James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 7: The Great Escape

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And so to the seventh letter of the alphabet. Which was ‘G’ the last time I checked.

And it’s probably safe to assume it still is.

G2020

G is for The Great Escape

Blur_thegreatescape

No-one enjoys a bit of pedantry more than me, but I think it’s reasonable to ignore the definite article in the album’s title and claim with conviction that this is a more than worthy candidate to represent the letter ‘G’.

1994’s ‘Parklife’ was the album that really catapulted Blur into the public consciousness, and arguably the album that confirmed the arrival of Britpop as a ‘thing’, but ‘The Great Escape’ was a solid follow-up and in itself a fairly era-defining album thanks, at least partially, to the faux-rivalry with Oasis that accompanied its release, as it came shortly after Blur’s ‘Country House’ went up against Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ in the singles charts.

The obvious result of the ‘Battle of Britpop’ was that both Blur and Oasis sold a lot of records, which was great for the Britpop movement as a whole. We were all encouraged to pick a side though, and in that sense I would definitely have been on ‘Team Oasis’.

But I would hardly let a silly thing like that get in the way of me enjoying a great album.

And ‘The Great Escape’ was one of my favourite albums of that time.

Incidentally, although it could be argued that Oasis enjoyed the greater commercial success overall, Blur definitely won the ‘Battle of Britpop’, because it was their single that made it to number 1 in the charts.

And if neither song was particularly representative of the best work of either band, Blur’s ‘County House’ deserves to play us out today because of its undoubted place in British pop music history. Even if it is for a pretty stupid reason when all is said and done.

And actually, even if I was ‘Team Oasis’ I did prefer ‘Country House’ to ‘Roll with It’ if I’m honest…

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 6: Fuzzy Logic

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And so on to day 6 of this alphabetised meander through the musical memories of my youth.

And what the ‘F’ have we got today?

F2020

F is for Fuzzy Logic

FuzzyLogic-SFA

The Super Furry Animals were a Welsh band, who sometimes had the audacity to sing in Welsh, but the commercial nous to mostly sing in English, which presumably did help them sell more records.

Not that they were ever a huge commercial success but they did have a solid fan base throughout the UK. Wales was, understandably, where they enjoyed their biggest following though.

As it happens, Wales was where I grew up, mostly in the nineties, and I loved them.

Not because they were Welsh, I rarely take a particularly patriotic position when it comes to my musical tastes, but because they were actually pretty good.

They were probably a bit too quirky to ever trouble the mainstream, but they didn’t ever seem too bothered by that fact, releasing the kinds of records that seemed to please themselves for the most part.

They knew their way around a melody though.

‘Fuzzy Logic’ was their debut effort in 1996 and, while perhaps not their most accomplished work, is my favourite album, and of all their releases, it’s the one that invokes the most nostalgia.

Mostly memories of underage drinking and of my friends and I singing the chorus of the opening track of the album ‘God! Show Me Magic” loudly on our way home from the pub.

But my favourite track is the first single they released from the album, the delightfully-named ‘Hometown Unicorn’.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 5: Everything Must Go

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And so, on the fifth day of ‘James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young’ we arrive at ‘E’.

And for this there were a few contenders.

But there was one that invokes so much nostalgia it was ultimately the only choice I could make.

E2020

E is for Everything Must Go

EverythingMustGo(1996album)Albumcover

The Manic Street Preachers fourth album was their first release as a trio following on from the tragic and mysterious disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards.

Although Richey’s musical contributions were questionable, his lyrics and personality were a fundamental part of the Manics DNA up to that point. Plus they were all friends from school, so the band felt his loss on a personal level.

‘Everything Must Go’ could therefore have been something much darker than it actually is. After all it’s predecessor, the Richey-inspired ‘Holy Bible’ is as bleak an album as you’re likely to come across.

