Ranking The Led Zep Songs – Led Zep IV!

While undoubtedly one of the greatest albums of all time, this has become maybe the Led Zep album which has dropped most in my own estimation. I was obsessed with it but I almost never listen to it now, and when I do I skip more songs than I listen to. I’m just too familiar with it, and possibly sick of it. Outside of the Top Two, I struggle to listen to the others, even as I still recognise their perfection.

  1. Stairway To Heaven
  2. Going To California
  3. Black Dog
  4. Rock And Roll
  5. Four Sticks
  6. Misty Mountain Hop
  7. The Battle Of Evermore
  8. When The Levee Breaks

Let us know your ranking in the comments!

Ranking The Alice Cooper Albums!

Alice Cooper | Rhino

Greetings, Glancers! For someone as influential on my life as a music fan, as a horror fan, and as an occasional writer as Alice Cooper has been, he’s not someone who comes up frequently on my blog. I don’t have many definitive influences on my lyrical approach (at least back when I wrote lyrics), but Alice Cooper is one of them. Cooper, Edwards and Wire, Cobain… nobody comes close to them. Alice Cooper is an incredibly underrated lyricist, songwriter, singer, performer, and both as a solo act and as a band his works have left an indelible mark on music for the last 60 years or so. It’s not just the Shock Rock stuff. You can make a case for Cooper inventing Metal, Punk, Grunge, for pushing Prog into new directions, he has changed his skin as many times as those who are more recognized for it – Bowie and Madonna spring to mind – but he has retained the core of who he is as an icon; a boundary pushing, genre transcending provocateur with a wit rarely so evocatively presented in music, and with a knack for writing anthems skirting the borders of the zeitgeist to forever appeal to the outsider. In short, he’s one of the all time greats. In honour of his recent four thousandth album, I humbly present my ranking of his albums. As always if you were to ask me to do this again next week (please don’t) some of these positions would inevitably shift around. But not by much – my favourites are my favourites and those at the bottom are still crap. You get the idea? Lets get on with it.

28: Special Forces

In the 1980s, Alice had been through his greatest Commercial and Critical peak, and like every good story of Rock ‘n’ Roll success he was now in a free fall decline in every respect. His music, his creativity, his personal life, his sanity and health, everything was out the window. It’s hardly a surprise that he doesn’t remember making a bunch of these albums, and hardly a surprise that these albums are not very good. If anything stands out with these albums it’s that they are a shit shower of ideas, mostly bad, mostly influenced by 80s New Wave, and if anything distinguishes Special Forces from the others it’s that the songs are less eventful, less ridiculous. Only the biggest Cooper fans are likely to get anything out of this.

27: Dada

Of all the 80s albums, there was a time when this was my favourite – now I’m not sure why. I think it’s because it’s so otherworldy and bizarre. It’s utterly deranged, but outside of the opening and closing tracks there’s nothing here you’ll ever want to hear.

26: Flush The Fashion

Cooper’s first foray into the 80s and New Wave, he was still clinging on to consciousness and creativity, but he produced a dated upon release, underwhelming and repetitive album of forgettable songs it’s difficult to differentiate between. Sadly, the album sold well enough on the strength of its lead single, likely making Coop think this was a brave new path he should continue ploughing blindly down. 

25: Zipper Catches Skin

The third album in three years during the 80s for Cooper, this suffers from the same rushed and creatively barren issues as the others. This one has more positives than negatives and sheds the New Wave nonsense for something approximating the current wave of Post Punk which would in turn lead Cooper towards his Hair Metal reinvention. Of course, Dada would come before then, but at least this set some ground work and reminded fans that Cooper could still pen a decent rock song when he wanted to.

24. Along Came A Spider

This halfway point album joins (untidily) the Nu Metal 2000s era Cooper with his stripped back return to Garage Rock. It’s a mostly bland affair which suffers from the fact that Coop had already done the Garage Revival thing better in his two previous albums. Still, it was a more successful album than those two and stands out because it was another Concept album charting the rise and demise of a serial killer known as Spider.

23. Lace & Whiskey

For his third solo album, Cooper abandoned his Grand Guignol stylings and instead adopted the persona of a hard drinking hard boiled crime PI, who was also bumbling and inept. In retrospect it seems like the whole thing was set up just so he could allow himself the freedom to sink further into Alcoholism. I never found the album concept and sound to be coherent, instead coming across as a Greatest Hits without the Hits. There are still highlights – My God and You & Me feature in my regular shuffles – and even with a mish mash of styles it’s grounded in old fashioned Rock n Roll.

22. Pretties For You

The Cooper band debut, this zany Zappa inspired whack job is sure to confuse and infuriate fans of structure and sense. This album has no sense, the songs have no structure, and that’s why I enjoy it so much. It’s wonderful to see how the band started out and what they would become, many of the lyrical and conceptual ideas are there in their infancy, but above all the songs are somewhere between chaotic slices of brilliance and shameless nonsense.

21. Constrictor

Perhaps the least of the Hair Metal albums, although most of them are interchangeable in quality for me, Constrictor was the first to see Alice embracing the big hair, big guitars, glam persona, and return to his Shock Rock roots. He had been out of the limelight trying to get clean and in the years since Dada Metal had taken the world by storm. Cooper gathered together an array of talented musicians, doubled down on his notoriety by positioning himself as a hybrid Metal Horror icon in songs like He’s Back and Teenage Frankenstein, but most importantly he put himself back on the map as a performer and songwriter. 

20. Detroit Stories

Cooper’s most recent album is all about looking back and giving thanks. Thanks to the bands and city and sounds who influenced him, to the bands they came up with in the 60s and 70s, and to his old pals. There are plenty of covers and plenty of Cooper’s trademark wit which has never dampened with time, and he’s still ready to pump out bangers when he needs to. It’s a little repetitive due to the sheer number of songs, but a solid album of Garage Rock.

File:Alice Cooper band Live in London 2012-10-28 (close-up).jpg - Wikimedia  Commons

19. Paranormal

Cooper has always been prolific, but this was his first album in 6 years – the longest gap he’s had between albums since 94 and 2000. Thankfully he still came back with his usual finesse and released an album which was received highly and did quite well in this new era of sales. He brings the old gang back together for a few songs and in total it’s a classic sounding Cooper albums with influences based in the dark fringe areas where normies fear to tread, a series of nightmarish lullabies and anthems.

18. The Last Temptation 

By the time The Last Temptation was released I was a hardcore Cooper fan. I never liked lead single Lost In America or its video and was expecting something more adventurous and biting like Hey Stoopid. Still, I was 11 and anything with guitars and facepaint was cool. It’s a lighter album than its predecessor  – by this point Metal was largely dead commercially – but was still successful enough that Cooper could go off and tour and play golf for the next six years before reinventing himself once more. 

17. Dragontown

This and Brutal Planet are a pair. This is just as heavy, if less reliant on the Industrial and Nu Metal stylings of Brutal Planet but in songwriting terms there isn’t much to pick between them – plus they were released a year apart. The two albums are Alice at his heaviest.

