I decided to tackle the Q Magazine ‘250 Best Albums of our Lifetime’ as a way in to a regular blog, with a vague intention that it would be me reviewing the albums and writing what I think of them. I quickly realised that the actual album review bit of it might be a bit incidental. While writing the first instalment (Bring it On) I was aware that my enjoyment and interest in the music doesn’t really extend to deep analysis of the tracks, production, instrumentation and other blah. What was happening was that little sparks in my memory were allowing me to recall thoughts and feelings that might not otherwise have been accessible. A bit like the sense of smell; instantly bringing memories of times and places to mind; I find that music has the power to move me both during and after hearing it – and that even if I’ve never heard a tune before, the synaptic firing that is started seems to make all sorts of connections and flights of fancy that would make the experience utterly unique each time.
This occurred to me as I started on the next few albums on the 250 list, as each of them were new to me (with the exception of the odd track or single) and therefore there was no direct relationship to how they had informed my life at the time. It was interesting to see what did cross my mind though, and also to experience music that I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to.
ORBITAL – ORBITAL (1991)
So second album in and I’m already on to one of which I have utterly no prior experience. If I have heard a single track from this album previously it clearly made no impression on me whatsoever as there was nothing on here that sounded remotely familiar. 1991 was my last year in Edinburgh before I moved to London. Other albums from this period are bound to come up later I imagine (I’ve not really checked ahead) and off the top of my head I’d guess it will be the endings of the Madchester scene and the beginnings of the Seattle grunge sound that were more my thing. Trance and dance; the whole club ecstasy scene; really didn’t do anything for me and I have stronger memories of watching ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway?’ on a Friday night rather than out clubbing.
There is a sample on first track ‘The Moebius’ that I thought I recognised though, and a swift bit of googling identified it as a line from one of my favourite episodes of ‘Star Trek – The Next Generation’. I didn’t get in to the programme until after I’d moved to London. I caught the end of ‘Best of Both Worlds Part 1’, got hooked, and ended up buying the whole 7 series on VHS. Not a sound commercial decision in hindsight but it felt right at the time! This episode has a repeating loop in time, where the same event happens over and over again, a concept that was also used in great episodes of The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – both brilliant shows. Time repeating itself in a loop is a fair reflection of my experience listening to this album – most memorable on the version of the album I heard were the live tracks, particularly ‘Chime’ which reminded me of early Ministry. I revisited their album ‘Twitch’ fairly recently and could still get a buzz from that, but Orbital didn’t have enough hook for me to grab on to and overall left me uninspired.
COPPER BLUE – SUGAR (1992)
Sadly I have been unable to get hold of a copy of the whole album, it is almost certainly more my cup of tea. I remember ‘Changes’ but the track that definitely got played a lot was ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’ which I’m pretty sure was on one of those ‘Best of’ compilation albums that were around at the time and almost certainly had ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream’ and ‘There’s no Other Way’ by Blur on it. Give me more time and I reckon I could remember more. Belly? Morrissey? Gah! I’m going to have to see if I still have it, probably on cassette somewhere. Remember those?
SLIPKNOT – SLIPKNOT (1999)
At this point I may have considered adjusting the rules (wait, there’s rules?) and skipping over an album or two. Well at least this one, because I have to admit that out of all genres of music it is hard rock / metal that has never ever managed to find its way in to my affections. Spandex, leather, studs, chains, piercings and tattoos – all that malarkey has never appealed, and more than any other it seems to have retained its ability to keep those who are not part of the scene at a distance. While there seems to be many examples of mainstream crossover in most other areas that might previously have been considered niche, metal seems to be quite willfully prepared to keep itself to itself and to hell, possibly literally, with anyone that doesn’t get it.
But I am prepared to give everything a go during this exercise, and managed to get through the whole of this debut album from Slipkot on the second attempt – the first having been abandoned when I decided they were just way too angry for me that day! And it is the anger that stays with me. I can’t claim to have got beyond that and in to any understanding of why this type of music remains so tremendously popular. Recently I’ve been working on launching a record label (Random Candle) and my partner in that, Jim Distortion, is much more attuned with the rock and metal scene. I can see and appreciate that it delivers in spades to those that are in to it and there are clearly a a huge number of new young bands for whom Slipknot and their peers are a huge inspiration and influence. That’s pretty impressive, but the reason why this should be remains a mystery to me.