Top Ten Debut Albums

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my favourite bands don’t make this list but a few of them did take some time to get going. The Chap, for instance; love them to bits and they’re probably the artist I’ve listened to the most over the last 10 years or so but their debut, ‘The Horse’ wasn’t really all that great. Some top tunes for sure, but subsequent release ‘Ham’ was all-conquering. Same goes for Faith No More, the band of my early-mid teens… didn’t really properly kick off until Angel Dust, despite releasing their debut 7 years prior. And Girls Against Boys. Here’s the top list (in no particular order) anyway, and let’s not worry about the fact that I forgot about Weezer.

download (1)Shellac – At Action Park

Following on from Big Black and Rapeman, Steve Albini teams up with Bob Weston and Todd Trainer for the first time and delivers 10 crushingly powerful songs. ‘My Black Ass’ is the best introduction that a band could possibly make. It doesn’t matter that they only make a record ever 4 or 5 years, they are forgiven.

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Aloha – That’s Your Fire

The best ‘take a chance’ album I’ve ever bought and quite possibly *the* best album I’ve ever bought. Purchased on a whim thanks to a snippet I heard in the early days of the internet, this record still gets regular plays. It’s one of the few times that indie mixes successfully with jazz and will make you fall in love with the vibraphone.

download (3)The Fall – Live At The Witch Trials

Released just in time for mam and dad to buy it for me for my first birthday*,  the first of The Fall’s 823 albums is one of their best and an amazing debut from a band who were still in their teens at the time. Mark E Smith’s sneering and wordplay on this album is a lot clearer than the toothless, crumpled mess that fronts the band these days. (*That obviously didn’t happen)

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Number One Cup – Possum Trot Plan

This was a borderline inclusion as there is a fair bit of filler on this 20-songer, but the ‘proper’ songs are some of the most finely crafted indie-rock songs you’ve probably not heard. The one standout (i.e. the one which sounds like it’s not been recorded in a bedroom) is ‘Divebomb’ which gained some college radio play. The subsequent 2 albums were even better, but this was a great way to start.

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R.E.M. – Murmur

‘Murmur’ came out in 1983, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that I found it at Hitman Records in Newport (on tape). I had no idea at the time that R.E.M. even existed in 1983, or that they sounded so much more interesting than they did for much of ‘Automatic…’ and ‘Out Of Time’. It’s the best sounding record they’ve come up with; I can never put my finger on why, but the production just does something to me. It’s kind of haunting. Yes, that does sound silly.

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Six By Seven – The Things We Make

The stunningly-beautiful-wall-of-sound-feedbackness of the outro to ‘Spy Song’. That automatically means it makes the list.

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Cable – Down-Lift The Up-Trodden

Very cleverly re-creating the album cover to John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’, Cable’s debut is all about being loud and shouty and all the things that we loved in 1995. Cable were *way* ahead of their time and this record is just as relevant today as it was almost 20 years ago on its release. Wish I’d gone to one of their comeback shows, but they were supporting Hundred Reasons.

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Modest Mouse – This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About

My word there are some fine songs on this debut. The killer duo of ‘Lounge’ and ‘Beach Side Property’ is probably Isaac Brock & Co’s finest hour (or 13 mins at least) and there is no way that anyone can deny themselves a little pogo when ‘Tundra/Desert’ kicks off. Jeremiah Green on drums is the star of the show.

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Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted

Any of you that know me personally will roll their eyes at the obviousness of this album’s inclusion. I’ve probably waxed lyrical about it somewhere before – maybe even here. It’s got everything, and has basically influenced my musical preference since I first heard it in the early nineties. Lo-fi slacker heaven; each song a classic. Even the last one, which is saved by Gary Young’s drum outro.

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Super Furry Animals – Fuzzy Logic

By 1996, the Manics were already on a downward spiral post ‘Everything Must Go’**, Seattle had sent Newport to Coventry and I was spending my evenings hijacking the PA system at  Pontypool Tesco by tying a rubber band around the switch, popping this in the CD player and entertaining my fellow evening shifters with this 40 mins of joy. It did take a while to get to the second half of the album which is hardly surprising when you look at the track listing for the first. It was probably the first time I’d heard a band sing in a properly Welsh accent too. Intrigued, I was.
(** I am well aware that ‘Futurology’ is actually really quite good, I’ll be reviewing that soon. I’m so on the ball).

 

Live Review: Heavy Petting Zoo & Totem Terrors – GwdiHw – 24th July 2014

IMG_0916This was never going to be a quiet gig. Having witnessed both the Zoo and the Terrors on many an occasion in the past, it was pretty much a given that this show was going to be a cracker.

