Ranking Drones – Muse

Drones: Amazon.co.uk: Music

By the time Drones came along I had mostly stopped caring about Muse. I still bought it on day one, but I probably waited a few weeks before listening to it, and maybe only listened to it twice in that first year. Part of that is down to how I consume music. I’m still a CD guy when it comes to buying, and I very rarely use stuff like Spotify for new music. I used to convert my CDs to play on Ipod, but by 2015 I’d slowed down on this nonsense too. Plus I’m old, and I struggle to care as much about music unless it has some immediacy for me at a melodic, emotional, or conceptual level. Drones didn’t appeal to me on any of these levels, it didn’t jump out at me screaming to be heard; it cowered in the corner shouting military slogans. Having survived a stint in the military in my youth, such things are ridiculous to me. It’s also a case of having heard the same riffs, the same approach to music and melody, and the same type of songs done better before, plus the band and their thematic content somehow seemed more juvenile and adolescent than ever. There are still a few decent tunes in there – it’s still Muse for Bellamy’s sake – so of course they’re not suddenly shit, but as a whole due to where I was and the overall samey nature of the thing, it comes across as distinctly average.

  1. Revolt.
  2. Mercy.
  3. Aftermath.
  4. Reapers.
  5. The Globalist.
  6. Dead Inside.
  7. Psycho.
  8. The Handler.
  9. Drones
  10. Defector.
  11. JFK.
  12. Drill Sergeant

Let us know what you think of Drones in the comments!

Happy Ending

Happy Ending: 3/Good

As the title suggests, this does sound happy, one of the very few songs in the Manics catalogue that sounds genuinely content. It’s another very simple song with simplistic, poor, repeated lyrics from the Lifeblood/There By The Grace Of God era, and at the time felt like a possible goodbye from the band. The band seemed like they wanted to go in one direction musically, but there was an uncertainty over whether they could convince themselves and fans of this direction, so possibly they would just pack it all in instead. Happily they didn’t, and we are left with this curious, piano driven pseudo-goodbye, pseudo-dedication. The melodies are amicable enough, Bradfield hits some high notes and while the song reaches for those crowd-pleasing chorus peaks the piano makes it feel more like a Coldplay song in places. It rarely goes beyond ‘yeah, this song sounds nice and nothing else’ but it’s enjoyable enough in small doses to keep it higher than average for me, with extra points because the band sound like they are content. 

The Story Of The Song: I’m not sure if the band has ever talked publicly about this one, but based on what they were going through at the time – the downgrading from Stadium chart toppers, the changes in musical and stylistic direction, the boredom Wire was always mentioning in interviews, and of course the lyrics themselves, it seems reasonable to assume they had this planned or written as a thanks and good bye song. It’s a little too soppy in one way for a band as angry and punk as they are, but it does fit. If it was meant to be a goodbye, I’m surprised they released it at all.

Let us know your thought in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Biffy Clyro – A Celebration Of Endings (2020 Series)!

A Celebration of Endings Cover.jpg

Greetings, Glancers! My first adventure into 2020’s offerings went about as well as expected – TL:DR version – I am old and I don’t understand modern pop music, but that’s okay because it’s factually crap, but that’s also okay because it’s not meant for me. Metal though…. I’ve lost my way with modern Metal in recent years. I keep track of my favourite new bands, I still follow the latest releases by the bosses of the genre, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to new stuff as much as I did when I was DJing. Apparently Biffy Clyro are still going, so I guess that’s good? I was never a big fan but I knew some of their songs and I saw them live the odd time. I had a friend who really loved them when they first arrived on the scene, but he has since found The Lord and I don’t know if he entertains such musical diversions any more. Sad.

North Of No South – jazzy intro. Biffy Clyro do that so many metal bands from the Noughties do that I’ve never enjoyed – having a loud, riff heavy intro, then suddenly sucking all of the sound and power out for a tame verse. I can’t state clearly why this is something I don’t like – I enjoy when bands do the quite verse loud chorus bit in previous eras, but there’s something about the Noughties approach or tone that irks me.

The Biffy Clyro singer (lets just call him ‘Mr Biffo’) has a very affected North American accent – another thing which gets on my goat. Maybe there’s a correlation between the natural Scottish accent and how it translates while singing. I’m quite picky about accents while singing – I don’t enjoy the forced clipped Hard Rs which non-US singers adopt to apparently make them sound more North American – yet I don’t mind it as much when actual American singers sing in this style. I also can’t stand English singers singing in what may be their natural regional accent – possibly it’s the fact that I’m not a fan of those accents regardless of them being spoken or sung, or possibly I prefer my vocalists to sing in a more plain, classical sense? There’s some truth in both, but given I enjoy singers with unusual singing accents and styles – natural (Anneke Van Giersbergen, James Dean Bradfield, Natalie Imbruglia) or affected (Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell) I would put less stock in the latter being true. Mr Biffo does sound Scottish later in the album – certain words, vowels, phrases stand out.

Both first tracks are very bouncy and melodic, each has a variety of hooks which I can see people loving. The second track is a lot of fun, sounding like Muse in places, but I just wish the vocal approach was less of the hard R USA style. Muse isn’t the only obvious comparison which leapt out at me in my early listens – certain riffs are very QOTSA and the album seems happy to be stuck in a 2002-2006 rock sound. That’s fine with me as that era had a lot of great bands (an awful lot of shite too). To the band’s credit, songs which begin with a certain sound or comparison, don’t always end with that comparison in place – Weird Leisure has an obvious QOTSA intro, but ends in a completely different place.

Tiny Indoor Fireworks is a fun, summery rock song, perfect for festivals and cider if we can ever have those again. As a rock or metal album, it never gets particularly heavy. It’s definitely aiming for a more accessible and commercial sound. It’s maybe the sort of accessible rock album which gets newbs interested in the genre – there’s enough melodies and big choruses for people to bop to while simultaneously getting accustomed to those heavier intros and sections so that when they hear a heavier album or band the experience is not as jarring, and they’re more willing to accept it. Even the more consistently heavy songs – End Of for example – have plenty of melody to invite the uninitiated. That song is an example of the band retaining their willingness to change things up within a four minute song., adding bonus riffs, jazz-infused licks, a brief instrumental, and layered vocals which range from screamo to choral.

The ballad of the piece – Space – it’s a little too on the nose and cheesy for my liking, coming from someone who loves cheesy ballads by rock bands. The lyrics are copy/pastes of every other love song you’ve ever heard and the simplicity of the melody alongside the not-great vocal performance are buried under too many layers of strings and noise. I do enjoy layered noise, and certainly layered strings, but Space should have been an example of less is more. Opaque fares better in this respect – the strings are awash with emotion, but they are restrained, and even the repetition of ‘take the fucking money’ which would normally come off as very silly just about clasps on to being earnest. It’s a much sweeter melody too, and the song builds through its restrained openings without ever reaching excessive levels. The closer does what good closers can sometimes do – encapsulate the entire tone and style of the album in a single song while wrapping up the themes and finishing things in a satisfying, moreish way. The Scottish accent forcefully comes through and the mixture of pop sensibility and furious pointed rock is at a high. Being the longest song on the album there is room for a little more artistic expression and musical freedom – the song moving into a beautiful instrumental section near the three minute mark. It’s a moment which stands out as unique on the album with the band feeling relaxed and confident enough to repeat and grow the melodies housed within the section. It’s the best part of the song and one of the finest moments on the album – there’s a shred of pity that the opening minutes of the song are more atypical shouty rock, complete with painful ‘fuck everybody’ chanting.

