Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Market Square Heroes!

cover art for Grendel!

Greetings, Glancers! In my introductory post, I neglected to mention that Wikipedia states there have been, what, 19 Marillion Studio Albums. Maaan, this is going to take a while. And Market Square Heroes is merely a non studio single. For those wondering – I’m taking Mr Biffo/Paul Roses’ lead on this and listening to whatever his episodes suggest. Episode 1 of his Podcast covers only this single – maybe the B-sides – I haven’t listened to the episode or the song as of writing this intro, but those are what I will be listening to before returning to this post and giving my thoughts.

But before any of that, I wanted to learn a little more about the band, their history, members, success etc. Is that cheating? Should I go in cold? Perhaps, but I like a little early context before doing these things. Given that I’m not an uber-nerd about the band, I’m not going to go hunting down books and interviews and forums, or do any sort of real research beyond the ever reliable Wikipedia – so if any of the following information is incorrect – forgiveness, please.

Marillion is a British Rock band. They were formed in Aylesbury in 1979, emerging from the Post Punk scene of the era. I’m never sure precisely what that ’emerged from’ phrase means – it can mean anything from ‘it was a reaction against’ to ‘it was an evolution of’ to ‘the members used to be in punk and post punk bands but decided to form something else’. I don’t know which, if any, of those statements are accurate. There seems to be two distinct phases of the band, following their frontmen, with the Fish era from beginning to 1988 and the Steve Hogarth (Hogwarts?) continuing to today from 1989. That seems like a good time to to check on the members of the band. Fish was the lead singer and lyricist, has been said to sound like Roger Daltry and Peter Gabriel, has been called one of the great frontmen, he was inspired by the more experimental artists of the 60s and 70s, and he joined Marillion in 1981. He has since gone on to make spoken word albums, which sounds terrible.

There are a bunch of ex-members with little info and I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole – Brian ‘Hartley’s Jelly’ Jelliman, Doug ‘Eddie’ Irvine, Diz ‘Innit’ Minnitt, John ‘I already have one of these funny names “Martyr”‘ Marter. There was also Jonathan ‘Sofa’ Mover who was a drummer who went on to form a Prog Supergroup and also worked with my mate Alice Cooper, there was Michael ‘No Sisters’ Pointer who was described as ‘awful’ by Fish. The current lineup features Hogwarts – he has worked with lots of people and been in other bands I’ve never heard of, Steve ‘Can’t think of one’ Rothary on guitar, Mark ‘Matthew’ Kelly on keyboards, Pete ‘Goldeneye’ Trewavas on bass and guitar and keyboards, and Ian ‘Bill’ Mosley on the sticks.

In spite of some early success, the band has never been fashionable or popular with the media, yet fans are loyal and they have managed to sell around 15 million albums. I’m seeing quite a few parallels with some of my favourite bands. If I take the Manic Street Preachers – their timeline can generally be split into two phases – Richey and Post-Richey, and while they have consistently courted the media to their own ends, beyond a specific era of success they haven’t been popular in the mainstream. They’ve sold around the same number of albums too.

Righteo, that’s about all I need to know about the band for now, but what about this song I’m about to listen to. It was their debut single, released in 1982, and it doesn’t appear in any subsequent album. Again – the Manics did this with Suicide Alley, Suicide Is Painless, and Motown Junk. Actually, let me just listen to the thing, then I’ll come back at some point in the future and give some more details and my thoughts.

INTERMISSION Stock Photo - Alamy

Alamy! Okay, I’m back. I’ve listened to the song a few times now, over a period of a few hours. Obviously that’s better than my usual one and done approach, but nowhere near on the level of association that a fan would have. The song is roughly four minutes long, and it reached 60 on the UK charts – not the best performance, but enough presumably to get them some recognition. The title ‘Market Square Heroes’ evoked a series of images in my scattered brain before I listened to the song – images of folks like Mark from Eastenders forking over pennies for change from a blue pouched straddling his navel; of bearded, red-cheeked men screaming what sounds at once like ‘five pears for a pipe’ and ‘comb your hair around’ but was actually ‘three lighters for a pound’, and Preachers handing out ‘Ye Must Be Born Again’ tracts to folks trying to get their Saturday shopping done before Football Focus started. I grew up in a Northern Ireland town which had a town square and which would have a Saturday market with all of your usual stores, but also those additional Northern Ireland Only variants where paramilitary regalia was freely bought and sold, alongside posters of King Billy. Unfortunately, those particular stalls had all the best stuff – so my friends and I would buy fireworks and rude and obscene material while the seller probably eyed us up as potential recruits into whatever shady jingoistic business he was involved in.

According to Wikipedia, Aylesbury town square was a little different. The song was inspired by a bloke named Brick, because in Aylesbury around this time nobody had a normal name, who must have been some… Manic Street Preacher type. I’m sure this drawn out analogy will end at some point. In any case, the song is about an outspoken, charismatic leader, a revolutionary but someone without any clear direction or purpose to their vociferations and anger. It is also quoted as the band trying to write a commercial song without losing the entire sense of their more progressive, expansive leanings. I have nothing else to compare it to yet, and I don’t know what other songs they had written or performed until this point. I will say this; I quite like it.

What do I like? I giggled a little at the fake out intro; it begins with a series of slow, fat chords, and descending bass lines. Then the vocals join and the song goes off in a completely different direction. I laughed because it made me think like Slade or some other 70s glam rock band, prancing about in flares with general disregard for facial hair grooming. There’s a synth/guitar piece running through the verses which is quite jolly, and the repeated calls of ‘the day’ match the sudden shift of the drum beat. This is all amusing to me. The vocals… my first thoughts were that it reminded me of some of the more deliberately theatrical moments on The Wall, and also a cross between Bowie and Johnny Rotten and that dude from Talking Heads. With each listen, those comparisons fell away. I can’t get away from the fact that musically it reminds me of Slade, but as the song progresses a definite streak of NWOBHM emerges. It sounds like early Iron Maiden – maybe it’s the general production, maybe it’s the guitar tone, but it has a very similar vibe.

It’s all very theatrical too – apologies (not really) for the constant mirroring to Metal or other artists, but it’s not quite in line with the vocal shenanigans of a Dio or Dickinson or Kursch, where it can often feel like a Play is being recited rather than a song being sung. But certain words do have additional inflections or are sung with a whispered lilt or a subtle shriek – it’s those little dramatic flourishes which you tend not to hear in mainstream music. There’s a middle section which didn’t do a lot for me, apart from remind me about Johnny Rotten (I am your Antichrist), but some of the guitar is both nifty and groovy – grifty? It does end in a fade out, which I’m rarely a fan of.

Lyrically, I can see what Fish was describing when we spoke of the charismatic leader. It’s difficult to get such notions over in a single four minute song. I like the opening line – ‘finding smog at the end of a rainbow’ suggests that you’ve been following a lie, or that your purpose was meaningless, which then makes the rest of the song somewhat ironic as the narrator asks others to follow him, given we know his track record of failure. There’s religious stuff in their – suffer the little children to come onto me – as a whole it is a poetic approach, if a little scattered and unfocused. At least to me. The song moves from images of industrialism to rebellion and protest, though there are plenty of notable juxtapositions if you’re into that – golden handshake/rust upon my hands, peace signs/war in the disco etc.

Now, I wonder what Paul and Sanja have to say about it. At this point, I’m going to go off and listen to Episode 1, then I’ll be back to finish off this long-winded post ABOUT A SINGLE SONG.

That was a fun opening episode – mostly what I was expecting given that I’ve watched Paul and Sanja’s Lockdown Youtube content. They spar well off one another, and the whole Knight/Padawan thing is always interesting. Does it need a third party to intercede and make jokes about Marillion being crap, or someone who actively dislikes the band, like a certain Ghostbusters fan? Nah, I think we’re good.

