropping of Primal Scream’s classic from decades later. Paul says that Marillion does their version of Soul better than they do their version of angry rock, which seems fair enough. They’ve never, or very rarely been a band who plays fast and are happy to be languid. Any time they’re angry, it never comes across musically through the use of volume or distortion or venom or any of the other traditional hallmarks of rock. Their anger is more internalized, or like the guy who mutters about the bad situation after everyone else has left the room or moved on. But, they are very good at the slower stuff, the pain, and the self-exploration.

We’ll never find out what the song means lyrically, because Paul can’t be arsed going upstairs to find the magazine which the explanation from H. The guys give their own thoughts, which roughly aligns to everything I said – whatever H wants, and he’s tried a lot, none of it has filled that hole. We all have our needs, our holes, and our opportunities to fill them. Matron. Bonus Manics lyrical reference alert – ‘too many teenage holes to fill’ is the more adolescent version of what H is talking about here. There’s no escaping how uncomfortably sex-oriented that line is, and I’m sure it was written to be ambiguous, but the entire song (Yourself) is more accurately about the emptiness of teenage existence and the quest to find meaning in your own body and to live up to an impossible level of physical expectation. Lovely.

As I suggested, the song is an admission. Paul fills in the gaps by telling how H had come out of a relationship, had been struggling for a while, could never find happiness or contentment, but once he found the Power Of Now book and began working on this album, the steps to being content were put in place. Paul and Sanja share their own journeys towards loving each other, and loving themselves, which is very sweet, and honest, and sad in places. I’m not sure why I’ve had my own issues with this – I’ve always had low self-esteem, I’ve never particularly thought I was important, and most of my relationships till now have been unhealthy. But I wasn’t good then, and neither were the other parties. I mean, I’m still a mess, but aren’t we all?

We slide in Woke Up as Sanja compliments the musicality and the production, and the Indian-style approach. I think that’s just the keyboards pretending to be violins, but the Eastern vibe is very clear. Paul thinks the song is a shameless Who rip-off, while I called out its 90s Britpop-ness. Of course, The Who were one of the major influences on 90s Britpop. Paul highlights Wake Up as one of their best pop-rock songs and they both call out how it feels like a literal revelation.

Paul compliments the lyrics on the rhythmic side of things and Sanja mentions the call-backs to previous songs about touring and travelling. Both guys add that it’s also about love, about the impact of personal changes on how you see the world or how you see the same old places with a new light. If you’re loved, you take it with you, no matter whether that love is for another or for yourself. What it love? Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.

And that’s where we leave it, not before an assault on charity workers. Scum of the earth, they are. If you agree, make sure to listen to the pod, retweet, comment your most hated charity, and all the other things. If you’d like to tell me you love me, that’d be weird but by all means drop a comment and I’ll be sure to block you. Enjoy!

Disney Songs – Peter Pan

Walt Disneys Peter Pan [Original Soundtrack] (1951) CD FREE Shipping, Save  £s 5017187758308 | eBay

You know what is worse than the soundtrack to Alice In Wonderland? Hopefully nothing! It’s time for the boy who never grew up to write about Peter Pan, a green weirdo. I’m not a huge fan of the movie, but lets see how the songs fare.

The Second Star To The Right‘: I think this is the one everyone knows – it’s saved from being yet another dreary old choral mess by some gorgeous melodies. The vocals are awfully plain and drift from boring to irritating, but I should remember this was still the early 50s and rock ‘n’ roll had not yet come along to wise everyone up. It’s a great little song at its core, very simple, dreamy like a lullaby, but the vocals and arrangement here don’t help it.

You Can Fly‘: I tend to skip this one when listening to Disney soundtracks in the car – it’s the spoken parts I can’t stand. As I’ve said countless times before, they work in the movie, but not without the visuals. Sadly the song is let down again by those dreadful choral voices. I love the lyrics and how happy, innocent, and hopeful they are, the melodies are drowned out by the backing harmonies which offer nothing beneficial and an assortment of dog barks and background noises which are terrible without the visuals. There’s a decent song in here somewhere.

A Pirate’s Life‘: A short one, only thirty seconds long, so I’m not sure it truly qualifies as a song – it’s more like a drunken shanty which is perfectly fitting – you get the impression that the pirates would sing this on a nightly basis, improvising verses and instruments and what we have here is a mere snippet.

Following The Leader‘: This begins with a marching band drum band before a choir of kids sing the central line. This somehow manages to be less annoying than the adult choral voices – it’s a lot brighter and more fun than those efforts and the off tune whistling isn’t bad either. It’s exactly the sort of catching nonsense you can imagine kids singing around the schoolyard in a conga line.

What Made The Red Man Red‘: Ah yes, this one. Disney has a number of horribly stereotypical moments in its past, and while I’m in no way an advocate of wiping those from history, there is nonetheless something unsavoury about hearing this today. The lyrics, the vocals, and of course the whole scene are culturally insensitive and there’s no getting away from it. Naysayers will say this is a cartoon and it’s for kids and we shouldn’t get so worked up about such things – I suspect they are the same people who are up in arms when they hear about a homosexual character being added to something like My Little Pony or Beauty And The Beast – you can’t have it both ways, guys. The fact is that there was a time when this sort of thing was more acceptable – that time is gone, but we shouldn’t hide from the fact that it happened. We don’t need to condone it or delete it, but impressionable youths should be taught that such things are not cool. In any case, it’s not the best song in the world, but it has its own style.

‘Your Mother And Mine‘: Another one that starts which a spoken section, though it’s brief enough to not need to skip. I love the vocals for the most part, the melody is gentle and emotive, but for once the backing strings don’t do much for me – they don’t accompany the vocals or the vocal melodies well in the slightest, hurting what could have been another essential Disney ballad.

The Elegant Captain Hook‘: It’s one of those talky/singy songs. Choral vocals again – they just don’t work for me, neither does all the descending brass and backing music.

Never Smile At A Crocodile‘: This is the other classic. Interestingly the song appears in the film without the famous lyrics – that piece only being released decades later and becoming an instant children’s classic. The song is great, pure childhood joy.

A considerably shorter affair than Alice In Wonderland, and much better songs to boot. The songs still aren’t great, one or two have their moments, and a couple are deserving of being sent into space for posterity. Never Smile At A Crocodile and The Second Star To The Right are the songs you would want to play to the alien civilization that you meet 15 gazillion light years through The Spac Hole. Or to your kids. Next time around we’ll be listening to The Lady And The Tramp, so stick around. Let us know in the comments which songs from Peter Pan you enjoy most!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1 (Part 2)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! Apologies for that monstrosity of a title, but Marillion really should have known when recording this album that decades later there would be a Podcast doing a deep dive on each of their albums, splitting each album into multiple episodes, and that there would be a blogger writing posts about each of those episodes. In naming their albums, they have given such eventualities no consideration. They did give names to each of Volumes though, right? What’s Volume 1 – Essence? I could make that my title instead. But I won’t. We’re just going to have put up with Vol 1, parts I-IV. It’s all very Prog.

The good news is that I’d already written all of my song commentary by the time the first BYAMPOD ep on Happiness Is The Road came out, so it is just a matter of slicing up the content into multiple posts, and adding my comments on the BYAMPOD episodes themselves. My work is done until Volume 2!