Lyrically the album is as mainstream and commercial as your generic pop – with this being Rock music the thematic content is more closely aligned to anger, regret, and pain than your boy/girl band/RnB fare. This means we get plenty of dramatic F-bombs, adolescent adjacent emotions, and plaintive choruses designed to be easily parotted by the masses. The album title has close ties with the recurring themes of the album – breakups, collapsing relationships, moving on, uncertainty – these are terrible things which we’re all likely to face but you can find strength in how you react to and progress from them. These endings can be celebrated, but throughout the album there are questions asked and sometimes the answers aren’t the beacons of hope we needed. The style is not overly poetic to the extent of being heavily laden with metaphor or reference – this increases the likelihood of listeners and readers understanding the sentiment and relating those to their own lives, but simultaneously makes the lyrics less interesting on an intellectual, personal, and emotional level.

It’s an immediate album – there’s nothing groundbreaking or challenging even as the band play around the format of a 3-4 minute rock song – but the hooks are not evasive and I found myself familiar with them after a single listen. Some of that immediacy was perhaps at a surface level as the songs rarely stayed with me by a few hours later, and any melody I found myself humming was quickly replaced when the next song came on. On the less cynical side – the sheer number of melodies suggests that anyone, myself included, would distinguish between these with additional listens and the album would become more distinct, memorable, and enjoyable. On a personal note I don’t think there’s actually enough here to encourage me back to the album, and even the standout songs aren’t screaming for me to hit play again.

Album Score

As I’m a maniac, lets try to continue with this scoring malarkey. You should know the drill by now; Twenty sections, each with a score of five, giving a total out of 100. Some sections are based on personal preference, but others should be mostly set in stone and free from bias.

Sales: 4. Look, we know this category and the next are not what they used to be – it’s no longer easy to say exactly how many copies have been sold and if those sales are high or low comparatively. What we can say is that the album sold fairly well in its opening weeks – enough to knock Taylor Swift off the top spot in the UK. Time will tell if the album continues to sell or comes to a dead stop. A four for now, based on how well it sold against its contemporaries.

Chart: 4. As above, early signs were positive. It didn’t make much of an impact in the US but was number in UK, Scotland, and 2nd in Ireland. A number 1 album in one of the major markets – basically US or UK – is usually good enough for a 4, but if it peaked there for a week and dropped away never to be seen again, you could have a 3. Some high spots in Europe, but average on the whole.

Critical: 4. Not flawless critical acclaim, but easily one of the most favourably rated rock albums of the year across the board. No negative reviews from any of the major outlets, but not always positive on the fan and blogger side (not counting myself in this discussion).

Originality: 3. It sounds like Biffy Clyro to me, if a little more commercial. Various critics pointed out the invention and creativity on display, but to my ears there is nothing out of the ordinary here in genre terms.

Influence: 2. This is one of those categories which you can only accurately score in retrospect – unless it’s so groundbreaking and pervasive that you see copycats and parodies within a year of its release. It’s unlikely for bands to be influential this deep into their career, and based on the info we currently have it feels like just another album.

Musical Ability: 3. I’ll get flack for pointing this the same as what I scored Bad Bunny’s album – an album which didn’t really contain musical instruments. But we had to rate them based on their genre and we rate Biffy as a rock band. They can play, then can make some noise, they can craft a meaty riff and melody. They do what they do, but there’s nothing jaw-dropping.

Lyrics: 3. A few embarrassing moments which fall into the trap of shouting swears in lieu of genuine anger, but by and large the lyrics are serviceable and get their point across without being especially poignant, poetic, or ingenious.

Melody: 3. I’ve gone back and forth on a 3 or a 4 for this. The album is jam packed with melodies, but as yet there aren’t many moments which have stuck with me or that I can recall if I read the song title. I could understand a 4 here as the melodies would have more impact on me with further listens and because the are simple and immediate… they just lacked a single outstanding earworm which I couldn’t dislodge from my brain.

Emotion: 3. There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear, pain, sadness, even some happiness in there. None of it truly resonated with me personally, as much as I could feel it pouring from the writing and the performance. As someone who rates emotional connection as second only to melody in terms of my enjoyment of music, I can’t go higher than a three when it didn’t make me feel anything.

Lastibility: 3. Difficult to gauge at this point, even if the album is almost a year old. I don’t think people are still talking about it now – in today’s musical landscape, if your song or album is still in the charts or being actively engaged with and spoken of within 6 months of its release, that would be considered a huge win. While I don’t as much stock in this category for a modern album versus an album released in previous decades, it feels like only long time fans will continue to sing this one’s praises.

Vocals: 3. I raised some of my personal grievances with the vocals in the first part of my post, but assuming most listeners won’t share those issues I’m happy to go with a 3. Nothing emotional or distinct enough to make me consider going higher.

Coherence: 4. It’s coherent – it doesn’t jump about from style to style, it doesn’t feel like there were a lot of different cooks adding their spices to the broth, and each song feels like a Biffy Clyro song.

Mood: 3. There’s a mixture of introspection and the need to break free from those inner thoughts – a constant war between bottling up feelings and letting them out. It’s not much of a stay in and listen album, more of a collection of 3 or 4 songs which would be fun to jump around to at a festival.

Production: 3. Solid. Crisp. I would have preferred some more variety in the arrangement but the production holds clear where it matters – the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums.

Effort: 3. Whether or not bands put the same amount of effort into writing and recording an album late in their career versus starting out is an interesting question. The people doing the writing and recording would of course say they’ve worked their asses off. I have called this a fairly standard Biffy album, while critics who presumably know better than me have said how surprising and inventive it all is. I go with a 3 – 4 seems reasonable too.

Relationship: 3. I’ve already mentioned that the music and lyrics didn’t make any grand emotional or intellectual communication with me. It is still big shouty rock music, so even if it’s garbage (it’s not) there will be a bare minimum trace connection I can latch on to. This is the genre I have most affinity for and I understand what goes into making a good rock song. As also mentioned – if you know anything about the band, you’d know this was a Biffy album as soon as you heard a single song. They know what they’re doing and they’re still doing it.

Genre Relation: 3. It doesn’t do anything especially non-committal or shocking for the genres of rock or metal, but it was highly rated and sold well commercially – those factors count for a lot in this category as it means the album stands out over and above the albums which didn’t sell or received average reviews. It’s hardly the pinnacle of the genre and there are plenty of bands going today who are making much stronger, much less known albums. 3 for me.

Authenticity: 4. It’s true to what a Biffy album should be, even if it does aim to be more commercial. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be commercial, but there can be trouble if your band started out with a specific agenda or specific audience which you later move away from. This album should see the majority of existing fans happy with the end result, and the more commercial touches could invite new listeners.

