This week’s 1001 is another Editors’ Choice week as we burn through seven of the albums I’ve been looking forward to hearing. Let’s see whether any of them were worth the wait, shall we?
The Chemical Brothers, ‘Exit Planet Dust’
The former Dust Brothers’ debut album may also be their best. This starts with a sextet of bangers including an unrecognisable ‘Song to the Siren’ (I don’t think it even samples either Buckley or This Mortal Coil) and some punk bass on opener ‘Leave Home’. In the second half, there’s a blissed-out sample from mayfly 4AD band Swallow (on ‘One Too Many Mornings’), their first of many collaborations with an indie singer, this time Tim Burgess on ‘Life is Sweet’, and a song that sounds like Dr Octagon. Good record, this.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, ‘Deja Vu’
I’ve been listening to loads of Young lately so what the heck, let’s check these out. CSN&Y are a supergroup whose warring egos, competing interests and personal disagreements mean they’ve been on and off again for about 40 years. The album itself showcases the distinct personalities in the quartet: Neil Young contributes ‘Helpless’ but isn’t even on ‘Our House’, a bit of corn farmed by Graham Nash. There’s some really good stuff here, although the song title that sums up their entire deal is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, covered here.
Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘That’s The Way of the World’
The list’s a little low on disco but there’s plenty of funk; I thought EWF were the former but actually they’re more like the latter. On this soundtrack album they’re somewhere in the jazzier end of funk, alongside the Crusaders. The sprawling ‘All About Love’ apparently aims to achieve the goal of its title, propped up by lengthy spoken word sections. The undoing, for me at least, is Phillip Bailey’s falsetto: never my favourite singer, his voice is the most prominent on the B-side to the detriment of the record. Although it’s not on this album, I suppose you might say I should have waited until the 21st night of September to review the band; sorry for letting you down.
Faith No More, ‘The Real Thing’
Surprisingly the only Faith No More album on the list (what, no ‘Angel Dust’?), ‘The Real Thing’ is also the first album to feature Mike Patton. It hurtles out of the gate at breakneck speed with ‘From Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Epic’ and ‘Falling To Pieces’ as the opening trio: as good as any opening trio you’ll hear. It doesn’t sustain the momentum though, as they constantly bog themselves down in overlong metal sprawls (including eight minutes of ‘War Pigs’). At the time this must have seemed like their best album so far, but I think the day-glo weirdness of ‘Angel Dust’ demonstrates the band’s peculiarities and range better.
Joni Mitchell, ‘Court and Spark’
Two of my favourite albums from this project are by Mitchell: ‘Hejira‘, a sprawling road trip, and ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns‘, a cry for help from an artist trapped in the suburbs. Both of those albums flirt with jazz – the former has Jaco Pastorius on bass – but this album showcased Mitchell’s jazz chops first. I actually think it’s the least impressive of the three: ‘The Same Situation’ hints at the sprawl of ‘Hejira’ but otherwise it’s a bit too straightforward for my tastes. I think an album being accomplished and immaculately performed is admirable, but I think my tastes probably lean more towards the loose ends and weirdness, especially with Joni. At least the joke song with Cheech and Chong is at the end.
The first Orbital album on the list didn’t do a lot for me, receding into the background more than once. While this album is also better experienced as soundtrack than foreground listening, I was more accepting of this, perhaps because it’s better, and perhaps because it occasionally demands your attention more explicitly – for example ‘Quality Seconds’ sounds like Ultraviolence. No hits, but plenty of experimentation and sounded good.
The Specials, ‘More Specials’
The Specials only did two albums, in which they vaulted from the ska punk of the first one to however you’d describe this album, which contains muzak, jazz, disembodied clatterings and general ominous dread. It can’t have thrilled an audience looking for another ‘Too Much, Too Young’, and Jerry Dammers taking over the band divided opinion in the band itself, but listening now it sounds great: you can hear the influence on Blur and on trip-hop among other things. This style did yield the biggest success of the band’s career in non-album single ‘Ghost Town’, but didn’t hold the band together and they were essentially done after this.
Next week: Another visit to the bands with three albums on the list.
Status update: 896 albums listened to (89%), 105 albums remaining.