Essence was a bit of a puzzle during my early listens, that dreary tone clouding what turned out to be a very fine mini-Prog epic. There’s the confidence of the Marbles era shining through, it feels very The Bends era Radiohead inspired in places, Kid A in others, and it covers a mish mash of styles from Space Rock to Gospel. It’s one of those songs which, if you skip about randomly to different points in the song, you’ll encounter a different sound or mood. Once I got a feel for it, I questioned whether this is one of songs which fans have accused of being a cut and paste of different parts the band came up with in various jam sessions. I could certainly see that being the case and I wouldn’t argue against anyone who says it feels disjointed. I think it flows quite well between these different sections. To make it feel less disjointed they could have spent longer on a few of the individual sections, or could have done some sort of musical call-backs or a wraparound piece at the end to connect the close of the song to an earlier section. Hell, even breaking the song’s name out into different parts may have countered some of these feelings – Essence Parts I-IV. In any case, it’s not something I had any issue with, and I didn’t feel like any of the transitions were forced or jarring.

It’s not a guitar heavy song, at least not obviously. This is closer to the experimental soundscapes of Radiohead and some of Devin Townsend’s early solo work. It’s more noticeable for the work Mark Kelly brings, working in clear tinkling piano and foreboding synth to shift the mood from one place to the next. It’s dense on the percussive side, with the traditional drums bulked out with different cymbal sounds and clangs. Rothery isn’t left out in the cold, adding some venom and edge to some of the harsher sections.

Lyrically, taken with the songs we’ve already covered, Essence confirms a bit of a running theme in the album. One which aligns with the album’s name. It seems to be about connections. Authenticity. Finding your way to happiness, to something real. Negotiating the distractions we encounter, drowning out the noise, and allowing the essence of our needs and meaning to come into focus. ‘Essence’ becomes a mantra.

I couldn’t avoid lyrical comparisons to Trainspotting and Choose Life. Very different songs of course, and very different meanings. I was half expecting Fish as Ewen McGregor or Ewen McGregor as Fish to creep in at some point just to say ‘choose life’ in a thick Scottish accent. The lyrics and music flow together nicely, the climax and celebratory ending coinciding with the lyrical Nirvana. It’s sadly all too rare that lyrics and music intertwine like this, but when it happens it can be glorious.

Wrapped Up In Time is the highlight of the album for me. It’s the one which nails the combination of melody and emotion that I crave. That’s not to say I don’t have a few nit-picking issues with it – the unnecessarily sudden ending, and the early noughties digital drum loop in the ‘there’s an echo of them’ section which was prevalent in 90% of boy/girl band music of the era, for example. But on the whole, it’s what I’ve come to want in a Marillion song; potent melodies sung heartfelt over ethereal soundscapes.

It’s another Mark Kelly showcase, trading in atmospheric beats with Ian Mosely. The intro is almost like a call and response between the two, and between the different layers of keyboards and what I assume to be various bells and Glockenspiel type instruments. This gives a suitably chilling mood, evoking vistas of the frozen tundra, icicles giving way to the warmth of the vocals and the passing of time from Winter to Spring.

For my money, the melodies are among the most tender and heartfelt the band has ever done. So much so that I’d love to hear an acoustic take with the intro and outro stripped away or replaced – just the vocals with a guitar or piano. That’s not to dismiss the start and end which do a great job of setting the tone for what’s to come, but when I find a new song that I love (particularly a dense one), I want to hear a few different versions of it and see how it changes based on the approach. A live version, an acoustic version, a demo etc. I get the impression that an acoustic take of Wrapped Up In Time could be special, slightly slowed down and leaving the emotion to run free without distraction. Fuck it, I’m googling it now. Ha! I see a Less Is More option… that’s one of the live albums Paul has mentioned a few times. Listening to the Less Is More version now… not the approach I was hoping for, too slowed down and seems to be bringing out the Gospel and Blues side rather than the… well, the purity of the original. I see a few live versions out there too, some stripped back, but these seem to follow the Less Is More style. Luckily when you can’t find what you’re looking for you can just do it yourself – my daughter’s pink, half-size acoustic guitar happens to be sitting behind me here and if I grab it I can… boom! Yes, it works well even if I do compliment myself for an impromptu rendition no-one will ever hear.

Back to it. It’s the lyrical version of The Langoliers, without the furry monsters. The past is gone. This is a bit of a theme with H and it’s clearly something he’s struggled with. That theme ties in with the whole album – the importance of living in the moment and not being trapped by what did or didn’t happen, or plagued by what ifs. Which is cool, because it’s something I’ve always struggled with. The past is most definitely a prison. I find myself trapped there all the time. I often dream of the past and don’t want to wake up. It’s horrible. It’s addictive. It ensures that regret becomes an insidious part of your being. While regret is ultimately worthless, I rank it highly in how trustworthy I find someone. If you claim to have no regrets, I probably won’t waste my time with you. All of this may explain why I enjoyed the song so much, as I feel and understand what he’s saying and what’s behind it.

To read the lyrics straight from the page, with no context and no music, they’re a bit of a mishmash of insight and mumbling repetition. ‘Like the past in a present’ is excellent, ‘the time for them has gone and their time has gone with them’ is less so. The repetitions of ‘echo’ is particularly affecting, especially for those of us who have a person in the past whose echoes reverberate in the present. The closing line works well, even in context of the abrupt end to the song. If it had been me, I’d have removed a lot of the space at the end of the song and made sure that Liquidity flowed immediately after. Or just had Liquidity be a part of Wrapped Up In Time rather than its own thing.

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We start the latest episode of BYAMPOD with some of the carnage we’ve come to expect, with Paul and Sanja sharing some insight into their Supermarket activities, namely, talking to themselves and getting lost. I’ve been there. Then lots about Meat Loaf. Then we get into Essence, which Paul holds in very high esteem. He thinks it’s magical. It wasn’t… super immediate for me, but it was always one which stood out to me in my first listens of Vol 1 and 2. As mentioned above, it took a while to unravel for me, which is a little strange because it’s often the more complex songs which do speak to me with immediacy. I enjoy Wrapped Up In Time more, but Essence isn’t far behind. Paul is positive when he says it’s their best bit of Beatles referencing – we know the band has call-backs to The Beatles, but this is the best example of them doing that through the Marillion lens.

Sanja says it isn’t the most convoluted lyrically – it does what it says on the tin, if the tine was a book called The Power Of Now. Having not read that book (or tin), I’ll take the guys’ words for it, but the lyrics do come across as very Self-Help-Spiritual. Sanja reads an excerpt. I can’t say it’s my sort of thing, but I’m sure it helps people. When I focus on the inside of my body, I hear gurgles. Then fart. A six-minute song of fart noises is probably ill-advised, even if it were accompanied by a Rothers solo.

The guys then have a bit of a philosophical discussion inspired by the lyrics, and by their pasts. It’s an album which feels very personal and has only become more prescient over time. We are strange creatures, social, needy, yet essentially here for personal survival and perpetuation of the species. We find ourselves (many of us at least) in the safest point in time for our species, we’re aware of our own mortality, we’re creative, thinking, feeling beings and yet we often do things which actively harms ourselves and those around us because it’s easier, because we’re broken, or because we’re we can’t see any other choices available. I’ve never done any counselling whatsoever, but I spend a lot of time in my own head, and I’ve read plenty of philosophy over the years. And I observe human behaviour, including my own, often from a passive place. I’ve no idea what people would class me as when it comes to these conversations, and I likely change from day to day. I think… we’re here, and then we’re not. We’re born in a specific ecosystem with no say in the matter, we grow, we learn, we love, we hurt… and then we’re nothing.

