Nightman Listens To – Joy Division – Closer (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

1359308396_Closer Joy Division

Greetings, Glancers! Once again I embark on a voyage through time to expose my brain to the supposed classic albums of the past. Today we look at one of the most revered cult bands ever in Joy Division, and their album Closer. I’ll let you in on a secret; come Closer; in my younger, more songwritingy and singingy days I was compared favourably to Ian Curtis, though I’m not sure why. I sound more like Michael Jackson when I sing, and while my lyrics tended to fall on the darker side of the human condition there was also plenty of humour and nonsense and childlike wonder. I think people thought I looked a bit like him too. I have probably heard many parts of this album but never paid it much attention. While on paper Joy Division always sounded like exactly the sort of band I would listen to, what I’ve heard over the years never enamoured them to me, as well as the fact that I’m not much of a New Order fan or of all the stuff which came out of Manchester in the aftermath. Moving on.

What Do I Know About Joy Division: Led by Ian Curtis, an enigmatic front man who killed himself at 23 after suffering from increasing bouts of depression and epilepsy. The remaining members went on to form New Order. Every time there is some new Indie resurgence, new bands point to Joy Division as an influence. Famed for a gloomy sound blending post-punk, pre-grunge, and synth sounds.

What Do I Know About Closer: The band’s second and final album.

Atrocity Exhibition: Drums. Funky bass. Scary noises. Morrison vocals and poetry. Scratchy guitars and the odd tin drum blast. Lots of distortion of noise and throbbing. This is the way. This is the end? There is an emptiness or coldness to the sound. Reminds me a lot of In Utero. There’s a repetitive quieter thirty seconds in there which isn’t really necessary.

Isolation: Faster, odd synth noises. This one seems familiar but those synth sounds are quite silly. Bass prominent again as expected, but something annoying about it. Sounds more upbeat musically but I suspect the lyrics are not. I don’t like the effects on the vocals. Heavier drums now. Sudden end. Then comes back. Then ends.

Passover: Funky drums. Solo descending notes. Riff. Bass. There’s so much space and emptiness in the verses. There’s a sinister tone with this one thanks to the relentless beat, near spoken vocals, and eerie guitar. It’s the first song where the guitar feels prominent.

Colony: Drums and bass and guitar chugging together. I’m not convinced that the vocals work as well here, or maybe it’s that strange effect on them. The guitar begins playing something different from the drums and bass which sounds bizarre, clashing but not sounding 100% out of place.

A Means To An End: Another thumping, monotonous beat, more jagged guitar, this one sounding more like a traditional riff. I appreciate the vocals, but I do find them getting on my nerve – too plain and cold and emotionless – it works for me on one off listens, but a succession of songs with no variance in the delivery make everything feel too similar. On the flip side, it all adds up to a more potent, chilling whole album.

Heart And Soul: Funky bass and nice drums. Emerging synth. Like a low chant. Of course now they throw in a different effect on the vocals. Sounds more like Morrison. Still the style and delivery is the same. Mesmeric middle. Sudden heavier drum. More words. More sound. End.

Twenty Four Hours: Nice guitar tone. Chattering sounds. Unusual beat. Very Holy Bible. Slower. I still say these songs would sound even better with a less dry vocal delivery. Best song so far, superb stuff. Little shift at the end for a final surprise.

The Eternal: Hissing hisses. Stalking bass. Funeral march piano. More great stuff. Not typing, too busy listening. Sad. Inevitable. Vocals waver slightly into being off key which I assume was on purpose, adding to a sense of futility. Guitar flickery bits. Garden sprinkler ending. Piano mistake.

Decades: More percussive pieces to give lifeless industrial feel. Sudden comedy synth. I wanna die in your arms tonight. Later more 80s drums and synth come in. Beat and rhythm constantly changing. Blasts of backing organ synth stuff. The ‘where have they been’ section is the warmest stuff musically on the album.

What Did I Learn: I wouldn’t say I’ve learned anything, but I definitely appreciate them now that I have listened to them. I like the coldness and intelligence and approach and originality, but I don’t think there is enough variance musically or emotionally to convert me to being some die hard fan. There is great stuff here though and I can see why so many love it and love Curtis. I’ll definitely listen to it again.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll have to say yes, although it’s plain to see that this will alienate many people and it’s clearly something that select groups of people will want to listen to. The style is cold and otherwordly, definitely not the stuff of charts past, present or future. As well as the obvious influences on New Order and everything which came from there, the band (I’m not sure if it was this album specifically though) continues to influence new artists and those on the fringe. Teens, kids, and the placeless and questioning will continue to uncover this album for decades to come.

