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 – Just Like Us – Paul Revere And The Raiders (1966 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we go, the first post in a series I am sure to never finish – listening to every album released in 1966 (at least as listed by Wikipedia). That’s somewhere in the vicinity of three hundred albums, but taking out the compilations, EPs, ones I know, and ones which I already plan to listen to outside of this series we’ll hopefully get a less daunting figure. If you plan to follow along with me like a weirdo, I’m going from top to bottom on the 1966 In Music page on Wikipedia, and the first album on that list just happens to be a Compilation by James Brown – a singer who I haven’t listed to a full album by, but who I’ve always liked. We skip over him, and on to Paul Revere And The Raiders. Who?

Released on January 3rd 1966, it’s obviously one of the first releases of the year. It’s one I know nothing about, but according to Wikipedia was their fourth album and that they were a pop rock group. Hopefully we’ll get some nice 60s pop rock along the lines of The Beatles or The Beach Boys then. It’s not on Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 list and I can’t think of any other reason I would want to listen to it beyond this series of posts, so lets do it!

Steppin’ Out: Okay, gets off with a blast. Tambourines and a bluesy riff and Jagger swagger. Yes, this is much more like The Rolling Stones. There’s a switch in pace that comes out of nowhere and the song flies along before reverting back to the previous tempo. I’m not a huge fan of the vocals or vocal style, very much trying to capitalize on Jagger, but fine. It’s not what I was expecting, quite fun.

Doggone: Apparently a Smokey Robinson song. Continues with the Stones theme. The vocals are deeper and more controlled, theatrical, and vicious than Jagger. As it’s a Robinson song, there’s a lightness to the melody. Layered vocals give it a unique flavour. Central riff is simple but effective. So far a nice start to 1966 and exactly the sort of rock approach I was expecting bands to be producing, if a little heavier than what I thought.

Out Of Sight: Was that a shouty German intro? Ah, I see now that this is actually a covers album. I didn’t really want to include cover albums in these posts but we’ve started, and it’s good, so I’ll leave this as an exception. This is my least favourite track so far, but still more of the same – straight forward blues rock.

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Well, I know this one, natch. It’s a straight cover without much additional flourish. It’s a fun, quick song, but I was never a huge fan of it in any form. I always find it bizarre that these albums exist – even after The Beatles obliterated the model, multiple artists were still releasing multiple covers albums. Money drives, I guess.

I Know: I DON’T know this one. Heh. Lots of silly voices and laughter and background chit chat. Well played, but completely uneventful.

Night Train: It ain’t G’n’R. Nice intro with drums and brass as a fake train arrival. This is followed by your typical Blues stuff but the guitar tone is very flat and everything sounds like it was recorded in a tin of beans. It’s a mostly boring instrumental.

Just Like Me: Apparently this one isn’t necessarily a cover, but they bought the song from someone else. It has a similar rhythm to ‘Louie Louie’. Simple lyrics, lots of shouting. Too repetitive within its brief running time and lacking in the melody department to make any impact.

Catch The Wind: Not the first time I’ve heard this song on the blog, but of course my preferred version is the Susannah Hoffs one. Due to that, most other vocals sound flat to me. This one is especially lifeless – all the additional inflections and hooks and emotion Hoffs adds are absent here. The vocals on this version are almost as if he’s just reading them off the page having never heard the song – in fact it seems like he’s deliberately taking the piss, adding ‘da da das’ in a ‘who gives a shit’ way.

Satisfaction: More Stones. This is basically identical to the original, in other words, what’s the point? If you’re going to cover something, you have to add your own flavour and twist – in today’s sad parlance – you have to make it your own. This adds almost nothing, yet sounds less energetic and sleazy than the original. Still, it’s a classic song and it’s difficult to get it wrong.

I’m Crying: A count in intro like I Saw Her Standing There gets this one underway. It’s another famous British Invasion song, and again it’s not all that different. It’s all a bit pointless – here’s a bunch of songs other people wrote a few years ago, and look – we can play them too!

New Orleans: A marginally older song now, one with a famous ‘hey heya’ intro and a smooth swaying rhythm. There are countless versions of most of these songs out there, this one rocks a little more than the original thanks to the intervening years since it was written, but it’s mostly the same.

Action: I don’t know what this is, but it definitely has a Beach Boys vibe – similar harmonies and vocal style and even the lyrics are sunny and surfy. Like the rest of the album it’s all played with talent and energy.

That’s one album down, two hundred odd to go. I’m a little peeved this was just covers as its clear the band know how to play and how to rock. The early songs are the best as they capture a fun and youthful spirit, but it all wears thin quickly with the same range of songs that everyone else was covering at the time being played with a lack of invention and imagination. There’s nothing here to recommend any of the songs over the originals, unless you’re a die-hard of the band. There’s enough here to make me want to hear more by the band, but I want original material. With that being said, the band released three more albums in 1966 alone so I assume at least one of these is original material. We’ll get there, team, we’ll get there.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Just Like Us!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Steppin’ Out.

Nightman Listens To – The Rolling Stones – No.2

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to dive down into some deep and dirty delta cuts and covers as we look at the second UK release by The Rolling Stones. Like the first album this is bolstered by a host of energetic covers of Blues and rock standards although this time we get multiple Jagger/Richards originals. I know a few of these songs and I know most of the covers, so this should be an easy enough ride. Lift-off!

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love: This is among my favourite Blues compositions, mainly down to its appearance in The Blues Brothers. It thumps along, Jagger gives his usual swagger to the opening spoken proceedings and his vocals rarely stray into what you would consider singing. It’s as good a cover of this one as you’re likely to hear. There’s no need it needs to go over four minutes, never mind five.

Down Home Girl: Not an original I’m overly familiar with. A mid-paced to slow Blues song about some dude’s obsession with some gal. A gal of a particular type from a particular place it seems. The lead riffs are catchy enough but I’ll have forgotten them by the end of the album. Some harmonica and piano thrown in there too – one to good effect, the other not so much.

You Can’t Catch Me: A speedy outing, as the name suggests. Another simplistic and formulaic structure, but the energy and cool carries it through. Jagger’s vocals are too monotone, not entirely his fault as the song doesn’t allow for much in the way of melody. Great solo and build to it though. This one is famous for The Beatles nicking some of the lyrics for Come Together. 

Time Is On My Side: I can’t say for sure which version I heard first, but either way the first time I heard The Rolling Stone’s play this I assumed they’d written it. They didn’t. Aside from the chorus and main hook, the song is a grittier version of the original, with a little more hammer to the drums, more punch to the guitar, and an edge to the vocals.

What A Shame: This now is an original composition. It follows your standard Blues structure, timing, and lyrical content to the extent that this could have been written forty years earlier. Richards is playing a little in the studio, those string bends have a character, but elsewhere there’s little to suggest the band are anything more than talented cover artists and copycats. Still, it gets the foot tapping.

Grown Up Wrong: The second original composition has a touch more individuality, while still treading familiar Blues paths. I can’t go so far as saying there’s anything inherently British in the lyrics or approach but something makes it different. It’s a quickie too, and under a couple of minutes.

Down The Road Apiece: This is a full-blooded blues rocker which gives Jagger a chance to stretch his cords more than usual. Hearing a lot of these on their own is a more enjoyable experience for me than hearing them in a sequence. This is probably the most fun song so far and would get the most reaction from me if heard standalone. Still, aside from the energy, there isn’t a lot to recommend it above any other Blues rocker – it hits the same beats and notes as many others.

Under The Boardwalk: This is one everyone should know, in some form or other. Jagger manages well enough with the softer, higher patched vocals and the rest of the band add what little flair they can. This is one of those songs it’s difficult to get wrong and every version I’ve heard has been good – here it breaks up the flow of the album nicely by being a distinctly pop song rather than the Blues tracks.