Personal: 3. It’s fine. I can’t see me listening to it again, but I’m not a long-time fan. I’ve been aware of the band, I’ve seen them live, I’ve heard plenty of their songs, and while they’ve never been for me I appreciate their cult following. This album hasn’t changed how I feel about the band, but it’s cool they’re still going and that they’ve found their niche and are able to be successful. A handful of songs I had more than an average enjoyment for, a few annoying moments and choices, but by and large an album I’ll forget.

Miscellaneous: 2. Nothing striking about the artwork, any of the videos, nothing interesting about the release of the album that I’m aware of. Lets go with an average 2.

Total: 63/100

Let us know in the comments what you think of A Celebration Of Endings!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Charm School!

Charm School by Roxette: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Barbie movie called something like Charm School. That one where she’s Blair Willows. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to hear something we haven’t heard before, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’, and by ‘me’ I mean ‘I’. I haven’t heard any of this album before and in truth I don’t have high hopes. Charm School was the first album in ten years from Roxette, after the not so good Room Service. Marie had had a brain tumour you see, and that sort of thing gets in the way of, well, everything. But the band and Marie kept fighting and returned with another record. I have no idea what it’s like or what it’s about, but the best I’m hope for is one good single in the vein of their past greats – one song that I hear and can say ‘hey, that was actually pretty good’. Lets do this.

Way Out‘ starts out with some distant swirling before a laid back beat and acoustic guitar section starts. Per’s vocals should always take a back seat to Marie’s for me, but that’s me. It’s nice to hear that Roxette pop rock sound again, in this modern world of clipped melodies and auto-tuning. There’s some crisp guitar, some light melodies, and the chorus is as always the focal point. It’s not bad.

No One Makes It On Her Own‘ begins with Marie and piano. With a name like that, it’s easy to draw parallels with what she had been going through when gone from the public eye. Her vocals are still good, but is there some sort of mumble quality or lisp there now? Or is she struggling more with English? There’s definitely something a little different from before. Otherwise, this is very nice – a melody as simplistic as something like Imagine but honest and heartfelt. Two songs of varying B Grade quality.

She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)‘ opens with a funky beat and strange oozing distortion. Per leads again. The verse is guff, the chorus isn’t bad but too short versus the longer verse. The verse is C or D grade, the chorus B, the bridge B – whatever that works out for you. I’d call it the weakest song so far, but the most up-tempo.

Speak To Me‘ starts with one of those oriental sounding string instruments. More Per. A better melody and verse. The Marie comes in with a blast of a chorus – that’s a very Roxette chorus, very reminiscent of their heyday. It’s good. I get the impression that this one would act as a comeback anthem for diehards. It’s not challenging, just a reminder that they can still do the big emotive power pop thing when they choose to.

I’m Glad You Called‘ is slow acoustic guitars and the start. It’s Marie and that lisping mumbling quality is even more prominent here. It’s quite distracting, which is a shame because the music is quite lovely – no booming drums, but lots of string accompaniment and unusual vocal choices, even when Per joins. I think this could be really good with a more powerful vocalist in their prime, or Marie twenty years earlier.

Only When I Dream‘ kicks off with the big hook first, some fuzzing guitars and synth stuff alongside it. Per propels another decent atmospheric verse forwards before Marie joins. It keeps kicking on and building and then the chorus drops suddenly. It’s pretty good too, but those transitions are slightly too sudden – like there’s a few seconds just missing to connect the pieces and heighten the emotion and solidity. Still, it’s more compelling than most of what was on the last couple of albums and it actually feels like a return to form.

Dream On‘ opens with a nice acoustic flourish before trending towards an early Britpop sound – like James or one of those bands who were doing the Britpop thing before Blur and Oasis exploded. They’ve pulled way back on the experimental outbursts from the last album and are dedicating their focus on melody, which is a big plus for a band like this. Marie gets a quick hook in there too, followed by some harpsichord type jingling.

Big Black Cadillac‘ sounds like they’re going experimental again. There’s synth humming but at least it’s melody based again rather than just chucking in sounds for the sake of it. It’s more that they’ve said ‘instead of guitars, lets try this’. The verse is silly and bouncy, the chorus better. A little similar to some other songs on the album but not so overt as to make me discount it.

In My Own Way‘ is another slow one – arpeggio and Marie, singing more clearly now. Another good melody, more building in the background. We get the few seconds of space before the chorus. But is that the chorus or just another verse? That’s a shame as there is no clear and obvious standout chorus. The rest is good, though we probably didn’t need Per’s part.

After All‘ has another quirky Britpop approach. Feels like the start of a sitcom or a kids TV show. It’s fun and silly and nonchalant. This one feels like a sleeper single.

Happy On The Outside‘ has some brief synth beats and swirls which pull back to allow Marie’s vocals through. Atmospheric again, melody focused again. The chorus clearly owes a debt to Coldplay with the way the drums and piano jangle together, but the melodies remain strong. It all seems effortless, though the cynic in me could say they’re treading water and barely trying. I don’t think that’s the case – I think it’s more a case of them finding comfort in music again and re-introducing themselves to the world in the best way they know how.

Sitting On Top Of The World‘ has more synth sounds. Marie in the verse again and more decent verse. That plinky instrumental overlay reminds me of Michael Jackson’s Someone In The Dark from ET. It’s a strong ending, gentle, easy, clean, they’re not breaking any new ground but simply saying ‘hey, we haven’t been around for a while, but we’re back and we’re still doing that thing you like’.

Well, I got more than I asked for. Quite a few songs met my categorization of ‘pretty good’. When they stick to what I feel they are best at – emotive pop – then you know you’ll get some good stuff. When they try to branch out into different styles and approaches it tends to fall to pieces. Here the softer songs are stronger, the weaker tracks reserved more for the upbeat, up-tempo, more rock oriented songs. Also, it’s a consistent album – it doesn’t bounce from sound to sound and style to style, and it’s not bloated like some of their biggest released. As such, there are plenty of songs I’d gladly listen to again. I don’t think any of them come close to their absolute best, but a few drop into the same crowd as their second tier stuff. It definitely works as a comeback album, a reminder that they can still write crowd-pleasing anthems and emotional ballads. It would take sterner critic than me to complain about that, given the length of time they’ve been away and the circumstances surrounding their absence. If you like Roxette, or if at some point you’ve enjoyed their biggest hits, there will be something here to pull you in.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Charm School!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Speak To Me. No-One Makes It On Her Own. I’m Glad You Called. Only When I Dream. Dream On. After All. Happy On The Outside. Sitting On Top Of The World.

Little Trolls

One of Wire’s finest lyrical moments, this one is a savage response to some journalist’s racist attack on the Welsh; if there’s one lesson folks, it’s that you don’t go up against a Manic in a verbal war and hope to win. The lyrics are of course brilliant; funny, perfect one-liners, and Bradfield’s deadpan delivery is spectacular.

