31 May 2013

31st May - Talking Heads' Speaking in Tongues

Artist – Album: Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues
Released:  31st May 1983

Sounds Like: Funky!

Talking Heads never were ones for sitting still. After releasing  1977’s stunning debut album Talking Heads: 77, the group rethought its art punk sound and teamed up with Brian Eno to produce More Songs About Buildings and Food, a much more varied album with elements of funk, pop, country and reggae along with the American punk vibe. Fear of Music followed in 1979 and brought with a newfound danceability (in a certain sense, this ain’t no disco) and, by 1980, they’d taken on the dance thing whole hog and combined it with afrobeat influences to create Remain in Light. Throw in spin off group The Tom Tom Club’s self titled 1981 release and it’s quite a journey to have taken in a short space of time for the New Yorkers.

After taking a brief break, the band reconvened to reassume their amorphous state, and, in 1983, they released an album that it’s impossible for one to sit still to. Speaking in Tongues is possibly their funkiest release and it also stood as their commercial breakthrough, boasting amongst its ranks the opener and big hit ‘Burning Down the House’. Although not quite as good as Tom Jones and the Cardigans shiny cover (I’m joking), that track sets the bar high and yet the quality on the rest of the record rarely slackens.

Making Flippy Floppy’ is groovy and nonsensical, whilst the gospel tinged ‘Slippery People’ is captivating. Hidden away right at the end is ‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’, a playful love song with the charming goofiness that its naive title would suggest, and actually, very discreetly, one of the best songs to come out of the dirge of a decade that was the eighties. At times the rest of the album can be a little unmemorable, but in the moment it all sounds great and it stands as strong continuation of the Talking Heads rich run of impressive albums.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Burning Down the House – 4:00
2.       Making Flippy Floppy – 4:36
3.       Girlfriend Is Better – 4:25
4.       Slippery People – 3:30
5.       I Get Wild/Wild Gravity – 4:06
6.       Swamp – 5:09
7.       Moon Rocks – 5:04
8.       Pull Up the Roots – 5:08
9.       This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – 4:56

Listen to ‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMawfL1lE4k

30 May 2013

30th May - Art Brut's Bang Bang Rock & Roll

Artist – Album: Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Released:  30th May 2005

Sounds Like: Look at us! We formed a band!

In 2003, Art Brut formed a band. Then they wrote the greatest song ever about such a process and titled it ‘Formed a Band’.

Complete with jagged guitars and Eddie Argos’ tongue-in-cheek vocals and instantly memorable lines (“Honey pie, I don't know when it started, just stop buying your albums from the supermarkets. They only sell things that have charted, And Art Brut? Well we've only just started”), the song swiftly wooed indie critics and on-the-ball music fans. Thankfully, Argos wasn’t kidding when he said they’d only just started – the album that followed offered exactly more of the same ironic brilliance.

My Little Brother’ and ‘Modern Art’ are infectious rock tracks in the same vein as their first single, all snappy guitars and witty one-liners. The title track is borderline too clever, with Argos claiming that he “can’t stand the sound of the Velvet Underground”, against a backdrop of Cale-ish screeching violins and backing vocals chirping “white light/ white heat”. On songs like ’Rusted Guns of Milan’ they show they don’t just deal in giddy joyous matters as they tackle the issue of impotence – the little-engine-that-could-esque chant of “I know I can” at the coda is disarmingly laboured.

The two real highlights though, aside from ‘Formed a Band’, are ‘Emily Kane’ and ‘Good Weekend’. The latter is a contagious and quirky pop song about, well, as Eddie Argos declares it: “got myself a brand new girlfriend.” He’s “seen her naked TWICE!” The former is a surprisingly delightful love song, written years before, dedicated to an old high school flame. In true Art Brut style, he doesn’t just miss his sweetheart though, he can actually count, to the second, the last time he saw her (“10 years... 9 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes, 5 seconds”). It’s a fantastically smart take on young love that most of us can relate to, with pleasing honest lyrics such as “I was your boyfriend when we were 15, It's the happiest that I've ever been, Even though we didn't understand, How to do much more than just hold hands”.

