A Diary of the Mundane and Mediocre

09 March 2011: Wednesdays Wonder 5

What is a unemployed man supposed to do with his time? Look for work would be the top answer for that I guess. But it is so boring. There is only so many Newspapers and Websites that one can go through before one rips his eyes out with his fingers. There is of course an olympic effort at masturbation but even that glorious past time reaches a level of mediocrity. So I have decided to embark on a weekly top 5. This will keep me occupied while at the same time give me something to post every Wednesday. Todays top 5 will be the easiest and perhaps the most obvious:

Top 5 Albums that changed my life

The Stone Roses- The Stone Rose (1988)

This is the album that changed my life. I was too young to really understand the cultural significance of the musical revolution that was happening at the end of the 1980’s. But I was aware of the Stone Roses, I was first introduced to them by my sisters then boyfriend Colin, who played my sisters cassette copy to me one day. I remember it being completely different to anything I heard before and instantly loved it. However at that age Nintendo ruled the day, and the Roses long hiatus between albums meant that, for me atleast, they disappeared. That is untill 1993, when the band was reintroduced to me by my friend Toby. Toby was a few years older than I and seemed to have this wealth of musical knowledge, and more than a little pretention. In fact many of the bands on this list was first introduced to me by him. Thanks Toby.

Love- Forever Changes 1967

As I had said above many of the bands on this list was introduced to me by my friend Toby. He used to give me cassette tapes which I had lovingly labelled ‘TobyTapes. This album was on one of those tapes, once I had received it didn’t leave my Walkman for the next 6 month. The album clearly resonated with me. Its mix of 60’s psychedelia and classical spanish music made unlikely bedfellows but worked on every level. Arthur Lee is every bit the genius that he imagined himself to be, and Forever Changes deserves to be every bit the classic that numerous polls and charts make it out to be. That said two of the stand out songs on the album do not come from Lee instead they are the work of Bryan Maclean. Both ‘Alone Again Or’ and ‘Old Man’ are testament to Maclean’s writing talents. But if you have ever heard his post-Love Elecktra demo tape you will know that it is Lee’s arrangement of the songs that make them stand out so dynamically. I got to see Arthur Lee in the late 90’s at a tiny gig at the Garage in London,  it was such a memorable gig that I still have the ticket stub in a box with other collectables.

The Clash- London Calling 1979

What can be said of this album that hasn’t been said before. A masterpiece from a band that started in the Punk movement but evolved into something so much bigger and so much better. When I first heard this album it was the music that first grasped me. So many different genre’s all done in the Clash’s wonderful style; Rockablilly, Punk, Reggae, all the influence are clearly there to see. But as I grew older it was the intellectual meaning behind the songs that resonated with me the most. The ideas on politics, radical conflict and unemployment which are make up the majority of the songs were things that I was quickly coming aware of as a teenager. My own views particularly on unemployment and radicalism were shaped around the same time as I discovered this album. My personal stand out track is ‘Guns of Brixton’ . This maybe because of the strange lyrics about paranoia, it might be because of its simple yet infectious bass line, or it simply might be because it’s about Brixton, a place where I would visit late at night to play silly games (ahh Circus Maximus), while bassy reggae played in the background untill the early hours in the morning. Who knows?

Joy Division- Unknown Pleasures 1979

Another record from 1979 and the post punk movement. Joy Divisions debut album is another classic of British music. The Manchester four piece are arguably the most influential band of the last 30 years. But this is not necessarily a good thing. Too many modern ‘indie’ bands have sought to tap into Joy Divisions dark and moody take on late 70’s Britain only to fall short in both style and substance. But I digress. This album is an absolute joy. Martin Hannett’s production is perhaps his finest work and Peter Hooks bass drives the music along side Stephen Morris’s brilliantly timed drum beats. Even Bernard Sumner (a person who I have deep personal problems with), manages to perfect his lead guitar to create some of the best British New Wave guitar riffs of the time. (shadowplay, anyone?). Of course you cannot write about Joy Division without mentioning the dark and morose voice of Ian Curtis. A Man whose voice alone can send shivers down my spine.

Public Image Ltd- Metal Box 1979

John Lydons post Sex Pistols effort, and arguably much superior in both musical scope and musicianship. Led by the dub influenced Jah Wobble on bass and Lydons enigmatic vocal style Metal Box could not be further away from the raw sound of Pretty Vacant. None of the songs on this album are what I would call ‘Single’ material. But as an album Metal Box takes you on a musical journey that none on this list can hope to match. Like a fine wine, Metal Box is not to be consumed in haste or too regularly. Instead it should be taken out every once in awhile and appreciated in a quiet moment. There is nothing quite like this album before or after its release. A true unique classic.

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