16: Easy Action

I don’t see many people having either of the band’s first two albums so high on their ranking, but there’s something wholesome and youthful and ambitious about each – a true sense of zero fucks given. This follow-up at least nods its head to structures and conventions and loosely attempts to convey traditional songs through a psychedelic lens. As such, some of the songs have made their way onto Greatest Hits sets and later live tour setlists. It’s a heavier album too, less chaotic and more planned, allowing for both unpredictable epics and short and snappy wannabe hits.

15. Raise Your Fist And Yell

Another 80s Hair Metal album, for me this one has a better array of tunes than Constrictor. It still retains the inherent cheesy production and reverb drums of the time and it still feels like a less shitty Def Leppard album, but with a rejuvenated Alice at the helm. Alice continued his dalliance with horror – Robert Englund appears (Alice appeared in multiple horror movies around this time, including Elm Street 6 a few years later) just as Vincent Price had a decade earlier, and the songs are the teen and rebel bait outcast anthems we have come to expect from the greatest writer of such songs of his generation. Or any generation.

14. Brutal Planet

Alice has always kind of been Metal, and certainly doubled down on what passed for commercial Metal in the 80s, but it wasn’t until Brutal Planet where he actually sounded crushingly heavy. Under all the tuned down guitars and distortion is a selection of songs which could appear in any era of Alice’s work – change the production to suit the time period and Gimme could be an 80s Metal or 70s Rock anthem, while Take It Like A Woman is as good a ballad as any of his more famous works while conveying the sort of social message critics usually miss when dismissing Cooper.

13. Trash

Trash is the first album I ever bought. In a Golden Discs in Ards Shopping Centre if anyone cares. I also picked up Off The Wall. Money well spent. Alice has had any number of hits and several of those are cultural icons themselves. But Trash contains Poison, probably his most famous song. It’s the peak of his 80s work – a genuinely good song which manages to stand up against scrutiny verses 90% of everything else he released in the decade. Elsewhere on the album he invites various pals to play along – Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler – and many mainstream hitmakers helped contribute and polish things – Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Joan Jett to name a few. For every silly song, there’s a better one, and it’s the strength of those better songs which raises an average album to the multi million seller it is. 

12. Muscle Of Love

(Holy) Muscle Of Love, as the title suggests, sees Cooper and the boys going all dirty. Coop has never shied away from describing sexual antics in his lyrics but unlike overrated garbage spreaders AC/DC Cooper does it with more wit than a pre-pubescent. Muscle Of Love lacks the big hits of previous and subsequent albums, but it more than makes up for this in its lean, no frills approach. It’s to the point rock designed to upset the straight-laced moms and pops, but underneath it all are the singalong melodies, amusing lyrics and themes, and kickass riffs we’ve come to expect from a Cooper album. 

11. School’s Out

I mentioned earlier that Poison was probably the most famous Cooper song. If you don’t agree, then you probably think School’s Out is the one. I’m good with that too; it probably had the bigger impact. The song, and the album, were huge hits and brought the band into the mainstream after a few smaller prior hits. This was one of the first Cooper albums I bought once I had enough money of my own to go spend on such things – by that time I already knew the title track and the hype around the album. I wasn’t impressed by the whole album first time around, not being aware if was more of a Rock Opera or a less campy version of West Side Story. It was a nine track album with two throwaway instrumentals. It took me a good few years to come back to it and gain appreciation for it. It is a concept album, it does follow a loose theme and plot, and the songs are designed to follow both. The title track is the only hit, but every other song has its charm with the greaser rock being subverted by both American Musicals and bizarro psychedelia; I simply wasn’t ready for it and was expecting a straightforward collection of Rock anthems. The raw, in your face production where you can feel the vibration from every bass note, the strange nods to jazz and appreciation of US culture given the skewed Alice twist all raise this to something different. Go in expecting weirdness and you’ll get more out of it. 

Alice Cooper talks new album, quarantine hobbies and family time in Phoenix  - cleveland.com

10: The Eyes Of Alice Cooper 

In the new Millennium, Cooper had been courting the biggest Metal movements of the time – Nu Metal and Industrial Metal. The results were heavier than anything he’d done in the past but thankfully he decided to return to his more Garage based roots in 2003. The Eyes Of Alice Cooper is a retro themed album taking in the changes which emerged in the decades since they last played in this style. It’s what a lot of old school fans were looking for and it was refreshing after two darker albums to rediscover a sense of fun. While no single song has the power of School’s Out, the whole collection is consistent – mini anthems for the disaffected, riffs, humour, choruses, fun.

9. Dirty Diamonds

Dirty Diamonds came hot on the heels of Eyes and was essentially more of the same, but better. Better tunes, better lyrics, better ideas – more fun, more humour. From the outright laughs of The Saga Of Jessie Jane, complete with Cooper’s vocal antics to the opening pop punk bombast of Woman Of Mass Distraction to the laidback groove of closer Zombie Dance, it’s another example of Alice doing it better than anyone else. The only thing missing are the big hits.

8. Love It To Death 

This album gave the band their first hit after two experimental freak out albums. If they hadn’t scored a hit single with this one, the band probably would have ceased to exist. The band moved to Detroit and absorbed the burgeoning Garage rock sounds, recruited Bob Ezrin as Producer, and whacked out I’m Eighteen as the first in a long line of rebellious anthems. Not that it’s a one hit album – opener Caught In A Dream is just as much fun while The Ballad Of Dwight Fry showed the band were not willing to drop their experimental roots but instead had honed those to create something more palatable while seeding the ideas for extravagant live shows, future characters, and outlandish concepts.

7. Welcome To My Nightmare

If School’s Out isn’t the band’s most famous album, then it has to be Welcome To My Nightmare. This was the peak of his theatrics, the peak of the Cooper character emerging as a separate demonic oddity, and the first album as a solo performer. Alice was not the solo creative driving force before this album, even though he was the draw, so this was in no way a guaranteed success. Perhaps over-compensating, Cooper tripled down on the blood, guts, and storytelling but more importantly he retained the ability to write a cracking tune – the title track, the peerless ballad Only Women Blood, and the anthems Cold Ethyl and Department Of Youth – these are all live mainstays. If you only recommend 3-5 Cooper albums to anyone, this has to be one of them due to its quality and importance. 

6. Welcome II My Nightmare

I may be the only person in the world to say this, but I prefer the sequel. Coming almost 40 years after the original, it’s another literal nightmare, kicking off with one of my all time favourite Coop songs I Am Made Of You where he employs auto-tuning and somehow makes it a plus. Elsewhere he courts pop, with the Kesha led What Baby Wants, the ridiculously silly Caffeine, and obvious live favourite I’ll Bite Your Face Off. Cooper has battled a lot of demons over the years – here he wraps up the real and fictional in an entertaining tale and a solid batch of great tunes.

5. Goes To Hell

This is the point that Cooper jumped the shark for many. For me, he’s more nuzzling up to the shark, making it sniff some coke from a Giant Squid’s eye socket, and taking it down to Studio 54 to dance with a bunch of flare-wearing pagans. There’s a lot of disco and funk, there are a few ballads, show tunes, all mangled together with Cooper’s unique voice and mind, but at the heart of it all are great singalong songs. You can laugh at the musical choices – I do, you can laugh at the silly artwork (front and back) – I have, but this is Cooper at his most obtuse, singular, annoying best.

