What's Going On....the albums on our turntable right now
Old and new, here’s a few of the albums dominating my little Marantz turntable right now.
1. Extreme Witchcraft – Eels
Eels never really grabbed me. They emerged in 1996 with Novocaine For The Soul, but somehow didn’t quite catch my attention. But something about this new album really has. Lead singles Amateur Hour and The Magic caught my ear. The former I thought might be a cover of Sparks’ tune of the same name so I was curious – it’s not and I probably wouldn’t have given Eels another listen if I hadn’t made that mistake. So glad I did.
This is fabulous album, possibly as it’s another collaboration with John Parish (who’s also worked extensively with PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, This Is The Kit and KT Tunstall.
It’s lyrically dextrous, full of catchy guitar tunes and is nothing like I had categorised them in my head – always good to give a band another listen. Standout tracks for me are Grandfather Clock Strikes Twelve and Strawberries & Popcorn. And as he sings in The Magic, he is an acquired taste (which I have finally acquired!) – “Believe it or not, not everyone loves me, but try me, may find me a personality that you can’t get enough of once you can feel”.
2. Last Splash – The Breeders
Strangely I have never bought this album, but a first time visit to Peckham Soul yesterday led to some random purchases after three pints of Brixton Brewery Coldharbour Lager (which is very nice indeed!).
The CD single of Cannonball has been in my collection for years – a very naughty friend half-inched it from a party in the 90s for me (NOT at my bequest, I hasten to add). But the album has never made my shopping bag – 29 years late to the party, I am loving it. Invisible Man and Divine Hammer are great and No Aloha continues Kim Deal’s previous band’s love of surf music.
Much of what is here would have sounded magnificent on any Pixies album – Kim's departure was Black Francis’ loss. And now my belated gain.
3. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You - Big Thief
My weekly trip to Casbah Records led to this purchase as they have this as album of the week. It's a sprawling double album - 20 tracks of rootsy, chilled, soothing, catchy and strange music. Too early to fully describe, though it’s nothing like anything that was released on 4AD records when I was a teenager. But I really like it. The critics are already saying it’s one of the albums of the year – for God’s sake, it’s not even the middle of February! But it’s good. And it will certainly win "album title of the year" if such a thing exists.
Favourite moments so far are Spud Infinity – a fabulous song title with lyrics about celestial bodies and garlic bread (“But a dozen dimes will buy a crust of garlic bread”). May have to review this properly when I have had enough time to give it a proper spin, but it's great after the first couple of plays.
4. The Dream – Alt-J
Nick and I once could not be bothered to walk back from the campsite to the main stage to see Alt-J headline at Latitude. We just couldn't be arsed and they didn't mean that much to me.
So I was quite surprised to realise I had listened to the first two singles off their new album (U&ME and Hard Drive Gold) lots before this came out. Mrs JO’B was trepidatious when I put this album on as the singer has one of those voices that grates when heard too much. I knew exactly what she meant and figured this album would quickly be relegated to the pile I play when she is out (Marllion and Jane Weaver mainly). But it’s not the case this time round. His voice is better than both of us recall and The Dream is great.
It's strange, psychedelic – it feels quite prog-rock - I am amazed Mrs JO'B really liked it. On first couple of listens, I feel like there should be some Dark Side Of The Moon theme holding it all together, but there’s none I can find. It’s experimental, esoteric, eclectic and fun.
Hard Drive Gold is a The Beach Boys singing about the cryptocurrency market. Losing My Mind is about serial killers and Bane about Coca-Cola. U&ME is basically Beck. If you were put off by previous outings, this is well worth a go.
5. Crockodials - Kelley Stoltz
Kelley Stoltz is an American musician – a sort of "never really made it Brian Wilson does Jonathan Richman". No bad combination – check out 2013’s Double Exposure.
He is also a massive Echo & The Bunnymen fan. Seeing them this week reminded me of this weird album. He’s basically covered the whole of their debut, Crocodiles, with the addition of Do It Clean.
I met him supporting someone at the Borderline, just before I saw him supporting his heroes the Bunnymen the following week in Birmingham. He was self-effacing, charming and delighted I actually knew this record. The Bunnymen asked him to tour with them, having checked out his show after a gig in New York, as they heard he played their stuff and were curious. They ended up having him join their live band for a couple of tours (every indie fan-boy’s dream – invited to join your favourite band!).
Crockodials is fabulous stuff – the right side of rough and garage-y – it’s edgier than the more produced album proper and well worth a listen if you ever come across it. It was released for Record Store Day a couple of years ago, but sadly not streaming anywhere I can find.
He started to cover the Bunnymen’s second album, Heaven Up Here but only got as far as the title track which I have buried somewhere in the flat on a compilation album. Must dig that out!
6. The Boy Named If - Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Elvis Costello records these days can be VERY hit and miss. He can be off on some jazz/country fetish, or trying far too hard to be avant garde and cool (Hey Clockface was not great).
But this is a straight down the road Attractions album in all but name (The Imposters feature 2 out of 3 of the Attractions - Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve - their drums and keys make this album roar along as they always did). Farewell, OK and The Man You Love To Hate could appear on any of his classic albums.
Penelope Halfpenny joins the list of Costello songs with female protagonists in the title (see Alison, Veronica, Hetty, Josephine, Candy, Eve, Titania, Jezebel, Stella....the list goes on). It's a great addition and would sound perfect on Spike with its McCartney bass riff.
Paint The Red Rose Blue is a standout, tender, yet broken and resigned. Mistook Me For A Friend is a stomper of the This Year's Model...er well...model! And the lyrics of My Most Beautiful Mistake are brilliant - “He wrote her name out in sugar on a Formica counter; ‘You could be the game that captures the hunter.’ Then he went out for cigarettes, as the soundtrack played The Marvelettes.”
This is Elvis on fine, fine form.