What are your thoughts of Joy Division and Closer? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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There’s a vast swath of music you, but more specifically I, have never and will never listen to. Each of us who claim to be genuine lovers of music will know of certain artists and albums, and know that we should listen to them, but haven’t and may never; that is ostensibly the purpose of these posts. For me, a lot of what most critics deem as the most important and best music of the 20th Century comes from the mid 60s – mid 70s US. My base knowledge has always been from the same period, but from Britain – Beatles, Floyd, Zeppelin, Who etc, while my general love of US music comes from later periods. That means that artists such as Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel have always passed me by. I know the hits, I know who they are and what they do, but not specific albums in full. I like to say I’m a US folk fan, but really Joni Mitchell is currently the only person I can claim to be knowledgeable about (and her styles changes frequently and drastically). I can say that the songs I know of from S and G I have enjoyed, but nothing has made me seek out more beyond simply thinking ‘I should listen to more of their stuff’. It changes now!

What Do I Know About Simon & Garfunkel: A folk-loving pair, known for their songs of love, loss, and rebellion, their harmonies, melodies, and hair. Lots of big selling hits everyone knows and loves.

What Do I Know About Bookends: Nothing… I don’t think I’ve even heard of it before looking at Larkin’s list. Looking down the tracklist I recognise two songs – one of their biggest, and one which The Bangles covered.

Bookends Theme: Plinky plonky acoustic guitars. A very short track always makes me think that the album is going to be a concept album. This is too short to really go anywhere.

Save The Life Of My Child: Loud throb followed by Irish style jig rhythm. Lots of stuff going on here, backing howls and vocals, whip cracks, and other effects. The guitars and vocals seem to be drowned out by all the extras. Heavier and more experimental than I would have expected. A strange one.

America: Slight electric before leading into the acoustics and vocals I know the due for. I haven’t heard this one, seems to be some sort of protest or patriotic song. Again some unusual twiddly stuff going on in the background. It’s fine, doesn’t do a lot for me though, maybe I’d like it more after a few listens.

Overs: This one has an even more gentle sound, good, sweet vocals, what I can pick up of the lyrics first time around seem interesting, but the melodies are too whimsical and loose to grab me. A lot of playing with time, pausing, and volume on this one. Feels like it’s over before it’s begun.

Voices Of Old People: Okay, so they’re being literal with the title. Snippets of what appear to be old people talking. Talking about stuff. It works well on Dark Side Of The Moon with a musical accompaniment. This is just voices. Essentially pointless.

Old Friends: I think I’ve heard this before, or parts of it. Gentle, I like the strings growing and falling and weaving. More loose vocals and construction. Then it turns into a nightmarish episode of Bewitched. 

Bookends Theme: And we fade back in to this. Singing this time. Sad, lonesome, whimsy.

Fakin It: Presumably the second half will be a little bit more commercial. We get off to an almost Beatles style folk song. A more traditional song, plenty of backing stuff in the production, good melodies and guitar. Still room for more outlandish stuff, with a spoken piece and an interesting ending.

Punky’s Dilemma: Lots of breakfast related lyrics. Nice stable beat, giving way at various points to Beach Boys harmonies. All very gentle, managing to stay on the right side of twee. More sounds and clicks and voices and whistles. All of these songs seem to pass me by though, like a whisper on a street.

Mrs Robinson: Obviously everyone knows this one, and it stands out from the rest of the album by having clear hooks. It’s a terrific song and I was expecting a few more songs like this on the album but so far nothing has come close to either sounding like this or being as good as this.

Hazy Shade Of Winter: I love the Bangles version of this, but until now I’ve never heard this original. So far, the Bangles version is heavier and has vastly superior vocals which is surprising. It’s still good and if I’d heard this one before The Bangles one I don’t know whether I’d prefer the original As it stands, I like The Bangles one more.

At The Zoo: Another two and a half minuter. Starts slowly before tumbling into a groovy pace. What’s it all about? Sounds like a skeptical attempt at poetry. Pick a thing, then write a different thing linking the first thing. Not much going on here musically, pretty simple stuff.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 338/100

What I Learned: Simon and Garfunkel can be more experimental in their sound. I knew them for their light folk infused rock and I suppose I should have expected them to be more than just that.

Does Bookends Deserve To Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll have to defer to the old favourite maxim of this presumably being influential and a product of its time for it appearing in the Top 1000 albums of all time. Personally, upon first listen there is almost nothing here which would make me recommend this or include it in the Top 1000 albums. A couple of obvious stand out tracks and one or two more which would probably grow on me after multiple listens, but it’s too light and airy and doesn’t speak to me on any personal level as a whole.