Musically there isn’t a whole lot to say – a simple blending of electric and acoustic, notable only because of the little middle section where Bradfield shrieks like a monster. There are easily missed moments of interest – the acoustic guitars feel like they’re being played with a floor brush rather than by hand, and the electric parts are extra fuzzy. The percussion is light in the mix too.

At its core this is a protest song with a simple hook, and you feel like it wouldn’t be as fondly remembered if the lyrics had been unremarkable.

Little Trolls: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Critic, writer, Journo, dead guy, A A Gill wrote a piece on Wales and Welsh people in The Sunday Times for some reason. He didn’t think much of the Welsh, and described them as dirty, ugly little trolls and other such jibes. His comments were even reported to the Commission for Racial Equality, to which he responded that he couldn’t care less as the Welsh have said plenty about the English with no comeback. While much of what was said was done in a tongue in cheek manner, the twat clearly had some deep-seated issues with the Welsh which he covered up with the bravado of Trump-supporting Podcaster. Wire didn’t approve of the insults and responded in kind.

Misheard Lyrics: You taste but ridiculous

2: Pay your dues and pay your tolls

3: Live like animals/Live like Hannah Balls/Live like Anna Boulds

Actual Lyrics: Your taste buds ridiculous

2: Pay our dues and pay our tolls

3: Live like cannibals

Let us know what you think of Little Trolls in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Judas Priest – British Steel (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

See the source image

Greetings, Glancers! I realise it hasn’t been that long since my previous (first) Judas Priest album, but I’m following Martin Popoff’s list chronologically and he seems to have a thing for men in leather. British Steel is of course an album I’ve heard of and it frequently hovers near the top of the Heavy Metal Premier League. I don’t know much about the album, and in these reviews I want go in with limited knowledge so that I don’t add any further bias. I do look at the album cover and the tracklisting – the cover is very familiar to me, and I’ve heard a couple of the songs – at least two are metal classics familiar to most metal fans of a certain age. The cover is fine – not quite iconic, not embarrassing, though I could have done without the cute little spiked bracelet. Then again, this is Judas Priest. I mostly enjoyed my last JP outing so I’m hoping for a similar positive experience today. Lets do this.

‘Rapid Fire’ gets us off (matron) to an almost blistering start. Simple guitars, furious drums, plain vocals and melodies. They repeat the main chord slide as if it’s some revelation, but it’s one of the first things you try when you learn power chords. They discard this thankfully for some more intricate solo play in the next section, but bring it back for the final stages. Halford finally shows his pipes on the last note and some stormy percussion takes over, leading into…

‘Metal Gods’ – a slower song. It’s very plain again and doesn’t make any interesting choices until the synth-like singing of metal gods before the decent solo. It isn’t notably forceful or melodic, but it does allow for the sound of a whip cracking which always raises a giggle.

‘Breakin The Law’ is of course a classic. It’s one of the most famous metal songs of all time, in that people who don’t listen to metal know it. They get away with the chanting nature of the chorus by not shouting it, by not making it melodic. It’s a literal chant, and all the more musical and memorable for it. It has a great riff and the verses and bridges are melodic, and it’s both short and punk-driven rather than trying to pulverize you. Then the lyrics compliment that rebellious streak which Metal is supposed to embody, in a cheery 80s sort of way.

‘Grinder’ has a driving bass and beat and that unique 80s way of conveying masculine swagger. It’s another song which sacrifices speed for stomp and doesn’t go out of its way to provide a vocal hook. The main chord line is fine again – very simple and doesn’t leap out.

‘United’ is the slowest song yet. It still stomps. It has the most bizarre chorus – it’s ridiculously cheesy and soft – I get the message they’re going for, but it feels like Queen via Westlife through an ill-advised football chant. It’s truly awful, but props for trying something like it. The pre-chorus isn’t as bad, but seriously, wtf?

‘You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise’ sounds more promising. Props to the clean production – everything is crisp, clear, and meaty. This 30 second intro already feels more like an anthem than whatever that last disaster was. Halford at least sounds like he’s biting on this one, wrapping his gums around the words and spicing them up. There’s a touch of AC/DC here, which can either be a very bad thing, or not so bad, and Halford goes a little Plant at times. It’s not the fastest son in the world, something as a whole the album seems to lack.

‘Living After Midnight’ is another famous one. Could be another case of an album being acclaimed because of a couple of hit singles. That’s the way these things usually go. It’s not as good as Breaking The Law, but it’s a fun metal-lite song, catchy, and the sort of song people who don’t like metal can mistakenly head-bang to.

‘The Rage’ opens with bass plonking all over the place, then it sounds like they’re going reggae, then the crunch sweeps both away. Halford sounds more keen on this one too. Decent solo, back to the reggae, back to the crunch. It’s not bad.

‘Steeler’ is the fast song I’ve been waiting for. A quick check lets me know this album came before Screaming For Vengeance, so maybe they hadn’t quite latched on to the speed angle yet? This proves they have the chops – the drums and guitars outshine most of the rest of the album, though it’s not the most creative and the melodies aren’t there. I can tell the influence this had on other British bands of the era.

Well, that was a disappointment considering how I felt about Screaming. Aside from the two songs I knew going in, the rest of it seems and sounds average. Maybe because I’ve heard so much metal in the years since this was released this feels very tame. Tame and lacking in creativity and energy. Still, it’s obvious they can play, it’s obvious they can write a hit, it just seems that they needed another couple of years to hone in on their most potent skills. It’s not a bad album – distinctly average in the grand scheme of things, and a let down because of the hype.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Breaking The Law. Living After Midnight. Steeler.

She Is Suffering

I’ve always felt this to be the weakest song on The Holy Bible – too dreary and too distant from the more severe emotions which run through the rest of the album. This is unusual because it retains the quintessential Holy Bible atmosphere and obviously the Production ensures that there isn’t any other album it would work on. Maybe it’s the pacing -it meanders and plods and remains on a single level. It’s the weakest song, but it’s the weakest song on as perfect and harrowing an album as you’ll ever hear.

It does unsurprisingly have a superb lyric, and taken as a standalone song the melodies and tone work much better versus listening to it on an album run through. The US mix adds more depth and warmth and becomes the more interesting version musically, but it still lacks something which makes me love it as much as the rest of the album. It does have a blistering, basic guitar solo though, always a bonus.

The song was a single, reaching number 25, and accompanied by a truly unnerving and creepy video involving mannequins. It’s not very good, but it leaves an impact which is more than can be said for most Manics videos which are simply not very good.

She Is Suffering: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Like much of the album, this song is definitely about something but unlike the more overt political statements or concrete glimpses into Richey’s state of mind, She Is Suffering is more obtuse and open for interpretation. Logic dictates that the key to unlocking the song is deciding who, or what ‘she’ is and why or how she is suffering. Some have tried to identify a real life person, some have said it’s Richey and Nicky equating themselves to femininity, others that it’s the dichotomy between the pointlessness of and need for sex (stretching the narrative to being about a real life story of cheating or betrayal) but the most common interpretation is that ‘she’ is simply the personification of ‘beauty’. Beauty means suffering. Going directly to the source, Richey himself described the song as detailing the horrors of desire and the need to rid yourself of all want to become pure.