4. Billion Dollar Babies 

This is the album I always thought School’s Out was going to be – a success, a lot of hype and critical praise, and a collection of classic hits and anthems rather than a single standout. Released less than a year after School’s Out, there’s a through line of quality and tone with the best songs appearing on this album rather than the predecessor. It was their first number 1 album in the US and UK and sold a bucket load. I Love The Dead, the title track, No More Mr Nice Guy, Elected, Generation Landslide – all classics, and every other track (while less known) are gold too. Another one of those must listens.

3. From The Inside

For my money, this is Cooper’s most consistent, best concept album. Having spent a little time in rehab/in an asylum due to his addiction, he was fairly well positioned to write an album about the characters one might meet on the inside. It’s more One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest than American Horror Story but equal weight is given to horror and heart. Each of the characters portrayed is more than life like and the lyrics leap off the page and through the headphones as he spits out memorable one-liners about murder, insanity, love, pain, sex, religion, addiction – ably helped by Bernie Taupin. Even above next two albums, this one doesn’t contain a single bum note or average track – everything is superb from the LOLZ of Nurse Rosetta, the musical theatre of Inmates, the sick ballad of Millie And Billie, and the rock thrills of Serious, not to mention album highlight How You Gonna See Me Now. My final two choices simply have higher highs.

2. Killer

Let there be no mistake; Killer is Cooper’s best album. It’s everything you want, expect, and need from a Cooper album, or from a Rock album, as well as being massively influential yet confusingly underrated. The title track may be the album’s only weaker moment, but it’s a B grade song at worst. Halo Of Flies… lets just say, no Halo Of Flies no Bohemian Rhapsody. The band out Zeppelins Zepplin with a collection of dirty blues rock shreds, with that filthy punk edge the boys from England didn’t have. I’m hard pushed to think of a stronger opening four tracks to any album than Under My Wheels, Be My Lover, Halo, and Desperado, and that quality continues into the second half. It’s simply one of the greatest Rock n Roll albums of all time, yet it’s somehow still a bit of a secret.

1: Hey Stoopid

It’s not the best Alice Cooper album, but it’s my favourite. A list of some of my favourite Cooper songs, some of my favourite all time songs – Wind Up Toy, Burning Our Bed, Dangerous Tonight, Die For You, throw in Snakebite, Might As Well Be On Mars, the title track, and the album’s most famous song Feeding My Frankenstein, and you really can’t go wrong. While it’s still in the vein of Hair Metal, it dispenses with much of the inherent garbage of that genre for a harsher edge which would inspire his heavier exploits a decade later, a more biting social commentary, and a host of talented guest musicians from Steve Vai to Joe Satriani to Slash to Ozzy to Vinnie Moore – even Elvira gets a spot. Huge choruses demanded to be chanted in the biggest stadium you can find, ominous agitated riffs, musicians on top form, and at the centre of it all a rejuvenated iconic Alice snarling his way through some of his most darkly commercial tales yet.

What a journey. What are your favourite Cooper albums and song? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Rebel Heart!

Rebel Heart - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! Wellity well, we’ve almost caught up with Madonna’s output. I know I’m slow at getting these things out (for anyone who even still reads them) but there’s only a couple of albums to go. And give me a break, I’m also doing Jovi, Adams, Roxette, The Stones, The Beach Boys, and of course my Top 1000, Non-Beatles, and 1966 series. A more diligent blogger would of course just pick one artist and pump out posts about their work over a few week period before moving on to the next thing. But I can’t focus on one thing for too long. And as I say, no-one even reads these things anyway and they’re not exactly the most exciting reading given that they’re unimaginative reactions as I listen for the first time. A smart blogger would of course switch to YouTube and make gargantuan gasps and wide-eyed stares at the camera in faux shock as if I’ve just stumbled upon a kitten in a waistcoat shaving a cow with a cigar. My hope is that people simply Google Madonna (or whoever) one day and stumble upon my posts, and read through them all in a single sitting, tutting at how I’ve misunderstood their favourite song. In any case, you’re stuck with me.

So, Rebel Heart. I know two of these songs – one I’ve only heard once and don’t really remember, while the other was an instant hit for me and has become one of my favourite Madonna songs. Beyond those, I don’t know much about the album. It’s another which seems packed to the gills with collaborations, something I generally don’t approve of and something which tends to show an artist is creatively flailing around, hoping someone else will save them from mediocrity or pull them back up from their mire. I’m hoping that’s not the case here, but given the (lack of) talent Madonna has aligned herself with on this record, I’m not holding out for greatness.

Living For Love: A blippy bloppy warbling beat emerges. Then deep Madonna vocals. Melody – fair enough. Then a beat. Then piano and a different melody. Am I getting some sort of Gospel feel from the melody? Then the beat returns. Then the song does that horrible chorus fake out thing that every was doing a couple of years ago. Maybe they’re still doing now, I don’t know. It’s well produced and it doesn’t follow a simple set pattern. At least the chorus drop isn’t as bad as most. There are a few other voices in the chorus, it does seem to be going for a Gospel approach. There’s too much space between the different vocals, space which could have been packed with additional voices for ore impact. Then it ends abruptly. It’s a decent opener, not horrible, not overly memorable.

Devil Pray: An acoustic guitar opener, with an almost Latin tone. Then weak ass hand clap beats screw up a perfectly good vocal. I will never understand why artists choose that sound for their beat. The lyrics aren’t great from what I’m picking up on the surface. Decent pre-chorus, but again the chorus drops instead of peaks. It’s frustrating as the song is fine – it’s not extraordinary – it’s a B grade song which falls to C because of those stylistic choices which are clearly made for modern sensibilities and not me. Her vocals are patchy in places too. It stretches out for another minute, presumably for dancefloor purposes, adding lots of beeps and sounds which don’t do anything.

Ghosttown: Is the one I mentioned at the top that I loved. It’s A Tier Madonna. It’s a great song all round, even if I’m not in favour of all the musical and production choices. However, you could record this a hundred different ways as long as you keep the central melody, and you’d have a great song each time. It’s a perfect pop song, something Madonna knows a little something about, plus it has plenty of emotion ensuring it makes it up to the next level up the ladder.

Unapologetic Bitch: Although the sound isn’t my go to, this starts well but then drops into a slower Reggae style thwomp. I would have preferred keeping the pace and intent of the intro. It reminds me too somewhat of The Delays. The lyrics are quite sweary which is unusual for her – it’s your standard woman scorned stuff and that sort of lyric only works for me if it goes deeply personal, like Alanis. Credit for the little rap portions (getting Chas and Dave vibes from those – rabbit rabbit rabbit) and for how the rhythm of ‘unapologetic bitch’ works. The chorus gets nuzzled into your brain.

Illuminati: It’s not the first time Madonna has done some rapid fire name-checking. Not names I give a shit about, but she’s gonna do what she’s gonna do. This is quite experimental for her – the verse doesn’t have anything obvious to grab hold of, then the chorus becomes quite sweet. At least it’s interesting, which is more than can be said for most pop stars of her, or any generation at the moment. There’s a John Carpenter synth vibe here and there. Once again, credit for trying something different, but I can’t say it all works for me. I don’t dislike it by any means.