So, aging hippies out there – what am I missing? Is this truly a product of its time, or do its reaches extend beyond the realms of space and time? Let me know what other albums from Simon And Garfunkel are good. I did like this, but not enough for me to want to go and listen to it again – I wish I did as previously I’d liked everything I’d heard by them. Sound off in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – The Verve – Urban Hymns (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.

As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, Glancers! Today we go back to the height of Britpop, the time when a younger Nightman was in school, playing N64, drinking beer between classes, and carving lyrics into school desks with a compass.

No, the other type
No, the other type

Today’s album is an odd one in that I don’t really understand how I missed it, given that I’ve liked every song from it that I’ve heard, and with two of them being two of my favourite songs of the decade. I may well have heard it all, as chances are that it would have been played in the background at a house party or shared on a school bus trip, but I can’t confirm this one way or the other so here we are.

What I Know About The Verve: After a number of unsuccessful albums (which I believe had quite a different sound from the one they converted to on Urban Hymns), The Verve struck gold and became one of the biggest acts in Britain. it didn’t last and they split up shortly after their biggest success with singer Richard Ashcroft going to a solo career (though they returned a decade later with another album). Incidentally, Ashcroft’s Song For The Lovers was one of my favourite songs of that decade too. The had a number of big singles in the late Nineties, and though lumped in with other Britpop acts, they didn’t truly fit that genre.

What I Know About Urban Hymns: Most of my friends had it, and I almost bought it myself a few times. With songs like Bittersweet Symphony and The Drugs Don’t Work, the album was a monster hit winning several awards and becoming a staple of indie house parties and school bus trips all around the country.

Bitter Sweet Symphony: Hmm, you know I never really enjoyed this one, possibly because it was overplayed to ridiculous levels and appeared on everything from TV Ads to movie soundtracks to probably political campaign messages and sports broadcasts. Maybe it’s because I preferred the similar The Chad Who Loved Me by Mansun. Maybe the video was also endlessly played and irritated me. It’s clearly a good song, but I find it way too repetitive and a good minute, if not two minutes too long.

Sonnet: This is more like it – even though this was a single I don’t think it got the recognition it deserved. This is one of my aformentioned favourite songs – not only because it is brimming with personal nostalgia, but I remember absolutely loving it at the time too. The mixing between the weird, almost country bass, the acoustic and electic guitars, Ashcroft’s gorgeous vocals, but most importantly that epic chorus all blend to make four minutes of bliss. Unlike the first track, I have a a feeling I could listen to this multiple times every day and never tire of it. It’s filled with so many moments I savour – the repetition of ‘my head is gone’, the twinkly piano after the first chorus, the middle section, and of course the strings. Give me strings and there’s a 90% chance I’ll love you.

The Rolling People: Funky intro, with wacka wacka guitars. This sounds more like your typical Britpop song. I don’t recall hearing this one before. Ashcroft sounds like a much deeper vocal version of Robert Harvey here. Sounds like a fairly standard plodding rocker. Spacey middle section, only half way through. Becoming a little like an Oasis track, and sounding a little like Liam. Groovy extended ending for dance purposes only. Pretty average album track – I’m looking for lost gems, remember!

The Drugs Don’t Work: Well, what can we say about this one? Brooding, heart-breaking, addictive, beautiful perfection. It’s obvious I adore everything about this song, one of the finest songs of the decade. Give me haunting melodies, strings, and emotive lyrics and performance and I’m yours.

Catching The Butterfly: Swirly guitar distortion. Uppy downy vocals. Fluttery. Lucid dreams. Another loose, trippy song which hovers along without any major hook but decent enough to cruise or sleep to. Unnecessarily long.

Neon Wilderness: Fading in with guitar effects. Spacey, distant, near spoken vocals. Drums. Nothing in time with anything else. Fine. Overlapping vocal bits. Is this going to turn into a more traditional song or continue in this vein, as this sort of thing gets boring after a couple of minutes. Fading out. At least it was short.

Space And Time: Acoustics. Interesting. Nice verse. Nice chours. Yay, it’s a song I don’t know which I love! And it manages to take me back to the mid-nineties even though I haven’t heard it. Give off an Oasis vibe. Melodies are good, nothing overly emotional but still good stuff. Changes subtly enough over the running time to keep from going stale.

Weeping Willow: Piano and swirls. Drums and the rest. Indie vocals. Another promising one which I don’t think I’ve heard. I have vague memories of people talking about this one. Slight Stone Roses vibe. A bit grittier and heavier, whilst retaining that overall swirling trippy tone. Catchy enough chorus. Last vocal part is exactly same melody as part of Champagne Supernova. 

