Episode 8 – Talking politics in our PJs

This episode we discuss Chris’ casual approach to child adoption, discover the world’s most savage frontwoman and will Danny preserve his genitalia in a glass jar for future listeners?

This episode’s albums

  • Joni Mitchell, Blue (2:39)
  • Billy Bragg, Talking with the taxman about poetry (24:42)
  • PJ Harvey, Dry (38:14)

Yeah, yeah yeah…we’re great! Did you know that our greatness has been recorded on OTHER EPISODES?! Impressive, huh? Check out our episode guide here!

Listen along to the 3 album playlist below….maybe with a glass of cognac, pretty laydees and then bash your keyboard in rage at us in the comments.

Talking with the taxman about poetry

With thanks to Billybragg.co.uk – Original picture link here

Barking’s most famous son, Billy Bragg is a singer/songwriter is somewhere between Bob Dylan, a Doc Marten boot and an Alan Bennett novel.

Talking with the Taxman about Poetry is Bragg’s 3rd album and the one that launched him into the hearts of lefties everywhere, The Socialist Worker and most people gathering round a fire bin.

The themes running through the album include the coming of age of young men and moving from the antics of youth to the responsibilities of family, the politics of Thatcher and unrequited love. All this is brought to life by Bragg with a faithful Rickenbacker with rich, biting chords, jangling arpeggios, cascading chiming riffs and the rallying voice; thick with a gruff diamond Essex punch.

Bragg has always had the wily-Essex spirit, famously opportunistic in his purchase from a local curry house to satiate a hungry John Peel and swap a biryani for airplay of his record. This helped get his name on the map and the rest is history.

The album opens with the sensational ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’ – An anthem to touch the heart and soul of any young man with the impending fear and apprehension of becoming a father, leaving their questionable career choices and entering a new chapter in their life. The essence of Bragg is capturing the bitter sweetness of these moments – Picturing the fear but also joy of these milestones with belting melodies and poetic lyrics

The people from your church agree

It’s not much of a career

Trying the handles of parked cars

Whoops, there goes another year

Whoops, there goes another pint of beer

Here we are in our summer years

Living on ice cream and chocolate kisses

Would the leaves fall from the trees

If I was your old man and you were my missus

A hooligan, a beautiful girl, the moments of joy and love….transitioning to the mundanity of family life. This theme runs again with ‘The Marriage’ and is an ode to a new life of domesticity.

In addition to the journey of a young man, the awakening of politics and the crash of Thatcherism, the ‘loadsamoney’ generation and the attack on the working man looms large. Ideology, Levi Stubbs Tears, There is power in a union and help save the youth of America cover the spectrum of political thinking at the time.  Bragg manages to deliver a message, but never with lecturing or sanctimony…just with fantastic tunes and the power of belief.

In my opinion, Billy Bragg was the natural heir to Bob Dylan, principally owing to the political earthquake that created the two artist’s canvases.

This album deserves to be here as few others capture in such pictorial detail and wonderful imagery which is spoken not only from the heart, but standing on a desk, waving bits of paper angrily.

Bragg went onto produce many other anthems on politics, social issues and love…good ones though. He remains a prominent speaker and leftist, going for the throat and speaking with great examination on many public affairs platforms.

  • Song of the album: Greetings to the new brunette
  • Score: 4/5

Episode 7 A podc…WAIT WAIT WAIT KANYE IS HERE!

This episode the college dropout drops in. Yes, we examine the all-seeing, all-powerful, all-mega juggernaut that is Kanye West. Yes we are. We are. Kanye made us put this paragraph first.

We also look at the sensational 60s starlet Dusty Springfield and what happens when aloof posh schoolboys don’t want other more rowdy boys trying to chat up girls at their gigs and would rather dress as flowers on stage. It can only be…Genesis!

  • Dusty Springfield, A girl called Dusty (2:05)
  • Genesis, A lamb lies down on Broadway (18:45)
  • Kanye West, A college dropout (39:52)

Not convinced by posh boys dressed as flowers? Maybe try another episode? We’re sure to have cleansed fancy dress from every one of them. Check out our episode guide!

Listen to the album playlist below and listen along with us! 🙂

Episode 6 Killing Queen

This week we look at how many have confusing feelings for facial hair, totally balls up reviewing a metal album and review our first (and probably only) dance album.

This episode we deep dive into the following:

  • Queen, A night at the opera (2:08)
  • Sepultura Roo…No wait, Arise (20:48)
  • Mylo, Destroy Rock n’ Roll (42:08)

Well wasn’t that lovely? If you didn’t come to this episode for the facial hair then maybe you’d like some of our other episodes? I promise we shaved everyone. Check out our episode guide!