Bitch I’m Madonna: This is the other one I’d heard. Some of the melodies are fine but the lyrics are abhorrent and the production is all over the place hitting all the black boxes of modern pop I can’t abide – silly sounds? Check. Dropping the momentum at the chorus? Check. Random newb warbling in the background? Check. Wafer beats? Check. Self interest? Check. Emotionless? Check. Catchy? Kind of, I guess. Bland and repetitive? For the most part, yeah.

Hold Tight: This seems much better. A more classic sound and vocal while still adhering to modern norms. It’s a simple approach this time, and a simple melody to go with it. The beats and production isn’t what I would choose again, pandering too much to today’s sound and quirks which will likely date the thing in a few more years. I would have gone all in on the backing vocals on this one to give a booming transcendent feel. It’s almost one of her better songs, but still good.

Joan Of Arc: A pondering guitar intro gives way to a lovely vocal and melody. It’s instantly more touching and honest. I feel like this is already going on the playlist. The drum beats could have been toughened up and rounded out, but that’s a minor issue. I think this will grow on me over time and it’s another example of a Madonna song which would work in any generation, with any production as long as the melody and purity is kept intact.

Iconic: With a name like that, this could go well or very badly. We’ll see. Oh balls, this is another .feat thing. This time it .feats a rapist, so that’s something. Verse is right up the middle, the little hey-yays are bordering on annoying. Decent pre-chorus. Of course the chorus loses the momentum and does that thing I won’t shut up about. At least there’s some sort of Halloween tone to that chorus. Some day in the future, someone’s going to re-do all the songs from the 2010s, but fix the chorus so that it doesn’t do the beat drop thing, and on that day every single one of those songs will take 10 large steps upwards in quality. Some bloke I’ve never heard of raps in the middle of everything else going on. It’s not very bad, but it’s a long way from good.

Heartbreakcity: Thankfully this one feels more streamlined – a lone piano line without tweaking. A neat military parade beat drops and the chorus builds and feels similar to Ghosttown. It’s another spiffing melody at times, but it doesn’t quite sustain that quality over the whole running time.

Body Shop: This is, what? Eastern folk inspired, with a child-like nursery rhyme quality? There’s some sort of tribal trance rhythm. In other words, she’s playing with conventions again. I can’t quite pick up many of the lyrics or what it’s all about during first listen. I don’t like the little ‘yeah’ shouts in the background, but then I never do. Without those I’d be willing to listen to this more. It’s a curio which is almost ruined by those repeated ‘yeah’s as they increase in frequency towards the end to the point that I had to stop the song early.

Holy Water: A more dance influenced, near rap from Madonna. It has some sex noises in the chorus. I could do with some more bass in the verse – something really dirty would have made it grind in a more sweaty, sexy way. At least the chorus doesn’t collapse like so many of the others. It’s nice that she’s still singing about her vagina. And that she’s referencing and sampling herself. An interesting one for sure, but I’m not sure there’s enough melodic quality for me to listen to it again.

Inside Out: There’s a dirtier fuzzier bass which should have been in the previous song. This is a stronger second half than the first. The verse is solid enough, then the chorus goes all Sia. That’s always a good thing. It’s not top tier Sia, or top tier Madonna, but definitely good enough that I’ll happily hear it again.

Wash All Over Me: Sole piano keys open and traverse the verse and a fair melody spreads itself out. The chorus is better, but it’s lacking something – a key change, another push? I don’t know, I just feel a tiny sense of frustration that it doesn’t go the way I wanted it to. It’s a good song to end the album with – a B song which doesn’t unleash the sadness or hope or whatever extra emotional push it is I was hoping for to shunt it into A.

So… it’s another good album. Solid. There aren’t as many true stand out tracks which I see making my long term playlist, but there is a long list of songs which just miss out and a short list consisting of average or crap. It once again confirms that when Madonna keeps things simple and builds a song around a melody rather than an idea or trend, that’s when she’s at her best; that’s when she still makes great pop songs. The worst moments are when she goes too experimental to the point that the song stops being a song, or when she copies what others are doing (chorus drop). There are some annoying quirks – backing shouts and vocals being the main offender, but when the song is good I can mostly overlook those. We’re almost caught up with Madonna now and I must admit that I didn’t expect to enjoy her post Ray Of Light stuff as much as I have. Sure there has been some crap, but there have been plenty of songs added to my playlist – and a few of those are from this album.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Ghosttown. Hold Tight. Joan Of Arc. Inside Out.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Rebel Heart!

Anneke Van Giersbergen – Everything Is Changing

* Originally written in 2012

ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN - Everything Is Changing - Tour 2012

Anneke’s 4th studio album is all about change; the album title suggests as much at first glance. Not long before the release Anneke abandoned the Agua De Annique moniker after admitting that it wasn’t the easiest or most recognizable name. Musically there are more changes, though fans should not be apprehensive as there is nothing drastically different- longtime fans will know what to expect. This is largely another melody driven, guitar laden rock album which moves from outrageously catchy commercial moments to tear-jerking quiet moments and with plenty of pace and power in between.

‘Feel Alive’ is the lead single from the album, one with another buoyant video and excited delivery. With this third release, and with the band name changing from Agua De Annique to simply Anneke’s name, we see a confident performer now blazing her own trail and free to explore whatever ideas and sounds she desires. This excitement and freedom is clear in every note and lyric in the song, an upbeat song with a nice build-up so a soaring payoff chorus; A jubilant declaration of love.

‘You Want To Be Free’ is another upbeat track, this time more of a rock song than the lighter first track. Another love song of sorts, it speaks of the indecision in relationships and sounds like the advice of a friend. There are a couple of standout moments here, the bridges, the main riff, and the ‘yeah yeah’ middle section, though the chorus and verses are not the most memorable.

‘Everything Is Changing’ is a softer, slower, piano driven song with stuttering, yet ethereal verse vocals. As the title track it isn’t as epic as you would expect, with a decent chorus but doesn’t catch the ear. It’s an ok song, well sung of course, just a little bland.

‘Take Me Home’ quickens the pace again, another decent rock/pop crossover with piano and guitar riffs merging as well as some studio magic to give the impression of a wide-ranging wall of sound style production. This one is catchy enough, with another good chorus, but may lack the all-important killer ingredient.

‘I Wake Up’ opens with an unusual drum loop and synth section which pulls in and out in a tidal fashion. This one always gives me the impression of a lost Pet Shop Boys song, but with all the camp removed. Anneke sounds like she is very close to the listener’s ear for the verses on this one, and the chorus is another good one – a slightly eerie feel to it.

‘Circles’ may be Anneke’s strongest song yet, a teary piano led ballad with emotive lyrics about loneliness, hope, and of course the circles of our lives. Again, there is an eerie nature here, but that is overcome by the gorgeous, emotional vocal performance. With a massive chorus, exquisite middle section, and glorious close as the violins join in, this is the true centerpiece of the album.

‘My Boy’ has a tough act to follow, but it’s arguably the best straight rock song Anneke has written so far. With a classic snare intro and simple, but awesomely effective riff, this is a mid-paced guitar, drum, bass driven song with beautiful verse melodies. There is also some studio trickery as the song progresses, but the best moments are the build up to the wonderful chorus – bridge and chorus are both perfection, blending together and building to a climactic eruption (more like the build-up and scoring of a winning goal than what you’re thinking about). My favourite bit though is the ‘even though I’m crazy about my boy’ section, beautifully belted out and adding an extra level to an already euphoric chorus.

