For those of you who don’t know, Explosions in the Sky are one of the forefathers of Post-rock, a genre of rock that uses “guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures” and are really the first purely instrumental band I’ve really gotten into. For those who know me (so clearly everyone who reads this…) when it comes to my music I’m all about the content.
I appreciate and enjoy good music, but I can put a lot aside if I like the voice and lyrics; so your Bruce Springsteen’s, Bob Dylan’s, Gaslight Anthem’s, Tom Waits’, have always been a favorite; Explosions in the Sky has changed that.
I’ll really just be talking about the band as whole over a specific album, as like all great things, I didn’t get into them one by one but all at once and all together.
I guess what sets them apart from other progressive bands, (Dream Theater and Transatlantic come to mind because of my shallow understanding of the genre), is one, length, with most songs only ten minutes or less and not up to twenty or more. And two, their pure use of progression, as they have a much deeper use of building melody, instead of just building rhythm like I’ve commonly heard in the genre. Melodies that actually build into a climax and end, not just peter out or climax and then have a warm down fuck.
Take the first song from their first album, A song for our Fathers, from How Strange, Innocents, or the first song from their fifth album, The Birth and Death of the Day, from All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Their songs never sound like they’re just showing off their technical skills like a lot of instrumental songs I’ve heard, and there’s still always this sense of structure and meaning behind the music.
Even if the words aren’t there you can still feel the meaning, the story, what’s going on behind the sound and why it was worth making at all. It’s music that can build from burying your head in the dirt, to screaming from a thousand different rooftops.
But what really helped get me into this band is how excellent it is to read and write to. As a semi-professional reader and writer I can say it’s impossible to do either with music that involve lyrics, as unsurprisingly having someone else’s words and voice in your head when you’re trying to think is pretty distracting.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Explosions in the Sky are good because they just make good background sound, they go beyond just filling in a sound gap, and actually help stimulate the mind. Helping you to focus and generate content (I’m listening to them as I write this) as their sweeping melodies soar and crash into distorted haze, and you write the best work you’ve ever put to paper, or read the best book you’ve ever held.
Explosions in the Sky are the soundtrack of the heart and soul. (And Saturday Night Lights)
I picked this book up from a shop in Portsmouth a few years ago and it was on my christmas reading list; then I changed my mind and decided to read Garfield and Horrible Histories instead (don’t judge me) and finally got round to reading it about a year later. I remember I started it at 9pm Thursday night and finished it 7am Friday morning. Now it’s not unusual for me to stay up through the night; but it’s never to finish a book (it’s usually for noodles or to try and figure out what went wrong at various stages of my life).
For those unfamiliar with this book the plot is this: in the not-to-distant future books have been made illegal and fireman go around burning them and arresting anybody who possesses them. No matter how bleak this book got though it couldn’t make me feel worse than it did in the first few chapters. You’re introduced to this character called Clarise who is just simply awesome. She reminded me so much of this girl I used to go to college with. So I was sitting there getting used to this simply adorable character, then she dies. Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury? No, Fuck you!
But maybe the fact I thought that was a good thing. It showed the emotional depth the book had; it stopped you thinking of these people as characters and it seemed more like a journal; the events were actually happening and everything had consequences (as opposed to poorly written books where you’re constantly aware that they are books, so the characters don’t effect you that much as you don’t see them as people; more cliche’s of people).
This book also is related to some brilliant mistakes. First off; the title. It’s called Fahrenheit 451 as that’s the temperature which books burn at. Well it’s supposed to be; but it’s not. The temperature at which paper combusts is actually 450 Celsius. The other mistake was not one made by the author but by the audience. For years people said it was about censorship, but it’s actually about interest in books dwindling because of television. It’s got to the point now where people go up to the author and tell him he’s wrong about his own book and it really is about censorship. Proving that just because you can read a book doesn’t make you intelligent; in fact it can make you think you’re smarter which actually makes you dumber as you can’t be taught.
Anyway I’m rambling; so yeah in summary a rather awesome book which contained one of my favourite lines in a book:
“why waste your final hours running around your cage denying you’re a squirrel?”
Seems so boosh-like. Oh, and I also LOVE this paragraph;
“Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’re had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it?”
One of the harshest sentences I’ve ever read; yet also one of the most beautiful
Right upfront this will probably be a bit more rambling than a few of my other posts, as I found it’s hard to talk clearly about something you’ve loved for so long. There will also be some spoilers, so be warned.