I only took some scattershot, very basic notes as I listened. Well, I say ‘took notes’, but it was more accurately me telling my brain ‘ooh, that’s worth bringing up when I go back to the blog post’.  So here is what my brain thought was worth bringing up – blame it, not me. Paul calls the song ‘A proper pop rock song’. So it’s obviously one he enjoys. I liked it too, and I did find myself humming parts over the weekend, but I don’t think it’s amazing. It’s their first song so I can only assume they’ll get better. Paul resorts to looking at Wikipedia at one point- what sort of fan are you? Grewcock. We all know that Paul loves his artwork, and I didn’t pay attention at all to the cover when I was listening to the song. After checking out the single artwork – it’s fine, I guess. It makes me think of Twin Peaks The Return, when various characters begin peeling their faces open like a swinging door. It doesn’t spring out and seize my attention, and I’m sure by the time I post this I’ll have forgotten most of the detail. They talk about Brick. There’s a nice explanation of the lyrics and ‘plot’. Apparently the style, the overwrought lyrics, combined with Fish and his stage antics meant the band had plenty of detractors yet gained a cult following.

That’s about it then. God help us when we get to covering an entire album. Do you like Marillion? Why not go listen to the Podcast and follow Paul and Sanja on the Twitbox and Insta-thing, @BYAMPOD? Next time round, I’ll be listening to three songs so you can expect even more rambling from me and by the time we get to the first album I’ll have given up. See ya there and then!

Nightman Listens To – Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

What's Going On (Marvin Gaye album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! If you’ve been following this series you’ll know I’ve had a torrid time of it. The quest to find an album I genuinely enjoy has been difficult and any fans of the albums I have dismissed likely think I’m a complete tool bag. I’m hoping the tide will change today, because it’s Marvin Gaye. Without really loving anything I’ve heard by Gaye, I’ve liked it all and his smooth vocals, Motown melodies, and political sensibilities all point towards me liking this album. I imagine this will be a straight down the line collection of hits with no bullshit – many of the albums I’ve listened to recently seem to have so much acclaim because of cultural relevance or influence rather than how good the music actually is and while I already understand the relevance of this I just want to hear some decent tunes.

What Do I Know About Marvin Gaye: I soul/r’n’b/rock vocalist who also dabbled in some session music and writing jobs for other artists before finally finding solo success. I think he was murdered, like a few other notable contemporaries. I know quite a few of his bigger hits.

What Do I Know About What’s Going On: I know that it is frequently listed among the best albums ever by pretty much any critic or publication you can find. I assumed that it contained most of his well known hits, but looking at the tracklist there are only two I know. Also, I see it’s another 9 track non-metal album. Interesting.

What’s Going On: We open with some spoken voices before a brief and sultry brass flits over some soothing beats. Then that glorious voice takes over, allowing room to feel the plaintive lyrics. The song takes a loose approach to standard verse chorus structure and the violins quietly compliment the vocal melody. The song obviously has an important message for what was going on at the time but it’s a prescient one for today’s chaotic world too and I find it interesting that the song isn’t played more often.

What’s Happening Brother: This leads in directly from the previous song and feels very Motown in its approach – a lot of string and brass, backing female vocals, a bit of a groove. Lyrically it treads the same paths as the opener, with more questioning and pleading, and even references the first song by name leading me to think that this song was originally an outtake of the first, eventually expanded into its own thing. Musically similar too, it is brief enough that any repetition doesn’t get the time to take hold.

Flyin High: I like the ‘prog’ approach so far – each song bleeding into the next without a pause. This is slower and more free-form. Interesting bass doing its own thing in the background while the strings set an airy tone. The voice is smooth and angelic as you would expect, and melodically it reminds me of someone like Jeff Buckley – just jazzy enough without being needlessly complex or off-putting, but never reaching a peak and I assume staying quite uniform on purpose.

Save The Children: This blends in from the last one too, nice layered vocals between the spoken part, the backing ahhs, and the accompanying sung call and repeat. I assumed that format was going to just be an intro but it seems the entire song is going this way which is pretty cool. Unusual at least. It’s still political, this time questioning how future generations are going to cope with the fallout of current actions. Each line comes with a new instrument or slight twist on what came before – keeping that interesting tone where it’s uniform but free-form at the same time. At least until the final minute or so where the music reaches an instrumental crescendo before a more funky commercial climax.

God Is Love: That little commercial piece becomes the intro of this one. I had/have no idea of Gaye’s religion but this seems pretty straight forward and a liberal take on what should be the most important tenet of Christianity, or any religius or moral group – love one another. Musically it isn’t much of a stretch from anything else we’ve heard.

Mercy Mercy Me: This comes straight in from the last one and its power and quality are as clear today as they ever were. It’s the most obvious hit on the album with its infectious hook and swaying swagger groove. No matter how many times I hear it, that ending is still unexpected and seems to take the song off in a new and bizarre and downbeat direction.

Right On: Now, this is funny to me because the intro instantly makes me think of Anything Goes by Guns N Roses – a song about all sorts of kinky sex. I’ve no way if that was intentional but it wouldn’t surprise me. There’s quite a bit of piano and some sort of flute going on and it feels like a smooth backing track for a chilled gathering. There’s still a cultural message if not quite a sermon and again it has the loose melodic quality where Gaye puts down vocal riffs over the rhythm section instead of following a set pattern. Just when it seems like the piano is going to really come in and go off on one the song shifts to an even more quiet and smooth section. The sax tears off a couple of face melters but doesn’t hit a full stride. Just as it looks like the song will fade it, a thumping beat kicks in and the instruments jam on. I don’t know if this really needs to be over seven minutes long – I would have cut it somewhat but it mostly avoids needless repetition and stretching.

Wholy Holy: Continuing the no pause between tracks of the first half, this one blends in but quickly establishes a hymnal quality. There are more strings and sparkling and twinkling sounds, more religious lyrics, more hope, and more free-form vocal riffs. The message of love stands, if we love then violence and bullshit drops.

Inner City Blues: We’re at the closer already and it has flown in. Piano and hand drums, then more drums. It’s a little more funky than what has come already, but very much in the same format musically and lyrically. I like the double vocals and it’s a nice approach to old school blues. Some nice breaks and screams and recalls to previous songs.

What Did I Learn: That this didn’t contain the load of hits I assumed it would and that it was more in line with jazz that the Motown hit-making machine. It’s a very consistent album with not much variety from one song to the next. Normally I don’t like that sort of thing and rely on heavy melodic variance to differentiate songs. The album builds upon this by removing the standard silence between tracks so that the whole thing feels like one long piece.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: On sheer cultural power alone it’s a yes but I would have preferred a couple more hits. I realize coming from me – I am fairly anti-commercial and listen to all manner of noise – that this statement is contradictory, but certain genres lend themselves to commercialism more than others. The songs I knew are bonafide classics but I’d need a few more listens for any of the other songs to take hold – on the surface quite a few blend too much into the other for me to identify each one specifically. Taking on board the sales and the acclaim and the fact that the two big ones at the very least are still loved today, it deserves its spot.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 39/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of What’s Going On – is it one of your favourites, were you around when it was released?

Nightman Listens To Madonna – Hard Candy!

Hard Candy (Madonna album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Album 11, eh? We’ve almost caught up to present day. As this is one of her more recent releases I can’t confirm that I have heard any of the songs included. I probably have heard snippets, and I have vague memories of seeing some of the videos, because its hard to erase the image of her unsettling gyrations from your mind once witnessed. In truth she does that sort of thing in most of her videos so it could have been from any of her albums of the last fifteen years. In 2008 I was no longer subjected to the radio choices of others while going to, from, or in work, so my knowledge of what crap was on the radio gratefully plummeted. Apparently the album is pop/dance-pop based, with an R&B vibe. In other words, the sort of music no-one should be subjected to. See what I put myself through for you guys? And where’s my damn parade? The injustice sickens me…

Candy Shop: Beats. Beats and breaths. Vocals. What is Candy Store a metaphor for? Her music? Her thighs? Verse melodies fine, not annoying, not anything special. The chorus places a low pitch/high pitch dynamic on the vocals – it’s about as (un)memorable as the verse. There’s a silly middle section with lots of bleeps and talky vocals which ensures the song reaches four minutes. Just as I think it’s going to end some guy comes in to say various city names for some reason. It’s always the same list. Why is it never ‘Yo. Portavogie. Ormskirk. Schaumburg, I see you. Uh. Humpybong. West Side’. Etc. An unremarkable opening album track, but not bad.