‘Stay’ is a fairly heavy song as Anneke goes, with loud, bouncing Led Zep style riff, and delightfully vicious lyrics. It’s another one where the verse, bridge, chorus all meld together wonderfully, building and bleeding into each other. We even get that killer ingredient, after a short instrumental interlude, as Anneke adds a final, different bridge right at the end.

‘Hope, Pray, Dance, Play’ has the appeal of another single with its big intro and sing-along chorus. It’s another decent track, but it doesn’t have that touch which makes it click with me personally, especially coming after a killer trio of songs.

‘Slow Me Down’ is a fast paced rocker, fueled by muted chords in the verses and lifted by a fist-pumping chorus. Nice, quick shooter lyrics, another effective middle section, and a few moments of vocal brilliance (aside from the usual expected brilliance of course) ensure this is another one to put on repeat.

‘Too Late’ opens with another crushing riff, a lighter Pantera, allowing Anneke to spit out some further angry lyrics. Vocals and guitars work particularly well here, with the sudden stuttered guitar blasts punctuating and mirroring Anneke’s words.

‘1000 Miles Away From You’ closes the album, a choice which I’ve always seen as an odd one. I’ve always felt that the closing track of an album should be instantly memorable, a slam of a door that you will want to open again. For an album that has mostly been on the heavy side, this one has an epic feel, again calls back that eerie, angry tone, but doesn’t stick in my mind as much as others for some reason. Listening again with a pseudo-critical ear, it is slow, without being plodding, veering between quiet and loud pieces, but the middle interlude doesn’t work, sounding an awful lot like a similar section in The Gathering’s song ‘Home’. Rather than going out with a bang though, it drags its heels for the final minute.

The heaviest album Anneke has made since leaving The Gathering, this is a great rock record with a superb production. There is a wide scope in the theme of the songs, allowing Anneke to sing with a greater range of emotion than she usually does, from a lyrical perspective. There are introspective moments, and there are moments of rage; there are dedications and warnings, apologies and consternation. While there are less standout commercial tracks here, there is still a handful of songs which deserved to shoot up the charts in any country, while the rest are weighed heavily in the cult or fan favourite character, rather than the album filler one. Ultimately, it’s another vital release for fans, and contains a number of songs which would certainly win over new fans if they had the opportunity to hear them.

Ranking The Radiohead Songs – A Moon Shaped Pool!

It was a promising start; interesting singles which indicated a step away from the turgid, uneventful, unimaginative beats and loops and droning dirges of The King Of Limbs, an eleven song track list, and a studio album appearance of one of the band’s finest ever songs in True Love Waits. Sadly the end product is more of the same – an album where the production counts for more than the song writing and where the songs feel like the afterthoughts of Thom’s bewildered ego. The layers peel back to unveil more interesting qualities and sounds versus peeling back King Of Limb’s thin transparent veil to reveal nothing. Unlike King Of Limbs, there are standout songs; more accurately, A Moon Shaped Pool actually contains songs. Daydreaming is the best song they’ve written in years, but it’s a re-tread of songs they’ve done better already.

I appreciate the lovely, otherworldly use of strings throughout and would love to see Radiohead’s next iteration double down on the orchestral side. There are infrequent moments of beauty, harmony, melody, emotion, showing us that somewhere underneath the shell the band has become is a group of artists frustrated in their attempts to exude and recapture a fraction of what made them interesting, special, unique in the first place. I’m hoping one day the album might click with me, but I have neither the time nor the patience to find out. I do enjoy it significantly more now than I did upon release and I have an inkling that I’m simply not in a place to become familiar enough with the songs to fully appreciate them. As such, the ranking below is more arbitrary than most and if I were to do this exercise again tomorrow the whole thing would be ordered differently. Ultimately, unlike in their heyday, there are better and more interesting bands out there making better, more interesting music. One final positive – at least none of the songs are completely skippable, an improvement over The King Of Limbs, though the general crappiness of True Love Waits and how much it strives to stain the ‘true’ version means I can’t listen to this album version.

  1. Daydreaming
  2. Glass Eyes
  3. Decks Dark
  4. Full Stop
  5. Desert Island Disk
  6. Burn The Witch
  7. Present Tense
  8. The Numbers
  9. Identikit
  10. Tinker Tailor
  11. True Love Waits

Let us know in the comments what you think of A Moon Shaped Pool! 

Ranking The Radiohead Songs – The King Of Limbs!

While I love the premise of The King Of Limbs and most of its ideas, the songs themselves and the execution of those ideas feel hollow, mishandled; ultimately, the end product is shallow and lacks any real emotional or intellectual connection. As with their next album, the protracted wait between albums, the seeming lack of effort, and the general shoulder-shrugging-meh nature of the individual songs and the whole package leaves a sole, self-evident aura of laziness. There’s almost nothing here worth listening to more than a handful of times. As is consistently the case with Radiohead, these latter day songs take on a superior experience when played and heard live, but then you have to deal with sweaty Radiohead obsessives and morons shouting ‘CREEP’!

  1. Give Up The Ghost
  2. Codex
  3. Morning Mr Magpie
  4. Little By Little
  5. Lotus Flower
  6. Seperator
  7. Bloom
  8. Feral

Let us know in the comments what you think of The King Of Limbs!

Ranking The Radiohead Songs – In Rainbows!

By all accounts, In Rainbows was the return to form which critics and fans had been looking for after Hail To The Thief. I’m still unsure which album I prefer, but In Rainbows is (at time of writing) Radiohead’s last good album. This was also around the time the band began leaving huge gaps between releases – generally a sign of a band either becoming a tour-outfit, getting bored with being in a band, or draining creatively. We did get various solo and non-Radiohead material around this time so while creative juices were still flowing, the potency of those juices had become severely diluted. Add to all of this the fact that I had moved on to other things and Radiohead was no longer the force in my life that they had been, I wasn’t impressed by this at release and it took me many years to become invested in it.

I did eventually become invested in it, and I can understand how people rate this just as highly as Kid A. Or even OK Computer. It has a wider range of songs than Kid A and more songs in my regular rotation than either Kid A or Amnesiac have, but it doesn’t have a single song on par with How To Disappear or Motion Picture Soundtrack. It’s very consistent, with none of the songs hitting the lows of the previous three albums (or the next two), and most of the songs I’ve placed in the bottom half of my list below are just as good as those in my top half. Bonus points too for all of the Easter Eggs and connections to OK Computer – not as exciting as they could have been, but fun all the same.

  1. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
  2. Videotape
  3. Reckoner
  4. Nude
  5. All I Need
  6. House Of Cards
  7. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
  8. 15 Step
  9. Bodysnatchers
  10. Faust Arp

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Marillion.com (Part One)!

marillion.com | Racket Records Store

Greetings, Glancers! We’re almost into the 2000s with Marillion, but for now we’re closing out the 90s with Marillion.com. A few bands were adopting this new fangled technology and internet speak towards the end of the century – The Gathering released If_Then_Else for example. I always get a little wary when I see an album or a movie with something like ‘.com’ in the title. I suppose so many of those titles seem dated now, and seemed dated then, possibly written by people who were afraid of or completely misunderstood the technology. This has nothing to do with anything, but because the only thing I know about the album so far is that Mr Biffo thinks it’s Marillion’s worst album, I had to write something to introduce the post.