Daria, for those who don’t know, is an animated TV show from the 90s, about the day to day life of social outsider Daria and the eccentric mesh of people in her life. And it is one of the best sitcom-Coming-of-Age, comedy drama thingys ever; or a teen-angst cartoon, as some call it.
A spin-off of a character of the far inferior Beavis and Butthead (a show I have never understood the appeal), who thank god never have a cameo. Now what set Daria apart from other shows about people on the outside of the norm, was that Daria was there by choice. She didn’t have overly strange interests, nor had one incident that left her unpopular.
She was just too smart to care what people thought, and didn’t care letting people know what she thought; leading to one of the sharpest wits in television.
It got what I felt a lot of teen shows didn’t, that some people didn’t have heaps of friends because the general populares found them too strange, but because they didn’t want the general populares as friends.
But Daria wasn’t friendless; enter Jane Lane, the spunky artist who can match wits with Daria without being as openly antisocial. And it’s there we have the heart of the show, something woefully lacking in fiction, a straight-up great female friendship- a hoemance if you will.
This isn’t Mean Girls, this isn’t Clueless, there’s no vindictive undertone to them; they are great friends who get each other, through the lows and the highs and the many many middles. And they teach us the lesson that anything can be solved by pizza.
Daria also got high school (or secondary school as us Brits call it), well it got middle class suburban high school. It was depicted as dull, but not without its moments of great fun. It was a breeding ground of hormones and terror, but not without those moments of maturing clarity. But what really made it different was how it dealt with teenage issues.
Having a sarcastic lead that could always bring the chuckles no matter the situation, the show didn’t try to throw them into overly wacky situations (well not all the time), instead dealing with more mature stories in funny ways. Like the death of an asshole student and how people should feel about his death, dealing with your parent’s morality, working out your future, coming to terms with your past mistakes, all that good stuff. And it’s in those moments that Daria isn’t just funny, but offers startling insight into growing up and becoming comfortable with yourself.
But the show isn’t constantly heavy with its plots; it has plenty of lighter episodes, like Daria and her family getting lost in the woods, the derogatory camping trip, Jane becoming an art forger, The X-files, the musical episode and many sillier things. But the show never loses its voice of the under spoken, unheard teen.
Another thing that made it different from almost every other high school set…well anything, there was no real antagonist. No anti-Daria trying to make her life miserable or out to get her. Yeah, the fashion club and Daria’s sister Quinn can be bitches, but they rarely take focus.
And the so-and-so popular kids who always seem to fall into the villain slot are anything but here. They’re dumb but there is not a vindictive bone in their bodies; they’re just lovable. The ditsy cheerleader Britney is one of my favorites of the show, who behind her genuine airhead demeanor is surprisingly scheming, if only towards her on and off again BF Kevin.
Beyond Daria and Jane, the rest of the cast are well defined too, with the next most focus falling to Daria’s family. From her parents, the hapless father and hard working mother (who I’ve realized were stolen for Rick and Morty), who desperately just try to work out their eldest daughter. To her bitch Sister Quinn who has one of the best arcs of the series, growing beyond a shallow hub of well moisturized skin to a real person, though that doesn’t really kick in till season 4.
Then there’s Jane’s slacker elder brother, the perpetually jobless musician Trent, and then….you know what, it has a sodding big cast so I’m not going to go much further, I’ll just say all characters are well put together and even the smaller ones get their time to shine; so go watch it.
But I will talk about….Tom, who a lot of fans hate, but I honestly I liked; he’s like a male Daria but less cynical. Introduced at the start of season 4 as Jane’s new boyfriend, that season follows the gradual break down of that romance, and the build of one between him and Daria, ending the season with them cheating on Jane behind her back. And for something that a lot of people didn’t like and could have really been done badly, I kind of love it (though I do have a taste for teen bullshit).
Yes it’s falling back into more typical teen drama tropes, but after four seasons of building up these characters as anything but typical, seeing them have to deal with these problems I was completely behind, and as I said they did it well. A lesser show would have done the whole arc in 2-4 episodes or less, but Daria took a whole season to develop Tom and Daria’s romance out.
It’s always there in the background; Daria and Tom getting closer while he and Jane drift apart. It then of course leads to Daria having a boyfriend throughout the final season (5), and I refer back to what I just said, a typical story can work when done with none typical characters.