I Can’t Be Satisfied: After that brief interlude, we’re right back in the Blues heartland with a Muddy Waters cover. This one has some Country influence, the lead riff is a fun example of the standard ascending Blues riff, but elsewhere the song is quite sparse.

Pain In My Heart: One of the more interesting Blues covers here, this has more in common with 1950s rock ballads than Southern Blues. Jagger enjoys this one, grunting, sighing, and screaming at various points.

Off The Hook: The final original composition is the most unique of the three. It takes time in its intro and blasts into a verse with Beatles style verve. It’s a shame the melodies aren’t great, going for repetition over quality. This sounds like any number of British and American rock bands who emerged in the 60s, yet keeps Blues roots.

Suzie Q: I think I knew the name of this song long before I heard it, and it’s another I always assumed was a Stones original. In truth, I’m not sure why the song is held in such high-esteem. It doesn’t stand out from any other late 50s rocker, and this cover gives it a little more grit without making it any more or less appealing.

More of the same then. I think I enjoyed this more than the first album – maybe the songs chose to cover are better, maybe I’m feeling different today, or maybe it’s the inclusion of more original Jagger/Richards songs. Really, there isn’t a whole lot of variety between this and the first album, but if you’re into early blues rock there’s bound to be plenty to enjoy here.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Time Is On My Side. Under The Boardwalk.

 

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Have A Nice Day!

*Note. This, and at least three subsequent Roxette album posts were written before this week and the news that Marie had passed away after her long cancer battle. I typically write these posts many months before I actually post them (I have already listened to and written about Charm School by September this year – who knows when I’ll post it). It’s strange to think we won’t get another Roxette album now, but we still have a collection of songs to look back on and enjoy.

220px-Roxette_Have_a_nice_day

Greetings, Glancers! Between 1994’s Crash! Boom! Bang!  and 1999’s Have A Nice Day the music world had moved on. While the band had released a Greatest Hits, a Rarities compilation, and an album of Spanish covers of their own ballads, five years is a long time to go without new material. Did anyone still care about Roxette on the eve of the old millennium and were they still capable of making instant pop classics? With regards to the first question, the album charted well and still sold a couple of million copies, though it wasn’t as large a success as their previous albums. Looking at the 14 songs on the track list, I don’t recognise any of them although given that ‘Wish I Could Fly’ was apparently the most played song of 1999 I assume I have heard it and somehow blanked it from my memory. I assume the album will be all new to me, but possibly bring some surprise nostalgia.

Crush On You‘ opens with a different sound for the band. Not jarring, as we know Roxette like to play around with their sound a little. It’s a heavy percussive opening before descending into a cheesy dated rave sound before stabilizing a little in the verse. Per sing talks the vocals with Marie filling in for the chorus. That chorus is pretty simple, a nice counterpoint to the plain melody of the verse. It is designed to feel hectic, a rap quality to the verses and a lot of synth and drums bouncing around. Nice enough production – a lot of switching around and different sounds, each couple of lines has a slightly different accompaniment to keep things varied. Stripped down it would be quite simple and straight, but all together it’s an okay opener, should get the blood pumping.

Wish I Could Fly‘ doesn’t ring a bell for me at the moment. I was listening to the radio in 99 so if this was such a big hit I should remember it. The verse feels marginally familiar, but I think I’m searching for a memory where there isn’t one. The chorus sounds like a couple of other Roxette songs and is strong enough that I should remember it, so I’m confident that I haven’t heard this. I’m not sure why it was such a hit as it feels like a pastiche of other Roxette songs… maybe it’s exactly what fans wanted after five years, but it’s definitely a lesser version of what they’d already achieved.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around What’s Already Gone‘ starts with DJ scrapes and crappy digitized beats. Per delivers the lead verse melody – it’s fine, lots of effects on his voice. It’s the backing stuff which is more interesting – the band clearly having fun messing in the studio but the unfortunate result is it sounds very dated. I have a feeling a lot of this is intentional, as if they were going for an already dated sound in 1999, but that sound isn’t one I’m keen on so it sounds very juvenile.

Waiting For The Rain‘ has a McCartney feel. The piano rhythm and the vocals feel very much like mid-career Beatles. The overall tone is very 60s to me, there’s a little bit of brass and flute stuff going on, and again the vocals have some effects over the top. It’s catchy enough, and each repetition builds a little something extra on, but it never gets better than okay.

Anyone‘ opens with a nice piece of piano, then a big string section gives me hope for an unknown ballad. This is much more what I prefer from Roxette – heart tugging melodies and vocals. Yes, it’s easily my favourite so far but you should know by now I love a good ballad. The verses stretch out, making me wonder if there is a chorus. The chorus, extended as it is, or split up as it is, doesn’t work as well as the verse and I’m happier once we get back to the verse. That return is short lived as we’re quickly back to the chorus. That’s a bit of a letdown as we were heading for one I’d quickly listen to again. As it is, it’s one I wouldn’t mind hearing again but not one I’d look for.

It Will Take A Long Long Time‘ is a rest from the over produced nature of everything we’ve had so far. A simple acoustic guitar intro and Marie’s vocals. Then some keys. Then the production comes with the chorus, but it’s not overbearing. Simple hopeful lyric. That’s a better chorus too – this one feels more even musically. The bridge and instrumental are as by the numbers as you can get and simply lead to another chorus before the end. Usually I say these ones are lazy and thrown together in a matter of hours, but it’s one of the better ones due to its simplicity. Nothing bad so far, just a range of middling songs.

7Twenty7‘ brings the production back with a digitized howl of noise, I guess signifying the 727 airplane. The song is another lackluster one built up by the wall of sound. I always say – can a song be stripped down to just a voice and a single instrument, and still be as powerful as the original, and this case I don’t see it. Very mundane melodies and aside from the odd Marie moment the vocals are plain. Of course, many songs are supposed to be that wall of sound and the stripped down theory shouldn’t apply, but this isn’t one of those. The song isn’t four minutes long but I’m bored long before that.

I Was So Lucky‘ seems a little more stripped down, maybe another ballad. Better melodies, better music. It’s still not reaching those top levels, but it’s better. The main feeling I get from the album is just that it’s plain, white music. I’m not sure the songs could be transformed to something better than what they are – what you hear is what you get and none of it is terrible or amazing. I still like this, but I can’t see it reverberating in my head after it’s done. Better than meh and in cases like this, quite good is the most positive I can be, but still waiting for one I’d really want to hear again.

Stars‘ opens like a terrible cheesy Europop rave up, one of those one-hit wonders from the late 90s which had the braindead bopping in droves. It ends up being better – the verse melodies and the kid choir stuff is good, but the backing beats and sounds are generic and weak and I dismiss them entirely within milliseconds of hearing them. It’s a bit annoying then when they finally get a better selection of hooks that they surround them with garbage.

Salvation‘ keeps the improved melodies running, with a wispy organ sound accompanying Marie. It’s all going well until that dreadful 90s drum sound comes in. That sound alone is almost bad enough to ruin the whole song for me. There’s a religious bent to the lyrics which the instrumental choices mirror, with angelic voices filling in, and we get another good chorus. This is easily one of the best songs – I don’t think the bridge does anything – but the verse and chorus do nothing wrong aside from the drum sound. Take that away and I’d gladly listen to this again.

Pay The Price‘ seems to go for a more traditional rock sound. It still has a lot of studio shenanigans going on instead of going for a pure live sound, but this is Roxette we’re talking about. It’s jumpy and fun, feels like a nice Summer song – something you’d have in the background of a 90s movie beach scene. Harmless fun and I don’t have any complaints – just not the most memorable. That’s maybe the best two songs in a row – can we keep the trend going?