4 Minutes: Loud rappy horns. Some guy doing ‘wicky wick wah’ stuff. This goes on and one. I think this would sound pretty good on the dancefloor, those horns and parps are groovy. Decent verse melodies again, the male stuff is less engaging. Good chorus melodies too, but let down by all the stupid spoken stuff. When will people learn, spoken stuff is rarely better than cringey and almost always dated within 2 months. If it wasn’t for that bollocks this would be good. It’s still good, but that talking crap is distracting and really does make it sound incredibly silly. Like someone standing in front of you making really good arguments, but you keep looking down because his knob is hanging out. And it’s weird looking.

Give It 2 Me: That beat and sound sounds like it has been lifted from a very specific D12 song. Good melodies though, no talking yet. Lots of rave stuff going on too, but it all works. The middle goes off on one with more silly talking stuff – lots of repetitive layering which doesn’t quite work but isn’t as stupid as in the previous song. You get the feeling that someone with half a brain should have been in the studio and saying ‘look, the song is good as it is, you don’t need to add all of the superfluous garbage’.

Heartbeat: Good intro, good melodies, this time it actually feels like something. She’s tapped into something more real and vital here. Again there is a sour taste because some twat is breathing or grunting or shouting nonsense in the background. A perfectly good song on the verge of sabotage. Will she do another tuneless repetitive middle – and before I’ve even finished typing that she went and did it. Sigh. She does follow it with a better second middle before going back to the banging chorus. I have a feeling sabotage is going to be the key word in this album. A pity too that the lyrics are bullshit too – not the words themselves, but the subject matter.

Miles Away: Some acoustic guitars makes this feel familiar to me. More good melodies. One thing which seems to recur is the robotic rhythm of the melodic delivery in the verses – each-verse-seems-to be sung-in-this-static-way like this. It’s another song I quite like though – aside from the plain opening song each one has been good, outside of the middles and the male hollering. I listen to a Madonna album – she’s who I want to hear, not all these other hanger-ons.

She’s Not Me: Clappy beats. Retro funk. More catchy melodies. More dancing. According to the comments this is some veiled attack/rebuttal of Lady Gaga. It’s true, she doesn’t have what you have but unfortunately this smacks more of fear – fear of aging, fear of no longer being relevant, fear of being replaced. I mean, Madonna brazenly copied from Cyndi Lauper. She did ride that bandwagon and then go on to become her own thing – which of course Gaga has done herself. I don’t see why she’s bitter about it, but then I don’t follow celeb feuds. What the hell is this awful screeching singing? Another random just popped in to give his unwarranted two cents. The song fades out for a while, then builds up in good old cliched dance style for a hectic ending.

Incredible: What appears to have been a sweet ballad has been blown up and blown apart. There’s an awful lot of crap going on in here to make the song bombastic. That’s actually not a bad idea sometimes – taking a simple song and making it grandiose – I mean Roman writers did that shit two thousand years ago. It doesn’t quite work for me here, mostly because the little blasts of sound and the fabricated drums sound so dated and juvenile (ha). It’s not the first time I’ve said this about a Madonna song, but I’d like to hear a stripped back version of this without the bullshit to see if it works.

Beat Goes On: The start of this sounds like one of those awful 5 second Youtube ads – they all have some tinkling jingle which is just short and long enough to piss you off every time it plays. Good verse melody here but the chorus and other moments feel uninspired. An oddly average mid album track which covers ground she’d done better two decades earlier. And again more stupid crap from Pharrell or whatever other binlid is yelping in the background. We do get a full rap section, at least it’s an actual rap not the momentary shouts we’ve had before. The lyrics are nonsense and may as well be ‘uh, hey girl, I got a Wispa and a Twirl; lets watch some shit unfurl, from the sphincter of a rat, or a cat, hey I got my money back, from a fish in a hedge who I found up on a ledge of a house owned by some dude called Brian who I know cos I know that he knows I’m lyin’ that the Earth ain’t round it’s flat like a cat whose shat, unfurled, from a sphincter just like that’. And behold, that is the single greatest rap lyric ever written.

Dance 2Night: So it comes to this – most of the songs have been about dancing, or going out to the club at night and dancing – you know, the most meaningless subject possible, but just to drive the point home we have a song called Dance 2Night. And of course it panders to the masses with its ‘you don’t have to be rich or pretty to do it’ message, which is another way of saying ‘ we know most people are ugly/fat/average/stupid/desperate/poor but if we make a song they think is about them they’ll give us their money. Success! It’s funky enough – sub Thriller stuff with that obvious 80s vibe, the lyrics are insipid, the melodies are too shrouded in over-produced gloss that any feeling is ripped from it. There’s a C+ grade song somewhere here.

Spanish Lesson: Ah yes, the requisite Spanish song. For 12 seconds it’s not bad, but then the idiots get their mitts on it. Lyrically, it’s literally a Spanish lesson. Musically, it’s literally a lesson on how to write a shit song. Is this also a song about fucking your teacher? Like statutory rape? There’s another dancefloor reference. Why doesn’t she just make an album where the lyrics are entirely ‘dancefloor, get up, can’t stop, don’t stop, dance, dancing, yeah, baby, dance, enough, dance, heartbeat, tonight, club, dance’? Oh right, she’s already done that. On every single album.

Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You: A little more maturity in this one. But it’s too plain and melodically boring. This sort of song is fine for covering in production smoke and mirrors because the core is so mundane. Even with all the excess, it’s tepid. She finally brings her brains to the table but misses out with the heart and soul.

Voices: The closing song, can it bring things up again? Good verse melodies – at least that has been consistent. This is much closer to the merging of heart, soul, and brain. The static-laden beat works, the lyrics are better, and there isn’t a trace of any male interference. Yet. Nice orchestral ending. See what you can do when you don’t have a man trying to piggyback on your success. Forget about Gaga and worry about the real problem.

It’s a frustrating album. One one hand it’s much better than I was expecting – then again it’s Madonna so I’m not sure why I keep expecting failure. On the other hand, it’s not as good as it should have been. Many of the songs are top grade tiers brought down by stupid decisions and interventions. To continue the dubious educational metaphor, it’s like someone has completed an exam paper to the best of their abilities and is heading for a good overall score, but with 15 minutes remaining on the clock they glance around and see that others have written different answers so they panic and begin scribbling additional answers which take away from the good groundwork they already had and thus they end up with a lower overall score. The groundwork for many of the songs on Hard Candy is sound – melody, beat, vocals, all the basics, but then some plank comes in a craps all over it because that’s what the suits have said is selling at the moment. At this point in her career, I had more than aged and matured out of her target audience, so all of the sickly garnishing I’m referring to probably satisfied the people it was meant for. The more discerning fan should be shaking their head and saying ‘Madonna, it was good, but you ruined it’. The second half doesn’t have the punch of the first and while she’s experimenting with new people, if not new sounds, there’s nothing really new or exciting here – a by-product of working with today’s idea-less superstars. There are plenty of songs I’ll gladly give a second listen but plenty I’ll avoid.

Let us know what you think of Hard Candy in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Heartbeat. Give It 2 Me.

Nightman Listens To Tin Machine/David Bowie!

Tin Machine (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Don’t worry, this isn’t a new series, it’s merely a continuation of the Bowie marathon. I didn’t realise or fully appreciate that Tin Machine was a separate entity from Bowie – I thought it was just another persona like Ziggy or The Thin White Duke or Mathilda Twinklegrunt or whatever. So Tin Machine was more like a side-project – they only made two albums, in between Bowie’s last solo 80s release and first 90s solo release. I may as well cover them. I’ve no idea what sound they have – did he give in and go 80s metal? The name sounds industrial so maybe it’s a mixture of guitars and electronica. It’s Bowie, so who the hell knows. Well, you probably know – I’m about to find out.