Actually, that’s not a bad description of the show as a whole, so I’ll end it there. If my rambled thoughts have sold you on the show, then go watch it (where ever you can 😉 ) and if this hasn’t, GO FUCKING watch it anyway, it’s great!
Anyway, next week I’ll try to cover something none animated (but promise nothing).
It’s coming up to a week since the terrible attacks in Paris and the world is still struggling in the confusing aftermath, uncertain of what to say or do. This tragedy is a bit unlike 7/7 and 9/11 though. Maybe it’s because unlike the other two events, this one happened in front of us. It seemed to unfold, not just on national news, but on social media. As it happened people were tweeting about it, facebooking about it etc, letting the world know what was going on as it happened. The world became spectators to a game that they never wanted to see in the first place. Also different are the reactions. Outside of a few people most of the messages are ones of hope. Messages that France, and the world, will get through this. Twitter was overloaded with messages of support, not just for the victims and their families, but also for any innocent Muslims who might end up getting attacked as a reaction to this. The general feeling of this attack isn’t “kill all Muslims” (apart from Trump, who said they should be made to wear identifying badges, in a move that makes it hard not invoke Nazi analogies), instead, the feeling is “Fuck ISIS”. It’s progress. So why is this? I have a theory:
One of the explosions occurred during a internationally televised football match, and if it wasn’t for the actions of a security guard at the gates of the stadium, it would have been a lot worse. But through doing this, he denied the Assholes an important opportunity (side note: editorial guidelines for this blog dictate we don’t call them “terrorists” as that gives them power over our fear, they don’t deserve that, instead we will just continue to refer to them in whichever capitalised insult springs to mind. We are a media blog, so I doubt this will happen that often). Through this man doing this, it meant there wasn’t a defining image of the attacks. 9/11 had the smouldering towers as well as the man jumping from them, 7/7 had the masked woman being led away from the blast. These images fuelled a lot of intense arguments and hatred, and the Paris attacks lacked that visceral image. In years to come the images we will associate with these attacks will be national landmarks draped in the colours of the French flag. Never deny the important of an image.
So, Amelie? Why did I pick this to talk about? Mainly, it’s because it is French, and this is my simple way of showing solidarity with a country in turmoil right now. Films and media are important. When people think of Japan they don’t think of the mountains, they don’t think of Karoshi, they think of the food, they think of the films, they think of the music. People associate media with the parent culture. A lot of people’s first interaction with foreign cultures is through their films and it can help define them.
But why this film specifically? Why not Two Days, One Night? Why not the absolute sublime Belleville Rendez-vous, especially in light of Chomet’s brilliant couch gag for The Simpsons. The reason is simple: this film is simply beautiful. Watching this film is like eating a box of Guylian chocolate and feeling it melt in your mouth. It’s not just a story, it’s an experience. It’s something that makes you feel warm inside. But that may just be the whimsical nature of it. It’s one of the most hopeful films you could hope to see, about decency, about the positive side of human nature, about convincing someone to travel by stealing their gnome and getting people to take pictures of it all around the world.
It’s this sort of whimsy and loveliness that we need to showcase right now. Just as the characters of Amelie needed her, we need this film. We need, well, I think Maximilien Robespierre said it best:
BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad is one of those rare feats of fiction that gets music. It’s not just about music or musicians, it doesn’t just feature great music; it gets music. The power it has; the power to move people, the power to bring them together, and inspire you to take over the world (not literally). It’s like an anime Almost Famous.
The anime (and Manga but I’ll get to that) follows 14 year old Koyuki over the years, as he learns to play guitar, makes real friends, starts a band, and discovers who he really is…(it’s a coming of age anime, what do you expect). And unlike most shows/films about bands, this isn’t about them making it; for the majority of the show all they play in are dive bars and night clubs. The shows about the struggle, the struggle to learn, and to keep going against the odds, and about the bond Koyuki forms with the people he plays music with. It’s about the expression music can give you, as a global translator to reach everyone and anyone from any walk of life.
Beyond Koyuki and his life, the show also follows Ryusuke, the lead guitarist and leader of the titular band BECK, who is the other heart of the show. He’s Koyuki’s main inspiration to grow and become more comfortable with himself, to mature to a teenager with a clear goal in his life. While Ryusuke tries to go beyond that, developing from a teenager with a goal to an adult with an outcome, and dealing with those good or bad. The bad mainly resolving around a mafia subplot…go figure.