‘Everything Must Go’ confounded expectations however, and is an uplifting (insofar as the Manics do ‘upbeat’), poignant and cathartic collection of songs, that marked the beginning of a period of sustained commercial success.

Growing up in Wales in the nineties means that the Manics are essentially royalty to me, and they are the band that I have seen live by far the most times.

I like pretty much all of their albums, including some of their more recent efforts. But the nostalgia-inducing albums are the ones from the nineties, both as a quartet and as a trio. Their 1992 debut ‘Generation Terrorists’ and the aforementioned ‘Holy Bible’, both could have been contenders for this alphabetised walk down memory lane.

But ‘Everything Must Go’ was an album that saw me through some of the worst of my teenage angst and it’s still a source of comfort when things are getting me down. Which, given the state of the world, means it’s been on the playlist quite a lot lately.

As with a lot of the albums I’ve been revisiting, it could be hard to pick a favourite track from ‘Everything Must Go’. Except that there is one track that just picks itself.

‘A Design for Life’ might just be my favourite song of all time.

Blowing Out The Birthday Blues For The Second Consecutive Year

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birthday-303583_640

Though I wrote very little on my blog in 2019, I did manage a post on my birthday.

It was a post lamenting a fairly rubbish birthday.

So, I had moderately high hopes that this year things would be marginally better. After all, this year my birthday fell on a Saturday and not just any Saturday, but the beginning of the Easter holidays.

So there was a reasonable chance I’d be able to mark the occasion, even if only in the most modest of ways.

I did not expect the festivities to be quite as modest as they ended up being though.

For reasons that are no doubt abundantly clear to anyone who has even the vaguest grasp of current affairs, I chose to spend my birthday mostly by staying in my house. And in the evening my family and I really pushed the boat out by not going out.

I shouldn’t complain. Not being able to celebrate one’s birthday is hardly the greatest of hardships given the state of the world. Many people have it worse than me.

And actually, my family made a real effort to make my birthday as special as it could be under the circumstances. I received no shortage of birthday wishes via social media and in the form of actual cards that people had posted early enough that they would get to me by yesterday.

Also I had presents.

Not one of those presents was toilet paper though, and really that does seem an oversight on the part of the gift-givers.

In all honesty, I was never going to do anything extravagant for my birthday and I’m grateful that I was able to spend it with my wonderful wife and daughter.

I’m also lucky to have such a lovely extended family, and while it’s hard that I can’t see them at the moment, the regular messages, photos and video we’re sharing with each other are some consolation.

We’re all a bit sadder today, because like so many, we’ve been personally affected by the current pandemic.

But I know we’ll be there for each other and during these difficult times, that really is something to hold on to.

 

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 4: Definitely Maybe/Different Class/Dookie

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As is the case most years, today is my birthday.

But there’s no time to implore you to wish me Happy Birthday in the comments section below. I’ll just have to leave it to you to do the right thing.

No, I must get on with the important business of letting you know which album of my youth made the cut for ‘D-Day’ in the A-Z Challenge.

For many of the letters it’s not been easy narrowing my choices down to just one.

But I’ve been employing a strict ‘one album per post’ rule for this challenge and today should be no different.

Except of course that it is my birthday.

And it turns out that I really did like a lot of albums that began with ‘D’ in the nineties.

So as a special birthday treat to myself, I’m going to allow a couple of ‘bonus choices’.

D2020

D is for Definitely Maybe

OasisDefinitelyMaybealbumcover

The debut album of the Gallagher brothers et al. remains one of my favourite records of all time. I loved Oasis in the nineties and I continued to love them throughout the noughties. If they hadn’t split up I’d still love them now.

I don’t know why. Objectively I know there are other bands who are probably better. Even I can acknowledge that beyond their first two albums and the 1998 B-sides compilation, not much else they ever released was ever really all that great.

Their best stuff was pretty much all released by 1996 and everything that followed was underwhelming.

But during their early years, I was an impressionable teenager and they just struck a chord with me and for whatever reason, however much I might love another album, or band, Oasis still remain my ‘go to’ band when I need cheering up and nothing else will do.