Cooper‘ is the name of my cat. He’s named after Alice and Dale, not this song. His middle name is Michael Jackson, according to my kids. I don’t know who this Cooper is they are referring to, seems to be a lady. Per’s vocals are good here, maybe because of the good melodies, interesting lyrics, and tone suggesting something sinister. It’s a ballad, but has something akin to Little Susie. Cooper was sleeping as I started to play this song, but he’s now sitting up and staring at me so I have to console him and let him know it’s not about him.

Staring At The Ground‘ opens with more interesting drum sounds then some more summery guitar. It’s another light and fun song, inconsequential, but one which really tries to slap a smile on your chin. It even has harmonica. It’s almost like a 3 minute chorus.

Beautiful Things‘ opens with strings – always good. Good breathy vocals, sad tone. I’m good with the melodies, drum sound isn’t great but not too distracting, and the chorus works nicely as a counterpoint. Good transitions between the two tones and parts, blends well. The bridge isn’t the best, but that’s par for the course on this album. Yeah, good song, good ending to the album.

It’s a shame the start of the album isn’t as fun as the end. There are four or five good songs worth mentioning in that run in which are better than everything else. I wouldn’t say there are any bad songs but there is too much that is middling and either never hits top gear or is brought down by over-produced fluff. Albums which sound over-produced to me usually suggest a void of ideas or lack of creativity, or alternatively show an artist excited about a new box of toys but with not a clue how to use it to make a good time. Many albums throw a lot of these tricks into the mix and it pays off, because it either compliments the song’s purest form or elevates that song to something even more special. When it doesn’t work, it’s either vapid noise or highlights how uninteresting the music actually is. There isn’t a true standout song for me here, but those few towards the end warrant another listen – I’m not sure whether I’d include them on a personal Roxette compilation, but maybe after another few listens.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Have A Nice Day!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Beautiful Things. Salvation. Pay The Price.

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Achilles’ Last Stand – Led Zeppelin

Greetings, Glancers! To fans of Led Zeppelin, the band have any number of opuses (opusi?) to point to and enjoy and for detractors and uberpunk fans and idiots, the band have any number of pretentious, overbearing, never-ending twaddle to suffer through. Everybody knows Stairway To Heaven, most people know Kashmir, but very few people outside of the hardcore Zep fans know Achilles Last Stand. It’s their most epic song – a mammoth tome of riffs and rock excess – and it’s a song I had no idea existed until I stumbled upon it as I worked my way through buying the Zep albums in my late teens.

I’ve always been a fan of ‘long songs’. Of course I appreciate the finer points of a skillful, three minute pop song, but I’ve always been driven to pushing the boundaries, to adding just one more instrument or lyric or melody or solo. My mind has always been fond of the epic – I’ve loved long movies for as long as I can remember, I loved when my favourite bands in my childhood pushed a song over the five or six minute mark, and I loved long novel series or stories with plots which spanned thousands of pages and multiple years or generations. I don’t know why this is – maybe it has always inspired me or given me hope in the human race’s capacity for invention and imagination, this need to create something without giving the slightest fuck to its length. If it needs to be a 24 minute song, then that’s what it’s going to be. Achilles Last Stand doesn’t quite hit that mark, but it does go over ten minutes, and it’s ten minutes of pure glory.

Where do you even start with this? The beginning seems like a good place, but then I’d be forced to go through it piece by piece and we’d be here forever. I could cut it up into its different sections – Bonzo’s earth shattering drums, Page’s urgent overlapping riffs and apocalyptic soloing, the rambling long form poetic lyrics, Plant’s return to his finest vocals, and Jonesy never letting up with the thunderous galloping bass. It’s a song that just keeps going on and on and on, yet it constantly engages. It’s just so relentlessly dense that you always find something new to draw on and constantly find yourself falling in love once more with a slight inflection or string bend or slip of the wrist by Bonham. If you’re of the sadist persuasion, it’s like jumping into a huge thistle bush and trying to climb through to the other end, hundreds of prickers jabbing your skin, causing tiny cuts, ripping your clothes, and pulling you back – dense, painful, but you love it.

Most bands might write long or complex songs or a combination of both, but few bands have the balls to actually play them live. Led Zeppelin may have had the biggest balls in the history of rock, and regularly featured this in their concerts – it’s just a shame they wrote it at the end of their career. The balls it takes as a four-piece to play something like this, especially when completely coked off their tits, is a testament to just how in sync the band was. They just don’t have bands like this anymore, and they don’t write songs like this anymore. It is an utterly ridiculous piece of music and we should all feel blessed that it was born. If you haven’t heard it, click one of my links and let your head explode.

Unsurprisingly, there haven’t been many covers of this song. Only those mad bastards Dream Theater had a crack at it as part of a medley, while the Jason Bonham band paid homage – also during a medley. I’m sure some rap dudes have probably sampled pieces of it here and there – it seems like exactly the sort of song that would be ripe for such pillaging. Until one of the young pretenders goes all out and crafts something as epic and powerful as this, they’re never going to be accepted as anywhere near the same level as Led Zep.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Achilles’ Last Stand!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Lost Highway!

lost

Greetings, Glancers! Here we are, the first Bon Jovi album that I legit haven’t heard a single song from. Before I listen, I take a quick glance at the song’s Wiki page to get a little flavour for what’s in store. It was released in 2007 – by that point I was long gone from University and well into long term employment, so frivolous acts like Bon Jovi had fallen by the wayside for me. If they weren’t one of my favourite bands, or if they weren’t some new exciting act that I had just discovered, then I wasn’t going to listen to them much. It’s sad how it goes, but go it does. Wiki claims the album is heavily influenced by the Nashville sound, which is another way of saying ‘Yo Nightman, you’re going to absolutely despise this’. There may be collaborations with other artists, the album was a success on Country music charts…. arrgh… let’s just get it out of the way.

Lost Highway: Starts okay, typical Jovi sound. Slight banjo jangling. Oh Lord, here comes the slide guitar. I cannot abide slide guitar. Laughably trite and generic lyrics. Very middle of the road, soft stuff, appeasing the denim wearing, wandering patriot that the US inexplicably loves. The video, incidentally, is horrendous. The bridge doesn’t help, some terrible pronunciation. There’s a certain type of listener who swallows this stuff as if it’s scripture. I’m not that person. No edge, no emotion, just empty notes and not adventurous from a band capable of much better. Middling stuff then.

Summertime: I like songs about Summer. When they work, they’re very evocative. They make me happy, not something you’ll often hear me say. In fairness this one does come close to evoking those thoughts. It’s not quite strong enough and some silly decisions in the arrangement don’t help. The main chord chugging and the central riffs do fine – it’s nothing special, but for a band in their third decade it’s fine.

You Wanna Make A Memory: Different intro than what they usually go for. Vocals and a slight beat. Is that some female backing vocals. I was expecting this one to explode like they often do, but it keeps to a more restrained ballad form. Some slight violins, some piano. Gets marginally louder for the second chorus. I do like how it builds. The main vocal melodies are good and it quickly establishes itself as another traditional second tier Bon Jovi ballad – not up their with Always or Bed Of Roses, but still good.

Whole Lotta Leavin: Thankfully the album hasn’t been too country yet, at least not in the way I was dreading. There’s the quite intro followed by explosion I was talking about. Lyrics once again about that yearning for leaving, for adventure, for love. It’s a gentle foot-tapper to be sure, but by the numbers. More middling fare which should keep the band’s most ardent fans happy, but won’t recruit any listeners to the cause or excite someone like me.

We Got It Going On: Wait, wait, wait. Is this a cover band’s version of Enter Sandman. That’s hilarious. It’s a honky tonk rip off of Enter Sandman mixed with Have A Nice Day or It’s My Life. Like those songs, this has a stomp to it and a catchy chorus meaning you can both sing and dance to it. We get an unfortunate spoken part in the middle, followed by voice box solo. It’s pretty funny, but still middling stuff.