Outside of them, and with the exception of Koyuki’s love interest and Ryusuke’s sister, the passive aggressive badass Maho, the rest of the band don’t get much development. They’re presented to us as whole beings and they stay that way for the remainder of the anime (the mange is a different story, but I’ll get to that), hell the prototypical bully characters (it’s high school, they have to be there) gets some of the best development in the series. I wouldn’t call this so much a fault as just an occurrence, theres only so much time, so the focus needs to be where it needs to be. Nothing gained but nothing lost.
BECK is also one of those rare cases in anime that is….What’s the old saying? 40% of anime is better subbed, 30% it doesn’t matter either way, and only 10% of anime is better dubbed. BECK joins the ranks of Cowboy Bebop, Baccano, and Black Lagoon, which are just better dubbed, way better. This is thanks to a dubbing team who really gave a damn, and it clearly wasn’t a, ‘this is popular let’s put it in English’, it was a passion project for all involved, and it shows.
It shows most clearly in the amazing music and genuinely awesome songs. Most English dubs of anime about music, dub everything but the music, like K-on and NANA (another pretty good music anime), as its hard work to get new singers in, and translate the songs beyond awkward engrish, but BECK did. And it needed to really, as the songs aren’t just window dressing between the melodrama. Like real music the songs are character driven, and reflect a lot of the later themes and messages of the series. And the music’s just plane awesome. I own the soundtrack.
The band sound like the love child of Rage Against the Machine and Oasis, with Flea on bass. This is because they have two vocalists, the awesome and funny Chiba as the rapper, and our protagonist Koyuki as the singer. His singing voice being one of the main pushes of the series. It’s not just that the songs sound good, they work perfectly in the plot too, representing what they need, be it the progression of the character, a relationship, or the band itself. The climactic song ‘Slip Out’ not only works beautifully as a representation of Koyuki’s development from hapless teenager to musician, but it also sounds like a classic song, like a Smells Like Teen Spirit or Wonderwall, a song that could define a generation.
Another way the Dub is smart is in its copyright, as unlike in a the Japanese production, the English couldn’t name drop all the bands and use all of the music it once did, so the Sex Pistols become Love Gun, Anarchy in the UK becoming Anarchy Britannia. And a kinda random but awesome I’ve Got a feeling cover becomes an original song by the anime’s Nirvana- esque stand in The Dying Breed, the band that inspired Koyuki to pick up the guitar. It’s a smart, character driven dub.
If I have to speak of some weakness for BECK, it’s slow to start. It takes its time introducing the characters, setting up the band, following Koyuki’s development as a guitar player, ect. All good stuff, but when I re-watch the series (and of course I don’t recommend this for new viewers) I skip the first 5ish episodes, just to jump into the build-up to Koyuki joining the band and the main plot getting underway. The animation is also pretty cheap a lot of the time but it was a cheap show, it’s rarely scene breaking, but for Anime fans used to their Madhouses, Studio Ghiblis, and what not, it may be a bit jarring.
Now the manga is slightly different. As I said the Anime isn’t about the band making it, it’s more about them doing it. And the manga is about that too, but it’s just a hell of a lot longer and follows all the ups and downs as the band…make it…and they do by no easy means. If you can find it I highly recommend the manga, it lacks the audio aspect obviously (which to a music based story is important) but it keeps going with the great characters, ideas and story much further than in the anime.
Leading to a lot more character development all around, Chiba (the rapper) especially gets focus as Koyuki writes more and more songs for his own voice, causing Chiba to have an existential crises about his place in the band, prompting an 8 Mile like arc of becoming an underground rapper.
There is also a whole host of fun new characters, mainly in the form of other bands they meet along their way to the big leagues, who help redefine how BECK see themselves, and expands the size and reach of the BECK world.
AND there’s even a live action film, and it’s a Japanese one luckily, so their history of anime to live action adaption is a lot cleaner than most. But even so the prospect of condensing a 26 episode anime into a two and a half hour film is daunting. But I’m pleased to say they did it pretty well, far from my favorite telling of the BECK story, but they make some smart choices to condense it and its worth a watch if you’re a fan and want to see a different take on it.