Lucky Man: I was never overly in love with this one, when up against the two biggies it always felt a little too plain. Still a good song though. It’s the same feeling I have for Karma Police – I am aware it’s a great song, I just don’t get the feels for it the same as I do for others.

One Day: Organ. Gospel. Pleasant, very nice. With a stronger melody in the chorus this would be a classic, but they choose a more dreamy approach then going all out for something with an obvious hook. It works in the verses as I expect a glorious pay off in the chorus after all the build up.

This Time: Wibble wobble. Rapping. Regret. A different sound. Nice chorus melody, if only it had some strings or a bit more force behind. Wah wah. Should have ended it after the second chorus or gone in a different direction, as it stretches off too much into nothingness, but again this is short-lived.

Velvet Morning: Country. Another soothing ambient song merged with the more obvious Indie angst guitars. Soft, and yawning, and always seems just on the verge of getting louder. It breaks into a more traditional section a couple of minutes in with good vocals to offset the dreamy parts. Good stuff, good ending.

Come On: Drums. Higher pitched vocals. Sounds like what many Indie bands of the time were putting out. It’s an okay rock song, but not exactly inspired. Possibly the heaviest, most energetic song on the album, but that isn’t saying a lot. Of course the album isn’t going for that sound, but this song clearly is yet it still feels a little lethargic or over produced rather than simply letting loose and playing. A bit of shrieking and swearing at the end to spice things up, feels a little silly, but whatever. It’s a foot-tapper.

Deep Freeze: Oh, it’s a good old hidden track. The previous song was a decent enough way to close the album, but lets see what this one is all about. Noises. Sounds. Baby crying. So, standard extra track fare then – pointless.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 213/1000

What I Learned: That it’s good to catch up on history; this missing piece of my teenage years has finally been filled in. I expected the album to be more akin to the rest of the Britpop scene, and while much of it does fit in to that ilk, The Verve have retained their own sound throughout. The better songs are still the singles, and there are a few fillers for my ears – songs which meander too much and go nowhere. Likewise there are a few strong tracks which I has not previously heard which I enjoyed and will gladly listen to again. I can’t recall if any of the other The Verve albums appear on Larkin’s list, but I’ve always wanted to hear those too, so I’ll search them out.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It’s obviously an integral part of the closing stages of Britpop and was one of the most commercially and critically successful albums of the year, with a host of singles which spanned the globe. On that basis, as well as the fact that it did a lot to influence later artists who wanted that looser, baggier indie rock feel, it feels justified to see this in Top 1000 albums of all time. However, I can’t commit to saying that it would be high on my personal list given that only two of the songs truly resonate with me. I was never a huge fan of the Britpop scene, finding an awful lot of it too samey and reeking of tramps, and instead went for the bands who were either on the fringe, offered a little more, or went in a completely opposing direction. If I listen to the album a few more times I know that a couple of other songs would continue to grow on me, which may make me rethink my ranking.

Let us know in the comments if you feel this deserves a place in the Top 100 Albums Of All Time – is it one of your all time favourites, or did you despise it upon release. Feel free to share your opinions on the album and the review below!

Nightman Listens To – REM – Life’s Rich Pageant (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.

As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, Glancers! In today’s edition of Nightman Listens, I, Senor Carlos Nightman, listen to an album by indie, enviro-weirdos REM. REM always pop up on best album lists and they are generally spoken of by bands and artists I like. I’ve never felt a desire to listen to them much beyond the few singles I’ve heard, and although a few friends rate them very highly, most of the people I know who are big fans, are dicks. It’s time for me to learn a bit more abound them and decide for myself, and the best way to do that is to have a gander at one of their albums.

What I Know About REM: For a while in the mid nineties, REM were one of the biggest bands on the planet. They were around long before then, and have been around since. Michael Stipe is the lead singer and both his face and voice annoy me. They are a little too preachy and whiny for my liking, but they have made a number of songs that I’ve enjoyed. I admit I know very little of their catalogue as a whole, and have only heard one complete album – Automatic For The People – it’s good, but not as amazing as people like to say. That should do it.

What I Know About Life’s Rich Pagaent: It’s an album by REM. Looking down the track list I don’t recognise any of the names.

Begin The Begin: Riff. Strangled chords. Annoying Stipe voice. Fine melodies. Everything a little tinny or plain. Growing. Hiccups. Birdy. More music. End.

These Days: Fast. Sounds like The Bangles. Annoying Stipe voice. Nice drums. Annoying Stipe howl. Again okay melodies, but nothing grabbing, nothing emotional, nothing memorable. Attempt at a solo. Back around for repeat. End.