Listen to our handy playlist, get enraged, then hammer out a semi-coherent response in the comments below

Episode 5 While my podcast gently weeps

In this episode we discuss whether rioting should have a catchy soundtrack and wife swapping amongst bands. Oh, and albums…

  • The White Album, The Beatles (1:25)
  • What’s going on?, Marvin Gaye (16:30)
  • Rage against the machine, RATM (37:45)

Obviously you were impressed by this episode (Smug mode). Why not get on a roll and listen to even more amzing episodes?! Check out our episode guide!

Check out the 3 album playlist, listen along with us and then let us know your comments! We might even care!

Liege and lief

Liege & Lief is the heart-warming 1969 album from The Fairport Convention.

Possibly the first major British folk-rock album, it combines the nostalgia of traditional British folk with hints of electric guitar; another step towards the growing dominance of electric instruments in every nook and cranny of the musical sphere.

Suffused with drama, passion and eroticism, it comprises a mixture of traditional folk music (‘Reynardine’, ‘The Deserter’, ‘Tam Lin’) and original compositions (‘Come All Ye’, ‘Farewell, Farewell’, ‘Crazy Man Michael’) written and performed in Fairport’s electric take on the folk style, creating a work that is both familiar and new, traditional and forward looking.

Recorded in the aftermath of a tour-bus accident that had killed drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson’s girlfriend, the band wrote and recorded this album in 1969, however before it was released both Hutchings and Denny had left band: Hutchings to pursue traditional music with Steeleye Span, and Denny to form Fotheringay.

‘Come All Ye’ opens the album, and for me this was the greatest moment of a truly great album.  I’m not very well-versed in folk music, so I had little expectations going in to Liege and Leif.  This track creates a feeling of welcoming the listener back into a community that they have always been a part of, but perhaps not visited in a long time.

Like many of my generation (the ‘Millennials’) I was born in the 80’s in a mid-sized industrial English city and grew up with the usual cultural markers: Noel Edmonds House Party, Panini football sticker albums and the dream of owning a Sony Playstation.  Looking back on my childhood I can see there was something missing and listening to this opening track I felt that this might have been part of ‘it’.  This lively warm and welcoming folk music creates a sense of history and belonging.  I can’t explain exactly how it does this, but that was what I felt.

As the album progressed the stories of love, mystery, danger and injustice unfold, and I was drawn deeper and deeper into the nostalgia.  Matty Groves gives the account of an extra-marital affair that ends in the death of both lovers at the hand of the cuckold husband.  Reynardine an encounter between a beautiful woman and a “sly, bold” man who entices her back to his castle, and The Deserter; a tale of a man repeatedly forced into the army when he just wants to be free.  All these songs adding to the tapestry of a long deep history of England that we have lost as part of our shared cultural memory, but many of us quietly long for.

That said, I haven’t yet left behind my city home for a simpler life in the country; growing my own food and making my own clothes out of hemp sacks, and spending days rambling across the hills and forrests getting into adventures.  But this album opened a window to me and gave me an idea of a different way of life.  Maybe one day I will.

I really enjoyed the album, and at the time of recording the podcast I must admit I fired out a rating of five stars, however having had a little more time to consider and considering the fact that I haven’t had an inkling to listen to it again in the time since recording, I have revised this to a four, and at a four it stands. 

Trak of the album:  ‘Come All Ye’

Rating:  4/5

What’s going on?

It’s unusual that by the 11th album of your career you should suddenly go rogue, but that’s exactly what Marvin Gaye decided to do on What’s Going On?

The poster boy and statesman of Motown records saw the social problems both on the streets of Detroit and in the media, and like many artists at the time decided to make a record of it.

Head Honcho of Motown, Barry Gordy reeeeeeeally was not down with this. Motown had a formula, he sang the formula, the customers bought the formula…why rock the boat? Motown had evolved into a hit-making production factory…songwriters, house musicians, backing singers, the image guys etc – No protest albums here, thank you.

Gaye had been in a deep depression resulting from multiple misfortunes: the discovery that singing partner Tammi Terrell was afflicted with a brain tumour, a failed marriage and general disaffection with the conformist nature of his musical output.

Tired of being a man they put hair spray on and poked with a stick onto the stage, Marvin Gaye turned the tables:  he boycotted promotion of his music, grew a beard and [seriously] tried out for a professional NFL team.

Despite Motown’s protestations, Marvin Gaye and a skeleton staff  secretly recorded the title track and then presented the song to Gordy. He hated it. The factory ‘Hitsville’ hated it.