I’d love there to be something more, something akin to The Good Place, something like our own personal version of Heaven where we just continue. Not the Christian version of Heaven, or any other from any religion I’m aware of, because those all sound fucking horrific; but an existence where we see who we want to see, we do what we want to do, and we can choose to opt out if we want to. I think the only honest answer is ‘I don’t know’. It’s the pain and injustice of the world which often spurs these thoughts – how can it be fair that we only get this one shot? How can it be that we spend this time learning and loving and experiencing, only for it to all be snatched away. How can we intimately know someone, only for them to be utterly gone? Without doxing myself, without meaning any disrespect by writing about it, and hopefully without upsetting people but, a child was killed in my town last week. Ostensibly on the road I live on. An accident. An utterly horrific, unthinkable accident. I have a son who is the same age. How can such a thing be allowed to happen? It’s a small town, so if you don’t know someone directly, you’ll at least have met or seen them in passing. Everyone inevitably will turn something so tragic inwards. I’m not sure how I could go on. I don’t want to even consider it, but here we are. My best guess is that I would just be done with it all. There would be nothing left. I’d spend what little would be left of my existence in complete rage and devastation. None of this should ever happen. But it does. It’s the world we’re in.

I’ve always been morbid, cynical, some strange hybrid between realist, pessimist, and goblin-esque laughing optimist. But I have a family now, something I never expected to happen. I am loved. So I’ll do what I can, in the now and in the future. I’ll follow my own tenets; Don’t be a dick, don’t hurt anyone, try to minimize the harm you may do to others and yourself over the years while maximizing the good. Try to improve yourself, try to understand everyone else. I respect everyone else’s beliefs as long as they are not demonstrably harmful, and I have zero interest in converting others to what I belief because, again, nobody who’s being honest can say they have the answers. I’m not defined by any of this and it’s not something I choose to consider or spend much time thinking about anymore. I look for no rewards and I accept that in a very short time the world will move on, and I’ll no longer be a part of it. If you are in the future and are reading this and my blog has inexplicably gone viral and is making shitloads of Euro-Credits or whatever the currency is, please make sure most of that makes its way into the pockets of my descendants, assuming they still wear clothes and are not assholes.

We move into discussion on Wrapped Up In Time by continuing these threads – the tangibility of thoughts, memories, even people. Echoing my Langoliers joke, the guys question whether the past exists in any real sense. Technology has helped with that conundrum somewhat – we have physical records of our collective and personal pasts, and any denial of that leads into fruitless Matrix type discussions and Solipsism. I can understand Sanja’s comment on stressing over failing to remember something as simple as a room you once spent a lot of time in. If you were to ask me to describe my current bedroom, I couldn’t tell you anything beyond the fact that there’s a bed and a pile of books beside it. But that’s only because I rarely notice or retain that sort of information. I absolutely stress myself over the loss of memories when it comes to conversations I’ve had or people I’ve known, to the extent that I’m genuinely not sure if certain things happened or not. I have a semi-recurring, semi-lucid dream about a girl who I have convinced myself that I once knew, but upon waking I can’t place her in my timeline. It’s always the same girl, and the dreams are not fanciful. They’re just plain conversations, involving other people I absolutely do know in places I’ve been, and she’s there and is somehow important to me. But I’ve no idea who she is. I can only assume I’ve invented her, and my brain is confusing itself through some weird sleep nonsense. And yet, everything about it all feels just like a memory. The other guy who sometimes shows up dressed in suit and Top Hat and who screams at me with an unnaturally large mouth – no idea who he is, but he can fuck all the way off.

Speaking of lost memories, I get the impression that I’ve posted the following quote from Angel on my Marillion posts before. It’s a quote which I’m conflicted by, because it sounds too on the nose, too pseudo-philosophical-without-really-saying-anything, too much like it’s playing with the conventions of language to sound smarter than it actually is. But it still applies when we’re talking about finding our own meaning. If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. It’s an encapsulation of the show’s ethos – to fight when there’s something worth fighting for, even when loss is a certainty – but you can apply it to life too. As you’ve likely understood from the waffling above, I don’t think there’s any grand meaning for us all as a species. We’ve just evolved to an apparent higher level of understanding than other species, to the extent that we fight over oil, and argue over which scent of air freshener would go best in the car, and do Tik Toks while the rest of the animal kingdom thinks of shelter, food, surviving, and mating. The time is short, to quote another book. Find your own meaning, what gives you purpose, find others who willingly share in it. Start a podcast!

We get into the discussion on the music, with both guys saying that while the song takes a while to get started, the introduction is suitably atmospheric and fitting. Paul calls out the strength of the drums here, which I felt was one of the only downsides of the song, with Sanja saying the beat was like a heartbeat and the guitar was urgent. Paul says he rediscovered this song during the Podcast run, and that it’s a bit of a forgotten gem so far from where the band started. There’s definitely a lot of heart and soul in the song and in H’s performance. I’m surprised it’s underrated as it very quickly stood out to me. But this is my sort of thing.

Sanja and Paul both complement the lyrics and relate it to their recent experiences. That’s the power of good music and good writing. While a song can be personal, we can feel it. We can make it personal for ourselves. We all process music and lyrics in our own way. We all grieve in our own way. It’s always the same and it’s always different, whatever that means. We hear H’s description of the song, which is quite poetic but reminded me of those old cartoons about dead animals being sucked up to heaven in a certain slant of light. Because I always have to ruin something poignant with a silly joke. Bums!

Well, that episode and this post took many unexpected turns. Apologies if it comes across as crap on the screen – I’m much better having a drunken chat about this stuff rather than writing about it. Well, I wouldn’t say ‘better’. More that my spur of the moment ramblings are easily excused and absorbed vocally instead of written. If anyone wants to buy me a pint and hear me ramble, that would be nice. At the very least, drop a comment, go listen to the album and Podcast yerselves, and wait for Paul and Sanja’s Meat Loaf (sadly not Manics) Podcast which will be called Hot Pod Tootie. There’s a deep cut for ya.

Disney Songs – 101 Dalmatians

101 Dalmatians Original Soundtrack: Amazon.co.uk: CDs & Vinyl

Greetings, Glancers! This should be a short and sweet one for a change, as 101 Dalmatians isn’t exactly known for its music. It does still have a pretty famous song though, after one of its central characters. The film only has two other, brief, songs, and three were cut from the final movie. Hopefully I can find those. Lets get on with it.

‘Cruella De Vil’ is maybe the most famous song with a character’s name for its title. It’s short, it feels creepy for younger kids, and it is apt for one of the company’s more horrific creations. You’ll find it on any Disney Greatest Hits album, deservedly so.

‘Kanine Krunchies Jingle’ is a brief repetitive jingle – it shouldn’t really be classed as a song. It’s only a few seconds long, an advertisement heard in the background.

‘Dalmatian Plantation’ is another short one – it’s barely a song, more like an off the cuff idea the likes of which we all come up with in the shower. You won’t remember it.

‘Don’t Buy A Parrot From A Sailor’ is the first song cut from the movie. It’s a new one on me. It’s a bit Cockney, giving it the feel of a sitcom intro. Or something Ringo would have done. It also sounds a bit like The Family Ness theme song. It’s not very good, but at least it’s a legit complete song.