Heaven’s In Here: Okay, an actual phat riff. It’s a little bluesy, it actual has a tin sound, the vocals feel like a 50s vocal group, then it goes a little Caribbean. That’s all before the verse starts. That driving riff and bass strives to keep it grounded as Blues rock. Bowie’s vocals are mostly toned down, not going overboard with highs or operatics. The riff’s good, but maybe not good enough to sustain the song for six minutes. There’s other stuff going on so it doesn’t get overly repetitive. Some shouts come towards the end, some funky distorted guitar play and a fantastic closing solo, some great smacking drums as the whole thing collapses, not much in the way of melody.

Tin Machine: Very metal, a crashing intro. This gives way to a fast paced song which reminds me of the original Thinking About You by Radiohead. The vocals are very Ian Curtis. I know I’ll get heat for this, but Bowie’s vocals just don’t lend themselves to heavy music – rock, metal. Too smooth and overwrought. This is quite fun, but I’d have preferred a bit of a growl in the vocals.

Prisoner Of Love: A more traditional chord intro with a nice vibe. Good guitar line, much more melodic. The vocals suit this sound more closely. The extended chorus is half good, half okay, but the verses are great. I like the underlying guitar work with repeats and wavers and loops under the surface.

Crack City: I am Iron Man? I was only joking, and then the chord sequence comes in and I’m not so sure. There’s surely some ripping off here, right? That and Wild Thing. Assholes with buttholes for their brains? Is he making fun of metal here? Or just the drugs involved. A more aggressive edge to the vocals, again it doesn’t quite work, but he’s really going for it here.

I Can’t Read: More tin drums and distortion and a simple yet potent riff. The riff breaks out and gets better. Cool dark atmosphere, and another much more suited to Bowie’s voice. I think the anti-melodic approach works well here – it’s purposefully robotic. Then the chorus is like an anti-anthem with pop sweetness. Very good. Nice screams and another collapse at the end, though we don’t need the sex noises.

Under The God: Feels like a straightforwards rock song. Then the riff comes in and it’s a little samey to ones which have come already, but it doesn’t last. Great lyrics from what I can pick up, good chorus, good backing vocals, good everything. It there’s any complaint, it probably could have been condensed to a punchier 3 minutes.

Amazing: A little bit of Led Zep now? It as a full sound, light staccato guitar bursts and surging solo lines. It’s very sweet, and another good one.

Working Class Hero: We know this one of course, but it’s a bombastic and different intro. Most covers of this I’ve heard stay close to the original. This is a little more funky. The original is far from a favourite of mine so most covers don’t do it for me.

Bus Stop: Another fast rocking intro. Feels quite punk, though softer. Not a fan of the accent. I would have guessed this was another cover of a punk song I haven’t heard – I don’t think it is.

Pretty Thing: A strange voice floats in, quickly joined by fast biting chords in the vein of more punk bands. It’s fast, not quite chaotic, the pauses keep it fresh. It changes pace and tone midway through, become more of a loose, freestyle instrumental.

Video Crime: It’s cool how modern this sounds for something made in 89. If anything, it’s Bowie’s vocals which date it purely because when I think of Bowie, I think 70s/80s. The guitars could be from any decade since the 80s. This song is a little too slow and start/stop, but the refrains are catchy. Great drums throughout.

Run: A moderately more pop sound for the intro, but yet again one with an atmospheric tone. I love that dual riff and Bowie’s vocals suit the verse melodies to a T. The chorus pays off too. The second half doesn’t have the same immediate impact but it does get more rocking towards the end.

Sacrifice Yourself: Stretching guitars, thumping drums, and an old-fashioned rock beat brought up to date with the surrounding chaos. This one is fun, more shouted vocals, but maybe a little too streamlined and simple. Short too.

Baby Can Dance: A long intro with plenty of guitar distortion and howls and assorted beats. A catchy refrain holds it together. The lyrics seem silly. A long middle section with lots of clashing noise. An okay song to close the album, not the best.

It turns out this one wasn’t well received upon release. I can only assume critics and fanboys were more used to the fawning intellect and electro and glam rather than the harsher, more punk-based songs, more in your face display here. That’s their loss. This has been one of my favourite Bowie listens thus far, the heavier songs and more metal approach suiting my traditional tastes. Plus there was hardly a piano or horn in sight, something which usually brings Bowie’s songs down for me. The album as a whole I can see myself listening to again given that I thoroughly enjoyed many of the songs – that usually means the ones I didn’t like as much will increase in my estimation.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tin Machine!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Prisoner Of Love. Crack City. I Can’t Read. Under The God. Amazing. Run.

Nightman Listens To – Van Halen – Van Halen (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Van Halen (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! You can probably guess, but I’m not a fan of Van Halen. They were one of the biggest hair metal bands and hair metal has always represented everything that metal shouldn’t be – fun times, happy go lucky pop songs, box-checking business led metal, technical skill for the sake of technical skill, poser artists only in it for money and women and drugs, lyrics about tedious bullshit like women, going fast, and fast women. Hair metal is basically the mainstream RnB of the 80s – seriously, compare any major RnB song and hit hair metal song of the day’s lyrics, and they’re basically the same thing.

And yet, I’m talking in generalizations and I haven’t given most of the major bands a fair chance. I’ve heard the big songs, I probably have heard some of the albums but I don’t remember, and my preconceptions and criticism of the genre have possibly blinded me to some good stuff. This album was a huge success, Eddie Van Halen is one of the great guitar Gods, and maybe as this was their first album there is a more raw feel before hair metal became drained down to the faux-pop it undoubtedly is. I’m here to learn, that’s part of the point of me going through these posts and albums – I don’t expect to be converted and I’m fully prepared to hate it even more than I already do, but I hope to at least find some new songs I’ll enjoy.

So, before Grunge and European Metal came and thankfully cleansed us of all of this masturbatory, self-worshipping, reality TV-precursing, pouting, watered down stain, Hair Metal was King – silly, shouty choruses were being sung by bankers, soccer moms, children, and chavs alike. The album cover is about as respectable as it gets for Hair Metal – it presents the four members of the band in a live setting, so at least we assume they can actually play. I’m not sure why two of them appear to be on fire, one seems to have a steam of stench emanating from his shoulder, and Roth is doing the Robert Plant thing. Urgh, here we go.

Runnin’ With The Devil: If you’re going to have a metal album, and a debut, you’ve got to give your first song a great title. It’s better if it’s a great song of course, but a cool title helps. No complaints on that front. Of course I already know this song, and it looks like the first half of the album is stacked with the hits. I’ll admit it takes balls to have an instrumental and a cover in your first three songs. It begins with a siren/alien spacecraft/car screeching by sound before a single repeating bass note sets the pace. The drums are 80s a few years early, very steady and plain, and Roth’s vocals have a deeper tone than you may recall. The verses are mostly uneventful, while the chorus has that Desmond Child/Def Leppard shouting thing I can’t stand – one of the key factors which hurts hair metal for me. It’s a very plain opener – even the guitars don’t offer anything out of the ordinary, and for me isn’t a great representation of what the band could do.

Eruption: This is one of those tracks which budding guitarists have on their wishlist shortly after picking up the instrument. We make the list of songs we want to be able to play from our favourite artists, but then there’s the holy grail list, usually starting with Johnny Be Goode and running up to this. This showcases what Eddie brought to the band and how he almost single-handedly revitalized the instrument. Plenty of other guitarists had played with speed and intensity and brought the tapping style, but here the showmanship and ferocity and focus on doing it fast opened the door for the next gen. It begins simply enough, with a cascade of drums and a bit of guitar wankery, but once that first dive-bomb hits it picks up. It’s brief and it has since been surpassed, but at the time this must have been a revelation and sounded almost unearthly.

You Really Got Me: Although it’s louder and chugs more, it’s somehow less metal and sexy than the original. It’s something about the cheesy harmonies in the chorus and the cleaner sound. Naturally the solo is crazy and short, but all the vocal grunting and squeaking is very silly.

Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love: Another famous one and I’ve always quite enjoyed the lead in riff – there’s a touch of that shadowy atmosphere I’m always going on about. The vocals are much too plain and anti-melodic for my liking. It’s almost a punk or old blues approach to the vocals, while the chorus is still shouty without being annoying. In essence I don’t think the rest of the song lives up to the promise of the riff – I don’t think they knew what to do with it.