Misheard Lyrics: She is suffering upon her death.

2. Beauty she is God

3. It’s not an insult/it’s a body’s soul/into my own soul

4. Carry on

5. Unfair for all

6. The less she can stammer

Actual Lyrics: She is suffering yet more than death.

2. Beauty she is scarred

3. Into man’s soul

4. Carrion

5. Unfaithful all

6. The less she gives the more

Let us know in the comments what you think of She Is Suffering!

Nightman Listens To Lightfoot – Gordon Lightfoot (1966 Series)!

Lightfoot! - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Never trust an album which ends with a exclamation mark. Anyway, I don’t know an awful lot about Gordon Lightfoot beyond that he’s a singer songwriter. At least that should mean we get an album of original material rather than the same old covers and standards. Looking at the tracklist, there is one song I recognise – a cover –  but it’s a song I like. Lets see what this is all about.

Rich Man’s Spiritual: Lovely folk guitar intro, fills you with warmth and happiness. Vocals a little too deep, too Country for my tastes. Lyrics hit that idyllic 60s vibe. The vocals don’t hit the emotional peaks I’d want and the melodies are too short and cyclical. Still, good enough start.

Long River: Great guitar again, smooth and sweet. There’s still that flicker of Country in the vocals, which makes sense given what he’s singing about. Vocals are nice though, easy to swallow without being too saccharine. A whistling part. Good, but too middle of the road for my tastes.

The Way I Feel: There’s something I love about just a singer and a guitar and no other crap. It does get samey after a while if I listen to too much – much faster than a standard band with full arrangement. The music and melody in this one are more interesting. It’s music for a contemplative mood. Too much of it puts me in a funk. Especially when it’s repetitive like this.

For Lovin Me: Faster. Definitely more Country. A more fun song but still missing the emotional hook or the quality melody or the sense of change and dynamics.

The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face: Lets see what he does with this. I’ve loved versions of this – I can barely listen to the original though. This is unfortunately closer to the original. It’s more palatable than the original, but it’s drained of emotion. He’s just singing sweetly and I feel no connection to the words, and the melody and phrasing are changed from those versions I like. He seems to never change his approach – every new verse is delivered in the exact same way – he may as well be reciting the alphabet.

Changes: Another cover I believe, though I’m not as familiar with the original. It’s sweet again but every positive and negative I’ve mentioned on every other song also applies here. There’s a lot more to go folks.

Early Morning Rain: Faster. Lighter. More singing. Competent.

Steel Rail Blues: Into the second half and more of the same. This has more of a hook, every so often. White boy blues. More lyrics about going home or going somewhere.

Sixteen Miles: The thing about folk music that I like and can listen to consistently always comes down to the voice – Lightfoot has a good voice, regardless of whether it’s the style I prefer – but it’s that lack of change in his delivery. Taylor, Mitchell, hell even Dylan will change it up from line to line – adding inflections, slurs, runs, a bit of gravel, a bit of force or restraint. This guy just sings at the same plateau and it really does make the whole repetitive.

I’m Not Sayin: Another faster, lighter one. Musically. The lyrics are typically good – descriptive if not overly poetic or unique. Better than most chart drivel. This one is more fun than most and I could see myself choosing this over the others. I’m not sayin I would, but if I was forced to choose.

Pride Of Man: This is in a similar pace to the one before. I prefer these faster ones – not just because he gets through them soon, but they feel more urgent.

Ribbon Of Darkness: Country whistlin’. Quite possibly while sittin’ on a rockin’ chair, drinkin’ and a spittin’ and a lookin’ o’er a field of wheat. Slows nicely before resuming for the verse. Or was it the chorus? It’s all just a bunch of words and unvaried guitar now.

Oh Linda: Well, this one is different. Leading with some sort of bass. That alone has allowed him to try something different with his vocals and melodies. Unfortunately he falls back on the same traps and just keeps doing the same thing over and over and over. CHANGE. SOMETHING.

Peaceful Waters: This is moderately different again. Feels genuinely melancholy. Too little too late, and not startling enough to truly stand out.

As is often the case with many of these albums, I dig the first song but then thee next few sound the same, and then it becomes apparent that the singer or band have one level. Or at least that’s how it’s conveyed to me. Towards the end of this album he broaches new territory but doesn’t actually do anything with it. Maybe that’s the restriction of folk, maybe that’s because he is restricted as an artist and couldn’t break through the tropes. Maybe it’s because I’m writing from fifty years after the songs were written and everything here has become so hackneyed and watered down that whatever truth and power it may have had has long since faded. Whatever emotion he put into these songs doesn’t translate to me, whether that be down to the genre, his voice, his vocal approach. There isn’t enough in any of the songs to grip me or speak to me on a melodic level and even as much as I enjoy the simplicity of a solo performance, the limitations of that approach become apparent very quickly over the course of a whole album. Unless you’re a beast. Lightfoot is not a beast.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Lightfoot!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: None are bad, though none are really good. So take your pick as any is as average as the next.

Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – Shine A Light!

Shine A Light by Bryan Adams: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. And by ‘they’, I mean Bryan Adams. Yes, even though I had finished my run through of every Bryan Adams album, he went and released another in 2019. According to the charts it has done okay so far, hitting Number 1 in Canada and Number 2 in the UK, no doubt helped by the fact that the title track was co-penned by everybody’s favourite talent-free flavour of the month Ed ‘I’m not Paulo Nutini’ Sheeran. I haven’t actually heard that song, or any others from the album, but it does close with a cover of Whiskey In The Jar so that’s one I’ll be sort of familiar with. Let’s do this.

Shine A Light: Immediately it has that Coldplay/Sheeran repetitive beat. The verse melodies are sweeter than most of what passed for melody on his last album, but the chorus is a mere extension of this with no great ideas. Adams voice – it still sounds like him but it feels somehow artificial. It’s too tame a single to make much impact, not bland or lovey-dovey or modern enough to appeal to the Sheeran crowd.

That’s How Strong Our Love Is: J-Lo’s involved in this? Never liked her as a singer, never much cared for her as a person, always thought she was an underrated actress. A guy I knew in school despised her and back then would have been a prime suspect if her house was ever egged. This feels like a 90s boy/girl band ballad complete with wafer beats. It’s a direct duet with drippy melodies, but with Lopez barely audible in the chorus. It’s boring, soulless stuff, though Lopez’s verse vocals and occasional yelps do add a sign of life.

Part Friday Night, Part Sunday Morning: A more driving traditional rock song, though light on the guitars at the outset. Adams does this drooling thing with the vocals during the verse, as if he’s slurring the words. Stronger lyrics than he’s done for a while and much better melodies. It’s not one of his best but in terms of his last handful of albums it’s one of the better songs.

Driving Under The Influence Of Love: Or, it’s hard to steer whilst receiving a BJ. This one starts like a shit-kicker, complete with beer drenched bar stool piano and crunchy guitars. Adams gives the vocals the old blues rock swagger and the lyrics are pretty funny. He’s clearly having a good time with this one and it’s one which will probably get the crowd grooving in the live shows – all the better if it’s played in a jukebox dive.