‘Cheerio goodbye toodle loo hip hip’ is another new one. It’s swift, brief, and silly. It’s the sort of quick song with a simple enough melody that you can imagine it fitting in well with the film and have idiots like me singing it on the train.

‘March of the one hundred and one’ is another very short one which commits one of the cardinal sins of music, by having kids sing. There’s not a lot to it and the melody is uneventful.

There you have it, told ya it would be quick. Do you have any favourites from this movie? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Lil Baby – My Turn (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! I now anticipate that my reviews of the best albums of 2020 will be complete around 2030, with me posting roughly two each year. I know I’m slow, it’s just that I like jumping from thing to thing. Which isn’t great for anyone who’s following or anticipating any particular series. Forgiveness, please.

But I have a new one for you today! Some chump who made the decision to call himself ‘Lil Baby’. I can’t fucking stand anyone who puts ‘Lil’ in their name. Who does that? And there’s so many of them. Don’t. Don’t do that. It’s not cute. It’s not clever. It’s not anything beyond a guarantee that I’ll never listen to anything you make and ridicule you without any evidence to support what I’m saying, and I won’t even care.

In spite of the above biased nonsense, I am here today to listen to Lil Baby’s My Turn. As he so shrewdly predicted back when he wrote this album, it is now his turn to be heard and reviewed by me. It goes without any glimmer of hyperbole to say that me posting about him is the single most significant moment of his life thus far, and that everything will be downhill. In many ways he is fortunate to have the opportunity of gaining my attention for the briefest of moments, to have his turn. After all, my time is limited and there’s only so much music I can listen to. He may even gain a new fan.

At the time of writing, I know nothing about him. He may not even be a ‘he’. But I’m assuming he is. And I’m assuming this will be some sort of hip hop album, not a genre I pretend to be educated in. Outside of Public Enemy and Eminem and a bunch of random singles from the last 40 years, I know next to nothing. Maybe he’ll convert me. Maybe I’ll end up making a Youtube React channel – Metal Fan Reacts To Hip Hop – the opposite of all of that junk that’s already out there. Or maybe it’ll be crap and I’ll hate it, which seems more likely. By the time we jump to the next paragraph, I’ll have listened to the album several times.

Lil Baby: My Turn Album Review | Pitchfork

Before we get into the meat of the album, such as it is, let’s talk about that album artwork. To its credit, it doesn’t exactly scream Hip Hop. It looks like a classic piece of art, a pastoral piece depicting goats (lambs?) frolicking on rocks beside the sea. Except some modern dude has been pasted into the middle of it. Something to do with the old clashing with the new? The streets meeting the country? Escapism? Peace? It’s eye-catching. Good cover. None of what it conveys comes across in the album.

Lyrically, it could be cynically argued that it’s a checklist of Rap cliches, with opener Get Ugly covering all the bases; coming from the hood, being poor, hustling, getting rich, material goods, gold diggers, haters, name-dropping, mocking others for having less, etc. It’s embarrassing when someone who knows as little about the genre as I do could have guessed that each and every one of these would come up – and little else. It’s hard to latch on to or appreciate any themes when it’s all the same shtick we’ve heard a billion times. It’s difficult to care about any of it when every other rapper has been telling the same stories since day 1. There’s nothing new and nothing unique about how it’s written or delivered.

As limited as the range of subject matter is, the delivery is done with pace and skill. The guy seems talented to someone like me with little experience of the genre. It’s unfortunate that the voice, when not buried under auto-tune, is either whining or mumbling. It’s a far cry from the clarity and depth of Chuck D, the satirical vitriol of Eminem, or even the crisp, unavoidable delivery of Ice T, Tupac, or Dre. But those guys are from another era. Maybe this just how we do now.

On the less cynical side, I’m at least aware that Rap lyrics have plenty of poetic techniques which don’t really appear in other genres. I couldn’t tell you what they’re called or how to differentiate from them because when someone tries to explain them to me I usually fade to grey and start thinking about boobs instead. But I know they exist. Trying to read the lyrics off the screen doesn’t work like it does in a rock or pop song. The syntax is all ‘wrong’. Lines rhyme unconventionally, there’s heavy use of slang, possibly personal usage of, abbreviations of, and changes to existing slang, and plenty of what (in my slang) we would call Shleggin. Bitch, I ain’t ’bout to ‘splain that. If that’s what you’re in to, if you enjoy staying in your lane and not being challenged, then this is a perfectly apt and uninspiring effort.

We’re just going to have to live with Auto Tune at this point. I don’t instantly hate it. It’s another way to express yourself. But how is it being used here? Why make the decision to use it? It doesn’t seem like a creative decision. It seems more like following a crowd. It seems like you’re afraid of your own voice, like you don’t believe in your own talent or that you’re admitting your voice is crap, so you need to wrap it in digitized shrouds. How would it sound without Autotune? Prove me wrong. Have the balls to show yourself. I guarantee peope will respect you more for it. Rapping, singing, performing is a talent. Not everyone can do it. It’s exposing. If you’re going to be a performer, then be honest, be real, don’t hide.

Beyond the autotune, the vocals are monotone. Regular glancers will know I thrive on emotion and melody in music. I can tolerate a monotone, emotionless approach to vocals if the surrounding music is powerful, or if the lyrics have something vital to say. The lyrics are the same old shite, so we can check that off the list. The music on the other hand, is good. There are a lot of positives in the musical approach and the production. On a personal level the beats are too prominent. I get that most hip-hop fans will be looking for that beat and rank it higher than I would. As prominent as the beats are, they’re repetitive, feel cheap, and are the weakest part of the overall production.

The underlying music deserves better. It creates a sense of threat and paranoia. That darker vibe created by the faux orchestra does set the album aside from most hip-hop efforts I have heard. The best moments of the album are when the music is allowed to breathe, free of cheap beats, free of mumbling vocals. The vocals and autotune brings things down – autotune has a childish tag attached to it like stink. You can’t maintain threat or quality when you’re being childish. Your attempts at being serious are dismissed.

The whole album is very consistent, in tone, in quality. This has a downside – it’s an hour long. 20 tracks. There’s no need for the album to be this long. There’s a much stronger 12 track album in year. What would you cut? The songs are so interchangeable that it really wouldn’t matter – you wouldn’t lose anything by cutting any songs, and you’d be left with a more manageable, restrained whole. It just keeps going, song by song with little variance outside of a couple of more chilled songs or those with an interesting intro, such as Emotionally Scarred or the backing piano in Sum 2 Prove.

A fairly sorry effort then. We’ve heard it all before, from more talented people, from one hit wonder chart hacks, from the early 80s all the way through to today. It’s a poor reflection of today’s music and audiences if this is ranked as one of the best albums of the year. It’s an album with no surprises, nothing to say, nothing to hear, and little to recommend it. There’s an interesting approach to the music, but it’s clawed back by a litany of cliches and crowd-following platitudes that anything positive is picked clean off the bones.

SCORE

Sales: 4. There’s no escaping the success of the album, going 4 times platinum in the US. It was apparently ‘the most consumed album of 2020’ in the US too, whatever that means. Whether those sales last over time, we’ll see.

Chart: 4. It made to the top of the charts, twice, and stayed in the Top Ten for months. Around the world – less successful.

Critical: 4. Mostly positive, made many end of year lists, but plenty of vocal detractors too.

Originality: 2. I don’t think you can go higher than 3 here. Admittedly, I’m not an expert on the genre and maybe this did change the game. But rating it against other albums I have heard in the genre, it’s noticeably weaker on all accounts. I would give it a 1, but the music kicks it to a 2.