Some might say that ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ is actually the better record and I’d concede that I love that album almost as much, but for me’ Definitely Maybe’ is marginally the better of the two.

There are a number or era-defining tracks on the album including ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Shakermaker’ (which weirdly but sort of brilliantly rips off ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ from a seventies Coca-Cola advert) and the debut single ‘Supersonic’.

But the song that defines my youth more than any other is ‘Live Forever’

D is also for Different Class

Pulp_-_Different_Class

If this album began with any other letter, it would have been an absolute certainty as first choice for that day. But it begins with the same letter as ‘Definitely Maybe’, which meant that if I was going to stick to my own arbitrary rules, I’d have to leave out one of them. And I couldn’t ever have left out ‘Definitely Maybe’.

But I’m going to invoke my birthday privilege to avoid the crime of leaving out one of the seminal albums of my youth.

Because Pulp’s fifth studio album is nothing short of perfect. They did, admittedly, take their time as a band to produce a decent album, having released their debut effort ‘It’ in 1983. ‘Freaks’ and ‘Separations’ followed in the ensuing decade but 1994’s ‘His ‘n’ Hers’ was really the beginning of their commercial and critical success. ‘Different Class’, however is really…well…different class…

A call to arms to the socially disaffected, it encourages the ‘have nots’ to stick two fingers up to the ‘haves’ and frankly it feels as relevant today as it ever did.

Much as I love a number of tracks on the album, the one that always sends me down memory lane with a hop and a skip in my step is Disco 2000.

 

D is also also for Dookie

Green_Day_-_Dookie_cover

Another seminal album of my youth also begins with ‘D’ and frankly, as I’ve already broken my ‘one album a day’ rule, I may as well just go for it.

Because Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ would definitely feature heavily on soundtrack of my teenage years. When I was failing to lean to play the guitar, it was all too often tracks from this that I tended to butcher.

On the occasions that I still choose to believe there is a guitarist inside me (there is not but I’m still allowed to dream) I’ll often revert to the 15-year-old me, and strum, insofar as I can remember them, the opening chords to ‘Basket Case’.

Which seems as appropriate a track as any to see us out today.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 3: Coming Up

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Day 3 of the A-Z challenge and who would have imagined we’d be dealing the letter ‘C’?

So we’d better head off to 1996 and ‘C’ what we can find…

C2020

C is for Coming Up

suede b

Given that some people credit Suede for paving the way for many of the bands that were part of the ‘Britpop’ phenomenon of the nineties, it’s perhaps strange that I wasn’t really that into them initially.

Because I liked a lot of those other bands.

But somehow Suede’s first two albums completely passed me by, and I really only began to take heed of them when they released this, their third album.

Although, in fairness, it’s not a bad place to start if you’re discovering the band for the first time.

Coming off the back of the departure of Bernard Butler (arguably one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, and a man who had already achieved his own success a year earlier with McAlmont and Butler and one of the tracks of the nineties in ‘Yes’) Suede’s third album needed to be pretty good to settle the nerves of the fans who thought his exit was terminal for the band.

‘Coming Up’ delivered everything it needed to. Easily representing their biggest commercial success, some of Suede’s biggest hits come from this album, including ‘Beautiful Ones’ and ‘Saturday Night’.

But I’ll leave you today with ‘Trash’. A song that is not at all rubbish…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 2: The ‘Blue’ Album

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Day 2 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and thus today’s album of the nineties must begin with the letter ‘B’

And I may have taken a bit of liberty with today’s choice.

Because it doesn’t really begin with ‘B’ at all.

Because today’s album is:

B2020

B is for The ‘Blue’ Album

Weezer_-_Blue_Album

Weezer’s 1994 debut was actually just called Weezer. So it should really be filed under ‘W’. But Weezer have subsequently released no less than five other ‘eponymous’ albums, and consequently they tend to be known by the colour of the ‘sleeve’. So it is not uncommon to refer to this effort as The ‘Blue’ Album and, as I already has something lined up for ‘W’ it was becoming quite a difficult choice.