It is stories like this which really make you think of what would have happened if someone like Bob Dylan had gone to Simon Cowell – “He sounds weird, he looks weird, he doesn’t dance (I’m guessing) and keeps on singing about weird stuff and issues”.

Anyway, the single was released without Gordy’s approval and sold a boatload; and suddenly Gordy, ears suitably pricked, told him to get the album finished in 30 days. Gaye did, and it went on to be one of the biggest selling soul albums of all time.

This is the 9th paragraph in so I guess I should tell you about the music, I get distracted by the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff – It’s amazing to think of even the great Marvin Gaye having to employ guerrilla tactics to get his music released!

The first impression you get of this album is Gaye’s incredible voice – He is a true thoroughbred singer and uses every ounce of sublime silk from his vocal cords. The exquisite saxophone riff is regal and enchanting but weirdly sinister opening for ‘What’s going on?’. There is still that unmistakable Motown trademark of clicking fingers and backing vocal harmonies. The swooning strings are dream-like with blues walking bass and street conversation samples provide a sinister texture.

It’s a very disorientating sound – It feels like it should be a love song with so many sound associations but with darker lyrics you’d expect of a political folk protest song, sung by a super cool Motown singer. Dizzying.

So, pros – Amazing voice, outstanding musicianship, great opening track

Cons – The rest of the album is a bit……samey. And cheesy – The lyrics sound a bit overly gushy and, in some cases, even lazy. If we compare this to other protest songs of the era and previous years, this has none of the impact, confrontation, fighting spirit and venom of the New York Village or Southern rock.

However, this is may be a little bit harsh – I think Gaye wanted to keep that sound that worked so well for him and it was his style, that’s how he performed, and it does sound glorious.

As a protest album it succeeded in spreading its message to parts of the world other protest albums don’t; through the power of sweet melody, plush orchestral movement, funky bass and a superstar more at home on Soul train than Highway 61 this album.

Song of the album: What’s Going on?

Rating: 3/5

Episode 4 Don’t you shiiiiverrrrrrrrr-hoooowlllll!

There’s a time in every podcaster’s life where you have to just roll up your sleeves, put on your posh wellies and go and see Coldplay. At Wimbledon. In a gilet. Listen on for our entirely unbiased and fair review! How can a howling dog be wrong?!

Also we discuss what music sounds like if you take viagra before a recording session.

Albums:

  • Parachutes, Coldplay (2:14)
  • Purple Rain, Prince (18:18)
  • All mod cons, The Jam (28:49)

If you’re disgusted by this episode, maybe we can continue our insults with other episodes! Check out our episode guide!

Listen along with us and tell us if we’re senile!

All mod cons

By 20 years old, Paul Weller & The Jam had all but sewn-up pop punk.

None of the slickness of Blondie, none of the confrontation of The Clash, but 3 yoofs who had heard what the 70s had to offer and thought ‘naaah mate, not for me’.

All mod cons was the 3rd studio album from the Jam and was a make or break effort following a disastrous tour of the US with Blue Oyster Cult, in what was perhaps the worst match-up since the ill-fated pairing of chilli and sex lubricant (yes, it’s a thing apparently).

Adventurous night-time escapades aside, The Jam were now under the cosh to release something punchy and that would sell.

All Mod Cons delivers with singles a-go-go and outstanding complimentary tracks highlighting the quality of the singer-songwriter Paul Weller had matured into.

So many of the themes are class-oriented and reflect the problems of the 1970s – Hooliganism, City boys, public school and the growing up in a small town and the excitement and disparity with the big city. Paul Weller would get the train from Woking to London on a Saturday as a boy to wonder around, seeing the hustle and richness of downtown West London. This becomes apparent with ‘Mr. Clean’ examining the city trader wide boy on his way to create and destroy so much wealth.

David Watts covers boyhood heroes The Kinks – Another superb track of growing up, anxiety and idol-worship, covered with power and tempo as the band made their trademark.

Complimenting this is the tender and gorgeous-sounding English Rose. A stunning 3-minute love letter to his girlfriend, English Rose sings of a poet, punk and young man travelling the world with home in his heart. Soft acoustic strings draped over it in contrast the short, sharp punch of his trusty Rickenbacker.

There are numerous 3-minute power-pop-punk tracks like Billy Hunt and the Place I love. One thing that distinguished The Jam away from their contemporaries was that tune and melody, almost like a revved-up British Invasion rather than a punk-done-lite. The new mods are here and gave a new dimension to the anarchy and nihilism of the punk movement.