BECK isn’t just my favorite anime; it’s one of my favorite shows of any kind. And it could be yours too. So in the immortal words of Chiba… turn up that fucking guitar and keep on rocking!
As anybody who has ever read any of my scripts would know: I can be a bit wordy. Some would say “super super pretentious”. My method for writing a lot of things is basically: monologues first, everything else, after. On the upside this means that it’s piss-easy to find pieces suitable for audition as can just send one of the auditions over and it’s easy for them to record on their own. On the downside it does occasionally make it seem like all my characters have suddenly appeared from a Diablo Cody film (side note: watched God Bless America yesterday and it had a brilliant line: “fuck Diablo Cody, she’s the only stripper with too much self esteem”).
The other downside is that it can occasionally provide slip-ups for actors. I’ve rejected people’s auditions based solely on a mispronunciation of a film title. And at least once per film I have to explain what a word is. My favourite was when I put the word “defenestration” in a script, actor didn’t know what it meant so in the next draft I put the complete etymology of the word in the script. See what I mean about me being pretentious?
So why am I saying all this? Simple, because of my predilection towards pretentious monologues and obscure words, I’m interested in language. I like finding out how words work and interact with each other. How changing one word can effect the whole flow of a sentence. Sadly most people don’t agree with this so the chances of there being a long running series about language on BBC2 is slim (ok, there was the Stephen Fry show but that was a while ago). As such you have to go to other sources. Enter, the world of podcasting.
The Allusionist is a podcast about language (as you can probably guess from my self-celebratory rant above). Hosted by Helen Zaltzman, (perhaps better known from the Answer Me This podcast), it’s a joyful ride through the history of words you know, the truth behind words you think you know, and the definitions of words you probably don’t. It describes itself as “small adventures in language” which is pretty accurate. Zaltzman has a genuine love for the subject and a warm wit that shines throughout, whether she’s talking about werewolves, baby talk or penis’s, she never wavers and you end up leaving each episode entertained as well as educated. Let’s face it, language can be a tricky subject to make interesting, but she makes it fascinating so you’re never bored whilst listening. For example, my new favourite fact is that “Tory” comes from the Irish for robber/bandit. I’m sure you’ve already made a joke about that in your head. The average episode is about 13 minutes long so you get through them remarkably quickly.
So yeah, that’s that, The Allusionist is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and TuneIn. Listen, I doubt you’ll regret it. Or just go to the website and read the transcripts here: http://www.theallusionist.org/transcripts/
Where To Start:
Episode 1: not only is the first episode always a good place to start, this episode is specifically about puns, so you can see why it had a special place in my heart.
Episode 4: Lots of swearing, lots of laughs.
Also Listen To
Answer Me This. Helens other podcast, her and Olly Mann (alongside Martin The Soundman) answer user-requested questions. A lot funnier than I’m making it sound.
Skeptics With A K. The Merseyside Skeptic Society discuss everything in the world of skepticism. Very funny, very interesting, and very useful for telling people exactly why homeopathy is balls.
Let’s talk about British Video games (and by that again I mean, I talk, you read). They are out there, I know that. Most famously we all know Rockstars’ British (though I shamefully didn’t know that till I saw The Gamechangers), but I’m not just talking about Brits making video games. I’m talking about Brits making video games set in England that actually feel English, and not just another culture’s idea of us they’ve seen on the telly.
I’m sure there’s more out there than I know, but it’s a good segue into the topic of this week’s post. A continuation on our look at all things spooky, the British Horror-adventure game, The Lost Crown: A Ghost Hunting adventure. (Yes the names lame, but apt, so bear with me)
Written and developed by Jonathan Boakes, who has developed a number of other British point-n-click games, like the very awesome Dark Fall Series. The third installment of which I almost reviewed for this spook fest, as it is another of my favorite, and most underrated scary games.
Lost Crown is set in The Fens of East England coast, and steeped in British folklore and legend. In classic story form, you play as amateur ghost hunter Nigel, sent to track down, what else, lost treasure. But the only way to find it is to solve the mystery of the strange town of Saxton.
Now there is a lot wrong with this game, faults that would make most rightminded gamers run to the hills, faults I will get to. But I’ve already gone on record saying I’ll put up with the worst if the story grips me, and man oh fucking man, that’s where this game digs deep.