All the cerebral wordplay and frivolous guitarwork can become slightly draining, and it’s not an album to keep on repeat. But as debuts that don’t take themselves to seriously go, this is one of the very best.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Formed a Band – 2:58
2.       My Little Brother – 2:23
3.       Emily Kane – 2:41
4.       Rusted Guns of Milan – 3:45
5.       Modern Art – 2:23
6.       Good Weekend – 2:49
7.       Bang Bang Rock & Roll – 2:14
8.       Fight! – 2:37
9.       Moving to L.A. – 3:29
10.   Bad Weekend – 3:03
11.   Stand Down – 2:51
12.   18,000 Lira – 1:13

Listen to ‘Good Weekend’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY4dQHsPdiI

Also released on the 30th May:
2006: The Radio Dept. – Pet Grief

29 May 2013

29th May - Teenage Fanclub's Grand Prix

Artist – Album: Teenage Fanclub – Grand Prix
Released:  29th May 1995

Sounds Like: Sun soaked genius

When the Fannies (yep, that's their unfortunate nickname...) are on top form there really is no one better. No, not even Oasis, despite Liam Gallagher’s infamous backdoor brag that Teenage Fanclub were “the second best band in the world”. In truth, the only problem for those who want to delve into their back catalogue is trying to sort the glorious from the WTF-able. Well, I’ll make it clear – Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Songs from Northern Britain and today’s album Grand Prix are bloody good, and you may as well avoid the rest.

Their music is a sparkling synthesis of the west coast harmonies of the Beach Boys, the jangly pop of The Byrds, the power melodies of Big Star and the alternative indie mentality of the best nineties bands. But better. Probably.

Whereas Bandwagonesque is generally perceived to be the high water mark of their almost 25 year career, Grand Prix lags not far behind, and, whilst it slightly lacks the former album’s giddy energy, it’s certainly the more consistent of the two.

The sunny power pop of the likes of ‘About You’, ‘Sparky’s Dream’,I’ll Make It Clear’, ‘Discolite’ and set highlight ‘Don’t Look Back’ are counterpointed fantastically by the gorgeous slow acoustic songs of ‘Mellow Doubt’, ‘Going Places’ and ‘I Gotta Know’. The only dud note is the loud/soft-dynamics-gone-mad of ‘Hardcore/Ballad’ and, by the time you’ve got to that final track, it’s already too late – you’re hooked.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       About You – 2:41
2.       Sparky’s Dream – 3:17
3.       Mellow Doubt – 2:42
4.       Don’t Look Back – 3:43
5.       Verisimilitude – 3:31
6.       Neil Jung – 4:48
7.       Tears – 2:43
8.       Discolite – 3:07
9.       Say No – 3:12
10.   Going Places – 4:28
11.   I’ll Make It Clear – 2:33
12.   I Gotta Know – 3:27
13.   Hardcore/Ballad – 1:48

Listen to ‘Discolite’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4GDA9WdBXg

Also released on the 29th May:
2000: Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
Also released on the 29th May:
2009: Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

28 May 2013

28th May - The Smashing Pumpkins' Gish

Artist – Album: The Smashing Pumpkins - Gish
Released:  28th May 1991

Sounds Like: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins. Homer Simpson, smiling politely

Well, that was a great long weekend. I don’t know how you made use of the gorgeous weather, but mine included a belting little road trip, catching up with old friends and even a visit to the UK’s only Hooters (ahem...). The highlight however was Dot-to-Dot, the festival I mentioned a while ago which was spread across loads of venues in Nottingham city centre and featuring umptillions of great up-and-coming bands. Amid the maple syrup downing, silent disco dancing and Alan-Partridge-esque Ladyboy drinking, we did manage to squeeze in seeing a few of them. Skaters were tight New Yorkers reminiscent of the Strokes, Best Friends were pop-punk band with a penchant for the sound of the 90’s, Bo Ningen were a crazy Japanese acid punk group, Swim Deep were charmingly goofy as they seemed overwhelmed by the crowd’s adulation, whilst Little Green Cars’ indie folk was a personal favourite. It all served to show that there’s a lot of great bands out there, but also indicated the lack of one outright scene or movement in today’s indie music.

In contrast, back in 1991 when The Smashing Pumpkins were a little known band, the grunge movement was really building momentum. Their debut album Gish was released just months before Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, and the band were quickly lumped together with those from the Seattle-based scene.

