Earlier this year, when the news leaked out that there was a new Pink Floyd album on the way, there was a feeling bewilderment among fans, rather than excitement. It simply did not compute, as most people assumed the band was completely defunct. Since the death of Richard Wright four years ago, only David Gilmour and Nick Mason remained as ‘official’ band members, and the latter was never force as a performer nor a composer. And it was highly unlikely that former bandleader Roger Waters had reconciled with the others enough to record with them. So what was this new release to be? It seemed likely that it would just be Gilmour and Mason, like A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987), which is one of the worst-reviewed releases of the band’s long career.
However, it was soon revealed that the album would be mostly made up of music recorded for, but ultimately rejected from, The Division Bell (1994). It was heartening that it would feature contributions from Richard Wright, but at the same time disappointing that music that didn’t make the grade 20 years ago was now considered good enough to release. Many fans were willing to give the record a try, as it was ‘new’ material, and possibly a chance to celebrate Wright’s life and work. But was this album worth reviving the Pink Floyd moniker for?
In the 1980s, the music scene was changing at a breakneck pace, and artists who first became famous in the 60s were finding it difficult to stay relevant (and therefore rich). Many long-established artists tried changing things musically, often by embracing the use of synthesisers and electronic drum machines. Worse still, they also tried to improve their “branding” by changing their dress sense and visual aesthetics. This led to some unintentionally hilarious record covers. The slideshow below has ten album covers that show older artists trying, and failing, to look cool in the 80s. Click to activate…
I’ll say one thing for this album: it does exactly what it says on the tin. It sounds exactly like you would expect a collaboration between Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey to sound. Even the album title and cover art let us know what we’re getting ourselves in for – that being a trip down memory lane with two veteran musicians.
The cover photos show both men in their younger years, but rather tellingly, the two are never pictured together. Although they are only four years apart in age, they were never truly contemporaries. Daltrey, of course, first made it big in 1965, as the lead singer of The Who – a band then renowned for a punchy sound they called “Maximum R&B”. As the years progressed, like many bands of their era, The Who turned their back on their roots to embrace concept albums and rock operas. So by 1975, the whole music scene was mired in prog and glam, leaving little in the way of straightforward Rhythm ‘n’ Blues. Dr. Feelgood, the band with which Wilko Johnson was guitarist and songwriter, deftly filled this gap in the market. The Feelgoods’ music provided a shot in the arm for the music scene, and were a huge influence on the nascent punk sound.
Amoeba Music, the famous LA record shop, has a great little web series called What’s In My Bag? They invite well-known people into their store, let them shop around for a while, and then interview them about the albums they chose. It’s basically a non-copyright-infringing version of Desert Island Discs. There’s often a lot of hipster-y posing, but there are a fair few videos where the celeb’s genuine love of music shines through. Here’s a few of the best videos…
Unlike the others on this list, Gallagher’s video is ad hoc. Amoeba didn’t know he was coming; they just saw him in the aisles and ushered him into the green room for this brief but enjoyable video. He’s taking a punt on some artists that are new to him, and some of his choices (Pink Floyd, Can, and David Axelrod) are fairly surprising. Never one to mince words, he guesses that he’ll find a lof of these “shite”. He also gets a Hawkwind album “to see what all the fuss is about”. I don’t think there’s been fuss about Hawkwind for about 40 years.
Every once in a while, some publication comes up with a list of the Scariest Bands of All Time. However, all the choices are shock rockers, i.e. people who wear clown makeup and shout a lot, all in the hope that it upsets their parents. That’s not the kind of music that I think is truly scary. The most frightening kind of music chills rather than shocks, getting under the skin and staying there.
Below is a list of the music that I find to be actually scary…
Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) demonstrates the difference between shocking and scary. His most famous song “Come to Daddy” provides some shocks, thanks in part to its horror movie-like video. But he has also produced ambient work which is genuinely eerie. His first ambient record was a dance music-inspired affair, but with volume two, things became slower, weirder, and darker. Most ambient music is suitable to help you sleep, but if you tried it with this album, you’d probably be awake all night, terrified. You might have heard some of these tracks in Chris Morris’s dark comedy series Jam.
As album titles go, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, doesn’t really inspire confidence. It’s almost Fiona Apple-like length, and reads like a teenager’s Facebook update. Luckily, Neko Case managed to assuage many of my fears about her way with words, right from the opening lines of the first song: “When you catch the light, You look like your mother”.
The album begins in a rather restrained manner, but things kick into gear with the up-tempo “Man”. If you’ve unfamiliar the concept of “Genderfuck”, then this song will give you an excellent primer. With its loud guitars and a Pixies-esque middle-eight, it’s something entirely new from Neko.
Case seems most alive on these fast-paced tracks, such as “Bracing for Sunday”, which is a murder ballad about the killing of an incestuous rapist. So I’m sure the defence would argue for “justifiable homicide ballad”. She has confirmed in an interview that it’s not based on a true story, thank god. “City Swans” is a song that achieves the impossible: it’s a Country/Rock crossover that would be suitable for radio states in both Red and Blue states.
Janelle Monáe’s 2010 album The ArchAndroid was many people’s album of the year, including mine. It was a big seller, and also a remarkable musical achievement in that it seemed to defy categorisation. It appealed to both fans of contemporary R&B and prog-rockers, who aren’t so much warring factions as two alien species unaware of each other’s existence. So, to say that this follow-up album was “much anticipated” is an understatement.
If you only know of Monáe from her kinetic singles, e.g. “Tightrope” and “Cold War”, you might be surprised by how ambitious her longer release are. Her first EP and her two albums are suites (acts) in an overarching story. The narrative centres on an android called Cindi Mayweather, who becomes a sort of robot messiah. Telling a story over multiple releases is an interesting concept, but I challenge anybody to follow the story without resorting to reading the lyrics. I’ve never really been able to follow the plot, but it seems even more difficult to grasp this time around.