I’m The One: A furious guitar attack intro is joined by some really shitty sounding drums. It’s a shame because the actually drum technique is satisfactory. The pace is maintained throughout but again the vocals and melodies are the link which bring the whole chain dangling down. The song feels like a jam – Eddie just says ‘fuck it’ and busts one out, Alex is clearly off his face and tries to keep up, and the other two randomly shout and play the first thing that comes into their heads. I’m not sure what sort of melody they actually could have slapped around the guitar and drums so it’s probably as good as you could hope for.

Jamie’s Cryin’: A down and dirty sluggish riff is accompanied by a higher pitched squealing guitar. The mocking vocals come in and it feels like the band is taking the piss. The chorus is the same as all the others – sing the title while harmonies repeat it at the same time. Some cool drums before the second chorus. It’s inoffensive easy listening stuff and to its credit the chorus hook is more memorable – it does get annoying after the twentieth time though.

Atomic Punk: You can tell where G’n’R got their intro idea for Mr Brownstone from – this begins with a similar phaser style. Then the verse starts and feels like Di’Anno era Iron Maiden with a US twist. The punk of the title isn’t just in name only, there is a punk influence here but it’s taken in a more metal direction thanks to the guitar ability. It’s not the most exciting song, the riff again is good and it does pack a punch.

Feel Your Love Tonight: A more traditional hard rock, blues infused riff and feel. Again the harmonies just don’t work, because they’re not really harmonies – it’s just singing the same lyrics in the same way in a slightly higher register. That stands out to me and I can’t shake how futile it feels – if you’re going to add harmonies, do it right. The vocals aren’t the best – very anonymous – and there isn’t a single hook to hang your bandanna on. I get why people probably think it’s fun.

Little Dreamer: Another plodder. I wasn’t expecting the nods to the blues so much, but they take what they don’t like from that genre – samey vocals. Luckily the backing vocals are better this time, the ‘oohs’ doing what the harmonies of the previous song failed to do. The guitar solo almost feels out of place – there’s this little blues ramble and a lead guitar firing off at a billion miles per hour. This one is catchy, more than I can say for most of the others.

Ice Cream Man: I know I mentioned the Blues before and I expected people to vent in the comments about how there’s no way any of this is blues. Then this disaster drops and it’s completely taking the piss. Beyond the funny lyrics this is complete nonsense – I’ve said before that Blues is the easiest music to copy and one of the most limited genres. Listen to any three or four blues songs, hand someone a guitar, and they’ll come up with the same thing. That’s what this is, but of course they bring the metal half way through. It doesn’t add anything beyond volume and some more furious guitar.

On Fire: A punk influenced closer – lots of yelling, pretty chaotic, and lots of wacky guitar. A few riffs charge about, lots of running up and down the fret, lots of shrieks, and buckets of energy. No melodies though.

On the whole I was pretty much spot on with my introduction – this doesn’t feel like a true hair metal album as it came a few years before that genre truly started. It’s something like mashing together Aerosmith, a batch of US punk bands, a touch of NWOBHM, a sprinkling of what Hair Metal would become, and capped off with Eddie’s guitar. It’s the guitar which makes this noticeable – without it this would have been a long forgotten average rock album, but because every riff is at worst solid, at best iconic, and the playing what you remember. Which is good because most of the actual songs are very ordinary, throwaway straight rock with barely a tune between them to whistle while you work. Roth was a better stage presence than he was a singer, making up for a lack of character in his voice with a series of leaps and twerks, and the other pair aren’t really noticeable for the most part. So, it’s not horrible but it lacks any real stand out tracks.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Eruption: Jamie’s Crying.

Let us know what you think of Van Halen in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Urchin – High Roller (Non-Maiden Series)!

Urchin - High Roller (2010, Vinyl) | Discogs

Greetings, Glacers! It’s time for another history lesson for any of you budding metallers out there. In fact, I’ve probably already mentioned this before, so the brief version is that Urchin were formed before Iron Maiden by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Murray only played on a song or two, while Smith became one of the main driving forces. They were essentially a live only band and Smith went on to form a series of other bands. Every so often he would get Urchin together for the odd show. Their limited album releases are collections of singles and live stuff. So they say, I haven’t heard them yet. UNTIL NOW!

Keeping It Mellow: A loose and mellow opening which is much smoother and softer than I was expecting. If anything, it sounds reminiscent of Free’s All Right Now. Just good cruising music for nice weather. It’s far from amazing, the vocals are a little scratchy and the production isn’t great but much better than what I was expecting. A simple, easy listening rock song which says everything it has to say well within three minutes, yet keeps going for another two. There’s a tasty solo in those two minutes, but still could have done with some shaving.

Life In The City: Another good intro, some guitars with a flange or phaser effect, the vocals are a little too shouty and plain for my liking. There’s an ever so faint touch of Maiden in there, but it more accurately sounds like a tonne of American MOR rock bands. Parts of the solo go full Maiden at times.

Watch Me Walk Away: A subtle melding of cymbals and bass gives way to some synthesized guitars for something with sounds like an up tempo ballad. I don’t think that’s what the lyrics are going for. There’s that 70’s rock beat again. It’s another good song – not anything that’s going to change anyone’s world and if I heard it on the radio I wouldn’t go searching to see who it was by – but I wouldn’t change the station.

Countdown: Well, this is a collection of oddities – a very nice and atmospheric opening which reminds me of the slower, mysterious stuff from the first two Maiden albums gives way to chugging chords clearly borrowed from Phantom Of The Opera – the opera, not the Maiden song. Then it feels like 22 Acacia Avenue. The vocals suit the song better this time around, and the solo is great too – very Maiden.

Lifetime: This is verging on cheesy. There’s a slow, stomping beat and all this twinkling keyboard stuff, and the lyrics are all lovey dovey. Still, the extended intro has a certain level of intrigue. It’s not bad. One thing missing from the songs for me is any real sort of emotion, beyond the fact that the band seem to enjoy playing, and that there are no standout hooks, no big chorus, no major melody. The solo here goes pure futuristic, or at least what they thought the future would sound like in the 70s.

The Late Show: Another distinctly Iron Maiden sounding song. Once the verse starts it turns pure Pink Floyd – Time to be precise. It’s a softer Maiden with a more bluesy, jazzy texture. We even get an organ solo. It’s still just missing the hook.

My Lady: Oh, this one tops 8 minutes. Are they gonna go for it? That’s a pretty great intro, again quite Maiden in tone, especially with that swirling guitar. The vocals are too flat in the verses and the chorus is far too plain. It’s the same issue I had with most of Di’Anno’s vocals – just boring to me, ignoring any Dickinson comparison. We get a solo, instrumental section just before the 4th minute, assuming it’s going to change gears for final half. Well over a minute of guitars, no gear change yet. Back to the verse, that’s a shame. A song this long, you gots to change it up. This is meant to be emotional or something, but it doesn’t work. Decent song, but no need in being so long.

Animals: Well, this takes a different approach. It’s not disco, but it’s certainly funky. Still rock of course. Topical lyrics. It almost, dare I say it, has a ska feeling. We head into a groovy instrumental section, the lead jangling chords linking with the constant drum beat while Smith lets loose on the six string. This doesn’t feel like Maiden in any way. An interesting end.

That was a lot better than what I was fearing. It’s a pity then that none of the songs really standout as a crusher. For picking my playlist tracks I could really pick any of them for the same reasons – none are bad, none are great – they’re all equally good. They’re all equally B- grade. You can tell their influences quite easily, and you can also tell how the sound went on to determine that Maiden sound. Taken as a whole they feel like any number of 70s rock bands who haven’t quite nailed down their own sound and direction and hit that niche where they can express creatively and deliver what they are capable of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of High Roller!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Keeping It Mellow. Countdown.

Nightman Listens To – Ringo Starr – Sentimental Journey (Non-Beatles Series)!