Wikipedia tells me the album is over an hour long and only features 9 songs. On one hand that makes me think ‘Prog’, but on the other hand if it’s as shit as Paul says then this could be a struggle. Of course it’ll turn out to be one of my favourite Marillion albums. Incidentally, I did get a shout out in their recent Postbag episode – welcome to any new readers and feel free to add any comments or thoughts here. I should point out that I wouldn’t classify myself as a musician, as much as I’d love to say that I am; I’ve certainly played music and I’m usually fairly good at picking up a new instrument and being able to fiddle something approaching music from it, but to call myself a musician would feel like I was mocking the millions of  genuine musicians out there. If I’d stuck at it as a teenager and made any sort of money from it, then sure. It’s like this blog – I love writing, but the fact that I do it in a stream of consciousness way and don’t make a single penny from any of it means I wouldn’t call myself a writer. Maybe it’s mere semantics and labels – I like writing and I like playing music – that’s not enough to tell people I’m a writer or a musician.  When I write about music I tend to not go into a lot of detail on the technicalities because (A) I’d get it wrong and (B) it would be boring for me and my assumed audience. I approach writing about music from an emotional perspective, but it can be handy to have had a taste of musical theory, perspective, and knowledge when I want to describe a particular feeling and how the music works to elicit said feeling. I’d love to give music another shot but, you know, not enough time, not enough will. Ultimately, not enough need.

Marillion.com then. What about the artwork? There’s a giant barcode – is that supposed to be there? I assume so. It screams PRODUCT FOR PURCHASE and feels a little Radiohead. There’s a girl dressed in black holding… is that a monitor? A laptop? Lets just call it a blazing screen – it’s shining, blindingly so, but it’s transmitting nothing. Is that going to be a theme on the album? She’s standing on a busy junction, I assume it’s some famous or semi-famous road, and lights and cars are buzzing by in neon blurs – Radiohead again. It’s an eye-catching, slightly creepy image, but I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing I would glance at twice in a Record store (if such places still exist). It emits that End Of The Century paranoia as summed up perfectly in OK Computer, but will such themes also be found within the songs? Lets find out.

In the huge gap between the previous paragraph and this one, I have listened to the album a few times. I’ll get into the reasons as we go through each track, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the album more than This Strange Engine and Radiation. I’m a tad surprised by what Paul has said about it so far, but at the time of writing the guys haven’t released their Marillion.com episode so I’ll have to hold out for Paul’s reasons. At a guess I would say that maybe it’s because it feels a little by the numbers on the surface. It doesn’t scream ‘I’m a Marillion album’ – rather it sort of shrugs and whispers ‘psst, do you like softish rock music? Here… here’s some softish rock music, please enjoy’. I think it’s an okay album, but is it an okay Marillion album? There are a few more traditionally structured emotive rock songs (which Paul has said he doesn’t find as interesting as when they don’t follow that approach), I found it to have more accessibility than the last few album, and there are even a few re-used melodies. I can see these as reasons why a longstanding Marillion fan may not enjoy the album, but I found that even the more commercial and simple songs had enough twists for me to punt them into a higher tier than maybe where Paul would place them. Remember, I liked Radiation and This Strange Engine – they weren’t amazing but each featured a couple of songs I can slap onto a playlist. Marillion.com does too. Lets go track by track , shall we?

A Legacy is such an effective, creepy opener for the album. It goes back to that old school soft opening which Marillion and other bands have opened with in the past. It’s a cliché to call out Philip Glass any time you hear a fragile piano in music these days, but that brief introduction is quite reminiscent of the composer’s minimalist ways. I just wish they’d kept that tone instead of going rock, because as soon as the guitars and organs join in, the whole thing falls apart significantly. The rock verses aren’t interesting in any way, but the song does at least retain a disjointed structure throughout – it’s the leaping about from one thing to another which kept this just above average for me because the rock stuff doesn’t do much for me and it’s not the best vocal performance – I can only assume H was deliberately aiming for an atonal quality in some of the vocal lines. The acoustic, quiet ending improves matters a little – the opening and closing minutes are strong, but the ham and cheese sandwiched in between in fairly standard fare, although I did enjoy the subtle twanging guitar part around the two minute mark which reminded me of Rockstar’s Bully soundtrack.

If I didn’t know a single thing about the band and the relationship issues H had been going through, I might have read this lyrics as being the voice of some ghost or demon which had been attached to a person and had either been exorcised or decided to move on to its next victim. Coupled with the creepy vibe which the music produces and ambiguous lyrics like ‘I will leave you things that might not help you/things that might’ it’s easy to take this in as sinister a fashion as you would like to. Having heard enough episodes of the podcast by now I understand that this is a more realistic break up song, coated in bitterness. Blame is cast about in all directions and anger is the overriding emotion. It’s not ‘when I leave you I’ll be sad to leave you’, but ‘when I leave you I will hate to leave you’. Beyond the accumulated blame and guilt and hate, none of the individual lyrics struck me as overtly powerful but their repetition gives the impression of someone trapped within and dwelling on these feelings.

Deserve is a stronger straightforward Rock song than The Legacy. Maybe it’s because the song has an immediacy and urgency to it. I wish it was a tad faster – that heightened tempo would only increase the urgency and emotion. To test this out, I listened to it at 1.25 speed, and it almost works. Maybe 1.15x speed would do it? It almost feels like this song should have had a different vocalist – I don’t know if the other guys in the band sing, but I kept feeling like the vocals needed to be less clean, less reserved, and should have had some gravel or anguish.

The song is bookended by a bit of saxophone – you may have worked it out by now, but saxophone in music instantly makes me think of porn. When it’s not making me think of porn, it reminds me of Police Academy. This saxophone in particular is pure Police Academy. I also got a touch of REM in the melodies – I’m not a huge REM fan, but the verse melody in Deserve which reminded me of REM follows a melodic style I’m partial to. Plus the lyrics have that not too veiled cynicism which REM are sometimes known for. For the verse melody though – I know I mentioned not being a musician but I’ll go on a related tangent – most songs which play off this rough Am G Em structure (when played at a fast tempo) seem to allow for an emotive attack and energy in the vocal melodies which always gives me the feels, as they say. Some of the first songs I ever wrote  followed these three chords because I knew I that by using those I could craft a vocal melody which I would enjoy listening to myself.

Lyrically I couldn’t help but compare it with Radiohead’s Just. ‘You get what you deserve’ is similar enough to ‘you do it to yourself’ although the songs are thematically different. I guess the sentiment is universal enough that this comparison is shaky at best, but we know the band and H liked Radiohead so I’m sure there’s some crossover. This sadly feels like a very timely lyric – our jealousy about the rich young pretty things we see plastered everywhere, but in many cases they only exist because we allow them to as a society. I’ve no idea when Big Brother, X Factor and all of that stuff started, but since then we’ve had a tonne of clones and all of those Housewives and Essex type shows. It’s this type of show or celeb that I felt was being attacked in this song – but I don’t know if it’s suggesting that we get this tripe because we have regressed as a whole society rather than saying that a certain percentage of the population enjoys them. It’s of course not a new feeling – tabloids have existed for as long as media has, and envy and greed much longer than that. Like the previous song, it maybe matters less what is being said that they feelings being pushed, and like the previous song those are mostly negative.