Influence: 2. No idea. I can’t imagine something so bland and unoriginal and similar to everything else would be very influential.

Musical Ability: 3. Sure.

Lyrics: 2. It’s the same crap we’ve heard in any chart friendly Hip Hop album ever.

Melody: 2. Vocally, it’s a 1. Musically, there are a few interesting moments and rhythms, but nothing you’re going to remember.

Emotion: 1. Any emotion is drowned out by the monotone and autotune approach.

Lastibility: 3. People who like this sort of thing will surely keep listening.

Vocals: 2. Not great. Objectively bad. Flow, is that what we call it? That’s fine, but outside of the rhythm of delivery, by any of the vocalists, it’s poor stuff.

Coherence: 3. The album holds together well. I could go 4 here, except there’s a minimum of five songs too many.

Mood: 2. A shorter album and a less monotone approach would have pushed this up. There’s the makings of a solid, ominous mood.

Production: 3. I would have gone 4 if not for the focus on and cheapness of the beats, and the repeated sticky keys noises.

Effort: 3. I’m sure everyone involved tried their lil hearts out.

Relationship: 1. How do I, as a white, 30 something male from Northern Ireland who grew up in a relatively affluent area of a literal warzone and ignored it all by listening to pop, rock, and metal music relate to this? Not at all.

Genre Relation: 4. For better or worse, it sounds like everything else.

Authenticity: 3. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It all sounds wanky to me, but I’m sure he means it.

Personal: 1. One of the worst albums I’ve heard in my 2020 journey so far. Nothing here I’d choose to listen to again.

Miscellaneous: 2. It’s a nice piece of cover artwork.

Total: 51/100

Let us know in the comments what you think of My Turn!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like an age since I last typed a single word about Marillion. An age in which we’ve seen one Monarch replaced by another, several PMs chewed up and spat out, and probably some other important world events I’ve failed to pay attention to. Paul and Sanja have crept up, leaped on, and sprinted away from their hundredth episode and are currently careening onwards towards… well, let’s just say that their Manic Street Preachers podcast is inevitable at this point.

It has been quite the journey; entertaining and enlightening in equal measure. I’ve learned about a band I had heard of but knew next to nothing about and beyond the music, it has been just as enjoyable sharing in someone’s passion. It feels like there’s not enough of that in the world.

I have been busy. Real life busy. I made a post a while back about being burnt out with music – writing about it, listening to it, and wanting to get back into my movie posts. I don’t know if this malaise has passed into my feelings on Happiness Is The Road or if I would have felt this way regardless, but one word kept cropping up again when I was doing my early listens of the album – dreary.

Calm down. Let me try to explain. When I first blasted the album, it was through Youtube. I was unaware, but it played both Vol 1 and Vol 2 as if it were a single album; songs were played out of order and the length and breadth of the thing was as exhausting as it was exhaustive. Too many songs followed a similar pace and tone, and too many lacked the honey dripping banshee call of Marbles. It felt like a big, big album with not a lot to say. The album made me not want to talk about it. I was also in a place where I wasn’t ready for a sprawling brute. I wanted music which would slap me about, kick me to the ground, steal my wallet, then do a Rumpelstiltskin dance beside my bleeding body, but instead I got over an hour of music akin to roaming through a barren, hungover town on a Sunday after being stood up for a date. An oddly specific reference.

So I took a step back. I listened to other music. I knew I was almost certainly wrong in my initial assessments. I listened to BYAMPOD and learned that Happiness is actually two distinct albums rather than a double. That made things more palatable. I updated my USB for car journeys with my favourite Marillion songs. I asked the neighbour’s son when he was going to fix my fence after he left the handbrake off and reversed into my garden. I discovered that my Amazon Prime subscription has a lot of Marillion music so started using it instead of Youtube, and in doing so I was able to split Vol 1 and 2 as intended and found out the true running order of the songs. I also found out that the album is like 60 quid on CD – what’s that about? I finally was in the place where I could listen to the album without being a dick. Or, less like a dick than usual.

Dreamy Street is, not for the first time, a brief and atmospheric toe-dip opener. Like much of the album to come, it’s a keyboard and synth showcase. It feels sullen and downbeat, light on lyrics and percussion. If you listen closely, some of the background synth underneath the central keyboard line seems to be playing a drifting A/E/D/C# descent, which is very similar to the G/D/C/B vocal melody later in Wrapped Up In Time (I thought it was the same until I played both on the kids’ keyboard and noticed the difference, so I’m leaving in the rest of this paragraph to show what I’d originally written). It’s very faint and played in a different rhythm which makes me think it may not even be intentional. But these are smart musicians and producers so I can only assume was purposeful – on its own it doesn’t add anything to Dreamy Street itself and those four chords don’t relate to the bulk of Dreamy Street’s chord structure in any way so it feels like it was added as a level of texture and foretelling.

I suppose that’s interesting, which is great because I don’t have a lot else to say about the song. It is dreary and makes me think of empty, wet streets rather than dreams. The keyboards do one thing, the vocals do another, and the bass bumps along underneath at various points. It sets a tone but one of unease. That’s something I’m likely projecting on to the song with rather than anything that was intended by the band, but this sort of loose playing always leaves me with a sense of unease – three instruments doing their own thing without really complementing each other, and making that be how they complement each other.

As is frequently the case, I made up my own incorrect lyrics; ‘I had to strain this monkey inside of me’, for example. Like the music, the lyrics form a mood piece. A dude in a half-conscious state, chilling in the sunshine. If there’s one word which this song and this album does not evoke for me, it’s ‘sunshine’. Music that I equate to sunshine either has to sound laid-back and relaxed, or light, summery, and bouncy like The Beach Boys. We can rule out the latter immediately, but I can’t say that Dreamy Street fits the former either – it feels too forlorn, introspective, mundane while to me a relaxed chill song should evoke very little beyond sitting, smiling, and tanning. No idea why I suddenly got so stuck on this completely irrelevant point, but there you go. As you can see, I made zero notes on the lyrics beyond them creating a mood.

This Train Is My Life wouldn’t be a song I’d accuse of being dreary if I heard it in isolation. It builds and it shifts and it peaks, working well as a standalone. I think the dreary tag still somewhat applies because it’s another mid-paced song in a mid-paced album. But it’s a good, mid-paced song which recalls similar songs from Marbles. It’s Marillion’s vibe, happy to sit in third gear. That isn’t meant as the insult it sounds like, but while I like the song there is a touch of cruise control to it.

For overt positives, the production is stellar with a lot of clarity and a lot of little quirky pieces flitting around under the hood. Even the vocal mix is playful, with H harmonizing randomly in a line here, a moment there. H sounds at his best once he steps it up in the second half, and I appreciate how the guitar solo comes at the tail end rather than the middle, in which we instead get a quiet section with much of the lush instrumentation driven out. Even though the song doesn’t pick up the pace, the peaks it reaches towards the end make it feel celebratory if not quite anthemic.

Before I talk about how much I enjoyed the lyrics for This Train Is My Life, I do have to call out one line. Or one word, specifically, and I’ll be curious if Paul or Sanja mention it too. Stroby. Stroby. Even typing it makes me a little uncomfortable. Stroby stations… we couldn’t have come up with some different? I know this is just me and how certain words give me the icky, but it feels clunky and out of place (he says after writing many un-edited and ill-planned paragraphs). Yes, that one caught my eyes and ears.