Fall On Me: Softer and acoustic mix. Lower vocals. Attempts at emotion. Failed attempts. Ok chorus, but nothing great. The best moment was the opening 8 or so seconds. Decent middle section, but too light. Sounds like faux hippy happy balls.

Cuyahoga: Decent opening. Ruined by appearance of boring drums, usual guitar, and annoying Stipe voice. Crappy idealistic lyrics. Bell. Bored already. Same melodies churned out on each song so far. Decent middle section. More whining.

Hyena: Laughter. Smiths-esque pacing. These drums are horrendous. Stipe howls. Jangling guitars. This is probably the least interesting, least inspired album I’ve listened to so far in this Top 1000 run through. I just feel into a mini-coma during one of the verses, then yawned and re-emerged for the final chorus.

Underneath The Bunker: Nice rip off riff. Is this an instrumental? The guitar isn’t great, there are quite a few notes which don’t quite connect. Voice. End.

The Flowers Of Guatemala: Nice intro, but oh so twee. Sounds like a One Direction ballad. Not long before Stipe’s howls come along. One trick Stipe. How much more of this crap is there? Ok, very basic solo. I get the simple solo thing, I do, but here it sounds like people who can’t play their instruments thinking they’re amazing.

I Believe: Banjo. Finally, someone can play. And replaced with more Smiths licks. Same old tempo, same old melodies, same old drums. Come on, raise the bar. Give me a hook. No no, not a howl Stipe. Jeebus. More dodgy lyrics culled from other places. It’s isn’t clever. France. To be fair, I can’t say that any of the songs have been bad, but I certainly can say that every one sounds like a copy and paste of the one before, and that none stands out. It’s as coherent as a blood spill.

What If We Give It Away: Drums. The Drums, as Brando once said. Moaning about money. What if you did give it away? Another howl. You know, if they changed the tone of the guitar, changed the drums completely, and replaced Michael Stipe with a singer, some of these songs might be good. This is what we have though. Another middle section which is better than the rest of the song. YAWNING.

Just A Touch: Shit, I was doing something else and didn’t realise this had started. Faster, drums finally better. There’s about 1% of Nirvana in the chorus. Organs and by God more murderous howling from Stipe. Who the fuck handed this eejit a microphone? Someone needs to Delorean that shit. I give up. Even when it’s different it’s the same. Is this them thinking they are being heavy? I’ve taken heavier dumps.

Swan Swan H: A little different, but the same effing melodies and Stipe balls.

Superman: Bla bla bla.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 162/1000

What I Learned: Not a lot. 80s REM sounds an awful lot like 90s REM, and Stipe’s voice is still as annoying as a wasp behind your eye.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Absolutely not. There is, for me, nothing original, nor anything memorable here. It sounds like a thousand other half-assed soft rock albums. Out of the few albums I’ve virginally listened to from Larkin’s list, this is the weakest, and to think it appears at number 162 (and that there are 3 REM albums higher on the list) is a shocker. Does this hold some cultural significance? I can’t think of any reason why this should be included in any Best lists. And I am right.

Let me know in the comments why you think I’m wrong and why this does deserve a place in the Top 1000 albums of all time. Is it one of your favourites? What happened to you to make you say such things?

Nightman Listens To – Blur – Blur (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to: A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time. B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety. C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers. D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, glancers. Today we return to Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 albums and our first Blur entry. I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy this one as by and large I’ve liked what I’ve heard over the years from Blur and they are a pretty large missing piece from my musical knowledge, outside of their biggest songs. I just hope the accents don’t annoy me.

What I Know About Blur (Band): Britpop darlings, massively successful, one half of the infamous Oasis versus Blur Civil War in the 90s, built around Coxon, James, Albarn, and probably another one. I know most of their singles pretty well, but I’ve never owned or heard any of their albums in full. I was always on the Oasis side of the argument. Something about Blur in the early days seemed too cheery, too happy and silly, and Damon’s face and singing style/voice annoyed me. Later songs I enjoyed more and the band grew on me, but still I never actually went back to listen to any albums.

What I Know About Blur (Album): Nothing, I wasn’t even aware they had a self-titled album. I would have assumed this was their debut, until I saw that it wasn’t. Looking down the track list I recognise, and like, two of the songs, but aside from that I don’t know anything else about the album.

Beetlebum: Has a short scratchy intro before the famous distorted riff comes in. The vocals and melodies have a Beatles feel, a drowsy post-grunge appeal with an exuberant melancholy pop chorus. I’ve always liked this one.

