23/11/2020: “Youth Of Eglington” by Black Uhuru

For context, Eglington is an area of Toronto with a large Jamaican community. Brixton is an area of London with a large Jamaican community. And Kingston, of course, is the capital of Jamaica.

So this song name checks the Jamaican diaspora at the time. It’s essentially an exhortation not to fight, to stay away from the gun crime which affected places like Brixton at the time, and to this day.

For a reggae song of the time, it’s oddly fast, particularly the drum – but that makes it even more of an anthem. The vocals are strident and righteous, the bass slow and purposeful. The guitar work is brilliant too!

The song was released in 1981 on Red, with Sly & Robbie on production.

22/11/2020: “Surfin’ Dead” by The Cramps

The Cramps are one of the craziest bands ever. Their pioneering status in punk marks them out as legends regardless of their other attibutes.

But, from Lux Interior’s freakish performances, his wife Poison Ivy’s deadpan playing, and their horror show mish-mash of punk and rockabilly which laid the foundation for Psychobilly.

This track adds a third genre to the mix – one which filters through in some of the sounds that the band uses more widely. Can you guess what it is?

The clue’s in the name – it’s Surf Rock!

The eerie twangs and echoes set the stage for a typically Cramps horror themed track, brain soup and all…

The song came out in 1983 on The Cramps’ live album, Smell of Female, as a bonus track.

21/11/2020: “Fashion” by David Bowie

This is typical trailblazing David Bowie. It’s simultaneously entrenched in its time, and beyond it.

There’s just enough weirdness to mark it indelibly as a Bowie track. Particular love goes to the savage guitar riff, which slices through the mix like torn metal.

Then there’s that lowkey ‘beep beep’ breakdown section. It’s not a song which ever gets out of breath. It never gets flustered.

The lyrics are ostensibly about the relentlessness of fashion, although with Bowie you can never be sure…

The track came out on the 1980 classic album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). 

20/11/2020: “Black Magic Woman” by Santana

Latin-influenced Jazzy Rock is a bigger niche than you might think. But there’s one name which inevitably floats to the top of this swirling, warm pool of talent.

Carlos Santana. Smoother than silk, slicker than satin. There’s really no denying his pole position in the field of mellow, samba-esque guitar work.

However, even in the wider arena of rock, his guitar playing is up there with the best.

Without delving too hard into cliche, he can really, really, make a guitar sing!

He actually didn’t write the song. That honour goes to Peter Green, who penned it in 1968 for his band, who you may have heard of – Fleetwood Mac.

Santana’s adaption came two years later in 1970, released as single from Abraxas.

19/11/2020: “Hunter” by Kaiju featuring Flowdan

Flowdan is one of my favourite MCs. Kaiju are one of my favourite Dubstep acts.

So, of course, if they collaborate, it’s a dutty one. Murky!

The thing is, there was a time where Dubstep and Grime overlapped both sonically and geographically, and many of the scene’s biggest names knew each other from seminal nights like FWD.

Flowdan has been one of the MCs who has stuck by the original Grime sound, and has always been willing to get involved with dank Dubstep tracks like this.

The dark, warping, savage bassline, rippling with primal energy, flows under the stark beat. Flowdan raps over the top in fine style, bringing a badness to the song.

“Hunter” was released in 2013, backed with “Snagglepuss”, on Osiris Music.

18/11/2020: “Holiday” by Weezer

I’ve written on Weezer’s eponymous debut album before. But I’m not done with it yet – there’s a lot of great songs on there!

And of course. It wouldn’t be the fantastic album it is without the solid roster of classics to pad it out.

Here’s a song with a bit of character. It’s got that bonafide Weezer mix of wry grungy grit and catchy, airy melodies. A grizzled wolf with a pretty red bow…

The rhythm is slightly off kilter, reinforcing the spontaneous feeling of the song. It’s about escape, that wish many of us have to buy some plane tickets to somewhere new armed with just a towel and a toothbrush. Especially in today’s lockdown…

17/11/2020: “Feel The Drive (Instrumental)” by Doctor’s Cat

Sometimes I find that songs from the 80s and 90s have quite embarrassing lyrics. Especially so for genres such as Italo-Disco or Trance.

This is the former – prime Italo-Disco from 1983. Frankly, I can’t take the vocal version seriously, spirited though it is. But why deny the brilliance of the beat?

This is a masterpiece of its kind. The chugging bass, dripping with cyberpunk flavour, plays host to the soaring synth and mellow synth-strings. All the while the beat punches on. There’s even a solid performance from some sort of keyboard solo.

There are elements of the vocals which add a certain something. Perhaps it would have been better to make a dub version, rather than a pure instrumental. This song is more than engaging enough to power through 6 minutes by itself, however!

16/11/2020: “Please Forgive My Heart” by Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack was a legend. No question. His musical career topped six decades of soul and R’n’B flavours.

Take it as a sign that true talent is timeless, that a man born in 1944 can sing over an edgy electronic neo-soul beat like this after a decade out the game, suffering ill health, and absolutely smash it.

He brings thick layers of emotion, wavering harmoniously and completely transfixing the listener. Transfixed this listener anyway…

The instrumental gives him space to breath – he is the star of the show. But it’s undeniably a subtle stunner, something which does Womack justice as he does justice to it.

The track, and the entire 2012 The Bravest Man In The Universe album, was produced by Blue/Gorillaz icon Damon Albarn and XL Recordings label boss Richard Russell.

15/11/2020: “Boxing Champ” by Kaiser Chiefs

Some of the Kaiser Chiefs’ music hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s heavily invested in the noughties, in the same way as Nike astro trainers and Myspace.

They were talented guys, even if they aren’t as popular as their biggest rivals at the time, the Arctic Monkeys.

When you strip away some of the brasher, electronically tinged tracks, you get a roster of songs which are solidly English, vaguely cynical, and laced with melodies which stick in your head like chewing gum on a commuter’s shoe.

Instead of the usual barrage of instruments, you get Nick Hodgson, who was actually their drummer, on vocals. And, in the background, a piano.

Simple often works best – and to be honest, at one minute thirty seconds, it can get away with just a couple of verses. More of a ditty than a masterwork, but it’s good.

The piano rolls up and down in a simple, repeating pattern, hitting notes emphatically and ringing out.

The song features on Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the band’s second album, released 2007.

14/11/2020: “Jah Is My Light” by Kyle Sicarius

I first heard this song at a reggae soundclash, played by Aba Shanti.

When people say “that song took my breath away”, they mean that is emotional and they were overcome mentally.

In the case of a song like this played on a reggae soundsystem, it means you were standing too close to the speaker stack, as I was. The bass is so strong, the air pressure sucks the air out your lungs and you struggle for breath!

Aside from the seismic qualities of the track, this is great steppas tune. This is what modern reggae looks like, and I love it!

The album came out on a Dutch compilation, Roots Tribe Showcase: Love Jah More, in 2009.