Elsewhere, lyrically, very good. Evocative, brings to mind a sense of movement, of fleeting experience and chaos. You can clearly read it as the life of a touring rock star and as a metaphor for the sickening, ungraspable pace of time we all feel slipping by senselessly. In many ways it’s a perfect lyric for explaining that shadow mood I’ve talked about in previous posts. The music doesn’t fully capture that mood, but the lyrics do. When I try to explain that mood, that vibe, that tone to someone, the best way I’ve been able to articulate it is by saying that it comes from all of the late night car trips I would go on as a child – I would be half-sleeping, half watching the world and its shadowy roads drift by, the air heater blowing in my face, some song teasing me to dream in the background. Far from being the unique mood I thought it was when I was young, it’s something most of us feel at some point and H puts it into words beautifully here, while also touching on companionship and the other themes I’ve mentioned. ‘Parallel lines/parallel lives’ was the standout line when I first listened – even more so once I put the other lyrics together – a concise, snappy comparison which says a great deal in a few words.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

On to BYAMPOD then. I notice as I listen to their hilarious intro (introad?) that I didn’t really talk about the artwork. It’s jagged. Like warring aerials. Like satellites trapped in barbed wire. That’s about it. Her penis is the road? I had my own mistranslation.. but we’ll get to it when we get to it. Apparently, the album is and isn’t about the destination and/or/but not the journey. With that confirmed, we talk about dead mice. My cat keeps them outside, thankfully. I fully expect to see an animated man with a man-sized thumb coming up in an upcoming Digi.

Between the previous episode and this, we learn that the album was a mixture of jams and songs recorded for previous albums. The band gave blog updates as they were recording. I like that approach for some bands, it feels like you’re invited to peer through the curtain. For other bands, I prefer the mystique is maintained. It was during these blog posts that the band confirmed that Vol 1 was a concept album – not something which was apparent to me in my early listens. Paul has mentioned Rother’s guitar sound a few times in previous episodes – I’ve early Asylum Satellite a few times now and I don’t have any issue with the sound, if it’s what I’m thinking of. It just like it has a lot of a chorus effect on it. The band also fully embraced the digital creation process, chopping and changing and experimenting as needed.

Paul comments on the relative simplicity of the lyrics, and how it fits with the theme of the album, and further how it fits with The Power Of Now. There’s a lot of grief in the album, something I picked up on more than there being an overall theme – sometimes we bring our own lives to an album, picking up on stuff that may not even be there, or heightening what is there.

Dreamy Street apparently sounds like the Eastenders theme. I didn’t catch that at all, so I’ll have to listen. I did pick up on the Wintery feel. That’d be the bells. Sanja connects the lyrics to Buddhist symbolism – tea ceremonies and monkey minds. They are more positive on the song that I am and also feel like the mood it conveys is more positive – why then did I find it so grim? Maybe it’s because I don’t drink tea?

On to This Train Is My Life, which goes back to Marbles. The end section dates back to Holidays or Brave. So it is a cut up song of different pieces, like I called out above. No, wait. That was Essence where I mentioned that. That’s in the next post. But I can see it for this one too. The guys like how the sound captures the feel of a train journey, and how much of an improvement…how different the production sounds here, contrasted with Somewhere Else. Sanja likes the propulsion of the song – there’s a tension which builds and is never static. Paul ties it back to the themes of the album and the book which inspired it. Nobody’s mentioned stroby stations yet. Sad face. The life of a touring professional must be bizarre. It’s something I’ve always craved though, to some extent. I’d wager most of us have an inherent wanderlust. When I was younger, I loved the idea of being a long-distance truck driver. I think I wrote an easy about it in Primary School – one of those ‘What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up’ assignments. I loved the idea of not being attached to anyone or anywhere. Always on the road. Staying up late. Seeing the world pass by. Listening to music and following no rules but my own and the road, man. I was too young to be concerned with bills and delivery deadlines to meet. Now, I’m content to never leave the house. Still, there’s always that pull.

While I was writing all that, the guys were pouring their own hearts out. Go listen. There’s an H quote about the origin of the song. Stroby stations! I don’t have much else to say, so I’ll just add how cool I think it would be if all railway lines were accompanied by foot and cycle paths. Think about how easy it would be to travel from place to place! Ignore the practicalities (and safety concerns) of that becoming reality, but I like the idea of cycling down to my local train station and then following the train tracks in to the city or wherever. Yo Elon, get on it!

We close with the guys saying how much they love the album. I don’t think I’m at that level. I haven’t given it the headphone treatment yet, and I’m almost always doing something else when I’m listening to music these days, but I’ve given it plenty of loops and it’s good. I like it. I don’t love it. Maybe I’ll get there one day. Until then, share your thoughts on the album below and go listen to BYAMPOD and let Paul and Sanja know how you feel!

Nightman Listens To – Judas Priest – Painkiller (Top 500 Metal Album Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with our third Judas Priest album, and with this one it at least has one song I’m familiar with. The Title track is an obvious classic of the genre. I think my foray into the bonkers world of Ju-Pre, as they shall henceforth always be known, has been mostly positive. Having only known their big singles previously, they were maybe the most jarring gap in my classic Metal knowledge. I’m looking forward to this – I mean, look at the absolute state of this album cover:

Painkiller | Raves From The Grave

What the holy hell is that? If it’s not the most Metal thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what to say. It could only be more Metal if that cyborg angel had massive breasts. I mean, this is Ju-Pre, so boobies might be a no-no. But just look at the ecstasy on the face of this future-medieval marauder. He’s just singlehandedly won Superbowl MMXXV, earning 14 Trillion Moon Credits, and found out that his mistress has given birth to solid gold triplets. To celebrate, like any sane freak would, he erupts into the atmosphere on his Harley-Dragonson, a motorcycle/wyvern hybrid so badass that even having a giant silver-plated scythe rotating at 96 mph in its mouth can’t slow it down. The exhaust appears to be a chrome-based swordfish, his cute little boots are all spiky, and the speed the machine is travelling at is fast enough to reduce the city below to a nuclear wasteland. I don’t even need to listen to the album now, my Metal quota for the year has been surpassed.

‘Painkiller’ is in many ways the quintessential Metal opening track and title track. I could even argue that, from an outsider perspective it’s the quintessential Metal song; It’s fast, loud, brash, obnoxious, not pleasant to listen to, and has thunderous, technically proficient instrumentation. It’s completely over the top and ridiculous in every way. It speeds up at various points, Rob’s screeching is almost unbearable, and there are guitar solos every couple of minutes. In short, it sounds like war. It’s why people who don’t like Metal will hate it, people who do like Metal will love it. It’s everything which the cover art promises. It’s also the only song on the album I was already familiar with, so I’ve no idea if the others have this energy or if they simply can’t compete. It’s a glorious six minutes which every Metal fan should hold dear, at the very least as a part of history even if you’re not a fan of the band.

‘Hell Patrol’ begins with a clattering Am I Evil introduction before settling into a series of metal clichés. It seems to be some sort of dedication to Metal in general – bands, fans, you get it. It’s lyrically very silly and is a prime example of what non-Metal fans think of when they accuse Metal of lacking intelligence. Outside of that intro, there isn’t much going for it musically. It’s still enjoyable – because I enjoy big chugging guitars and twiddly solos – but it’s by the numbers.