Song 2: This one everyone knows. I remember mocking and appreciating the Smells Like Teen Spirit stylings of the song when it was first released, and the song has continued to hold worldwide popularity, always popping up some movie or TV show. Good start to the album, but that’s the two songs I recognise out of the way.

Country Sad Ballad Man: Another scratchy opening. Twangs and drums. Eventual tune. Distant vocals. Weirdo vocals. More droopy, sleepy vibes. Interesting enough. Solo with unrelated string bending. Alien noises. Explosion. Wasp trapped in an eye socket. Flipping a pancake into a toilet.

MOR: Nice guitars. Building. Bowie vocals. Chorus. It’s certainly loud and bouncy. The vocals and singing accent don’t do it for me. Chorus is okay, I’d say after a few listens of this this would either completely piss me off or finally click with me, not sure which but I’m veering towards being pissed off.

On Your Own: Spaceman intro. WipEout. Robots eating and crapping guitars. More Bowie vocals. ‘Ooooh-ooooh’ harmonies. It’s all a bit too drunken and chanty for my liking, one to sway about to with ‘the lads’ as you fall out of ‘the’ pub. ”.

Theme From Retro: Throb in. Drums. Circus funeral. Ghosts bobbing for apples. This is just one big Bowie wank fest, innit?

You’re So Great: Better start. Basic stuff at a pleasing tempo. Vocals not quite right of course. Nice bonus guitar. Rinse and repeat.

Death Of A Party: More distortion and organ mishaps. Okay verses, more drowsiness. Chorus is better but misses a trick by not going on for another few moments, another line and another progression from ‘gently on the shelf’. It goes on for another verse, then goes on a bit more, then stops.

Chinese Bombs: Faster guitars. Drum disaster. Clearly a joke song, but it’s better than most of their serious ones on this album.

I’m Just A Killer For Your Love: Funk. Drum mess. Scratchy guitars, why not. More drowsy verses and chorus. Getting sleepy. More noises for the second half of the song. Sounds like a bunch of knobs let loose in a studio for a few hours with no idea what they’re doing.

Look Inside America: Another acoustic start. Big vocals. Strings bonus. Rest of band appears. Bowie chorus. Can’t shake off those drowsy tones and melodies. There are a few good moments here, but outweighed by the guff. Surprise harp and guitar ending. Because we haven’t had a song with a harp on it yet.

Strange news From Another Star: Continuing the loose tonal theme. Change to acoustic, much better. Good verses, lets hope it doesn’t get thrown away. Much better chorus, still drowsy, still Bowie, but keeps the best moments of both. Easily the best song since the 2nd track. Even gets the ending right.

Movin On: Good intro. Jaunty riffs. Fun enough, doesn’t go anywhere but not too offensive. Comedy ending.

Essex Dogs: Apparently this includes ‘Interlude’. That should be good. Throbbing. Tin cans. Like an old Spectrum racing game. Words. Is it about Essex? I’ve no idea, but I know I never want to go there. Guitars and lasers. More words. Distant singing and bass. Robot orgy. Bits and pieces. It’s fine, works well as an experimental piece. Here come Interlude. It’s okay too, repeating the same weirdo sounds.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 271/1000

What I Learned: That the first Blur album I listened to contained far fewer pop and commercial songs than I was expecting. That singing in your speaking accent will always annoy me, especially when it’s wanky posh English. That Blur tried to experiment and, well, failed.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Not in my opinion, no. I understand now, after reading some of the album’s wiki page that this was a departure for the band in almost all departments. It seems like a strained attempt at a magnum opus, of being something they were not, or at least had not been. They tried, but it doesn’t work for me. There are maybe three or four songs here I’d gladly hear again, with another one or two being passable, but the rest is pretension by a group who don’t appear to have the skills to be pretentious.

Is this your favourite album? Do you think it deserves a place in the Top 1000 Albums of all time? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman! (Top 1000 Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for another round of ‘point at the idiot’ as I wrap my ears around an album that I’ve never heard. Today, it’s the turn of Tracy Chapman to prove that she is worthy of a place amongst the greats. Colin Larkin seems to think she is, but as I’ve never met the dude I’m going to decide for myself, so Tracy, do your best – and if yo best ain’t good enuff, then do your worst.

What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, and I used to get confused over whether she was a man or a woman. I only ever saw the briefest of snippets on TV, and from the look and the sound, I couldn’t tell. She has a song called ‘Cars’ or something like that? Is her genre some mix of soft blues, light jazz, and easy pop? I’m pulling teeth here. All I know is that what I heard made me think I’d never have the desire to listen any further.