I did have a few options for ‘B’ too, and it was a bit of wrench to not include any of them, in favour of this impostor, but The ‘Blue’ Album was, without question, one of my favourite albums of the nineties and I would have selected it happily for ‘B’ or ‘W’. In the end, the other album I had selected for ‘W’ outranked the other album I had lined up for ‘B’ and so Weezer find themselves here.

In the end, none of this matters, so we can all relax about a ‘W’ album being filed under ‘B’.

And this is really a great collection of songs. There is some debate about whether this, or their follow-up album, Pinkerton, is better. ‘Blue’ enjoyed far more commercial success, but Pinkerton has gained a cult following over the years. What is without doubt is that both are better than any of the eleven ensuing  records put out by Weezer, and no doubt will be better than their upcoming 14th studio album too.

That said, I do quite like most of Weezer’s output, and there are plenty of ear-worms amongst their later efforts.

But in terms of complete albums, ‘Blue’ and Pinkerton stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Ultimately ‘Blue’ is my favourite of the two, probably for reasons of nostalgia if nothing else. I was fifteen when it came out. And it didn’t leave my CD player for weeks after I purchased it.

I saw Weezer tour this album in the nineties, and, though I went to a lot of gigs back then, theirs was one of the stand-out shows from that era. I then forgot about Weezer for quite a long time but saw them again at Wembley Arena in 2017. I bought tickets to that show on the basis of this album and this album alone. I then panicked and spent the weeks leading up to the concert ‘revising’ the rest of their back catalogue.

On the day though, they mostly just played this.

Which was fine with me.

It is hard to pick a favourite track off this album, because there really are no fillers, but the only song I can possibly leave you with is the single that made me buy the CD in the first place.

Which is ‘Buddy Holly’.

The video is pretty awesome too.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 1: Attack Of The Grey Lantern

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And so here we are in April, which means I can stop writing about the terrifying worldwide pandemic and start writing about some albums I liked when I was young (and mostly still like now if I’m honest).

Because today is also the beginning of the 2020 version of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, which is an annual blogging event that, for some reason, I seem to only take part in every other year.

Last time around I wrote mostly about cartoons and this time around I’ll mostly be writing about music.

But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in some mawkish nostalgia, so I’m mostly writing about music I liked in my teens/early twenties. Which puts us back into the last millennium for the most part and the decade known to many as the nineties.

Although because it’s specifically an alphabet challenge I have had to commandeer the year 2000 a little bit.

But nothing after that and some people think the current millennium anyway didn’t start until 2001 so they’ll forgive me.

And most people won’t care either way.

But to kick off, we’re going to revisit an album from 1997.

1997 was not a great year for me for many reasons, but I did spend a lot of it listening to music.

And this album made the playlist a lot that year (or more accurately occupied one of the three available spaces in my CD player, which is how we listened to music back in the nineties).

So without further ado, allow me to introduce the album that will be representing the letter ‘A’:

A2020

A is for ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’

Mansun_-_Attack_of_the_Grey_Lantern

Mansun’s debut album was definitely a quirky affair. Sort of, but not entirely, a concept album notionally about a superhero called the Grey Lantern, and with periodic references to the characters within said hero’s world, most notably someone called Mavis, who pops up in quite a few songs. The song titles are nothing short of bonkers, including ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’, ‘Egg-Shaped Fred’ ‘Stripper Vicar’ ‘She Makes My Nose Bleed’ and not forgetting the finale of ‘Dark Mavis’.

The things is though, in spite of it’s eccentricities (or possibly because of them) Attack of the Grey Lantern is completely brilliant from start to finish. It garnered the kind of critical acclaim and commercial success that perhaps should have seen Mansun become a much bigger band than they ever actually were.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with their subsequent output, Mansun never really lived up to the promise of their debut and seemingly imploded just a few years later while recording their forth album.