In truth though, they never really belonged with them. This record is surprisingly eclectic and contains to varying degrees elements of indie rock, noise pop, heavy metal and psychedelic dream pop. At times the variety can be a little too directionless, and it does descend into pompous noodling a little too often. At its best though, on songs like ‘Siva’, ‘Rhinoceros’ and ‘Daydream’, the album is a success, an appropriate signifier of the brilliance to come.

Albumaday... rating:  6/10

1.       I Am One – 4:07
2.       Siva – 4:20
3.       Rhinoceros – 6:32
4.       Bury Me – 4:48
5.       Crush – 3:35
6.       Suffer – 5:11
7.       Snail – 5:11
8.       Tristessa – 3:33
9.       Window Paine – 5:51
10.   Daydream – 3:08

Listen to ‘Rhinoceros’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVfWx9282y0

Also released on the 28th May:
1971: Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners

27 May 2013

27th May - Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Artist – Album: Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Released:  27th May 1963
Sounds Like: Another day, another Dylan

It’s gradually becoming clear that Bob Dylan is one of my favourite artists of all time.  I mean, I always knew he was good, and that I was supposed to like him, but it never occurred to me that I ACTUALLY liked him. I do! I really do. Today is the fourth time, in only 148 days that I have sat here trying to convince you just how awesome each album is, that a Dylan has been the centre of attention. Another indication of my adoration is the fact that I had a huge poster of this album cover on my bedroom wall since I was 16.

In many ways, this was the first record on which Dylan showed his true genius. His debut, though pleasant, was riddled with covers which only served to dilute his skill and rein in his immense talent. Here, there are still a couple of covers – the fine ‘Corrina, Corrina’  and ‘Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance’ – but it’s the originals that really stand out. ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ wasn’t just a milestone song, it was a torch song, a landmark for the flower power ideal. Other protest songs such as ‘Masters of War’ and, particularly, ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ shone, but Dylan was more than a one trick pony. ‘Girl from the North Country’ was a delicate love song, possessing that inalienable quality of Dylan’s folk songs of sounding timeless. ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ is ostensibly a love song but with tongue driven squarely in cheek. Elsewhere, there are the oft-lauded but questionable ‘Bob Dylan’s Blues’ and ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’ that maybe I just don’t get.

I may have already given two Dylan album’s the full ten out of ten so far, but the eight I’m going to give this is not to be sniffed at. This was a fantastic effort, and really paved the way for the brilliance that was to come.

Albumaday... rating:  8/10

1.       Blowin’ in the Wind – 2:48
2.       Girl from the North Country – 3:22
3.       Masters of War – 4:34
4.       Down the Highway – 3:27
5.       Bob Dylan’s Blues – 2:23
6.       A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall – 6:55
7.       Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – 3:40
8.       Bob Dylan’s Dream – 5:03
9.       Oxford Town – 1:50
10.   Talkin’ World War III Blues – 6:28
11.   Corrina, Corrina – 2:44
12.   Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance – 2:01
13.   I Shall Be Free – 4:49

Listen to ‘Don’t Think Twive It’s Alright’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZPh3hpxLKs

Also released on the 27th May:
2003: The Thrills – So Much for the City

26 May 2013

26th May - Johnny Flynn's A Larum

Artist – Album: Johnny Flynn – A Larum
Released:  26th May 2008
Sounds Like: Way better than bloody Mumford & Sons

I’m in Nottingham today for the annual Dot-to-Dot festival, check me out! Now played out over a long weekend in dozens of venues across three different cities, the festival began here 8 years ago at just three clubs. Since then it has garnered a great reputation as a place to see loads of great new bands and potentially spot the next big thing – the list of bands to have played it is like a who’s who of buzzed about indie and pop acts of the last few years: The Drums, Ed Sheeran, Darwin Deez, Hurts, Guillemots, Mystery Jets, Los Campesinos!, Beach House, Friendly Fires, Spiritualised, Bloc Party, Hercules and Love Affair, Ellie Goulding, British Sea Power, Kate Nash, Alphabeat and Noah and the Whale. Who’ll be the next one? The 1975? Tom Odell? Dry the River? Wave Machines? I haven’t got a clue, I’ve barely heard of any of them...