What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, an- what? Oh right, what do I know about the album…. nothing. Maybe there’s a song called ‘Cars’ on it.

Talkin’ Bout A Revolution: Acoustic guitars. Nice. Weirdo vocals. See, is it a man or a woman? I still have no idea. I like the melodies, I like the politics, but I just can’t stand the vocals. Better in the chorus. Repeat. Organ. A decent enough song, I’d probably like it more if it was covered by someone else.

Fast Car: Ahh, yes, this is the one I was talking about. Near Joni guitars in the intro. Nice melodies, more nice ideas about running away. The vocals are still annoying. The riff is overplayed with no break – needs a chorus or something else to give us a rest from the twiddly dee dee, doo do doo. More. Finally, I knew there was another part of the song. I-e-I-be someone. Hmm, didn’t last long, but still some respite. Yes, I realize the irony in the lyrics. Good song, a little too plain or empty or something – there’s definitely something missing here for me, but I understand why it’s so loved. Seems a minute too long.

Across The Lines: Another good riff. Ooh, backing instruments too, see this is what was missing from the last track – needed somthing extra, a violin, a cello, something. Even here it isn’t used to its fullest potential. Good messages. Nice melodies again, the vocals may be getting less annoying with each track. Lyrics a little repetitive.

Behind The Wall: Sounds tribal, melodically. Well, there is no music, yet. Someone’s getting a slap and sounds like no-one cares. Sounds like she has heard my complaints about not enough backing music and is flipping me the bird. Good on you.

Baby Can I Hold You: Chords softer. Wait a minute. I know this. It ain’t Ronan Keating’s warbling out the side of his neck. So she wrote this, or is it a cover too? It doesn’t fit with everything else so far, lyrically. Still it’s a nice song, still a little plain and bare, though there are some humorous Motown things going on in the background. It’s a good song, but I don’t think anyone has done it justice yet.

Mountains o’ Things: Plinky plonk. Maybe going for the full instrumentation here. Samey melodies. Here the backing music is too 80s and doesn’t work. Lets keep things classy, please. Yes yes, dreaming of the things which she no doubt has now. Lets hope she hasn’t forgotten her own message. Only halfway through this one… not great people, not great. Things are wonderful. It’s always better having things. A complete lack of anything catchy makes this a painful five minutes, like hearing someone with an awful voice speaking loudly beside you on the bus for five minutes.

She’s Got Her Ticket: Drum surprise. No guitar, only vocals again, and that is not a good sign. Guitars. Country. Dire Straits. Reggae. So this is basically another version of Fast Car. Just a bunch of lyrics with no real melody and some guitars slapped on in the background.

Why?: Groovy enough. Again, easy thoughtful lyrics. Nothing new that hasn’t already been said in a hundred songs, but that in itself is a travesty. Better melodies in a couple of places. All of this sounds very amateurish – just, like someone heard a demo and thought they would have a hit single then said go ahead, have an album written and recorded by next week.

For My Lover: Drums. Guitar. Sounds familiar. Different guitars. Too many yous. It’s ok, one of the better ones so far, but still I see nothing here that makes me want to listen again.

If Not Now: Softly softly. Piano. Similar melody followed by beautiful melody. Surge. Drums. This one is better, but again it just doesn’t go in the direction I’d like it to. Probably my favourite here.

For You: Samey guitars. She ain’t much of a player, at least what’s on display here. Vocals and nowt else again. I don’t mind that, but I need to like the vocals, and the melodies need to be present, but for too much of this album there are no melodies worth speaking of and the vocals are irritating. Nothing interesting here, just more of the same, I’m afraid.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 273/1000

What I Learned: That after finally listening to a whole song, and a WHOLE ALBUM by Chapman, that I still don’t like her voice. That I’m probably a horrible person for saying such things. That songs with a message need to be catchy enough so that message is conveyed and spreads. There’s no point in singing a protest song if it’s just a bunch of words strung together like worms in a toddler’s mouth.

Does It Deserves Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Absolutely not. I was really looking forward to this one, hoping that it was going to deliver some hidden joy to me, but it’s boring, repetitive, plain, empty of music, hell it almost feels like its empty of soul and emotion even though I’m sure that’s not the case. There are a few good songs in here but the production is all wrong, and the vocals are worse.

You may now commence the name-throwing in the comments section, though I imagine Tracy Chapman fans wouldn’t stoop to that level. Tell me what I’ve missed? What makes this so special? Does the album hold a special place in your heart, or a hallowed spot on your shelf? Pray tell.

