In the second of a two-part series, we look at more of the artists who are represented three times on the list. Of course, we’ve met this lot twice already, so we’ll be saying farewell to them here. Let’s roll…
Tim Buckley, ‘Happy Sad’
Buckley had a decent-sized success with ‘Goodbye and Hello‘ but he almost immediately decided to move into murkier, more mysterious waters. This album is mostly a showcase for Buckley’s interests in the jazz sphere, and for his vocal acrobatics, and the songs follow unclear, freeform structures. There is a percussionist, but he’s mostly on xylophone, turning Buckley’s 12-string acoustic into the main rhythmic instrument. It’s a peculiar album that I’m not sure I fully vibed with.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners, ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’
The last Dexys album in their first run, the band had slimmed down to a quartet by this point, although the record is fleshed out with session musicians so you’d hardly notice the difference. It’s a loose, sprawling album with just seven songs in 46 minutes, often involving audible rambling conversations between Kevin Rowland and other band members, and in one case containing a lift from ‘Werewolves from London’ so shameless that they gave Warren Zevon a writing credit on the reissue. Those present report the recording was long and difficult, and there’s a feeling of general exhaustion about it.
The Fall, ‘The Infotainment Scan’
Recorded inbetween Brix Smith spells, but still with a loose eye on making records that might attract a wider audience, ‘The Infotainment Scan’ was their most commercially successful album (Top 10 in the UK!) even with no singles. Released in 1993, it sounds contemporary, with diversions into 808 State-style techno (‘Service’), songs with discernible choruses (‘Ladybird (Green Grass)’) and an abstract cover of ‘Lost in Music’. Maybe this is a reach considering what an autocracy the band was, but it sounds like the band must have felt that if the definitive Fall sound is Mark E Smith’s vocals, then that gives the band carte blanche to do more or less what they want underneath. A lot of this sounds pretty good, rather than having an ephemeral, whining quality.
Peter Gabriel, ‘So’
Gabriel has finally licensed his stuff to go on Spotify, which immediately makes this his best album for me as it meant I haven’t had to go down YouTube rabbit holes to find it. ‘So’ features big hit ‘Sledgehammer’ and small hit ‘Red Rain’ (based on a dream, with a metaphor somewhere between ‘Red Red Wine’ and ‘Raining Blood’). At the time it was seen as quite a big deal as Gabe took unfamiliar elements of world music, like the shakuhachi on ‘Sledgehammer’, and turned them into big 80s pop hits. Nowadays, mind, it feels kind of passe, self-serious doodlings on the Fairlight.
Pet Shop Boys, ‘Very’
While I never owned this album, I remember it being out in the shops in the early 90s, as it had an unusual CD case, ribbed for your pleasure:
The album is, it seems, Neil Tennant’s first album since coming out, most emphatically addressed by covering a Village People song in an apparently sincere way (‘Go West’, one of the band’s biggest ever hits). While there are still some sounds that haven’t aged well (the synth patches on ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ for example), I think this is my favourite of the three PSB albums we’ve heard. There’s some dry wit in ‘Dreaming of the Queen’ and ‘The Theatre’, and some great singles in ‘Liberation’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing’.
Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’
We’ve met Paul Simon three times with Art Garfunkel, and three times solo, but this is his last appearance on the blog. Teaming up with Art for the final time, this opens with the title track, the hymnal qualities of which I’ve always found difficult to take seriously. Beyond that, the duo’s interests appear to include reverb-heavy percussive sounds (‘Cecilia’ and ‘Bye Bye Love’) and unfamiliar elements of world music (‘El Condor Pasa’, a Peruvian song). As with their other albums on the list, they keep me guessing, although I don’t think this is the blowaway triumph that ‘Bookends’ is.
The Smiths, ‘Strangeways Here We Come’
Regarded by the band as their best album, there’s a conscious effort to move away from the jangling of their previous three records, with keyboards, strings, autoharp and harmonica entering the fray and even Morrissey himself tinkling the ivories on ‘Death of a Disco Dancer’. But the famous songs are famous for a reason: both ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ are close to the Smiths’ usual sound and are both nearly perfect slices of melancholy pop. Fey, wry and literate, the lyrics to this album are really on to something: what a shame we don’t know who wrote them.
Next week: We’ve now reached the point where there are less than 100 albums remaining in the project! We’ll be dealing with some of the more obscure entries next week, as we look at albums that less than 5% of Listchallenges.com fans have heard.
Status update: 903 listened to (90%), 98 remain.