Speaking of obscure indie acts of note, today’s album is by Johnny Flynn, a star of the revitalised folk rock scene. His highly literate wordplay, distinctive, olde-worlde voice and energetically plucked acoustic guitar mark him out as one to watch. The stomping ‘The Box’ contains enough interesting variations, screeching violins, and a catchy enough chanted chorus to warrant repeated listens (in fact, Cartoonist David Rees listened to it non-stop on itunes, in a bid to drive the average price per listen down to one cent). ‘The Wrote & The Writ’ is smart but not smart-arsed and contains the lovely line “don’t say in a letter what you can’t in my ear”; it sounds like a lost song from the original highpoint of folk in the sixties. ‘Tickle Me Pink’ is a bouncing hoe-down with an infectious chorus. And that's just the first three songs.

Johnny Flynn remains unknown enough that he could be playing in Nottingham (possibly headlining) today as a ‘could be-‘ . On the evidence of this, it shouldn't take too long for him to join that illustrious list of ‘actually are-’s.

Albumaday... rating:  6/10

1.       The Box – 3:36
2.       The Wrote & The Writ – 4:07
3.       Tickle Me Pink – 3:11
4.       Brown Trout Blues – 5:02
5.       Eyeless in Holloway – 4:05
6.       Shore to Shore – 4:23
7.       Cold Bread – 3:29
8.       Wayne Rooney – 4:18
9.       Leftovers – 4:16
10.   Sally – 3:35
11.   Hong Kong Cemetery – 4:51
12.   Tunnels – 3:08
13.   All the Dogs are Lying Down – 4:13
14.   Shore to Shore (Reprise) – 1:27

Listen to ‘Tickle Me Pink’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I2hzMCiNH4

25 May 2013

25th May - Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Artist – Album: Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Released:  25th May 2009
Sounds Like: Pristine Parisian power pop

By the time of their fourth full-length, Phoenix were getting the hang of things. Gone is the first album’s patchiness and the second attempt’s conformity. The Parisian four piece take the boisterous pop rock of their excellent third record It’s Never Been Like That, cut out any of those pesky rough edges and spit-polish furiously to create the glossy Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

There has never been a better introduction to their particular blend of indie rock and clean synthpop than on the opening one-two here. The hook-filled ‘Lisztomania’ bounces with a melody full of joie de vivre, despite the lyrics’s anxious dual personality. ‘1901’ is more direct and catchy, with its buzzing guitar breaks. The two are both rightfully considered amongst the best indie songs of the noughties,  and proudly display the terrific development of Phoenix since their inconsistent if promising beginnings.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the album does get somewhat swallowed whole by the sheer brilliance of the first couple of songs. There’s still plenty to pique the interest – the twin parts of epic ‘Love Like a Sunset’, the restless ‘Lasso’ and the slinky ‘Armistice’- and in fairness, the seven tracks make for a strong half an album on their own. It’s hard, though, to not just keep returning to tracks 1 and 2.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Lisztomania – 4:08
2.       1901 – 3:13
3.       Fences – 3:45
4.       Love Like a Sunset – 7:39
5.       Lasso – 2:48
6.       Rome – 4:38
7.       Countdown – 3:57
8.       Girlfriend – 3:24
9.       Armistice – 3:05

Listen to ‘Lisztomania’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BJDNw7o6so

24 May 2013

24th May - The Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

Artist – Album:  The Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
Released:  24th May 1968
Sounds Like: Suss out the moon

Are you all sitty comfty-bold, two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin...

On this sixties classic, The Small Faces take elements of blues rock, soul, psychedelia, music hall and blend them with a generous dollop of insanity. In fairness, the first half is more strait-laced: the funky title track has stood the test of time surprisingly well, and was used on the trailer to Grand theft Auto V; ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Song of a Baker’ are early heavy rock tracks, expertly utilising Steve Marriott’s raw, soulful vocals; ‘Long Agos and Worlds Apart’ is an understated psychedelic classic; whilst ‘Rene’ and ‘Lazy Sunday’ are big, good old fashioned Cockney knees-ups.

The second half, though, is one of the first attempts at a concept album in music history. Tied together by the nonsensical narration of the British comedian Stanley Unwin (creator of that weird introduction there), the band play through a delightful song cycle telling the tale of Happiness Stan – a naive hero who, upon seeing a half moon, sets out to find out where the other half is. His travails eventually lead him to wise crackpot Mad John, who points out that, in the time it’s taken Stan to find him, we’re back round to a full moon again. Stan understands, and what’s more, he is also told the meaning of life (life is just a bowl of all-bran), and they all have a grand old party.