Any Other Day: This opens with a summery vibe too, and a nice guitar tone. Songs like this have a tendency to grab me immediately, so I get disappointed if the rest falls away. The lead riff, well it’s not really a riff, but it’s very nice and suits the verse melodies perfectly. It’s all smooth and likable. A late career goldie for me – the chorus doesn’t go overboard with the anthem but acts as a more joyous extension of the verse. A very nice surprise.

Seat Next To You: The opening riff here is almost the same as the one I mentioned in the previous song, though decidedly more slow and peaceful. More female backing vocals. The Country stuff is there, but thankfully it’s more in the background and doesn’t leave me with a bad taste. So far this is a much stronger ballad, reaching close to those upper tiers. Verses and choruses again – not obnoxious, not amazing, but emotive and mature. Two very good songs in a row – can we continue this trend?

Everybody’s Broken: Well, it begins promisingly enough. I don’t know why they went for that drum sound though. Gentle but good melodies. Decent lyrics. A better drum sound joins in. Decent chorus. The song has a carefree sway. The chugga-chugga-chug guitars in the second verse don’t quite work, but I see what they’re going for. Mutterings of keyboards towards the end. It’s not as good as the previous two songs, but better than the ones before those.

Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore: This is veering close to the whining strings I can’t stand in Country music. For a few seconds at least. Feels like another decent ballad, not up there with the best, but not far behind. Going in on the full duet in the second verse. It’s LeAnn Rimes. She adds something different, she’s always had a (kind of) distinct voice, and while she’s Country the whole thing doesn’t go as far down that terrible road as I feared.

The Last Night: There hasn’t been that one bombastic, arena rock song on the album yet. This one doesn’t feel like it’s going to get there either, based on the opening. It has a middling pace, a soft rock approach. The verses are catchy enough without getting the claws in, with the chorus following in the same vein. It’s another which will please a certain section of the fans but will leave listeners like me asking for something stronger. It’s fine, a step down from the last few.

One Step Closer: Is this going to be the straight Country song I dreaded? No, the verse wises up. Another ballad then, and more soft rock. It’s getting a little samey now – that happens when you get beyond six albums and don’t really change your sound much from the core. Fans will be happy, there’s nothing much wrong with the song, just at this point it sounds too much like everything else. The chorus is nice enough, and I like some of the additional guitar parts which linger in the background.

I Love This Town: Is this the Country song? It starts badly enough, with hand clap type nonsense. And yet… and yet there’s something fun about it. The band sound like they’re having fun and that materializes through the waves into my veins and that feeling becomes infectious. This sounds like about a hundred different songs – everything from Bon Jovi’s own past masters to, most obviously, Dance The Night Away by The Mavericks. What was very close to being an awful closing track instead becomes a crowd-pleasing mini-anthem of its own. I imagine the band employs this one when playing live, singing about whatever town they’re playing in to the delight of the crowd. It’s strange but it somehow works by virtue of being a lot of fun.

A lackluster, if not poor first half gives way to a much improved second – there are definitely a number of songs I’ll be listening to again and would gladly put on my Bon Jovi playlist. I don’t think any of them will crack the band’s best ten or twenty songs, but they’re not far away. A better album than I was expecting by all accounts, one which thankfully didn’t live up to its Country promises and while it lacks that one great single there are enough good songs to keep loyal fans amused.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Lost Highway!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Any Other Day. Seat Next To You.

Nightman Listens To: The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones

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This could be a slog. Similar to my Beach Boys post, I’m going to go through all of the studio albums – no compilations or live albums etc. That still leaves 30 albums, of which I’ve already heard… less than 10? Like I mentioned in my announcement post, I started going through Rolling Stones albums many years ago but found them too samey and with not enough standout tracks. Listening to them alongside The Beatles I found myself going back to The Beatles more and more and eventually giving up on The Stones. Maybe I didn’t give them a fair chance. From a blues rock perspective, they paled in comparison to Zeppelin, and from a songwriting stance The Beatles were just more enjoyable in every way. Still, you gots to listen to these things to know, so I may as well go back to the start.

This debut album came out in 1964 and like most of the other bands at the time consisted of a bunch of covers. It took The Stones longer to get the most out of their songwriting partnership, so many of their early albums had lots of covers, and that’s going to be part of the slog for me. I’m more interested in the original compositions once they come along.

Route 66: You won’t enamour yourself to me by having hand claps in your first song. Standard US Blues rock, played by a British white guy who at this point had probably never been to any of the places mentioned. It’s played with a youthful intensity and energy, but without much edge. Jagger’s vocals have a persona of their own, if not completely unique.

I Just Want To Make Love To You: The Etta James version takes some beating, so instead The Rolling Stones go for a breakneck pace. Musically it is very scaled back and simple. Those handclaps are back though they are mostly drowned out by the frenzy. Good harmonica and Jagger gives it all in a manic vocal performance, all in all a furious cover.

Honest I Do: A much slower song in standard blues timing and with simple blues riffs, punctuated by slightly more unusual jangling pieces. When you think of the Blues, it’s something like this that you think of. It’s mostly boring, all told.

Mona: Craig Mclachlan anyone? I suppose the echoing guitar was innovative at the time. As with most of these songs, there are so many covers of each one that it’s not the easiest job to find a favourite or one which sticks out. There’s no need for this one to be three and a half minutes long since it is so repetitive and would likely be served better shaving 30 or 60 seconds off.

Now I’ve Got A Witness: This speeds things up again. Standard blues scales and rhythm again, piano led this time, but the band are still giving their all. I think there’s something too laconic about most of the Stones songs which have always kept me from being a full blown fan. That and probably growing up in the 80s and 90s with rock music which felt much more vibrant and full blown and complex meant that I didn’t have as much affinity for the more stripped back stuff.

Little By Little: A harmonica intro leads to more standard blues stuff. It’s still played with energy but there’s only so many times you can hear the same riffs and scales before you get bored. The solo is good, the handclaps aren’t… I would have loved this at the time but all these decades on music has progressed so much for this to sound almost redundant. Using The Beatles comparison again, their songs from the same time just had that bit more creativity and something special. None of these songs are bad by any stretch, just even though they are new (ish) to me they feel like I’ve heard them a hundred times.

I’m A King Bee: Back to the slow Blues again. There’s a simple recipe – set your blues rhythm, select any random noun or subject, and write barely hidden simple euphemisms about love and sex and you’re done. It was fine in the 20s, 30s etc, but once we reach the 60s  with white guys adding their touches it doesn’t work as well. The repetition makes it feel more like mind-numbing dance music than soulful rock. That’s a huge part of the problem I always had with ACDC too.

Carol: And now we’re back to the faster blues. No difference in playing style or rhythm or anything really here. Still good as a standalone, or if you’re into that sort of thing, but an album full of it gets boring quickly.

Tell Me: Now this instantly feels different, and lo and behold when I check it turns out this is the first Jagger/Richards composition on the album. It doesn’t feel connected to The Blues in anyway and in more like a soft rock ballad or simple love song. It’s not quite the same style as what other British Invasion bands were writing – it has its own quality and is easily my favourite song on the album. I can’t say how much I actually like it, it’s probably made better by the fact that it’s so different from every other song so far. It’s sweet and simple and has a great chorus.

Can I Get A Witness: This song is almost always fun, this version is no different. As a standalone it will work great but surrounded by all the other similar songs it’s too much.

You Can Make It If You Try: The slower songs don’t even work as well as what I mentioned for the previous track. At least the faster ones have that effervescence, these ones sound too tired even if Jagger is spicing up the vocals.