Sentimental Journey: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! You know, throughout my life I’ve heard quite a few songs by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison that they wrote, recorded, and performed outside of The Beatles. Ringo Starr though? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. That’s why I was surprised that he has made so many albums – surely I’ve heard something. As I make my way through this journey, I’m sure I’ll find out. And yet, Ringo’s voice was probably more familiar to me than any of the other Beatles when I was young, thanks to his work on Thomas The Tank Engine. 

Sentimental Journey was released in 1970 and is apparently the first non experimental, weird, avant-garde album by any Beatle. I was looking forward to this until I saw the tracklist and released it was a cover album. Ah well, I suppose Ringo had to work through his shit before making something good too. Lets do this.

Sentimental Journey: We open with a song I don’t recognise. It threatens Country, then Jazz, then settles into some easy-listening crooning once Ringo starts singing. I know Ringo’s vocals tend to get a lot of criticism – he can sing fine, it’s just that he’s limited. His vocals work well for things like With A Little Help. The problem here is that the song is junk. There’s a lot thrown into the arrangement – droopy horns, backing vocals, and some unusual voicebox work. A slow, yet detailed opening.

Night And Day: Big band wank. If there’s one other genre I typically cannot find any worth in beyond Country (and Irish) it’s Big Band/Swing stuff. Ironically, Starr’s vocals do suit that style, though he probably doesn’t have the strength or supposed sex appeal the singers in this genre are supposed to have. But the melodies, the brass, the beat, the swagger – everything about this is abhorrent to me, aside from some of the snazzy drum fills, but it’s not Ringo’s fault – it’s just a crap song in a style I can’t stand.

Whispering Grass: More big band jazzy stuff. At least this song has a discernible, appealing melody. The strings are whining, the song is boring, and Ringo’s voice doesn’t have the chops to quite pull it off. It takes a certain level of talentlessness to put violins in a song and make me wish they weren’t there.

Bye Bye Blackbird: Is this Paul McCartney? Or Arthur Askey? It’s the sort of jaunty piece of novelty crap McCartney would have written then passed over to Ringo to sing. Funny for about three seconds, then tragic. It should also be noted that I was listening to this while trying to untangle my Laptop power cable before the battery died, and I almost headbutted the monitor in rage.

I’m A Fool To Care: More brass. More ass. I’m not sure I would have survived in an era when music was this bad – pre 1950. Then again, I’m alive now. If I had been alive then, I’m fairly certain I would have single-handedly invented Metal. Somehow.

Stardust: Oh no. I see the whole album was meant to be a selection of his parents’ favourite songs. That would explain it – parents haven’t a fucking clue. This has some interesting pronunciation.

Blue, Turning Grey Over You: Dear Jeebus, so much useless noise. All that brass makes me feel how pensioners must feel when they hear Cannibal Corpse. The melody is almost non-existant, the trumpets run over everything else making the song nothing more than a predictable selection of brass farts.

Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing: Another of the songs I know. Of course it’s a song I never liked. He keeps the awful choral backing vocals, but his vocals act as a counterpoint and somehow improve things. This is absolutely a song which should be performed solo with quiet vocals and as little backing arrangement as possible.

Dream: I know a version of this. This isn’t much better. Ringo’s verse vocals don’t work at all. It’s just another boring pre-rock ballad with the same rhythm as the others. Nigh on unlistenable.

You Always Hurt The One You Love: At least this one starts interestingly, before the verse arrangement gets things all wrong. More wanky jazz in the middle. Terrible.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You: We all know this. Apparently Elmer Bernstein had a crack at arranging this. It’s somewhere between a complete mess and something that weird ginger kid in your class who usually said funny things and sat with one hand in his pocket all time would write.

Let The Rest Of The World Go By: Twinkling and tinkling. Then more brass. And the same rhythm as the other dreary ballads. Worse than Love Island. 

Well, the title was right. Kind of. It probably was a Sentimental Journey recording these for his parents. For everyone else (me) it means absolutely nothing and is as pointless a piece of shit I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. What do you think? Actually, forget it – I never want to think of this again.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Seriously?

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – What About Now!

What About Now (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! I’ve now listened to two ‘new’ Bon Jovi albums with Lost Highway and The Circle with the general consensus being that I thought they were better than I was expecting, particularly the latter. With today’s listen-though, I haven’t even heard of the album title before and know absolutely nothing about the songs or music or style. I was aware that Richie Sambora left the band at some point, but it turns out that this was the last album he worked on with the band. I don’t know anything about the background or his reasons for leaving the group, but maybe that has some sort of effect on how the album sounds. I don’t know, I’m clutching straws. I don’t think that, even though I was pleased with the last two albums, that I’m going to raise my expectations in any way so I’m still placing the bar quite low for this one. Let’s do this.

Because We Can‘ has a very poppy opening – lots of layered vocals and keyboards, light on the guitars. John’s vocals sound a little strange, not sure if they were being tweaked in the studio. I quite like the verse melody, it’s an easy ear worm while the chorus has lyrics which are easy to remember and sing along with. It feels like a dedicated attempt at making waves in the charts and it’s quite a distance from their harder rock roots.

I’m With You‘ is more like what we know from the band, even if they guitars lack whatever bite they may have once had. I’m happy they’ve returned to a focus on melody, something they had slipped a little from but have grown back into in the last album. I am drawn more to the verse melodies on this one, same as the first, and in the chorus here the mass vocals feel over produced and possibly modified a little from how they originally sounded.

What About Now‘ is the title track, and sounds like another obvious single. It’s much more generic and middle of the road than the first two songs, but it’s still going to appeal to their core fan group. It’s a little more emotive in the second verse but I don’t see it having the power to draw in any new fans.

Pictures Of You‘ continues the full melodic sound. The songs may lack punch and are ever more pandering towards fans of the softer side but they’re not overly repetitive in terms of this album yet. This is sweet enough, obviously another love song but with a fast enough tempo to keep it out of ballad territory. If you already like the band, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t like them, this will be more evidence. It’s not strong enough to convert any newbs if we compare it to their big hits.

Amen‘ is straight into ballad land, starting with an acoustic guitar as soft as a harp and lots of loving metaphors. There’s not much to it – the odd swell of strings and organ as it proceeds, but very simple and not any new ideas. Once the vocals and strings soar it gets better, but he needed to take the vocals one notch higher – in the past he would have. One for the ladies… just not enough force to get it into that A class of ballads.

That’s What The Water Made Me‘ increases the pace once more with a clattering of drums. More poppy melodies, very commercial, very much ticking all those ‘how to make a hit’ boxes without hitting the ‘how to make a classic’ ones. It’s fine and another great song for existing fans.

Whats Left Of Me‘ is more of Jon aligning himself with or imagining himself as the working man, and jotting down his thoughts on blue collar life. There’s an ever so quiet hint of Nashville similar to what they were doing a couple of albums ago. No new ground here and not strong enough of a copy to make any impact.

Army Of One‘ opens with a drum beat which should be familiar to most Bon Jovi fans. The organ grows as the vocals prepare for an anthem of some description. The guitars and bass join in slowly but the sudden chorus blast breaks this rhythm and any crescendo falls apart. The chorus is too simplistic and repetitive to drive its point home with any conviction. Instead it sadly comes across as the sort of attempt at an anthem or rallying call that a one year’s success boy band’s manager would devise. It’s supposed to be inspirational and I hope it reaches the ears of those who need it and who it would work for, but it misses the mark wildly for me.

Thick As Thieves‘ feels like a more honest ballad. There’s a dual keyboard and organ, smooth in your eye vocals, and a slow pace. It’s touching, I can see it working for most fans. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t have the emotional peaks I look for in ballads, instead going for a more matter of fact approach. Their existing fans who prefer the ballads will surely adore this too.

Beautiful World‘ gets the pace back on track, though we’re hardly getting out of third gear. Plenty more hooks, more positivity, and another big chorus with enough bounce and energy to serve it well in the live environment. There are quite a few songs on the album which feel like singles, but none of them would crack the band’s own top twenty or my personal favourites.

Room At The End Of The World‘ starts with great promise – straight in with no messing or elaborate intro. The melody and atmosphere I look for are there and it feels like it’s building towards something interesting. The chorus hits and it’s… well it’s like any number of the band’s choruses in their previous ten years. They’re very interchangeable and don’t stand apart from the crowd. I keep saying it, but long time fans shouldn’t mind.