Nightman Listens To – Queen – A Night At The Opera (Top 1000 Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to: A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time. B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety. C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers. D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

Greetings, Glancers! Today in the never-ending Nightman Listens To series, I visit my first Queen album. Are you excited? I certainly am, and I’m looking forward to discovering some new favourites. You may know that I’ve never been a massive Queen fan, I don’t have anything against them and I do love plenty of their hit singles. Maybe after I listen to one complete Queen album, the floodgates will open and I’ll be a convert.

What Do I Know About Queen: What a silly question. One of the biggest rock bands on the planet, even decades after their peak and after the death of vocalist Freddie Mercury their popularity endures and their music has lost none of its power.

What Do I Know About A Night At The Opera: I have heard a few people name this as the best Queen album. Does it feature Bohemian Rhapsody? The title suggests a concept album, or songs loosely tied together with an operatic approach or theme? In other words, I know nothing about it. It will take some beating to be better than Blind Guardian’s masterpiece of the same name. Insert link to top 15 albums.

Death On Two Legs: Piano. Twinkling. Sounds like an opera so far. Flash Gordon noises. Threatening. Growing. ALien attack. Scream. Gone. Soft. Guitar fun. Guitar madness. Vocals. Doing a Hetfield. Narrow minded cronies. Unusual pauses. Has the Queen sound, harmonies, May’s signature guitar. Great stuff. Surging and fading vocals. Actually reminds me of Blind Guardian, so I assume this was a template for them in more than name. End.

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon: Jaunty piano, arcade music. Ringo. Weirdo vocals. London town. Louvrrrre. Weirdo guitars.

I’m In Love With My Car: Revs. Future sounds. Clean machine. That ain’t Mercury. Duet? No idea. Plodding but heavy. More good stuff. Odd ending. End.

You’re My Best Friend: I know this one, of course. I always thought this was a little twee, but damn catchy any. Too many adverts have used this. Just a nice, happy song to put a smile on your face without being crap.

39: Led Zep 3 esque. Roy Harper. A little bit country, a little bit folk. Bonzo thump. Nostalgia. Is this a dedication to Zep, or folk in general? Howling. Protest song melodies. I think I’m converted. Not Mercury either. I didn’t realise others sang on their albums, is it a guest or one of the other band members?

Sweet Lady: Riff. Drums. All present, sir. Stones. Catchy again. I’m amazed I haven’t heard more of these. Cheese, but not that. Funky breakdowns. Howls. Faster. Solo. Woo. Headbang. Yay, Queen rock!

Seaside Rendezvous: Jaunty. Seaside. Clementine. See, they could probably do without these fun throwaway songs. Mouth mess. Weeeeeee. Whistle.

The Prophet’s Song: Twinkies. Guitar. Western. Atmosphere. Brooding stomps. Some sort of story. Flash Gordon. More words. People. Plant vocals. Voice collapse. Now I know. Indeed. Lalallalalalalalala, broken ears headphone disgrace. Man man. Crunch. Guitars return. Noise. Growth. Harp. Wind.

Love Of My Life: Piano and acoustic guitars. A classical feel. I believe I’ve heard this one before, yes yes. Lovely melodies, and feels a little like the quiet moments of Bohemian Rhapsody. Ghost voices. Guitar like a cello. Very nice, though a strange amount of instrumental moments without vocals for such a short song.

Good Company: Teeth. Cleaning windows. Faster. Drums and guitars. Sounds like a lost McCartney. Phasing. Moon man. Singing through a tube. Weirdo guitars. Jam. End.

Bohemian Rhapsody: I think we all know this one, right? Nothing more to say really.

God Save The Queen: Rushing in. Guitar anthem. I see. An odd ending, but apt.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 96/1000

What I Learned: Queen knew how to rock, and fairly heavily. I knew this of course, but most of the songs I was familiar with always had that pop edge and I didn’t think they’d really gone beyond that. This album showcases both the commercial pop side, a heavier side, and a lot of experimentation with guitars and vocals. I’m not sure if the album does all tie together in some sort of single concept and I’d need to go back and listen to the lyrics of each track. Overall, I learned that this is a fantastic album.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, that’s easily my favourite album out of the few I’ve listened to since kicking off this endeavour. A very fine album indeed, with only a couple of tracks I knew of, and a bunch I’m already looking forward to listening to again. I can’t say how influential this particular record was, but for the mid seventies it was pretty heavy and featured a lot of harmonic vocals in a wall of sound which it appears had an impact on Blind Guardian. Quality wise, this is a solid rock album and one I thoroughly enjoyed, and it is a lot better than other so-called great albums at least on first listen.

What you think of this album – when did you first hear it? Does it hold a special place in your musical history? let us know in the comments section!