‘All Guns Bazing’ is more of the same. Fast paced, more amusing lyrics. In fact, this album as a whole is like you threw a pile of Metal buzzwords into a computer and it pumped out AI generated lyrics. Tasty solo in the middle, bit of a tempo change which gives the main riff a different flavour. It’s fun but not a stand out. The intro is hilarious though.

‘Leather Rebel’ feels like the band is trolling us at this point. I’m sure they’ve already mentioned leather several times by this point, but lets have another. More silly lyrics, but this one is a step up musically. It feels like they’ve put more thought in to make it melodic and as such it’s the best song since the opener.

‘Metal Meltdown’ opens with a Judas Priest version of Eruption, as every True Metal song should. An unusually repetitive vocal in the verse, the pre-chorus verges on unlistenable, and the chorus is Def Leppard style chanting shite. But, it’s fast, angry, and sometimes that’s enough.

‘Night Crawler’ succeeds because of a fairly catchy chorus and riff. The verses are good too, though very plain. You know the formula by now – silly lyrics, fast guitars, generally fun atmosphere. It goes off in more interesting off-shoots than most of the other songs – slower, whispered sections which are supposed to be scary or evocative of whatever a night crawler is. But those add a different musical slant, momentarily.

‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ has a breath in breath out guitar intro before it remembers that it should be fast and loud. Then it goes fast and loud. A more notable solo in the middle of it all.

‘A Touch Of Evil’ merges neatly with the previous song and is the one slower song on the album, and the one coming closest to a love song of sorts. It’s pretty good and doesn’t change the pace or intent or tone of the album. Due to its slower pace and solid melodies, it’s another standout.

‘Battle Hymn’ is a brief instrumental intro to the closing track. It’s good.

‘One Shot At Glory’ is the requisite epic closer. While the solos are as fast and furious as you would expect, the pace of the overall song isn’t as intense as most of the other tracks. It’s well layered though and they’ve clearly tried to make this one a more subtle bookend to the album than the opening track – equally long and reaching, but without the buck mental vibe.

It’s not big or clever, well, it is big. Fast too. But it isn’t clever. The title track deserves some better support – it’s like they threw everything they had at the title track then tacked on some other leftovers which are little more than ‘play fast and say words like marauders, night, and leather’. All that sounds very negative, but if you’re looking for a straightforward, no frills Metal album then you’ll get fewer better than this. There’s little irritating in there, there’s no nonsense, no ballads, no asides, and none of the songs go on too long. It’s stripped back, right down the middle, loud, fast, distorted Metal. Even as the individual songs aren’t stand-outs, they’re all a hell of a lot of fun, and consistently so. The title track is a ten, and everything else is a 6. It’s the most consistent Judas Priest album I’ve heard so far. It’s well worth a listen, but I suspect it’s only existing Metal fans who will enjoy it.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Painkiller. Touch Of Evil. Leather Rebel.

Nightman Listens To – Ascension – John Coltrane (1966 Series)!

Highest Trane: John Coltrane's World-Building Ascension - JazzTimes

Greetings, Glancers! I know this won’t make a lot of sense because I post out of sequence, but this is like my third or fourth Jazz album in a row that I’m listening to and write about. If I never hear another jazz album in my life, I’ll die an unhappy man for having heard any in the first place.

I do have some experience of John ‘Robbie’ Coltrane, having listened to his A Love Supreme album in one of my other lists. The only thing I remember about it is that I didn’t enjoy it. And that it had a lot of horns. Looking at the album cover for Ascension I can only assume that this will be more of the same – horns and boredom. Interestingly, terrifyingly, it looks like there’s only a single 40 minute track on the album. Lets hope it’s not some freewheeling mess of noise and instead has some semblance of concept. Hell, even a coherent melody would be nice. Let’s do this.

You know that viral video which claims to show a girl being reunited with a donkey she had raised, but they hadn’t seen each other for years? You know the type – the kid calls for the animal, it comes out of its pen, sees the child, and begins braying in delight/pain as it canters towards the child for an emotional cuddle. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy and forget for 12 seconds that we live in a world governed by Religious and/or Money Hungry maniacs who want us to be nothing more than powerless slaves – and we keep letting them do it! The sound the donkey makes? That’s the sound of 80% of this album, except imagine that the donkey has been tied to the side of a Waltzer.

MMMMMMMMM-EEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

That’s really all you need to know about the album going in; if you like tuneless noise, the sound of talented musicians off their tits in a frenzy of ego, playing as fast and loose as you like with no care given to structure, tone, emotion, or melody, then have at it. Jazz is for you. For the rest of us it’s nothing more than clanging clanging clanging clanging clanging clanging horn bit clanging end.

That’s another one signed off for 1966 – lets hope we get a rest from the fucking jazz nonsense. Feel free to call me a philistine in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Charles Mingus – Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Oh man. It wasn’t enough to have a Ray Charles Jazz album last time around, but now we follow it up with what I can only guess is another Jazz album. Most of my knowledge of Charles Mingus comes from his work with and influence on Joni Mitchell, an influence to my mind which turned Joni Mitchell from a unique and wonderful folk performer and writer to just another jazz noise disturbance. I don’t know much about Mingus as an artist, but I’m going to assume this is going to be highly experimental, there’s going to be trumpets, and I’m not going to like it. Open your mind, Nightman, open your mind!

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus - Fonts In Use

What Do I Know About Charles Mingus: He was a jazz guy, experimental, and worked with Joni Mitchell and others.

What Do I Know About The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady: Nada.

Oh man, look at the album cover. Is it a dude parping on a brass? Is he merely kicking back and enjoying a pipe? Is he in prison? In which case, why is he dressed in the blue of a comfortably numb Secondary School English teacher? Is that is hair, or is it one of those Russian hats that movies have told me Russians wear? Wikipedia tells me it’s a forty minute album – so hopefully shouldn’t hurt too much, but it’s a single composition split into four tracks… interesting? Lets just get on with it.

Solo Dancer: Look, I’ll be honest. It’s going to be difficult for me to actually add anything of worth in this review. I’ve listened to the album in full a few times now, but still the best I can do to differentiate each of the four tracks is to say that one is long, one starts with piano, and the other two are a bunch of trumpet waffling. I lack the musical expertise to break down any real differences and I lack the willpower to give a shit about music which feels so empty and bland to my ears.

This is the opening trumpet waffle. Try as I might to get into it, to feel the groove, to enjoy the faffing about, to appreciate the artistry and creative fuel behind it, I just can’t. Jazz is not for me. You could play me a hundred pieces by a hundred geniuses, and they’d all sound like the amateurish ravings of a drunk you picked up a horn for the first time.

Duete Solo Dancers: It’s just so dull. I’m sure the guys playing are having an absolute fucking blast. But this music feels like a relic of another world. A dead world. A world which found newer, better forms of music and passed the fuck on leaving all this muck in the past where it belongs. There’s a wailing bit. There’s a faster bit which also wails and depresses. There’s a slow bit which is worse, and which wails and moans. There’s some amusement to be found near the end where some of the horns sound like a monster trying to speak.

Group Dancers: This one at least feels different. It’s more than just horn parps. It has piano clangs too. It has flute or something. It seems Eastern inspired. It’s the amazing sounds of orgy. It still goes round and round without saying anything. It’s still as vapid and emotion free as the others.