Solve the mystery, put some ghosts to rest, and find the treasure. It sounds simple enough, but with a backdrop filled with British history, and influenced by classic ghost stories like, M.R James A Warning to the Curious, Lost Crowns plot has the mentality of a Zelda fetch quest.
To solve one mystery you have to solve one or two others, just to get the context to solve a bigger one that’s really just part of an even larger one. Every location you explore has a dark past to uncover, from the station, the forest, the caves, the church, and even the home you rent. The game truly captures a sense of history, by not just being a long story for you to stumble plot point to plot point, but by subtly laying a dozen stories set over centuries; all connected through your investigation. Stories ranging from pirates, to smugglers, to WW1 bombers, to religious cults, suicidal couples, and crazed kings.
It’s this understanding of place, and depth of history that like fictional towns Silent Hill and Bright Falls before and after it makes Saxton feel real. Another part of that are the characters, beyond the prissy everyman you play as, the inhabitants of Saxton are an…eclectic bunch of people. To use the well warn example, it’s a bit Twin Peaksy in how normal yet off everyone feels, like they’re from another time. And there more than window dressing, as you actually get to know them pretty well; who they are and their pasts tend to tie in to at least one mystery and ghost around town.
So yeah the story’s tight. The ends a bit obtuse, but far from ruins it.
But on to the other stuff. The technical stuff.
To get the positives out the way, the graphics are good, not great for 2008, but good. Done in stylish black and white with splashes of colour, it does its job and creates the perfect atmosphere for a ghost story, rendering the English countryside beautifully. I didn’t find it a very scary game, more just creepy; but it has its moments and excels at building unease with minimal action. Having a, hear don’t show approach, with subtly unnerving visuals. The direction is also topnotch, with the use of fixed camera positions to make some truly gothic and unnerving angles. So even when it doesn’t look good, it looks good.
The gameplay is also your typical point n click fair; click the screen and the character will wonder over, biggest fault there is the speed Nigel moves at. Slow and steady doesn’t win shit.
The puzzles are mostly a lot of fun too, based around using actual ghost hunting gadgets, your EVP meters, night cams and whatnot, to unearth phantom clues. So any fans of Ghost Hunting shows will be at home here.
But the rest of the production is… shaky….no, a better word is hilarious- unintentionally so. The dialogue works when it needs to but is largely stilted, especially when married to some bizarre voice acting. The supporting cast come across okay, but our hero Nigel is the odd mix of wooden yet over the top, which leads to plenty of unintentionally funny moments. You will never want to hear the phrase “Nothing ventured” again.
And for some fucking dumb reason, this puzzle based game also features a very out of place rail shooter section, with some of the worst 2D ghosts you’ll ever see in a 3D game. It comes out of nowhere and is over just as quick, no other part of the game is like it. It’s the worst kind of bad, sudden and random.
Then theres the FMVs, oh the FMVs. At certain points, mainly near the end, FMVs are used to show flashbacks, and they look terrible. This isn’t Ripper or Phantasmagoria level video either, it’s straight up film student looking, and again, out of nowhere and pretty pointless. Most of what they show, like a person being killed, could just be covered in dialogue or by investigating the crime scene…which you do.There was no need for a jarring psychic full-motion-video vision of their demise. It’s the only moment in the game that made me want to stop playing, and I would have if I wasn’t so invested in finding out what’s up with this town. Lucky theres only a handful in the whole game.
Now I haven’t played it in a few years, so I’m sure there’s even more odd stuff I’m forgetting. But with all that said I still recommend this game highly. If you like a spooky ghost story, and defiantly if you have a taste for old style point n clicks.
I need to play it again before I can name it one of my favorite games guilt free, but I’ve always had affection for ugly ducklings, for the odd and the strange. And a game that is simultaneously amazing in one aspect and so bad its funny in another is just my style.