Go may be the best song on the album. I haven’t decided yet if it’s my favourite, but it seems like the best. However, it also seems like a song that is reaching to be more special than it actually is. I felt a sense of over-achieving and grasping to be better but not quite having the skill to get there. Not every song needs to be the best song ever written and not every song needs to be the centrepiece, but it’s good to try and this was a valiant effort. It’s almost as if the song was designed to be too self-confident and airy that this effort became too transparent and rather than sounding epic and effortless it instead sounds like they’re trying to be epic and effortless. Does any of that make sense? No? Good.

That nonsense aside, there’s a lot to love – the extended coda isn’t quite Hey Jude, but it’s probably another ending set up for jubilant audience interaction, I enjoyed the spacey Oh Superman wah wah wah opening, and the guitars are especially flickering, shimmering, and memorable. The keyboards and synth work may be the standout in this song, and is among the highlights of the album as they’re so atmospherically crafted. H’s vocals are perfectly suited to the breezy yet melancholic approach, and the bending, mirage like solo is one of the more interesting solos I can remember from Rothery. I do think that there should have been more energy in the final couple of minutes after that solo finishes – the solo is accompanied by an increased potency in the drums and I expected that energy to continue and expand through the vocals and until the end of the song. Instead H comes in after the solo in the same displaced airy tone as the start of the song. We do pick up for the ending, but the momentum has been lost. Ignoring the feelings and assumptions I had about what the band had in mind for the song, it’s supremely well put together and produced, and comes across as one of their most dense and musically mature songs.

I’m not too clear on the lyrics for Go! I guess that the exclamation mark is for emphasis, but to the writer not the reader. If it’s a personal song then that piece of punctuation is almost like an in-joke telling them to go, get out, run – if you’re going to make a song with all of these feelings but then not act upon those feelings, why bother, so look at the exclamation mark and remember, you dick! But what is the song telling us? Is it simply telling us, or the writer, or whoever, to escape? It only takes a second, no effort, just go? All the crap… just go. I suppose that’s what it’s saying, but I’ve always read the phrase ‘turn your life upside down’ as a negative statement. I suppose if you feel your life is already upside down, then flipping it again would correct it.

Handclaps in music are a big no no for me. Rich has handclapping. It also suffers a little from feeling like a twin to Deserve. It’s a strange song because on one hand it’s similar enough in pace and tone in places, but elsewhere it’s like some madcap piss-take of The Beatles and Austin Powers. I like the chorus – it’s unashamedly poppy and infectious, while the verses have synth sounds straight out of Look Around You and some strange vocals wavering which makes it sound like either H was laughing when he was recording, or was extremely nervous, or had swallowed a bee. For what is basically a bit of fun, it’s an almost 6 minute long song, its length extended by a couple of guitar solo and instrumental breakdowns. I’m not convinced that the final two minutes add much to the song and detract a little from what could have been a sneaky cult-type sleeper hit single. It’s quirky and it’s disjointed in a similar vein to A Legacy, and while I appreciate it as a throwaway pop rock song I think I would have enjoyed it more if some of the quirks had been taken out – straighter vocals, no handclaps, more prominent guitars in the verses.

Rich comes close to my own preferred style of lyric – individual statements which convey wider themes when tied together. You can take any single line from the first verse and it’s self-contained. You can take a variety of meanings from one of those lines, but taken together something more holistic comes across. In theory anyway, as Rich isn’t concerned with letting me in on its secrets. There are parts alluding to failure and to wealth and achievement. The song is, of course, titled Rich. Is it a positive song about self-confidence and not needing wealth to be rich? Is it imbued with a sense of self-improvement and a spirit of never say die? Given how bitter the previous songs have been I’d be more inclined to say there’s something more to the lyric, something more along the lines of ‘you’ll never be rich because the system’s set up to screw you, and why bother anyway because every success is really a failure’. But I don’t see enough in the lyrics to point me down that road and the chorus reads as defiant – ‘no’ to all the bad things.

In what is a recurring theme of the album (at least in my mind) the idea of twins makes a return, with Enlightened acting as a partner to Go. It might be more accurate though to say that it’s the twin of Estonia. That central vocal melody, we’ve definitely heard that before, right? It’s the part from Estonia which I said was very similar to Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. While I’m at it, the intro is pure Rooster by Alice In Chains. Go on, click the link and tell me I’m wrong.

The verses are too restrained and uneventful to make an impact, which is a shame because I did enjoy the intro and chorus. It’s another example of the frustration I felt with this album – the songs have excellent moments, but the final product is dragged down by more dubious musical and production choices. What could have been a highlight instead feels like your typical mid-album track. If these had a better verse, and if the final 30 seconds or so could be shaved off  I would name this as one of the better songs on the album. As it stands, the most interesting thing I could say about the music was how much it reminded me of other songs.

I found the song to be quite poor lyrically. Like the vague, airy, and unadventurous music, the words neither tell me much, paint any pictures, or make me care. I’m tempted to say it’s some throwaway drug haze song – there’s enough evidence in both the lyrics and the music to support this from the slurred laidback music to the song’s title itself. As such I don’t have much more to add on the lyrics – lightning is repeated a few times with the odd related play on words to spruce things up and I suppose as a whole if the song is trying to evoke some sort of either relaxed or stoned atmosphere then it succeeds. I’m not convinced that’s the atmosphere it’s going for.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

And with that downer, we finally get around to part one of the BYAMPOD Marillion.com breakdown. We begin with a chat about what was happening in 1999 – Sanja moved to the UK and I was in the midst of A-Level preparations. Fish and H shared a stage with the pair tackling Lavender and Hope For The Future. It was a different time. A different and very strange time. Paul heard the title when it was announced and had the same misgivings I had regarding sounding cool but dated. Their intentions were fine, but also geared towards promoting their online store? They did a lot of interesting merch and interactive stuff with fans which is always pretty cool – many of my favourite bands don’t bother with this, and by and large if you don’t have this connection with your fans these days you’re not going to get very far. Marillion made the right decision at the right time.

The guys talk a bit about the mixing and production process which the band has followed, here and on other albums. Both are integral to an album and a song’s quality and impact – it’s always interesting to follow the lifecycle of a song from its inception to a demo to the end quality. Paul sees this as one of the major issues with the album – the right people were not always working on the right song, hence the unfortunate results. Production for me, as vital as it is, is one of those things for me which I tend to put lower down my list of priority than many people would. I don’t need everything to be crisp and pristine, and I’ll overlook a murky mix or shoddy production values if the core of the song is good. Having both at top level is best. Paul concludes by saying, while he has many negative things to say about the album and some of his experience of it, it’s still an album by his favourite band. In other words, I was right when I said I enjoyed it and was surprised by his previous comments. Ha.