Naturally, your overly-prompt narrator arrived at the venue a full two hours before any of the music started but it did give me time to reflect on the last time I witnessed Heavy Petting Zoo with the band themselves. Sadly, that one wasn’t as great an evening as this one turned out to be; there is no need for any reverb effects to be added at the mixing desk when you’re playing a 150 capacity venue to a crowd a tenth that size. Blame your overly-prompt promoter for that one, as he decided to put on an unknown Australian stoner-rock duo as a headliner in a strange and foreign city. Lessons learned.

HPZ were there to celebrate the release of their new single ‘Crash’ on Too Pure and they were ably assisted by Max and Rosie of Totem Terrors, themselves in top spirits at the prospect of performing at this year’s Indietracks over the weekend. The Totems are well on their way to recording their second album, which based on the new songs showcase during their set, is going to be far from difficult.

With studies and side projects (Rosie’s Oh Peas! have been hard at it recently) in full flow, it’s amazing that TT actually find the time to write anything new, but if they filled their half hour by just playing ‘Slovak’s Dream’ from their debut ‘Repeat Play Torrent Rar’ 20-odd times then the crowd wouldn’t have felt short changed – it was that well done. Despite a minor technical timing issue during ‘Unkind’ (which I doubt anyone else noticed so I don’t know why I brought it up) it was a pretty faultless performance.  The best thing about short songs is that you can cram a load into a short set and TT fear the three minute mark more than they fear Satan.

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Here’s something that you rarely take into account when thinking about seeing a band; the temperature. What’s great about Heavy Petting Zoo is that despite predominantly wearing black and actually doing all of the hard work, the heat suits them. It suits their sound for a start, because they play a dirty, basement rock style of music that is generally welcomed in venues that are situated underground. It’s also great because Jon the Dancer (for the uninitiated, the band are given an extra dimension by allowing a smartly dressed young man to dance and gurn his way through the band’s set) gets on one hell of a sweat. It truly is a sight and sound to behold. I think HPZ favour a bigger stage however; vocalist Amy Zacharia is usually a fan of bounding around the stage and interacting with the crowd (and Jon) but there was little evidence of this tonight.

For a Cardiff crowd at this kind of show, the amount of movement was pretty impressive. Cardiffians do have a tendency to sometimes sit down during a gig, even where there are no chairs; so it was nice to see everyone stood up and in some extreme cases, moving their heads, arms and legs. A top night, with props to Andrew Jones for putting it on and the Before Diana Died DJs for reminding us that 1992 was a long, long time ago.

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Is it 2014 already?

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OK, so it appears to be July 24th 2014. That means almost 4 months since I last done a post on here. Sorry about that. One of the main reasons behind this is because I had a crazy batch of gigs happening in April  and May (eight in two months is around seven too many for normal part-time promoters) and I’ve also been writing for Subba-Cultcha meaning that albums and gigs I’d usually put on here, have been going on there. Kind of shot myself in the foot there, didn’t I? At the bottom of this post I’ve listed a few that you might like to read through if you’re bored of all of this hot weather.

As you can see, I’ve also re-designed the site. By re-designed, I mean I’ve changed the WordPress theme and added a new photo to the top of it. Looks nice though, doesn’t it?

I’ll no longer be writing for Subba, but will be doing the odd thing here and there for Buzz in Cardiff. The main focus though, will be on this site (honest!). There have been a great deal of albums purchased and therefore a lot to tell you about so I’ll be doing that over the coming weeks, months and… well, we’ll see.

For now, here are some of my Subba-Cultcha reviews from the past few months;

Phantogram – Voices

9Bach – Tincian

Gruff Rhys – American Interior

Sleaford Mods – Divide & Exit

Ought – More Than On Any Other Day

 

Boom Town Fair – 7-10th August 2014 (Materley Estate, Winchester)

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Despite ageing faster than I’d like, I’ve decided to take the plunge and embrace festival season this year. Aside from going to Lovebox (7 years ago!!), this is the first year since ATP’s Bowlie Weekender in 2000 that I’m planning on doing an outdoor festival in full – and this one is the one I’m most excited about.

Why? Well, because it’s not something I’d ordinarily go to. I don’t know half of the bands playing – maybe even three quarters… It’s not exactly on my doorstep like Green Man, Festival No 6 or even Glastonbury and in all honesty the mixture of folk, dub, old school punk and trad folk aren’t exactly genres that you’ll see clogging up my record collection.

But why not try something new eh? The poster above doesn’t show the half of it – literally; this is just the line up on a few of the many stages that they’re setting up for this year’s fest. Out of that lot, I’ve seen Tinariwen, once, at the aforementioned Lovebox 2007 and all I have left of those memories are a few grainy photos and pixellated videos taken at a time when phones were still primarily used for contacting other people.

If you like the look of what’s on that poster, check out the links below to see who else is playing and what else is happening!

http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk/home

https://www.facebook.com/events/598503523531902/

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