The Fighter‘ draws the album to a close. It starts with promise – uncomplicated guitar which Jon follows with his vocal melody. It’s very sweet and the lyrics aren’t as obvious. The chorus for once feels like an extension of the verse and melody rather than an attempt to sound as commercial as possible. A pleasing ending.

Well, another good album better than what a cynic like me would be expecting. It doesn’t leap out of the stereo, it doesn’t challenge, but it does give fans what they want. It’s wonderful for the fans that the band keeps giving the fans what they want and that the band are happy to keep doing what they do. They’re probably doing what they do better than anyone else, even if they’re not doing it as well as they used to. That’s the part which is to be expected as few artists can continually reinvent themselves or get progressively better. Most hit a peak and stay there or tumble off the other side into oblivion. Maybe there are songs here with the strength and quality to bring in new fans, if only the listeners had regular easy access, but as healthy and fun as most of the songs will be for existing fans I don’t see the audience growing. On a personal note there are fewer songs that I’d chose to listen to again than on the previous album, but I was never really the target audience.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Because We Can. I’m With You. The Fighter.

Let us know what you think of What About Now in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – The Stone Roses – Second Coming (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! I continue my never-ending adventure through the best albums of all time, with a band I’m familiar with but an album I have never heard. As a side note – you see how popular all these Youtubers are getting with song reactions? I especially listen to a lot of the ‘first time reacting to Metallica’ or Metal in general videos, and while they were fun at the start, every other dick has jumped on the bandwagon meaning we get copy and paste ‘personalities’ reacting the same way to the exact same songs. There are a few good ones, but the general format is ‘cute girl/gangsta rap fan listens to Metallica/Iron Maiden/Nightwish/Megadeth and is amazed that people can play instruments/write those lyrics/sing that way, and how they have never heard of it before. With each new reactor it’s getting more false and less likable, but it’s essentially what I’m doing with these posts. The difference being that I’m listening to the entire album and that you don’t get to see my face or my ‘reactions’. Which is probably for the best as I don’t have the most expressive face and it would be even more boring than reading this, as impossible as that sounds. If I ever did do a video reaction, I think it would be less repetitive than when I write – when writing off the cuff like this I tend to take less care in what I write, but when I speak off the cuff I’m much more creative. It’s strange, because it’s the complete opposite when it comes to planning – when I plan, my writing is much more interesting but when I speak it sounds like a sleep inducing speech. Enough!

What Do I Know About The Stone Roses: Only released two albums – the first was a huge success, influential, and has a few songs I enjoy. John Squire played guitar, Mani was on Bass, and Ian Brown started the whole strutting about Manchester singer thing. I’ve seen Ian Brown live several times, though not by choice – he just always seems to be there.

What Do I Know About Second Coming: It wasn’t a flop, but didn’t have the success or praise of the first. Looking at the tracklist, there’s only one song I definitely know but I know I’ve heard some of the others because my best mate in school was a massive fan.

Breaking Into Heaven: An intro heavily reliant on feedback, distortion, and looping, followed up by water sounds – a river, and is that a bird. I think I’ve heard this before but it’s not stirring any memories at the moment. Some voices lingering in the background, like a train announcement system. Tribal beats and lasers and bird calls. Sudden guitar wankery. This goes on for a few more minutes. The shift into the song proper doesn’t quite work – the drums come in perfectly but there’s this little gap in the guitar where it feels too jarring – it should be a clean break or a fade but this is neither. Brown’s familiar vocals waft in – as I’ve said elsewhere I’m not a fan of the Manchester scene and a lot of the samey vocal styles which came with it. It feels like a band in full command of their abilities and bursting with confidence. The vocal melodies are too wispy and light – slightly better for the chorus and bridge but nothing which really grabs me. It’s all about the guitar, with Squire tearing it up and turning a non-eventful tune into something more epic than it may genuinely be. The middle melody is stronger, followed by another instrumental and kicking solo, before it fades out.

Driving South: This opens with a beast of a riff, phat and thic and other misspelled, well-meaning adjectives. The drums don’t do much for me – they’re too static and rigid – again like much of the Manchester stuff of the era. Brown’s vocals don’t match the bite of the guitar and instead he goes for an air of cool – that worked for most people of the time but I never bought into it being much more on the grunge side of the fence. Really this is all guitar and the words and melodies are so far in the background as to render them pointless. If we had a good melody then we would have a much better song. As it stands it’s still good – easy to move to, easy to listen to, but it may as well be an instrumental.

Ten Storey Love Song: This is the one I definitely know as my mate played it for days. It has a famous noise fade in, with a lot of bits which swirl around in conflict with each other, sometimes joining, mostly breaking, until the lead guitar line and vocal comes into view. We finally have a decent melody and the band matches it. It’s a fantastic, underrated song, but I imagine how good it would be with a vocalist really belting it out – Bono or Bradfield would have a whale of a time with this. The drums are even more interesting, filling out the spaces and leaving a few well intended ones of their own.

Daybreak: This doesn’t start out well – more of the same whispered, accented vocals and shuffle drum beats, with riffs relying on old Blues tropes. The little instrumental section between verses is great – drums included – but then the verses come again and leave me flat. The guitar acts as a better drum in the verses. It’s weird, because those instrumental pieces are excellent, guitar, bass, and drum all loose like the best Zeppelin jams. Vocals in the middle are a little better. It closes out with an organ of all things and a big guitar and drum sped up jamming session which is good fun. A song of highs and lows.

Your Star Will Shine: Is this going to be the hippy track of the album. A gentle acoustic intro with hand clap style drums and some backwards stuff at play. A better attempt at melody. This suits the vocal approach better. It’s short and it doesn’t progress much and still a bit light to make an impact on me.

Straight To The Man: A brief tribal intro morphs into a Seventies porn rhythm. This is probably the most straight and simple song so far, it doesn’t stray from the norm, and it hits all the established notes of the album except for the more creative experimental leanings.

Begging You: A fade in of throbbing and swirling guitar bits before the same old drum beat drops, albeit in a slightly faster pace. The vocals are marginally more aggressive, but this one feels repetitive. There’s a lot of distortion and the guitar parts are noise based rather than your standard hooks, chords, or riffs, disparate parts coming together to form a mass. It has a few moments of interest, namely more instrumental or any time the drums cut out. Another which doesn’t do much for me.

Tightrope: A second hippy track? A lazy vocal with single chord strums, and tapping beats to give a campfire singalong feel. I thought it was going to explode, but instead it became even more campfire. Feels like a Youth Mission on a beach. I see what they’re going for, but it’s flat, dull, and boring. More like a demo written and recorded inside 5 minutes while the producer was taking a dump/snorting coke.

Good Times: This is becoming a slog now, waiting for a better song – a bit of invention. This starts with harmonica, so that’s different. Vocal with drums, or cymbals I should say. This is a fine example of Brown not being the most appealing vocalist. The guitar comes in – great, but the drums do too, and that’s not so great. This is little more than a middle of the road old fashioned rock and roll song with the Manchester sound cumming all over it, and a dashing of Squire goodness. A better singer would take it up a notch, but it’s distinctly average. At least there’s more energy, but you feel the band lost all their creative writing the two best songs.

Tears: A third hippy song. This has a very folk Zeppelin vibe in the intro. Any comparison ends the moment Brown opens his gub. It just keeps going on, at the same level, with no variety yet without hitting the hypnotic quality, until finally the volume strikes and I have a giggle at Brown’s awful attempts at keeping up. Honestly, any other singer would have made 90% of these songs 70% better. The Zep vibes continue as the heavier parts suspiciously mimic the heavier parts of Stairway to the extent that this is surely a knowing homage. Squire plays a blinder again, even the drums are decent. I’d quite enjoy this song with another singer, or with Brown actually putting in some effort.