It’s as daft as toast, but it also may well be the most fun concept (half) album of all time. As the closing music plays out:

“So remember these very special words: Happy day lay toyley town newspaper read it and chuckley smile-ode. They all have a lovely turn: Gnome's Cave, Huckleberry fickle tickle my fingold, Little Boy Blue lettin' his horn stuff'n it in his melodrobe and freaking 'em all out - oh, what a mind-blast! Jacky Jill, Knees-up Mother Brodie, oh, what a joy of a trickly hove there. I hope your turn up is three-quarters half as lovely wouldn't you laugh and enjoy it! Stay cool, won't you?”

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – 2:26
2.       Afterglow of Your Love – 3:31
3.       Long Agos and Worlds Apart – 2:35
4.       Rene – 4:29
5.       Song of a Baker – 3:15
6.       Lazy Sunday – 3:05
7.       Happiness Stan – 2:35
8.       Rollin’ Over – 2:50
9.       The Hungry Intruder – 2:15
10.   The Journey – 4:12
11.   Mad John – 2:48
12.   HappyDaysToyTown – 4:17

Listen to ‘Rollin’ Over’:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrdPsOBfxaM

Also released on the 24th May:
1994: Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Also released on the 24th May:
1999: Travis – The Man Who

Also released on the 24th May:
2004: Mylo – Destroy Rock and Roll

23 May 2013

23rd May - Frank Black's Teenager of the Year

Artist – Album: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year
Released: 23rd May 1994
Sounds Like: The (prom) king returns

Frank Black’s output since parting with the Pixies in 1993 has been nothing if not prolific – 22 albums in those 20 years, that’s quite the hit rate. In comparison, fellow ex-Pixie Kim Deal’s band The Breeders have released three albums and two EPs in the same period. That’s just shy of one full length Breeders album for every seven (SEVEN!) Frank Black albums. There’s been the good – 2005’s Honeycomb was imbued with pleasing alt-country vibes – the bad – I’m gonna plump for The Cult of Ray here, but there’s definitely more than one candidate – and the ugly – take your pick from pretty much any of the album covers. But only one album could potentially stand up next to his dazzling and influential work with the Pixies as an equal. Oh, and look, I get to write about it today!

Due to its rambling length and more conventional tone than he’s more readily associated (it’s much closer to Trompe Le Monde than Surfer Rosa stylistically) the album remains somewhat underappreciated. But throughout its twenty two tracks Black Francis displays his lyrical ability (try on the romantic acrostic of Speedy Marie’ for size – it spells out Jean Marie Walsh!), his knack of rendering throwaway comments über-cool (such as the cracking “That’s just how some things don’t materialize” from ‘The Vanishing Spies’), and his amazing talent for marrying alternative music to poppy melodies (never more evident than on the singalong ‘Headache’).

Even if you are a big Pixies fan, there’s a good chance that Black’s questionable solo career has put you off exploring further. For the most part, that’s the right choice. Well done you. But, buried deep in amongst the Sh... ow Me Your Tears, is this gem. Dig it out, put it on and enjoy.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Whatever Happened to Pong? – 1:34
2.       Thalassocracy – 1:33
3.       (I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain – 2:17
4.       Calistan – 3:22
5.       The Vanishing Spies – 3:37
6.       Speedy Marie – 3:33
7.       Headache – 2:52
8.       Sir Rockaby – 2:54
9.       Freedom Rock – 4:16
10.   Two Reelers – 3:01
11.   Fiddle Riddle – 3:29
12.   Olé Mulholland – 4:41
13.   Fazer Eyes – 3:36
14.   I Could Stay Here Forever – 3:36
15.   The Hostess with the Mostest – 1:56
16.   Superabound – 3:10
17.   Big Red – 2:41
18.   Space Is Gonna Do Me Good – 2:22
19.   White Noise Maker – 2:42
20.   Pure Denizen of the Citizens Band – 2:20
21.   Bad, Wicked World – 1:57
22.   Pie in the Sky – 2:13

Listen to ‘Speedy Marie’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKI7scna2jY

Also released on the 23rd May:
1969: The Who - Tommy

22 May 2013

22nd May - The National's Boxer

Artist – Album: The National – Boxer
Released:  22nd May 2007
Sounds Like: Understated brilliance

Just over a month ago I blogged about The National’s third album Alligator, a special record from a band just beginning to develop their sound. I noted that although the album slightly lacked cohesion, each song was excellent. By the time they released Boxer two years later, they had become nigh on impossible to resist.