The Jam were champions of the 3 piece – A stripped down unit built for punk, Bruce Foxton And Rick Buckler making full 5 pieces seeming like musical amateurs.

A’ Bomb in Wardour Street delivers a hot streak of punk energy and finishes with the violent ‘Down in a tube station at midnight’ an epic anthem for London life. Paul Weller had a gift for putting story and the little details to music – the graphic setting of a dinner table by a loving wife crushed by hooligans.

The Jam went onto become one of the most influential bands in Indie and like a pure music idea, allowed themselves to expire before they were wheeled out to go through the motions. The Jam had lit the fuse for so much British Indie to come. From schoolboy band to Top of the Pops to UK music royalty, The Jam delivered.

Song of the album: Down in a tube station at midnight

Rating: 4/5

Back to Black

Potentially controversial, but to truly understand and enjoy Back to Black (B2B) I feel we must first revisit Frank.

Released 3 years prior, Frank established an audience with its new wave jazz, neo-soul and infused beat sound, so popular in the early 00’s. Unfortunately, to my mind, it failed to stand apart from its contemporaries, artists such as Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Bailey Ray and Norah Jones.

Perhaps it was the feeling that it was all a little too ‘manufactured’? Molded by a production team run by Simon Fuller. Who, in addition to Winehouse, also shaped the careers of the Spice Girls and Will Young. To varying degrees of success. So, it is a surprise to some that, from the birthplace of Pop Idol, came the fresh, rebellious, belligerent and strongly opinionated Winehouse.

Amy herself had little time for Frank once it was complete. Speaking to journalists in 2004 she admits – ‘Some things on this album make me go to a little place that’s fucking bitter…I’ve never heard the album from start to finish. I don’t have it in my house.’

Whatever the lessons learned on Frank, no one could have predicted the transformation the 3 intervening years would see. B2B was Winehouse’s Everest. An album so far removed from the ‘soft furnishing’ feel of Frank. An album that transformed the charts for years to come, as well as bringing the beehive back into fashion, for better or worse.

As well as taking complete ownership of B2B’s lyrics, Winehouse took a punt on relatively unknown producer Mark Ronson. His first action was to relocate the entire production to Daptone Studio in New York and crucially employ its house band, the Dap-Kings. An inspired decision that saw Winehouse’s snappy, expressive voice paired with their retro soul style to great effect.

Where Frank relies on jazz café infused style and over-stylised, scat vocals, clumsily reminiscent of the artists Winehouse adored, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn etc. B2B has a far grittier toughness, emphasised by the content of the lyrics and Hip-Hop influences.

A lot has been written about Winehouse’s voice; her creamy power and smoked-cackle huskiness left nothing on the stage, bearing her soul for her devoted fans. But in B2B you felt the stabilisers had finally been removed. Like her idols Winehouse had the ability to draw you in with pure soulful sensuality. Her expressive contralto could 180′ from quietly beautiful to bluntly ragged and sassy in the space of a lyric.

B2B’s title track is the epitome of this. A story of lost love, bitterness and hopelessness, it harks back to old school soul music and vintage 60’s girl groups such as Martha and the Vandellas. Inspired by the breakup of her own relationship to Fielder-Civil, who had left Amy for an ex. ‘Back to black’ is an admission to her relapse back into heroin addiction. It is testament to Winehouse’s writing that something so tragic could be so easily listened to.

From the ‘sass’ side of the scale we have ‘Tears dry on their own’. A far more upbeat tune that draws inspiration from Motown. Indeed, the main chord progression is sampled from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. It’s a refreshing oasis on the album and comes just a little over halfway through.

Long since the cardigan wearing, singer-songwriters of the early 70’s, B2B opened the door again for artists to release soul-baring albums that were made to be ‘relatable’. And in a society where social media has made over sharing a sporting pastime, we lapped it up. By writing so frankly about herself and life, Winehouse unintentionally paved the way for artists to publicly air their nepotism in the name of art. Take a bow; Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Adele…

Whether we should thank Amy Winehouse for this is another debate. What isn’t up for debate is the quality of B2B. To date it has achieved 13-times platinum, having sold 3.94 million copies, it is the UK’s second-best selling album of the 21st Century so far (UK’s 13th bestselling album of all time)*.

In 2006, whilst Snow Patrol were Chasing Cars, Pink was reminding us ‘I’m not Dead’ and Oasis were literally trying to ‘Stop the Clocks’. Amy Winehouse and B2B was trying to remind us what it sounds like to really have something to say.

Song of the album: Back to Black

Rating 5/5!

Polly

*figures correct as of Dec 2019