How Do You Sleep: Good guitar intro, cool lyrics. Brown’s vocals… well, we know what we’re getting by now. This feels like an anthem – it’s straightforward and has a more obvious melodic quality from start to finish. It’s that lazy/laid back drawl which still holds it back for me. I know plenty of people who love that, but my personal preference is for vocalists with power or urgency. Sweet, simple solo in the middle. I’d happily listen to this one again, but that only makes it three or four from the whole.

Love Spreads: Ha, for the briefest second this sounded like Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong. It’s groovy, great production as always, and it has that foot tapping rhythm. I know it’ll fall over once Brown comes in. And yes, it does. I realize I’m being harsh on him, but it’s just no my thing. The problem with some of the vocals, not in this song, is that he is quite severely out of tune. Drums are much better here. The last couple of minutes are needlessly stretched out. A decent end but stamps again how little the Madchester scene means to me.

There’s meant to be some Untitled stuff at the end of the album, but I’m not going hunting for it now.

What Did I Learn: That the one band with the greatest chance of making me enjoy the whole Madchester thing… couldn’t. The whole look, style, the spidey wee glasses, the awful hair, the ‘look at me everyone, I’m taking drugs’ arrogance, the strutting about like you’ve shit your pants… it’s embarrassing and hateful, and produced a hell of a lot less good music than people think. I already knew Squire was a great guitarist, but this reminded me and taught me that he was the main driving force in the band. It also reminded me of the importance of having a strong singer in the group; it doesn’t matter how good the band is – if your singer is muck, then the whole temple tumbles to ruin. Oasis remain the only Manchester band I regularly enjoy. I love the song names, if that’s any consolation.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Based on the usual criteria – no. I don’t believe it sold well, critical reviews have always been mixed, and by the time this came out their time of influence had already passed. Had this been their first album then maybe, but this isn’t as good as their first. There are a couple of great songs, a few which could have been great with a decent singer, but the rest are middling. The overriding feeling I got from this is that Squire wished he was in a metal band. I understand why people will love it and will dance to it and get mad for it or whatever, but beyond the guitar there are a hundred other Indie bands from the same time doing stuff exactly like this and it fails to stand out. Change the singer, keep the drums away from that repetitive style, and I’d enjoy this a lot more. Even with all of that, I imagine if I was drunk or listened to this more I’d get into more by pure familiarity. I have no desire to.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 920/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Second Coming!

Nightman Listens To – Accept – Restless And Wild (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s perhaps apt that I begin this metal journey with a band whose name starts with an ‘A’. Accept isn’t a band I have a lot of experience with, at least not that I am conscious of. As with many of the bands and albums coming up, I’ve probably heard their stuff and just ignored it or not known who it was. I know fo’ sho’ I’ve heard a number of songs by Accept – their 1983 hit Balls To The Wall is familiar to most metal fans of a certain age. They’re a band who have been going since the 1970s and are still recording an touring today – when you’re metal, you never stop. Hailing from Germany, we may be in for some unintentionally hilarious lyrics or accents, and we’re sure to hit some top speeds. I know the band are one of those European bands named by later, more successful bands as an influence so I’m hopeful I get this series off with a blast. This 1982 release was apparently their fourth album, just before they hit it big with Balls To The Wall so maybe this has some of the hit-making qualities which paved the way.

Fast As A Shark: Ah yes. I know this one – it’s in the classic Demons – a movie about people trapped by zombies/demons in a cinema. It has a comedy false opening with some sort of folk song which gets obliterated by a shriek and some lightening drumming. As was standard for the genre and the period, the vocals are somewhere north of crotch-crushing. The production isn’t the best, but it’s far from the worst and gives it that added grimy touch – like watching a VHS tape. You won’t be able to make out most of the lyrics, but this is all about the speed and energy anyway. You can tell where the likes of Metallica got their influence from – many thrash guitar solos which would emerge in the next few years sound just like this.

Restless And Wild: Here we get a slice of Maiden-esque galloping. It’s a great intro which falls apart in the verses as the instruments withdraw and the vocals go to strange places. For metal fans, there’s plenty here to charm you but it’s not going to entertain anyone else. There isn’t much subtlety and you can understand your average listener dismissing it as noise. The rest of the band gets in on the vocal act, chucking in deeper harmonies in that classic 80s shouty way. The solo is another belter though.

Ahead Of The Pack: A more restrained, cultured intro if you will. Of course it’s only seconds before we descend into another series of adolescent-pandering slogans and screams – just the way we like it. It’s a very classic metal feel. The verses do this interesting pause thing once each time which catches you off guard. It doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose. There’s a cool effect before the solo smashes in, and the tone of the lead guitar is dirtier than a whore on Friday.

Shake Your Heads: A slower song with a simple riff/structure. Those vocals though, they sound like a eunuch being throttled. Imagine Bon Scott being fired to the moon via a firework in his anus, and you’ll be somewhere close. Still, that’s what everyone was at those days. The solo has more room to breath with this structure, but it’s a very basic one. Maybe one the fans can practice playing along to.

Neon Nights: I just had to pause in my writing there, because that intro is fantastic. There are a few moments which remind me of much bigger metal songs, eerie and otherworldly, and then there’s a great fuzzy boom and guitar tone before the song properly starts. The vocals are more restrained, nowhere near the sphincter melting heights of every other track. The solo goes back to that fuzzy tone of the intro as the rhythm section slops along. This one was written with a little more skill and attention.

Get Ready: A more straightforward classic rock intro with a little metal kick. The vocals are back. This one feels cheesier than the rest. It’s still fun and quirky for the modern metal listener and it’s decent enough for me who remembers a lot of this sort of thing from my childhood. I’m not a big fan of the ‘shout along handful of word chorus’ approach which Def Leppard would later perfect – it’s prominent here.

Demon’s Night: It starts okay, but loses steam in its simplicity. Decent rhythm, chugs along – it’s a bit of a precursor to Creeping Death but with little of that song’s brilliance and spark. Lots of pleasingly headache inducing guitar inflections and twists – a pity of the vocal melodies and approach don’t shape up.

Flash Rockin’ Man: An intro suspiciously like Two Minutes To Midnight. Ha ha, a quick look down the comments and everyone has mentioned the same thing. METAL! The verse goes in a completely different direction from that classic and it doesn’t have a chorus – instead going for some bonus guitars. Well, it eventually gets to a chorus. I’ve no idea what he’s shouting about. It just reminds me of a time when every metal band sounded like this and some of the local hoods would walk around with ghetto blasters pissing off the oldies by playing this stuff. Some nice twists in the second half.

Don’t Go Stealing My Soul Away: This one comes closest to having an actual melodic, singalong chorus. Yeah, if you want to rip your throat to pieces by trying to sing along with any of the songs on this album, by all means go ahead. It’s another simple one which gets immediately to the point and stays there with no frills. Not much to say beyond that singalong chorus.

Princess Of The Dawn: Jeepers, this one has a Two Minutes To Midnight feel too. Then it turns into Maiden’s The Clairvoyant. It’s another strong intro and this time they go all in on the melody. As much as they’re creatively able to at least. The vocals are patchy in places, mumbling and veering between the lower range and the painful high stuff. Who is the princess of the dawn? She Ra? Great solo. The best production and attention seems to have gone towards keeping the solos crisp. There’s excellent drum-work as the solo draws to a close and the final couple of minutes throw in a batch of other ideas which raise the song to further heights.

If I’d been a born a few years earlier and had access to more funds and the ability to buy stuff, I imagine I would have listened to a lot more stuff like this. As it stands, I was only exposed to the biggest bands and everything else was one-off songs until much later.  By the time I had money, it was all grunge and Brit-pop. There’s enough ability here that you can tell the band weren’t just making up the numbers in the metal community. They weren’t just playing fast and loud, they were expanding and trying other things. They don’t go very far in that direction here – maybe they do on later albums – but maybe those were enough to encourage the next wave of bands to go further. Metal fans of my age and older will enjoy this, but I don’t see many metal fans younger than me going for it – it does feel too much like a relic of another age, and it you weren’t a part of that age the style and approach may be too foreign to you. Still, I’m glad I’ve heard it and there are a few I’ll be listening to again even if I wouldn’t class any as a great.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Neon Night. Faster Than A Shark. Princess Of The Dawn.