Walking The Dog: More of a strutting rhythm. More annoying hand claps. Again.. pick your noun or subject and away you go. Even in 64 it sounds cliched, though I imagine the band brought this style to a much larger audience.

Pretty much what I remembered and what I was expecting – typical blues songs played well, but with not enough of a voice to make them stand out from any other version. The one original piece is good, the covers themselves are good, but there’s only so many of them I can take. I don’t have much to add – it’s not lackluster, it just seems that way, and there’s probably only one song I’d pick to listen to again. When I have my pick of cover artists and the originals, there’s nothing here to make me pick a Stones version over anything else.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Rolling Stones!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Tell Me

Nightman’s Top 38 Songs By The Music!

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘Favourite Songs By X’ list, so I thought I would bring it back with a band I’m assuming most readers won’t be familiar with. Regular visitors to the blog will know that one of my missions is to try to recruit readers to the Manic Street Preachers army – my never-ending posts about them hopefully gaining the band a few new fans. However, one of my greatest hopes in music is that The Music gains has a much larger audience. The Music was, to my mind, the best British Band to emerge in the 2000s. In an era filled with ‘The’ bands and poncy solo singers – the so called saviours such as Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Kaiser Chiefs, The Strokes, The Killers, were all shite to me – vain, watered down indie which appealed as much to the Michael Buble crowd as they did to rock fans ashamed to admit they liked guitar based music. The Music fully embraced their guitars and rock history with an unmatched swagger and no fucks given approach, while fusing stadium pounding choruses and earth shattering riffs with a funk/dance combo. Nobody else sounded like them, and nobody has since. They should have been the biggest band in the world.

It all started out promisingly enough, with a string of Top 40 hits in the UK and a debut album which peaked at Number 4. The four lads were regulars on the festival circuit and while touring burned them out a little, they managed to record what I consider to be the best album of the decade – by some margin – their follow up Welcome To The North. While the more grandiose, less dance-oriented approach garnered less acclaim in the critical outlets, it has become a cult fan favourite. The grueling schedule would take its toll, along with some substance abuse recovery, but four years later the band would release their third and final album – the darker, less inspired Strength In Numbers. While still containing a number of great songs, it seemed like the band were in a transitional stage. Sadly, before we would learn what would come next, lead singer and write Robert Harvey announced he was quitting the band in the midst of writing for their fourth album. Fortune, in this instance, had not favoured the brave but instead the bland, and while rock around the world slipped into obscurity, one of its final great hopes – never given the attention they demanded – played for the final time together, and vanished.

Fans were delighted to receive a Double Album collection of singles and rarities shortly after the group disbanded, but it wasn’t conclusive; there are plenty of songs which the band played and recorded which were left off, and who knows what other delights the fourth album could have given us. Harvey went on to work with noted knob Mike Skinner on a couple of minor projects and can now be found on Youtube releasing the odd acoustic song. He still has the pipes and the talent, but I haven’t believed in the latter portion of this decade that any great new material would be coming from the ex-members. My hope now is that people can find what they did release, that the band will be re-evaluated, re-discovered, or encountered for the first time. In today’s knitted, don’t walk on the grass, sit down concerts, empty smiled, doped up on yawns, world in which music is gradually heading backwards to a pre-Beatles era of back-patting, song sharing, anti-creativity, The Music ruptured the very core of passion and stomped their songs all over the bodies of any activists who stood up for bland rights.

Here is my rundown of my favourite songs by The Music, complete with helpful links so that you can become a fan. As always, much of the ranking is changeable. This is music to make you attach alligators to your arms and go punch some bears. Click the links and enjoy some absolute belters.

38. Disco (Debut Album)

Why not start with probably the strangest song the band ever recorded, just to alienate anyone who sheepishly clicks the first link. It’s a song of two halves, the first being a dirge-like crushing rock song which picks up pace swiftly before exploding into a truly manic second half. That manic second half is led in by increasingly ridiculous and funky drums and Harvey’s vocals getting more bizarre with each line. If you’re not busting out your most over the top, wall slamming dance moves by the end of this, then you have no business being alive.

37. Let Love Be The Healer (Rarities)

Every so often the band through all subtlety out the window and went all in on an old fashioned driving rock song – or at least their version of such things. The distorted chaotic riffs are still accounted for and the pounding drums are more streamlined into a single arrangement – with all the trappings of their usual style removed it’s refreshing to see that they can still deliver the goods.

36. Fire (Strength In Numbers)

Very few songs on their final album sound like what was on the band’s debut – this is one of the most obvious callbacks. It doesn’t meet the euphoric heights of their best work from that era but it shows that they were still perfectly capable of knocking out another hit in the vein of what made their name. There are two great colliding riffs, the drum and bass work is exquisite as always, and Harvey’s vocals are hovering somewhere above the Mir Space Station.

35. Hands On Fire (Rarities)

Never going down the standard or acoustic ballad very often, and typically only on B-Sides, Hands On Fire feels more like a Harvey solo effort – such is the influence of the rhythm section. The verses are nice enough, but the chorus brings the drums and a bigger melody. It’s not a song I feel the need to listen to much, but every so often I give it a blast as a nice riposte.

34. Too High (DA)

There’s only one way to close out such a wild and over the top debut, and that’s with this mini slow-building epic. Although things start out quietly enough with more of the wonderfully toned guitar riffs we’ve come to expect, things become more insane as we near conclusion. Not quite to the extent of the album opener, or indeed Float (not included on this list), but enough to make you take notice. Seeing them perform this (or any of their songs really) live is an awe-inspiring experience and another where you just have to give yourself over to the band and go with it. The greatest rhythm section since Zeppelin? On this evidence it’s pretty damn close.

33. Body Or Soul (Rarities)

An early unreleased demo which showcases everything the band would come to be known for – effects on the guitars, bass and drums to make you get your tappers on, vocals stunning vocals, freestyle instrumental chaos, and melodies to send you sailing to the stars. The only thing really missing here is big budget production, more work on the lyrics, and something extra to justify the 5 minute running time.

32. The Truth Is No Words (DA)

One of the band’s biggest single consequently has one of their biggest riffs – run alongside the drums it makes you groove like a loon. The sub-hippy lyrics and sentiment set the tone but allow Harvey to belt out the melodies – stadium stuff this, and how this isn’t still regularly being played to crowds of thousands is a complete mystery. Who needs Dance music when you have this?

31. Drugs (SIN)

There’s this dark synthetic tone and style which runs through the band’s final album, recalling something like Depeche Mode or the more dance-oriented moments of the Goth movement. The vibe is so consistent that some of the songs become indistinguishable from each other, but every so often one of them has a belter of a chorus – Drugs being a prime example. Harvey is more restrained for much of the album but he lets loose here. We get a neat little bridge too – another piece lacking from the album as a whole is them not twisting songs to the next level by adding a code or a bridge or something extra. Great lyrics throughout too

30. Vision (SIN)

The aforementioned synth tone runs through this one, a throbbing beat and a guitar which sounds like a DJ has tinkered with it setting us off. This one is a little of an opposing force to Drugs – here we have a fantastic verse but a more mediocre chorus.

29. Get Through It (SIN)

The band at their most WipEout. This sounds like it was straight out of a futurisic video game, the background synth like a guttural force driving the verse before the beast of a chorus which will see any listener howling ‘COME ON!’ with no care for who’s watching.

28. The Rain (Rarities)

I’ve always felt like some of the B-Sides of SIN should have been on the album instead of what did make it. They don’t have that dark synth tone and are on the whole more positive sounding. Then again, these lyrics include choice cuts like ‘there’s nothing I can do to stop the violence’. The band have never had an issue making anguish sound euphoric. While the verses are decent enough, this is all about the chorus. Even the guitars take a less prominent seat and let the melodies speak for themselves.

