It’s Sunday, the day of the week where you traditionally enjoy a delicious roast, or some other super-heavy dinner. So it’s perhaps fitting that this week’s septet are united only by their reference to food in their album titles. Yeah, it’s tenuous, but now that we’re over 2/3rds of the way through the project, with fewer than 350 albums remaining, we might have to do a couple of these weird association weeks. Let’s roll.
Belle and Sebastian, ‘Tigermilk’ (link)
The 1999 Brit Award winners for Best Newcomer had released this, their first album, three years earlier. I guess if you know me, it might be a surprise that I hadn’t listened to Belle and Sebastian before: a bookish indie band who sound like a bunch of librarians. They always seemed, though, like they were a slightly lesser version of the things I did like: not as smart as the Divine Comedy, not as ambitious as the Delgados, not as eclectic as Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Listening to this album twenty years after the fact, I’m still not completely moved. There’s plenty to get your teeth into: generally they sound like ‘Bryter Layter’ as played by the Triffids, but there’s also horns, strings, even a blueprint for Casiotone For The Painfully Alone on ‘Electronic Renaissance’. Yet there’s something that doesn’t quite coalesce for me: maybe it’s too shy, too timid. I get the feeling that if they haven’t won me over now, they never will.
Neneh Cherry, ‘Raw Like Sushi’ (link)
Sort of a British-Swedish take on ‘All Hail The Queen’, ‘Raw Like Sushi’ opens with Cherry’s best-known song, ‘Buffalo Stance’, all 808 rhythms and bubbling distorted synths (also a section in Cockernee for whatever reason). The rest of the record largely leans on Cherry’s spunky personality and the drum machine, with cameos from Massive Attack and Bjork collaborator Nelle Hooper. It was a fine listen, although besides the ace single, I forgot most of it straight away.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions, ‘Blood and Chocolate’ (link)
Now there’s a combination you wouldn’t want to see on Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Recorded a few years after the Attractions had nominally split up, this is in places looser and less inhibited than many of Costello’s albums: ‘I Want You’ goes on for nearly seven minutes, while ‘Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind’ is uncharacteristically raucous. Costello also adds a vaguely Buddy Holly vibe to some of the songs (‘Next Time Round’ for example). The production is perhaps a bit too clean for the objective, though, meaning that for all the band’s work it still sounds a little tame.
Malcolm McLaren, ‘Duck Rock’ (link)
I’d heard about this album but with bafflement: how can the Sex Pistols manager have released an album widely regarded as one of the most influential albums in early hip-hop, referenced as late as Eminem’s ‘Without Me’? Listening to the album makes it a bit clearer, as McLaren’s direct involvement on most of the songs appears to have been as project manager rather than performer, with Trevor Horn and The Art of Noise responsible for the delivery of much of the music and The World’s Famous Supreme Team delivering much of the rapping and interstitial pirate radio segues. The music takes in Latin and African styles as well as old-school hip-hop, mixed seamlessly. Turn it off before the final song, a dogshit hoedown sung by McLaren called ‘Duck for the Oyster’ and this is a good album.
Moby Grape, ‘Moby Grape’ (link, some songs unavailable)
These were a San Franciscan psychedelic rock act from the 60s who had an unexpectedly troubled life due to the mental state of their rhythm guitarist, Skip Spence. Superior Californian rock due to the band’s taste in melodies and harmonies, the album’s standout is the Byrds-ish ‘8.05’, which alas doesn’t start 8.05 into the album and doesn’t last 8.05: was nobody paying attention. This is their debut album, which suggests a promise that alas they never really fulfilled due to their personal and personnel issues: they don’t appear on the list again, despite a seven-album career, and seem to be regarded as what could have been, more so than what was.
Sebadoh, ‘Bubble and Scrape’ (link)
Lou Barlow’s post-Dinosaur Jr project, this is an obvious relation to DJ’s Sonic Youth/grunge/J&MC mix, but perhaps a bit more abrasive, shouty and violent, with acoustic songs and (on ‘Fantastic Disaster’) Violent Femmes facing off with Ennio Morricone. Initial impressions deceive, however: opening track and single ‘Soul and Fire’ sounds like a college-radio-friendly unit shifter at odds with the discordant energy of much of the rest of the album.
Tom Waits, ‘Nighthawks at the Diner’ (link)
One of the things this project has illuminated is that sometimes live albums are a better representation of an artist than their studio albums: I’d previously thought of live albums as contractual obligations, but many of the albums on this list have shown them to be a showcase for the artist’s personality. Artists don’t come more charismatic than Tom Waits anyway, but here his rambling, seemingly improvised intros to ‘Emotional Weather Report’ and ‘Better Off Without A Wife’ really lift the personality of the songs. Not that it’s often easy to tell where the intro ends and the song starts, as he rarely starts singing and carries on making Ginsbergian abstractions while the jazz band behind him keeps up. This is probably my second favourite of the Waits albums I’ve heard: just one more visit to Waits on the list.
Next week: We’re off to South America as we mop up the last of the Latin albums on the list.
Status update: 686 listened to (68%), 315 remain.