All Or Nothing: AC/DC? At least the album has picked up after a fairly bland start, the subsequent three tracks being much more what we expect from Adams, with the added plus of actually being decent. Again if we’re comparing with his best work this is a few rungs down the ladder but in terms of his recent stuff its much closer to the top. Better melodies, more feeling, and a genuinely catchy chorus.

No Time For Love: I couldn’t actually find a good version of this song to listen to – so your guess is as good as mine….

I Could Get Used To This: A decent riff given space to breathe, followed up with some catchy ‘woo ooh yeah yeah’ refrains – it looks like Adams and Vallance have remembered how to write something worthwhile. This one is very cyclical, a collection of verses revolving around the central riff and brought together by the ‘woos’ and harmonies. It’s very short though.

Talk To Me: Hmm, going for a Lennon Imagine feel with the beat, sound, and piano. It’s a straight to the point ballad. Guitars subtle in the background of the verses. It really does sound like Imagine. It’s more sleepy than that and not as exciting, the chorus not as strong as the verse.

The Last Night On Earth: Now he’s channeling The Strokes. Luckily, it’s good. The verse is anyway, the chorus is a step down even with the ‘wooo’ stuff. I wish he’d used real drums instead of that wafer crap. It’s fine, fun enough that existing fans should get a kick out of. The guitar lines are good, just the chorus didn’t go where I wanted it to.

Nobody’s Girl: A wispy intro explodes into life before a driving verse brings coherence. This time the verse and chorus are closer in quality, though I do still find the verse more potent. It’s a good foot-tapping Adams song, similar to what he was putting out in the second half of the 90s.

Don’t Look Back: An honest sentiment delivered with charm and simplicity. This is a good all-rounder with the melody, lyric, and emotion not peaking or dipping from start to finish.

Whiskey In The Jar: Lets hope it’s more like Metallica and not like the original. Well, it certainly ain’t Metallica – it’s more like an acoustic version of that or the Thin Lizzy take. Good vocals, though there’s some effect work going on which is either covering some cracks or making an ill-advised stylistic choice. That does mean the great guitar riff is replaced by some harmonica wailing. It’s decent, but you’re never going to pick it over Metallica.

Well, that was a significant step up from his last album. At least we can now confirm that he didn’t end his career on that dud. This does contain a number of good songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, although I’m probably assigning more credit to them by virtue of them being better than the previous album’s songs. Still, no single song here is going to crack his best twenty or thirty songs but they do remind us that he can still write and rock this late in the game.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Nobody’s Girl. I Could Get Used To This. All Or Nothing. Driving Under The Influence Of Love. Part Friday Night, Part Sunday Morning. Don’t Look Back.

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Afraid Of Sunlight (Side A)

Afraid of Sunlight - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Last time we were here, I had some sort of idea of what Brave would involve. I knew going in that it dealt with dark and difficult subject matter, I knew it was divisive, and I knew that many existing fans struggled with it. For today’s album – Afraid Of Sunlight – I know next to nothing. I believe Paul and Sanja have mentioned that it sounds unlike anything the band had done to this point (though that has been said of quite a few of the albums so far) and I think Paul might have called it his favourite Marillion album…? Or the best…?

The artwork may suggest some of the secrets within. It features a semi-nude boy clasping a two-by-four, standing in front of a flaming ring. Is he about to enter the Royal Rumble, swinging his ‘staff’ a la Hacksaw Jim Duggan? Is he about to swivel, hop on a skateboard, and land a sweet jump through the fiery void? But what’s that stapled to his shoulders? Wings, you say? So the lad is a representation of an angel, looking suitably cherubic and forlorn with his eyes cast downwards in pity/sorrow/sadness/regret/disappointment. Has he just traversed some portal between dimensions, leaving an orb of flames in his wake? Did he then check out the state of humanity and say ‘nope’ before scuttling back through? Why are Angels always effeminate boys or muscle-bound A-List types? Biblical depictions of Angels are as monstrous, insanity inducing freakshows, specimens beyond description which defy our puny logic. It’s an eye-catching image, but time will tell how relevant it is to the album content.

Peaking at the tracklist – as expected there’s nothing I recognise. There is a title track, but also a song called Afraid Of Sunrise – similar song names by Prog Bands usually suggest some connectivity between the songs or hint that the album has an overarching Concept. The first two songs have quite interesting names – I’m already invested in whatever the hell Cannibal Surf Babe is, and I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Troma movie with the same name. Beyond that, it’s a shorter album than Brave – not even an hour long. That’s still beyond the average 45 minutes for an album, but I’m guessing it’s short by Prog standards. If anything it should mean my posts are shorter – which we kind of need at this point or I’ll be in grave danger of falling irretrievably behind. Enough!

Gazpacho kicks things off with a Pink Floyd-esque intro – soundbites and sound effects. The spoken word piece sounds like a Beatle, and there’s some crowd chanting and a literal vocal introduction. The music reminds me of some of the more sampled moments by The Gathering and there is a slight Church atmosphere, like the sort of score you hear in idealised cinematic visions of Heaven or Church. This quickly gives way to a jangling guitar intro – heavy with the bass and twinkling. It gives distinct vibes of Ska,  New Order, and The Police – not three things I have much time for.

I didn’t have a lot of fondness for this song when I first heard it – my enjoyment has improved since then, but I would still rate it quite low alongside the other songs on the album because of those early impressions and comparisons I made. I’m not a huge fan of soundbites and spoken parts in songs, but in most cases I can tolerate those if they feel integral to the story or tone. There’s quite a lot going on in the song – it rarely feels grounded in one style; like a good prog song should, it shoots off in numerous different directions with only the barest of repetition, and the seven and a half minutes fly by. It’s a lighter song overall than anything we heard from the band last time around, hinting that they got all that pesky darkness out of their souls, and each instrument is notable in the mix – with the drums and bass standing out more than I would usually notice.

From what I gathered on my first casual listens of the song, it seems to concern media and fame. Gazpacho is what… a cold soup of some sort? Does it have another meaning? Looking more closely at the lyrics. The first verse suggests some of the prices of fame – it’s lonely at the top and the quick rise can lead to sudden excess and burnout. The second verse (chorus?) is the media or audience reaction, with people on the outside assuming the person in question was untouchable and unstoppable, yet as we know, the media loves a good story about falling from fame. The third verse touches more violent aspects – even though everything is seemingly perfect on the outside, people are still people, will argue, will fight, and will occasionally kill. It’s at this point I should admit that while reading the lyrics I accidentally saw that the soundbite is from a news report concerning OJ Simpson’s infamous escape. Which makes the song somewhat more clear, and tells us more about why the song is called Gazpacho. Was that word actually used in the case? I don’t know much about the case, beyond my form teacher bringing it up every day in School.

What’s with all of the boxing references throughout the song? Was this around the same time Tyson was beating people and throwing them downstairs? So there is more than one subject behind the lyrics. Nice use of the lingo in any case. The song ends with a suggestion that the famous can get away with anything – in the case of Tyson and Simpson… nuff said?