A Legacy – Paul used to despise it, now quite likes it and would like to see it live. We learn that it’s a Helmer lyric which deliberately jumps between styles and genres musically and lyrically. The Beach Boys harmony bit is the Bully bit. H was knowingly trying to sound like The Beatles and Grunge and a hundred other things. Disjointed is right. Paul calls out his displeasure at the band constantly and knowingly writing songs trying to sound like someone else – and admitting to it. While Marillion were trying to sound like others, those others had already moved on. The Manics do this all the time now – ‘our new album is The Clash meets ABBA’ – but we’re well used to such callouts and comparisons with the Manics by now. Paul says the song doesn’t suit H’s voice – oddly enough, this is something I called out too but I don’t know if it was on this song or something else. I even mentioned whether or not someone else in the band should have sung instead. Could be on the second half. Some people just aren’t suited to certain types of song. For anyone wondering – I usually write my thoughts on the music of every song first, then split my post into a Part 1 and Part 2, before going back and adding my thoughts on the lyrics. Then finally I listen to the podcast and add these comments you’re reading now. That’s some quality blogging insight for you.

The guys think it’s a fitting continuation of the relationship strife as showcased on the previous album. Paul sees it as less about infidelity and more about toxic relationships in general. We move straight into Record Breakers! Or Deserve. Record Breakers…. while I did watch it, like Blue Peter it was only something I watched because I had to and sat moaning that it wasn’t a cartoon or didn’t feature any gunge. Is that how you spell gunge? Tough, gunge it is. Paul hates the lyric and compares it to some of the more Feminist leaning songs released at the time. Saxophone always sounds dated – it’s just an instrument trapped in the 80s. I did watch Animal Hospital, but you know, Rolf. I just checked back at my comments and saw that this was the song I felt could have had a different vocalist. This is what I anticipated when I heard that Paul didn’t like the album – Paul doesn’t want Marillion to play this type of Rock music. I think it’s fine, but I appreciate it’s not what the Marillion hardcore want.

Paul says he doesn’t like the vocal either. H’s quote is… hit and miss. Do we get what we deserve? No, just a whole bunch of stuff happens and then we die. The rich and pretty are an easy target, and that’s fine, but extending that outwards and inwards requires a little more tact and skill. Sanja focuses on the inward looking side of things – H realising his own flaws and writing about them but doesn’t have the honesty to say ‘I’ instead of ‘we’. The ‘get what we deserve’ type of thinking, if we place it on a philosophical level (and we should because that is apparently what H has done) is one which has been around since the dawn of time and can be taken in a variety of ways – the Neitzche school of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ to the more ‘well that’s what the great God of Nature has decreed, so deal with it’ Gibran style. None of these have ever sat well with me – much like any philosophy which espouses a universal truth. See, I read sometimes too! Anyway, Paul says ‘it’s horrible and shit’.

Oh, they’re ending this episode with Go! That makes a mess of my formatting above, given that I included another two songs. Of course I could simply cut and paste those songs from this post into the next and no-one would be any the wiser, but no! I am on a roll and I refuse. We’ll just have to cover the podcast comments for those songs in the next post. Does this mean the worst Marillion album is going to be a three-parter for Paul and Sanja?

Sanja says Go! is like a balm after Deserve while Paul tells us that the recording and arranging was a pain. It’s one of Sanja’s favourites and it took Paul a while to appreciate it – though that may have been down to his overall experience of the album. It sounds like the lyrics are in fact supposed to be positive and evoking the sense of freedom through change or escape. I didn’t always get that optimism, but that could be down to the aftertaste of the previous songs. It’s not the first time H has used this theme, and it sounds like he comes back to it in the future. Sanja goes a bit Australian while we wait for a flaming galah to pop out, whatever that is. As expected, this has turned into a bit of a lighters up song. I’m not sure what finger lights are, but I am receiving visions of middle aged men wearing fluorescent Witch finger nails. And unfortunately, that image is where we must leave it (not before Rolf comes burning into my brain with his witch finger up a hamster).

Let us know what you think of Marillion.com in the comments, and as always go listen to BYAMPOD and follow the guys on Twitter, Facebook, Bebo…

Ranking The Radiohead Songs – Hail To The Thief!

Hail To The Thief was a transitional album for Radiohead. I’m positive they were aware of the immediate fan reception to their last two albums, and at the time that reception was both frosty and dismissive even if the critical response was positive. I’m also positive Radiohead always does whatever the hell they want, but given Thom is a bit of an egotistical knob he would have heard the whispers – Radiohead? Nah, they’ve lost it. I used to like them, but now they just make weird music because they’ve forgotten how to write real songs. This is a much more commercial album that Kid A or Amnesiac but is also one rife with doubt and experimentation. It’s some sort of strange art rock hybrid with more traditionally structured songs and instruments, but there’s an awful lot of, if not filler, repetition. It’s also an album which probably should have been called ‘I Really Don’t Like George W Bush’.

I saw the band at Glastonbury in 2003, and having been completely off my tits, I commented the following day that I was disappointed that they didn’t play much from their new album. I was informed by my less inebriated friends that they had in fact played almost half the album. It took a few pints of Scrumpy to bring it all back to me – mostly that they’d played the shitty half. Here’s a list:

  1. Myxomatosis
  2. Where I End And You Begin
  3. Punch Up At A Wedding
  4. 2+2=5
  5. Scatterbrain
  6. Sit Down Stand Up
  7. I Will
  8. There There
  9. A Wolf At The Door
  10. Go To Sleep
  11. Sail To The Moon
  12. Backdrifts
  13. We Suck Young Blood
  14. The Gloaming

Let us know your ranking in the commetns!

Ranking The Radiohead Songs – Amnesiac!

Greetings, Glancers! Coming barely a year after Kid A, Amnesiac now admittedly feels like an outtakes album and the first true example of the band taking the piss. Too often in the years since has the band taken the piss – releasing substandard fare, releasing rehashes, not releasing the songs we know they have in studio form. Then again, it’s Radiohead and they can do whatever the hell they like, and they have more goodness in those same years than most bands – a flurry of one-off songs, a live album, and a couple of good studio albums. The year between Kid A and Amnesiac was peak Radiohead fandom for me – the fact that we knew a new album was coming had me thinking momentarily that Kid A was just a novel creative aside and that Amnesiac was going to be their next real album, the sequel to OK Computer we were expecting. Then they started playing some of the new songs live and we realised that this new Radiohead was here to stay.

It didn’t matter to me; while I was likely convincing myself that I liked the new sound more than I actually did, but the positive was that they still could write a couple of songs better and more interesting than 99% of what anyone else could, and the other songs still sounded superb live. It was September 2001, merely days after the towers fell, that I saw the band live for the first time. I had just started University and it looked like the world was about to collapse. It was a strange time. Good gig though, even if Thom seemed on the brink of walking off on at least two occasions. At the time I preferred Amnesiac to Kid A, but the time since has proven the opposite to be true. There’s not a lot here I would ever come back to, and much of it is tied up in nostalgia.

  1. I Might Be Wrong
  2. Like Spinning Plates
  3. Hunting Bears
  4. Pyramid Song
  5. Knives Out
  6. You And Whose Army
  7. Dollars And Cents
  8. Packt Like Sardines
  9. Life In A Glasshouse
  10. Morning Bell/Amnesiac
  11. Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors

Let us know your ranking in the comments!