27. One Way In No Way Out (Welcome To The North)

It says a lot about Welcome To The North that this is my least favourite song on the album – and that it falls inside my Top 30 yet every single other song on the album also makes the list. This is what…. Doom Metal mixed with Mad Max Three? It certainly marches along with the confidence and speed of a T-Rex after a belly-full of Triceratops. Like basically every other song on the album the chorus is a joy, peaking with a recap of the thunderous riff and a short bridge. If this is the album’s weak-point, you know you have a world conquering record on your hands.

26. Traps (Rarities)

Scratchy distorted waves and another dance-laden beat give way to a shimmering mock riff before the dual vocals work their way through a simple verse. There’s a lovely transition into a gorgeous pre-chorus all while the background distorted noise swells into some sort of recognisable shape before a brief explosive, yelling chorus. That’s the essence of the whole song, though we do get an instrumental and expanded take on the pre-chorus as the bridge. Not a song many know, but another which I think would have helped their third album.

25. The Price (Rarities)

Another song cut from their last album, this one has the dark synth which helps it fit tonally – where it differs and excels is having a constantly successful melody. The verse is just as strong as the chorus while both serve their traditional purpose. It’s one you can see being blasted in a club alongside any piece of rave music or Master Of Puppets. This is a fine example of why metal fans and ravers come together in support of the group – vicious guitars and vocals and a beat and melody to pump up any crowd.

24. The Last One (SIN)

Once more with the dark synth; we fade in with what sounds like it’s going to be a straight dance track. Then some slightly ominous guitar joins in. The verse takes us straight back down the dance route and I love the single note bass throughout. Then we get another gripping pre-chorus, the bass changes ever so simply, and we blast off for yet another epic chorus, Harvey’s vocals wailing like a siren. Everything else is a repetition, but when your core is this good you don’t need to add any frills.

23. Ghost Hands (Rarities)

The band released this song to the public shortly after splitting, saying it was a song they had recorded for their abandoned fourth album and that it was too goo to not share. They were right; the song showcases everything they had accomplished and learned to that point – the mixture of tasty beats, scratchy guitars, massive riffs and ever bigger choruses. There is a touch of the dark stuff from SIN, a sense of the jubilant majesty of WTTN, and the brazen confidence of their debut. It’s an instant classic and makes you wonder what could have been, even if the song has no business almost reaching six minutes.

22. Welcome To The North (WTTN)

The title track and the opening track of the best album of the last twenty years has quite a lot to live up to. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. As the opener of their second album it still had a heavy burden given the success and delights of their debut. Naturally those fears are gone in moments. With exquisite production and a more focused attack the song swells insidiously from the first second, leading into a riff heavy and melodically unusual verse. The chord progression and vocals shouldn’t work so well together, yet they do, and the chorus has some of the stomp and pomp of the debut. You get the sense that this song, like others on the album, could easily get expanded out to eternity for an all- night rave session, although the tone here feels much more serious than the lighter more simplistic upbeat nature of the first album.

21. I Need Love (WTTN)

Maybe the simplest, straightforwards rock song on WTTN, I Need Love doesn’t quite dispense with the quirks and dynamics which always raised the band above everyone else. As usual there is a hypnotic riff which encompasses everything else, but this is really a showcase for Harvey’s vocals. The best part of the song is the double bridge which first slows things down with a mournful melody as Harvey apologizes before exploding into a ridiculous vocal refrain.

20. Strength In Numbers (SIN)

The opening track and title track of the band’s final album was also the first single. It all sounded good – a blistering riff set to thumping beat and leading to a huge chorus. While it may not have been a sign of how good or bad the album was going to be, it certainly got a lot of good press and got my hopes up for more of the same. Harvey lets his vocals go to all their high points – something not done enough on the album – and the usual flair for adding in additional bridges, riffs, and casual swift corners before bringing it all around is there. For what would turn out to be a swan-song, it’s a damn good one.

19. Breakin (WTTN)

Replacing a guitar riff with a cheesy vocal hook pays off here, largely because the rest of the song is so heroic. I love the transition from the cheesy riff into an altogether different verse tonally, and again how the verse builds it back up to the riff and chorus. Some nice hand drum stuff and wonder vocals all round. The little drum middle section is groovy as hell and leads to some classic Harvey ‘skeep ba da ba dee’ vocal ticks. Every great single needs something like that, sham on.

18. Freedom Fighters (WTTN)

A drum intro more funky than a tramp’s sentient jock strap gives way to a ripping series of riffs and chugging chords. Flawless verse, pre, and chorus melodies once more – everything the debut had in spades but here with just that increased know how and maturity. Lyrically it’s on the ‘lets join together and dance for freedom’ side of things, but it’s done with such sincerity and swagger that you’d have to be even more of a cynic than I am to not get down with it.

17. Cessation (WTTN)

I remember reading once how the band, or Harvey at least, didn’t know what the hell they were doing when they wrote this. It’s maybe the band’s fastest, most furious song, and it’s just as awesome as that sounds. There is a fiery urgency in the delivery from each of the four lads, and while it’s musically simple and the verse melody is short on notes, the chorus is damn great and another double bridge section (particularly the Mastodon-esque drums in the final part) raises it to headbanging levels of insanity. So much layering on the vocals too

16. Alone (Rarities)

We’re back in ballad territory. An acoustic song with a few electric moments and studio layering. It’s all about the melody and depending on how you feel about Harvey’s vocals you’ll either love it or hate it. He reaches some crazy notes on this one. A short, contemplative song for drifting away too.

15. The People (DA)

The balls. If there is any true hallmark of the band’s early days, it’s the balls. To start a song with a snippet, cut and paste riff in an era of nu-metal and Euro-pop, and have the whole song be better than anything either genre has ever produced takes some balls, but to do it seemingly without a care in the world and with a V-shaped Gallagher swagger really takes the biscuit. It’s all a call for change too – to better ourselves. And then throw in a mostly wordless chorus which is still more memorable than most choruses from the past twenty years – genius. We’re not done yet – lets chuck in once of those cliched dance break build ups before the final chorus – once again, who needs DJs when rock music does stuff like this?
14. Bleed From Within (WTTN)

An eerie, sultry riff with a darkness which would fit more neatly on their next album this anti-violence ode is as perfect a power-pop rock song as you can get. The cacophony of drums is lethal, the riffs combined with Harvey’s emphatic howls are chilling, and just when it sounds like they’ve drained the well by the second minute, one of their best bridges comes in from nowhere and leads the song down the rabbit hole to an underground orgy which spreads it to past the six minute mark, with not a second to spare.

13. No Danger (SIN)

You should know by now how I feel about instrumentals – even when my favourite bands do them I generally don’t enjoy them. I love each of the instrumentals The Music recorded, and the two on this list are exceptional. That’s all the more interesting when you remember how integral Harvey’s vocals are to the group but a confirmation of just how strong the rhythm section is. This was a hidden track at the end of their last album, a near 8 minute epic which runs the gamut of emotions and feels even more haunting now that we know it would be one of the last things we’d ever hear them record. It takes its time, starting out with a series of repetitions of the same riff, growing and growling with each loop and being joined by more layers of chords. Somewhere around the four minute mark it branches off into good old buck nuts territory for a mosh session, elbows in throats, fists going everywhere. Then it gives us a breather before one final push, a confident strut towards glory. Thank the Gods for whoever first noticed these guys, and fuck the world for taking them away.