Cannibal Surf Babe is something of a shark jumping moment and I worried that the band had lost the plot. While I enjoyed the first song, it was a clearly different approach from Brave. The second track takes this even further as it doesn’t sound like anything they had done to this point. It feels like a joke song, down to the title, down to the lyrics, down to the pastiche music. It made me think of those strange one off songs which every big rock band or artist seems to drop and which inevitably becomes divisive within their fandom – Carouselambra or Down By The Seaside by Led Zeppelin, Jagger and Bowie with that Dancing In The Street disaster? A lot about this song irritated me first time around –  the faix whispered, faux American accent vocals, the spooky theremin, the WEEEEIIIIIRRRRD, the handclaps, the silly keyboards, the spoken parts. But I assume it’s all tongue in cheek, right? Just a bit of fun, right?

On the plus side, the melodies are fun, it’s fast paced and light, there’s a Beatles influenced backwards guitar solo, and the lyrics are amusing. It’s refreshing that the band is playing around with different sounds this deep into their career, and it’s an accurate send up of a surfer rock song, complete with Mr Wilson references and Beach Boys oooh ooooh harmonies. There’s maybe even a little touch of Bowie in the vocals and lyrics?

Speaking of the lyrics, they’re a teenage fantasy, a collection of Carry On liners with a US slant. If you hadn’t worked out that the song’s a bit of a piss-take from the music, then the lyrics confirm it.  Having said that, the choice of words and the images they conjure are a cut above the likes of AC/DC, Sid James, and other horny counterparts, as well as being genuinely funny in places – ‘nothing she said could be defended’ offering up thoughts up some hot young thing with incredibly dubious opinions. I’m guessing the song can be taken at face value, or in a variety of other ways. The second verse made me think of any number of movies – the seductive killer alien in Species (or later in the experimental Under The Skin), the Tetsuo inspired Return Of The Living Dead III, or even the genetic horrors and AI morality tale of Splice and Ex Machina. As for what someone who’s just had sex with a Tyrannosaurus Rex looks like…. I’d rather not imagine such gooey, stretched pulp.

Thankfully Beautiful gets us back on track. There’s no doubt it’s saccharine, that the keyboards and overall tone seem eternally lodged in the 80s, but regular glancers will know I’m a sucker for a good power ballad. This one differs from your standard romantic or pained content by actually being about something – a return to the environmentally conscious themes the band have tackled before. It’s a return to the commercial pop sound of Holidays In Exile and as such, it’s quite lovely. I’m not sure I’d play it in front of my mates, for fear of being ridiculed and/or knee-capped but I imagine it’s another lighters up, sway sideways brother moment when performed live. For such a sweet, gentle song, I don’t have a lot to say about it. I expect that this one is both a fan favourite, and one which may get a fair bit of ribbing or dismissal for fans of the band’s heavier or more progressive efforts.

As I read the lyrics, it’s less certain that the song actually is about the environment. Certainly you could apply that read, and it’s probably the most accurate, but for a five minute song there isn’t a huge variety to the lyrics. We have the opening few lines, and the rest of the song is vague repetition. You could interpret the leaves turning brown and being trodden down as… anything you like – beautiful things, people, places. The other offering in those opening lines is the cynicism of appreciating beautiful things, and the perceived shame and embarrassment others may put upon you for enjoying them, while those cynics prioritize material objects. Like the music, the lyrics are plain, straightforward, but the whole product works.

Afraid Of Sunrise takes the band again into new territory. Like a lazy late Spring day, lying atop a bale of hay anthropomorphising the clouds and dreaming of School’s end but also dreading, I don’t know, the Saturday morning TV shows like Going Live being replaced by their shitty Summer counterparts. The song opens with bouncy videogame bass sounds. There’s a specific game that sound is making me think of, but I can’t quite put my finger which game, or level, it is. Throughout there are a lot of tinkling twinkling guitars and pastoral flute type parps which I assume are actually keyboards – each piece adds to that feeling of a laid-back care free day. Given that the song is called Afraid Of Sunrise I’m sure there’s more to the thematic content.

Around the halfway point there is a departure into a different key which pushes the song briefly into a different tonal space. The flute sounds are replaced by more tension driven strings and the vocals fill up with more echo and reverb – it breaks up the song and offers just a hint of apprehension, something more darker, something not quite right threatening to darken the day. The vocals are largely restrained – even when hitting the bigger notes there’s the sense of holding back a little which again feeds into that laid-back atmosphere. On the vocal front H reminds me, not for the first time, of the little known band Haven and their singer Gary Briggs. Here’s a link to one of their songs – Briggs doesn’t have as deep a tone as H, but it’s a comparison I’ve felt numerous times, and Afraid Of Sunrise is a song similar enough in style to Haven’s usual music. Haven were probably accused of being somewhat bland and unadventurous, especially with their second and final album, but the emotive nature of their debut ignores any lack of originality – I could argue the same for Afraid Of Sunrise. While it is newish territory for Marillion, and while they’re playing with different sounds again, it’s a safe song. It’s safe compositionally and it’s a soft rock/pop song with little or no Prog influence. There are enough little moments which spice the whole thing up – the rapid percussion in the closing minute and the unnerving increase of instruments in the final moments even as the song is fading out. It’s a song I fully enjoyed in the short term, but I’m not sure if it has the legs to always interest me in the future, and there are things I was expecting which never came such as harmonic vocals to fill in some of the space between the lines.

Out of the lyrics I picked out before Googling them, ‘fingers in desire’s crack’ certainly stood out for all the wrong reasons and the bit about a ‘day-glo Jesus’ I picked up on because I think it comes up again in a later song. I noticed enough of the other lyrics to get the impression that the song is possibly about travel… there’s a sense of movement, of driving, with references to roads. Songs which reference driving, as long as they’re not complete nonsense, tend to be about escaping something or finding something. The ‘dressed in black/no turning back’ would suggest the former, while the first verse certainly tells us that we’re on the road heading indistinctly away. The rest of the song follows suit. I had to search what an Agave flower was – tied to the name drops of Nevada, Great White Way, and possibly Phoenix, are we escaping to the border? Could the song be OJ’s escapades? I’m guessing not as it sounds far too laid back for something so dramatic as fleeing from the law, but is it about some other real life ‘escape’? There isn’t enough detail to provide me with any more informed guesses. I’m sure the podcast has more to say.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

The podcast opens with some pre-divorce insults. I struggle to get comfortable too, especially in bed. It has been a while between episodes, but probably not as long as my posts are taking. I do see that there are three episodes on this album so that usually gives me a chance to catch up (as I write these podcast thoughts after I’ve written my album thoughts). I haven’t revisited any album yet, but I’ve listened to plenty of songs again – mostly Kayleigh, Script For A Jester’s Tear, and Cover My Eyes. In my defence, I do listen to a lot of other crap, watch a lot of movies, read a lot, and of course have a family and a full time job – getting to this. takes. time. So for anyone who is reading and looking forward to my posts – thanks, sorry, and keep reading!