The group eschewed the patchy rock songs à la ‘Lit Up’ altogether, and instead constructed an album of dark night, lonely bar songs - still anthemic and, on occasion, joyous, but ultimately lonely and blue. Matt Berninger’s classic baritone voice couldn’t be better suited to these melancholic melodies*, and the way his lyrics have a habit of sneaking up on you is amplified by the brooding atmosphere. That’s not to suggest that these introspective songs are all quiet and hidden in the corner. Opener ‘Fake Empire’ may start softly but it builds to a merry crescendo of splashing drums and upbeat horns. ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ is probably the rockiest of the lot, uptempo and biting. Thereafter things slow down, although the quality never lessens. ‘Brainy’ is a beguiling pseudo-love song. ‘Slow Show’ is a nervous and awkward love/sex song, containing the cracking coda “you know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you”. ‘Ada’  is another highlight, featuring Sufjan Stevens on piano, although I have little idea what it’s about.

The National could stake a claim to be the best band since the turn of the millennium, releasing six captivating albums of wonderful genius, and this, for me, is the finest of the lot.

* As clearly and audibly as the guy himself sings, there’s arguably never been a better example of drunken-mumble-along-ability. Tom Waits maybe?

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Fake Empire – 3:25
2.       Mistaken for Strangers – 3:30
3.       Brainy – 3:18
4.       Squalor Victoria – 2:59
5.       Green Gloves – 3:39
6.       Slow Show – 4:08
7.       Apartment Story – 3:32
8.       Start a War – 3:16
9.       Guest Room – 3:18
10.   Racing Like a Pro – 3:23
11.   Ada – 4:03
12.   Gospel – 4:29

Listen to ‘Slow Show’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz5pskaTNJU

Also released on the 22nd May:
1992: Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies
Also released on the 22nd May:
2006: Hot Chip – The Warning

21 May 2013

21st May - Marvin Gaye's What's Going On

Artist – Album: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Released:  21st May 1971
Sounds Like: Think about it, think, think about it

“There's people on the street
Getting diseases from monkeys
Yeah, that's what I said
They're getting diseases from monkeys
Now, there's junkies with monkey disease
Who's touching these monkeys?
Please, leave these poor sick monkeys alone
They've got problems enough as it is”

When New Zealand comedic duo Flight of the Conchords parodied Marvin Gaye’s sound and sentiment circa What’s Going On, they were (honestly!) paying him the highest compliment. Along with David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys, Gaye heads an exclusive list of artists to be bestowed with the honour of a fun poke.

Of course, the album has been acclaimed by more than just New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo. The collection is rightly considered one of the finest of all time, and a landmark record for Motown, soul and black music as a whole. The listing of professional ratings has more stars than Professor Brian Cox's bedroom ceiling. Its smooth, soulful funk leanings and deeply sensitive and righteous sermon painted Gaye as a patron saint of the soul genre. At times, it has to be said, it does go slightly overboard with the meandering jazz of ‘Wholy Holy’, and the won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children-ness of ‘Save the Children’ really did deserve lampooning.

However the highlights – the title track, ‘Flyin’ High’ ‘God Is Love’, ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ and ‘Inner City Blues’ – are simply extraordinary. Not only this, but the free-flowing, early example of a concept album means that the sum is even greater than the fantastic parts. I mean, I chose this ahead of Radiohead’s OK Computer, an incredible record in its own right. A ten out of ten album if ever there was one.

Albumaday... rating:  10/10

1.       What’s Going On – 3:53
2.       What’s Happening Brother – 2:43
3.       Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky) – 3:49
4.       Save the Children – 4:03
5.       God Is Love – 1:41
6.       Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) – 3:16
7.       Right On – 7:31
8.       Wholy Holy – 3:08
9.       Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – 5:26

Listen to ‘God Is Love’:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYtEulKl3yE

Also released on the 21st May:
1997: Radiohead – OK Computer