April 20: The Cramps, Cypress Hill, The Damned, The Divine Comedy, ‘Music for Airports’

The Cramps, ‘Songs the Lord Taught Us’.

The band that launched 1,000 acts that fill the smaller tents at Glastonbury, the Cramps are like if Sun Records’ inhouse producer was Martin Hannett. All twangy 50s guitar and shouting about zombies, but… well… it’s not that good, is it? You know how sometimes people are like “you should meet this person, you’ll love them!” and then you do and you don’t?

Cypress Hill, ‘Cypress Hill’.

I was expecting ‘Black Sunday’ too but no, their first album makes it onto the list instead. I enjoyed this album’s second half more, where they’re rapping in Spanish and rambling about that funky Cypress Hill shit, rather than just blazing 4/20 and killing cops.

The Damned, ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’.

Another of the many albums I should have come to sooner, this record is an incredibly energetic, unpredictable punk album with a ramshackle madcap humour. Darker territory was ahead for the band, but this feels like an act at its apex.

The Divine Comedy, ‘A Short Album About Love’.

I know, I know: I’d never heard any of Hannon’s long-players before. Hannon’s career was going nowhere prior to unlikely breakthrough ‘Casanova’; this, then, was the first album where he had a large audience expecting more hits. It delivers: it starts with the ‘Tomorrow’s World’ theme tune, follows with ‘Everybody Knows (Except You)’ and maintains an arch wit and a willingness to experiment with format for the remainder of the album.

Brian Eno, ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’.

Unbelievably boring, but perhaps I’m not doing it justice by properly listening to it; it was designed, after all, as muzak.

February 7: Beatles, Kate Bush, Can, ‘Bitches Brew’, DJ Shadow, Eno, Iggy and the Stooges, Incredible String Band

I’ve been working through the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Luckily I had a head start, having listened to 130-odd already, but that still leaves 871 that I hadn’t. While this means I will listen to a lot of good music, there also appears to be some total dreck: I am particularly reluctant to listen to three Def Leppard albums, a Bees record and ‘Slippery When Wet’. Sarah-Beth suggested I write about them, so here are some.

The Beatles – ‘With the Beatles’.

All the famous ones are on the list too but I’d already heard them. This one is from the point where things like ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ covers were still acceptable choices for album tracks. The only famous Fabs song on it is their cover of ‘Money’ (not the Pink Floyd song obv). Okay, not great, still a couple of years away from the real game-changers.

Kate Bush – ‘Hounds of Love’.

Hits on the A-side, dull concept stuff on the B-side. The hits have dated better than the Fairlight jams. Bat for Lashes was taking notes.

Can – ‘Tago Mago’.

Starts off as a normal enough 70s Krautrock album, but changes shape with the 18-minute ‘Halleluwah’, which adds curious sound effects and edits over the funk-trance jam like a King Tubby record or something. Everything on the second disc is abstract experimentation, often without a clear melody line. Pretty good in places.

Miles Davis – ‘Bitches Brew’.

I’d never heard this, but Angelo Badalamenti obviously has – the cumulative discordance and noisy horn blasts often present in his work clearly originate from this album. I’m a total jazz philistine so the wild cacophonies were beyond me; ‘Spanish Key’ is the track that made most sense to me.

DJ Shadow – ‘Entroducing’.

Too long, but still sounds fresh and holds up well even after 20 years or however long it is. I’d heard Shadow’s stuff with UNKLE and Quannum Projects but never his solo work. Good album.

Brian Eno – ‘Before and After Science’.

Eno’s 70s were pretty great all in all. This isn’t as good as ‘Another Green World’ or ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ but is more of the quirky, off-kilter rock he did that decade. Also surely the only album of the 1001 to use the phrase “not a sausage”.

Iggy and the Stooges – ‘Raw Power’ (Iggy Pop mix).

The album’s always criticised for its mixing and production: Iggy’s mix was so rudimentary that the label insisted Bowie remixed it; there wasn’t much Bowie could do with it though as the recording was so poor. This is, however, the original Iggy mix. The guitar is too loud, Iggy is too loud, the rhythm section is often inaudible. This must have sounded fantastic at the time – it does have melodies and structure, despite initial appearances – but bloody hell.

The Incredible String Band – ‘The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter’.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci were always compared to ISB in their day; it’s possible that this was a derogatory reference. The ISB were a weird psych band from Scotland, so are contemporaries of the Canterbury lot. Without a rhythm section, these songs drift around and last forever, often sounding like extended sitar jams. Pretty dull.