Medley: This one throws in some guitars too. Spanish guitars. That was a nice break from all the trumpets, but none of it is particularly interesting. It’s the sort of thing anyone can play after a few lessons and just bashes out while you’re waiting for the bass player to stop fingering his girlfriend and get back to practice. Elsewhere, it’s more horrible, chaotic, tuneless noise.

What Did I Think: It’s never good when I feel like I need a lie down after a single track. There’s four of those tracks here, and one of them is almost 20 minutes long. There’s barely a note of difference between any of them. Regardless of the inspiration behind it all and how capable the musicians actually are, it’s so empty. There’s nothing interesting, there’s not a melody to be found, and each track is as haphazard and soulless as a talentless jam session. It’s music with absolutely nothing to say and in terms of my personal enjoyment as a listener who admittedly places melody and emotion above all other things, it was a slog to get through once, never mind multiple additional times as I hoped for a revelation. If Jazz is only for cultured types, then oil me up and call me a Love Island watching, chip eating lounge lizard.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Are you insane? It didn’t even deserve to be recorded in the first place. If there was ever an album which did not deserve to be on this list, it’s this one. An abject horror show.

Well, that’s another jazz masterpiece checked off the list and I’ve already forgotten what any of it sounds like beyond the after-trace revulsion I continue to feel whenever I hear a brief snippet of trumpet coming across the airwaves once upon a night sky. I read some of the bewildering five star reviews of the album and can only conclude that everyone is insane apart from me – and I’m this craziest kid this side of camel town.

Nightman Listens To – John Lennon – The Plastic Ono Band (Non-Beatles Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Last time around we had the excellent All Things Must Pass by senor Harrison. Now it’s finally over to Monsieur Lennon, and his first (non experimental guff) Post-Beatles outing. The year was 1970 – so there wasn’t really any delay in output between the time The Beatles split and when this was released. Just like each of the other lads. Now, I’ve probably heard a few of these before but there’s only one I know for sure. As it seems like a fairly short album, I’m going to also listen to the two bonus tracks which were added as part of the 2000 Reissue. Will Yoko be screeching in the background? Will the songs be typical latter day Lennon rage-fests? I’ve no idea.

‘Mother’ I have heard, now that I’ve heard the opening shriek. Where have I heard it – The Simpsons? That sounds right. It has a sparse arrangement – just the odd piano clang and a repeating simple beat. A touch of bass. I’ve always said that a good song lives or dies on the strength of its melody – and that all the other musical accompaniment can be added or stripped away without truly hurting the song as long as the melody doesn’t changing. This takes the stripped down approach, and even though I can imagine swelling of strings here the core melody and the emotion behind it is what carries the song.

Hold On‘ feels vaguely familiar – but I’ll hold off until I hear the vocals. No, I don’t think I’ve heard it. He’s singing to himself and Yoko, not surprising. Parts of this are familiar. Again, it’s sparse and somewhat laid-back. Cookie? It’s nice, positive, and at under two minutes there’s not much to it. I’d say it could go on the playlist for now, but I don’t think it’s going to grow on me any further and is more likely to slip off.

I Found Out’ begins like a demented Blues demo, just dual vocals and distorted guitars. The beat comes in later, with a loose beat and more distortion. It picks up pace with a more driving bass. I’m not a fan of the effects on the vocals. It feels a lot like Come Together. Nice instrumental in the middle. It grows on me as it progresses.

Working Class Hero‘ is the one I knew already, both in its original form and in its many copies. It’s not a song I’ve ever had any great love for, but neither is it one I dislike. It’s just an average song for me.

‘Isolation’ is one I’m listening to in Quarantine. I assume when I post this, all the Cov-ID 19 guff will be done with? The slow piano led Beatles stuff is hardly ever a favourite for me. This goes the same way – I like the come out of each verse rather than the lead in. Not that it has a very generic structure. The ‘chorus’ picks up the volume then goes off for a dander into Strangeways and the song becomes more interesting. Then it circles around to another verse. It’s fine, but that single piano note approach isn’t for me.

‘Remember’ seems to be one of the longest songs on the album at four and a half minutes. It’s another piano led one, with the same static single note approach. It’s faster this time, and the drums and bass aren’t quite aligned with the piano which makes it a little more interesting. Just as I was wondering if it was going to stay like this throughout, John pre-empts my frustration and changes it up, albeit briefly. I like the gentle boundary pushing, the experimenting without just fucking about. I don’t see it ever making my playlist because the melodies aren’t so strong and because of those single notes. And of course a joke to close it.

‘Love’ fades in with a distant, more interesting piano. This feels quite lovely, don’t mess it up now. It’s very reminiscent of Radiohead’s How I Made My Millions. I think the verse changes chords too many times and would have had greater impact on me if it had sustained some of the early minor key chords longer. Still, it’s lovely, but frustratingly not as lovely as it could have been for me. I assume others love it just the way it is.

Well Well Well‘ opens with a dirty Blues riff and drums like a zombie whacking on a boarded up window, with a shoe. The vocals have an annoying set of effects in place which doesn’t make for the most pleasant listening. I’m not sure what he was going for here, clearly going for a more gritty, underground sound. Or maybe it’s because he knew the song wasn’t that interesting and it needed something shouty to spice it up. His actual shouts are very good, sounding very Cobain at times. It does go on way too long.

Look At Me‘ starts quietly. The guitar is almost identical to, what, Julia? It’s about as interesting musically as that song – it’s one of those songs which should be sweet and mellow but feels dreary to me. Vocal melodies are drifting without striking any great affection in me. It’s fine, but forgettable.

God‘ closes the album. It feels more melodic than the last couple from its opening moments – the piano isn’t so single-note based. It’s actually playing a tune. It’s a song about the self, it seems, not following some religion or God or celebrity or politician or monarch or power or cult. It is very repetitive, but the whole ‘I don’t believe in’ section has that solid melodic foundation so it works. It’s a much stronger song than the few before it.

My Mummy’s Dead‘ is the actual album closer,but it feels like a very short bonus track. It sounds like a solo 4 track recording, off the cuff. It’s nice enough, just John and a guitar, simple. Can’t see how it could have been expanded, without adding some lush chorus.

Power To The People’ opens in that lush fashion – big gospel vocals before John joins in with a manic beat and sax. There’s Beatles callbacks, shouted vocals, a catchy refrain, but like a lot of the Beatles extras it’s basically a couple of melodies and lyrics repeated in a loop. Here we get extra brass, but there isn’t a lot to it. Still, it feels celebratory if a little lazy.

Do The Oz‘ which, as Buffy fans will know, is the act of sitting stoically before delivering a well-timed and insightful quip. As a song, it’s nothing like Oz – zany sounds whizz like ghosts around a central riff while Lennon sings the title. The verses present things as if ‘the oz’ is a type of dance, with Lennon giving the instructions. Of course the instructions don’t really make sense. It’s an interesting enough bonus, but not one I’ll remember tomorrow.

Well well well, the album started out impressively but eventually began to suffer a little from the adjoining trio of experimentation which doesn’t quite work, as well as some meandering and repetition. There’s too much drifting and daydreaming for my tastes and without the melodies to back things up, and there’s too much of a focus on keeping things distorted and distant. It’s like he’s saying ‘I did all this big and popular and hug production stuff with the fellas, so now I’m going in the complete opposite direction so that people recognise this John Lennon as different from that one’. Which is fair enough, but with a few simple tweaks these songs could have been stronger. That said, there is still some great stuff – not quite on par with the best of The Beatles, but right up there with their second tier tunes.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Mother. Hold On. Love. God.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!