12. Raindance (Rarities)

I didn’t hear most of The Music’s B-Sides until the release of their rarities compilation. While a lot of the songs there were remixes of existing hits, there were a number of superb songs I was stunned to have never heard. This was the first of those which really made me sit up and take notice and wonder why it hadn’t made an official album. This song would have been a great fit on their debut, though maybe it would have slowed the tempo too much. A ballad at its core, it really comes alive around the halfway mark, once we’ve gone through the simmering verse and chorus a couple of times. The bridge kicks in, Harvey once again pushes his vocals to stupid registers, and the various elements of the song come together – for fans of the first album, this will be one you’ll enjoy.

11. The Walls Get Smaller (WTTN)

The other really great instrumental narrowly misses out on my top ten. It’s another hidden track, this time coming at the end of Welcome To The North. A funny thing is that it mimics a riff I’d had in my head and which I used to play years before the band even existed. Sometimes those things happen. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Or maybe it’s because it’s so feckin’ good. It couldn’t be any simpler – a very easy riff (if I was good enough to write and play it when I was 12 years old then it can’t be that difficult) given a demonic presence thanks to the drums and tone is repeated over and over. That’s mostly the whole song – except additional layers are added to the riff, it is played at different positions on the neck, and it has a little second riff wraparound to give it a cyclical nature. The drums continue to thrash and shift and then halfway through they play an ascending even more simple version of the riff before a slight pause, then an explosive return to the main riff again. It’s so simple, yet so effective, and like their most popular songs is another you’ll want to jump about like a maniac too – regardless of whether you’re in trackies or leathers.

10. Turn Out The Light (DA)

The main ballad/slow song from the debut, Turn Out The Light is lead off by one of the most seductive, shadowy riffs I’ve ever heard. It’s soft and simple, lonely, and as is their style, it repeats throughout the song with additional snippets and inflections which give it subtle differences each time around. The lyrics take the form of a late night conversation, the type of which will strongly evoke nostalgia and familiarity in anyone who’s had one. Harvey gives it a lungful with each line, and the band are maybe at their most restrained. They leave enough room to jam and rock out towards the end of the song, but at its heart this is a sumptuous soulful ballad.

9. Fight The Feeling (WTTN)

Most people would choose the previous song over this one, but I don’t think this gets the credit it deserves, being at least on par with Turn Out The Light. It does the same job, but for the second album. If anything this is more lonesome. It has that same shadowy tone, the same seductive atmosphere. Man this album is so underappreciated. This love song is very subtle and wholesome, with lovely lyrics which could be about love, hate, depression, and a less repetitive nature than the one above. Verse and chorus melodies are both peerless, the brief guitar licks beautiful, and that final vocal blast in the final chorus cements Harvey as one of the best singers we’ve ever had.

8. The Dance (DA)

Wow, what a way to open your debut album. It’s everything the band is, across their three albums, condensed into a single song. As if the title didn’t give it away, this is a song you can dance to – you’ll find it hard to resist – but it’s also smart, inventive, and heavy. Lyrically it covers most of their favourite subjects, and tonally it has atmosphere in spades. It features one of my all time favourite song introductions, building and building and building until the epic verse and eventual collapse. The song literally collapses under its own weight as riffs stutter midway, pause, swirl, come back in another form and the digitized beats fumble and fragment. Yeah, that ending is probably one of my most favourite too. Everything in between is equally great, Harvey howling in agony and ecstasy. I will never tire of those first few seconds as the distortion surges in melodically. Then the tribal drums pop off around the minute mark and I’m lost in another world. Few bands have the ability to transport me anywhere – these guys did it with the first song on their first album and I haven’t landed again since. Music for the best headphones or biggest speakers you can find.

7. What Am I (Rarities)

One of the last songs I got around to, this one never appeared on their compilation album and I only found it years after they split. It’s a B-Side from Strength In Numbers and my lawd, what a belter. Man, this could have replaced almost anything from that album and made the whole stronger. It’s the band at their most urgent and stripped back. It’s a song which relies almost entirely on melody and emotion – the two top-most things I look for in a song and after I heard it for the first time I couldn’t get it out of my head for days, not that I wanted to. It’s far from their most adventurous or experimental song, but unquestionably one of their best from the melodic standpoint.

6. Inconceivable Odds (SIN)

The opening and closing songs from Strength In Numbers are arguably the best songs on the album – everything else in between is hit and miss. This closer is fantastic in every way and a stark departure from the tone and sound of the rest of the album. I still remember the first time I listened to the album – when this song finished I was in a daze and sat asking myself why – why didn’t they take the approach of this song for the rest of the album? Why didn’t Harvey ‘go there’ with his vocals like he does here? Why couldn’t they have made a couple of other songs as good as this one? In truth, this almost feels like a solo effort, such is the barren instrumentation when compared with 90% of their other work. It’s mostly Harvey’s vocals and an acoustic guitar. Gorgeous melodies as you would expect, crisp vocals, clear poetic lyrics with a hint of desperation. The barest hint of bass. Some light synth stuff going on. I’ve always said that the sign of a great song is if you can strip it all away to just the vocals, or the vocals and a single other instrument, and lose none of the impact. This is as stripped away as the band have ever been and it ends up being one of their finest tracks – you get the impression that they could have surrounded this with riffs and drums and all the rest and that it still would have been good, but why bother?

5. Getaway (Debut)

This is the one; if you’ve heard a song by The Music, this is it, and it’s probably their quintessential song. No other band in this generation has so brilliantly fused rock and dance, no band has so flawlessly brought together the opposing elements of dancing and headbanging, and no song perfectly embodies this better than Getaway. Subtle pounding bass and a sinister guitar line get things going before Harvey’s vocals present the central melody. Then the cliched drums for a laugh, then more chugging guitars, all building and building. And it never really stops building until the roof is torn off. It’s funny how the verse and chorus melody is essentially the same thing – different lyrics of course – but it all aids in that building. We get the extra ‘oooohhh’ hook to spruce things up and we get that rave/dance trope of pulling the music away almost like you’re hearing it from under water, before building it all up again to one final 1000 hit combo to the face. It’s so simple – but this is how you make a rock single in the new millennium.

4. So Low (Rarities)

The final B-Side on my list is another that I didn’t know existed until they released their compilation. You can tell immediately it’s from the WTTN era. It starts innocently enough with a sweet, shimmering riff soon joined by a single beat. A second guitar joins playing single notes and Harvey brings a warm, sunny vocal. But wait, the lyrics are a bit of a downer so why and how are the melodies so brutally gorgeous? The bridge sees the vocals straining and the melodies reaching, then holy gawd the chorus – what a piece of art. I mean, it’s just the title sung with a noose around Harvey’s nuts, but it’s incredible. I admit that a lot of this isn’t going to be for everyone, but for me this ticks exactly every box and sweet spot. Show me another singer who can sing that chorus in that way, and with so much raw emotion. Please, really do, because that’ll be someone I want to listen to. This B-Sdie utterly wipes the floor with anything any British or US rock band was putting out at the same time. Or since.

3. Into The Night (WTTN)

These top three songs represent another level beyond anything else The Music has done, and they all appear on Welcome To The North. I had the impossible task of choosing between them so really they represent a joint number 1. As impossibly amazing as So Low is, this is God Tier shit. In essence it’s your typical rock structure, with riff, verse, chorus, bridge etc, but it’s the heart, it’s those melodies. It all speaks directly to me, which is one of the things I’m constantly hunting for in music, and it’s just…so…happy. I’m not usually one for songs which are overtly joyous, but as I’ve said before when one of my favourite bands does it the results are usually glorious. This is glorious and I almost don’t want to share it with anyone else.

2. Guide (WTTN)

More of the same. It’s just iconic, anthemic stuff, and barely anyone knows it. This isn’t the sort of song to be played in a stadium to 50000 people, this is a song to be played from the sky to an entire continent using the yet to be made-alien technology-largest speakers in the universe. Of course, the combined force of 100 million people jumping and singing together to the song with the power of the speakers will cause the very Earth to rupture and us all drop into hell, but who gives a fuck. If you’re gonna go, it may as well be while listening to this at the end of the world. Is this the greatest chorus every written? Maybe not, but it’s right up there.