22nd December 2002 is possibly the most important day in my life from a music listening perspective. The day Joe Strummer died. Some of you may be aware that The Clash are one of my favourite bands, and I’m not alone in that respect, they were widely called The Only Band That Mattered and they’re good enough that that name doesn’t seem like hyperbole. Which makes me feel even more guilty about what I’m about to say, I didn’t know who The Clash were when Strummer died, in fact his death was what made me a fan of the band. Not in a hipster-ish “I only bands who were underground so I wait for members to die” kind of way, don’t worry. I was sitting at home one day flipping through the music channels when he died, I know this as London Calling played on Q (I think), and it was labeled “London Calling – The Clash. Joe Strummer R.I.P”. For some reason it was the first time I had paid much attention to that song, and something clicked in my head about how good it is. Then I went through to another channel and they played Should I Stay Or Should I Go? I was amazed. How can one band perform two songs that sounded so different? Then the triangle of triumph was complete when a channel played Rock The Casbah. It was at that point I knew I needed to find out more about this band, so, Boxing Day, 2002 I went to The Shop Formally Known As Sounds Perfect and brought what would turn out to be one of my favourite albums of all time: London Calling. To those of you who haven’t listened to this album: you’re less of a person and you should fix that immediately. Since then I’ve heard the other albums they’ve made, and whilst they’re all good, they’re no London Calling. I think part of that is because of the experimentation shown on this album. Very few albums have as many different genres on show here: almost every song sounds different from the next, with some punk, some ska, some lounge, some R&B, some reggae, some jazz etc. In terms of styles the album is just a hodgepodge of different styles and clashes that combine to form something truly wonderful, in much the same way as London (specifically, Camden). This album is, still today, the sound of London in much the same way that It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is the sound of New York. It’s not just the music, it’s also the lyrics. The album is not just good (in my opinion, whilst Sum41 may have named their album as such, this album is the true All Killer, No Filler album), lyrically this album is a masterpiece, covering the issues that needed to be covered right now. From unemployment through to racial conflict, drug use and the responsibilities of adulthood. Guns Of Brixton (a.k.a: the song that launched a thousand basslines, seriously, this has to be the most punk song which you could use as the backdrop for a hip hop song) has one of the intense opening lines of a song:
When they kick at your front door How you gonna come? With your hands on your head Or on the trigger of your gun
The fact that such brutal lyrics were laid against one of the best bass backdrops in music history opened the casual listeners minds up to the situation. The trouble with a lot of punk music is it’s preaching to the already converted. If the Sex Pistols were singing to people who were punks, it was The Clash that turned these people punk in the first place. The Clash are like Bob Dylan in that they have influenced outside of their genre. The best way to gauge a bands influence is via tribute albums. Yes, The Ramones tribute album does seem to have a wide variety of bands (Metallica, RHCP, Rob Zombie etc) the only true completely strange one to see is U2. The Clash, however, on Burning London have not only the expected ones (No Doubt, Rancid, Mighty Mighty Bosstones) they also have some you’d never have expected (Ice Cube, Moby). If a band can lay claim to have influenced bands as diverse as that, they must truly be something special.
Now onto my favourite part of this album, how it was released. Now, the band had had trouble with their record label prior to this. CBS had refused to release the bands debut album in the US, released singles the band didn’t want, and asked them to clean up their sound. The issues for this album came from the band wanting to release a double album, the record label refused because they were assholes. They did, however, allow them to release a free single with the album. So the band put a free single with the album, it was just a single that contained a lot of B-sides, in fact, almost an entire albums worth of B-sides. Since the deal was that the single would be free with the album, this meant that the (now) double album would be released at the same price as a normal album. The band won as they got to release the album as it was intended, the fans won as they didn’t have to pay more, and the record company lost, which is exactly how it should be.
So yeah, that’s why I love this band, and why this album is one of the most important pieces of music I’ve ever heard. And why it makes me feel even worse that it took the death of the singer to realise how amazingly talented this band is. People can keep their 1959 plane crash, for me, 22nd December 2002 is the real day the music died, and the day it was reborn, out of the fire like a phoenix, into my head, and into my heart.
Like if you enjoy
Rage Against The Machine
After this, check out
Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years Of Amnesty International. A 4 disc tribute album to Bob Dylan, only one song is featured more than once, and every song was recorded specifically for the album. Dylan is one of the select few artists you could do this with, especially with the amount of talent on show: This is the only album where MCR, The Gaslight Anthem, Rise Against and Bad Religion sit alongside Mick Hucknall, Miley Cyrus, Bryan Ferry, Natasha Bedingfield, Sting and Adele.
Heartattack. I knew I had to put a modern punk compilation on here. Was going to put one of the Punk-O-Rama albums on here but then realised I listen to the songs from here a lot more. Featuring a bonus disc of new songs to celebrate Burning Heart records, this album features some truly fantastic songs.