Knocking out albums rapid-fire isn’t really something which happens much anymore, is it? It wasn’t the norm in the 90s at least. If we look back to the 60s and 70s, The Beatles, The Stones, and everyone else – those guys frequently released 1-2 albums each year. Marillion did it, under a fair amount of pressure from what it sounds, although it followed the trend of not getting much marketing traction or commercial success. I was wondering if there were two different album covers, because when I googled the image both came up – but I assumed the day glo Jesus was maybe the back cover. Oh, it was the back cover. There you go. I can’t say I noticed any brown. I think there is a ‘The Brown Album’ already, by Ween or someone. A quick Google says there are several. Not by Ween though.

I didn’t get the overall sense that this was a Concept album. There is connective tissue, but not enough. Bearing in mind the Concept albums I know really lean in to a story and theme and connectivity in music and lyric. The songs and their varying sounds push against the notion of a consistent sound. Apparently the (loose) concept is fame, its dangers, being sick of it, while H’s marriage was on the rocks too. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have this weird thing about fame where there are people I’d love to meet and there are people I look up to that I have met or seen on the street, but I go out of my way to not talk to them. I’ve seen some of my most loved musicians walking around the city before a gig, and as much as I’d love to spend the next 6 hours being best mates, I cross the road and ignore them or at best give a nod as I walk by rather than bum-rushing them into a corner and begging for an autograph. I am nobody and I don’t like being disturbed when I’m doing my own thing, and especially when I’m walking by myself I’ve accidentally walked past some of my best mates and not noticed they’re there because I’m in my own head.

We talk a bit about OJ and Tyson and the others who had fallen apart in the 90s. This was post Cobain, this was post Richey Edwards (no idea if Marillion knew who he was), and was the first batch of Michael Jackson stuff coming out around this time? There was certainly a spotlight on FAME at the time as some of the greats were falling from grace or indeed losing their lives. I admit I didn’t catch the Afraid Of Sunlight as being afraid of the spotlight, but that seems very obvious now based on Sanja’s interpretation. Turns out this episode is not going to go through the songs as the guys have spent time talking about the album as a whole, with Paul saying it’s one of his favourites and Sanja still infected by Brave’s dark wonder to fully get on board with the overall lighter and accessible Afraid Of Sunrise. Hey, I could do 24 episodes on The Holy Bible. Easily. Lets go straight into the next episode. Concise is great? You’ve come to the wrong blog.

We kick off with Gazpacho, a song Sanja thinks is fine – enjoys the bass, enjoys that it’s different from Brave, not much else. Paul reveals that the spoken part is in fact an actor reciting a John Lennon quote. Sanja’s interpretation is of someone whose fame is such that they feel they can do anything, but on this one occasion they go too far. For the fame to addiction/crime ratio…I’ve always felt it’s dramatically increased when it happen when you’re not ready or expecting it. Not that you can ever really be ready for it, but look at the classic Hollywood child actor thing – they have the world at their feet at such a young age that it’s perfectly natural that they’re going to be all sorts of fucked up in adolescence and adulthood. Sanja mentions the 27 Club. Paul mentions some famous people he has met who are clearly hiding their troubles or worse. Whether that’s the privileged nature of fame and the box-checking exercise of going from meeting to promo to interview endlessly, or something which speaks to the trend that its the more sociopathic among us who get into these lofty positions – being outside of it all I can’t say I’m too experienced in dealing with my betters. I will say that in my line of work, with its archaic hierarchical structure, the same feelings apply and I’ve had plenty of chats with senior types who are not so good at hiding their true nature. My feelings can be summed up by that scene in Audition when we see the lead actress at home alone, smiling when the phone rings – we see her true state. When in front of the crowd or the camera, it’s all a show, but when you’re home alone and the lights are out and the clamour and din is gone, what’s left but you?

Sanja hits it on the head. The older I get, the more amazed I am at how young the kids are who get the fame. When I was that age I have no doubt I would have been as sucked in as anyone else, but the fact that I was already grounded and sceptical of fame in advance would hopefully have countered some of the more dubious antics. When I was younger and making music and hoping for stardom – it wasn’t the stardom I was after, I wanted to create and I was making stuff that I enjoyed hearing or reading or seeing, and I wanted the people out there who may be like me to potentially enjoy it too. Sadly that means being part of the monster. This blog is as much of a creative outlet as I have these days, not that I put any serious creative effort into it, but the most important thing is that I enjoy it – and maybe someone else out there likes to read it every so often. But I won’t equate writing a blog with a thousand followers (many of whom are bots) to being an A lister, so lets get on with it. To close, there is a history of the ‘best musicians/entertainers’ not wanting any of the fame – it’s like the old saying about people who want to be on the radio as a DJ – the worst thing you should say in an interview is how much you love music, because you’re there to sell a product, to sell the station and to do as your told – music has nothing to do with it.

Sanja doesn’t know what’s going on with Cannibal Whatsisface. We all laugh at the Steven Wilson bit. It’s a bit of fun, can’t see me ever going back to it. Paul loves it. I can see the reasoning if you’re not a fan of the straight rock songs, as this is a silly slice of silliness. On to Beautiful, which Sanja does love. Sanja was confused by the lyrics, believing that the world currently holds beautiful things on a pedestal – that’s not incorrect as the world does do this, but I definitely read it as calling out the hypocrisy and shallow nature of what is placed on the pedestal over and above the more fragile, natural things – or as Paul says, the fact that we are all beautiful. Paul sees Beautiful as a more major version of the pop oriented ballads they’d done before, having not enjoyed it upon release. No mention of the environment though.

On to Afraid Of Sunrise, which was a single set of lyrics which became two songs. I’ve never been on a Great American road-trip, though I have driven the wrong way up several roads outside Chicago on numerous occasions, and got last trying to make my way back to my hotel. Damn block system – why do you need a Dunkin Donuts and a Wendy’s on every single block? I appreciate and understand the love of space. It’s something I enjoy, and have always imagined living in a house on the edge of a fjord with no-one around for miles, like some Stringfellow Hawke weirdo. Even the simplicity of walking around the town or city at night when there isn’t anyone around – the place takes on a different atmosphere and character. Here in Northern Ireland it’s not difficult to find space – I spent my childhood Summers in an area known as the Mourne Mountains where my parents came from. As much as I ridicule my own Country, there’s no doubting some of the natural beauty of that area and it’s easy to go wandering and feel completely isolated in the most positive way. It’s nothing on the scale of what the US has of course, but as social as our species is I think there’s an innate need for exploration or some nomadic need to be out in the middle of nowhere and nothing.

Turns out there may not be a single plot or driving force(pardon the pun) behind the song. Paul does share any explanation from the writers, instead saying it’s another song which is designed to evoke a feeling and atmosphere rather than being about ‘x’. In truth, when I go to the US I always stick on the Classic Rock stations – because we simply don’t have anything like that over here. Even though I know every song inside out, they somehow feel different while driving in America. That’s where we leave things today. I’m off to cut the grass. Let us know in the comments what you think of Afraid Of Sunlight and don’t forget to go listen to BYAMPOD!