  1. Open Your Mind (WTTN)

This is how to end an album. This is how to end one of the greatest albums ever. Every ounce of this song is dripping with goodness and I tear up every time. I want to be able to sing like this, without suffering a prolapse, and I want the world to hear this. How can a song be so understated yet grandiose at the same time? I have no clue how this came into being, how it’s so epic yet simple. Why do I love it so much? Quite simply one of the best songs of all time, yet only about twelve people have ever heard it. Man, they changed the world of music and nobody noticed or followed on from their lead. It’s not to late – get out there and buy it.

Well now, that was a saga of hyperbole. But honestly, I fail to see how anyone who genuinely loves music, wouldn’t love The Music. They’re called that for a reason, people! From sardonic jaded metal heads to pill-pooing ravers, and every generalization between, there’s no reason why you won’t like this. For someone like me who was bewildered as I watched a lot of my friends praising much of the indie rock from the Noughties and was dumbfounded by the critical praise those crappy little bands were getting, while this band was increasingly being ignored, The Music felt like my band. They took the best out of genres I didn’t really like – dance, disco, madchester stuff, added in Led Zep vocals, grunge aggression, and groove metal riffs, and mashed it all together to make their own thing. They’re long gone, but if you have a spare four minutes to spare, if you happen to stumble upon this lowly site at any point in the future, go click one of the songs above – it may just change your life. At the very least, you might go ‘hey, that wasn’t bad’.

Let us know in the comments how you feel about The Music and what your favourite songs are!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Generation Terrorists!

terror

Here we go again. You’ve read me harp on about the band long enough on the blog. But it’s still. Not. Sinking. In. My beautiful subscribers – it’s down to you to make the band big – bigger. Click the links. Buy the albums. Tell your friends. Lets Make Music Great Again! The more attention bands like this get, then the more bands like this will surface and the charts with be changed forever! Or more likely, none of that will happen. Still, give them a shot – you might like them. Probably not.

I’ve listed my favourite songs by them. I’ve reviewed their albums. I’ve been going through every effing song they’ve ever made and dedicating individual posts to those. I post my favourite lyrics by them most Mondays. As I look out the window at the uncharacteristically blue Belfast sky on the 15th of July 2019, I wonder what other scrapings are left at the bottom of the barrel. And it comes to me – ranking each song from each album. It’s just pointless and clickable enough to make for a five minute read on the shitter, and a frothy response in the comments. Please do both.

Below I present my ranking of the songs of Generation Terrorists. It’s not definitive, but shows my general feelings about the thing. There’s only one song here I don’t like – Repeat USA – and it’s barely a song anyway. I’m going to do the same for each album, at least until I get bored. Make sure to scroll to the bottom for a bonus list! Blisstus!

  1. Condemned To Rock And Roll
  2. Motorcycle Emptiness
  3. Little Baby Nothing
  4. You Love Us
  5. Crucifix Kiss
  6. So Dead
  7. Repeat UK
  8. Stay Beautiful
  9. Spectators Of Suicide
  10. Another Invented Disease
  11. Slash N Burn
  12. Damn Dog
  13. Born To End
  14. Methadone Pretty
  15. Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds
  16. Tennessee
  17. Love’s Sweet Exile
  18. Repeat (Stars And Stripes)

Next, my list of how album as a single rather than a double:

  1. Slash N Burn
  2. Motorcycle Emptiness
  3. Motown Junk
  4. You Love Us
  5. Little Baby Nothing
  6. Stay Beautiful
  7. So Dead
  8. Repeat
  9. Spectators Of Suicide
  10. Suicide Is Painless
  11. Crucifix Kiss
  12. Condemned To Rock n Roll

And finally, my list of how the album really should have looked in all its 18 track glory:

  1. Slash N Burn
  2. New Art Riot
  3. Motorcycle Emptiness
  4. Motown Junk
  5. You Love Us
  6. Little Baby Nothing
  7. Never Want Again
  8. Stay Beautiful
  9. Democracy Coma
  10. So Dead
  11. Repeat
  12. Spectators Of Suicide
  13. Suicide Is Painless
  14. Starlover
  15. Crucifix Kiss
  16. Sorrow 16
  17. Dead Yankee Drawl
  18. Condemned To Rock n Roll

Let us know your rankings and extras in the comments!

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time: California Dreamin’ – The Mamas And The Papas

California Dreamin‘ is a song that, up until recently, I wouldn’t have considered one of my favourite songs. Not because I never liked it, just because I never much thought about it. Typically when I talk about my favourite songs, they are the ones that have somehow shaped my life or my musical taste or are by one of my all time favourite artists. In this instance none of those statements fit. So why is it featured in this series? Like some song posts to come in the future, it’s simply because the some is so fucking good I can’t ignore it. I’ve been listening to it more and more in the last year and pining for someone to start a new pop movement where the songs are as strong as this. The song has always been there in my life, not because I purposefully put it on or had an album with it but more simply because it was released a good eighteen years before I was born and was so popular that it continued to be played on radio stations and in movies and shows as I was growing up.

That seems like a good place to start – the song was released in 1965 and over the next couple of years became one of the seminal counter-culture hits. It’s one of those songs which makes me yearn for the USA – as many problems as it has always had, sometimes something comes along which makes you want to be a US citizen living and breathing and existing in the same world that the song talks about. It was a hit single in the States and made the Top 40 in The UK, before a re-release in the late 90s saw it finally crack the Top 10. It’s one of those songs which is predominantly 60s but yet endures in each new generation both in its original form and thanks to copious cover versions. While The Mamas And The Papas version is the best, cover versions include Sia, The Beach Boys, America, and Nancy Sinatra have all had a turn yet it was some dodgy German techno thing which garnered the song its first Number 1 placement.

At barely over 150 seconds long, the song is a perfect example of how to do a pop single with no fluff. Perhaps more important, it’s a perfect example of how to do harmonies – in my mind it’s one of the two best examples of this type of harmony ever written, the other being Help! The song even has a lazy pace and a fake-out psychedelic intro in its short running time. That intro strikes me, quite clearly, as the band having no idea how to start the song and getting to the main melody in a smooth way, so instead they just said ‘fuck it’ and cobbled together a few seconds of bizarre psych guitar before blasting straight in. Those melodies? Forget about it. A few seconds in and I’m hooked forever.

Lyrically, it’s the writer yearning for the warmth of California while in a colder part of the country. I’ve never been to California, but the song paints such an idyllic vision of the place that it make it sound like paradise – coupled with the hundreds of movies and shows I watched growing up set in California, hell even the name California has a mythic quality to someone from the dreary, grey, bomb-drenched shores of Ulster. Hearing this song as a kid made me think of long sunny evenings, beaches which stretched as far as they eye could see, and carefree living – feeling which still pervades now even with the cynical mind of a grown-up.

I’ve probably mentioned it countless times on this blog, but the three main elements for me in any song are melody, lyrics, and emotion. This song ticks all three boxes – while I don’t think the band here showcase amazing technical skills or vocals, the lyrics are evocative, the melodies like glue, and it’s all wrapped up in an authentic package. Get those three right, and all of the other important components of music should follow naturally. Get those three right, and even if the other components don’t work, I’ll probably still love your song. Check out my Nightman Scoring System(c) posts for more information on how I break down songs into twenty different components. For now though, click on one of the links throughout this post and enjoy some nostalgic, sun-drenched, melancholic pop.

Let us know in the comments what you think of California Dreamin’ and if there are any other Mamas And Papas songs you think I’d enjoy!