But in 1997, Mansun were legitimately being hailed as a potential ‘next big thing’, and Attack of the Grey Lantern is worth an hour of anyone’s time.

But, if you don’t have an hour to spare, then the track that still features most heavily on my playlists today, and is arguably their best song, would have to be ‘Wide Open Space’.

Enjoy.

Positively Pessimistic

glass-309464_640
Restriction to your home is not
The worst kind of jail
You can still pretend to work
If you can access your email

But it’s easy to find reasons
To not be very cheerful
When it seems that you’re increasingly
Encouraged to be fearful

It’s appears that times are dark
And possibly quite bleak
It’s hard to know what month it is
Let alone what day or week

And when you venture out
It’s worse outside than in
Attempts to buy toilet paper
Always end in your chagrin

You try to stay upbeat
But optimism’s hard to sell
When the contents of the half-full glass
Have a funny smell

Cautionary Tales

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As the parent of a small child, I’m not unfamiliar with a children’s story or two. My daughter has a voracious appetite for literature. I mean quite literally, as I’ll often find her nibbling on a book.

Although she does appear to be growing out of that phase and enjoying books for their content too.

And I like reading them to her.

To be honest, I’m increasingly becoming a fan of books that are aimed at younger people. They have a lot of advantages over the books I normally read.

For starters, there are significantly fewer words, which means that when I pick one up and start reading it, I generally do always finish. This, alas, is not always the case for the books that are aimed at someone of my age.

Also there are pictures. It’s so much easier and more fun to read a book with pictures in it. Why does that stop when you get older?

Mainly though, I like books aimed at little children, because they are, for the most part, hugely entertaining.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Check out the ‘Oi Frog’ series of books by Kes Gray and Jim Field and I guarantee you will laugh multiple times.

Other favourites (of mine, though my daughter generally likes them too) would have to include ‘Wonkey Donkey’, ‘There’s a Monster in your Book’ and ‘Superworm’.

It occurs to me, however, that some of the books that I read with my daughter might have a slightly irresponsible message in these corona-times.

So I’ve taken the liberty of updating some of the ‘classics’ in order to make them more compliant with a world of social-distancing and ‘self-isolation’.

We’re Not Going On A Bear Hunt

bear hunt

We’re not going on a bear hunt
We’re not going to catch a big one
What a beautiful day
We’re quite scared

Uh Uh! Government Advice!
Alarming, disarming government advice!
We can’t go over it
We can’t go under it
Oh no!
We’ll just have to stay in and self-isolate!

The Tiger Who Didn’t Come To Tea

the-tiger-who-came-to-tea

Once there was a little girl called Sophie, and she was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen.

Suddenly there was a ring at the door.

Sophie’s mummy said, “I wonder who that can be,

It can’t be the milkman because demands for that service have resulted in them refusing to accept new customers.

And it can’t be the boy from the grocer because you can’t book a home delivery slot for love nor money

And it can’t be Daddy because he isn’t a key-worker, so he’s already at home.

We’d better open the door and see.”

Sophie opened the door, and there was a big, furry, stripy tiger. The tiger said, “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?”

Sophie’s mummy said, “I’m sorry, but due to the government’s policy on social-distancing, we can’t have anyone around for tea.”

The tiger nodded and said, “of course, I completely understand.”

And he left.

The Socially Responsible Gruffalo

gruffalo

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good
But because the fox was adhering to advice on social-distancing, he didn’t interact with the mouse and instead returned promptly to his underground house.

And the same thing happened with the owl and the snake.
So the mouse didn’t meet anyone
Until he happened upon the Gruffalo

But the Gruffalo and the mouse also adhered to social-distancing etiquette
So they didn’t speak to each other.
And both also promptly returned to their homes
Once they’d had their daily allocation of exercise.